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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Old blurbs are unhinged

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

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

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

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

2025

2026

2027

2028

2029

2031

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

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

Here are two examples of what will be included.

Artifact Spotlight: Sirius FM-4 Satellite

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

Person Spotlight: Vikram Sarabhai

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

(8) MEMORY LANE.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More examples of false premise questions at the link.

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 7/28/22 I Love Pixels. I Like The Whooshing Sound They Make As They Scroll By

(1) GRRM HAS COVID. Yahoo! reports “George R.R. Martin Caught COVID at Comic-Con, Is Quarantined With Sniffles ‘In a Four-Star Hotel’”. Martin speaks about it in a nine-minute video below. The precautions he was taking, discussed before SDCC at Not a Blog, such as sharply limiting his in-person appearances there, were not enough, it seems.

George R.R. Martin caught COVID during his trip last week to Comic-Con, the “Game of Thrones” author said Wednesday night in a YouTube video, and is quarantining in a Los Angeles hotel with mild sniffles.

“I’ve had worse colds, so I hope it will stay that way,” Martin said, with a barely detectable rasp in his voice. “After this quarantine period I will be able to get on with various things.”

Martin noted that he’d be missing a “House of Dragons” premiere event that night in North Hollywood, where HBO content chief Casey Bloys later told the crowd that Martin was absent because of a positive COVID test that morning.

“I wouldn’t worry too much about me, I seem to be fine,” said Martin, who seemed genuinely disappointed to be missing the various Los Angeles events he was in town for. “I will say, if you’re going to have to go and quarantine, a four-star hotel is a pretty good place to do it.”

(2) DREAMHAVEN. Artist Mark Bode posted a photo of the finished DreamHaven Bookstore wall mural on Facebook.

David Dyer-Bennet also has a gallery of photos he took of the wall on his Facebook page.

(3) RPG’S RACIST DESCRIPTIONS EXPOSED.  [Item by Cora Buhlert.] TheGamer reports the upcoming tabletop RPG Star Frontiers: New Genesis by TSR Hobbies (which is not the real TSR) contains some grossly – and I do mean grossly – racist content: “TSR’s Leaked Star Frontiers: New Genesis Playtest Contains Racist Descriptions”.

…The Star Frontiers: New Genesis playtest has been leaked by NoHateInGaming. They shared pictures from the game’s rules that detail a “Negro sub-race”, describing them as a “Tall thick bodied dark skinned brown-eyed race with large strength average intelligence ALL Attributes are in the 10+ range except intelligence which is maximum a +9”. That poor writing is all Star Frontiers: New Genesis, by the way.

This is a deeply racist characterisation of Black people, rooted in colonial eugenics. There are further causes for concern in the leaked images. The Nordic race – not marked as a “sub-race” – has “exceptional attributes and powers ALL attributes are in the 13+ range.”…

(4) SPSFC 2022 CALL FOR ENTRIES. The second annual Self-Published Science Fiction Competition is canvassing the world for entries. The posted deadline to submit books is July 31. Here are some of the requirements.

i) No book that was entered in a previous SPSFC 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 sci-fi book. Underscored must. No pretending.

(5) THE NEW KRAZY KAT BOOK. [Item by Daniel Dern.] From Taschen, the publisher doing the Complete Little Nemo that I recently wrote about (“Finding A More Complete (Little) Nemo — Upcoming Bargain Book Alert, Plus A Few Snakes-Hands And Rabbit-Holes”), comes George Herriman: The Complete Krazy Kat in Color 1935-1944 (listing seen in the latest email from Bud’s Art Books, where it’s available for $185.)

A 632-page hardcover, “just a little smaller than the original published Sunday page size.” (11.8 x 17.3 in., 14.20 lb.) Includes “a 100-page illustrated introduction by Alexander Braun in a special carrying-case/box.” (See a 16-page slideshow of the art at the Taschen Books site.)

At this price — reasonable enough given the book size and contents — I’m going to pass at least for now (and I’m prepared to have missed my chance) (I’ve got enough Krazy Kat on hand, albeit in the less-than-humongous size), but other Filers may feel differently. (Is your credit card twitching at you, Chris B?)

Related trivia: Herriman is also known for — that’s how I learned about him, in fact — his illustrations for Don Marquis’ “archie and mehitabel” books (which in turn I learned about by listening to the late, great Jean Shepherd read from them in his 45-minute late-night shows, along with listening to his readings of Robert Service, and, of course, Shep’s own inimitable stories and meanderings.

(6) ARE THEY WATCHING THEIR SCALES? Tor / Forge Blog took their question straight to the internet authority: “What Burrito Would You Feed a Dragon? John Scalzi Answers!”

As an internationally renowned expert on burritos, I have been asked by the folks at Tor to essay perhaps the most important question of this or any other time in our shared cultural history:

What Burrito Would You Feed a Dragon?

And the answer is: Well, obviously, it would depend. Dragons come in all shapes and sizes and personal proclivities. It’s time to acknowledge that, just like people, they will have their own idiosyncratic tastes and preferences. Let me take five examples of dragons from history and literature and song, and suggest some possible burrito pairings….

(7) MASTERS IN BUSINESS ANNIHLATION. Cora Buhlert posted another “Non-Fiction Spotlight” today for Management Lessons from Game of Thrones: Organization Theory and Strategy in Westeros by Fiona Moore.

I’m continuing my Non-Fiction Spotlight project, where I interview the authors/editors of SFF-related non-fiction books that come out in 2022 and are eligible for the 2023 Hugo Awards. For more about the Non-Fiction Spotlight project, go here. To check out the spotlights I already posted, go here.

Tell us about your book.

Management Lessons from Game of Thrones takes a look at management theory through a Westerosi lens. I use characters, organisations, and events from the television series (primarily, though there’s some references to A Song of Ice and Fire in there as well) to explain the background and concepts of organisation theory, human resource management, strategy, and mergers and acquisitions (or, in the Westerosi context, weddings and warfare). I also look at how and why Game of Thrones is such a useful tool for management education, and suggest ways in which the reader can develop their own understanding of organisations through the use of SFF stories.

(8) BERNARD CRIBBINS (1928-2022). Bernard Cribbins, known best to fans for his work in Doctor Who playing Wilf, grandfather to Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble, died July 27. He was 93. That was just one of many iconic roles across a career that spanned seven decades. He appeared in The Railway Children, three films in the Carry On series, and the James Bond spoof Casino Royale. He performed a hit ’60s song “Right Said Fred”, and narrated The Wombles. His first brush with Doctor Who was in 1964, playing police constable Tom Campbell in the film Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 AD. He was appointed an Office in the Order of the British Empire for his services to drama in 2011. He wrote an autobiography, Bernard Who? 75 Years Of Doing Just About Anything, which was published in 2018.

His resume also includes this episode of Fawlty Towers with John Cleese.

(9) MEMORY LANE.  

1969 [By Cat Eldridge.] I’m very selective about what I think is great fiction by Niven and the Gil ”The Arm” Hamilton stories are I think among his best work. Mind you I was surprised how few actual stories there were in this series there was when I started writing up this essay!

As you most likely know, and I’m not doing a spoiler warning this time as I’m assuming most

 of you have read these, Gil ”The Arm” Hamilton developed telekinesis after losing his arm in an outer space accident after asteroid takes his arm off. While waiting for a transplant, he is in bar:

“Like an idiot I’d tried to catch it with my right hand.

And I’d caught it.

I’d never suspected myself of having psychic powers. You have to be in the right frame of mind to use a psi power. But who had ever had a better opportunity than I did that night, with a whole section of brain tuned to the nerves and muscles of my right arm, and no right arm?”

Gil is a Gold Skin, a UN cop. He gets the weird cases. The really weird ones. In the six stories here, we get locked room mysteries where a man dies by wired ecstasy, why the frozen almost dead are being killed off and turned into organs for the living, why organleggers are killing off their product, the mystery of who tried to kill the patchwork girl and in the longest story, we deal with the mystery of yet another locked room murder that takes place outside on a lunar crater. 

Gil is an interesting character who makes perfect sense as the police officer. I so wish that Niven had written a novel with him as the central character. That would also expand the universe that Niven created here which feels just a bit sketchy. 

The first story, “Death by Ecstasy” was published in 1969 in Galaxy with the last, “The Woman in Del Rey Crater” in Flatlander in 1995. Five of the stories can be found in Flatlander. The Long ARM of Gil Hamilton in 1991 included only “Arm”, “Death by Ecstasy,” and ”The Defenfeless Dead”.  

In order, the stories are “Death by Ecstasy”, “The Defenseless Dead”, “ARM,” “The Patchwork Girl”, “Flatlander” and “The Woman in Del Rey Crater”. 

The “ARM” story was nominated for the Best Novella Hugo at MidAmeriCon (1976). 

