Pixel Scroll 5/2/22 Everyone Has Two Pixels Inside Them. Which One Will Win? The One You Scroll

(1) SPFBO #7 WINNER. J. D. Evans won Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off #7 with her novel Reign & Ruin.

SPFBO 8 is expected to open for contestants at 1 p.m. BST on May 14.

(2) A PEJORATIVE RECLAIMED. In “The Space Opera Sci-Fi Subgenre, Explained”, Joshua Kristian McCoy brings the GameRant audience up to speed.

…Space opera refers to large-scale sci-fi which concerns itself with massive interplanetary battles, dashing heroes, old-fashioned romance, and general classic adventure stories, but in space. The term has its origin, not in opera theater, but in the soap opera genre. That dramatic subgenre, best known for The Young and the Restless and a thousand other endlessly serialized TV series, is actually inspired by the even earlier term horse opera. This term refers to a massive pile of formulaic westerns which largely followed the identical plot and narrative trappings. Space opera was coined in 1941 by author Wilson Tucker in a sci-fi fanzine, who famously noticed that a fair amount of recent sci-fi narratives were bare-bones horse operas, but set in space. The term was an insult for the first few decades of its existence, but it evolved from there….

…Before and during the Star Wars phenomenon came Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek, which, like much of the subgenre, was partially inspired by TV westerns. These are two of the most important properties in sci-fi history, and despite some debate, both often fit comfortably into the space opera subgenre. Star Wars and Star Trek spawned new eras of space opera, transforming what was once an insult into a substantial audience draw….

(3) THEY WHO BECAME PROFILED IN THE NEWSPAPER. [Item by Olav Rokne.] The Sydney Morning Herald profiled Shelley Parker-Chan, noting that they’re the first Australian author to be shortlisted for the Best Novel Hugo. (I’d add that they’re actually only the fourth Australian author shortlisted for any prose Hugo award. The other three being Greg Egan, Margo Lanagan, and Sean McMullen). It’s a really good piece that sheds some light into the sources of inspiration behind this quite remarkable book. “She Who Became the Sun becomes first Australian novel nominated for Hugo Award”.

The author is quoted: “there is something fundamentally radical about science fiction and fantasy that makes it a great place for people to work when they want to explore that intersection between race, gender, culture and colonialism.”

(4) THE PLACE TO LEARN. Clarion West released their 2020-21 Annual Report today. There are messages from the board, staff, and students; financial and donor information; and a roundup of achievements by Clarion alumni. There is also this report on how they’ve addressed accessibility issues raised about past workshops.

Accessibility update

Over the last two years, Clarion West has cemented its commitment to providing accessible programming. We are making adjustments to lower the barriers affecting people from a variety of backgrounds and abilities, and we will continue to address needs on an ongoing basis.

Here is an update of the work we’ve done to date and what we will be focusing on moving forward:

The Clarion West website

We’ve added the User Way accessibility widget to assist with visual adaptations for our website as an interim measure toward ensuring a greater variety of access to our site. We understand that this app alone is not a long-term solution and we are planning to work with consultants to ensure ongoing improvements, including better content, video, and image descriptions.

We have added an accessible information page and attempt to link to it on almost every class and workshop page.

Online classes and events

We have invested in closed captioning features for online classes and events, with live captioning or ASL interpreters upon request. With instructor permission, class recordings are available after each class for students to review at their own pace. Slides and other materials are provided as far in advance of each class as possible.

Physical accessibility

Clarion West has made a commitment to only partner with facilities that provide ADA accessible spaces and other accommodations. Whenever possible, we seek to partner with other nonprofit organizations to maximize these efforts, share resources, and ensure the best possible experiences for all participants.

The 2022 workshop will be held in accessible housing located a short distance from the Highline College campus in Des Moines, WA.

As we look toward the future, we will be looking into additional adaptive devices, opportunities to improve services, and feedback for all of our programming. If you see a need for increased accessibility that we have not yet identified, please let us know the issue as well as any suggestions you have to reduce barriers to accessibility

(5) DRIVERS OF CHANGE. In Vauhini Vara’s debut novel, a boy from rural India becomes a tech mogul in a world consumed by Big Tech. “She Wrote a Dystopian Novel. Now Her Fiction Is Crossing Into Reality.” The New York Times tells how.

Vauhini Vara started writing her debut novel 13 years ago, when she was working as a technology journalist and meeting chief executives like Larry Ellison of Oracle and Mark Zuckerberg of what was then a very young Facebook.

The lack of South Asian leaders in the industry sparked an idea: Her main character, an Indian, would become a tech C.E.O. in the United States. By making her protagonist a man from the Dalit community, which ranks lowest in the Hindu hierarchical caste system, she was simply incorporating what she had a connection to, she said; her father is Dalit, and grew up on a coconut grove in rural India.

Those deeply personal decisions turned out to be prescient. Now, as she prepares for the publication of her novel, “The Immortal King Rao,” on May 3, six of the world’s largest technology companies — Adobe, Alphabet, IBM, Microsoft, Google and Twitter — are being led by men of Indian descent.

(6) SCI-FI FEEDBACK LOOP. Everyone is invited to “The Sci-Fi Feedback Loop: Mapping Fiction’s Influence on Real-World Tech”, a webinar taking place Thursday, May 12, from 2-3 p.m. Eastern. Panelists include science fiction authors Cory Doctorow and Malka Older, SF scholars Sherryl Vint and Michael G. Bennett, investor Tim Chang, and tech policy researcher Kevin Bankston. 

This event is the first in a series for the Applied Sci-Fi Project at Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination, which seeks to understand the influence of science fiction on technology and the people who build it, and to study the ways that sci-fi storytelling can be used as a tool for innovation and foresight. 

The event is free and open to everyone. Here is the registration link.

There’s little question that the imaginary futures of science fiction have influenced the development of real-world technologies, from space travel to cyberspace. Join Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination for a virtual conversation among sci-fi authors, scholars, and technologists, examining this feedback loop between science fiction and technical innovation. We’ll dive into the history of sci-fi’s influence, and consider its impact on the direction of technology development today.

(7) THE C3 IN HERO. Helen Lowe analyzes “What Makes A Hero? #3: Commitment” at Supernatural Underground.

On 1 March, I asked the question, “What Makes A Hero?” and looked at “the Call”, the first of three C’s that inform my thinking on the subject.

Last month, on 1 April, I checked out C number two: Circumstance.

This month, it’s time for Commitment. (I know, I know, you got that from the title already, but hey — unfolding logic and everything in its proper order, ok? OK!)

…One of the most famous instances of commitment in Fantasy is when Frodo volunteers to take the One Ring to Mordor:

(8) FLOUNCING FROM ORBIT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Will they follow through this time? Who knows. “Russia Will Quit International Space Station Over Sanctions” reports Bloomberg.

The head of Russia’s space program said Moscow will pull out of the International Space Station, state media reported, a move it has blamed on sanctions imposed over the invasion of Ukraine.

“The decision has been taken already, we’re not obliged to talk about it publicly,” Tass and RIA Novosti reported Roscosmos General Director Dmitry Rogozin as saying in an interview with state TV on Saturday. “I can say this only — in accordance with our obligations, we’ll inform our partners about the end of our work on the ISS with a year’s notice.”

Rogozin earlier this month threatened to end Russia’s mission unless the U.S., European Union and Canada lifted sanctions against enterprises involved in the Russian space industry.

The orbital research space station had until the war remained a rare area of cooperation between Russia and the U.S. and its allies despite steadily worsening relations. But Russia’s unprecedented international isolation since it invaded Ukraine in February has marked the demise of this symbol of joint space exploration.

Three Americans and an Italian astronaut docked at the space station on Wednesday, joining three other Americans, three Russians and a German already on the ISS.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1952 [By Cat Eldridge.]  Seventy years ago this even ion ABC, Tales Of Tomorrow aired its “Red Dust” episode. As the copy provided by the network said, “The first human mission to another solar system loses 2 crew on a red dust-covered planet, which once had an advanced civilization. Due to allergies, neither of the shipmates got anti-radiation shots, so the remaining crew aren’t concerned about their own return to Earth. But then the red dust starts to appear everywhere on the space ship.” 

It was directed by Don Medford from a script by Irving Elman from the play by noted SF writer Theodore Cogswell, a member of the First Fandom Hall of Fame. It was an original work by him and not based off anything that he’d previously done. Cogswell was nominated at ConAdian for his PITFCS: Proceedings of the Institute for Twenty-First Century Studies as a Best Non-Fiction Related Book, and he had a Retro Hugo nomination at Noreascon 4 for his “The Wall Around the World” novelette. 

The cast was Fred Stewart, Lex Barker, Skedge Miller and Robert Patten. You can watch it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 2, 1921 Satyajit Ray. Bengali filmmaker, screenwriter, graphic artist, lyricist, music composer and writer who is here for his genre fiction which fortunately has been translated into English as most of us don’t read Bengali. Over a decade recently, three collections came in English The Diary of a Space Traveller and Other StoriesClassic Satyajit Ray and The Collected Short Stories) with most of his genre work in the collection. There are nine stories involving Professor Shonku, his most popular SF character. (Died 1992.)
  • Born May 2, 1924 Theodore Bikel. He was on Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s fourth season in order to play one of the foster parents to Worf in the “Family” episode as CPO Sergey Rozhenko, retired. That and playing Lenonn in Babylon 5: In the Beginning are the roles I want to note. Well there is one minor other role he did — he voiced Aragon in a certain The Return of the King. (Died 2015.)
  • Born May 2, 1925 John Neville. I’ve mentioned before that Kage considered Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen to be one of her favorite films and John Neville was one of the reasons that she did. You can read her review here. Among his other genre roles, Neville had a prominent recurring role in The X-Files as The Well Manicured Man. And he showed up playing  Sir Isaac Newton on The Next Generation in the “Descent” episode. (Died 2011.)
  • Born May 2, 1938 Bob Null. Very long-time LASFS member who was  the Club’s VP for an equally long period. Fancyclopedia 3 say that “He also sat on the Board of Directors, and frequently handled logistics for local conventions including both Loscon and local Worldcons, and was always one of those nearly invisible hard-working people who make fandom work. He is a Patron Saint of LASFS.” (Died 2010.)
  • Born May 2, 1942 Alexis Kanner. His first genre appearance was on The Prisoner where he so impressed McGoohan in the “Living in Harmony” episode that he created a specific role for him in the series finale, “Fall Out” where he stands trial. He also has an uncredited role in “The Girl Who Was Death” in that series. His final known acting role was as Sor in Nightfall based off the Asimov story of the same name. (Died 2003.)
  • Born May 2, 1946 David Suchet, 76. Though rather obviously better remembered as Hercule Poirot, he does show up on in a Twelfth Doctor story, “Knock Knock”, simply called Landlord.  Don’t let that deceive you. He’s appeared in some other genre work from time to time including Greystoke — The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the ApesHarry and the HendersonsDr. No — The Radio PlayWing CommanderTales of the Unexpected and Peter Pan Goes Wrong
  • Born May 2, 1946 Leslie S. Klinger, 76. He is a noted literary editor and annotator of classic genre fiction. He is the editor of The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, a three-volume edition of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes fiction with extensive annotations, with an introduction by John le Carré. I’d also like to single out him for his The Annotated Sandman, Vol. 1, The New Annotated Frankenstein and The New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft. The Horror Writers of America honored him with their Silver Hammer Award given to a HWA volunteer who has done a truly massive amount of work for the organization, often unsung and behind the scenes. 
  • Born May 2, 1972 Dwayne Johnson, 50. Ok I wasn’t going to include him until stumbled across the fact that he’d been on Star Trek: Voyager as The Champion in the “Tsunkatse” episode. Who saw him there? Of course, it’s not his only genre role as he was the Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns, played Agent 23 in Get Smart, voiced Captain Charles T. Baker In Planet 51, was the tooth fairy in, errr, the Tooth Fairy, was Hank Parsons in Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, was Roadblock in G.I. Joe: Retaliation (anyone watch these?), was a very buff Hercules in Hercules, voiced Maui in Moana, was Dr. Smolder Bravestone in both Jumanji films(not on my bucket list) and was one of the Executive Producers of Shazam! which gets a huh from me where he played Black Adam but the forthcoming Black Adam sounds like it could be damn great.

