Pixel Scroll 9/15/22 One Fist Science Fiction, The Other Fantasy, If The Right One Don’t Get You, Then The Left One Will

(1) JUSTICE FOR SYLVIA ANDERSON. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Last night’s BBC Radio 4 arts programme, Front Row, devoted a substantive amount of time to the airbrushing of Sylvia Anderson from Anderson productions by Gerry Anderson and then the Anderson estate. This included unlawful contracts that lost her many years of royalties. Absolutely shocking. “Richard Eyre’s The Snail House; Sylvia Anderson and women in TV; the late Jean-Luc Godard”.

The name Sylvia Anderson was recently invoked by Dr. Lisa Cameron MP, during a debate on gender equality in the media in Westminster Hall. The late Sylvia Anderson was a pioneer in the male dominated world of television, co-creating Thunderbirds in the 1960s with her then husband Gerry. But her family say her name has often been omitted from credits and merchandise in the years since then. Samira speaks to Sylvia’s daughter Dee Anderson and Dame Heather Rabbatts, Chair of Time’s Up UK, who are campaigning for her legacy to be restored and to Barbara Broccoli, producer of the James Bond films, who remembers Sylvia as her mentor.

(2) PIECES OF CHICON 8. In episode 66 of the Octothorpe podcast, “Thank You, Steven”, John Coxon is in the fanzine lounge, Alison Scott is under a bison hat, and Liz Batty is good, thank you.

We chat to people in the fanzine lounge at Chicon 8. (Sorry about the background noise, and normal service resumes next week.)

Alt text. A purple square with “OCTOTHORPE 66” written at the bottom and inset, a photograph of John, Alison, and Liz. John is wearing a grey suit with a Hugo Award finalist pin and a matching purple tie and mask; Alison is wearing a black mask, a burgundy dress, and has glitter on her temple, and Liz is wearing a green dress and matching mask, a necklace by Vanessa Applegate, and a yellow shrug. They are against a backdrop which has alternating Hugo Award logos and Chicon 8 logos.

(3) ABOUT WORKSHOPS. Morgan Hazelwood shares notes about the Chicon 8 panel “Is a Writer’s Workshop Right For Me?” at Morgan Hazelwood: Writer In Progress.

Whether you’ve been writing for a while or dreaming of getting away and actually having time to write, many of us have wondered if a writer’s workshop was right for us.

At WorldCon 80, otherwise known as ChiCon8, I attended the panel: The Writing Workshop Workshop where moderator Erin Underwood led panelists Ian Muneshwar, Tegan Moor, James Patrick Kelly, and Caroline M Yoachim in a discussion aimed at answering that very question….

Hazelwood also presents the information in this YouTube video.

(4) TAKING COUNSEL OF THEIR FEARS. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The Atlantic has an interesting article about the backlash against casting actors of color in The Rings of Power, House of the Dragon, Sandman and all sorts of other things: “Fear of a Black Hobbit”.

Maybe you’ve heard that people are mad about Black actors being cast in Lord of the Rings. Or Game of Thrones. Or maybe it was Star Wars. Or perhaps Thor. Wait, maybe it was Titans, or SupermanThe Witcher? Or maybe you heard that people are angry that Black Panther got made in the first place, because Wakanda is fictional, unlike one of those fantasy countries authors seem to think will seem more mysterious if you add enough accents or apostrophes, like Warthéréth’rién. (I just made that up.) Maybe you’re wondering why adults care about a Disney mermaid being Black.

Earlier this month, CNN published a news story featuring an interview with Brandon Morse, an editor for the right-wing website RedState, in which he complained that Amazon’s new Lord of the Rings show, The Rings of Power, is integrated: “He says ‘The Rings of Power’ producers have cast non-White actors in a story based on European culture and who look wildly different from how Tolkien originally described them,” CNN reported. “He says it’s an attempt to embed ‘social justice politics’ into Tolkien’s world.” Morse told CNN that “if you focus on introducing modern political sentiments, such as the leftist obsession with identity issues that only go skin deep, then you’re no longer focusing on building a good story.”

It’s worth noting how rapidly right-wing language about colorblind meritocracy melts away when it does not produce the desired results. Perhaps the actors cast were simply the most qualified? …

(5) RELATED WORK. Cora Buhlert’s new “Non-Fiction Spotlight” is about Story Matrices: Cultural Encoding and Cultural Baggage in Science Fiction and Fantasy a fascinating book about storytelling, writing, and worldbuilding by Gillian Polack.

What prompted you to write/edit this book?

Because I’m addicted to story, I wondered just how much of our invisible culture we carried in in the way we tell stories. I began to look at the world building we do and the paths we take when we tell stories and read them. What is the difference between story space for the reader and story space for the writer and, indeed, story space for the editor? As I addressed these questions, I discovered how very powerful genre literature is in our lives. Even those who have never read a science fiction novel have experienced the narratives we tell and the cultural material we embed into our stories.

I wanted to explain this: that genre literature is a powerful, powerful force, that culture is transmitted through story, that we can all think about story and through that thought have more control over what we accept from story. We can, in short, choose not to be bigots….

(6) WHAT’S AHEAD IN THE DESIGN FIELD? Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination’s  event “Designing the Future with Applied Sci-Fi” will take place on Thursday, September 29, from 12:00-1:00 p.m. Eastern. Panelists include design fiction pioneer Julian Bleecker, speculative designer Anab Jain, narrative designer Alex McDowell, strategic foresight practitioner Radha Mistry, and futurist Brian David Johnson. The event will also feature opening remarks from the renowned science fiction (and nonfiction) author Bruce Sterling.

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

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

(7) TAKING ANOTHER CUT AT IT. The Hollywood Reporter declares,  “Amazon’s ‘Blade Runner’ TV Series Officially Happening”.

Amazon’s Prime Video has given the green light to Blade Runner 2099, a limited series sequel to the iconic sci-fi film franchise. The series comes from Amazon Studios and Alcon Entertainment, which holds the rights to Blade RunnerRidley Scott, who directed the classic 1982 film, will executive produce through his Scott Free Productions, while Silka Luisa (Apple TV+’s Shining Girls) will serve as showrunner….

Amazon announced it was developing Blade Runner 2099 in February. Its title implies it will be set 50 years after 2017’s film sequel Blade Runner 2049, directed by Denis Villeneuve, but story details are being kept quiet for now. The series will be the first live-action treatment of Blade Runner for TV; Adult Swim aired an anime series titled Blade Runner: Black Lotus that debuted in November 2021….

(8) A FONT OF KNOWLEDGE. Camestros Felapton is doing a highly scientific study to show that you can predict the genre of a book by the type face used on the cover. “The sans-serif genre axis part 2”. He’s not high, just his science is.

… “Science Fiction typically uses sans-serif fonts for titles” is a defensible claim — the proportion is high and the spread is relatively narrow compared with other genres….

(9) OUR MAN FLINT. The Alternate Historian does a beautiful tribute to the late author: “1632 by Eric Flint: What If Time Traveling Hillbillies Saved Europe?”.

Alternate historians love stranding people and places in the past because we want to see what happens when technology and ideas from the present are unleashed on earlier eras. And one novel would revolutionize these kind of stories and launch a new community of writers.

(10) MARGARET ANN BASTA (1951—2022). Margaret Basta who, with her twin sister Laura, published some of the earliest Star Trek fanzines, was found dead in her home on September 4. She was 69. Margaret was active in Detroit fandom in the Seventies, belonging to the Wayne Third Foundation. She and Laura were founders and officers of the Star Trek Association for Revival (S.T.A.R.). (Laura was nominated for a Best Fan Writer Hugo in 1974.) Margaret was later involved in Beauty and the Beast fandom.

Margaret died without provisions or funds for her burial and a friend has started a GoFundMe to pay for her burial expenses.

Hi, I’m Jan Feldmann; my best friend Margaret Basta died unexpectedly earlier this month. She left no provisions for a funeral or burial and her family cannot handle the expense. I loved her dearly for 50 years and want to see her ashes buried with dignity at Holy Sepulchre cemetary in Southfield MI. She was one of the first original Star Trek fans and organized several early ST fan conventions. She wrote fan fiction, collected and sold vintage jewelry, had a huge circle of friends all over the country, and made a lasting impression on countless people. Margaret was a wonderful lady and I hope you can help her on her final journey. $1500 will pay for the cremation and internment at Holy Sepulchre cemetary.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1991 [By Cat Eldridge.] Eerie, Indiana series

You remember Joe Dante who has served us such treats as the Gremlin films, a segment of the Twilight Zone: The Movie (“It’s A Good Life”) and, errr, Looney Tunes: Back in Action? (I’ll forgive him for that because he’s a consultant on HBO Max prequel series Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai.)

And Dante was the creative consultant and director on a weird little horror SF series thirty-one years ago on NBC called Eerie, Indiana. Yes, delightfully weird. It was created by José Rivera and Karl Schaefer. For both it would be their first genre undertaking, though they would have a starry future, their work including EurekaGoosebumpsThe Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story and Strange Luck to name but a few genre series that they’d work on in a major capacity. 

SPOILER ALERT! REALLY I’M SERIOUS, GO AWAY

Hardly anyone there is normal. Or even possibly of this time and space. We have super intelligent canines bent on global domination, a man who might be the Ahab, and, in this reality, Elvis never died, and Bigfoot is fond of the forest around this small town. 

There’s even an actor doomed to keep playing the same role over and over and over again, that of a mummy. They break the fourth wall and get him into a much happier film. Tony Jay played this actor.

Yes, they broke the fourth wall. That would happen again in a major way that I won’t detail here. 

END SPOILER ALERT. YOU CAN COME BACK NOW. 

It lasted but nineteen episodes as ratings were very poor. 

Critics loved it. I’m quoting only one due to its length: “Scripted by Karl Schaefer and José Rivera with smart, sharp insights; slyly directed by feature film helmsman Joe Dante; and given edgy life by the show’s winning cast, Eerie, Indiana shapes up as one of the fall season’s standouts, a newcomer that has the fresh, bracing look of Edward Scissorhands and scores as a clever, wry presentation well worth watching.”

It won’t surprise you that at Rotten Tomatoes, that audience reviewers give it a rating of eighty-eight percent. 

It is streaming on Amazon Prime, Disney+ and legally on YouTube. Yes legally on the latter. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 15, 1922 Bob Anderson. He was the swordmaster who played Darth Vader in his fight scenes in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. He replaced David Prowse due to the actor’s unfortunate tendency to break lightsabers. Because of the height differences—Anderson was six one while Prowse was six inches taller, Anderson’s scenes were filmed from a lower angle to make him seem taller, or he stood on some small stilts or wore platform shoes. Anderson later did swordfighting choreography and training for films such as The Lord of the Rings trilogy (with Christopher Lee), the Zorro movies with Antonio Banderas and Die Another Day with stunt performer Jim Dowdall. (Died 2022.)
  • Born September 15, 1924 Henry Silva, 98. Here for his genre work —  Buck Rogers in the 25th Century as Kane, Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold as Argon, Amazon Women on the Moon as Himself (the “Bullshit or Not” segment, Cyborg – Il guerriero d’acciaio as ‘Hammer’, and Dick Tracy as ‘Influence’.
  • Born September 15, 1925 Carlos Rambaldi. Wnner of three Oscars: one Special Achievement Academy Award for Best Visual Effects in Seventies version of King Kong, and two Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects of Alien and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. He is best remembered for his work in those two last mentioned films, that is for the mechanical head-effects for the creature in Alien and the design of the title character of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. He designed the Worms in Dune. (Died 2012.)
  • Born September 15, 1940 Norman Spinrad, 82. I’ll admit that the only novel I’ve read by him is Bug Jack Barron. My bad. And I was fascinated to learn he wrote the script for Trek’s “The Doomsday Machine” episode which is an amazing story. So how is it that he’s never won a Hugo? 
  • Born September 15, 1943 John M. Faucette. Published five novels and one short story. He left seven unpublished novels in various states of completion at his death. Two of his novels; Crown of Infinity and Age of Ruin, were published in the Ace Doubles series. None of his works are in print in digital or paper format currently including his Black Science Fiction anthology which he as an African-American SF writer was very proud of. (Died 2003.)
  • Born September 15, 1956 Elton T. Elliott, 66. Editor, publisher, reviewer. His solo fiction debut was “Lighting Candles on the River Styx” in Amazing (March 1991). His early novel-length work appeared in the 1980s in collaboration with Richard E.Geis under the pseudonym Richard Elliott. He edited Science Fiction Review from 1990 to 1992 which, yes, I remember reading at the time. 
  • Born September 15, 1960 Kevin Roche, 62. Chaired Worldcon 76 in San Jose (2018). Prior to that he co-chaired Westercon 66 in Sacramento in 2013 and chaired Costume-Con 26 in San José in 2008. He’s a veteran costumer and masquerade emcee, who co-directed the 2011 Worldcon’s Masquerade as well as Masquerades at Anime Los Angeles, Westercon, and BayCon. Roche is a research scientist at IBM Research Almaden. He also was editor of Yipe! The Costume Fanzine of Record.
  • Born September 15, 1962 Jane Lindskold, 60. My first encounter with her was through the Zelazny novel she finished, Donnerjack. It’s excellent though how much is Zelazny is open to vigorous debate. Of her own novels, I recommend The Buried Pyramid, Child of a Rainless Year and Asphodel as being very good. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Agnes has some pecadillos as a author that make me wonder if she’s a relative of Writer X. It seems even more possible after reading this later strip.
  • Lio shows that sometimes nature calls from very faraway places.
  • The Far Side offers wordplay of mythic proportions.  

(14) STUMPERS. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Randall Munroe on how he went from being a NASA roboticist to an answerer of weird questions. “The world’s funniest former NASA roboticist will take your questions”.

…Other “What If? 2” situations ring of the perilous: What are your chances of death-by-geyser at Yellowstone Park? What would the daily caloric human-intake needs be for a modern T. rex gone rogue in the boroughs of New York? And how catastrophic would it be if, as the children’s tune goes, all the raindrops were lemon drops and gumdrops?…

(15) CURRENT EVENTS. “Colonizing the Cosmos: Astor’s Electrical Future” at The Public Domain Review. “During America’s Gilded Age, the future seemed to pulse with electrical possibility. Iwan Rhys Morus follows the interplanetary safari that is John Jacob Astor’s A Journey in Other Worlds, a high-voltage scientific romance in which visions of imperialism haunt a supposedly ‘perfect’ future.”

…Luckily, one of them told us exactly how he imagined the century to come. In 1894, New York publishers D. Appleton and Company released A Journey in Other Worlds: A Romance of the Future, written by John Jacob Astor IV, one of America’s wealthiest men. The Astor clan had originally made their fortune in the fur trade, and had added to their millions through investment in land and property. In 1897, John Jacob would build the Astoria Hotel in New York, next door to the Waldorf, owned by his cousin William. The hotel was both a symbol of the Astor family’s wealth and a honeypot for New York’s fashionables (Tesla himself lived there until he was turfed out for failing to pay his bills). It’s Astor’s authorship that makes the book such a fascinating insight into the Gilded Age’s fantasies about its prosperous tomorrows….

(16) TURN OF THE SEASON. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] SF2 Concatenation’s autumnal edition is now up.

Fiction Reviews

Non-fiction SF/F & Popular Science

(17) SAY CHEESE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.]  “Webb telescope wows with first image of an exoplanet” in Nature.

The James Webb Space Telescope has taken its first picture of a planet beyond the Solar System — opening a window to understanding other worlds and underscoring the telescope’s immense capabilities.

The image (shown) is of a planet called HIP 65426 b, an object similar to Jupiter, but younger and hotter, that lies 107 parsecs from Earth in the constellation Centaurus. Although it looks like a pixelated light bulb, it is the first exoplanet image ever taken at deep infrared wavelengths, which allow astronomers to study the full range of a planet’s brightness and what it is made of (the star symbol marks HIP 65426 b’s star, whose light the telescope blocked).

“It gives us wavelengths we’ve never seen planets at before,” says Beth Biller, an astronomer at the University of Edinburgh, UK, and a member of the discovery team. The image was reported in a paper on a preprint server on 31 August (A. L. Carter et al. Preprint at https://arxiv.org/abs/2208.14990; 2022); the study has not been peer reviewed.

Astronomers know of more than 5,000 exoplanets, but they have taken pictures of only around 20. Imaging exoplanets directly is difficult, because they are often lost in the glare of the star around which they orbit.

But observing them at infrared wavelengths, as Webb does, helps to boost the contrast between star and planet. “You’re in the regime where planets are brightest and stars are dimmest,” says Aarynn Carter, an astronomer at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and lead author of the preprint.

(18) SICK IN UTAH. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Someone had too good a room party…. “The Jurassic vomit that stood the test of time” at Nature.

Some 150 million years ago, towards the end of the Jurassic period, an unknown but probably small creature threw up a recent meal inside a pond in what is now Utah1.

Over the ages, the puke’s contents were fossilized and remained untouched. That is, until they reached the hands of John Foster at the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum in Vernal and his colleagues.

The researchers found the fossil at the ‘Jurassic Salad Bar’, a site where they’ve unearthed more than 300 fossilized plants. The specimen is small, not much larger than 1 square centimetre in area. But it’s densely packed with more than 20 undigested bones and some puzzling items that might well be soft tissues or part of the vomit material.

Some of the bones, including some vertebrae, possibly belonged to a tadpole. Others were once part of frogs. And a tiny femur might have come from a salamander. Given the contents and the setting they were found in, researchers strongly suspect that a fish might have been the one to throw them up.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: 300th Episode,” the Screen Junkies’s EPIC Voice Guy salutes Ryan George for his 300th episode of “Pitch Meeting” by saying Ryan George is “the Canadian Ryan who doesn’t have six-pack abs.”  George gets to repeat all the catchphrases from every episode (including “super easy, barely an inconvience”) and says that after 300 episodes the producer and the writer have turned from “poorly developed characters” into “psychopaths.”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Joey Eschrich, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, 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 Cora Buhlert.]

Pixel Scroll 9/1/22 It’s Not A Pixel Scroll, It’s A Flamin’ Platypus

(1) PHOTO FROM THURSDAY’S FILE 770 MEETUP AT CHICON 8. The first File 770 meetup organized by Hampus Eckerman happened this morning – here’s a photo of some of the fans who made it. From left to right, Nicole, Martin and Kendall.

Meanwhile, Hampus has shifted the location for the Friday meetup to get away from the Jazz Festival happening in the area he planned before. Check the details here: Update Filers Meetup for Worldcon.