It’s available from the usual suspects for very reasonable prices, and in trad paper edition in English and German editions. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 28, 1866 Beatrix Potter. Probably best known for Tales of Peter Rabbit but I’d submit her gardening skills were second to none as well as can be seen in the Green Man review of Marta McDowell’s Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life. Those skills are reflected in her fiction. (Died 1943.)
  • Born July 28, 1928 Angélica Gorodischer. Argentinian writer whose Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was got translated by Ursula Le Guin into English. Likewise Prodigies has been translated by Sue Burke for Small Beer Press. She won a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. You can read Lightspeed Magazine’s interview with her here. (Died 2022.)
  • Born July 28, 1931 Jay Kay Klein. I’ll direct you to Mike’s excellent look at him here as I can’t add anything to what he says. I will note that Klein was a published author having just three stories, “Century of Progress”, “ Mass Communication “ and “On Conquered Earth”, the first two in Analog, the latter in If. I don’t think any have been republished. (Died 2012.)
  • Born July 28, 1941 Bill Crider. Primarily a writer of mystery fiction, his extensive bibliography includes three stories in the Sherlock Holmes metaverse: “The Adventure of the Venomous Lizard”, “The Adventure of the St. Marylebone Ghoul” and “The Case of the Vanished Vampire”. He also wrote a Sookie Stackhouse short story, “Don’t Be Cruel” in the Charlaine Harris Metaverse. His “Doesn’t Matter Any Matter More” short story won a Sidewise Awards for Alternate History and his “Mike Gonzo and the UFO Terror” won a Golden Duck Award. (Died 2018.)
  • Born July 28, 1955 Dey Young, 67. One of those performers who appeared in multiple Trek series. She was in Next Gen’s “The Masterpiece Society” as Hannah Bates, in Deep Space Nine’s “A Simple Investigation” as Arissa and in Enterprise’s “Two Days and Two Nights” as Keyla. She’s got minor roles in Running ManStrange Invaders and Spaceballs as well.
  • Born July 28, 1966 Larry Dixon, 56. Husband of Mercedes Lackey who collaborates with her on such series as  SERRAted Edge and The Mage Wars Trilogy. He contributed artwork to Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons & Dragons source books, including Oriental AdventuresEpic Level Handbook, and Fiend Folio
  • Born July 28, 1968 Rachel Blakely, 54. You’ll most likely know her as Marguerite Krux on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World as that was her longest running genre role. She was briefly Alcmene on Young Hercules, and played Gael’s Mum on The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. And showed as Penelope in the “Ulysses” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Shoe has a plan for surviving the zombie apocalypse.

(12) AND THE LAW WON. AudioFile Magazine’s “Behind the Mike” features “Author Jim Butcher on narrating The Law, the new Harry Dresden book.

Author Jim Butcher made the right choice in performing his latest work himself. It’s a masterpiece. He said that his usual narrator, James Marsters, has nothing to fear, but Butcher’s first attempt at narration is an unqualified success. He has a great speaking voice and truly relates to his characters. The emotion he puts into the work comes across in the wide variety of characters, who include an elderly magician/lawyer, a stupidly stubborn antagonist, and various creatures that inhabit the world of wizard/private investigator Harry Dresden. The brief work is a delight from start to finish, and Butcher’s youthful satisfaction comes across on every page. This may be Butcher’s first attempt at performing his own work, but let’s hope it won’t be his last.

(13) LEAVE THE WALLET, TAKE THE CANNOLI. “William Shatner leaves wallet at Fruit Barn in Gilroy” and thereby makes the news in SFGate.

Last Wednesday, in Gilroy, 91-year-old legendary “Star Trek” actor William Shatner lost his wallet while shopping at the Fruit Barn, a decades-old side-of-the-road market located at 2918 Pacheco Pass Highway, according to ABC7

Shatner reportedly bought four baskets of cherries and $2 of corn.

“I thought about putting a sign up, ‘William Shatner was here,'” Gary Tognetti, owner of B&T Farms, told ABC7 in jest.

Tognetti then enlisted the help of his friend Officer Mark Tarasco, of the Gilroy Police Department, to contact Shatner to return his wallet…. 

There’s a shot of the wallet in this ABC7 Los Angeles news video. John King Tarpinian says the leather looks like ostrich to him.

(14) LOVECRAFT’S LEGACY. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The latest episode of the Unknown Worlds of the Merril Collection podcast focuses on H.P. Lovecraft and his legacy and features an interview with Lovecraft specialist Scott Dorward: “Beyond Lovecraft”.

(15) FRESH EYES, OLD FICTION. At the So I’m Writing a Novel podcast, Oliver Brackenbury runs a variation on James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF project and hands several sword and sorcery stories ranging from classic to modern to a youngish (i.e. under 30) fantasy reader. One of the stories happens to be one of Cora Buhlert’s: “Fresh Blood and New Thunder! Bringing New Readers to Sword & Sorcery, with Sof Magliano”.

Among other things, we discuss the work of Robin Hobb, the dilution of the term “sword & sorcery” and other branding issues, living in a character’s head, struggling to connect with Tower of the Elephant, reading trope-setting classics as a contemporary reader, connecting more with emotion-driven sword & sorcery, backfiring magic, quick-moving plots and pacing, how Sof felt S&S has a unified feel and how it differs from the broad trends of contemporary fantasy…

(16) MY BEAUTIFUL BALLOON. Space Perspective is offering balloon flights to “the edge of space”.

Spaceship Neptune is the first carbon-neutral way to space. Lifted by our SpaceBalloon™—a technology used for decades by the likes of NASA—we take Explorers on a leisurely flight, spending hours at the edge of space.

The balloon flight is to an altitude of 100,000 ft., or 30 kilometres. The accepted international definition of the edge of space is the von Kármán line at 100 kilometres. But not to quibble; 30 km is way up, and the relaxed 6 hour flight will give plenty of time to enjoy the view.

(17) IT’S AN HONOR JUST TO BE FOSSILIZED. “Ukrainian leader’s name is bestowed on a newfound ancient marine invertebrate”Nature has the details.  

Scientists who discovered an ancient ocean-dwelling invertebrate with ten arms have named it in tribute to a man with only two: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Distant cousins of starfish, marine animals called feather stars have a central disc with featherlike arms that can regrow when they get torn off by predators. Mariusz Salamon at the University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland, and his colleagues discovered an exquisitely preserved fossilized feather star in what is now Ethiopia.

Near the base of its central disc, which measures about 8 millimetres in diameter, it has a series of claw-like appendages for attaching itself to surfaces. Some of its arms show evidence of regeneration — probably a response to damage by predators, the researchers say.

The newfound species, Ausichicrinites zelenskyyi, lived roughly 150 million years ago and is named after two people: palaeontologist William Ausich, for his work on fossil feather stars and related animals, and Zelenskyy for “his courage and bravery in defending free Ukraine”, the authors write.

(18) CALL TO ACTION. SYFY Wire introduces “Samaritan trailer: Sylvester Stallone is a washed-up hero”.

…Now believed dead by most of the general public, this hollow shell of a man gets a chance to relive the glory days when his young neighbor, Sam Cleary (Javon “Wanna” Walton), works out his true identity and attempts to coax the bitter man out of retirement. The hero once known as Samaritan doesn’t have much a choice in the matter when unsavory parties (like Pilou Asbæk’s central villain) start to wreak havoc throughout the city he once swore to protect….

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

Pixel Scroll 7/16/22 Files, Scrolls, Pixels From The Sea

(1) SECOND ANNUAL SPSFC CONTEST TAKING SUBMISSIONS. Here’s the link for authors to submit their books to the next Self-Published Science Fiction Competition.

(2) KEEPING UP. Lincoln Michel on sf epics at Esquire: “Genre-Bending Books: Everything Everywhere All in One Novel”.

It’s a cliché to say that we live in science fictional times. But recently it’s felt like we’re living in every science fictional time simultaneously. The world’s richest man decides to purchase a global communications platform on a whim, then decides to back out on a whim. Climate change heat waves lead governments to patrol borders with robot dogs. Meanwhile, a global pandemic rages on, new dystopian technologies are unveiled every day, and the wealthy work on their plans to escape into space. When a scroll through the news reveals a dozen dystopian scenarios—and the daily tasks of work, life, and family trudge on—what’s a novelist who hopes to capture our reality to do?

Maybe novels must do everything too.

In the last couple of years, there’s been a wave of ambitious genre-bending novels whose wide scopes and wild imaginings reflect the surreal state of our times. I’ve come to think of the form as “the speculative epic.” “Speculative” is used here as an umbrella term for science fiction, fantasy, magical realism, and other fictional modes that imagine worlds different from ours. Examples of these speculative epics from the last two years include Emily St. John Mandel’s Sea of Tranquility, Matt Bell’s Appleseed, Anthony Doerr’s Cloud Cuckoo Land, Sequoia Nagamatsu’s How High We Go in the Dark, Monica Byrne’s The Actual Star, Vauhini Vara’s The Immortal King Rao, Hanya Yanagihara’s To Paradise, and Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future. These novels vary in style and range from breakout debuts to works from established masters, but they all share an epic scope and the use of speculative premises to tackle the biggest concerns of our day….

(3) TAFF SELLING TWO CHICON 8 MEMBERSHIPS. [Item by Michael J. “Orange Mike” Lowrey.) The Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund has received a generous donation of two Chicon 8 (2022 Worldcon) attending memberships, Hugo voting and site selection rights intact, from two members who sadly cannot attend.

If you are interested in buying one or both of these, please contact the TAFF administrators, Johan Anglemark (EUTAFF@gmail.com) and Michael J. Lowrey (orangemike@gmail.com) for further instructions. The price asked is $150 per membership.

(4) FAST TIMES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber discusses the gaming subculture of “speedrunning” or going through a game as quickly as possible.  The speed record for The Elden Ring is 21 minutes.