(11) RESCUED FROM OBSCURITY. Davide Mana profiles the forgotten Italian pulp science fiction writer Nora de Siebert: “The lady writes the pulps: Nora de Siebert” at Karavansara.

…Many of De Siebert’s SF stories were often set against the background of future societies in which women were relegated to a subordinate, “ornamental” roles – usually by design and with the help of mind controlling techniques, as men had found out that women could beat them at their own game if allowed; the main protagonists in these stories usually rebelled against the status quo. Not bad, for stories written in a backwater like Italy, in the 1950s….

(12) A WRITER’S GENESIS. Grimdark Magazine features “An Interview With Ben Aaronovitch”.

[GdM] How did you become a novelist? Can you tell us about Waterstones and how Rivers of London come about?

I started as a script writer but after my first Doctor Who I was offered the chance to novelise my story which is like someone saying they’ll pay you good money to learn how to write prose. Once I’d done a 40,000 word novella I knew I could do a full length book. After a few more tie in novels for Virgin and Big Finish I was confident I could write well to that format. When my career as a scriptwriter fizzled out I found myself working in Waterstones and going slowly bankrupt. Faced with penury or worse- moving out of London, I turned to prose to make my one and only talent, writing, pay. The question was – what kind of novel would I write?

(13) SWIPER, NO SWIPING! The New York Times discovers that “In Echo of Soviet Era, Russia’s Movie Theaters Turn to Pirate Screenings”.

Since the invasion of Ukraine, Hollywood’s biggest studios have stopped releasing movies in Russia, and Netflix has ceased service there. But recently, some of the companies’ films have started appearing in Russian movie theaters — illegally.

The screenings are reminiscent of the Soviet era, when the only way to see most Western films was to get access to a pirated version. Whereas those movies made their way to Russians in the form of smuggled VHS tapes, today, cinemas in the country have a simpler, faster method: the internet. Numerous websites offer bootleg copies of movies that take minutes to download.

Some theaters in Russia are now openly screening pirated movies; others are being more careful, allowing private individuals to rent out spaces to show films, free or for a fee. One group, for example, rented out several screening rooms at a movie theater in Yekaterinburg, then used social media to invite people to buy tickets to watch “The Batman.”

(14) THE GREEN HILLS OF SOFTWARE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Vice tells us that Californian and Green Hills Software owner Dan O’Dowd has exactly one plank in the platform for his Senate run: “All he will talk about is how much he hates Tesla’s self-driving cars and the existential threat computers pose to humanity.”

See the story at “The Billionaire Running for US Senate to Ban Elon Musk’s Self-Driving Cars” for the full interview. 

California Senate candidate Dan O’Dowd will not talk about taxes. Or homelessness. Or climate change. Or inflation. Or housing. Or jobs. All he will talk about is how much he hates Tesla’s self-driving cars and the existential threat computers pose to humanity.

“My issue is more important than all of them, because it’s basically about survival,” he told Motherboard. “When cyber Armageddon hits, and everything goes down, I don’t think anybody’s gonna care about taxes.”

It’s not an exaggeration to say that O’Dowd has become obsessed with Tesla’s full self-driving cars. He owns three Teslas and claims to have driven nothing else for over a decade, but believes the full self-driving cars have become so dangerous that they need to be banned immediately….

(15) I’LL BE D****ED. Andrew Porter tuned into tonight’s episode of Jeopardy! and witnessed contestants draw a blank about this one.

Category: From Book to Movie with a Different Title

Answer: “The Midwich Cuckoos” inspired this “Damned” 1960 film about children with frightening powers in a small town.

No one could ask, “What is “Village of the Damned”?

(16) CELEBRITY FOSSIL TO AUCTION. “Christie’s to Sell a Dinosaur That Inspired the ‘Jurassic Park’ Raptor” reports the New York Times. The auction house says this is the first-ever sale of a Deinonychus, the species on which the ‘velociraptor’ in the 1993 movie was based.

Many people know them as agile bipedal dinosaurs with menacing claws and scrunched-up arms, hunting children through a kitchen in “Jurassic Park.”

In the 1993 movie, they’re called velociraptors, but those creatures were more like a different, related species, Deinonychus antirrhopus — a name that the author of the novel “Jurassic Park,” Michael Crichton, considered a less dramatic choice.

The movie helped turn velociraptors (well, technically Deinonychuses) into one of the most recognizable dinosaurs, alongside the T. rex. And now, dinosaur enthusiasts can bid on one of their own.

The auction house Christie’s announced on Friday that it would be selling a Deinonychus skeleton it calls Hector, which was excavated from Montana several years ago. The company said it would be the first public sale of such a specimen. The estimated price tag is $4 million to $6 million, likely prompting most “Jurassic Park” fans to put their paddles down…

(17) TREKKING FOR PEACE. The book launch for José-Antonio Orosco’s recently published Star Trek and the Philosophy of Peace and Justice included this Zoom discussion between him and a few others. The author wears a DS9 uniform for the event and uses its OPS center as a Zoom background.

In coordination with the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, the Anarres Project presents a discussion with the author (and co-director of the Anarres Project) Jose-Antonio Orosco about his new book “Star Trek and the Philosophy of Peace and Justice: A Global, Anti-Racist Approach”. (London: Bloomsbury, 2022) The dialogue is moderated by Dr. Greg Moses (Texas State University), editor of The Acorn Journal: Philosophical Studies in Pacifism and Nonviolence and Communications Director for the Concerned Philosophers for Peace. They are joined by panelists from CPP including Dr. Andrew Fiala (California State University, Fresno) and Dr. Jennifer Kling (University of Colorado, Colorado Springs).

(18) OR WOULD YOU LIKE TO SWING ON A VINE? The Library of America’s Story of the Week is “Cloudland Revisited: Rock-a-Bye, Viscount, in the Treetop” by S. J. Perelman.

. . . Insofar as the topography of Rhode Island and my physique permitted, I modelled myself so closely on Tarzan that I drove the community to the brink of collapse. I flung spears at the neighbors’ laundry, exacerbated their watchdogs, swung around their piazzas gibbering and thumping my chest, made reply only in half-human grunts interspersed with unearthly howls, and took great pains generally to qualify as a stench in the civic nostril. The hallucination passed as abruptly as it had set in; one morning I awoke with an overwhelming ennui for everything related to Africa, weak but lucid. My kinsfolk were distrustful for a while, but as soon as they saw me constructing a catamaran in which to explore the Everglades, they knew I was rational again.

Curious as to why Tarzan had enraptured two generations and begotten so many sequels, movie serials, and comics, I commandeered my son’s copy of the novel and my wife’s chaise longue and staged a reunion…

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Honest Trailers gang comes up with new frontiers for honesty in their take on The Batman. “Honest Theme Songs (‘Kiss From A Bat’)”.

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

J. D. Evans Wins Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off #7

Mark Lawrence’s photo of the winner, “flanked by the historic SPFBO owls and with the magnificent SPFBO Selfie-Stick award at its feet.”

J. D. Evans’ Reign & Ruin is the champion of Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off #7 sponsored by Mark Lawrence. In 11 months of hard work by ten blogs, 300 books were whittled down to 10 finalists, and then to today’s winner. 

Reign & Ruin finished just one-tenth of a point ahead of Krystle Matar’s Legacy of the Brightwash in the tightest finish the contest has ever had. Click to see the finalists’ score-board.

The blogs that judged SPFBO 7 were:

SPFBO 8 is expected to open for contestants at 1 p.m. BST on May 14.

Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off #7 Reaches the Finals

The finalists have been announced for Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 7 . The competition sponsored by Mark Lawrence began with the submission of self-published fantasy works on June 1, 2021. The first 300 author-submitted works were accepted into the competition. The major qualifiers were that the book must be self-published, must be currently available for purchase, must be a work of fantasy, and must be either a stand-alone novel or the first book in a series.

The works were then divided into ten groups of 30 with each group being assigned to one of ten volunteer sites/organizations that provide reviews of works of fantasy. Each site read their 30 assigned works and promoted one book into the finalist round.

The 10 finalists are:

  • Burn Red Skies by Kerstin Espinosa Rosero
  • Norlyska Groans by Michael R. Fletcher and Clayton W. Snyder
  • Hall of Bones (The Brotherhood of the Eagle Book 1) by Tim Hardie
  • The Mortal Blade: An Epic Fantasy Adventure (The Magelands Eternal Siege Book 1) by Christopher Mitchell
  • We Men of Ash and Shadow: The Vanguard Chronicles, Book 1 by HL Tinsley
  • Shadows of Ivory: Godforged Chronicles, Book 1 by TL Greylock and Bryce O’Connor
  • Reign & Ruin (Mages of the Wheel Book 1) by J.D. Evans
  • The Iron Crown (Dragon Spirits Book 1) L.L. MacRae
  • Legacy of the Brightwash (Tainted Dominion Book 1) by Krystle Matar
  • The Forever King: Scalussen Chronicles 1 (The Scalussen Chronicles) by Ben Galley

Now that the finalists are identified, each review site will read, review, and rate the nine finalists selected by their colleagues. The winner will be the book with the highest average rating from the ten review sites.

The blogs for SPFBO 7 are:

[Thanks to Dann for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 5/22/21 In Odin Days, A Glimpse Of Stalking

(1) THE MARS MY DESTINATION. “China’s Zhurong Mars rover kicks off roving mission after driving off landing platform”Global Times has the story.

Named after an ancient fire god of Chinese mythology, the 1.85-meter-tall and some 240-kilogram Zhurong Mars rover safely drove off the landing platform and reached the surface of Mars at 10: 40 am on Saturday, kicking off its roving mission, the Global Times learned from the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

China has become the second country in the world to successfully deploy a robotic rover onto the surface of Mars, breaking up US’ monopoly in the field, Chinese space analysts hailed.

The rover will carry out environmental perception and scientific detection in the patrol area as planned. At the same time, the orbiter will operate in the relay orbit to provide stable relay communication for the rover’s patrol and exploration. The orbiter is serving as a data relay station for communications between Zhurong and mission controllers on Earth.

(2) HERE WOLF, THERE HASSLE. The question of what an author would want done with a work like this by his estate is always interesting: “John Steinbeck’s estate urged to let the world read his shunned werewolf novel” in The Guardian.

Years before becoming one of America’s most celebrated authors, John Steinbeck wrote at least three novels which were never published. Two of them were destroyed by the young writer as he struggled to make his name, but a third – a full-length mystery werewolf story entitled Murder at Full Moon – has survived unseen in an archive ever since being rejected for publication in 1930.