(2) PASSED MASTER. It’s a big advantage if you can skip taking a plane. “I will astral project myself to Worldcon” says Camestros Felapton. Expect to smell, er, see him there!

(3) MAGICAL THINKING. Xiran Jay Zhao, author of Iron Widow, cut loose with this video a few days ago:  

They have since traveled to Chicago. Where someone turned on the TV.

(4) CHICON 8 HITS A COUPLE OF BUMPS. The 2022 Worldcon began today, and a few problems with the con’s virtual edition prompted Chair Helen Montgomery to issue this “Virtual Access Apology”.

We apologize for the impact that accessibility issues within Airmeet, our platform for Virtual Chicon 8, have had on our members.

Thank you to people who have reached out to us about these issues as we launched this week.

The short version of our reply is that you are correct. There are definitely accessibility issues within Airmeet. Some issues we knew about and planned for, some issues are things we recently discovered, and some are things we simply didn’t think through all the way.

We knew that whatever platform we chose would have problems. We chose a platform that several of our staff have used before. We had a broad team working on Virtual C8, representing multiple divisions and areas, including our Accessibility Services team. Nonetheless, despite our best efforts, we still missed some pieces.

We are continuing to work on various workarounds for known issues. You can see our updated Accessibility Guide here (under the Virtual C8 menu tab) which is everything we know about Accessibility at this moment. We will continue to update it as we learn more.

If you need help, we have our live text chat service located at the bottom of the Virtual C8 page. You can also email us at virtual@chicon.org for assistance.

Hugo Administrator Kat Jones also apologized for some errors in the Souvenir Book: “Astounding Award Finalists: An Apology”.

We apologize for errors that have appeared in the official Chicon 8 Souvenir Book on page 98, in the listing of previous Astounding Award winners. 

When constructing the list of previous winners, the team mistakenly took the first name (ordered alphabetically) from this year’s Astounding Award ballot and listed it for the 2022 Astounding Award. We will correct this in the electronic version of the Souvenir Book. The team working on the Souvenir Book does not have visibility into the results of this year’s voting, and this error does not reflect anything other than the alphabetical ordering of the ballot.

We also apologize for the misspelling of Emily Tesh’s name as the 2021 Astounding Award winner, and the misspelling of Jeannette Ng’s name as the 2019 Astounding Award winner. These will also be corrected in the electronic version of the Souvenir Book.

We are very sorry for these mistakes.

(5) THE LINEAGE OF BATMAN. SF2 Concatenation has tweeted an advance post ahead of its autumnal edition: “Batman – Cinematic portrayals, or how The Dark Knight has maintained his comic book hero franchise”.

With the latest film in the collection just been to the cinema (eventually!) and now available on DVD, Bluray and on the usual platforms as The Batman, Mark Yon thought he would look at the rather long and complicated past of Batman in the cinema (with a couple of nods to comics and television as well!)…

(6) FENCON COPES WITH HOTEL OVERBOOKING MISTAKE. FenCon XVIII, which will be held in Irving, Texas from September 16-18, was handed the short end of the stick when their hotel “had a glitch” and got oversold by 150 rooms. The problem is being solved by switching a number of fans to nearby hotel, setting up continuous shuttles, and giving the displaced fans a $20 a day voucher. The committee told Facebook readers that anyone with an assisted reservation was kept on the property. Here is the statement from the convention’s website:

From the FenCon Staff to all of our members and guests: 

In mid-August, the Sheraton DFW hotel notified us that, due to a major computer glitch, they have oversold by over 150 rooms on FenCon weekend. The only way to manage their room inventory is to relocate many of our attendees to their sister property across the street, the DoubleTree DFW North. 

As a part of the concessions which the hotel is making to our convention, they will: 

* run a continuous shuttle between the two hotels during convention hours

* provide a $20 food voucher per day for each relocated guestroom for the DoubleTree restaurant

* the Hotel will be contacting attendees individually if their room is one of those being moved

The hotel has assured us that everyone who booked an accessible room will stay at the Sheraton.

Obviously this situation will be inconvenient, but Fencon was faced with the choice of working with the hotel to manage the situation, or canceling the convention, which we certainly did not want!

We hope the meal vouchers will help, and the shuttle should be a convenient way to move between the hotels. We do ask that you please not drive between hotels, as the parking spaces at the Sheraton will be nearly at capacity already.

We appreciate your understanding about the issue, and ask that you respect the staff at the various hotels – it isn’t their fault, and they are working hard to accommodate our needs. 

(7) SANFORD’S GRAPEVINE.  Jason Sanford posted a free issue of his “Genre Grapevine” sff news column on Patreon. It features many strong segments, such as “Twitter and the Normalization of Online Harassment and Attacks” which concludes:

…Sadly, I think it’s too late for Twitter and many of the original social media platforms, which enabled and profited off the worst aspects of humanity. As Annalee Newitz explained in this must-read post, Twitter is rapidly becoming a lost city. The result of all this will likely accelerate people moving to new platforms that don’t support and enable this hate and harassment, including siloed systems like personal newsletters. (For more on why authors should consider starting their own newsletter, see this excellent thread from K Tempest Bradford.)

All of this is a shame, because as Premee Mohamed explained, there are benefits and connections you can only find on a public platform like Twitter.

(8) EISNER TUNING UP FOR BROADWAY. Will Eisner’s “’A Contract With God’ Being Adapted Into Broadway Musical With TEG+” reports Variety.

TEG+ has acquired the stage rights to Will Eisner’s graphic novel “A Contract With God” and is adapting it into a Broadway musical, with new and original songs written by Sam Hollander, Lisa Loeb, Matisyahu, Ryan Miller and Jill Sobule.

“A Contract With God,” first published in 1978, is commonly recognized as the very first graphic novel in history. The novel consists of four interweaving stories revolving around the lives of a group of New Yorkers who live in a fictional tenement house, many of whom are Jewish and/or immigrants. For the musical, all of the members of the songwriting team are Jewish musicians and composers. Writing and recording sessions on the musical will commence soon, with Hollander serving as music producer.

(9) WHAT, AND LEAVE THAT MONEY ON THE TABLE? Dr. Michael D.C. Drout, a professor of English at Wheaton College in Massachusetts and co-editor of the journal Tolkien Studies, says in an opinion piece for the New York Times, “Please Don’t Make a Tolkien Cinematic Universe”.

…“The Rings of Power,” which will come out weekly after its two-episode premiere, is based primarily on only a few dozen pages in one of the historical appendices to “The Lord of the Rings,” meaning that almost the entire plot of the show has been created by Amazon Studios’ writers and showrunners. And there’s a huge gulf between Tolkien’s originality, moral sophistication and narrative subtlety and the culture of Hollywood in 2022 — the groupthink produced by the contemporary ecosystem of writers’ rooms, Twitter threads and focus groups. The writing that this dynamic is particularly good at producing — witty banter, arch references to contemporary issues, graphic and often sexualized violence, self-righteousness — is poorly suited to Middle-earth, a world with a multilayered history that eschews both tidy morality plays and blockbuster gore.

Is it fair to the legacies of writers like Tolkien to build franchises from their works without their knowledge or permission? Tolkien, who died in 1973, was fiercely protective of the world he created in his novels. He harshly rejected the spec screenplays of “The Lord of the Rings” he read and once asserted that the work was not appropriate for film. (He sold the film rights in 1969 only in order to help pay a tax bill; the television rights were sold to Amazon by his heirs.)…

(10) MEMORY LANE.  

1955 [By Cat Eldridge.] Sixty-seven years ago, the Hugo Awards returned as an official part of Worldcon. They had been skipped by the SFCon (1954) committee after being created by the Philcon II (1953) committee. They have been presented every year since.

The thirteenth Worldcon was held from the September 1-5, 1955. Nick Falasca and Noreen Falasca (Shaw) were the Chairs with the guests being Isaac Asimov (pro) and Sam Moskowitz (mystery GoH). The identity of the Special Mystery Guest was not revealed (even to the honoree) until the first night of the convention. The Program book noted that “Mr. Boucher [the Toastmaster] will make the presentation of the Achievement Awards and identify the Mystery Guest.” Anthony Boucher was Toastmaster. It was held at the Manger Hotel in Cleveland.  They would be known as Clevention. 

The Hugos were short enough that I feel comfortable listing them here.

  • Best Novel: They’d Rather Be Right by Mark Clifton and Frank Riley [Astounding Aug,Sep,Oct,Nov 1954]
  • Best Novelette: “The Darfsteller” by Walter M. Miller, Jr. [Astounding Jan 1955] 
  • Best Short Story: “Allamagoosa” by Eric Frank Russell [Astounding May 1955]
  • Best Professional Magazine: Astounding Science Fiction ed. by John W. Campbell, Jr. 
  • Best Professional Artist: Frank Kelly Freas 
  • Best Fanzine: Fantasy Times ed. by James V. Taurasi, Sr. and Ray Van Houten

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 1, 1875 Edgar Rice Burroughs. Ray Bradbury declared him “the most influential writer in the entire history of the world.” Not that I’d necessarily disagree or agree with that statement but I would note that he has largely fallen out of public notice once again. A statement some of you will argue with strongly. (Died 1950.)
  • Born September 1, 1926 Gene Colan. He co-created with Stan Lee the Falcon, the first African-American superhero in mainstream comics. He created Carol Danvers, who would become Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel, and was featured in Captain Marvel. With Marv Wolfman, he created Blade. (Died 2011.)
  • Born September 1, 1942 C. J. Cherryh, 80. I certainly think the Hugo Award winning Downbelow Station at Chicon IV and Cyteen at Noreascon 3 are amazing works but I think my favorite works by her are the Merchanter novels such as Rimrunners.
  • Born September 1, 1943 Erwin Strauss, 79. A noted member of the MITSFS, and filk musician who born in Washington, D.C. He frequently is known by the nickname Filthy Pierre. He’s the creator of the Voodoo message board system once used at cons such as Worldcon, WisCon and Arisia. 
  • Born September 1, 1951 Donald G. Keller, 71.  He co-edited The Horns of Elfland with Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman which I highly recommend. He is a contributor to The Encyclopedia of Fantasy and he’s member of the editorial board of Slayage, the online Encyclopedia of Buffy Studies
  • Born September 1, 1964 Martha Wells, 58. She’s has won two Nebulas, four Locus Awards, and four Hugo Awards. Impressive. And she was toastmaster of the World Fantasy Convention in 2017 where she delivered a speech called “Unbury the Future”. Need I note the Muderbot Dairies are amazing.
  • Born September 1, 1967 Steve Pemberton, 55. He’s on the Birthday List for being Strackman Lux in the Eleventh Doctor stories of “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead” but he has other genre credits including being Drumknott in Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal, Professor Mule in Gormenghast and Harmony in Good Omens.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Eek! reveals another victim of a digital currency surprise.
  • The Duplex tells why they think Marvel is running out of ideas.

(13) FIFTY YEARS OF LUKE CAGE. Throughout the last year, superstar artist J. Scott Campbell has helped Marvel Comics honor the milestone anniversaries of some of comic book’s greatest icons including Hulk, Thor, Spider-Man, and Ant-Man. Up next will be a cover for October’s Daredevil #4 featuring Luke Cage who’s celebrating 50 years of defending the streets of the Marvel Universe as a solo fighter, a Hero for Hire, and an Avenger. The artwork depicts Luke in his iconic Power Man costume

(14) CHENGDU LOCKDOWN. “China Locks Down Major Southern City of Chengdu” – the New York Times reports what’s happening this weekend in the city that will host next year’s Worldcon.  

China has locked down Chengdu, one of its biggest and economically important cities, as it turns once again to its Covid strategy of restricting people’s movements to stop outbreaks.

Starting at 6 p.m. on Thursday, residents in the city of more than 21 million were no longer allowed to leave their homes without special permission, in the most drastic move to stop an outbreak since Shanghai went into a damaging two-month lockdown in April. Authorities also began citywide mass testing that they said would continue through the weekend. Chengdu reported 157 cases on Wednesday and more than 700 cases since Aug. 25.

China is the last major country in the world to pursue a policy of eradicating the virus, and it uses citywide lockdowns and mass testing to root out pockets of outbreaks. But the approach is adding to the pressures facing the local authorities in Sichuan, the southern province whose capital is Chengdu. A record-setting drought and a punishing heat wave have devastated the region’s power supply, and emergency responders battled quick-moving wildfires around the city of Chongqing until late last week.

Officials in Chengdu gave no indication of how long the lockdown might last, but it is expected to deal another economic blow to China at a challenging moment. The city is home to the manufacturing and assembly plants of several multinational automakers and technology firms including Intel, VW and Toyota, and its economic growth in 2021 accounted for 1.7 percent of China’s overall gross domestic product.

Chengdu and other cities across China have ordered measures like postponing the start of school and shutting down businesses to try to stamp out stubborn outbreaks in recent days….

(15) BIG MESS HALL. “H.P. Lovecraft Writes Olive Garden’s Dinner Menu” at McSweeney’s. A 2021 article – did we link last year? Well, it will still be news to someone.

Fried Calamari

Tendrils crusted in grit assail my palate. Begotten of the sea, yet containing the essence of a carnival. Fried and without end. At once I feel refined and base, but melancholy grips me when I spy the dressings within which this dismembered cephalopod is to dip. …

(16) OCTOTHORPE. John Coxon is a computer and Alison Scott and Liz Batty are talking to him very slowly in episode 65 of the Octothorpe podcast, “Action Castle 2”.

John, Alison, and Liz play a game because they’re all away at Chicon 8 this week. Normal service will resume shortly. Listen here!

(17) JUSTWATCH. Here are JustWatch’s Top 10 viewing lists for August 2022.

(18) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. “A massive planet circles a huge star doomed to explode” reports today’s Nature.

Confirmation of a second planet around the star μ2 Scorpii would indicate the first planetary system at a supernova-in-waiting.

A planet, and an object likely to be a planet, orbit a heavyweight star so massive that it will end its life in a spectacular explosion. The pair could comprise the first planetary system yet to be discovered around a star destined to form a supernova1.

Most of the 5,000-plus known planets beyond the Solar System circle relatively lightweight stars, no more than roughly twice the mass of the Sun. Whether planets can form and survive around stars big enough to go supernova remains relatively unexplored.

A team led by Vito Squicciarini at the University of Padua in Italy has been using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile to search for planets around 85 young, massive stars. Around the star μ2 Scorpii, which is about 9 times the mass of the Sun, the astronomers spotted a planet that’s roughly 14 times the mass of Jupiter.

There are also hints of a second object, roughly 18 times the mass of Jupiter and closer to the star than the first one. The presence of two planets around such a massive star suggests that large stars circled by large planets might be more common than expected.

Original primary research article (open access) here.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Not sff, just amazing. Watch artist Devon Rodriguez at work in the NYC subways on Facebook.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/10/22 My Name Is Tsundoko, Stack Of Books; Look On My Pages, Pixels, And Despair

(1) COSTA BOOK AWARDS RETIRED. “Costa book awards scrapped suddenly after 50 years”  reported the Guardian today.

The Costa book awards, after running for half a century, have been abruptly scrapped. The coffee shop chain has said the 2021 awards, which were announced in February this year, were the last….

…The children’s book of year prize was the only literary award won by Roald Dahl, for The Witches in 1983. Overall book of the year winners have included Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf, which narrowly beat JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in 1999. Iris Murdoch and Paul Theroux were winners in the 1970s, and Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass became the first children’s book to win book of the year in 2001.

…Costa – which according to reports of parent company Coca-Cola earlier this year has been enjoying strong sales – said that there are no plans for the awards to be taken over by anyone else. The company has not yet given a reason for closing them.

A sff novel won the 2020 Costa Book of the Year award, The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey. The 2021 Costa Book Awards Finalists included several genre works, but none of them were among the winners.

(2) REVIEW OF ALASTAIR REYNOLDS. SF2 Concatenation has just Tweeted an advance post alert, ahead of its next seasonal edition, a review of Alastair Reynolds’ latest novel Eversion, just released the other week.

…Recently, Alastair Reynolds went all pirates and galleons in space with Revenger; yet at its core there was a hard-ish SF space opera with Solar-sail-powered craft seeking alien baubles between giant space station’s, with rail guns for cannon. And the dedicated Reynolds reader might at first think that Eversion was something in a similar vein, but actually it is not. Two-thirds in, Reynolds suddenly goes Philip K. Dick on us, exploring identity reminiscent of Do Androids and Flow my Tears…, or analysing perceptions as in The Cosmic Puppets and The Man in the High Castle….

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to share sushi with the award-winning writer Wen Spencer in episode 173 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Wen Spencer

Wen Spencer …is the author of more than a dozen science fiction and fantasy novels and is perhaps most known for her Elfhome series, which began with Tinker (2003), winner of the Sapphire Award.   She’s the 2003 winner of what was then known as the John W Campbell Award — now the Astounding Award — for Best New Writer — plus the 2002 winner of the Compton Crook Award for her novel Alien Taste, the first book in her Ukiah Oregon saga. The books which followed in that series are Tainted Trail (2002), Bitter Waters (2003), and Dog Warrior (2004). Her standalone novels include A Brother’s Price (2005), Endless Blue (2007), Eight Million Gods (2013), and The Black Wolves of Boston (2017). Her short fiction has appeared in such magazines and anthologies as TranshumanWorld BreakersTurn the Other Chick, and Chicks and Balances.

We discussed her origins as a writer of Pern fanfic, the similar faux pas we each made during our early days in fandom, how a friend inspired her professional career by lending her a stack of poorly written books, the dream which gave birth to her Compton Crook Award-winning first novel Alien Taste, the true reason the novel is her fiction form of choice, the impossibility of ever making something perfect, what her agent really means when he says “well, you could do that,” why it’s so important to be able to write more than one type of book, whether she knows how her series will end, and much more.

(4) HEAR CLARION INSTRUCTORS READ. The Clarion Reading Series is back at Mysterious Galaxy bookstore in San Diego this summer. Here is the calendar of in-store readings:

These readings are free and open to the public. Seating is first come, first served. Please note: Guests are asked to wear masks to these events.

(5) GROWTH INDUSTRY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] “Technologists Are Using AI to ‘Expand’ Famous Works of Art” reports Vice. Follow the link to the Vice article to see thumbnails of the “expanded” version of the Mona Lisa and the Girl With the Pearl Earring. Follow the Telegram link inside the Vice article to see larger versions. 

Artists have been creating all sorts of surreal compositions using OpenAI’s DALL-E, the AI tool that generates images from a few words of descriptive text. But some AI enthusiasts have been using it for a slightly different purpose: to “expand” classic works of art by using the machine learning model to imagine what they would look like if the canvas were larger or zoomed out.