Speedrunners often specialise in classic game series–Doom, Mario, Zelda–and certain new titles, such as platformer Celeste, have become popular and there is even a community dedicated to lengthy Japanese role-playing games. The ingenuity of these players is remarkable–community members have specific roles such as ‘routers,’ who pore over a game to work out the optimal sequence of actions to get the fastest time, or ‘glitch-hunters,’ who look for flaws in the game’s code which can be exploited to gain seconds.

In new release Lego Star Wars:  The Skywalker Saga, a speedrunner realised that child characters cannot be killed, so if you hit one upwards and continually slash them with your lightsabre, you can fly infinitely through the air, bypassing all manner of obstacles. This technique has been dubbed ‘child flight.’

(5) TUNE INTO HORROR. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] English Rose is a new, five-part, fantastical horror on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Sounds.

It is a #MeToo take on a traditional fantasy horror genre of which I don’t want to say more lest it counts as a spoiler. Risking this last, our protagonist – 18 year-old Rose – leaves Whitby to go to New York to be a nanny for a very wealthy couple. Episode 1: The Call of the Wild sees us realize that Rose is leaving behind a family and suggests that she did something that has caused her family to fear being hunted.  There is also more than a suggestion that she is on a mission and has a target… Enough said. The radio play is by the novelist and playwright Helen Cross.

The special effects for this radio drama rely on the best technology: the human brain.

(6) FANS GATHER IN LONDON. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] The Northumberland Heath SF group had its 2nd Thursday of the month meeting this week in southeast London.

Somewhat slightly depleted due to a few members away on holiday but in the mix is the daughter of a former Worldcon fan GoH Vince Clarke (see picture).

The group resumed its monthly meets in the spring following a winter CoVID lockdown.

All fans in London’s Bexley borough or on the 89 and 229 bus routes are most welcome. Details here and Facebook page here.

Apologies – the pic is a smartphone mosaic. (Not mine – don’t use smart phones – sustainability, rare earth metals etc)

(7) HERBERT W. FRANKE (1927-2022). Austrian scientist, artist, and SF writer Herbert W. Franke died July 16 at the age of 95. A major science fiction writer in the German language, he was a guest of honor at the 1970 Worldcon. He also was a computer graphics pioneer. His wife Susanne announced his death on Twitter, which he had just joined in March.

His fiction won the Deutscher Science Fiction Preis for Best Novel in 1985 and 1991, and the Kurd Lasswitz prize for sff in 1985, 1986, and 2007. The European Science Fiction Society named him “European Grand Master of Science Fiction” in 2016.

(8) MEMORY LANE.  

1987 [By Cat Eldridge.] “True enough,” Willy said with a rueful quirk of an eyebrow. “All right. There are certain days associated with magic. Halloween, May Eve, the solstices and equinoxes, a few others. Some are more favorable to one Court than the other. The next big event is Midsummer’s Eve, which is a good one for the Seelie Court. The Eve itself is a truce period. But the Sidhe would like to hold off and fight soon after that, when we’re still strong.” — Willy to Eddi

Emma Bull’s War for The Oaks was published in paperback by Ace Books thirty-five years ago this month. And then that publisher promptly tied up the rights so that it would be fourteen years before Tor Books could release another edition. Yeah Emma wasn’t happy.

SPOILERS ABOUND! 

I’ve read it at least a half dozen times, usually in the summer. I’m reasonably sure it was one of a handful of books that I took overseas with me. 

I love Eddi McCandry, a musician who dumps her quite nasty boyfriend and in the process of doing that finds herself chosen to be the agent of Good in the fight between the two sides of the Fey. 

Everything here is spot-on including the shapeshifter who’s chosen to protect Eddi and falls in love with her. For her first novel, Emma does am exceedingly great job of writing the characters here so that each is a true individual. Seelie, unseelie and just plain human characters all seem real. 

The story here is that a concert at Midsummer’s Eve will determine if the Seelie or Unseelie Court will hold sway for the next six months. The same premise was used in Gael Baudino’s rather stellar Gossamer Axe

Now it won’t surprise you, and yes this is why I said there would be spoilers, that Eddi McCandry and her band of human and seelie musicians will triumph and Good will sway for now.

END OF SPOILERS!

Fourteen years after Ace tied the rights to the novels up in, well, I can’t use the language I’d like to use, Tor published it in a nifty trade paper. Now they almost published it in a hardcover edition as well though that hardcover did come out as an Orb / SFBC edition. 

I have two signed editions here, one hardcover and one softcover. One was signed just after she broke both her forearms at a RenFaire (water and catching yourself don’t mix) and is quite shaky, the other from much later on is quite better.

They made a trailer of this novel. Yes they did. Will Shetterly decided not to run for Governor and spent the money here instead. Or so he tells me. Emma plays the Seelie Queen. And the music is by Boiled in Lead.  See how many members of Minnesota fandom that you spot. 

You can watch it  here courtesy of Green Man who has exclusive online rights.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 16, 1876 David Lindsay. Best remembered for A Voyage to Arcturus which C.S. Lewis has acknowledged was a great influence on Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. His other genre works were fantasies including The Haunted Woman and The Witch. A Voyage to Arcturus is available from the usual suspects for free. And weirdly it’s available in seven audio narratives. Huh.  Seven? (Died 1945.)
  • Born July 16, 1882 Felix Locher. He is considered the oldest Star Trek actor of all time by birth year, appearing in “The Deadly Years” episode. Other genre appearances included Curse of the Faceless Man,  The Twilight ZoneFrankenstein’s Daughter, The MunstersHouse of the DamnedThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Mission Impossible. His entire acting career was from 1957 to 1969. (Died 1969.)
  • Born July 16, 1928 Robert Sheckley. I knew that his short story “Seventh Victim” was the basis of The 10th Victim film but I hadn’t known ‘til now that Freejack was sort of based off his Immortality, Inc. novel. I’ve read a lot by him with Bring Me the Head of Prince Charming (written with Zelazny) being my favorite work by him. Sheckley is very well stocked on the usual suspects. He had two Hugo nominations, at NYCon II (1956) for his “Spy Story” short story, and at Detention (1959) for his Time Killer novel. His Seventh Victim novel was nominated for a Hugo at the 1954 Retro Hugos at Noreascon 4. (Died 2005.)
  • Born July 16, 1929 Sheri Tepper. I think I’m going to single out her Marianne Trilogy (MarianneThe Magus and The ManticoreMarianne, the Madam and the Momentary GodsMarianne, the Matchbox and the Malachite Mouse) as her best work. Both the setting and the characters are unique, the story fascinating. She got the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 16, 1943 Steve Stiles. Fan artist who was nominated way too many times for Best Fan Artist to list here. He did win once at MidAmeriCon II (2016). I can’t begin to list everything he’s done, so I’m sending you to Mike’s eulogy here. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 16, 1951 Esther Friesner, 71. She’s won the Nebula Awards for Best Short Story twice with “Death and the Librarian” and “A Birthday”.  I’m particularly fond of The Sherwood Game and E.Godz which she did with Robert Asprin. NESFA presented her with the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction (“Skylark”) in 1994, a lifetime achievement award. She’s very well stocked at the usual suspects. L.A. Con III (1996) saw her nominated for a short story Hugo for “A Birthday” and she was Toastmaster at Millennium Philcon (2001). 
  • Born July 16, 1963 Phoebe Cates, 59. Ok, so her entire genre appearance credit is as Kate Beringer in Gremlins and  Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Yes I’ll admit that they’re two films that I have an inordinate fondness for that the Suck Fairy cannot have any effect upon them what-so-ever. Update: I’ve discovered since I last noted her Birthday that she was in Drop Dead Fred, a dark fantasy. She also stopped acting seven years ago. 
  • Born July 16, 1966 Scott Derrickson, 56. Director and Writer of Doctor Strange who also had a hand in The Day the Earth Stood Still (as Director), The Exorcism of Emily Rose (Director and Writer), Urban Legends: Final Cut (Director and Producer) and the forthcoming Labyrinth sequel (Director and Writer). His latest film is the supernatural horror The Black Phone based on the short story by Joe Hill.

(10) ORIGINS OF LIBRARY OF AMERICA. “Edmund Wilson’s Big Idea: A Series of Books Devoted to Classic American Writing. It Almost Didn’t Happen”. A 2015 post by National Endowment for the Humanities.

The nonprofit publisher Library of America has released almost two hundred seventy volumes of classic American writing. Its black dust jackets with an image of the author and a simple red, white, and blue stripe running below the author’s name, rendered in a fountain-pen-like hand, help give the clothbound volumes a timeless feel, as if copies might have been found in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s dorm room or Henry James’s steamer trunk. But the series is nowhere near that old. It began publication in 1982.It did, however, take a long time to become a reality.

Jason Epstein remembers the day he joined Edmund Wilson at the bar of the Princeton Club, in New York City, where, in the presence of numerous martinis, Wilson said exactly what he wanted the publishing industry to do: bring out a series of books that would be small enough to fit in the pocket of his raincoat and be filled with classic American writing.

(11) KNIGHTWHO? [Item by Francis Hamit.] Knightscope. Yeah, they look like Daleks.  Sheer coincidence.  Bill Li had never heard of Daleks when he started the company. A Knightscope robot is a supplement not a replacement for a human guard but does have some pretty neat features that humans can’t replicate such a license plate reading, 360-degree vision and other sensors.

Augment your existing security program at a fraction of the average rate for one 24-hour security post. Our Autonomous Security Robots (ASRs) are Made in the USA – Designed and Built in Silicon Valley by Knightscope – and offer security patrols as well as a physical presence that deliver real-time, actionable intelligence anytime and anywhere, giving you and your security team the ability to detect and react faster.