Now a British academic is calling for the Steinbeck estate to finally allow the publication of the work, written almost a decade before masterpieces such as The Grapes of Wrath, his epic about the Great Depression and the struggles of migrant farm workers.

“There would be a huge public interest in a totally unknown werewolf novel by one of the best-known, most read American writers of the 20th century,” said Professor Gavin Jones, a specialist in American literature at Stanford University…

… But Steinbeck’s literary agents, McIntosh & Otis, told the Observer they would not be publishing the novel. “As Steinbeck wrote Murder at Full Moon under a pseudonym and did not choose to publish the work during his lifetime, we uphold what Steinbeck had wanted,” they said. “As the estate’s agents, we do not further exploit the works beyond what had been the author and estate’s wishes.”

(3) TAKE THE CASH AND LET THE REDDIT GO. “Wanda Sells AMC Theatres Stake For $426 Million”The Hollywood Reporter sums up the transaction.

Chinese conglomerate Wanda Group has sold off essentially its entire stake in AMC Theatres, officially exiting the U.S. theatrical exhibition business.

Wanda has had a controlling stake in the exhibition giant since 2012, but January’s Reddit-fueled rally saw the company trade in its super-voting Class B stock for Class A common stock, giving up control but giving it the option to cash out.

And cash out it did. On Friday, AMC disclosed that Wanda sold all but 10,000 shares in the past week, netting $426.7 million. It previously sold three tranches last month for $220 million.

(4) SELF-PUBLISHED FANTASY BLOG-OFF 7. Mark Lawrence starts SPFBO 7 – the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 2021 – PHASE 1 with a full board, titles listed at the link. He shared some statistics about the 300 entrants.

A list of most of the entries is on Goodreads thanks to Hiu Gregg.

From the list I discovered that:

40 entries ~13% have 100+ ratings on Goodreads.

 97 of the entries have 25+ ratings.

 0 of the books were published 10 or more years ago – the oldest is 9 years old.

 0 of the books have more than 1,000 pages. The longest is 986 pages.

 5 of the books have over a 1,000 ratings, the most ratings is 3,769.

(5) SOUVENIR BOOK. If you happened to take in the World’s Fair while you were in New York for the first Worldcon, here is a nifty souvenir book you could have bought, reproduced in full by Past Print: ”New York World’s Fair / Souvenir Book / 1939”.

Donald Deskey’s superb design of this World Fair book must have made it one of the more worthwhile souvenirs amongst the of hundreds cheaply made commercial items. Perhaps the best souvenir of all was the plate (right) designed by Charles Murphy for the Homer Laughlin company, unfortunately I don’t have one.

    Deskey is probably better known as a furniture designer of the streamline era but his graphic work appeared in every household across the land because he designed the Tide soap box with the red, orange and yellow bulls eye and boxes for Oxydol and Cheer. The design for Crest toothpaste was also his.

    The design of this book with 144 (unnumbered) pages still looks fresh today, seventy plus years after they were printed. Large photos and graphics, angled text and the clever use of ten short pages to introduce the various sections work really well and provide enough visual interest to keep turning the pages. I particularly liked these short intro pages that used spot color and cleverly designed to blend into the page underneath. Turning over the cover to reveal a bird’s eye view of the complete Fair with color on the left and mono on the right seems rather unusual design choice though.

(6) FREITAG OBIT. The New York Times commemorates Ruth Freitag (1924-2021), a librarian renowned for her knowledge of science, technology, and astronomy: “Ruth Freitag, Librarian to the Stars, Dies at 96”.

Isaac Asimov was enthralled with her and wrote her a limerick. Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan wrote in their introduction to “Comet” (1985) that “one of the most pleasant experiences in writing this book” was meeting her. Numerous other science writers acknowledged their debts to her in forewords to their books.

Ruth Freitag, a reference librarian at the Library of Congress for nearly a half-century, was unknown to the general public. But she was, in more ways than one, a librarian to the stars.

Known for her encyclopedic knowledge of resources in science and technology, Ms. Freitag (pronounced FRY-tog) was sought out by the leading interpreters of the galaxy. She developed a particular expertise in astronomy early in her career.

Her learnedness became so comprehensive that she opened up new worlds to Mr. Asimov, the pre-eminent popular science writer of his day, and Mr. Sagan, the astronomer who introduced millions of television viewers to the wonders of the universe.

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • May 22, 2012 — On this day in 2012, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls premiered. The fourth film in the franchise to date, it was directed by Steven Spielberg and was released nineteen years after the last film. Produced by Frank Marshall from a screenplay by David Koepp off of the story by George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson. And starring Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett,  Karen Allen,  Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent and Shia LaBeouf. Despite the myth around it in the net that it was a critical failure, critics overwhelmingly loved it though admittedly the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a mediocre fifty three percent rating. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 22, 1813 – Richard Wagner.  His fantasies The Flying Dutchman (“fly” in the sense we still have in “flee”), TannhäuserThe Ring of the Niebelung (four-opera series), Parsifal, are masterworks of music and theater.  Complicated life and opinions less admirable.  (Died 1883) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1859 — Arthur Conan Doyle. I’ve read all the Holmes stories a long time ago. My favorite is The Hound of the Baskervilles as it allows him to develop a story at length. Favorite video Holmes? Jeremy Brett.  Looking at ISFDB, I’m see there were more Professor Challenger novels than I realized. And the Brigadier Gerard stories sound suspiciously comical… (Died 1930.) (CE) 
  • Born May 22, 1938 — Richard Benjamin, 83. He’s here because he was Adam Quark on the all too short lived Quark series. He also was Joseph Lightman in Witches’ Brew which was based off Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife novel (winner of the 1944 Retro-Hugo Award at Dublin 2019) though that’s not credited in the film. And he was in Westworld as Peter Martin. Finally he did a stint on the Ray Bradbury Theatre as Mr. Howard in “Let’s Play Poison” episode. (CE)
  • Born May 22, 1914 – Sun Ra.  In the avant-garde of jazz he played keyboards and sang, led a variously-composed band under names more or less like “The Solar Arkestra”, still performing; recorded dozens of singles and a hundred full-length albums with titles like We Travel the SpacewaysSpace Is the PlaceStrange Celestial Road.  Said he was taken to Saturn in a vision, changing his life and art.  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1922 – Bob Leman.  Fanzine, The Vinegar Worm; two pieces in The Best of Fandom 1958.  Fourteen short stories in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, one added in collection Feensters in the Lake.  With Gerald Bishop, “Venture Science Fiction Magazine”, a Checklist of the First American Series and the First British Series.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1939 — Paul Winfield. He’s best remembered as Capt. Terrell in The Wrath of Khan, but he was also in the Next Gen episode “Darmok” as the signature character.  He showed up in Damnation Alley as a character named Keegan and in The Terminator as Lt. Ed Traxler. Oh, and let’s not forget that he was Lucien Celine In The Serpent and the Rainbow which surely is genre. (Died 2004.) (CE) 
  • Born May 22, 1943 – Arlene Phillips, age 78.  Dancer, choreographer including the film Annie and the Royal Shakespeare production of A Clockwork Orange, judge for Strictly Come Dancing and the U.K. version of So You Think You Can Dance?  Six Alana, Dancing Star children’s books.  [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1964 — Kat Richardson, 57. Her Greywalker series is one of those affairs that I’m pleased to say that I’ve read every novel that was been published. I’ve not read Blood Orbit, the first in her new series, yet. Has anyone here done so? (CE) 
  • Born May 22, 1968 — Karen Lord, 53. A  Barbadian writer whose first novel, Redemption in Indigo, won the Carl Brandon Parallax Award and Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature for its inventive use of Senegalese folklore. I’d also recommend her The Best of All Possible Worlds novel as it’s as well done as her earlier novel but different and fascinating in its own right. Lord was Toastmistress of Worldcon 75 in 2017. (CE)
  • Born May 22, 1979 — Maggie Q, 42. She portrayed Tori Wu in the film adaptation of Veronica Roth’s novel Divergent, a role she reprised in its sequels, Insurgent and Allegiant. She played a female agent in a comedic version of the Jackie Chan fronted Around the World in 80 Days. And she’s in the recent remake of Fantasy Island that critics hated but was a box office success. On a brighter note, she voices Wonder Woman on the Young Justice series. (CE) 
  • Born May 22, 1979 – Kagami Takaya, age 42.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Nine light novels available in English.  Here is the most recent I know of; see here.  [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1985 – Arwen Mannens, age 36.  Three novels; so far I find them only in Dutch.  Samples of her 2006 and 2021 drawing here.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal – the word Carbonite should be enough….

(10) DISNEY PLUS WITCHES. “Bette Midler announces that ‘Hocus Pocus 2’ is happening: ‘We’re back!’” says Yahoo! Entertainment.

Here’s yet another reason why you should always bet on Bette (Midler). Last year, the acting and singing icon confirmed to Yahoo Entertainment that she would “absolutely” be back for Hocus Pocus 2 — the long-rumored sequel to Disney’s 1993 Halloween favorite — alongside her witchy onscreen sisters Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker. “As soon as we sign on the dotted line,” Midler promised at the time. 

Flash-forward a few months, and it looks like that dotted line isn’t blank anymore. Hocus Pocus 2 will start production later this year for a 2022 premiere on the Disney+ streaming service. And all three Sanderson sisters promptly confirmed the news on social media. “It’s been 300 years… but we’re BACK!” Midler teased on Instagram. 

(11) GET THE LEAD OUT. Past Print takes you on a visual tour of its collection of “Type tools before the pc”. I remember using a hand-held composing stick in Print Shop back in nineteen-ought-sixty-eight.

(12) NOT LOST, JUST THROWN AWAY. CrimeReads’ Keith Roysdon decided to rewatch the bad final season of LOST. He explains why he thinks it was bad and notes the many mysteries of the show that were never answered: “Coming To Terms With ‘Lost,’ All These Years Later”.

…Like millions of other viewers, I found the series riveting television. I loved the characters and situations and twists. The polar bear. The hatch. The slowly-unfolding story of the Dharma Initiative. And I was never more horrified at a TV plot point than when “the Others” kidnapped young Walt.

The intense reaction the series inspired in me and others backfired, though, when “Lost” ended with a disappointing final season and a two-part finale that didn’t just disappoint but outraged some.

I was so disappointed that, in the 11 years since the finale aired on May 23, 2010, I’ve never revisited it, never rewatched the DVD set that collects dust on a shelf. I’ve never gone back to revisit the cult ABC series on streaming….

It’s not just the failure of the show to answer many of its mysteries that is so off-putting. Remember that scene in the cult movie “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension” when Jeff Goldblum’s character asks about a watermelon in a complicated piece of machinery and Clancy Brown’s character says, “I’ll tell you later” but then never does? That did not ruin “Buckaroo Banzai” for me.

But “Lost’s” mysteries were so many and some were so largely unanswered….

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Out of the Inkwell: The Fleischer Story is a documentary, narrated by Carl Reiner, about the Fleischer studios which explains why Max and Dave Fleischer were great cartoonists. It first appeared around 1990. Leonard Maltin and Mark Evanier are two of the talking heads.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Lise Andreasen, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Will R., Andrew Porter, Brian Z., Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Daniel “Anything Geas” Dern.]

Anderson Wins Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 2020

Mark Lawrence has tweeted out the news that Justin Lee Anderson’s The Lost War (Eidyn Book 1) is the winner of the 6th Self Published Fantasy Blog-Off. The book was the top-rated finalist for 4 of the 10 reviewing blogs, with an average rating of 8.35 out of 10.