“It’s like your phone keyboard trying to guess what the next word you would like to input and suggests it,” Denis Shiryaev, a YouTuber and CEO of the AI company neural.love, told Motherboard. “The same idea works with the image ‘prompt’—AI tries to finalize the image based on the source pixels provided, and the text prompt helps to manipulate that generating process.”

Shiryaev says his experiment began during the initial rollout of DALL-E 2 as an attempt to recreate the unfinished painting of George Washington that famously sits on the dollar bill. With help from a Telegram user who has access to the closed test build of DALL-E, Shiryaev then began feeding the model “masks” derived from famous works of art—which tell the algorithm which areas of the image to expand—along with tightly-worded text prompts. 

(6) BROUGHT TO LIGHT. The Guardian told readers that two previously unseen short stories by Shirley Jackson, “rated by Stephen King as one of the great horror fiction writers,” are to appear in UK magazine the Strand “Unseen works by ‘queen of gothic fiction’ Shirley Jackson published”.

…Charlie Roberts and Only Stand and Wait were both published on 9 June in Strand magazine, a US-based print magazine that publishes short fiction and interviews….

(7) MEDIA THINGIE.

1993 [By Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-nine years ago Bloch published two works, his so-called “unauthorized autobiography” which bore the full title of unsurprisingly Once Around the Bloch: An Unauthorized Autobiography and the original anthology Monsters in Our Midst which he edited. I won’t detail what’s in it as y’all know what’s there. 

What I was interested to see was how the mainstream book review outlets such as Kirkus and Publishers Weekly treated this autobiography, so I was delighted that those reviews were still available.

Kirkus leads off with their exuberant review: “The irrepressible Bloch (Psycho, and gobbets of brethren) kicks off his bouncy autobiography by calling it ‘unauthorized,’ as if it appeared from apparitional fingers without his permission. Don’t believe it: This is pure Bloch—and much better than his recent excelsior-packed novel, Psycho House (1990). Bloch sets out with gusto and never falls into doldrums, which suggests that even at age 77, if given a strong subject, he can summon the same youthful zest that flowed in Weird Stories and Amazing Stories back in the mid-30’s, when he first published at age 18.” 

Publishers Weekly was just as pleased: “Bloch, famed creator of Psycho, treats us to a whirlwind, goodhumored survey of his long and impressive career. He chronicles his beginnings as a writer for horror and science fiction pulp magazines (Weird Tales , Unknown Worlds , etc.), his early dabblings in radio and TV scripts, the appearance of Psycho and his subsequent adventures in Hollywood and his return to novels with Psycho I. Bloch entertains with accounts of his forays into politics in Milwaukee, Wis., and his tongue-in-cheek footnotes spice the text with humor, but his faux-naif puns (on statutory rape: ‘Why anyone would want to rape a statue I’ll never know’) wear thin. Bloch has been friend or acquaintance to generations of horror and suspense writers, and fans will enjoy his tales of science fiction conventions. But in this view of his life, Bloch substitutes glibness and easy wit for depth, falling back on name-dropping and anecdote when he might have offered his readers a glimpse of his emotional landscape at such times as the breakup of his first marriage or during his struggle as an impoverished writer for many years.

The Washington Post gets the last word: “But most of Once Around the Bloch consists of chatty anecdotes about the people Bloch knew. There are extended discussions about Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee and Joan Crawford, as well as numerous silent-screen stars that Bloch worked with in the 1960s. (Bloch’s awe at working with these minor legends is quite touching.) Perhaps the most unexpected revelation is that one of the reasons Bloch pioneered the psychological suspense novel was because of his ‘personal ignorance’ of weapons, which led him to abandon novels with gunplay in favor of first-person accounts of stranglers and serial killers. Robert Bloch may not be an sf writer, but he is one of the grandmasters of fantasy and horror, and fans of those genres will find that Once Around the Bloch will give a great deal of pleasure.”

No, I’ve not forgotten that it was nominated for a Hugo at ConAdian the year that John Clute and Peter Nicholls’ Encyclopedia of Science Fiction won. 

It has not been made available as a digital book by Tor, but is still readily to be had at Amazon and other online book vendors, though not cheap by any means, in hardcover and trade paper editions. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 10, 1922 — Judy Garland. She is only remembered for her portrayal of Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz, and it was also her only genre role in her tragically short life. I will note that she did a very nice turn as Annie Oakley in Annie Get Your Gun, and she was the first woman to win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, which she won for her 1961 live recording titled Judy at Carnegie Hall. (Died 1969.)
  • Born June 10, 1928 — Maurice Sendak. In Seattle many years ago, I saw the painted flats he did for The Nutcracker. Truly stunning. Of course, he’s known for Where the Wild Things Are which I think is genre adapted into other media including a film by Spike Jonze. In the Night Kitchen might be genre and it is often on Banned Books lists. (Died 2012.)
  • Born June 10, 1937 — Luciana Paluzzi, 85. She’s best known for playing SPECTRE assassin Fiona Volpe in Thunderball. Genre wise — and yes Bond is genre too — I see she was also in Journey to the Lost City (in the original German, Das indische Grabmal), HerculesThe Green Slime1001 NightsCaptain Nemo and the Underwater City and War Goddess (also known as, and would I kid you?, The Amazons and The Bare-Breasted Warriors in its original Italian title).
  • Born June 10, 1950 — Ed Naha, 72. Among his many genre credits, he was Editor of both Starlog and Fangoria. An even more astonishing genre credit was that he produced Inside Star Trek in 1976 with Gene Roddenberry, William Shatner, DeForest Kelley and Mark Lenard talking about the series. Fiction wise, he wrote one series as D. B. Drumm, The Traveller series, and adapted a number of movies such as Robocop and Robocop 2 under his own name. Way back in the Seventies, he wrote Horrors: From Screen to Scream: An Encyclopedic Guide to the Greatest Horror and Fantasy Films of All Time which alas has not been updated. There are no digital books at iBooks or Kindles for him.
  • Born June 10, 1951 — Charles Vess, 71. If you ever need a crash course in learning about his art, go find a copy of Drawing Down the Moon: The Art of Charles Vess which lavishly covers his career up to a decade ago. I’ve got a personally signed copy here along with lots of his artwork including the cover art for Charles de Lint’s A Circle of Cats which I’m looking at now. The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, which is a sequel to A Circle of Cats, is a stellar read and a feast for the eyes. He’s had interesting career including the Spider-Man: Spirits of the Earth graphic novel that he wrote and illustrated. I strongly recommend the illustrated version of Stardust he did with Gaiman as it’s amazing. 
  • Born June 10, 1952 — Kage Baker. Some deaths just hurt just too much. I never met her but we had a decade long conversation via email and once in awhile via phone. We were supposed to write a Company concordance in which I interviewed her Cyborgs for Golden Gryphon but she got too ill for it to happen. Harry the Space Raptor is now living with her sister Kathleen. The two of them were also frequent attenders of Ren Faires were they set up a tavern (John Hertz knew her that way) and sold various sales. Kage had a deep fascination with Elizabethan English and Harry Flashman as well who she incorporated into her novels effectively. (Died 2010.)
  • Born June 10, 1953 — Don Maitz, 69. Winner of the Hugo twice for Best Artist (at ConFiction and ConFrancisco) and ten Chesley Awards from the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists. And a World Fantasy Award as well. Yes I’m impressed. From Asimov to Wolfe, his artwork has adorned the covers of many genre authors. He’s married to Janny Wurtz and their excellent website can be found thisaway.
  • Born June 10, 1964 — Andrew M. Niccol, 58. Screenwriter / producer / director who wrote and produced one of my favorite genre films, The Truman Show. The film won him a Hugo at Aussiecon Three.  He also involved in GattacaThe TerminalIn TimeThe HostThe Minutes short videoand Anon. Sort of genre adjacent is that he‘s been announced as the screenwriter for a live version of the Monopoly game but it still in development.  Personally I think it’s in the games section of The Library in The Dreaming.

(9) GET ACQUAINTED. United Vidden by Fern Brady is the first book in the Thyreins Galactic Wall Series, a debut space opera.

Shattered by her father’s decision to deny her the throne as the first female heir of Dravidia, Princess Verena makes the worst mistake of her life: She runs away. Her departure, days before her wedding to the heir of the Principality of Aulden, throws her nation into war. In a desperate bid to reverse the consequences of her choice, the princess returns to planet Jorn, anxious to prove herself worthy to rule. But it is too late. The princess finds her kingdom conquered by Prince Amiel ra Aulden. Now, Verena must earn back her birthright as well as the trust of her people.

Available from Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.

Fern Brady is the founder and CEO of Inklings Publishing. She holds multiple Masters degrees and several certifications. She began her professional life as a foreign correspondent, and taught for 15 years in Alief ISD.

(10) DARTH DOES NEW YORK. “Obi Wan Kenobi 3D Times Square Ad Summons Darth Vader Star Wars” and Gizmodo takes you there.

Darth Vader’s latest debut is in Times Square, for a new 3D Billboard ad inspired by Lucasfilm and LG’s recent Book of Boba Fett campaign.

(11) A CREATURE IS HAUNTING TEXAS. “What is this ‘strange’ creature seen outside the Amarillo zoo?” CBS News says the city has reached out to the public for help identifying it.

… The city shared a photo of the creature on social media, and said it was taken in the early morning hours of May 21 outside the Amarillo Zoo….

…Members of the zoo were casually looking at footage from game cameras placed throughout it when they came across the photo, according to Michael Kashuba, the parks and recreation department director for the city of Amarillo. He told CBS News on Thursday that the cameras only take photos and the now-famous picture overlooks an open area of the park right outside the zoo that doesn’t receive heavy traffic. He said a staff member had sent him the image, and after conferring with other coworkers, they reached a consensus: “Nobody could figure out what it was.”… 

Carl Andor sent the link with a suggestion: “This looks like a tall dude wearing the top half of furry costume. There were several furry conventions in Texas, but none in Amarillo. Perhaps one of the folks who attended these cons might recognize and help identify the furry in question.)”

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Mandalorian Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George says the producer is excited that the Mandalorian is nicknamed ‘Mando’ “because “that’s what I call my love handles.”  But when the producer learns that Baby Yoda is a character, dollar signs appear in the producer’s eyes and shocking things happen!  Also when the writer can’t remember the race of a character and calls him a Bostonian, the producer says, “I love science fiction!”

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

Pixel Scroll 3/11/22 Why Am I The Only Person Who Ever Has That Dream

(1) WORLDBUILDER. In George R.R. Martin’s “Random Updates and Bits o’ News” at Not A Blog, he says people who are fans of Westeros should not feel shortchanged just because Winds of Winter isn’t done.

…I did, however, get a lot of work done in 2021.  An enormous amount of work, in truth; I seem to have an enormous number of projects.

(I am not complaining.   I like working.   Writing, editing, producing.   There is nothing I like better than storytelling).

I know, I know, for many of you out there, only one of those projects matters.

I am sorry for you.   They ALL matter to me.

Yes, of course I am still working on THE WINDS OF WINTER.   I have stated that a hundred times in a hundred venues, having to restate it endlessly is just wearisome.      I made a lot of progress on WINDS in 2020, and less in 2021… but “less” is not “none.”

The world of Westeros, the world of A SONG OF ICE & FIRE, is my number one priority, and will remain so until the story is told.   But Westeros has become bigger than THE WINDS OF WINTER, or even A SONG OF ICE & FIRE.   In addition to WINDS, I also need to deliver the second volume of Archmaester Gyldayn’s history, FIRE & BLOOD.   (Thinking of calling that one BLOOD & FIRE, rather than just F&B, Vol 2).   Got a couple hundred pages of that one written, but there’s still a long way to go.   I need to write more of the Dunk & Egg novellas, tell the rest of their stories, especially since there’s a television series about them in development.   There’s a lavish coffee table book coming later this year, an illustrated, condensed version of FIRE & BLOOD done with Elio Garcia and Linda Antonsson (my partners on THE WORLD OF ICE AND FIRE), and my Fevre River art director, Raya Golden.   And another book after that, a Who’s Who in Westeros.  And that’s just the books.

And then “there are the successor shows,” he explains, and updates them, too.

(2) AURORA AWARDS NOMINATIONS OPEN. Members of the Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association have until March 26 to nominate works for this year’s Aurora Awards. Click here to review rules about the awards. Twelve categories are open this year and members may select up to five different works in each category.

(3) UNDER WATER. Starburst Magazine hosts “A Conversation with Samantha Shannon & London Shah”.

Samantha Shannon is best known for her critically acclaimed novel The Priory of the Orange Tree. Her new book, The Mask Falling is out now via  Bloomsbury Publishing.  London Shah is the creative force responsible for the Light the Abyss duology, out now via Little Brown Young Readers.

The two caught up with each to discuss the heady world of writing (and also talk a bit about their new books)…

Samantha: I’m not surprised the concept has stayed with you for years. Even as someone with a fear of the sea, I found it captivating.

London: That’s amazing; it’s always very encouraging to hear that from folk who have a fear of the sea, so thank you. I’m deeply honoured you’re a Light the Abyss fan. Yes, the sight of anything underwater, whether shipwreck, a person, ruins, or even boring infrastructure—it really didn’t matter what—always stirred such wonder and curiosity and would send me drifting off into my fantasy every time….

(4) MAKING PRESERVES. In “Microreview [book]: The Kaiju Preservation Society, by John Scalzi”, reviewer Joe Sherry tells Nerds of a Feather readers there’s one thing he would add to the recipe:

If you’ve ever wondered what it would have looked like if John Scalzi wrote Jurassic Park instead of Michael Chrichton, you don’t have to wonder any longer because that’s the best comparison I’m going to come up with for The Kaiju Preservation Society. The only thing we don’t have (yet) is Richard Attenborough kindly reciting his iconic lines over sweeping camera shots showing the scope of what this new world looks like while the music swells and soars….

(5) ABOUT BOOKS. “How Karen Joy Fowler’s Grandfather Lied His Way Into a Who’s Who” – a New York Times Q&A with the author.

What’s the best book you’ve ever received as a gift?

There can be more than one right answer to this question and I have a dozen. But today’s answer is “Castles and Dragons,” a collection of fairy tales given to me in 1958 or ’59 by Vidkun Thrane, a Norwegian psychologist who came to Indiana to help my father run rats through mazes. The Grimm fairy tales were too dark for me as a child, too many parents abandoning or selling or eating their children. The fairy tales in “Castles and Dragons” were the first ones that I loved unreservedly. My short story “King Rat” is all about this book and Vidkun and what stories are just too painful to tell.

(6) APERTURE MOMENT. The Hollywood Reporter’s Richard Newby contends “John Carter Bombed 10 Years Ago and Changed Hollywood”.

… Look away from Mars for a moment and consider the films that changed the course of the industry. Not necessarily the best films ever made, but the ones that served as watershed moments. There are certain movies throughout film history that drastically shifted the tide, that gave studios and audiences a glimpse of a future that could be theirs if they reached out to touch it. The Jazz Singer (1927), Gone With the Wind (1939), Ben-Hur (1959), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Jaws (1975), Star Wars (1977), Jurassic Park (1993), Titanic (1997), The Matrix (1999), Toy Story (1999), The Dark Knight (2008) and The Avengers (2012), just to name a few.

Whether it was major leaps forward in technology, spectacle, storytelling, box office success, audience engagement or some combination of these elements, these films changed the industry and our relationship with movies, cleared the way for a glut of imitators (some more successful than others), and popularized new tools of filmmaking. When we think about films that changed the industry, we typically think about success stories, and John Carter, at least financially, was anything but….

(7) A PRESENT OF THE PAST. The Hollywood Reporter introduces a miniseries based on the book of the same title by Walter Mosley in “’The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey’ Review: Samuel L. Jackson in Apple TV+ Drama”. The story includes overtones of Flowers for Algernon.

…If it is true that, as Coydog (Damon Gupton) says in Apple TV+’s The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey, “all a man is, is what he remember,” then the Ptolemy Grey (Samuel L. Jackson) we meet at the start of the story is barely a shell of who he once was. A nonagenarian suffering from dementia, he can hardly make sense of what’s happening in front of him, let alone everything else that’s happened to him over the decades. But when a drug promises to temporarily restore all of Ptolemy’s memories — to make Ptolemy the fullest version of himself, going by Coydog’s logic — the question becomes what he’ll do with that rare gift.

…Having established the intimate interiors of Ptolemy’s life, Last Days adds in a touch of the mythic around the second episode when Dr. Rubin (Walton Goggins) presents his offer. The bargain that Ptolemy strikes is a Faustian one, underlined by his habit of referring to Rubin as “Satan.” The lucidity granted by the experimental treatment will last only a few weeks, after which Ptolemy’s mind will decline faster than before; in exchange, he’ll sign over his body (though not, Ptolemy makes a point to note, his soul). Their agreement places Ptolemy in the long history of risky medical experimentation performed on Black people — which in turn fits into an even more expansive one of white capitalists using and abusing Black bodies, as also glimpsed in frequently tragic flashbacks of Coydog and a very young Ptolemy (Percy Daggs IV) in 1930s Mississippi….

(8) THE GOOD STUFF. Paste Magazine has compiled the “Best Quotes from The Last Unicorn”. Contemplate them while you’re waiting to see Peter S. Beagle at the LA Vintage Paperback Show later this month.

This March marks the 54th anniversary of the publication of one of the best fantasy novels of all time: Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn. While many late Gen-Xers and elder millennials may be familiar with the (incredible) 1980s animated film, far fewer are have likely read the book upon the movie is based on, which is a bit darker a whole lot weirder….

“The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone. She was very old, though she did not know it, and she was no longer the careless color of sea foam but rather the color of snow falling on a moonlit night. But her eyes were still clear and unwearied, and she still moved like a shadow on the sea.”

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1966 [Item by Cat Eldridge] The first Nebulas were given in 1966, for works published in 1965.  They were created by the SFWA secretary-treasurer Lloyd Biggle, Jr. He says he based them off of the Edgar Awards which are presented by the Mystery Writers of America. He wanted a ceremony similar to that of the already existing Edgar and Hugo Awards

The first ceremony consisted of four literary awards, for Novels, Novellas, Novelettes, and Short Stories, which have been presented every year since. Dune was awarded the Nebula for Best Novel whereas “He Who Shapes” took the Novella award (tied with “The Saliva Tree”) and that author took home a second Award for Best Novelette for “The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth”. The Story Story Award went to “Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman”. No, I didn’t mention authors as I know that you know who everyone is, don’t you? 