(12) WATCH ‘EM ALL. “Pokémon Fossil Museum Virtual Tour Lets You See the Japanese Exhibit For Yourself”IGN tells how to access it.

The Pokémon Company and Toyohashi Museum of Natural History have made it possible to see the Pokémon Fossil Museum without being anywhere near Japan. Pokémon fans can now take a virtual tour around the exhibit — which is open until November — to see the collection of real and Pokémon fossils, from a tyrannosaurus to a Tyrantrum.

Designed to teach children about fossils and dinosaurs, the exhibit includes models of Pokémon side-by-side with fossilised versions and information panels to educate amid the fun.

… Ancient Pokémon obtained through fossils have always existed in the games and anime, and just like the normal pocket monsters (Pikachu being the mouse Pokémon), they’re based on species in the real world.

(13) LIGHTS! CAMERA! TENTACLES! Apparently this genre-inspired ad campaign for a brand of rum ran several years ago. But it’s news to me! “Kraken Rum Bus” from Oink Creative.

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

Iron Truth is Self-Published Science Fiction Competition’s First Winner

S. A. Tholin’s military sf novel Iron Truth is the inaugural winner of the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition. (See Team File 770’s review by Mike Glyer here.)

S.A Tholin is a Swedish author. Following a Fantastiknovelltävlingen victory in 2002, she moved to the UK to study English at Cambridge. She currently lives and writes from her home in the Skåne countryside. Iron Truth, released in 2018, is the first in a four-book series.

The Self-Published Science Fiction Competition, created by Hugh Howey and Duncan Swan, is modeled after Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, and has his blessing. The contest started with 300 novels and ten teams of book bloggers who read and scored the books through several elimination rounds. In the final round the top seven books were read by all judges. The teams’ scores for each finalist and links to their reviews are posted at SPSFC 2021 Results.

The winner receives a ray gun trophy.

Hugh Howey with the SPSFC trophy

Thanks to Cora Buhlert and Rogers Cadenhead who, along with Mike Glyer, composed Team File 770.

The marathon begins again today – applications are being accepted for judges here, and entries taken here for books to be included in the second annual competition.

SPSFC art by Tithi LuadthongLogos designed by Scott (@book_invasion)

Pixel Scroll 7/9/22 Pixeled In The Scroll By A Chuck Tingle Pixel Scroll Title

(1) CULTURAL INSIGHTS INTO A MULTIVERSE. [Item by Soon Lee.] This terrific article by S. Qiouyi Lu explores many aspects of Everything Everywhere All at Once from a Chinese-American perspective that might not be immediately apparent to a Western viewer. At Strange Horizons: “Everything Everywhere All At Once”. SPOILERS.

…It was as if I had just seen my own brain projected onto the screen. And there were things in Everything Everywhere All At Once that I’d never seen before on the big screen. I’m not talking about the dildo fights, though those were indeed new to me. I’m talking more about seeing an immigrant Chinese mother allowed to fail, and fail repeatedly; seeing a dorky Chinese dad be a badass and a love interest; seeing a Chinese family openly having emotionally vulnerable reconciliations with each other; seeing an entire cast of people from multiple Chinese diasporas coming together to create a movie in which the greatest villain to defeat is the bureaucracy excluding Chinese people from being part of the United States. Nor had I ever seen a movie that so thoroughly reflected my own philosophical, moral, and ethical understandings of the world, mirroring them so closely that I wept with the resonance of its message….

(2) HE, THE JURY. Alex Hormann of the At Boundary’s Edge review site discusses his experience as a judge in the inaugural Self-Published Science Fiction Competition: “SPSFC At Boundary’s Edge: Closing Thoughts”.

Who Is It For?

This one has been weighing on my mind a lot recently. When I look at social media, there are two groups I see talking about the SPSFC. The first are the judges, promoting their reviews and favourite books. The second group is the authors themselves, sharing the positive reviews and using the contest to support each other. This is all great, by the way. While I do think the self-publishing community can be a little insular and self-congratulatory at times, that goes for just about any group of people. But what I’m not seeing a whole lot of is readers. Now, it’s always going to be true that most people who visit a blog aren’t going to comment or engage beyond their initial reading, but it has left the SPSFC feeling somewhat inward-looking. If the majority of the interest is from bloggers and writers, then the SPSFC isn’t really helping books find a wider audience, which to me is the whole point of the competition. For context, the fewer books I talk about in a post, the fewer views it receives. The initial cut posts are all in the three figure range, while the individual reviews still sit in the double digits. To me, this suggests that the people reading the reviews are the authors and their already interested following. I could be wrong about this though. If you’ve found a book through the SPSFC, do let me know.

The caveat here is that this is only year one of the SPSFC. Success doesn’t come overnight. It grows over time. Right now the only people following the SPSFC are those with a stake in it. Next year, there will presumably be more. Exposure is an exponential curve….

(3) SILENTS ARE GOLDEN. The New York Times’ Calum Marsh has a pretty good handle on “The Real Reason the Minions Have Taken Over the World”.

…“Despicable Me” is Gru’s story, but it’s the Minions that made the biggest impression, leading to a larger role in “Despicable Me 2” (2013) and their own vehicle in 2015. Central to their appeal is their unique manner of communicating. Voiced by [Pierre] Coffin himself, they speak a peculiar, made-up language, Minionese, that is both indecipherable and strangely coherent. A gibberish tongue that borrows words from English, Spanish, Dutch and other languages, it has a bubbly, mellifluous tone that is used to almost musical effect. When the Minions hijack an airplane in “Rise of Gru,” one makes an announcement to the passengers over the intercom. What he says is nonsense. But it sounds exactly like the bland, soothing patter of a pilot before takeoff; that you get the gist of the message without identifying a single word is the joke.

Of course, because the Minions don’t use a comprehensible language, their humor isn’t based on spoken jokes. This has doubtless helped the franchise find success abroad — with few punch lines in English, little is lost in translation. But the emphasis on sight gags and physical humor makes the Minions films very different from what you’d expect of family-friendly modern animation. Given the abundance of acrobatic antics, pratfalls and slapstick action, what the Minion movies end up resembling most is silent-era comedies.

Coffin has often mentioned the influence of silent comedians on the style and spirit of the Minions, and he has said he drew inspiration from such titans of the form as Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, particularly their gift for “telling a story through character that conveys humor, emotion, even plasticity.”…

(4) FIRST, THEY HAD TO FIND THEM. [Item by Michael Toman.] “Don’t Bogart that old NASA Voyager manual, pass it over to me?” “NASA’s Voyager 1 from the ’70s is glitching. Engineers are consulting 45-year-old manuals to troubleshoot.” reports Business Insider.

…During the first 12 years of the Voyager mission, thousands of engineers worked on the project, according to Dodd. “As they retired in the ’70s and ’80s, there wasn’t a big push to have a project document library. People would take their boxes home to their garage,” Dodd added. In modern missions, NASA keeps more robust records of documentation.

There are some boxes with documents and schematic stored off-site from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Dodd and the rest of Voyager’s handlers can request access to these records. Still, it can be a challenge. “Getting that information requires you to figure out who works in that area on the project,” Dodd said. 

For Voyager 1’s latest glitch, mission engineers have had to specifically look for boxes under the name of engineers who helped design the altitude-control system. “It’s a time consuming process,” Dodd said…. 

(5) IT’S A THOR SPOT WITH HIM. Leonard Maltin drops the hammer on the latest Marvel film: “Thor: Love, Thunder And Shtick” at Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy.

… But there can be too much of a good thing, as anyone who’s overindulged in chocolate or ice cream can verify. The new Thor: Love and Thunder is a scattered affair that, at a certain point, is played as out-and-out comedy. Can this really be Chris Hemsworth spouting gag lines? Is his relationship to Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) a springboard for sitcom-style jokes? Even the rock-like creature Korg, played by Waititi, wears out his welcome before this meandering story concludes….

(6) YOU WON’T HAVE TO SHELL OUT FOR THESE PEANUTS. “Charles M. Schulz: An American Cartoonist” is a free online event hosted by the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum of Ohio State University. The webinar will run July 23 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. Register at the link.

Join us via Zoom for a pictorial journey through Charles M. Schulz’s life and career and learn why Peanuts is one of the most popular and influential comic strips ever. This live, interactive experience includes a hands-on, how-to-draw Snoopy workshop at the end. This event is presented by the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California in partnership with the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum’s exhibition Celebrating Sparky.

(7) L. Q. JONES (1927-2022) L. Q. Jones, a character actor with a deep resume, who also directed A Boy and His Dog based on the Harlan Ellison story, died July 8. His first film role was a solder in Battle Cry (1955), and his latest was in Robert Altman’s final film A Prairie Home Companion (2006). Variety adds:

…Jones’ career also extended beyond screen acting, producing four independent features over his life. He produced, directed and wrote the 1975 feature “A Boy and His Dog,” which is adapted from Harlan Ellison’s novella of the same name. Jones began the project as an executive producer, but took over writing and directing responsibilities as other collaborators fell through.