The sixth Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO #6) began with the submission of self-published fantasy works on June 1, 2020. The first 300 author-submitted works were accepted into the competition. The major qualifiers were that the book must be self-published, must be currently available for purchase, must be a work of fantasy, and must be either a stand-alone novel or the first book in a series.

The works were then divided into ten groups of 30 with each group being assigned to one of ten volunteer sites/organizations that provide reviews of works of fantasy. Each site read their 30 assigned works and promoted one book into the finalist round.

Once the finalists were identified, each review site read, reviewed, and rated the nine remaining finalists. The winner will be the book with the highest average rating from the ten review sites.

Mark Lawrence started the SPFBO self-published fantasy book contest five years ago. Here is his Mission Statement:

The SPFBO exists to shine a light on self-published fantasy. It exists to find excellent books that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. It exists to help readers select, from the enormous range of options, books that have a better chance of entertaining them than a random choice, thereby increasing reader faith in finding a quality self-published read.

It is not:
i) Perfect. Great books will slip through this net just like they do every other net.
ii) Aimed at getting traditional publications deals. Some authors opt for them but it would be an insult to suggest that the holy grail for self published authors is a deal with a big publisher.
iii) Charged for. This is totally free. The enormous effort given by the reviewers/blogs is a gift. Don’t abuse it. #NoDrama

The winner receives the prestigious Selfie Stick Award

The rest of the 2020 finalists are listed here.

[Based on posts written by Dann.]

Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off #6 Reaches the Finals

By Dann: The sixth Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO #6) began with the submission of self-published fantasy works on June 1, 2020. The first 300 author-submitted works were accepted into the competition. The major qualifiers were that the book must be self-published, must be currently available for purchase, must be a work of fantasy, and must be either a stand-alone novel or the first book in a series.

The works were then divided into ten groups of 30 with each group being assigned to one of ten volunteer sites/organizations that provide reviews of works of fantasy. Each site read their 30 assigned works and promoted one book into the finalist round.

Once the finalists were identified, each review site read, reviewed, and rated the nine remaining finalists. The winner will be the book with the highest average rating from the ten review sites.

SPFBO #6 is quickly coming to a close. Most of the reviewers have read most of the books. Twenty out of 100 reviews are yet to be completed. The following table (data from April 19, 2021) provides the ratings as well as (1) links to the books, (2) links to the authors’ websites, (3) links to the review blogs, and (4) links to their specific reviews (click on the score number).

Use the slide at the bottom of the table to bring the right half into view.

ScoreFantasy-FactionFantasy Book CriticLynn’s BooksBooknestKitty GThe Weatherwax ReportFantasy HiveQueen’s Book AsylumCritiquing ChemistFantasy Inn
The Fall of Erlon by Robert H. Fleming6.10657666.56.568*4
The Lost War by Justin Lee Anderson(8.35/6)7.59*9.5**897
Black Stone Heart by Michael R. Fletcher(8.15/9)8.58**8.59998*7.56
Voice of War by Zack Argyle(7.85/6))88*77.588.5
Shadow of a Dead God by Patrick Samphire(7.75/8)8*7887987
Darkness Forged by Matt Larkin(7.30/7)66.587.58*6.58.5
 Last Memoria by Rachel Emma Shaw(6.95/8)776.5768*6.57.5
Wind From The Wilderness by Suzannah Rowntree(6.95/8)7.587858*75
The Combat Codes by Alexander Darwin(6.15/9)3.58*48.566.5775
Nether Light by Shaun Paul Stevens(5.65/7)456.5673.57.5*
Blogger Average Score7.07.2

* = Blogger chose this finalist.
** = Blogger’s top book.

Mark Lawrence noted that a number of the blogs/reviews reduced their scores for The Combat Codes on the basis that it wasn’t fantasy.

Mark recently announced that SPFBO will return for a seventh season on June 1, 2021. One of the ten review sites will not be participating in SPFBO #7. Any reviewer(s) that would be interested in committing to the full reading/review process should contact Mark directly via one of his publicly acknowledged channels.

Pixel Scroll 4/16/21 I Am Just A Filer, Though My Pixel’s Seldom Scrolled

(1) CONTRACT GUIDES NOW OPEN ACCESS. The Authors Guild has released its Model Book Contract to the public for the first time. They have also produced a separate Literary Translation Model Contract for U.S. translators and literary agents.

“We updated the Model Trade Book Contract last year right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. We never could have predicted just how deleterious the crisis would be on working writers, with 71.4 percent of authors reporting losing, on average, 49 percent of their regular pre-pandemic income, based on our latest member survey,” said Mary Rasenberger, CEO of the Authors Guild. “Given this situation, we have been exploring various ways to help ease the lives and careers of professional writers, which is why the Authors Guild Council recently voted to remove the Model Trade Book Contract from behind our member paywall and make it freely accessible for all writers, publishers and anyone interested in book contracts. We hope that publishers will look to its terms in creating their own or adopt it, and we want authors around the globe to have access to it so they can understand what terms and issues they should be aware of before signing any book deal.”

(2) THEY’RE BACK. “Wakandans Featurette/Marvel Studio’s The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” on YouTube is a trailer from Disney+ that announces that Wakandans have shown up in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier.

(3) SPFBO. Mark Lawrence has announced that he will be starting the next Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off on June 1st.  They need another blogger/reviewer.

(4) FINALS EXAM. Cora Buhlert has 2,000 well-chosen words to share on the subject: “Some Thoughts on the 2021 Hugo Finalists”.

… When the Best Series Hugo was proposed, the argument was that a lot of popular and long-running series are overlooked by the Hugos – or the Nebulas for that matter – because the individual novels don’t stand alone very well and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

However in practice, such series, no matter how popular, are rarely nominated. Particularly The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher is notable by its absence, even though the Best Series Hugo seems tailor-made for this series.

Instead, the Best Series ballot tends to consist of trilogies by authors Hugo voters like and where individual volumes have often made the ballot before as well as of works set in the same wold that form a series if you squint really hard. I guess most Hugo voters simply aren’t series readers.

That said, the actual Best Series ballot looks pretty good this year. The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells is a hugely popular series where prettty much every installment has either been a finalist or would have been, if Martha Wells hadn’t withdrawn two Murderbot novellas from consideration in 2019. It’s also a great series….

(5) HAVE YOU RED IT TOO? The Heinlein Society has a good reason for suggesting that you watch this trailer and note what books the kids are reading at about 28 seconds.

(6) IT’S JUST TAKING A KIP. Meanwhile, back at the Red Planet, NASA’s InSight lander is “in crisis”: “NASA’s InSight Mars Lander to Hibernate so Batteries Don’t Die” at Business Insider.

… Unlike other sites where NASA has sent rovers and landers — including the landing spot of the new Perseverance rover and its Mars helicopter — powerful gusts of wind have not been sweeping Elysium Planitia. These winds, called “cleaning events,” are needed to blow the red Martian dust off the solar panels of NASA’s robots. Without their help, a thick layer of dust has accumulated on InSight, and it’s struggling to absorb sunlight.InSight’s solar panels were producing just 27% of their energy capacity in February, when winter was arriving in Elysium Planitia. So NASA decided to start incrementally turning off different instruments on the lander. Soon the robot will go into “hibernation mode,” shutting down all functions that aren’t necessary for its survival.

By pausing its scientific operations, the lander should be able to save enough power to keep its systems warm through the frigid Martian nights, when temperatures can drop to negative-130 degrees Fahrenheit.

“The amount of power available over the next few months will really be driven by the weather,” Chuck Scott, InSight’s project manager, said in a statement.

InSight is still in good condition — it’s even using its robotic arm — but an out-of-season storm could cause a power failure. If the lander’s batteries die, it might never recover.

“We would be hopeful that we’d be able to bring it back to life, especially if it’s not asleep or dead for a long period of time,” Bruce Banerdt, InSight’s principal investigator, told Insider. “But that would be a dicey situation.”

(7) THE HOLE NINE YARDS. Let James Davis Nicoll tell you about “Five Books That Use Wormholes to Plug Plot Holes” at Tor.com. First on the list –

Starman Jones by Robert Heinlein (1953)

This novel long predates the heyday of wormholes; it doesn’t even use the phrase. But it uses spacetime anomalies, which are just like wormholes. With one exception: they don’t just have an entrance and an exit. They can take you all sorts of interesting places if you enter the anomaly with the wrong approach vector. A small error calculating the vector and a hapless ship could find itself light-millennia off-course, with no clear idea how to get home. No prizes for guessing if this happens to the Asgard, the very ship on which the eponymous Starman Jones is serving. Nor is this worst that will happen to the unfortunate castaways.

(8) MCCRORY OBIT. Actress Helen McCrory, OBE, (1968-2021) died April 16 reports GEEKchocolate.

We are hugely saddened to hear of the death of the wonderful Helen McCrory, known to us as Rosanna Calvierri’s in Doctor Who’s Vampires of Venice, but with a resume which stretched from Interview with the Vampire, Charlotte Gray, The Count of Monte Cristo, Skyfall, The Woman in Black: Angel of Death, a recurring role in Harry Potter as Narcissa Malfoy, and a long stint as Polly Grey on Peaky Blinders, as well as two appearances as Cherie Blair in The Queen and The Special Relationship.

(9) FELIX SILLIA OBIT. The actor who played Cousin Itt on The Addams Family, Felix Sillia, has died at the age of 84 reports SYFY Wire.