Some other Awards were added over the years: Best Script which has been discontinued, Best Game Writing which is ongoing and two that considered Nebula awards, the Andre Norton Award for Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction and the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, but are now considered official Nebula awards 

Other Awards are the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award for “lifetime achievement in science fiction and/or fantasy”, the Author Emeritus for contributions to the field, the Kevin O’Donnell, Jr. Award for service to SFWA, and the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award for significant impact on speculative fiction.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 11, 1921 F. M. Busby. Together with his wife and others he published a fan magazine named Cry of the Nameless which won the Hugo award at Pittcon. Heinlein was a great fan of him and his wife with The Cat Who Walks Through Walls in part dedicated to Busby and Friday in part dedicated to his wife Elinor.  He was a very busy writer from the early Seventies to the late Nineties writing some nineteen published novels and myriad short stories before he blamed the Thor Power Tools decision for forcing his retirement which is odd as he published a number of novels after that decision became in effect. (Died 2005.)
  • Born March 11, 1925 Christopher Anvil. A Campbellian writer through and through he was a staple of Astounding starting in 1956. The Colonization series that he wrote there would run to some thirty stories. Short stories were certainly his favored length as he only wrote three novels, The Day the Machines Stopped, Pandora’s Planet and The Steel, the Mist, and the Blazing Sun. He’s readily available at the usual digital sources. (Died 2009.)
  • Born March 11, 1947 Floyd Kemske, 75. I’m betting someone here can tell me the story of how he can be the Editor of Galaxy magazine for exactly one issue, the July 1980 issue to be precise. I’ve not read either of his two genre novels, Lifetime Employment and Human Resources: A Corporate Nightmare, so I can’t comment on him as a writer, but the Galaxy editorship story sounds fascinating. (Both are available used in softcover for quite reasonable prices.) 
  • Born March 11, 1952 Douglas Adams. I’ve have read and listened to the full cast production of the BBC’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy but have absolutely no desire to see the film. Wait, wasn’t there a TV series as well? Yes there was. Shudder! (I really like Theatre of The Mind as did the Seacon ‘79 Hugo voters who nominated the radio series for a Hugo. It would win the BSFA.) The Dirk Gently series is, errr, odd and escapes my understanding of its charms. He and Mark Carwardine also wrote the most excellent Last Chance to See. It’s more silly than it sounds. (Died 2001.)
  • Born March 11, 1963 Alex Kingston, 59. River Song in Doctor Who. She’s in a number of different stories with a number of different Doctors and was the eventual wife of the Eleventh Doctor. She was in Ghost Phone: Phone Calls from the Dead, as Sheila, and she was Lady Macbeth in the National Theatre Live of Macbeth. Oh and she’s in the Arrowverse as Dinah Lance, in FlashForward as Fiona Banks, and recently shows up as Sara Bishop on A Discovery of Witches, a series based off the Deborah Harkness novel of the same name. Great series, All Souls Trilogy, by the way. She’s been continuing her River Song character over at Big Finish. 
  • Born March 11, 1982 Thora Birch, 40. A very, very extensive genre history so I’ll just list her appearances: Purple People EaterItsy Bitsy SpiderHocus PocusDungeons & DragonsThe HoleDark CornersTrainDeadlineDark Avenger series, The Outer LimitsNight Visions series, My Life as a Teenage Robot and a recurring role on the Colony series.
  • Born March 11, 1989 Anton Yelchin. Another one who died far, far too young. Best known for playing Pavel Chekov in Star TrekStar Trek Into Darkness, and Star Trek Beyond. He also was in Terminator Salvation as Kyle Reese, in the Zombie comedy Burying the Ex as Max and voiced Clumsy Smurf in a series of Smurf films. Really he did. (Died 2016.)

(11) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter says tonight’s Jeopardy! contestants muffed these genre opportunities.

Category: Says Ann[E]

Answer: A lot of Fay Wray’s lines as Ann Darrow in this 1933 monster movie are bloodcurdling screams.

Wrong question: What is ‘Dracula’?

Right Question: What is ‘King Kong’?

***

Category: BritLit

Answer: Chapters in this H.G. Wells novel include “In the Golden Age” & “The Sunset of Mankind”

Wrong question: What is ‘War of the Worlds’?

Right question: What is ‘The Time Machine’?

(12) DISCON III REPORT. SF² Concatenation has tweeted an advance post of Sue Burke’s DisCon III Worldcon report ahead of its next seasonal edition (slated for April).

It was a tough save. Originally scheduled for August, Discon III was postponed due to CoVID-19 until December, when it fell just as the omicron variant began its surge. The original hotel went bankrupt, and a new hotel had to be found. One Guest of Honour, Toni Weisskopf, editor and publisher of Baen Books, was disinvited over posts advocating violence in Baen’s user forums. The original co-chairs, Bill Lawhorn and Colette Fozard, then resigned. Some division heads resigned, and the replacement Hugo Administration team also resigned. And there were a series of controversies over a variety of concerns before and during the event.

Although the convention went hybrid, my husband and I decided to attend in-person…

(13) THE DOORS. In “Microreview: Last Exit by Max Gladstone”, Paul Weimer at Nerds of A Feather, considers an example of the portal fantasy revival.  

Zelda has a problem. For the last ten years, she has been traveling the United States, using her gift to heal the cracks in the world to try and keep together a 21st century US that seemingly is on the brink of falling apart. Ten years ago, she and her friends, including her love, Sal, made a daring journey into alternate worlds. That journey ended in disaster. 

But now Zelda needs to get the band back together, to journey back into the alternate worlds. But her friends have moved on from traveling the dangerous alternate worlds. But with Sal’s young cousin June, who has unusual powers of her own, the need to find Sal is stronger than ever before. But what forces are chasing them across the real and alternate worlds?  And what precisely happened to Sal?

These are the big questions at the heart of Max Gladstone’s Last Exit….

(14) RAMBO/BROZEK ANTHOLOGY. Roseanna Pendlebury knocked a point off the book’s score “for putting by far the creepiest story right at the start and so nearly stopping me reading it entirely because I’m a wuss” but everything evened out to 7/10 in her review of The Reinvented Heart: Tales of Futuristic Relationships, edited by Cat Rambo and Jennifer Brozek” at Nerds of a Feather.

…The theme for this collection is absolutely spot on, and while I liked, disliked and was indifferent by turns to some of the stories, I nevertheless finished the collection feeling glad that it was a theme being written about. Characters and relationships – in all their complex, messy glory – are by far my favourite thing in reading fiction, and so to have that spotlight focussed on them here, and specifically how they might change as the world, technology and the people in it change, was a gorgeous choice….

(15) THE PITCH. A behind-the-scenes clip for the LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga game dropped yesterday. It’s essentially a commercial that displays lots of scenery and art.  

(16) NEWS SCOOP. “Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Ice Cream Returns Nationwide at Walmart” reports Food & Wine. Honestly, you can have my share of that one, however, some of these other flavors sound intriguing.

…But if you still haven’t tried this cheesy, pasta-less ice cream, don’t necessarily sleep on heading to Walmart. These seven flavors — which also include Planet Earth, Pizza, Hot Honey, Royal Wedding Cake, Bourbon Cherries Jubilee, and Wild Blueberry Shortcake — will be part of a “10-week” rotation Van Leeuwen plans to “refresh” over the summer, meaning they still could only be around for a limited time….

(17) ROLLING, ROLLING, ROLLING. NASA announces  “Coverage, Activities Set for First Rollout of NASA’s Mega Moon Rocket”. “Through Artemis missions, NASA will land the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon, paving the way for a long-term lunar presence and serving as a steppingstone on the way to Mars.”

Roll out of the integrated Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft to Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is slated for Thursday, March 17.

Live coverage for rollout begins at 5 p.m. EDT on Thursday, March 17 and will include live remarks from NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and other guests. Coverage will air on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website

At the pad, NASA will conduct a final prelaunch test known as wet dress rehearsal, which includes loading the SLS propellant tanks and conducting a launch countdown.

The rollout involves a 4-mile journey between the Vehicle Assembly Building and the launch pad, expected to take between six and 12 hours. Live, static camera views of the debut and arrival at the pad will be available starting at 4 p.m. EDT on the Kennedy Newsroom YouTube channel.

(18) PHASE OF THE MOON. Richard Linklater’s new film is sf. Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood. Arrives in theaters and on Netflix on April 1.

A coming of age story….the way only Richard Linklater could tell it. Inspired by Linklater’s own life, Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood takes you to the moon and back in this story about growing up in the 1960s in Houston, TX.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Ed Fortune, Joel Zakem, Chris Barkley, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 3/10/22 No Pixels Were Harmed In The Production Of This Scroll

(1) ANALYZING SANDERSON’S KICKSTARTER SUCCESS. Kristine Kathryn Rusch has an in-depth commentary about a seismic event in self-publishing, “Business Musings: Brandon’s Kickstarter”.

… If the past is any indication, however, these big Kickstarters increase the people who watch  the category and, to use the cliched phrase, they will become the rising tide that will lift all boats.

That’s the small picture.

The larger one? Smart traditionally published bestsellers should be looking closely at this. Smart unpublished writers should use this as a wake-up call.

Traditional publishing will never pay its writers tens of millions for unnamed projects. Traditional publishing can barely afford the million-dollar advances these days.

And please, remember, the Kickstarter numbers are only the beginning of the earnings on these books. These books will live for decades. Brandon will earn money on them for decades—without licensing any of the copyright to some gigantic corporate entity that does not have his best interest at heart.

Also, remember that this Kickstarter is advertising. It’s introducing millions of readers to Brandon Sanderson. These new readers are asking Who is this guy and why is he getting so much money? What are these new readers going to do? Why, they’re going to buy a backlist book and try to read it before the Kickstarter ends.

His published book sales are going to increase dramatically. So the tens of millions he’s earning on the Kickstarter does not count the other ways this Kickstarter is benefitting him financially. Nor is it counting the promotion value that he’s getting from projects that he felt inspired to write.

There’s a lot more to unpack—from some of the innovations he’s doing to the impact on the fantasy and science fiction field. But for the moment, I’m stopping here.

If you’re one of the sour grapes people, perhaps you should ask yourself why you’re being so very negative. Are you jealous? Or scared?

The rest of you should watch what happens next. This is a very big deal. For all of us.

(2) KDP WTF. Philip Beaufoy, author of the Lochwood Series, is another casualty of a sudden and unexplained Kindle Direct Publishing account closure.

(3) LOVE IS ALL AROUND. The SFWA Blog’s “Romancing Sci-Fi & Fantasy” series begins with Alex Chantel’s “I See Romance … Everywhere!”

… I see romance everywhere, on all levels, and it makes me love the books I read even more. There are books without romance, that don’t need romance, and readers that are perfectly happy without it. But borrowing from the romance genre can strengthen a story and the readers’ connection to the characters. 

We all want to craft memorable characters, and the strong ones can become more enduring with a partner—two are stronger than one, as the adage goes. Princess Leia and Han Solo from Star Wars—closely followed by Ben and Rey. Paul and Chani from Dune. Nahri and Ali from S.A. Chakraborty’s Daevabad Trilogy. K and Chloe from Terry Miles’s Rabbits. Euthalia and Conrí from Jeffe Kennedy’s Forgotten Empires series. Niko and Petalia from Cat Rambo’s You Sexy Thing. Some of those names may strike a romantic chord within you?…

(4) DISNEY RECORD ON LGBTQIA+ SET STRAIGHT. Deadline reports a “Internal Pixar Letter Disputes Disney’s Support Of LGBTQIA+ Employees & Questions Company’s Commitment to Change”. (The full text of the letter is quoted at the end of Variety’s coverage.)

Shortly after Disney CEO Bob Chapek spoke out publicly against Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill today, a very pointed response began circulating internally at the studio. A letter signed by “The LGBTQIA+ employees of Pixar, and their allies” took Chapek to task. It refuted, point by point, an internal memo Chapek sent to employees on Monday and also criticized the fact that the company “did not take a hard stance in support of the LGBTQIA+” at the shareholder meeting.

“Monday’s email, ‘Our Unwavering Commitment to the LGBTQ+ Community,’ rang hollow,” read the LGBTQIA+ letter. It said Chapek’s communication “began with the claim that Disney has a long history of supporting the LGBT community, but Disney Parks did not officially host Pride until 2019, in Paris alone. Disney has a history of shutting down fan-created Pride events in the parks, even removing same-sex couples for dancing together in the 1980’s.”

The letter goes on to say the corporation is “capitalizing on Pride” through merchandising, specifically The Rainbow Mickey Collection.

“It feels terrible to be a part of a company that makes money from Pride merch when it chooses to ‘step back’ in times of our greatest need, when our rights are at risk,” the letter asserts.

The “step back” bit is likely a reference to Chapek’s assertion at a shareholders’ annual meeting today that “we chose not to take a public position on [the bill] because we felt we could be more effective working behind the scenes, engaging directly with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.” It later came out that Chapek had only reached out to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis very recently….

… Finally, the letter damningly addresses Chapek’s repeated insistence that the best way for Disney to make change is through creating “powerful content that changes hearts and minds.”

It reads [in part]:

“We at Pixar have personally witnessed beautiful stories, full of diverse characters, come back from Disney corporate reviews shaved down to crumbs of what they once were. Nearly every moment of overtly gay affection is cut at Disney’s behest, regardless of when there is protest from both the creative teams and executive leadership at Pixar. Even if creating LGBTQIA+ content was the answer to fixing the discriminatory legislation in the world, we are being barred from creating it.”

(5) CALL TO REMOVE A 2023 WORLDCON GOH. SF² Concatenation has tweeted the link to an editorial comment ahead of its next seasonal edition (slated for April). Read it here.

Science fiction is far more than a genre, it enthuses science and warns of possible futures, among much else. More, many of its aficionados are part of a community: a community that crosses nations. Sometimes that community needs to nail its colours to the mast. Now, at this moment in time, due to circumstances up-to-now unthought-of in the early 21st century, those colours are blue and yellow….

On Wednesday, 2nd March (2022), the UN moved to condemn Russia’s war on Ukraine. 141 nations supported that call: only Belarus, Syria, North Korea and Eritrea supported Russia, while China, Cuba and Venezuela abstained. And here’s the thing, if China is abstaining then arguably the 2023 SF Worldcon should dis-invite Sergei Lukyanenko as a Guest of Honour: Lukyanenko has repeatedly and publicly proclaimed his support for his nation’s war against Ukraine…

In particular, there is one person in the west who is currently due to share the platform at the 2023 Worldcon with Lukyanenko. Is that something he really wants to do?…

(6) REVIEWING SFF. Strange Horizons hosts “The Author and the Critic I: Christopher Priest and Paul Kincaid”, featuring the two named figures discussing the present and future of sff criticism. They begin at the beginning.

Christoper Priest: Before I wrote and published my first novel I had already written several amateurish book reviews. I was young and inexperienced, unguided, learning slowly as I went along. I was writing for fanzines published by Peter Weston and Charles Platt, and others. It was a way of writing something and seeing it in print—or at least, typed out by someone else, which at the time felt almost as good because after the process of being retyped, with bits cut out or changed or just got wrong, it looked different. By looking different it made me read it again and look at it with some objectivity. Overall, it was much easier and quicker to write an opinion piece on a new book by Brian N. Ball or Ken Bulmer than write a novel of my own. None of this counted in the long run, of course, although I still think for a beginning writer it was a good way to learn.

Paul Kincaid: Personally, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t read reviews. This goes back to a time when newspapers used to publish things like book reviews and film reviews. But I never thought about writing them until I started getting involved in fandom…. 

(7) MORE FROM THE WORLDCON. Morgan Hazelwood posts her notes about another DisCon III panel: “The Nuts and Bolts of Chapters”. (She also presents the material in a YouTube video.)

The panelists for the titular panel were: Ada Palmer, Aparna Verma, Elle E. Ire, Nancy Kress, and Patricia A. Jackson, with Delia Sherman as moderator.

The panel description was as follows:

Do you even need chapters? How long should they be? Should you title your chapters or just number them? Where do you break a chapter, and how do you write a good cliffhanger? How do you write chapters with multiple character points of view? So much to discuss for such a small topic!

While the panelists didn’t address all of these, they shared some valuable tips.

(8) UNMADE HITCHCOCK PROJECT. “Alfred Hitchcock once planned a sci-fi epic, which he envisaged as ‘a projection into the life of a generation ahead’” – BFI looks back at “Hitchcock’s sci-fi movie, ‘a forecast of days to come’”.

… News of Hitchcock’s sci-fi project broke in October 1926, a month after The Lodger was first shown to the press. P.L. Mannock of the Kinematograph Weekly, who had spoken to Hitchcock about his “film laid in the future”, wrote that “If we except ‘Metropolis,’ it will be the first screen forecast of days to come,” the last words being a deliberate reference to a novella by one of Lang’s inspirations, H.G. Wells. “Television will be used dramatically, and Sir Alan Cobham will probably be consultant on big episodes of the air.”…

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1964 [Item by Cat Eldridge]

“My specialty is wisdom. Do you know what wisdom is?””- Dr. Lao

“No sir.” – Mike 

“Wise answer.” – Dr. Lao

Fifty-eight years ago, 7 Faces of Dr. Lao premiered. It was George Pal’s last directorial effort. As you well know, it’s based off of Charles G. Finney’s The Circus of Dr. Lao. (There is now a Kindle edition of The Circus of Dr. Lao though it won’t be mistaken for a Meredith Moment.) It was nominated for a Hugo at Loncon II, the year Dr. Strangelove won. 

The screenplay was by Beaumont, who wrote twenty-two Twilight Zone episodes which given he died at 38 is quite astonishing, and Ben Hecht (originally uncredited), whose most notable work was Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound and Notorious, though he did have a genre credit writing The Thing from Outer Space, an early Fifties film. He also did uncredited work on Casino Royale.

Tony Randall played myriad roles in the 7 Faces of Dr. Lao including of course Dr. Lao, the Mysterious Visitor. And if you look carefully, you spot Randall simply as himself sans any makeup as a silent audience member. He also voices the Serpent, a stop-motion animated snake which has the face of another actor. Quite a performance indeed. 

Pal originally wanted Peter Sellers for the role of Dr. Lao and Sellers very much wanted to do the role. However, MGM had Randall under contract who was far cheaper than Sellers would’ve been. 

Pal also saved quite a bit of money here by reusing footage from Atlantis, the Lost Continent and The Time Machine. The Woldercan spectacular that Dr. Lao does as his grand finale of his circus is drawn entirely from the former. 