A post-apocalyptic black comedy, “A Boy and His Dog” follows a teenager and his telepathic dog as they fight for survival in the southwestern U.S. of 2024, a time when nuclear fallout grips the world. Starring a young Don Johnson and Jason Robards, Jones’ fellow Peckinpah alum, the film has garnered the reputation of a cult classic over the years, with Jones stating that director George Miller cited it as an influence for his “Mad Max” series…

Jones and Ellison were both on hand at DisCon II (1974) where a rough cut of the movie was shown. It was really rough, because one of the two 35mm projectors broke down and they were forced to show it one reel at a time, with yawn-inducing delays each time they mounted the new reel. And when it was shown again at next year’s NASFiC in LA – the same thing happened!

(8) MEMORY LANE

1987 [By Cat Eldridge.] An Appreciation: Ellen Kushner’s Riverside series

I read it starting with the first book Swordspoint: A Melodrama of Manners. The second paragraph of that novel has this lovely sentence: “Let the fairy tale begin on a winter’s morning, then, with one drop of blood newly-fallen on the ivory snow: a drop as bright as a clear-cut ruby, red as a single spot of claret on the lace cuff.” Oh my. 

I was hooked. A novel that was a fantasy of manners as Kushner called it, set in a city where it was always winter, where being gay was normal and nothing to be commented upon, conversations are sharp as the ever-present sword fighting is and the drink of choice is hot chocolate. What was there not to love? 

Riverside itself is a fascinating setting. As the name implies the place is set up in now decaying buildings near a river which I don’t recall as ever being named. Kushner simply calls it “an unsavoury quarter in a prosperous city”. It is always cold there, and dressing properly is of course important as is dressing with a degree of elegance. One character notes that “He felt the cold, the wind cutting across the river, even in his new clothes. He had bought himself a heavy cloak, jacket, and fur-lined gloves.”

Oh, and the stories told here are quite fascinating. I’m going to avoid talking about them as there’s a good possibility that some of you might not have read this series yet. Our Green Man reviewer of Swordspoint in his retrospective review said “I once called this book ‘elegant, magical, and bitchy’,” and that, I think, still catches the feel of it. George R. R. Martin said “Swordspoint has an unforgettable opening . . . and just gets better from there.” That’s only the truth.” 

If you decide to read the series, you are for a extended and absolutely great reading experience as there would be quite a few novels to come telling a complex story that will extend over a considerable period of time. There are also a number of short stories too.

There are also audiobooks of the series which I should bring to your attention as these are full cast productions in which damn near everyone performs including Neil Gaiman and Simon Jones. It’s a stellar experience. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 9, 1906 Walter Sande. He’s best remembered for being on Red Planet MarsThe War of the Worlds and Invaders from Mars, but he also showed up playing a heavy in such serials as The Green Hornet Strikes Again! and Sky Raiders, the latter being at least genre adjacent. He’s had a recurring role as Col. Crockett on The Wild Wild West, and one-offs on Voyage to the Bottom of The SeaThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.Lost in Space and Bewitched. (Died 1971.)
  • Born July 9, 1911 Mervyn Peake. Best remembered for the Gormenghast series which is quite delightfully weird. Most fans hold that there are but three novels in the series (Titus Groan, Gormenghast and Titus Alone) though there’s a novella, “Boy in Darkness”, that is a part of it. It has been adapted for radio three times and television once, and Gaiman is writing the script for a forthcoming series which isn’t out yet. (Died 1968.)
  • Born July 9, 1938 Brian Dennehy. One of my favorite performers. He was Walter in the Cocoon films, and, though it’s more genre adjacent than actually genre, Lt. Leo McCarthy in F/X and F/X 2 which I immensely enjoyed. He also voiced Django in Ratatouille, a film that was, err, very tasty.Sorry I couldn’t resist the pun. I thought his very last performance was as Jerome Townsend in the “Sing, Sing, Sing” episode of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels series, but he shot three films that either have come out since he died, or will, none genre or genre adjacent. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 9, 1944 Glen Cook, 78. Yes, I’ve read his entire excellent Black Company series. I’ve also mostly liked his far lighter Garrett P.I. series (though not the last novel for reasons I’ll not discuss here) which it seems unfortunately he’s abandoned. And I really should read the Instrumentalities of the Night as I’ve heard good things about it. I’m really, really surprised not only that he hasn’t won any awards, but how few he’s been nominated for. 
  • Born July 9, 1954 Ellen Klages, 68. Her story “Basement Magic” won a Nebula Award for Best Novelette. I strongly recommend Portable Childhoods, a collection of her short fiction, published by Tachyon Publications, my favorite publisher of fantasy. They released another collection from her, Wicked Wonders, which is equally wonderful. Passing Strange, her novel set in 1940s San Francisco, which won a BSFA Award and a World Fantasy Award, is also really great. Ok, I really like her.
  • Born July 9, 1970 Ekaterina Sedia, 52. Her Heart of Iron novel which was nominated for a Sidewise Award for Alternate History is simply awesome. I’d also recommend The Secret History of Moscow and the recent The House of Discarded Dreams as well, the latter is a fantastic audio work which is narrated by Robin Miles. It’s worth noting that the usual suspects list several collections by her, Willful Impropriety: 13 Tales of Society, Scandal, and Romance and Wilfill Impropriety that ISFDB doesn’t list. They’re quite superb it turns out as is Paper Cities: An Anthology of Urban Fantasy for which she won a World Fantasy Award. She had a story out just last year, “Ghost Shop”, in Professor Charlatan Bardot’s Travel Anthology to the Most (Fictional) Haunted Buildings in the Weird, Wild World.  She’s amply stocked at the usual suspects. She’s also very deeply stocked at the audio suspects as well which sort of surprised and delighted me as I’ve added a number of her works to my To Be Listened to list, including The House of Discarded Dreams which sounds really fascinating in the manner of Gaiman’s Sandman.
  • Born July 9, 1978 Linda Park, 44. Best known for her portrayal of communications officer Hoshi Sato on Enterprise, a series that deeply divides Trekkies. (I really liked it.) Her first genre role was Hannah in Jurassic Park III, and she was Renee Hansen in the Spectres filmwhich Marina Sirtis was also in. She was in something called Star Trek: Captain Pike as Captain Grace Shintal. It has to be another one of those fan video fictions which are quite common. Her latest genre role was in For All Mankind as Amy Chang in the “Pathfinder” episode. 
  • Born July 9, 1995 Georgie Henley, 27. English actress, best remembered for her portrayal of Lucy Pevensie throughout the Chronicles of Narnia film franchise from age ten to age fifteen. Not even vaguely genre adjacent, she recently played Margaret, Queen of Scots in The Spanish Princess.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side features a Stone Age alien encounter.
  • Tom Gauld’s latest cartoon for the Guardian:

 (11) FANS MOURN TAKAHASHI. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna has an appreciation for “Yu-Gi-Oh” creator Kazuki Takahashi. “’Yu-Gi-Oh!’ creator Kazuki Takahashi dies at 60”.

…Takahashi’s creatures range from horror to fantasy, yet “there’s a common craftsmanship among them — the kind of thing that reveals hidden details over time, as well as the visceral ‘Oh my God, that looks so rad,’ ” [Daniel Dockery, senior writer for Crunchyroll] said. “The fact that they would be summoned in a world not too unlike our own makes them even more appealing to the eye. They are truly yours to adore and play with, making you feel powerful and inspired in equal measure.”

Takahashi had recently worked on this year’s Marvel’s “Secret Reverse,” a manga graphic novel team-up featuring Spider-Man and Iron Man/Tony Stark, who travels to a Japanese gaming convention….

(12) OH, THOSE REBELLIOUS YOUNG PEOPLE. The New York Times is curious: “‘Why Is Everyone Wearing Suits?’: #GentleMinions Has Moviegoers Dressing Up”.  

Normally when Carson Paskill heads to the movie theater, he opts for a comfortable outfit of sweatpants and a sweatshirt. But last weekend, he arrived in a black suit, white collared shirt and dress shoes.

Mr. Paskill, 20, attended a screening of “Minions: The Rise of Gru” at the Century 16 in Beaverton, Ore., on July 2 with eight of his friends, all dressed in suits for the occasion.

“Anybody over the age of 25 was, like, really, really confused about what we were doing there,” said Mr. Paskill, who has 1.6 million followers on TikTok. “Like, ‘why is everyone wearing suits?’”

The inspiration is a TikTok trend known as #GentleMinions, which has amassed more than 61 million views on the platform. It encourages “Minions” moviegoers to film themselves as they dress up in suits and sunglasses to attend screenings of the latest installment of the “Despicable Me” series….

(13) HOW DO YOU GET THIS THING OUT OF SECOND GEAR? “Why the [expletive] can’t we travel back in time?” from Ars Technica in 2021.

Look, we’re not totally ignorant about time. We know that the dimension of time is woven together with the three dimensions of space, creating a four-dimensional fabric for the Universe. We know that the passage of time is relative; depending on your frame of reference, you can slip forward into the future as gently as you please. (You just need to either go close to the speed of light or get cozy with a black hole, but those are just minor problems of engineering, not physics.)

But as far as we can tell, we can’t reverse the flow of time. All evidence indicates that travel into the past is forbidden in our Universe. Every time we try to concoct a time machine, some random rule of the Universe comes in and slaps our hand away from the temporal cookie jar.

And yet, we have no idea why. The reasons really seem random; there is nothing fundamental we can point to, no law or equation or concept that definitively explains why thou shalt not travel into the past. And that’s pretty frustrating. It’s obvious that the Universe is telling us something important… we just don’t know what it’s saying.