In addition to playing Cousin Itt, Silla’s other best-known roles include playing the robot Twiki / Odee-x on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and an evil miniature “Hitler” in 1975’s The Black Bird. He also had smaller parts in much-loved movies, such as playing an Ewok on Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and Dink in Spaceballs. He also worked as a stuntman on E.T. the Extra-TerrestrialPoltergeistIndiana Jones and the Temple of DoomHoward the Duck, and Batman Returns.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 16, 1955 –On this day in 1955, Science Fiction Theatre aired “Time Is Just A Place” as the second episode of the first season.  It’s from Jack Finey’s “Such Interesting Neighbors” (published in Collier’s, 1951) which would later form the basis of the March 20, 1987 adaptation of the story under its original title for Amazing Stories. The story is that neighbors are increasingly suspicious of the inventions of Mr. Heller, who claims to be an inventor, who uses a robotic vacuum cleaner and a flashlight that beams x-rays. It starred Don DeFore, Warren Stevens and Marie Windsor.  You can watch it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 16, 1891 – Dorothy Lathrop.  Illustrator and author.  Historically a lot of good fantasy has been written for children; folks who appreciate fantasy know to look there.  DL illustrated twoscore books, writing nine herself, also nonfiction.  Rachel Field’s Hitty, illustrated by DL, won RF a Newbery Medal; DL’s illustrations for Helen Fish’s Animals of the Bible won DL a Caldecott Medal.  Here is DL’s cover for an ed’n of The Little Mermaid.  Here is a dandelion soldier.  Here is an interior for Mopsa the Fairy.  This is from DL’s Fairy Circus.  Here is Across the Night Sky.  Here is a 2011 appreciation with another score of pictures.  (Died 1980) [JH]
  • Born April 16, 1921 Peter Ustinov. He had a number of genre appearances such as being in Blackbeard’s Ghost as Captain Blackbeard, in the animated Robin Hood by voicing both  Prince John and King Richard, as simply The Old Man In Logan’s Run, Truck Driver In The Great Muppet Caper, and in Alice in Wonderland as The Walrus. He wrote The Old Man and Mr. Smith: A Fable which is clearly genre. Genre adjacent (well sort of), he played Hercule Poirot twice. (Died 2004.) (CE) 
  • Born April 16, 1922 Kingsley Amis. So have you read The Green Man? I’m still not convinced that anything actually happened, or that rather everything including the hauntings were really in Maurice Allington’s decayed brain. I’m not seeing that he did much else for genre work other outside of The Anti-Death League and The Alteration but he did write Colonel Sun: A James Bond Adventure under the pseudonym of Robert Markham and his New Maps of Hell: A Survey of Science Fiction which was published in the late Fifties sounds fascinating as he shares his views on the genre and makes some predictions as there’ll never be a SF series on the boob tube despite there already being some. (Died 1995.) (CE) 
  • Born April 16, 1922 John Christopher. Author of The Tripods, an alien invasion series which was adapted into both an excellent radio and a superb television series. He wrote a lot of genre fiction including the Fireball series in which Rome never fell, and The Death of Grass which I mention because it was one of the many YA post-apocalyptic novels that he wrote in the Fifties and Sixties that sold extremely well in the U.K. The film version would be nominated for a Hugo finishing sixth in the balloting at Noreascon I, a year where No Award was given. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born April 16, 1953 – J. Neil Schulman.  Four novels, half a dozen shorter stories; collection Nasty, Brutish, and Short Stories (speaking of Hobbes’ Leviathan, I used to joke that the tiger should have been Calvin, and the boy Hobbes because he was nasty, brutish, and short); “Profiles in Silver” for The Twilight Zone; two Prometheus Awards.  I can’t remember ever agreeing with him, but I miss him.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born April 16, 1954 Ellen Barkin, 65. Usually I don’t do a birthday listing for just a few genre appearances but I make an exception for those performers who appeared in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. Barking played Penny Priddy in that film and that was her only genre appearance other than playing Kathleen in the Into The West film about Irish Travellers and a very special horse named Tír na nÓg. (CE)
  • Born April 16, 1962 Kathryn Cramer, 59. Writer, editor, and literary critic. She co-founded The New York Review of Science Fiction in 1988 with David G. Hartwell and others, and was its co-editor until 1991 and again since 1996. She edited with her husband David G. Hartwell Year’s Best Fantasy one through nine and Year’s Best SF seven through seventeen with him as well.  They did a number of anthologies of which I’ll single out The Hard SF Renaissance and The Space Opera Renaissance as particularly superb. She has a most excellent website — Kathryncramer.com. (CE)
  • Born April 16, 1970 – Brandon McKinney, age 51.  Here is a fine cover for John Whitman’s novelization Star Wars.  Here is a cover for JW’s Phantom Menace.  Interiors for both.  Here is Batman, here is Robin.  Here is Spider-Man.  Here is Bruce Lee in The Dragon Rises.  Also Elfquest; see here.  [JH]
  • Born April 16, 1975 Sean Maher, 46. Doctor Simon Tam In the Firefly verse. And Dick Grayson (Nightwing) in a staggering number of  animated DAC films, to wit  Son of BatmanBatman vs. Robin,,Batman: Bad Blood, Justice League vs. Teen TitansTeen Titans: The Judas Contract and Batman: Hush. He showed up on Arrow as Shrapnel in the “Blast Radius” and “Suicide Squad” episodes. (CE)
  • Born April 16, 1978 – Amy Ruttan, age 43.  Four novels for us; two dozen others.  “Half the fun of writing historicals and being swept away in a different time period is the research….  let someone else you trust have a look over your work.  You’ll be surprised what you as an author won’t pick out.”  [JH]
  • Born April 16, 1983 – Thomas Olde Heuvelt, age 38.  Too little (say I) of his work has been translated from Dutch into English.  “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” was and won a Hugo, which may be some encouragement.  Six novels, sixteen shorter stories; one novel, five shorter stories in English so far.  Three Paul Harland prizes.  [JH]
  • Born April 16, 1990 – Kusano Gengen, age 31.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Only three stories yet translated into English; one is “Last and First Idol” – yes, alluding to Olaf Stapledon – which won a Seiun, and is the lead story in a 2018 collection with the other two.  KG drew a thousand words from Jonathan Clements, of which I’ll quote a few about “Idol”: “Described by one of the Hayakawa Sci-Fi Contest [which “Idol” won – JH] panelists as ‘stupid’, and by an employee of his own publisher as ‘abysmal’, Kusano’s work of recursive SF provocatively combines the breathless, vapid prose of a teenage school story with the portentous, epic concerns of Space Opera, turning each into a wry commentary on the pomposity of the other.”  Meanwhile Kusano-san went off to Hokkaidô University for a Ph.D.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) IMAGINARY PAPERS ON YOUR DOORSTEP. The Arizona State University Center for Science and the Imagination today published the 6th issue of Imaginary Papers, their quarterly newsletter on science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and imagination.  

This issue features writing from media scholar Lisa Yin Han, experimental philosopher Jonathon Keats, and learning sciences researcher Ruth Wylie.

Here is a link for subscribing to future issues.

 (14) ZOOMING THROUGH FANHISTORY. Fanac.org has scheduled three more FanHistory Project Zoom Sessions. To attend, send an RSVP to fanac@fanac.org in order to receive a link. 

  • April 17, Saturday – 2pm EDT, 11AM PDT, 7PM London –  Early Star Trek Fandom, with Ruth Berman and Devra Langsam.  

Stories and anecdotes from Ruth and Devra about their entry into fandom, about the origins of Star Trek fandom, and how they came to publish T-Negative and  Spockanallia. For those of us that came into fandom later, here’s a chance to hear how Star Trek was received in general fandom, how Trek fandom got started, who the BNFs were and what they were they like.  How did the first Trek fanzines and Trek conventions affect fandom, and how did Trek fandom grow  and become its own thing. 

  • April 27, Tuesday – 4pm EDT, 1pm PDT,  9PM London. An Interview with Erle Korshak by Joe Siclari. 

Erle Korshak is one of our remaining FIrst Fans (inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 1996) and a Guest of Honor at Chicon 8 (2022 Worldcon). Erle was an organizer of the first Chicon,  the 1940 Worldcon, and was one of the Worldcon auctioneers for many years. He started Shasta Publishers, one of the first successful specialty SF publishers.  He was also involved with early SF movies. In this session, fan historian Joe Siclari  will interview Erle and his son Steve about early fandom, early conventions (including Worldcons), Shasta, and both Erle and Steve’s continuing interest in illustration art. Note: this is a midweek session. 

  • May 22, Saturday – 2pm EDT, 11AM PDT, 7PM London – An Interview with Bjo and John Trimble. 

Bjo and John Trimble have had an enormous impact on fandom from the 1950s onward. They’ve pubbed their ish, and some of the zines are available on FANAC.org. Bjo created the convention art show as we know it today (pre-pandemic) with Project Art Show, and published PAS-tell to share info with interested fans everywhere. In LASFS,  Bjo had a large role in reviving a flagging LASFS in the late 50s. Her most famous contribution was the successful Save Star Trek campaign which resulted in a 3rd year of the original series. Bjo was one of the organziers of Los Angeles fandom’s film making endeavors.  John is a co-founder of the LASFS clubzine, De Profundis and an editor of Shangri-L’Affaires. Bjo and John were Fan Guests of Honor at ConJose (2002), and were nominated twice for Best Fanzine Hugos. Bjo was nominated for Best Fan Artist Hugo. In this interview, expect stories and anecdotes of Los Angeles fandom, how the art show came to be, Save Star Trek and more. 

(15) BEAMING INTO YOUR HOME. Stay tuned as Galactic Journey boldly goes through 1966!

(16) BIG BUCKS. Smaug’s dead, so they can’t borrow it from him.“Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ Costs $465 Million for Just Season 1” says The Hollywood Reporter.

Amazon Studios’ The Lord of the Rings television show is going to cost all the gold in the Lonely Mountain.

The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed that Amazon will spend roughly NZ$650 million — $465 million in U.S. dollars — for just the first season of the show.

That’s far above previous reported estimates that pegged the fantasy drama as costing an already record-breaking $500 million for multiple seasons of the show.

“What I can tell you is Amazon is going to spend about $650 million in season one alone,” Stuart Nash, New Zealand minister for economic development and tourism, told Morning Report“This is fantastic, it really is … this will be the largest television series ever made.”

The figures were released as part of as part of the New Zealand government’s Official Information Act and initially reported by the New Zealand outlet Stuff. The documents also confirmed the studio’s plan to film potentially five seasons in New Zealand — as well as possible, as-yet-unannounced spinoff series.

By comparison, HBO’s Game of Thrones cost roughly $100 million to produce per season, with its per-episode cost starting at around $6 million for season one and eventually rising to around $15 million per episode in season eight….

(17) THE TRAIN TO NOWHERE. Mashable’s reviewer Belen Edwards says “’Infinity Train’ Season 4 is a strong end to a show that deserved more”.

… However, part of the beauty of Infinity Train has always been its conciseness. The animated series takes on an anthology format. Each season follows a different passenger on the titular train, where each car holds a new world. Passengers are assigned a glowing green number that goes down as they learn more lessons and work to resolve the problems in their life. When their numbers reach zero, they can exit the train. Each season is only 10 episodes long, and at 11 minutes each they pack in an astounding amount of character development and heart. …

(18) KING OF THE MOVIES. There will be an online “Dollar Baby film festival” hosted by Vancouver’s Baker Street Cinema of unreleased Stephen King movies from April 23-25. Full details at the link.  

Hosted by Canadian film production company Barker Street Cinema, the virtual festival, called STEPHEN KING RULES, will screen 25 submissions by filmmakers from all over the world, many of which have never been seen by a global audience before.

Since 1977, the Master of Horror – Stephen King – has allowed emerging filmmakers to adapt his previously unproduced short stories into films that may help launch their careers through what is called the Dollar Baby Deal. Barker Street’s STEPHEN KING RULES Dollar Baby Film Festival will showcase an exciting line-up of these independent movies, including interviews and panel discussions with the filmmakers themselves….

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Dann, John Hertz, John King Tarpinian, N., Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Cora Buhlert, James Davis Nicoll, Bill, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day MixMat and Cliff with an assist from Jack Lint and Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 5/23/20 Extraordinary Pixellated Derisions And The Madness Of Scrolls

(1) DOCTOR’S ORDERS. Mark Oshiro is winding down his Mark Reads videos for medical reasons: vocal cord damage. He’ll still be doing the reviews, just not the live readings. Oshiro is a two-time Best Fan Writer Hugo nominee (2013, 2014). “Announcing the next Mark Reads project and the future of videos”

First, the not-so-great news. I ask that you please respect my privacy in terms of like… not asking invasive questions about my medical stuff. Thank you in advance! The short of it is: I got sick in January 2019, did not go to the hospital (as I assumed it was a cold), and have been dealing with some ramifications of that since then. The main issue, though, is that over 2019, I sustained damage to my vocal chords. If we were not in a pandemic, I might have just taken a break from videos and then jumped back into things, but since this is not an emergency, most non-essential stuff is postponed here in NYC.

So, doctor’s orders: I need to stop doing Mark Reads videos. (Not Mark Watches, though, since it is not me continuously talking/yelling for 30-40 mins straight.)

… But also: I’M NOT GOING ANYWHERE. Because it’s time to start a NEW SERIES here on Mark Reads and YES, SERIES.

…I will be reading N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy next!!!