Pal has stated that it’s only film that he lost money on. It made just one million and I can’t find any mention of how much the production costs were but they were obviously higher than the very small box office was.

So how was it received? The Hollywood Reporter at the time said Randall’s performance was “a dazzling display of virtuosity, in some stunning makeup created by Bill Tuttle.” Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a very strong rating of seventy-eight percent.

I don’t believe it’s streaming anywhere but you can rent it pretty much everywhere. Or you can buy it for little more than a Meredith Moment. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 10, 1891 Sam Jaffe, His first role was in Lost Horizon as the High Lama and much later in The Day the Earth Stood Still playing Professor Jacob Barnhardt. Later on we find him in The Dunwich Horror as Old Whateley, voicing Bookman in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, playing The Old-Man in The Tell-Tale Heart, and in his last film, appearing in Battle Beyond the Stars as Dr. Hephaestus. John Sayles wrote the script for the latter surprisingly enough. (Died 1984.)
  • Born March 10, 1905 Richard Haydn. Actor who appeared in a number of genre undertakings including voicing the Caterpillar in the early Fifties Alice in Wonderland, Professor Summerlee in the early Sixties version of The Lost World and Herr Falkstein in Young Frankenstein. I’d be very remiss not to note his appearance on The Twilight Zone as Bartlett Finchley in the chilling “A Thing About Machines”. And he had one offs on BewitchedShirley Temple’s Storybook and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., in the “The Mad, Mad Tea Party Affair” an unusual episode as it takes place almost entirely within U.N.C.L.E headquarters. (Died 1985.)
  • Born March 10, 1918 Theodore Cogswell. He wrote almost forty science fiction stories, most of them humorous, and was the co-author of a Trek novel, Spock, Messiah!, with Joe Spano Jr. He’s perhaps best remembered as the editor of the Proceedings of the Institute for Twenty-First Century Studies in which writers and editors discussed theirs and each other’s works. A full collection of which was published during 1993 except, as EoSF notes “for one issue dealing with a particularly ugly controversy involving Walter M Miller.”  Having not read these, I’ve no idea, what this details, but I’m betting one of y’all know. (Died 1987.)
  • Born March 10, 1921 Cec Linder. He’s best remembered for playing Dr. Matthew Roney in the BBC produced Quatermass and the Pit series in the later Fifties, and for his role as James Bond’s friend, CIA agent Felix Leiter, in Goldfinger. He also appeared on Alfred Hitchcock PresentsVoyage to the Bottom of the Sea, the Amerika series, The Ray Bradbury Theatre and The New Avengers. (Died 1992.)
  • Born March 10, 1938 Marvin Kaye. Editor of Weird Tales, he also edited magazines such as H. P. Lovecraft’s Magazine of Horror and Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine. His Cold Blue Light novels with Parke Godwin are quite superb. The Fair Folk anthology which is most excellent and which he edited won a World Fantasy Award. He wrote the “Marvin Kaye’s Nth Dimension” for the Space and Time website. (Died 2021.)
  • Born March 10, 1938 Ken Sobol. New to our Birthday honors list. I will single him out for having personally received Astrid Lindgren’s personal blessing to write the Pippi Longstocking series which he worked on with puppeteer Noreen Young. He also contributed scripts to Batman, Curious GeorgeG.I. JoeGeorge of the JungleHardy BoysHighlander, Superman, and Wizard of Id, and that’s hardly a complete listing.  He also wrote one of the best works done on baseball, Babe Ruth and the American Dream. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 10, 1951 Christopher Hinz, 71. His Liege Killer novel, the first in his most excellent Paratwa Saga, won the Compton Crook Award, the BSFS Award for the Best First Novel. (And yes, there is a prequel, Binary Storm, which was written much later.) He was nominated for an Astounding Award for Best New Writer. 
  • Born March 10, 1956 Robert Llewellyn, 66. He plays the mechanoid Kryten in the Red Dwarf series. His It2i2 which was a television show about AI depicting fictional events but presented as a documentary. And he played a gryphon in the oh-so-superb MirrorMask

(11) AFROFUTURISM. The Schomburg Center’s 10th Annual Black Comic Book Festival in partnership with Carnegie Hall’s Afrofuturism Festival! Presents “Black Feminist Futures Series: Planting for the Future”.

The Black Feminist Futures Series features programs highlighting the powerful and long-standing relationship between Afrofuturism and Black feminism in genres ranging from literature, film, art, fashion, and community organizing. Planting for the Future, a virtual conversation on Black women’s participation in Afrofuturism through literature, film, art, fashion, and community organizing. The program features Dr. Andrea Hairston (author of Master of Poisons), Sheree Renee Thomas (author of Nine Bar Blues), Tananarive Due (author of The Between: A Novel), and Tanaya Denise Fields (founder of Black Feminist Project & Black Joy Farm, and author of “Dirty Business: The Messy Affair of Rejecting Shame” in the book You Are Your Best Thing). Moderated by Dr. Chesya Burke.

(12) GAIMAN MIRACLEMAN REPRINT. Following the herald of his return in Timeless #1 and the announcement of an all-new omnibus, Marvel Comics continues to mark the 40th anniversary of Miracleman’s modern era with a new printing of award-winning writer Neil Gaiman and artist Mark Buckingham’s redefining work on the character.

 Arriving in October, Miracleman By Gaiman & Buckingham Book 1: The Golden Age TPB will collect the first six issues of Gaiman and Buckingham’s groundwork to give a legendary super hero a fascinating future —a future that will now come to pass! Available for the first time in paperback, the Miracleman By Gaiman & Buckingham Book 1: The Golden Age TPB will give fans a chance to revisit this beloved era of Miracleman ahead of the exciting plans Marvel has in store for the iconic character later this year.

Atop Olympus, Miracleman presides over a brave new world forged from London’s destruction. It is a world free of war, of famine, of poverty. A world of countless wonders. A world where pilgrims scale Olympus’ peak to petition their living god, while miles below the dead return in fantastic android bodies. It is an Age of Miracles — but is humankind ready for it? Do we even want it? Is there a place for humanity in a world of gods? Gaiman and Buckingham delve into the lives of lonely idealists, rebellious schoolchildren and fracturing families, exploring the human constant in a changing world of gods and miracles.

(13) STAR WARS FAN NEWS. “’Star Wars’ fans are raising money for transgender youth”Yahoo! Life has the details. (The direct link to the GoFundMe is here: “Fundraiser by The Amidala Initiative (A Community Effort) : The Amidala Initiative for Equality Texas”. They have raised $8,292 of their $25,000 goal as of this writing.)

…Fans of the Star Wars franchise can relate to Padmé Amidala, a character from the Star Wars prequel trilogy played by Natalie Portman, for a multitude of reasons, from her troubled romance with Anakin Skywalker to her desire to do her best to protect her people.

It’s the latter that inspired the Amidala Initiative, a group of Star Wars fans and content creators who have joined … forces … to raise money for Texas advocacy organization Equality Texas after Texas Governor Greg Abbott directed the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate the parents of trans children who have had or are seeking elective gender-affirming procedures or treatments.

“We, the undersigned, are 77 fan content creators, podcasters, YouTubers, TikTokers, artists, writers and cosplayers who have joined together to use our limited platforms to stand in solidarity with our trans siblings and their families in Texas,” a GoFundMe site for the Amidala Initiative states. “No child should fear that their teachers will report their parents to the government for allowing them to live as their true gender. No parent should fear criminal charges for supporting their transgender child and helping them seek therapeutic and medical support to treat their gender dysphoria … this is something we refuse to stand by silently for.”…

(14) DOES NOT PLAY WELL WITH OTHERS. Radio Times listens in as “Christopher Eccleston rules out Doctor Who multi-Doctor story return”.

…However, according to the latest comments from The A Word star, there’s seemingly no chance he would return for a 60th anniversary team-up special currently rumoured for 2023.

He told crowds at Australian convention Supanova: “I’ve never been a fan of multi-Doctor stories. When I worked on the series, I had really strong ideas about what works and what doesn’t, and I always think that multi-Doctor stories are a bit of a cash-in, and a bit of exploitation.

“Creatively, they never worked for me. I looked at the script for the 50th anniversary and I felt as soon as I said I wasn’t doing it it got better because, well, if I’m not in it, it’s better. The creation of the War Doctor introduced a whole new facet to the canon.”

Interestingly though, a later comment from Eccleston suggested he would consider returning to Doctor Who in live-action for a solo storyline following the Ninth Doctor.

He added: “The Ninth Doctor, in particular, is a one-man band. Definitely. So he doesn’t work with other Doctors. If you want me back, you’d get me on my own.”

(15) HEAR FROM EDITORS. Space Cowboy Books will host an online panel discussion “Beyond the Submission Guidelines” on March 29 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Register for free here.

Join us for an online panel discussion with editors of SF/F magazines. Learn about the behind the scenes of running science fiction and fantasy magazines with editors: Arley Sorg (Locus & Fantasy Magazines), F.J. Bergmann (Mobius & Weird House), Rob Carroll (Dark Matter Magazine), and JW Stebner (Hexagon Magazine)

(16) PREDICTING THE PAST. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Inscriptions provide an invaluable insight into the ancient world. But over the centuries, many inscriptions have been damaged and exist in fragmented or semi-legible forms, making the job of reading and interpreting them extremely difficult. In this week’s issue of Nature, “Restoring and attributing ancient texts using deep neural networks”, Yannis Assael, Thea Sommerschield and their team introduce Ithaca, a deep neural network designed to help historians restore and understand ancient Greek inscriptions. Working alone, Ithaca is able to restore damaged texts with a 62% accuracy, but when historians use Ithaca, their accuracy on the same task rises to 72%. Ithaca can also determine the original geographical location of inscriptions with 71% accuracy, and can date them to within 30 years from the date ranges proposed by historians. The researchers say that such cooperation between artificial intelligence and historians could help transform studies of the ancient world. 

(17) SOUNDTRACK OF SPACE. NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory page hosts a “Sonification Collection” – maybe there is a “music of the spheres.”

…By translating the inherently digital data (in the form of ones and zeroes) captured by telescopes in space into images, astronomers create visual representations that would otherwise be invisible to us.

But what about experiencing these data with other senses like hearing? Sonification is the process that translates data into sound, and a new project brings the center of the Milky Way to listeners for the first time. The translation begins on the left side of the image and moves to the right, with the sounds representing the position and brightness of the sources. The light of objects located towards the top of the image are heard as higher pitches while the intensity of the light controls the volume. Stars and compact sources are converted to individual notes while extended clouds of gas and dust produce an evolving drone….

There’s a demonstration in this tweet:

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Arthur C. Clarke chats with Dick Cavett about 2001, life on other planets, and perpetual motion machines in this clip from a 1972 Dick Cavett Show. “Arthur C. Clarke on Why Aliens Would Be Superior To Humans”.

English science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke discusses the on-going research in astronomy into discovering new planets and how he believes there is life on other planets, although we don’t know it yet.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, rcade, Phil Nichols, mlex, 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 Jim Janney.]

Pixel Scroll 3/7/22 Head Like A Scroll, Pixeled Like Your Soul

(1) ARRIVAL. “On Coming to Ursula K. Le Guin in My Own Time” at Literary Hub, an excerpt from Amal El-Mohtar’s introduction to Worlds of Exile and Illusion by Ursula K. Le Guin.

… I took Le Guin for granted. When she died in 2018, I could have fit the span of my life inside hers almost three times. She had always been there, like a mountain, or the sun, and it was easy to fall into the certainty that she always would be. I was unfamiliar with her most celebrated works—The Left Hand of DarknessThe Dispossessed, books by which she became the first woman to win a Hugo Award for Best Novel, and then, five years later, the first woman to have won it twice.

I had assumed, with all the oblivious confidence of youth, that I’d get to read them while she was still with us and talk to her about them. I imagined that I would meet her one day, under ideal conditions that would make me seem interesting enough for conversation, and ask her about poetry, about being a middle-aged woman in the 1970s, and about science fiction. Her passing hit me harder than I expected, considering my slender acquaintance with her work, but that was the thing about Le Guin: to have lost her was to have lost a world I longed to visit….

(2) ROMANTIC NOVEL AWARDS. The Romantic Novelists Association announced the winners of the 2022 Romantic Novel Awards in London on March 7. The awards celebrate excellence in romantic fiction in all its forms. The complete list is here. In the RNA category of genre interest the winner is —

The Fantasy Romantic Novel Award

  • A Marvellous Light, Freya Marske, Pan Macmillan

(3) HIDDEN TREASURE. [Item by Bill Burns.] The BBC Archive started a new YouTube channel a couple of months ago, and there are some interesting SF items: BBC Archive – YouTube. As well as Star Wars, Doctor Who, and other media items, there’s these more mainstream pieces from broadcast programs:

  • “Arthur C Clarke predicts the future” (September 1964)
  • “Douglas Adams on HITCHHIKERS GUIDE TO THE GALAXY game” (1984)
  • “ISAAC ASIMOV’s 3 laws of ROBOTICS” (1965)

(4) SCREENTIME MACHINE. For the first five seconds I thought it was a Monty Python sketch. But no – these are all legit sff writers on a 1979 episode of the BBC’s Book Programme trying to answer the question “What is SCIENCE FICTION?”

Robert Robinson presents a science-fiction themed edition of The Book Programme. What constitutes science-fiction, is there room in the genre for the metaphysical or spiritual, or should writers slavishly stick to the scientific? What is to be made of the phenomenon that is the sci-fi convention – is there something unique to science fiction that inspires such devotion in its fans? And is all fiction slowly becoming science fiction? Taking part are: Douglas Adams, the author of the science-fiction comedy ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’; Harry Harrison, a prolific science fiction writer best known for his ‘Deathworld’, ‘Stainless Steel Rat’ and ‘Bill, the Galactic Hero’ novels; Peter Nicholls, the editor of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction; and Ian Watson, whose book ‘The Jonah Kit’ won the British Science Fiction Association award for Best Novel and whose new book “God’s World” is reviewed here and forms the basis for the discussion.

(5) RELATED WORKS. Today, Cora Buhlert turns the Non-Fiction Spotlight on “Lovecraft in the 21st Century Dead, But Still Dreaming, edited by Antonio Alcala Gonzalez and Carl H. Sederholm”.

…If you’re just joining us, the Non-Fiction Spotlights are a project, where I interview the authors/editors of SFF-related non-fiction books that came out in 2021 and are eligible for the 2022 Hugo Awards….

The subject of today’s Non-Fiction Spotlight is a collection of scholarly essays about H.P. Lovecraft entitled Lovecraft in the 21st Century: Dead, But Still Dreaming, edited by Antonio Alcala Gonzalez and Carl H. Sederholm….

Why should SFF fans in general and Hugo voters in particular read this book?

Carl: I first became interested in Lovecraft because of references to him in popular culture. As I began to read more and more of his stories, I became fascinated by the ways his work continues to show up in everything from heavy metal music to board games to internet memes to television shows. What I didn’t know was that there were dozens of others having similar experiences. This book provides a glimpse at what others have discovered in their own journey through Lovecraft. I think anyone with an interest in Lovecraft, including SFF fans and Hugo voters, can discover just how far Lovecraft’s influence goes through a book like this. Even those who already have a firm grasp of Lovecraft should be able to find new insights and research opportunities here….

(6) NATURE CALLS. SF² Concatenation has just Tweeted an advance post of the first of its four “Best of Nature Futures” one-page short stories for this year: “Freemium: It’s no game” by Louis Evans.

When SETI detected an alien signal, they called Derek. Derek was a billionaire from designing computer games. He was bankrolling the search.

Soon – an impossibility in physics – Derek was in regular contact with the aliens. But eventually, there is a price….

(7) NEWBERY WINNER’S NEXT. In the Washington Post, Mary Quattlebaum interviews Newbery Award-winner Kelly Barnhill, whose new book The Ogress and the Orphans creates “a complex character that makes readers question the stereotype of ogres.” “In Kelly Barnhill’s new fantasy novel, no single hero can save the day”.

…A more fully formed story started to emerge in 2020. This original fairy tale explored both the conflict and the generosity she was seeing in the world around her. She noticed, for example, that throughout the pandemic, some people worked together to protect one another from the coronavirus, and others did not.

“I saw the power that one individual has to make something better for another,” she said.

A conversation with her “awesome and interesting” 10-year-old nieces also helped shape the story. The girls’ parents are philosophers. They study knowledge — how people think and reason and how they decide right from wrong. The girls thought that philosophy should also consider kindness and animals.

Barnhill listened. “The Ogress and the Orphans” probes what happens to people’s hearts and to the spirit of their communities when they give to others — or turn away. What happens when they respect and include others — or seek power over them?…

(8) WOOL GATHERING. At Bandcamp, Aidan Baker’s album “The Sheep Look Up” is intended as “a ‘soundtrack’ to John Brunner’s 1972 dystopian novel.” Baker is a Canadian musician “making experimental ambient music.”

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1968 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series has a fascinating Hugo history.

She won a Hugo the first time she was nominated, for the novella “Weyr Search” at Baycon (tied with Philip José Farmer’s “Riders of the Purple Wage”.) It was published in Analog Science Fiction / Science Fact, October 1967. It’s in A Dragon-Lover’s Treasury of the Fantastic anthology which was edited by Margaret Weis, available from the usual suspects at a very reasonable price. 

It would be the only win for the Dragonriders of Pern series but by far is not the only nomination for the series. 

Next up would be the “Dragonrider” novella which was nominated one year later at St. Louiscon. Three years later, her Dragonquest novel would get a nod at the first L.A. Con showing that Con had impeccable taste. And at Seacon ‘79, The White Dragon gets nominated. (I really love that novel.) The next L.A. Con would see another novel be nominated, Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern. (I’ve never heard of that one.) And the final nomination, also for a novel, was at MagiCon, for All the Weyrs of Pern.