Go ahead, kill your grandfather

There are all sorts of philosophical debates for and against the possibility of time travel. Take, for example, the famous “grandfather paradox.” Let’s say you build a time machine and travel back in time. You find your own grandfather and shoot him dead (I don’t know why, but roll with me here). But wait… if your grandfather is dead, it means he can’t father your father, which means you never exist. So how did you go back in time to do the awful deed?…

(14) CATCH A FALLING STAR. In this week’s Nature: “European mission plans to ambush a rare comet”.

The European Space Agency (ESA) last month approved the first mission that will launch without a pre-selected target. Instead, it will wait in space, ready to fly at short notice.

The Comet Interceptor mission will launch in 2028 and will travel to a point of gravitational stability 1.5 million kilometres from Earth. Once there, it will be able to wait for up to six years for a suitable comet to pass close enough to Earth’s orbit to visit. If that occurs, the probe will leave on a fly-by course. The main spacecraft will approach to a distance of about 1,000 kilometres — far enough away to avoid being damaged by nearby material — while two smaller probes will dive closer, down to as little as 400 kilometres from the surface.

The goal is to find a pristine object, known as a long-period comet, that is approaching the Sun for the first time. The encounter would provide a window on material that formed at the dawn of the Solar System, 4.5 billion years ago. Other missions have visited comets that have been altered by the Sun because they have spent time in the inner Solar System.

Alternatively, the craft could intercept an object from another solar system, similar to the rock ‘Oumuamua, which crossed the Solar System in 2017.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: V Rising,” you play a vampire who isn’t harmed that much by sunlight, “Making him like a really committed Goth.”  But the real vampires are the gamers who spend too long on this “because they’re sucking their parents’ retirement money.”

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

Review: A Star Named Vega

By Mike Glyer: The social media of the 30th century doesn’t seem so different: teenagers anonymously perform acts of civil disobedience and vandalism to score points and raise their ranking in an internet app. That’s where Aster Vale leads a secret life as the Wildflower, a street artist and tagger, in A Star Named Vega by Benjamin J. Roberts, a Self-Published Science Fiction competition finalist.

However, much else is different a thousand years from now. Humanity lives in a post-scarcity space society that has settled planets around the Thirteen Suns, each under the protective maternal guidance of its own artificial intelligence. The colonization plan worked almost perfectly, with one exception, sent to a world that changed disastrously for the worse by the time humans arrived. Rel Akepri is a young soldier from that broken planet, a Skaird genetically engineered for war. And if the small team of experienced fighters he belongs to don’t complete their mission, then genocide will be their people’s fate.

Aster’s father joins a mysterious research project, requiring them to travel from Sol to the Vega System. He also has to bring along 13-year-old genius hacker Isaac who has been spared from a jail term so he can apply his skills to the research.

Aster sees their luxury starcruiser as just another canvas to explore. Isaac is willing to run interference with ship’s security. But the ship is the Skaird team’s first stop because they need the briefing information that was shared with members of the research project.

How can a couple of sheltered teenagers possibly make a difference? The first time around the answer is – they can’t. But the question will crop up repeatedly as the story progresses, and as time goes by the answer changes to – they can make a great deal of difference, indeed.

A Star Named Vega hooks the reader with characters to care about and complex worldbuilding that inspires deeper thinking. What’s more, it seemed that every time I found myself asking why a cultural or technological element didn’t quite seem to fit, the next scene would reconcile everything. I began to wonder if it was really a case that the author had subtly orchestrated my curiosity, rather than me spotting a deficiency that needed correction.

For example, when we’re first introduced to Rel Akepri and his people they look radically alien in appearance but their psychology seems entirely human. I skeptically wondered if this was one more example of the trend where aliens are nothing more than humans with extra bumps on their heads – despite the Skairds’ physical appearance differing much more from humans than does your average Star Trek race. 

But then we get a whole info dump to explain they’re fully human though they also have a bunch of genetic modifications that let them live in extreme environments – their home planet, or in space for that matter. In the end I was willing to handwave the biology, yet I still wondered where the energy came from that let these bodies perform all the operations they can do.  

There’s also a rich discussion to be had about the interaction in the 30th century of human and artificial intelligence. In another info dump – also structured as a lecture delivered in a course Aster is taking – we find out what the culture of the 30th century thinks about it.

“There are three classes of artificial intelligence we use for basic understanding…. The first class describes entities that have been programmed to exhibit intelligent behavior, such as sprites, servobots, and Enforcement units. While they may seem lifelike, entities of the first class are not self-aware. The second class of AI describes neural emulations – computer models of real-world organic nervous systems, including those of humans. As human emulations do possess self-awareness, and thus human rights, their creation is carefully regulated by the Matron Seed of any given planetary system. We know human emulations as Seed Units, and often they choose to inhabit android bodyshells for interacting with the physical world. The third class of AI describes the Seed Mothers. Not programmed. Not emulated. Their minds emerge from the chains of quantum networks like patterns in the swirling of leaves, fractals in the complex plane.”

This hierarchy also dictates what become the rules of engagement for violent acts. Pranksters and criminals alike can trash Enforcement units like insurrectionists did the Capitol Police but without thinking of it as murder. In contrast, harming human beings would be a serious crime. And yet there is a troubling loose end to this rule which is meant to keep the entire second class from being treated the same as mere ‘bots. When an android who’s also a family friend is destroyed during the raid on the ‘cruiser, his body is torn apart so his physical memory can be taken. But the ethos of android bodies having uploaded and backed up records of their consciousness makes it possible for the character to reappear shortly after in a new physical shell — and strangely exhibiting no mental wear and tear. How would a sapient being not be traumatized by that experience? Well, perhaps if he is not being backed up in realtime he would have no recollection of being killed. As a reader I certainly found it disconcerting how little everyone who knew him was affected by what appeared a violent death.

The raid on the cruiser does not keep Aster’s father from reaching his destination and going to work on the mysterious project. Meanwhile Rel Akepri’s commander pieces together the stolen information so they can intercept the discovery they fear will be used to kill all Skairds. And Aster keeps up her lecture attendance so we readers can eavesdrop on those good long info dumps. What’s more, one of the students in Aster’s class is conveniently a jock who’s stridently in favor of killing all the Skairds, creating another source of insight on the racial justice / genocide conflict that is one of the book’s main themes.

This conflict, like Aster’s tagging and Isaac’s hacking, show that living without scarcity under the watchful eye of a powerful AI has not bred out humanity’s rebellious impulses. Why not? The reason, says one wise soul, is that humans spent thousands of years evolving to survive in a dangerous environment; for only a fraction of the time in the past few centuries have they lived in safety with plentiful resources. They’re simply unable to stop taking risks.

And when it comes to Aster’s teenage rebellion, nothing really interferes with it because Dr. Vale is like one of those 40s radio comedy fathers whose reputation as a serious disciplinarian is belied by the fact that everyone can get around him and bend him to accept their latest predicament. However, if she’d actually been shut down and obeyed all her father’s cautions she’d never have made the friends she needs to rally around when crisis arrives and the people she knows are the only ones who can avert the genocidal doom about to be meted out to the Skairds.

As I read this book I would think about what was holding me back from enjoying the story more — then whoosh! I’d be emotionally caught up in an action scene and really caring about the characters. Even though something would eventually pump the brakes and partly throw me out of the story, I thought those really good stretches were priceless. A riveting action sequence draws the story to a climax. Sometimes an author is able to suspend disbelief until the book ends, then looking back I find myself asking did the denoument make sense? I will say there’s no doubt that the way the story was tied up is faithful to the characters. It was emotionally strong. It was right for Aster, Rel, Isaac, her father, everyone. It stuck the landing.

SPSFC art by Tithi LuadthongLogos designed by Scott (@book_invasion)

Pixel Scroll 6/23/22 Last And First Scrolls

(1) CHARLIE JANE ANDERS KEYNOTE OPENS EVERY DOOR. In “Children’s Institute 10: Charlie Jane Anders Says ‘Magical Portals Exist, and Adults Aren’t Real’”, Publishers Weekly has extensive details of the author’s talk.

Science fiction author Charlie Jane Anders (Victories Greater Than Death) brought abundant charisma to the stage for her Ci10 keynote. Her hot-pink bob, matching Doc Martens, and neon-confetti-dotted black dress reinforced her energy. She delivered her talk, “Magical Portals Are Real, and I Can Prove It!,” in a conversational and confiding tone, to booksellers who know and recommend her LGBTQ+ fiction.

Alluding to Frank Herbert’s Dune dictum that “the universe is full of doors,” Anders said that we encounter portals in our lives. “I’ve jumped universes three or four times,” she said, acknowledging how she came to recognize her authorial persona and trans identity. “This is definitely not the universe I was born in.”…

(2) FINAL SCORE? Indiana Jones 5 might be it: “John Williams, 90, steps away from film, but not music” – reports the Associated Press.

After more than six decades of making bicycles soar, sending panicked swimmers to the shore and other spellbinding close encounters, John Williams is putting the final notes on what may be his last film score.

“At the moment I’m working on ‘Indiana Jones 5,’ which Harrison Ford — who’s quite a bit younger than I am — I think has announced will be his last film,” Williams says. “So, I thought: If Harrison can do it, then perhaps I can, also.”

Ford, for the record, hasn’t said that publicly. And Williams, who turned 90 in February, isn’t absolutely certain he’s ready to, either.