There won’t be videos, but there will be REVIEWS! And it’s kinda exciting to get to go back to the old style of reviews, where I have to put my immediate reactions into the review instead of relying on videos for that part. 

(2) FREEDOM. Not a small press but a publishing cooperative – here’s how and why they did it: “Nerine Dorman on Making a Cooperative Initiative Work” a guest post on Cat Rambo’s blog.

It all started innocently enough about five or so years ago. A fellow author sent me a link to an article about the Book View Café, and we figured: why don’t we do something like this? By this stage many of us in our small circle of writerly folks were already rather jaded about the opportunities available in the industry—especially for those of us who live in far-flung places like South Africa where there isn’t a big market for SFF fiction. Some of us had already been agented, had sold novels to big publishing houses. Some of us were not making it out of the slush pile yet… or were exhausted by all those full requests for submissions that simply vanished into a sticky silence. Added to that, some of us also had had unpleasant experiences with small presses going under, taking their back catalogue out of print. And a good handful were simply daunted by the war stories told by their author friends who’d already had a mad whirl on the merry-go-round of getting published and had their fingers burnt.

(3) SPFBO PROGRESS REPORT. Mark Lawrence says he has 192 of the 300 entries wanted to begin the sixth Self-Published Blog-Off. They are listed in the post.

(4) HOW QUICKLY THEY FORGET. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] The last question of the New York Times‘s news quiz had enough information to be easy, but only 43% picked the correct answer.

The new book “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” tells the story of a character named Coriolanus Snow and is a prequel to which best-selling series?

“Game of Thrones”

“Harry Potter”

“The Hunger Games”

“Twilight”

(5) HOW TO FILL UP THE VAST WASTELAND. In the Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik says that it’s highly unlikely the major networks will have original dramas on this fall because no pilots were shot and Los Angeles and New York remain locked down. This could mean that the networks could broadcast more foreign or cable originals, leading to Star Trek: Picard being broadcast on CBS. “The fall broadcast season could look like nothing we’ve ever seen before”.

…Most of the roughly 50 pilots ordered this year were never shot. (Pilot-shooting usually takes place in the spring — right as lockdowns began.) That means network executives would have to order full series with nothing but a script on which to base their decision, a process they have historically resisted as too risky.

Not that they could shoot those programs — or any returning ones — if they wanted to. To make a September debut, series need to begin shooting by July or early August at the latest. Yet production is nowhere near restarting. Producers and the guilds that cover most Hollywood workers have all said they are not yet comfortable reopening sets, where hundreds of cast and crew work in close quarters for long hours.

(6) AMAZINGCON. Steve Davidson has updated the AmazingCon schedule of events. The virtual event runs June 12-14. Registration required. Donations requested, but not required.

Taking place on line (we’re calling it “AmazingCon – Virtually the First One!”) via Zoom and this website, AmazingCon will feature author readings (more than 40!), writing workshops, panel discussions, continuous musical performances, an online art show and more.

(7) TAPPING INTO THE HUGOS. Essence of Wonder With Gadi Evron will begin a series of Hugo finalists live shows, over the next month hosting the finalists in various Hugo categories for panel discussions featuring their work and nominations. Registration required – no charge.

May 30David Brin and Best Professional Artist Hugo finalists

On Saturday the 30th of May we have the Best Professional Artist finalists on the show. We will further feature world-renowned author and public intellectual David Brin for a reading and an interview. This episode was created in collaboration with ASFA, and the finalists panel will be moderated by Sara Felix.

Participating in the panel: Tommy ArnoldGalen DaraJohn PicacioYuko Shimizu, and Alyssa Winans,

June 6 — Joe Haldeman and the 2020 Hugo finalists for Best Novel

On Saturday the 6th of June, we have the Best Novel finalists on the show. We will further feature genre-shaping Grand Master Joe Haldeman for a reading and an interview, along with a surprise guest.

Participating in the panel: Alix E. HarrowSeanan McGuireArkady Martine, and Kameron Hurley.

Other upcoming shows:

  • June 13: Best Novella and Best Novellette.
  • June 20: Best Short Story and Editors Short Form

(8) VETERANS. The immortal warriors of The Old Guard are coming to Netflix on July 10.

Forever is harder than it looks. Led by a warrior named Andy (Charlize Theron), a covert group of tight-knit mercenaries with a mysterious inability to die have fought to protect the mortal world for centuries. But when the team is recruited to take on an emergency mission and their extraordinary abilities are suddenly exposed, it’s up to Andy and Nile (Kiki Layne), the newest soldier to join their ranks, to help the group eliminate the threat of those who seek to replicate and monetize their power by any means necessary. Based on the acclaimed graphic novel by Greg Rucka and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball, Beyond The Lights), The Old Guard is a gritty, grounded, action-packed story that shows living forever is harder than it looks.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 23, 1984 — George Lucas and Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, a prequel to Raiders of The Los Ark, premiered. The second film in the now four film deep franchise, it starred Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw, Amrish Puri,  Roshan Seth, Philip Stone and Ke Huy Quan. It was primarily written by Lucas with assistance from  Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz. It was scored by John Williams. It had decidedly mixed reviews early on but the  consensus now among critics is that it’s a very good film, and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes agree and give it an 85% rating. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 23, 1909 Robert Thomas Maitland Scott Jr. Son and a father and son writing team who created The Spider, a pulp character who was clearly a rip-off of The Shadow. They wrote only the first two Spider novels before it was written by various house authors though it’s disputed if Scott Jt. had an uncredited role because the SF element in the series clearly reflect his tastes. He would die in a motor vehicle while on active duty with Royal Canadian Army Service Corps. (Died 1945.) (CE)
  • Born May 23, 1915 – Oliver Butterworth.  Four decades a Professor of English at Hartford College; staged a yearly Shakespeare’s Birthday party.  Six children’s books: we can claim The Enormous Egg which won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, two more.  The egg was enormous because it had to hatch a triceratops, eventually named Uncle Beazley.  Egg was made into a play, produced on television by NBC Children’s Theater.  (Died 1990) [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1915 – William Timmins.  A run of 46 Astounding covers including for The World of Null-A, six more; here’s his last; fifty interiors.  Outside our field, All AcesThe Boy Scout HandbookCluesDime SportsFamily CircleLibertyThe ShadowWestern Storyoilswatercolors.  He’s on this year’s Retro-Hugo ballot.  (Died 1985) [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1921 – James Blish.  Member of the Futurians, his fanzine The Planeteer.  Doctor Mirabilis about Roger Bacon.  In the Wonders of 1958 discussions at the 66th Worldcon we took up two of his books from that year and asked “How does Time compare to Conscience”?  Six dozen Star Trekadaptations, collected in a dozen books.  Ninety more short stories.  Twenty columns of book reviews for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  At the 38th Worldcon, I danced “Horatio’s Fancy” with his widow.  (Died 1975) [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1933 Joan Collins, 87. Sister Edith Keeler in “The City on the Edge of Forever,” the sort-of Ellison-scripted Trek episode. She has an extensive number of other genre appearances including Land of the PharaohsMission: ImpossibleThe Man From U.N.C.L.E.Tales from the CryptSpace: 1999The Fantastic JourneyFuture CopFantasy Island and Faerie Tale Theatre. (CE)
  • Born May 23, 1933 Margaret Aldiss. Wife of Brian Aldiss. She wrote extensively on her husband’s work including The Work of Brian W. Aldiss: An Annotated Bibliography & Guide. He in turn wrote When the Feast is Finished: Reflections on Terminal Illness, a look at her final days. She also co-edited the A is for Brian anthology with Malcolm Edwards and Frank Hatherley. (Died 1997.) (CE)
  • Born May 23, 1934 – Phil Castora.  Quiet and unassuming fan, joined us in 1951 at Pittsburgh, then Washington, D.C., then Los Angeles where I met him.  Quiet, that is, unless something struck him as really funny, when he would collapse laughing, rolling on the floor and startling the cat if you had one.  I was like that in law school.  His letters to File 770 in paper days were gems, as Our Gracious Host has told us.  And OGH should know; he too served as our club Secretary.  Luckily Castora left a memoir, Who Knows What Ether Lurks in the Minds of Fen?  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1935 – Isidore Haiblum.  City College of New York with honors.  Eighteen novels, a good number; thirteen are ours, a good number for those of us among whom eighteen is a good number; translated into French, German, Italian, Portuguese.  Roger Zelazny called Interworld a mix of hard-boiled and zany, and he should know.  Faster Than a Speeding Bullet (with Stuart Silver) about Golden Age radio.  Interviewed Isaac Bashevis Singer in Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone Magazine.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1935 Susan Cooper, 85. Author of the superb Dark is Rising series. Do not go see the truly awful film. Her Scottish castle-set YA Boggart series is lighter in tone and just plain fun. I’d also recommend Dreams and Wishes: Essays on Writing for Children which is quite excellent.  (CE)
  • Born May 23, 1967 Sean Williams, 53. Australian author who has been the recipient of a lot of Ditmar and Aurealis Awards. And I mean a lot. Most of his work has been co-authored with Shane Nix (such as Emergence and Orphans series, Star Wars: New Jedi Order novels) but I’d recommend The Books of the Cataclysm series wrote solely by him as it’s most excellent. He’s deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born May 23, 1974 – Sarah Beth Durst.  A score of fantasy books for kids, teens, adults.  Alex Award from American Lib’y Ass’n.  Mythopoeic Fantasy Award.  Drink, Slay, Love made into a Lifetime movie.  About The Reluctant Queen, here’s her Big Idea. Translated into Czech, Finnish, German, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish.  [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1979 Brian James Freeman, 41. Horror author. Novels to date are Blue November StormsThis Painted Darkness and Black Fire (as James Kidman). He’s also done The Illustrated Stephen King Trivia Book (superb), co-authored with Bev Vincent and illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne. He publishes limited edition books here. (CE)

(11) INCOMING. The BBC asks “Could you – would you – eat in a mask like this?” “Remote controlled mask invented to allow eating” (video).

A face mask with a remote controlled mouth has been invented in Israel, allowing diners to eat food without taking it off.

The mask can be opened mechanically by a hand remote or automatically when the fork reaches the mask.

Reminds me of a way parents try to jolly a toddler into eating unwanted vegetables – “Here comes the plane in for a landing!”

(12) NOT READY FOR MY CLOSE-UP. Anthony Lane studies “Our Fever for Plague Movies” in an article for The New Yorker.

… Such terrors are not ours. But they are, so to speak, our regular dreads intensified—superheated, speeded up, and luridly lit. We worry about being stuck in bed with a rocketing temperature and drenched pajamas; we worry about our elders, who may be home alone and afraid to be visited, or wrestling for breath in the back of an ambulance. Such worries are only natural. Our imaginings, though, defy both nature and reason. They are as rabid as zombies, falling and crawling over themselves to fabricate what comes next. Dreams travel worstward, during a fever, and one job of the movies is to give our dreams, good or bad, a local habitation and a name.

(13) STARLORD PRAT. “Chris Pratt accidentally deleted 51,000 emails”.

Actor Chris Pratt has shared the moment he accidentally wiped clean his entire email inbox.

The Marvel star began sorting through his inbox after telling fans his son, Jack, had teased him for having 35,000 unread messages.

Unfortunately, Pratt pressed the wrong button and was forced to watch as 51,000 emails were erased.

Pratt shared the moment on Instagram, and fans rushed to poke fun at the incident.