The series did win a number of other awards including a Nebula for Dragonrider, a Ditmar and Gandalf for The White Dragon, a Balrog for Dragondrums and The Science Fiction Book Club’s Book of the Year Award for The Renegades of Pern. It is, after all, an expansive series.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 7, 1925 Richard Vernon. He is perhaps best remembered for playing the role of Slartibartfast in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. His first genre role was Sir Edgar Hargraves in the Village of the Damned which was adapted from John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos.  He’s also in Goldfinger as Colonel Smithers. (Died 1997.)
  • Born March 7, 1926 Alan Sues. Here for his outstanding performance in The Twilight Zone’s “The Masks” as Wilfred Harper, Jr., one of the most chilling scripts written for that series. He really didn’t have much of a genre history showing just otherwise on Wild Wild West and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch unless you want to include Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July where he played Scratcher the jealous Reindeer. (Died 2011.)
  • Born March 7, 1942 Paul Preuss, 80. I know I’ve read all of the Venus Prime series written by him off the Clarke stories. I am fairly sure I read all of them when I was in Sri Lanka where they were popular among the British ex-Pat community.  I don’t think I’ve read anything else by him. 
  • Born March 7, 1944 Stanley Schmidt, 78. Between 1978 and 2012 he served as editor of Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine, an amazing feat by any standard! He was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Professional Editor every year from 1980 through 2006 (its final year), and for the Hugo Award for Best Editor Short Form every year from 2007 (its first year) through 2013 with him winning in 2013 at LoneStarCon 3.  He’s also an accomplished author and l know I’ve read him but I can’t recall which novels in specific right now though I know I enjoyed what I read by him.
  • Born March 7, 1945 Elizabeth Moon, 77. I’ll let JJ have the say on her: “I’ve got all of the Serrano books waiting for when I’m ready to read them. But I have read all of the Kylara Vatta books — the first quintology which are Vatta’s War, and the two that have been published so far in Vatta’s Peace. I absolutely loved them — enough that I might be willing to break my ‘no re-reads’ rule to do the first 5 again at some point. Vatta is a competent but flawed character, with smarts and courage and integrity, and Moon has built a large, complex universe to hold her adventures. The stories also feature a secondary character who is an older woman; age-wise she is ‘elderly’, but in terms of intelligence and capability, she is extremely smart and competent — and such characters are pretty rare in science fiction, and much to be appreciated.” 
  • Born March 7, 1954 Elayne Pelz, 68. She is a member of LASFS (and officer) and of SCIFI who worked on myriad cons, mainly in art show and treasury.  She was married to famous SF fan Bruce Pelz and assumed leadership of Conagerie, the 2002 Westercon, upon Bruce’s death and the con was held successfully. She was the Chair of Loscon 20.
  • Born March 7, 1970 Rachel Weisz, 52. Best remembered  for The Mummy films which I really, really love (well the first two with her), and her first genre film was Death Machine, a British-Japanese cyberpunk horror film which scores rather well – fifty-one percent — among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. I’ve also got her in Chain Reaction and The Lobster. As of late, Weisz starred as Melina Vostokoff in the MCU film Black Widow.

(11) INSIDER TRADING. Gizmodo finds evidence of intergalactic smuggling: “Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser Rare Merch Already on eBay”.

It’s only been a few days since Disney’s lavishly priced Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser attraction previewed for invited media, influencers, and guests—yet eBay listings are already being promoted for exclusive items from the experience. Some item postings even have timetables for guests who have yet to step onto the Halcyon ship but promise to bring back merch for sale.

A sign that this might be different from the usual hive of scum and villainy where merch-flippers tend to dwell is that the prices seem to reflect ways to offset the cost of the trip itself—or for those who got freebies to maybe even get on board again….

(12) 2021 WAS GOOD FOR ONE THING. Yahoo! reports “Guillermo del Toro is really not into the Oscars’ new format”.

…Pan’s Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro has brought up another point of contention: The new format for the upcoming awards ceremony.

The Academy of Motion Pictures and Arts recently unveiled its new format, which involves pre-taping a select eight categories and announcing the winners in a pre-show. The categories moved to this lower-tier position include Best Production Design, Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling, Original Score, Sound, Documentary Short, Animated Short and Live-Action Short. After the last couple of arduous years in the film industry, del Toro thinks this change could not come at a worse time.

“The nominees that we have here, most of the ones we have here tonight, [worked] against many, many difficult odds [to get here], and we don’t do [films] alone,” del Toro said while receiving the Hollywood Critics Association’s Filmmaking Achievement Award. “We do them together, and the people that made them with us did it risking everything in a pandemic, showing up, making the day, somewhat in a miracle.

“I must say, if any year was the year to think about it, this is not the year not to hear their names live at the Oscars. This is the year to sing it, and sing it loud,” Del Toro continued. “We shouldn’t do it this year; we shouldn’t do it ever, but not this year… And we must say this… 2021 was a f**king great year for movies.”…

(13) TIME’S THREE. “Take three historical figures, throw them together in some situation, and tell us the story that ensues.” That simple description was enough make a success of Fantastic Books’ Kickstarter campaign, fully funding the anthology Three Time Travelers Walk Into…, which will appear in June. “It pulls together the adventuring of such disparate figures as Julia Child, Jesus Christ, Michael Jackson, and Vlad the Impaler (well… not all in one story).”

Edited by Michael A. Ventrella, the contributing authors are Eric Avedissian, Adam-Troy Castro, Peter David, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Gregory Frost, David Gerrold, Henry Herz, Jonathan Maberry, Gail Z. Martin, Heather McKinney, James A. Moore, Jody Lynn Nye, L. Penelope, Louise Piper, Hildy Silverman, S.W. Sondheimer, Allen Steele, and Lawrence Watt-Evans.

(14) YOU CAN TAKE IT WITH YOU. Gizmodo noticed that “A Mars Rock Appears to Be Stuck in Perseverance Rover’s Wheel”. (Image at the link.)

NASA’s Perseverance rover has involuntarily adopted a traveling companion, in the form of a stone that’s lodged in one of its six aluminum wheels.

An image captured by Perseverance’s Onboard Front Left Hazard Avoidance Camera, or Hazcam for short, shows the interloper sitting on the interior of a wheel. The rover must’ve kicked up the rock while exploring Jezero Crater, where it’s been operating since it landed on Mars in February 2021.

The picture was taken on February 25, 2022, but a similar image taken five days later showed the rock still firmly in place. The stone, it would appear, is now a stubborn fixture of the $2.2 billion rover…. 

(15) RETURN TO SENDER. “Dreaming of Suitcases in Space”. Hard to believe, but the New York Times, not Philip K. Dick, came up with that title. “A California start-up company believes it can one day speed delivery of important items by storing them in orbit.”

…Inversion is building earth-orbiting capsules to deliver goods anywhere in the world from outer space. To make that a reality, Inversion’s capsule will come through the earth’s atmosphere at about 25 times as fast as the speed of sound, making the parachute essential for a soft landing and undisturbed cargo.

Inversion is betting that as it becomes cheaper to fly to space, government agencies and companies will want to not only send things to orbit but also bring items back to earth….

…What Inversion is trying to do is not easy. Designing a vehicle for re-entry is a different engineering challenge than sending things up to space. When a capsule enters the atmosphere from space, it is traveling at such high speeds that there is the danger of burning up — a huge risk for human travelers and precious nonhuman cargo alike.

Seetha Raghavan, a professor in the University of Central Florida’s mechanical and aerospace engineering department, said it would be even more difficult to handle the heat, vibration and deceleration of the capsule when the vehicle size shrank.

“It all becomes harder when you have a smaller item to control,” Ms. Raghavan said.

Inversion’s plan for capsules in orbit raises questions about whether it will contribute to congestion in space, already a problem with the megaconstellations of satellites. And the abundance of satellites interfering with observations of planets, stars and other celestial bodies has been a common complaint among astronomers.

But Inversion said it was using materials to make its capsules significantly less reflective to decrease visual pollution. In addition, the company said its capsule would come with systems to avoid debris and collisions in orbit….

(16) CUBISM. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Artist/illustrator Will Quinn did this piece commemorating the Dungeons & Dragon‘s gelatinous cube.

According to Patreon, “I listen to ‘Not Another D&D Podcast’ while I draw these days, and they were coincidentally fighting an ooze monster during this drawing (not a Gelatinous Cube, though. It was a Juiblex).”

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Rob Thornton, Ben Bird Person, Chris Barkley, Bill Burns, SF Concantenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Charon Dunn.]

Pixel Scroll 3/4/22 24 Views Of Mt. Tsundoku By Hokufile

(1) WHO IS NUMBER ONE. The “Surprise! Four Secret Novels by Brandon Sanderson” Kickstarter was almost at $22 million when I looked earlier today. It’s now the Most Funded Kickstarter in history.

Yesterday the New York Times talked to Sanderson about his success in “Fantasy Author Raises $15.4 Million in 24 Hours to Self-Publish”.

…“If Amazon’s grip on the industry is weakened, that’s good for the publishers — they are very much under Amazon’s thumb right now,” Sanderson said. “I don’t want to present this as ‘Brandon versus Amazon.’ Amazon’s great. But I think that in the long run, Amazon being a monopoly is actually bad for Amazon. If they don’t have competition, they will stop innovating.”

He also wanted to play around with bundling and upselling. Traditional publishers, he said, offer few products and few options. The array of packages on Kickstarter range from $40 for four e-books to $500 for the four books in all formats, plus eight boxes of “swag.”

“What I can do with the Kickstarter,” he said, “is I can say, ‘hey, if you really want to have more, we will give you more.’”

(2) FIRESIDE WILL STOP PUBLISHING IN 2022. Brian J. White, Executive Editor and Owner of Fireside, announced yesterday that the magazine will stop publishing later this year.

… When I stepped back in as owner last year, I had big hopes of taking Fireside forward for years to come. But unfortunately life had other ideas, between major increases last fall to my responsibilities at my day job and a series of difficult life events that have made it impossible for me to continue Fireside while maintaining any semblance of mental and physical health. Compounding that, even though we made progress in adding subscribers, Fireside is still losing a lot of money each month, and the circumstances described above also got in the way of implementing additional plans to bring in more funds.

This was a really difficult decision to make, but between the time and financial considerations, I can’t find a path forward. Fireside has an incredible legacy, and I don’t want that to be marred by a slow, struggling death. The best thing for the magazine is to allow it to close with grace and dignity once we’ve published all the stories and poems we currently have under contract, as well as two books that have been in the works for a long time….

…While Fireside Magazine will no longer be accepting submissions, we have enough content under contract to continue publishing into September, both through our usual ebooks and weekly stories released online. Everything we’ve published in the magazine will remain available online….

(3) LETTER FROM UKRAINE. Charles Stross posted an open letter from his Ukranian translator: “A letter from Ukrainian artists to the world artists”.

… We believe that not all Russian citizens are fans of Putin’s regime and not all of them justify this war. We know that plenty of Russians feel scared to use their voices and speak up against Putin’s regime. Many believe it is none of their business. Yet, there are also many who believe in the righteousness of Putin and his propaganda.

So, we plead with you — writers and visual content creators that have big audiences of readers and followers in Russia. To them, your opinion and your words matter. Your stand on the war in Ukraine matters. Please, stand by us as we fight for our values, our democracy, and our freedom. For the simple right to be Ukrainians and live in Ukraine. Your powerful voices can influence these Russian readers and followers. To encourage them to be brave, connect with their values, and take a stand on ending this ruthless war.

Please, take to your platforms and address your Russian and Ukrainian audiences. The first ones need your encouragement to believe in the power of their voices against Putin’s regime. The second ones are in desperate need of support and kindness….

(4) MEANWHILE, IN MOSCOW. Repression is ramping up in Moscow – and every other Idaho town. Boise State Public Radio reports “Idaho librarians could face jail time for lending “harmful” books”.

…House lawmakers could soon consider whether prosecutors could criminally charge librarians for allowing minors to check out sexually explicit materials.

Giving explicit material to kids has been a crime in Idaho since at least 1972, but public libraries, including those at colleges and universities, are exempted from that law.

Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt (R-Eagle) wants to cut that exemption, meaning librarians could face up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine any time they lend explicit materials to someone under 18….

(5) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman encourages listeners to eat enchiladas with Bram Stoker Award-winning writer Paul Tremblay in episode 166 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Paul Tremblay

Paul Tremblay is the author of the award-winning novels novels A Head Full of Ghosts (2015), which won the Bram Stoker Award and the Massachusetts Book Award, Disappearance at Devil’s Rock (2016), which won the British Fantasy Award, and The Cabin at the End of the World (2018), which won the Bram Stoker Award and Locus Award. His most recent novel is Survivor Song, published in 2020, with The Pallbearer’s Club due out later this year. He’s also the author of the novels The Little SleepNo Sleep till WonderlandSwallowing a Donkey’s Eye, and writing as P. T,. Jones along with Stephen Graham Jones, Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly. His short story collection Growing Things and Other Stories was published in 2019. He is the co-editor of four anthologies including Creatures: Thirty Years of Monster Stories (with John Langan), and is on the board of directors and is one of the jurors for the Shirley Jackson Awards.

We discussed his legendary hatred of pickles, what it was like writing a pandemic novel before a pandemic only to see it published in the middle of one, if reviewers would have reacted differently to his zombies had Survivor Song been published any other year, his feelings about the description of him as a postmodernist, our shared love of ambiguity in fiction, whether horror having a moment means horror will also have an end, the one passage in his most recent novel which caused an argument with his editor, what’s up with the movie adaptations of his books, and much more.

(6) THE CALCULATION IS IN. Mary Robinette Kowal’s gala commemorating the 70th Anniversary of The Meteor (the event which precipitates The Calculating Stars) did more than $8,000 in gross sales as part of her effort to support HIAS in Ukraine for the crisis response work that they are doing.

(7) GUARDIANS OF JUSTICE. BGR promises “Netflix’s new superhero show might be the weirdest thing you ever watch”.

…People have no definitive idea what to make of Netflix’s newly released superhero series, The Guardians of Justice. That’s the only conclusion I can draw from the fact that reviews and user reaction is absolutely all over the place — to say nothing of the fact that the trailer for this streaming series, which is about a group of superheroes who confront evil after “their fearless leader self-destructs” — left me utterly speechless. In an “I have no idea what to even think” or “what is going on here” sort of way.

First of all, the show switches between animation and live-action, which takes some getting used to. The voice cast includes Diamond Dallas Page, Sharni Vinson, Denise Richards, and RJ Mitte. And there’s a kind of Adult Swim aesthetic that people either love or can’t stand….

(8) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Leanna Renee Hieber and John C. Foster on March 16 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. This will be an in-person event at the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003 (Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs).

Leanna Renee Hieber

Leanna Renee Hieber is an actress, playwright, narrator and award-winning author of Gothic, Gaslamp Fantasy novels for Tor and Kensington Books such as the Strangely Beautiful, Eterna Files, Spectral City series and A Haunted History of Invisible Women: True Stories of America’s Ghosts. Featured on TV shows like Mysteries at the Museum and Beyond the Unknown discussing Victorian Spiritualism, Leanna lectures around the country on paranormal and 19th century subjects.

John C. Foster

John C. Foster is the author of the forthcoming horror novel, Leech, the recent crime thriller Rooster and four other horror novels, the most recent of which is Mister White. His stories have been collected in Baby Powder and Other Terrifying Substances. He lives in Brooklyn with the actress Linda Jones and their dog Coraline.

(9) FANAC.ORG FANHISTORY ZOOM PART 2. The LASFS family reunion continues in the second part of Fanac.org’s latest fanhistory Zoom: “Death Does Not Release You – LASFS (Pt 2 of 2)”.

In part 2 of this FANAC Fan History Zoom Session (Feb 2022), the LASFS family reunion continues. Craig Miller (TV writer and producer, Worldcon chair, and LASFS member), Ken Rudolph (filmmaker, fanzine editor, former LASFS officer), Tim Kirk (professional artist, awarded many Fan Artist and Professional Artist Hugo Awards), and Bobbi Armbruster (professional and fan meeting and convention organizer) continue their conversation. Despite some early audio problems, the talk ranges from other Los Angeles fan subgroups like the Bixel Street Irregulars (40s), the Petards (late 60s-80s) and the Blackguards (60s), to well-known fans and professionals of the Los Angeles area to untimely deaths. Tim Kirk tells the wonderful story of how his Master’s Thesis and a little luck resulted in his breaking through to the professional art field. There are even some convention stories, including the surprising origin of Loscon. If you’re interested in the first big Heinlein blood drive, plans for the Last Dangerous Visions, or how many people could fit in the clubhouse kitchen, settle back and enjoy the recording.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2011 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Eleven years ago, The Adjustment Bureau film premiered. It is based off the Philip K. Dick “Adjustment Team” short story that was first published in Orbit Science Fiction (No. 4, September–October 1954). (It’s available in The Adjustment Team and Other Selected Stories from the usual suspects for just a buck ninety nine.)  

Written and directed by George Nolfi, who previously wrote the genre film Timeline, it had a lot of producers — Bill Carraro, Michael Hackett, Chris Moore, plus George Nolfi in his third role in the film. It had an absolutely amazing cast: Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Michael Kelly, Anthony Mackie, John Slattery and Terence Stamp. 

It did exceedingly well at the box office making nearly one hundred thirty million against just fifty million in total costs. Rather great I’d say. 

So how was the reception for it? Mostly excellent really though a few reviewers I admit were really puzzled by it as romance and SF is a combination they don’t grok. The reviewer at the Washington Examiner said that it “is that rare thing, an intelligent romance” while 7M Pictures stated of it that is “a fantastic piece of science fiction told in the flavor of a classic Twilight Zone episode.” And the Examiner summed it up nicely this way: “It’s rare when a film is able to blend together two different genres so well, especially when they are two genres that you don’t normally see together, in this case, science-fiction and romance.”