“I don’t want to be seen as categorically eliminating any activity,” Williams says with a chuckle, speaking by phone from his home in Los Angeles. “I can’t play tennis, but I like to be able to believe that maybe one day I will.”

Right now, though, there are other ways Williams wants to be spending his time. A “Star Wars” film demands six months of work, which he notes, “at this point in life is a long commitment to me.” Instead, Williams is devoting himself to composing concert music, including a piano concerto he’s writing for Emanuel Ax….

(3) THE DNA OF SFF. Camestros Felapton works out the difference between bounty hunters and Our Heroes in “Friday’s Rag Tag Crew versus bounty hunters”.

…But why, in reality, are bounty hunters so distinctly American? Like many things, once you dig beyond the fiction you run straight into the depressing inevitabilities of US history. There is a complex history behind bounty hunters in the US but looming large in that history are slave catchers. People employed to catch fugitive slaves were not a US invention but the size of the US slave economy (until the Civil War and emancipation) meant that “slave catcher” was both casual work and a profession for some. The powers of slave catchers was further enhanced prior to the Civil War with the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fugitive_Slave_Act_of_1850) which codified the ability of slave catchers to act beyond the borders of slave states. Slavery is not the only defining element in the US bounty hunting history but it is such a substantial example in the formative years of the nation that it is hard to imagine that it isn’t key to the lasting influence of the idea in the US.

The attraction of the bounty hunter concept to quasi-libertarian SFF is apparent. The bounty hunter as a character can be simultaneously running a private business and be an arm of law enforcement. As a legitimised vigilante, the bounty hunter as a character can sit in a kind of Lagrange point between the pull of the heroic individualist and the pull of authoritarian imposition of order…. 

(4) SPACEHOUNDS OF THE WSFS, And when Camestros Felapton is finished with the topic above, he chronicles the work of another set of adventurers who are hard at work to disarm “The Hugo Kill Switch”.

The people at The Hugo Book Club Blog (Olav Rokne & Amanda Wakaruk) are on a high-stakes mission to defuse a time bomb. Deep within the WSFS constitution is a hidden switch that is creeping ever closer to hitting some beloved Hugo Award categories. Can a rag-tag team save the Fan categories before the timer reaches zero?!

(5) TO THE EGRESS, AND BEYOND. Arturo Serrano analyzes the special challenges inherent in the audience’s complicated history with the Toy Story franchise and the Buzz Lightyear character and tells why Lightyear doesn’t fly, but it falls with style” at Nerds of a Feather.

…The quest for continued relevance is a preoccupation that the movie assigns to both Buzz and itself. It tries to evoke the feel of the Flash Gordon serials and, of course, both of the big Star franchises. But instead of the now-common practice of attempting to recapture an old moment of wonder via repetition and allusion, this movie gave itself the harder task of pretending to be that first experience. Although the villain’s big plan involves the return to an idealized past, Lightyear is not a case of nostalgia (because anything it could try to revisit is supposed to be provided by this story for the first time), but of pastiche. It may be unfair to cast Pixar as a victim of its own spectacular successes, but Lightyear is certainly not the best that the studio is capable of, and at times it’s a stretch to imagine small Andy being blown away by it….

(6) YES, THE END IS NEAR! The inaugural winner of the first Self-Published Science Fiction Competition will be announced in three weeks.

(7) WHO IN THE MOVIES. Radio Times covers the revelation that a “Doctor Who unmade film script featured two Doctors”.

…However, Subotsky revealed that a second deal was negotiated following production of 1965’s Dr. Who and the Daleks which would indeed have allowed for a third film. “There was a further agreement that was entered into, to give the rights to make a third movie, which of course was never done,” he explained. “It was on the same terms as the original films, so my feeling is… the option lapsed.”

Though a third movie never materialised, Subotsky further revealed that his father did in fact produce a screenplay for the proposed sequel that remains in his family’s possession and was also displayed at the BFI event – this script, however, was not an adaptation of any existing Doctor Who television serial.

“Many years later, maybe 15 years later, it was clearly still on his mind, because he had prepared a script called ‘Doctor Who’s Greatest Adventure’ which actually was a repurposed script of a horror film entitled ‘King Crab’… the original title was even worse, it was ‘Night of the Crabs’!

“It was with two Doctors – a young Doctor and an old Doctor – which is an idea that has been returned to.”…

(8) PEOPLE WHO NEED PEOPLE. Polygon’s Joshua Rivera drops a few SPOILERS along the way: “Obi-Wan Kenobi finale review: a Star Wars show as broken as its hero”.

… Across its brief six-episode run, Obi-Wan stopped the spectacle to focus on people — and it mostly resonates as a contrast to how much I’ve missed them in other Star Wars stories.

At the heart of this are Obi-Wan’s two central performances. As Obi-Wan, Ewan McGregor plays a broken man in exile, a soldier who knows he lost the war but is still being asked to fight it, keeping constant vigil from afar over the young Luke Skywalker. As befits the character that shares the series’ name, every note of Obi-Wan’s journey rings true, largely thanks to McGregor’s performance….

(9) PHYSICS AIN’T MISBEHAVING. Matt O’Dowd of PBS Space Time whittles away at the question, “Is Interstellar Travel Impossible?”.

Space is pretty deadly. But is it so deadly that we’re effectively imprisoned in our solar system forever? Many have said so, but a few have actually figured it out.

(10) MEMORY LANE

1983 [By Cat Eldridge.] Thirty-nine years ago, the follow-up film to the Twilight Zone series premiered this week. Produced by Steven Spielberg and John Landis, Twilight Zone: The Movie certainly carried high expectations. This film features four stories directed by Landis, Spielberg, Joe Dante, and George Miller. 

Landis’ segment is the only original story created for the film, while the segments by Spielberg, Dante, and Miller are remakes or more precisely reworkings of episodes from the original series.

The screenplay is not surprisingly jointly done by a committee of John Landis, George Clayton, Johnson Richard Matheson and Melissa Mathison as is the story which is by Landis, Matheson, Johnson and Jerome Bixby. 

The principal cast was surprisingly small given that there were four stories, just Dan Aykroyd, Albert Brooks, Scatman Crothers, John Lithgow, Vic Morrow and Kathleen Quinlan. 

It did quite well at the box office, making over forty million against a budget of under ten million. Some critics like Roger Ebert at the Chicago Sun-Tribune like some of it though he noted that, “the surprising thing is, the two superstar directors are thoroughly routed by two less-known directors” while others such as Vincent Canby at the New York Times hated all of it calling the movie a “flabby, mini-minded behemoth”. 

It was enough of a financial success that the suits at CBS gave the approval to the Twilight Zone series.

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a not great fifty-five percent rating. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 23, 1908 — Sloan Nibley. Writer who worked on a number of genre series including Science Fiction TheaterAddams FamilyThe Famous Adventures of Mr. MagooShazan, and the New Addams Family. (Died 1990.)
  • Born June 23, 1945 — Eileen Gunn, 77. Her story “Coming to Terms” based on her friendship with Avram Davidson won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Her stories are in Stable Strategies and OthersSteampunk Quartet and Questionable Practices. With L. Timmel Duchamp, she penned The WisCon Chronicles, Vol. 2: Provocative Essays on Feminism, Race, Revolution, and the Future. Her ”Stable Strategies for Middle Management” story picked up a nomination at Noreascon 3 (1989), and “Computer Friendly” garnered a nomination the next year in the same category at ConFiction (1990). She’s well stocked at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born June 23, 1957 — Frances McDormand, 65. She’s God. Well at least The Voice of God in Good Omens. Which is on Amazon Prime y’all. Her first genre role was in the “Need to Know” episode of Twilight Zone followed shortly thereafter by being Julie Hastings in Sam Raimi’s excellent Dark Man. She’s The Handler in Æon Flux and that’s pretty much everything worth noting. 
  • Born June 23, 1963 – Liu Cixin, 59. He won the Best Novel Hugo at Saquan (2015) for his Three Body Problem novel, translated into English by Ken Liu. It was nominated for the Campbell Memorial, Nebula, Canopus and Prometheus Awards as well. He picked up a Hugo novel nomination at Worldcon 75 (2017) for Death’s End also translated by Liu. 
  • Born June 23, 1972 — Selma Blair, 50. Liz Sherman in Hellboy and  Hellboy II: The Golden Army. She also  voiced the character in the animated Hellboy: Sword of Storms and Hellboy: Blood and Iron as well which are quite excellent. She’s Stevie Wayne in The Fog, a slasher film a few years later and was Cyane on the “Lifeblood” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess. Later on, she’d be Jessica Harris in the “Infestation” episode of Lost in Space. 
  • Born June 23, 1980 — Melissa Rauch, 42. Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz on The Big Bang Theory which is at least genre adjacent if not genre. She gets to be really genre in voicing Harley Quinn in Batman and Harley Quinn which Bruce Timm considers “a spiritual successor to Batman: The Animated Series”. Having watched a few episodes on HBO when I was subscribed to that streaming service, I vehemently disagree. 
  • Born June 23, 2000 — Caitlin Blackwood, 22. She was the young Amelia Pond in these Doctor Who episodes; “The Eleventh Hour”, “The Big Bang”, “Let’s Kill Hitler” and “The God Complex”. She had a cameo in “The Angels Take Manhattan”.  She’s the cousin of Karen Gillan who plays the adult Pond.  I can’t find anything online that talks about how she was cast in the role but it was brilliantly inspired casting!