“Yesterday my son was playing with my phone and he gasped in shock looking at the number of unread emails that I have. It’s a lot,” Pratt said.

“I’m one of those idiots who will do an IQ test and be like, ‘Wanna take an IQ test? Give me your email’. And then I do, which proves my IQ is about seven, I just get junk from everyone and I just don’t erase it.”

The Guardians of the Galaxy actor said his new goal while taking time off work due to Covid-19 would be to read through 1,000 emails a day.

He also made a promise to reply to them all.

However, his well-meaning plan fell through when he inexplicably deleted every single message he had ever received.

(14) MASKED AND CAPED CRUSADER. If you subscribe or haven’t run out of free articles (like I have) you may be able to read Kate Sidley’s  “Batman Works From Home”, one of The New Yorker’s “Daily Shouts.”

(15) TIME AFTER TIME. The Avocado has a wild story that, despite its title — “Groundhog Day Reclassified As Documentary” – feels more aligned with The Terminator.

… The panic that defined March and April had been replaced by a constant, ever-present anxiety that hadn’t spiked since he found out his job status was transitioning from furloughed to terminated. Since then the days have felt blended, broken up only by the occasional thrill of going to the grocery store for pasta or paper towels, although even those adventures have been less pleasant because his mask had really started to smell.

Jack couldn’t remember whether it was Tuesday or Wednesday when he woke up this morning and gave up on the analysis before deciding. …

(16) GOOD TO GO. “Nasa SpaceX crew mission cleared to launch”.

Key officials at the American space agency (Nasa) and private launch firm SpaceX have signed off next week’s historic mission to the space station.

Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will ride to orbit from Florida – the first time in nine years that humans have left Earth from US territory.

A review panel has found no technical reason to delay the mission.

SpaceX’s Falcon-9 rocket with its Dragon capsule is set to lift off at 16:33 EDT (21:33 BST) on Wednesday.

…Already, the Falcon has been rolled out to the Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A, and lifted into the vertical.

The transfer on Thursday allowed SpaceX engineers to conduct a static fire on Friday. This saw the vehicle ignite briefly all nine of its engines to confirm their operational status.

(17) LOOKING AHEAD AT AI. He would say we’ve been warned — “A Case for Cooperation Between Machines and Humans” in the New York Times.

The Tesla chief Elon Musk and other big-name Silicon Valley executives have long promised a car that can do all the driving without human assistance.

But Ben Shneiderman, a University of Maryland computer scientist who has for decades warned against blindly automating tasks with computers, thinks fully automated cars and the tech industry’s vision for a robotic future is misguided. Even dangerous. Robots should collaborate with humans, he believes, rather than replace them.

Late last year, Dr. Shneiderman embarked on a crusade to convince the artificial intelligence world that it is heading in the wrong direction. In February, he confronted organizers of an industry conference on “Assured Autonomy” in Phoenix, telling them that even the title of their conference was wrong. Instead of trying to create autonomous robots, he said, designers should focus on a new mantra, designing computerized machines that are “reliable, safe and trustworthy.”

There should be the equivalent of a flight data recorder for every robot, Dr. Shneiderman argued.

It is a warning that’s likely to gain more urgency when the world’s economies eventually emerge from the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic and millions who have lost their jobs try to return to work. A growing number of them will find they are competing with or working side by side with machines….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Mel Blanc:  Man of a Thousand Voices on YouTube is a 2007 documentary featuring interviews with directors Friz Freleng, Terry Gilliam, William Hanna, and Chuck Jones, voice actors Stan Freberg, June Foray, and Janet Waldo, long-time friend Kirk Douglas, and author Kim Newman.

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

Sixth Self-Published Fantasy
Blog-Off Will Take Entries on May 23

Mark Lawrence is getting ready for SPFBO 6. His fifth Self-Published Fantasy Blog-off just named its 2020 winner in April —  M.L. Wang‘s The Sword of Kaigen. Now it’s time to start the next cycle.

He tweeted: “The SPFBO 6 will open for business at 1pm GMT on the 23rd of May 2020. Entry will be via an online form, be warned: YOU WILL NEED A GMAIL ACCOUNT or to get someone with a gmail account to it for you.”

They need 300 entries. On May 23 the link to enter will be here. SPFBO 5 filled in just over 24 hours!

Those interested in entering should bear in mind that Lawrence’s rules are —

i) No book that was entered in a previous SPFBO can be reentered.
ii) The book must be #1 in a series or a stand-alone.
iii) The book must actually be self-published by the start date, not something you’re considering self-publishing in future.
iv) It must be a fantasy book. (If you say it’s fantasy then it is. But if it isn’t really it won’t get far.)
v) One book per author.
vi) No anthologies.
vii) No short stories – books must be 40,000 words or longer.
viii) Your manuscript must accompany the email you send to enter the contest. You will not be allowed to update or change it.
ix) Don’t contact the blog to which you’ve been assigned. You can contact me about important issues.
.
Not a rule, an observation: It doesn’t matter how long your book has been published, Ten years? Fine.

The contest will begin on June 1.

The SPFBO Mission is –

Mission statement: 
The SPFBO exists to shine a light on self-published fantasy. It exists to find excellent books that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. It exists to help readers select, from the enormous range of options, books that have a better chance of entertaining them than a random choice, thereby increasing reader faith in finding a quality self-published read.

And Lawrence explains —

…The true prize is the publicity of being the winner, plus the bonus of being reviewed on the blogs of 10 highly respected fantasy bloggers.

Frankly you can’t buy better publicity than that. The winning book will have been selected as the best from a field of 250+ self-published works.

[Thanks to Dann Todd for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 5/10/20 She Scrolls Like A Pixel, Dances Like A Nipped Out Cat

(1) SOUND CHOICES. AudioFile’s Candace Levy helps listeners “Discover 5 New Fantasy Audiobook Series”.

Feeling down because you’re all caught up with your current fantasy series? Be sad no more, because 2020 is overflowing with new characters and new adventures for audiobook lovers.

First on the list –

Camille Peters’s PATHWAYS, the first in the Kingdom Chronicles series, finds its roots in two classic stories—“The Princess and the Pea” and “Rumpelstilskin”—and contains many familiar fairy tale elements, such as an enchanted forest and a peasant girl who meets a prince. At the same time, the plot includes fresh twists, making it easy for teen listeners to relate to the budding romance, the magical woods, the secrets and betrayals, and the hope for redemption and a happily ever after. Our reviewer praised narrator Shiromi Arserio for her skill in conveying the full range of emotions felt by our heroine as she follows her destiny.

(2) WHAT THE SHOW’S ABOUT. Abigail Nussbaum, in “Deus Ex: Thoughts on Westworld’s Third Season”, begins her summary with an example:

There’s a moment in the third season premiere of Westworld that, though incidental, also feels like it encapsulates the entire show. Dolores, the former “host” at the titular park, who has gained awareness, escaped her enslavement, and vowed to destroy humanity in her pursuit of safety for her people, has arrived at a swanky party wearing a classic Little Black Dress. Striding onto the scene with elegant purpose as only the statuesque Evan Rachel Wood can, she tugs at a bit of fabric, and the dress transforms, unfolding and draping itself around her to become a glittery ballgown. It’s very pretty, and an impressive feat of dressmaking (presumably vying for an Emmy nomination for costuming, the show has even released footage of a test run for the dress transformation). But a moment’s thought can only leave you wondering what it was all for. Both dresses are appropriate evening attire. Neither one makes Dolores more or less noticeable. Neither one conceals her from pursuit (of which there appears to be none). It’s not even as if the LBD was particularly “practical”. The whole thing exists purely for the cool moment. Which is not a bad thing in itself, of course–what is on-screen science fiction for, after all, if not providing us with cool moments to GIF and meme? But it also feels like Westworld in a nutshell: it looks super-dramatic, but when you give it a moment’s thought, it means nothing….

(3) SPFBO BEHIND THE SCENES. Mihir Wanchoo’s post about the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-off at Fantasy Book Critic, “SPFBO 5: Conclusion & Some Thoughts”, includes a lot of “inside baseball,” but ends with these passionate thoughts about the contest’s mission —

Lastly I would like to clarify what the point of the contest is… Here’s what I think:
– It’s NOT about the authors.
– It’s NOT about the bloggers
– IT’S ABOUT THE READERS
– It’s about shining a spotlight on books that readers might have overlooked or never heard about. It doesn’t matter whether a book has a single Goodreads rating or 5K-plus because it can still reach more people by being in the contest.

I vehemently believe that every book should be judged on its own merit and not whether its author has won SPFBO or been a previous finalist or is a famous one (either traditionally published or self-published). Yes we can have rules about how frequently a previous winner or finalist can re-enter their new books (maybe with a cooling period of 2/3 years for a winner and a year for the finalist) but that’s a discussion to be had.

(4) THERE’S AN ART TO THIS KIND OF WRITING. Add NPR’s Steve Mullis to the list of people who adore the series: “Murderbot Makes A Triumphant (And Cranky) Return In ‘Network Effect'”.

…Wells’ latest, Network Effect, is the first full-sized novel featuring our favorite cranky, cynical, sentient, artificially intelligent robot. For those unfamiliar, I’ll give you a few minutes to catch up on the first four books. Done? OK, well that might not be long enough for a simple human, but for Murderbot, it would have been plenty of time to read the previous four volumes, watch an episode of future soap opera The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon and break into a security system to complete a mission.

(5) WRITE-IN. Marc Scott Zicree, creator of Space Command, makes headlines when Neil deGrasse Tyson joins the cast!

Mr. Sci-Fi shares how famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson suggested a story for Space Command and now is a character in the show!

(6) REGISTER FOR VIRTUAL WISCON. WisCon, the world’s first feminist sff convention, is preparing to hold its first ever all-online edition. WisCon 44 will run virtually over U.S. Memorial Day Weekend — May 22-25, 2020. Registration is now open.

Aqueduct Press is collaborating with the organizers to encourage registration with a book giveaway: the first 100 people to register for the online con will receive a digital copy of this year’s volume of The WisCon Chronicles (Vol. 12): Boundaries and Bridges. This year’s volume of the traditional series, which gathers thoughts and creations by WisCon attendees, is edited by Isabel Schechter and Michi Trota.

The volume features Charlie Jane Anders’s and G. Willow Wilson’s WisCon 43 Guest of Honor speeches and the Tiptree (now Otherwise) award winner Gabriela Damián Miravete’s speech and fiction, as well as essays by Alexandra Erin, Julia Rios, Nisi Shawl, John Scalzi, and more.

(7) COMPANY CLOSES AFTER COFOUNDER DIES. [Item by Steve Green.] Twilight Time, the boutique home video label founded in 2011 by Brian Jamieson and the late Nick Redman, announced today (May 10) that it will be shutting down this summer and has begun a ‘closing down’ sale of warehouse stock. Effective July 1, Screen Archives will be taking over remaining inventory. Press release: “It’s Twilight Time For Us!”