It does not get that a great rating at Rotten Tomatoes among audience reviewers garnering just sixty-seven percent. Not bad, but not overwhelming. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 4, 1905 Frank Utpatel. Artist who may have done some interior illustrations for Weird Tales, he’s remembered for his Arkham House book covers that began with Lovecraft’s The Shadow over Innsmouth novel in 1936. He would do covers for Ashton, Howard, Derleth, and Lovecraft. One of my favorite covers by him is for Derleth’s The Casebook of Solar Pons but then I like all of his Solar Pons covers and their obviously Holmesian riff. (Died 1980.)
  • Born March 4, 1914 Ward Kimball. He was part of Walt Disney’s original team of animators, known as the Nine Old Men. Keep in mind that he did not create characters but animated them, which he did to great ability — Jiminy Cricket, the Mad Hatter, Mickey Mouse, and Tweedledee and Tweedledum. He eventually became an animation director at Disney starting with Fantasia, and he worked on Mary Poppins. (Died 2002.)
  • Born March 4, 1923 Sir Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore CBE HonFRS FRAS. Astronomer who liked Trek and Who early on but said later that he stopped watching when “they went PC – making women commanders.” Despite that, he’s here because he shows up in the debut Eleventh Doctor story, “The Eleventh Hour“. And he was also in the radio version of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 4, 1923 Patrick Moore. He held the record as the presenter of the world’s longest-running television series with the same original presenter, BBC’s The Sky at Night.  He was a genre writer with six such novels to his name, one co-written, and a lot of related non-fiction, one that garnered him a Hugo nomination at Interaction, Futures: 50 Years in Space: The Challenge of the Stars, that was co-written with David A. Hardy. (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 4, 1965 Paul W. S. Anderson, 57. If there be modern pulp films, he’s the director of them. He’s responsible for the Resident Evil franchise plus Event HorizonAlien V. PredatorPandorum and even Monster Hunter
  • Born March 4, 1966 Paul Malmont, 56. Author of the comic strips The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril and Jack London in Paradise which blends pulp tropes and SF elements including using as protagonists Heinlein and Asimov. He wrote the first four issues of DC’s excellent Doc Savage series with artist Howard Porter. While a marketing executive at DC he created the DC Daily video series, now over four hundred and fifty episodes long. 
  • Born March 4, 1973 Len Wiseman, 49. Producer or Director of the Underworld franchise. Director of the Total Recall remake. Also involved in StargateIndependence DayMen in Black and Godzilla in the Property Department end of things. He is the Sleepy Hollow series creator and producer for much of it, wrote the pilot as well. (Is it worth watching? I’ve not seen any of it.) Producer for much of the Lucifer seriesas well and is the producer for the entire series of the rebooted Swamp Thing. Also produced The Gifted

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater probably should be spelled “Aaarggghyle” after this bad superhero-themed pun.
  • Bizarro makes an okay joke in the foreground, but studying the gags in the background is even more entertaining.  

(13) CLICK AND LEARN. What writer whose initials are Ray Bradbury helped inspire lyricist Bernie Taupin? Far Out Magazine knows: “The story behind Elton John song ‘Rocket Man’”.

…The opening lines, which read: “She packed my bags last night, pre-flight. Zero hour: 9am. And I’m gonna be high as a kite by then,” was conceived by Taupin while he was driving to his parents in Lincolnshire, England. Anxious that he’ll forget the lines, he drove some back roads as fast as he could to put it down on paper. Until he reached their house he had to “repeat it to himself for two hours,” which was “unfortunate” but also worthwhile given the magnanimous status the song achieved….

(14) AND THEY LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER. SYFY Wire assures us that John DiMaggio will voice Bender in the forthcoming Futurama revival. A bit of closure to a “crisis” that might have gone completely unnoticed had it happened this week.

Good news… again… everyone! Bendergate is finally over. Actor John DiMaggio has officially settled his pay dispute with 20th Century Studios and will return as the voice of Bender for Hulu’s upcoming revival of Futurama. To quote the booze and cigar-loving robot specifically programed for bending girders (and partying): “It’s gonna be fun on a bun!”…

(15) CONREP IN THE WIND. SF2 Concatenation has just tweeted the link to an advance-post of a Windycon con report. This is ahead of their full seasonal edition slated for April 15 (but which may be held till April 20 if the Hugo short-lists are announced Easter weekend).

By Sue Burke: “The 2021 Windycon in Chicago, USA”.

In some ways, Windycon 47 unfolded normally, with panels, music, theatre, gaming, an anime track, art show, dealer’s room, and even the season’s first snowfall, right on time. It happened in the usual place, the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center. But the 47th annual Windycon should have taken place two years earlier in 2020. Instead, due to CoVID-19, a pared-down Zoom event 13th-15th November 2020, called Breezycon, offered a taste of the “family” feeling of the convention’s long history….

(16) BUSTED. Got to love the New York Times headline: “‘After Yang’ Review: Do Androids Dream of Sheep, Babysitting, Being?”

…Repairing Yang proves unsurprisingly more challenging than poking around under the hood of a car. Yang is a secondhand model, “certified refurbished,” yet used nevertheless. And while his warranty is still valid, the store where he was procured, Second Siblings, is out of business. “I told you we should have just bought a new one,” Kyra chides Jake with the old I-told-you-so sigh. In the future, men still take care of the big household chores; wives berate their husbands for making foolish decisions; and some families live in swoon-worthy houses with floor-to-ceiling windows and open-floor plans….

(17) THE NEXT BIG THING IS STILL PRETTY SMALL. “Two pillars of biological dogma upended by discovery of huge bacteria with nuclei”Daily Kos analyzes the impact.

…The proposed new species, Thiomargarita magnifica, is about 50 times larger than any other known bacterium, and it’s also the only bacterium we know of to keep its DNA inside a membrane-bound structure.  Either of those discoveries by itself would be very significant, so this double whammy really is a rare find.  Game changer!  Paradigm shift!  And all that jazz!  Microbiologists sure seem impressed

(18) MADAM I’M ADAM. A time-traveling pilot teams up with his younger self and his late father to come to terms with his past while saving the future. Comes to Netflix on March 11.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Superman and Batman kibitz in this latest video from How It Should Have Ended that dropped today. “How Spider-Man No Way Home Should Have Ended”.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/25/22 Pixels, Comments, Shoggoths, That Scroll! Credentials, Nitpicks, Wrongtime Is That Scroll!

(1) PAY THE WRITER. Publishers Weekly says a New York State legislator has introduced a bill designed to upgrade protections for freelancers, including writers: “‘Freelance Isn’t Free’ Bill Introduced in New York State”.

Roughly five years after the implementation, in New York City, of the Freelance Isn’t Free Act, a local law intended to establish and enhance the rights of freelance workers—including authors, journalists, and other writers on contract—a similar law has been proposed at the state level.

On February 18, Democratic New York state senator Andrew Gounardes and assembly member Harry Bronson introduced S8369, also nicknamed “Freelance Isn’t Free,” a new bill intended to “protect contract and freelance workers from wage theft by ensuring all freelancers receive appropriate contracts for their work, are paid in a timely manner, and have state support to recoup unpaid wages.” It would, the lawmakers explained in a release, build upon the prior New York City bill, expanding the protections for freelancers state-wide.

The bill, should it become law, would also lower the threshold for mandating additional financial remediation from contractors to contract workers should the latter not be paid in a timely manner from $800 to $250. It would also make the New York State Labor Department the regulatory agency for freelancers in the state, including New York City, where, currently, the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection oversees the protection of freelancers, but has no ability to pursue legal action against delinquent contract clients….

(2) RELATED WORK. Cora Buhlert has released her latest Non-Fiction Spotlight. This one features a new biography of Robert E. Howard:  “Renegades and Rogues: The Life and Legacy of Robert E. Howard by Todd B. Vick”.

What prompted you to write this book?

The simple answer: I’ve been a fan of Robert E. Howard’s work since 1981 when, at the time, my best friend loaned me his Ace paperback copy titled, Conan, with the Frank Frazetta cover art for Howard’s story, “Rogues in the House.” The idea for a biography came to me when I purchased a copy of Glenn Lord’s work, The Last Celt back in the mid-80s. Lord’s book made me realize there were others out there who took Howard’s work a bit more seriously than the casual reader. Due to life and higher education, Howard was sidelined until I began work (mostly research) on the biography in late 2002. I am currently working on a novel….

(3) 25 BEST SFF SHOWS. Den of Geek declares these to be the “Best Sci-Fi TV Shows of the Past 15 Years”. I don’t want to spoil everything by posting their #1 – but here, let me spoil number nine…

9. The Mandalorian

Star Wars has long been a little too beholden to one particular corner of its mythology. The Skywalker Saga looms large, perhaps too large, in pop culture consciousness. Deviate too much from it, or fail to pay sufficient homage to childhood classics, at your peril. But The Mandalorian managed to deliver everything longtime fans want from Star Wars, while also making the galaxy far, far away equally appealing to those who might be experiencing it for the first time. As much a space Western or a riff on Lone Wolf and Cub as it is an actual science fiction show, The Mandalorian is every bit as cinematic as the most famous entries in the franchise, exploring deeper corners of the Star Wars universe than we’re accustomed to seeing in live action (with apologies, of course, to the brilliant Rogue One).

Alternately as episodic as the vintage movie serials that first inspired George Lucas and as intricately woven as any other prestige TV effort, it’s made all the more remarkable by the fact that it’s anchored by a riveting performance by its lead (Pedro Pascal), who spends all but moments of the show’s entire runtime so far hidden completely behind a mask. And then there’s Grogu (Baby Yoda), a character who should feel like the cloying, craven little cash grab he is who instead became an instantly (and deservedly) beloved Star Wars fixture. – Mike Cecchini

(4) NOVACON. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Novacon is Britain’s longest-running regional SF convention. Last November it held its 50th event. SF2 Concatenation has just Tweeted an advance post of a review of the 50th anniversary Novacon report ahead of its next seasonal edition that is slated for April. [The con took place November 12-14, 2021.]

There were around 250 attendees: about a quarter of those you’d get at the average Eastercon these days. Being the 50th anniversary event, the occasion was marked by a special publication, Burning Brightly, edited by Ian Whates, gathering stories generated exclusively from various Novacon publications over the decades, with work by such luminaries as Iain M Banks, Adrian ( Shards of Earth) Tchaikovsky and Stephen (Flood) Baxter among others. Each attendee received a free copy.

There were two programme streams with main hall events running parallel to fringe events in a side room, and everything was on the ground floor with easy access. (The accommodation was upstairs, served by a dreadful, slow rickety tin elevator with a mind of its own)….

(5) ASK THE D.A. “Peter Sarsgaard: ‘Have we reached superhero saturation? Probably’” answers the actor in The Guardian.

… His tendency to seem half-asleep and harmless until – snap! – he has you in his teeth, like a Venus flytrap, serves him well in the world of The Batman. Robert Pattinson plays the caped vigilante, while Sarsgaard is Gil Coulson, the shady, shaven-headed district attorney of Gotham City. “Gil is leading a double life,” he says. “He is protective of his family, but he’s involved in some things that are not legit.” The mix of sweet and sour appeals. “It creates more conflict. What if the biopic of Donald Trump showed how he made a damn good cherry pie on Thanksgiving, and sang songs with his family, but then he did all this other stuff?”…

(6) A MIRROR TO LIFE.  Two scholars and their cats announce a Call for Papers for Gardeners of the Galaxies: How Imaginary Worlds Teach Us to Care for This One by Drs. Sørina Higgins and Brenton Dickieson”.

As the climate crisis worsens, our home planet and our conversations about it are heating up–and creative writers both reflect and anticipate such concerns. Thanks to the recent ethical turn in science fiction and fantasy, many speculative works offer readers a mirror in which to view our own world. Its beauties and vulnerabilities take on special clarity through the page or the screen. A tale of terraforming another planet reminds us how precious and fragile our home world is. The perennial conflict between nature and technology comes alive when trees march to war. We find insights into healthy, diverse communities by spending time with characters in a fellowship–or on a starship….

(7) HENRY LINCOLN (1930-2022). Doctor Who writer Henry Lincoln has died at the age of 91. Doctor Who News paid tribute.

Henry Lincoln was the last surviving writer to have worked on Doctor Who in the 1960s. He wrote three Doctor Who stories, co-creating The Yeti and the character Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. 

…In the 1960s he formed a writing partnership with Mervyn Haisman and together they were commissioned to write a six-part story for the second Doctor. The result was The Abominable Snowmen which saw the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria battle The Great Intelligence and their robot servants The Yeti. The story was so successful the team was immediately commissioned to write a sequel, this time bringing the Yeti into the claustrophobic world of the London Underground in The Web of Fear.

The story introduced a new character in the form of Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart played by Nicholas Courtney. Not only was the story highly regarded but the new character caught the imagination of the producers and would return the following year, albeit with a promotion, and become a regular throughout the Pertwee years. 

Henry Lincoln and Mervyn Haisman’s third outing with the Doctor was not so successful. Their six-part story, The Dominators would cause a permanent rift with the BBC following an argument over who owned the characters The Quarks. The story was rewritten and reduced to five episodes resulting in the writers asking for their names to be removed from the credits. The story was transmitted under the pseudonym Norman Ashby. …

(8) GEORGE OLSHEVSKY (1946–2021). Artist George Olshevsky died in December of Covid, according to an announcement by SDCC’s Jackie Estrada on Facebook. A profile of his work for Marvel can be found on the Marvel Database.

…Graduate of M.I.T. Olshevksy indexed all of the Marvel Comics major titles in the 1970’s and Early 80’s. This quite extensive project also employed Lou Mougin and many others. Olshevksy was also aided by a complete personal collection of Marvel Comics….

(9) MEMORY LANE.

2019 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Two of my favorite individuals, Charles de Lint, who would later win a World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award, and Charles Vess, who received a Hugo at Dublin 2019 for Best Professional Artist and a World Fantasy Award for Best Artist. collaborated on The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, a follow-up to their A Circle of Cats

Fourteen years ago, it would win the Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic, an award that until this moment I’d not heard of. My bad for not knowing of this award. 

If you’ve not encountered this novel, it’s considered a young adult work but I’d recommend for anyone interested in a good read grounded in Appalachia folklore with the fantastic artwork of Vess profusely illustrating it. You can read the Green Man review here. And here’s our review for A Circle of Cats as well. I’ve got one of his signed prints for A Circle of Cats in my apartment.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 25, 1909 Edgar Pangborn. For the first twenty years of his career, he wrote myriad stories for the pulp magazines, but always under pseudonyms. It wasn’t until the Fifties that he published in his own name in Galaxy Science Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Ursula Le Guin has credited him with her realizing it is possible to write humanly emotional stories in an SF setting. And yes, I know he wrote Davy. (Died 1976.)
  • Born February 25, 1917 Anthony Burgess. I know I’ve seen and read A Clockwork Orange many, many years ago. I think I even took a University class on it as well. Scary book, weird film.  I’ll admit that I’m not familiar with the Enderby series having not encountered them before now. Opinions please. (Died 1993.)
  • Born February 25, 1964 Lee Evans, 58. He’s in The History of Mr Polly as Alfred Polly which is based on a 1910 comic novel by H. G. Wells. No, not genre, but sort of adjacent genre as some of you are fond of saying.
  • Born February 25, 1968 A. M. Dellamonica, 54. A Canadian writer who has published over forty rather brilliant short since the Eighties. Her first novel, Indigo Springs, came out just a decade ago but she now has five novels published with her latest being The Nature of a Pirate. Her story, “Cooking Creole” can be heard here at Pod Castle 562. It was in Mojo: Conjure Stories, edited by Nalo Hopkinson.
  • Born February 25, 1971 Sean Astin, 51. His genre roles include Samwise Gamgee in the Rings trilogy, Mikey Walsh in The Goonies, and Bob Newby in the second season of Stranger Things. He also shows up in Justice League: War and in Justice League: Throne of Atlantis films voicing both aspects of Shazam, a difficult role to pull off. He reprises that role on the Justice League Action series. 
  • Born February 25, 1973 Anson Mount, 49. He was Black Bolt in Marvel’s Inhumans series. He now has a recurring role as Captain Christopher Pike, a role he first played on Discovery, and which he will reprise on Strange New Worlds this year.  I see he was in Visions, a horror film, and has had appearances on LostDollhouse and Smallville.

(11) JEOPARDY! Sure, you’ll get it. But Andrew Porter saw a contestant miss it on tonight’s episode of Jeopardy!

Final Jeopardy; category: Awards

Answer: These awards have a retro version & winners include the novel “The Sword in the Stone” and “The War of the Worlds” radio broadcast

Wrong question: What are the Webbies?

Right question: What are the Hugo Awards?

(12) VASTER THAN EMPIRES. [Item by Daniel Dern.] “Largest Bacterium Ever Discovered Has An Unexpectedly Complex Cell”Slashdot has the story.

A newly described bacterium living in the Caribbean “is visible to the naked eye, growing up to 2 centimeters — as long as a peanut — and 5,000 times bigger than many other microbes,” writes Elizabeth Pennisi via Science.org.

(Cue Christine Lavin singing “The Amoeba Hop”.)

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Not only can you play Lego Star Wars in “mumble mode,” but your inner eight-year-old will love that you can turn off the weapons noises and replace them with human sounds! “LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga – Behind the Scenes”.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chris Barkley, Daniel Dern, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 2/24/22 The Naming Of Scrolls Is A Difficult Matter. It Isn’t Just One Of Your Pixel-File Games

(1) BONDS OF EUROCON. The editors of SF2 Concatenation are mindful of the fans affected by the Russian invasion:

(2) REALITY CHECK OR CHECK ON REALITY? [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Pulp scholar Jason Ray Carney talks about the value of escapist reading and sword and sorcery at the LA Review of Books“Reading Sword-and-Sorcery to Make the Present Less Real”. (For some reason, the LA Review of Books felt the need to illustrate the essay with a Weird Tales cover that’s not for a sword and sorcery story.)

 …Whether we read to engage or to escape reality, we continue to read fiction because it provides us with an experience that cannot be satisfied by other means. Additionally, as a cultural practice, reading fiction has taken on a quasi-spiritual aura; it has become a secular ritual, not unlike mindfulness meditation, that is robustly encouraged by its proponents. One recalls the Orwellian “READ” posters that have been published by the American Library Association since 1985, the most recent a rendering of Channing Tatum, holding a copy of Peter Pan, standing in front of a glittering star field. Evoking the imperious command of alien billboards in John Carpenter’s They Live — obey, marry, reproduce, consume — these posters celebrate reading as an activity of unquestionable social value and say nothing about what is real. Why not read fiction to escape the real?…

(3) LIVING BY THE SWORD. Oliver Brackenbury interviews Dariel Quiogue, a Filipino author of Asian based sword and sorcery or sword and silk, in episode 34 of the So I’m Writing a Novel podcast: “Interview with Dariel Quiogue – So I’m Writing a Novel…”

…Their discussion covers portrayal of war elephants in history and stories, Alexander the Great being a war criminal to some, Carter & De Camp (and Nyburg) Conan tales, Howard Lamb’s Khlit the Cossack stories (a huge influence on Robert E Howard), drawing from Asian history for his stories – including an intriguing alternate path for Genghis Khan, wanting to write more fiction based in where you’re from, being anxious about a lack of experience to the world limiting your fiction, how late in history Dariel feels you can set a story and still have it feel like sword & sorcery, the “Sword & Sorcery attitude”…

(4) APPENDIX N(ORTON). [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The good people of Goodman Games continue their series of profiles of classic SFF authors. Jim Wampler profiles Andre Norton: “Adventures in Fiction: Andre Norton”.