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) DEADLY DESIGNS. Paul Weimer will make you want to read the second City Siege novel of KJ Parker: “Book Review: How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with it” at Nerds of a Feather.

…While the first volume had Orban explicitly say that he was not telling the whole truth in the end, here from the beginning we have a professional telling us right from the get go about the power of stories, lies, shading the truth and more in order to tell his story. The first novel was Parker geeking out about engineering and siegecraft and how a determined engineer could frustrate the greatest army the world has assembled. By contrast, this second novel does have concerns regarding the siege and defending it, because Parker does really like to go down his rabbit holes and show it off. (In some ways, I think of him very much like Herman Melville, just enjoying sharing what he has learned and shown off about all sorts of abstruse subjects, interwoven masterfully into the story)….

(14) OCTOTHORPE. With a cover courtesy of DALL-E, Octothorpe 60 is now up! Listen here: “Different Types of Tedium”.

John Coxon is going to brunch, Alison Scott watched a film, and Liz Batty is critical. We discuss what we’d do if we were king of The Hugo Awards for the day, and then we talk about ABBA and other science fiction. And Monster Munch – you love to hear it.

Cover by DALL-E

(15) LIGHT FINGERS. Yahoo! listens as “Taika Waititi admits to stealing equipment from ‘The Hobbit’ set”.

New Zealand filmmaker and actor Taika Waititi appeared Wednesday on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, where he shared a Hobbit-sized secret regarding the second film in the popular franchise directed by fellow Kiwi Oscar winner Peter Jackson.

Waititi shared, “When I did What We Do in the Shadows, when Jemaine [Clement, the film’s co-writer and star] and I were shooting that, we didn’t have much money to do that film, and The Hobbit had just wrapped. And, so, our production designer — man, I don’t know if I should tell this. OK, but I will. Our production designer, in the dead of night, took his crew to The Hobbit studios and stole all of the dismantled, broken-down green screens and took all of the timber, and we built a house.”…

(16) THEY CROSSED THE STREAMS. “The Mandalorian gets mashed up with The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in Star Wars/Ghostbusters crossover cosplay” at Ghostbusters News. They draw our attention not only to the clever cosplay, but “the adorable replacement for Grogu, consisting of a miniature version of Stay Puft being seen nestled inside his pram pod.”

(17) IT IS HIS FETA. Gizmodo takes a pretty funny look at “The Weirdest, Goat-iest Thor: Love and Thunder Merchandise”.

Marvel’s latest movie is bringing with it an Asgard Tours boat-load of weird and wonderful merchandise.

(18) REVISITING FILMATION. [Item by Bill.] The 1973-1974 Star Trek: The Animated Series was produced by Filmation.  Recently, Gazelle Animations has done some clips from Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager in the Filmation style:

The animator gives background. And note the Most Important Device in the Universe!

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Lightyear Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George, in a spoiler-packed episode, the producer learns that the premise of Lightyear–that it’s an action movie Andy saw in 1995 that made him want to buy a Buzz Lightyear toy–he gets excited because that means a producer in the Toy Story universe made money on the film.  But even though it’s supposed to be “a 1990s movie,” fans of 1990s movies that featured “a lot of over the top action and cheese” will be cruelly disappointed.  Toy Story fans who remember that the villain Zurg is Buzz Lightyear’s father will also be very disappointed.

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

Review: Captain Wu: Starship Nameless #1

By Rogers Cadenhead: In a universe controlled by a central government indifferent to the needs of its inhabitants, a crew of interstellar vagabonds uses their jury-rigged spaceship to take whatever work they can get — legal or otherwise — barely scraping by while showing an exceptional knack for finding trouble. A charismatic battle-scarred captain leads a fiercely loyal crew of close-knit misfits.

What sounds like Firefly also describes the SPSFC finalist novel Captain Wu: Starship Nameless #1, a space opera by authors Patrice Fitzgerald and Jack Lyster. I love Firefly so it wasn’t a big leap to climb aboard this vessel.

Captain Leanne Wu is a Asian woman in her sixties at the helm of “an old converted garbage scow called the Nameless. It was an odd boxy little thing but with powerful engines.” Wu is small of frame but literally pugnacious, getting into pit match fights both for money and stress relief.

The novel has barely begun when a smuggling job lands Wu and her crew neck-deep in distress. While trying to deliver an unknown package to a client that was planning to kill them in lieu of payment, a squad of tentacle-mouthed aliens arrives firing their weapons at both sides of the transaction.

This begins a tale that is full of chase sequences where the reason the aliens are attempting to kill them is not known. A lot of ingenuity and technological prowess are required for the protagonists to survive long enough to see book 2. The crew also acquires a stowaway with a familial tie to a crew member.

I found the novel was carried mostly by character, feeling less pull from the plot except as a vehicle to create interesting problems to solve.

Wu’s bisexual and her pilot Rev is transgender, representation that’s handled matter of fact. Wu gets most of the focus as a character but her back story is revealed only in dribs and drabs, which is understandable because did I mention aliens keep trying to kill them? In the final third we meet someone who might be the biological father of Wu’s daughter but has never been told this fact. It’s my favorite revelatory relationship in the book because you can tell the guy’s so foul his evil will take center-of-the-Tootsie Pop time to reveal. However, when he’s first met I was all “Leanne, what the hell is the problem? He seems nice.” (I give my heart to the wrong people in fiction.)

Captain Wu reminded me of Reverdy Jian, another LGBT space pilot who leads Melissa Scott’s excellent but overlooked 1992 novel Dreamships. Space pilots in that book navigated abstract “dreamspace.” In this one, space travel is amusingly humdrum. There are huge lines of ships at interstellar gates where Rev has to dodge miles-long vessels full of shipping containers. It has all the romance of a traffic jam on Interstate 12 in Baton Rouge.

Like Firefly, the Nameless has a crew whose stories I’d love to see fully told. My favorite is Six, a member of a collective race whose reason for no longer being among them is not explained. The authors pull off a sly trick in dialogue — the word “alone” is hard for Six to express. Six takes Wu aside at one point for private counsel and says, “This is why I wished to speak with you when you were as you are now.”

If this was a normal review I would stick the landing and say I enjoyed this jaunty series starter, which left me eager to continue to Smugglers Crew: Starship Nameless #2.

But this is a review for SPSFC, a contest to award the best self-published novel in science fiction. One of the things I consider is whether an entrant succeeds as a standalone even when it leaves readers wanting more from the series. I needed more information about the MacGuffin that Wu had the misfortune to schlep across the galaxy, but the first Starship Nameless novel leaves huge questions unanswered when a cliffhanger ends book one.

SPSFC art by Tithi LuadthongLogos designed by Scott (@book_invasion)

Review: Duckett and Dyer: Dicks for Hire

By Mike Glyer: G.M. Nair begins Duckett and Dyer: Dicks for Hire by making a surprising choice. His introductory scene explicitly reveals to readers the true nature of the mysterious events that the protagonists themselves uncover only very slowly throughout the first half of the book. The introduction might even be the penultimate scene in the book — which would make sense in a story that is partly about time travel loops. Good idea or bad idea?

Good idea, I think. The introduction serves as a kind of I.O.U. to keep readers’ hopes alive while Nair’s protagonists Michael Duckett and Stephanie Dyer fight a delaying action against becoming involved in the story Nair wants to tell. My Kindle showed I was 38% through the book before the duo decided to engage the problem that the story has been shoving in their faces since the beginning.

The time is spent developing the title characters, and setting a burnt-out noir style police detective on a parallel track. And delivering some laughs, because this Self-Published Science Fiction Competition finalist is also a humorous sf novel.

Michael Duckett works for an ominous corporation in a petty job. His roommate and best friend since childhood, Stephanie Dyer, is a jobless slacker as well as a free spirit — always ready to jump first and look where she’s landing second.

And Detective Rex Calhoun’s failing career takes a further turn for the worst when a suspect he’s about to grab vanishes in a blast of lightning and a clap of thunder.

Their paths will soon cross. Just when Duckett and Dyer are desperate to pay the rent they start getting a rash of calls to find missing people and do other P.I. work – because an unknown someone has been advertising their Detective Agency all over the city. Which is quite a surprise for Duckett and Dyer, who didn’t have an agency…before Stephanie impulsively decides, why not seize the chance to do some business?

As for Calhoun, when his suspect vanished one item was left behind — a taunting note that suggests an unknown someone orchestrated that event, too.

Following their respective leads, Duckett, Dyer, and Calhoun discover a web of missing people whose fates seem linked by a local theoretical physicist and his experiments with the fabric of space-time. And bungling their encounter with him, our faux private investigators precipitate their own disappearance. They’ll have to peel away some of the layers of the multiverse and visit some bizarre destinations if they ever hope to find the guiding hand behind these events and get home. (A Heinlein fan might even like to think of this book as the Wrong Number of the Beast.)

It’s hard to do sf humor and even harder to sustain it the length of a book. But all through the author got unexpected laughs out of me and deserves credit for that.

This whirl through the multiverse with a side order of time travel is entertaining. And the introduction is not quite the end of the story – the real ending averts a tragic outcome and returns Duckett and Dyer safely back where they belong. A revelation that can’t be too much of a spoiler — after all, this is the first in a three-book series.  

Get Ready for the Second Round of the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition

Judges are being recruited for the second round of the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition through July 15. The application form is here.

On July 15 authors will be able to submit their books to the contest.

File 770 will not be organizing a team of judges for the next round.