Redman died on January 17, aged 63, following a lengthy illness. During his time at the Fox Music Group, he oversaw such movie soundtracks as the 1996 boxset Star Wars Trilogy and the following year’s Star Wars: A New Hope. Thanks to his input, most of the Twilight Time releases had isolated music tracks.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 10, 1945  — Green Hornet’s “An Armistice From Death” was broadcast on WXYZ in Detroit. It has a cast of Bob Hall as the Green Hornet and Rollon Parker as Kato. The latter actor also voiced The Newsboy at the end of each episode who hawked the Extra edition of The Sentinel that carried the story of the weekly racket or spy ring being smashed. The story this time was that though the Nazis have surrendered, a team of a German agent and a Japanese spy plan to carry on the fight against America. The Japanese spy says, “Honorable Hitler never admit defeat!” The first step is to kidnap Kato, Next, they leave a bio weapon in the form of a fatal virus to attack the celebrating Americans. This broadcast followed the actual V-E Day by only 2 days! You can hear it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 10, 1863 Cornelius Shea. As SFE puts it, “author for the silent screen and author of dime novels (see Dime-Novel SF), prolific in many categories but best remembered for marvel stories using a fairly consistent ’mythology’ of dwarfs, subterranean eruptions, and stage illusion masquerading as supernatural magic.” To my surprise, only two of his novels are in the Internet Archive, though Complete Mystery Science Stories of Cornelius Shea which includes two of these Novels is available from iBooks  and Kobo. (Died 1920.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1870 Evoe. Brother of Ronald Knox, husband of Mary Shepard who illustrated Mary Poppins and whose father illustrated Winnie the Pooh and The Wind in the Willows.  Edited Punch 1932-1949 after contributing for years.  When in 1960 Punch ran a series “Authors in Space” – “Dickens in Space”, “Kipling in Space”, “Joyce in Space” – Evoe (a pen name) wrote “Conan Doyle in Space”. (Died 1970.) [JH]
  • Born May 10, 1886 Olaf Stapledon. Original and almost unimaginable. Last and First Men, his first novel (!) extends over two billion years – written in 1930.  Who could follow that?  He did, with Star Maker, over 100 billion years. Their range, imagination, and grandeur may still be unequaled.  He was, however – or to his credit – depending on how you see things – an avowed atheist.  Odd John, about a spiritual-intellectual superman, may be tragic, or heroic, or both; likewise Sirius, about a superdog, on this year’s Retro-Hugo ballot.  First recipient of the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award, 2001.  Science Fiction Hall of Fame, 2014. (Died 1950.) [JH]
  • Born May 10, 1895 Earl Askam. He played Officer Torch, the captain of Ming the Merciless’s guards, in the 1936 Flash Gordon serial. It’s his only genre appearance though he did have an uncredited role in a Perry Mason film, The Case of Black Cat, which is at least genre adjacent as the defendant is a feline! (Died 1940.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1899 Fred Astaire. Yes, that actor. He showed up on the original Battlestar Galactica as Chameleon / Captain Dimitri In “The Man with Nine Lives” episode. Stunt casting I assume.  He had only two genre roles as near as I can tell which were voicing The Wasp in the English language adaptation of the Japanese Wasp anime series, and being in a film called Ghost Story. They came nearly twenty years apart and were the last acting roles that he did. (Died 1987.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1900 Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin. Groundbreakingly proposed in her doctoral dissertation (first Ph.D. from Radcliffe, at the time women-only) that the Sun was mainly hydrogen and helium; proved right four years later.  First woman to head a department at Harvard.  Six honorary degrees.  Stars in the Making (non-fiction) reviewed by Schuyler Miller in the July 1953 Astounding. Biography, What Stars Are Made Of (D. Moore; just published 2020). (Died 1979) [JH]  
  • Born May 10, 1905 Alex Schomburg. One of our finest graphic artists. 130 covers 1939-1993 from Startling to Tomorrow, including Amazing, Astounding and AnalogF & SFGalaxyAsimov’s, books – and the Westercon 37 Program Book; 250 interiors; not that numbers are supreme. Worldcon Special Committee Award for Lifetime Achievement, 1989, and Chesley Award for Lifetime Achievement, 1987; First Fandom Hall of Fame, 1990.  Six years an Illustrators of the Future judge.  See him in Di Fate’s Infinite Worlds. (Died 1998.) [JH]
  • Born May 10, 1935 Terrance Dicks. He had a long association with Doctor Who, working as a writer and also serving as the programme’s script editor from 1968 to 1974. He also wrote many of its scripts including The War Games which ended the Second Doctor’s reign and The Five Doctors, produced for the 20th year celebration of the program. He also wrote novelizations of more than sixty of the Doctor Who shows. Yes sixty! Prior to working on this series, he wrote four episodes of The Avengers and after this show he wrote a single episode of Space: 1999 and likewise for Moonbase 3, a very short-lived BBC series. (Died 2019.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1963 Rich Moore, 57. He’s directed Wreck-It Ralph and co-directed Zootopia and Ralph Breaks the Internet; he’s has worked on Futurama. It’s not really stretching the definition of genre , so I’ll note that he did the animation for the most excellent Spy vs. Spy series for MADtv. You can see the first one here. [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1969 John Scalzi, 51. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve ever read by him. What would I recommend if you hadn’t read him? The Old Man’s War series certainly is fantastic with Zoe’s Tale bringing tears to my eyes as well as the Interdependency series are excellent. I really have mixed feelings about Redshirts in that it’s too jokeyfor my taste. I will note that his blog is one of a very few which I read every post of. [CE]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frazz wonders what else is in the universe.
  • Garfield enjoys a fan favorite.
  • Free Range plays with a skeptical rock climber.

(11) LINE BY LINE. Gideon Marcus surveys the state of the computing arts – in 1965 – for Galactic Journey: “[MAY 10, 1965] A LANGUAGE FOR THE MASSES (TALKING TO A MACHINE, PART THREE)”.

This is part three of our series on programming in the modern computer age.  Last time, we discussed the rise of user-oriented languages.  We now report on the latest of them and why it’s so exciting.

…These days, thanks to companies like IBM, Rand, and CDC, digital computers have become commonplace — more than 10,000 are currently in use!  While these machines have replaced de Prony’s human calculators, they have created their own manpower shortage.  With computation so cheap and quick, and application of these computations so legion, the bottleneck is now in programmers.  What good does it do to have a hundred thousand computers in the world (a number being casually bandied about for near future years like 1972) if they sit idle with no one to feed them code?

(12) WHEN JUPITER COLLIDES WITH MARS. Yahoo! News asks “Will Coronavirus Kill Astrology?” Are they kidding?

If ever there was one, Susan Miller would be a blue-chip astrologer. So in January, when she appeared on CBS New York and predicted that 2020 would “be a great year, and it will be a prosperous year,” people listened.

People listened when she said Capricorn would be the year’s “celestial favorite,” Cancer was the most likely to wed, Libra was set to score in real estate, and Taurus could expect a calendar full of international travel.

And then people got mad because — it probably doesn’t need pointing out — things didn’t exactly go according to the stars’ plan….

(13) ONE PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND BRICKS. Apartment Therapy introduces fans to “The New Harry Potter LEGO Collection [which] Includes Tiny Mandrake Plants and a Giant Hedwig”.

The Harry Potter universe is expanding, with six new LEGO sets coming this summer. They include scenes from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, as well as the house on Privet Drive where Harry spent his childhood and a large Hedwig that can move its wings with the turn of a crank.

The LEGO world of Harry Potter is already vast. The first sets came out in 2001 along with the first film, and 19 years later, you can find LEGO versions of everything from the Hogwarts Castle to Diagon Alley, with niche sets dedicated to moments in the books and films.

See them all at the LEGO site, including the Hogwarts Astronomy Tower.

(14) CAPALDI PITCHES IN. “Peter Capaldi on For The Love of Scotland Livestream 22/4/2020” is a segment Capaldi did (including reading Kurt Vonnegut) for the “Masks for Scotland” fundraiser held on April 22. He quips, “My life is mostly unchanged because i avoid people anyway.”

(15) LEM BACK IN PRINT. Brendan Byrne makes “The Case for Stanislaw Lem, One of Science Fiction’s Unsung Giants” at Medium.

Since his death in 2006, the work of Polish science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem has slowly slid from view. While his impact upon on American audiences was always softened by the Iron Curtain — he was was in peak form during the ’60s and ’70s — and an often tortured translation process, Lem was at one point “the most widely read science fiction writer in the world,” at least according to Theodore Sturgeon, an eminent writer of SF’s so-called Golden Age.

Lem was acknowledged, especially by fellow authors, as an especially important figure in the genre, but of late he seems to be primarily remembered as the author of the novel Solaris, the base material for the 1972 film by Andrei Tarkovsky and the 2002 version by Steven Soderbergh. This is a poor fate for an author who, for the latter half of the 20th century, skipped nimbly between SF sub-genres, with occasional excursions outside SF. While his sphere of influence was massive — he sold 45 million books worldwide — Lem’s refusal to settle into some comfortable little niche is distinctly unusual in a contemporary marketplace which today sections writers into increasingly sub-sub-genres.

Lem was simultaneously a moralist, stylist, and semi-professional scientist (a teenage inventor who trained as a physician). He managed to write hard science fiction that engaged with contemporary developments in science, medicine, and philosophy without ever condescending to his audience or engaging in specialist-speak (unless he was satirizing it).

Fortunately, the MIT Press has seen fit to help rejuvenate Lem’s oeuvre — they recently republished six of his key books, and, in the process, made the case for a Lemian resurgence — just in time for his 2021 centenary….

(16) THE END IS NEAR. The wait is over. “Here Comes the Droughtlander! Everything You Need to Know About Outlander Heading into the Season 5 Finale” in Parade.

…“Almost anybody can write a good love story, in which people meet and fall in love and get married or run off together,” Gabaldon says, adding, “It’s much harder and thus more interesting to find out what it takes to be married for 50 years. I had never seen anybody do that, so that’s what I decided I’d like to do.”

The Starz series that follows the heroic journey of Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) is such a success that the term “Droughtlander” has been coined for the period of time in between seasons. And we will be heading there shortly. The season five finale airs May 10, and according to Heughan, it’s going to be “big.”

(17) NOT QUITE AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT. [Item by David Doering.] From the Truth is Stranger than Fiction department, here’s the tale of how SF turned fact gave us the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution and banned slavery. “The $60,000 Telegram That Helped Lincoln End Slavery”.

…Statehood looked promising, particularly for Nye, who had great political ambitions. He preferred living on the East Coast and saw his post in Nevada as a way to launch himself into what he really wanted to be — a Senator. Nye was charismatic and known for his “winning friendly face,” but his countenance changed rapidly when a telegram arrived the evening of Tuesday, October 25, 1864. The head of the California Pacific Telegraph passed on a telegram to him, which said, “The President has not received a copy of your constitution.” The deadline for the materials was just a few days away. There wasn’t enough time to mail it to the President. If Nye was going to get 175 pages of this official document to Abraham Lincoln, he was going to have to use the new technology that was just installed three years prior — the telegraph.

…When these electrical impulses finally reached the last leg of their journey, they were sent to the telegraph office of the War Department. This transmission was of such importance that intelligence from the warfront was put on hold for five hours to make way for Nevada’s telegram. Hodge’s and Ward’s message took two days to get to Lincoln and the cost of sending the message was $4,303.27 ($60,000 today). Nevada’s electric constitution reached Lincoln on the evening of October 28 and he proclaimed it a state on the 30th. On the 31st of October, Nevada officially celebrated its statehood, which gave it the right to participate in the election a week later on November 8….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Inside The Making of Dr. Strangelove” on YouTube is a 2000 documentary about Dr. Strangelove that includes interviews with production designer Sir Ken Adam, Kubrick biographer John Baxter, and James Earl Jones, who made his debut in the film.

[Thanks to Microtherion, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Darrah Chavey, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Lise Andreasen, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]