… Norton’s influence on adventure gaming and its creators was not accidental. She often employed a recurring motif in her books in which the protagonist begins as an outsider or “other”, and through dedicating themselves to a perilous journey in the wilderness, eventually becomes a fully-realized heroic figure. The parallels to the level advancement and experience point systems of early role-playing games is obvious….

And Michael Curtis profiles Margaret St. Clair — “Adventures in Fiction: Margaret St. Clair” – focusing almost exclusively on those two novels by her which are listed in the Appendix N of the original D&D Dungeon Master’s guide, even though St. Clair wrote so much more. But Goodman Games is an RPG company, so I guess that’s fair.

…Margaret St. Clair is an interesting figure, one whose work is largely overlooked in the present age. St. Clair was one of only three women authors who appeared on Gygax’s list of influential writers and their works. During both the Golden and Silver Ages of fantasy fiction, the field was dominated by white males, so much so that the now-often derided pronouncement on the back cover of the Bantam Books 1963 printing of The Sign of the Labrys (“Women are Writing Science Fiction!”) was actually somewhat shocking. The fact that Appendix N includes three women authors is a testimony to the breadth of Gary’s reading….

(5) HOW WORLDCON GOHS ARE CHOSEN. Esther MacCallum-Stewart of the Glasgow in 2024 Worldcon Bid has written a thoughtful post about the committee’s process for picking their prospective GoHs: “From the Chair: Selecting Our Guests of Honour”.

5. The selection team and the chair’s team then met to decide a Short List, based on the recommendations of the committee, but also considering several other criteria which allowed flexibility in looking at the list:

  • Who will represent Glasgow in 2024’s vision of Inclusion, Caring and Imagination best?
  • Who could present an indicative picture of science fiction and fantasy in 2024?
  • Who might make an interesting Guest of Honour, able to participate to the best of their ability and help create a fun, exciting contribution to a Worldcon in Glasgow 2024?
  • What other elements, like involving local voices, varied perspectives and contemporary discussions, should these Guests represent?
  • How might the Guests of Honour look as a group? (more on this later)

6. Phew! This seems like a lot, but at last there is a short list, and since this process is still happening, I’m expecting it to be about 30 names. We’re ready to start making the decision.

(6) ATWOOD ON BBC RADIO 4. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Margret Atwood was on an episode of BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour this week with a 15 minute interview. Topics included when did women’s status fall and how
the right purloins left tools.

The programme is downloadable from here for a month after which it will be available on BBC Sounds.

Margaret Atwood’s latest collection of essays, Burning Questions, gathers together her essays and other occasional non-fiction pieces from 2004 to 2021. She is the author of more than fifty books of fiction, poetry and critical essays. Her novels include Cat’s Eye, The Robber Bride, Alias Grace, and The Blind Assassin which won the Booker prize in 2000. Her 1985 classic, The Handmaid’s Tale, was followed in 2019 by a sequel, The Testaments, which was also a Booker Prize winner (with Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other). Margaret joins Emma to talk about culture wars, free speech, feminism, grief and being in your 80’s.

(7) CLONE ARRANGERS. Edward Ashton names books by Tiptree, Simak, and Mur Lafferty while recommending books about clones and replicants at CrimeReads: “Eight Books About What It Means to be Human”.

Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty

It’s probably a lucky thing that I didn’t read this book until after I’d finished writing Mickey7, because Six Wakes begins in a very similar place—clones, mind-mapping, immortality, an interstellar colonization mission—but then takes off in a wildly different direction….

(8) CLOTHES FOR THE OCCASION. Hypebeast shares a fashion display as “Disney Launches Official ‘Star Wars’ Galactic Starcruiser Merchandise”.

…Offered by the boutique located just off the Atrium of the Halcyon, “The Chandrila Collection” will allow you and your family and friends to fully embrace the world of science-fiction and fantasy with futuristic garments inspired by some of the most iconic characters and factions from the epic franchise. From hooded black dresses and saber-training tunics to mechanics’ jumpsuits and starship captains’ jackets, the collection carries something for every fan. You’ll also find the classic white Princess Leia dress as well as a cloak inspired by Padmé Amidala’s royal wardrobe….

There’s a video here of The Chandrila Collection – some philistines would call it a commercial, I’m sure.

(9) JEOPARDY! As usual, the wrong Jeopardy! questions are the most entertaining. Andrew Porter saw this one tonight.

Final Jeopardy: Fictional Families

Answer: Introduced in the 1930s in The New Yorker, they’ve appeared on TV & Broadway & in live action & animated films.

Wrong question: Who are the Von Trapps?

Correct question: Who is The Addams Family?

(10) KELLERMAN OBIT. Actress Sally Kellerman, whose many roles included a Star Trek appearance, has died at the age of 84. The New York Post profiled her career.

…Kellerman is also rooted in “Star Trek” history. Fans of the original series will remember her role as a psychologist in the third episode, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” — which actually was originally filmed as one of two pilots for the sci-fi series….

(11) MEMORY LANE.

2010 [Item by Cat Eldridge]  Jack Vance who I think I can say without fear of contradiction is beloved by all here won three Hugos. The first was at the first DisCon for “The Dragon Masters” which was originally published in the August 1962 issue of Galaxy, the second was at NyCon 3 for “The Last Castle” published in Galaxy in the April 1966 issue, and the third, and this one surprised me, was Best Related Work at Aussiecon 4 (2010) for This is Me, Jack Vance! (Or, More Properly, This is “I”)

His first Hugo nomination that didn’t result in a win was at Detention for “The Miracle-Workers”, published in Astounding in July 1958, his other nomination was a Retro Hugo at Millennium Philcon for The Dying Earth novel. 

His I-C-a-BeM novelette was longlisted at Seacon. His Ecce and Old Earth novel was likewise at MagiCon. If we’re being completists… Queen of Air and Darkness, I love databases! 

Dick Lupoff delivers Jack Vance’s 2010 Hugo.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 24, 1909 August Derleth. He’s best known as the first book publisher of H. P. Lovecraft, and for his own fictional contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos (a term that S. T. Joshi does not at all like). Let’s not overlook him being the founder of Arkham House which alas is now defunct. I’m rather fond of his detective fiction with Solar Pons of Praed Street being a rather inspired riff off the Great Detective. (Died 1971.)
  • Born February 24, 1933 Verlyn Flieger, 89. Well-known Tolkien specialist. Her best-known books are Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien’s WorldA Question of Time: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Road to Faerie, which won a Mythopoeic Award, Tolkien’s Legendarium: Essays on The History of Middle-earth (her second Mythopoeic Award) and Green Suns and Faërie: Essays on J.R.R. Tolkien (her third Mythopoeic Award). She has written a YA fantasy, Pig Tale, and some short stories.
  • Born February 24, 1945 Barry Bostwick, 77. Best remembered for being Brad Majors in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. His first genre undertaking was the English language narration of Fantastic Planet. He voices the Mayor in The Incredibles 2. He also won a Tony Award for his role in The Robber Bridegroom, a play based off the Eudora Welty novella.
  • Born February 24, 1947 Edward James Olmos, 75. Reasonably sure the first thing I saw him in was Blade Runner as Detective Gaff, but I see he was Eddie Holt in Wolfen a year earlier which was his genre debut. Though I didn’t realize it as I skipped watching the nearly entire film, he was in The Green Hornet as Michael Axford. He has a cameo as Gaff in the new Blade Runner film. And he’s William Adama on the rebooted Battlestar Galactica. He has made appearances on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Eureka.
  • Born February 24, 1951 Helen Shaver, 71. Her SFF debut was as Betsy Duncan in Starship Invasions aka Project Genocide in the U.K. Though you’ve likely not heard of her there, you might have seen her as Carolyn in The Amityville Horror.  She’s Littlefoot’s mother in The Land Before Time, and Kate ‘White’ Reilly in the second Tremors film. She’s got one-offs in The Outer LimitsAmazing StoriesRay Bradbury Theater and Outer Limits to name but a few. And she was Dr. Rachel Corrigan in Poltergeist: The Legacy, a excellent series indeed. 
  • Born February 24, 1966 Billy Zane, 56. His genre roles include Match in Back to the Future and Back to the Future Part II, Hughie Warriner in Dead Calm, John Justice Wheeler in Twin Peaks, The Collector in Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight and the title role in The Phantom
  • Born February 24, 1968 Martin Day, 54. I don’t usually deal with writers of licensed works but he’s a good reminder that shows such as Doctor Who spawn vast secondary fiction universes. He’s been writing such novels first for Virgin Books and now for BBC Books for over twenty years. The Hollow Men, a Seventh Doctor novel he co-wrote wrote with Keith Topping, is quite excellent. In addition, he’s doing Doctor Who audiobooks for Big Finish Productions and other companies as well. He’s also written several unofficial books to television series such as the X Files, the Next Generation and the Avengers

(13) ARTHURIANA. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Molly Roberts says very few people were asking for the PBS animated series Arthur to end after 25 years with their characters aging two decades and the beloved cartoon aardvark turning into “a fledgling graphic novelist with an even less fledged goatee.” “Arthur grew up in the finale of his PBS show. It’s a betrayal.”

… PBS’s sendoff of his namesake show after a quarter-century of seasons unexpectedly age-accelerates its characters two decades or so. It’s a move undoubtedly designed to offer closure to fans from preschooler to professional. But maybe closure is exactly what we didn’t need.

To recap, for those too busy living adult life to dip back into the old days for the finale of the longest-running animated children’s series in history: The (non-)boy the New York Times dubbed “the world’s most popular student aardvark” has apparently become a fledgling graphic novelist with an even less fledged goatee. His sister, the perennial pest D.W., has become … a cop? Buster the bunny is a drably dressed teacher; self-proclaimed tough guy and secret softie Binky Barnes the bulldog is a journalist….

(14) MALTIN ON MOVIES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I heard this podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with director Ken Kwapis, which is worth listening to for one very good anecdote about Jim Henson.  Kwapis directed Henson as a puppeteer in Sesame Street Presents:  Follow That Bird (which Leonard Maltin thinks is an underrated musical).  Jim Henson only had one request.  Before the shoot began, Henson asked everyone–cast and crew–to hold one arm high in the air for a minute. The reason: to give everyone a sense of what puppeteers had to do during a movie.

This is an entertaining hour, but most of what Kwapis directed is not genre.  Even though he directed all seven episodes of the second season of Space Force, he doesn’t have much to say about the show. “Maltin on Movies: Ken Kwapis”.

(15) THE WINTER OF THEIR DISCONTENT. “Patton Oswalt Slams Comixology Changes as Fans Call Out Amazon” reports Screen Rant.

…As Oswalt makes clear, with the changes, ComiXology has gone from being a dedicated hub for comics to just another tab for digital content in Amazon’s Kindle storefront. Whereas before the change, in addition to being a place where subscribers could “collect” and “curate” their digital collections, ComiXolgy provided a way for fans to explore the wonderful world of comics, manga, graphic novels in efficient and enjoyable manner.

Oswalt wasn’t the only one to find fault with the changes. Indeed, from hardcore fans to casual readers, from writers to gamers, the change seems to have struck a chord everywhere….

(16) JEFFERSONIAN STARSHIP. Politico tells “Why Musk’s biggest space gamble is freaking out his competitors”. “Starship is threatening NASA’s moon contractors, which are watching its progress with a mix of awe and horror.”

Elon Musk is planning yet again to rocket beyond the status quo. And if he succeeds, the aerospace giants that won the first space race may never catch him in this one.

Standing in front of the towering Starship rocket at Space X’s southwest Texas “Starbase” on Thursday night, Musk pledged that his most ambitious spaceship yet will make its first journey in the coming months….

Starship is designed to be the first all-purpose space vehicle: a reusable and refuelable spacecraft that can take scores of people and millions of tons of cargo from Earth directly to the moon and eventually Mars — and do it over and over again.

If he can pull it off, Musk’s previous breakthroughs — electric cars, reusable rockets for launching satellites, the first commercial space capsule to dock with the International Space Station — might seem, by comparison, to be modest achievements….

(17) DUSTING OFF HISTORY. Pollen leads to a picture of “The Uneven Sweep Of Black Death’s Assault On Europe” in a Nature article.

The historical pandemic known as the Black Death might not have been as devastating as was previously thought, an analysis of ancient pollen suggests.

Historians estimate that a wave of bubonic plague in the mid-1300s killed about half of the people in Europe, at a time when most lived in rural areas. To investigate the Black Death’s true toll, Alessia Masi at the Sapienza University of Rome and her colleagues analysed ancient pollen from 261 lakes and wetlands across Europe (pictured, a sampled bog in Poland). By assessing the varieties of pollen, the team determined whether fields and pastures had been abandoned after the plague and eventually replaced by forests.

Levels of pollen from species common in agricultural lands were much lower in many places, including France and central Italy, between 1350 and 1450 than during the previous 100 years. This suggests high mortality rates. But in other regions, including Ireland and much of eastern Europe, agricultural activities were stable and even expanded, suggesting that populations there were growing.

Factors such as weather and local economies might have caused the pandemic’s course to vary, the authors say.

(18) FELL WEAPON. Nature discusses a “Gift From Above: The Meteorite Origins Of King Tut’s Dagger”.

Chemical analysis of an iron dagger found in King Tutankhamen’s tomb has identified the type of meteorite from which the metal was derived — and suggests the knife might have been a gift from another ruler.

Tut reigned in the fourteenth century bc, before iron working was common in Egypt. Previous research identified an iron– nickel meteorite as the probable
source of the blade’s metal, but little was known about how the dagger was manufactured.

Tomoko Arai at the Chiba Institute of Technology in Narashino, Japan, and her colleagues mapped the metal’s elements by shining X-rays along the blade and analyzing the resulting fluorescence. They found that the nickel was distributed in a crosshatched pattern typical of a group of meteorites called octahedrites. The blade must have been forged at a relatively low temperature to retain the pattern and other meteorite specific features, they say….

(19) GALAXY CHEX QUEST. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Artist/illustrator Will Quinn did this piece based on the 1996 computer game Chex Quest. According to Wikipedia, Chex Quest was included as a cereal prize in boxes of Corn Chex, Rice Chex, and Wheat Chex. “Daily bunny no.1676 is fighting for a balanced breakfast (A Patreon reward for @DrWho42!)”.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Ben Bird Person, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jim Janney.]

Pixel Scroll 1/14/22 Do Starros Work As Facemasks? What About Tribbles?

(1) SLF ILLUSTRATION OF THE YEAR. Michelle Feng is the winner of the Speculative Literature Foundation’s search for their 2022 Illustration of the Year.

Michelle Feng

Hoping to translate theory into policy and practice, Michelle’s experience revolves around working directly with traditionally underserved individuals and communities of color to bridge the gap between lived experiences and policy that fails to reflect the complexities of society on a universal scale. Through her dedication to public service, where she traveled around the country working in dedicated pursuit of localized projects with focuses on urban development, environmental conservation, disaster relief, and food insecurity in rural areas. Michelle has also spent time in Human Resources at the Department of Defense and has experience in social work at a small non-profit, which subsequently trained her in crisis de-escalation, conflict mediation, and trauma-informed care.

Feng commented that she found inspiration for her illustration through wanting to combine visual elements from traditional village living structures with futuristic elements of a modern city. Feng used a mix of mediums and textures to build a piece with collage-like elements that illustrated a layered approach to world-building: “imbuing realities that are grounded in something familiar, but still continue to live outside of our surface-level understanding of the world, define speculative fiction to me. As a first generation Chinese-American daughter of immigrants, I grew up hearing stories of my mother’s experience traveling to the rural village her mother grew up in, who always emphasized the importance of balancing education, literacy, and imagination as the key to upward mobility.”

The person climbing the wall of books on the left hand side of the image was inspired by her grandfather, a professor of contemplative literature who taught her mother that art is the highest form of expression. Her hope is that those who see the piece can connect to both of its real & imagined worlds while exploring intersections between the built and natural environment.

You can find more of her work on instagram: @michellef.arts

(2) SQUEECORE. Raquel S. Benedict’s Rite Gud podcast offer “A Guide to Squeecore”, their term for sff’s current favorite flavor.

In 1936, anthropologist Ralph Linton said, “The last thing a fish would ever notice would be water.” It’s difficult to see the medium that encompasses everything around you, especially when you’ve never known anything else. Well, if fish were contemporary sci-fi/fantasy readers, the last thing they would notice is squeecore. What is squeecore? You’re soaking in it! Squeecore is the dominant literary movement in contemporary SFF, a movement so ubiquitous it’s nearly invisible. But in this episode, we are taking notice of how speculative fiction got watered down.

(3) UNWRAPPING THE PRESENT. Camestros Felapton catches the conversational ball thrown by Raquel S. Benedict in that Rite Gud podcast – “Is there a dominant mode of current science fiction?”

…Again, I think that idea (if not the name) that there are common aesthetic elements in notable science fiction (ie what gets critical attention and award nominations) makes some sense. Historically, in the Hugo Awards, I think what we see is overlapping time periods of popularity of some authors, publishers and outlets (5 to 10 year periods, with some figures having much longer spans of relevance). Pick any snapshot of time though, you are likely to find works that reflect elements that are going out of fashion, works that are currently most fashionable and works that reflect newer fashions. That is reflected in the kind of names (some coined contemporaneously and some retrospectively) given to works from particular times. The podcast picks up on that element and the need for a name for the current state of affairs….

(4) ENCOURAGING INTENTIONALITY. Maurice Broaddus urges conventions to move beyond checking the “diversity box” and work on building community. Thread starts here.

(5) ADAPTING STATION ELEVEN. Esquire’s Adrienne Westenfeld analyzes “How HBO Max’s Station Eleven Reimagines the Novel”.

…. Readers of the novel will remember its unique structure: nonlinear and multi-perspective, arcing across time, space, and characters to tell its poignant story about survival and the human spirit. We sense some of that looping structure in the television show, particularly in Episode One’s flash-forward glimpses of Chicago (for the purposes of this adaptation, HBOMax has transplanted the story from Toronto to Chicago). In these shots, we glimpse an unrecognizable world: today’s driveway becomes an overgrown wilderness, years after the pandemic. Today’s theater, where Arthur performs King Lear to a packed audience, is later overrun by feral hogs. The visual style hints at a narrative omniscience….

(6) DAVE WOLVERTON (1952-2022). Dave Wolverton, aka Dave Farland, died the day after sustaining a head injury due to a fall, his son Spencer announced this morning:  

Again this Dave’s son Spencer.

Dave has officially passed. He held on till all his children could say goodbye, then faded swiftly without pain. Thank you for all the kind words, messages, and memories.

After reading the countless messages and reflecting on my own experience, it is safe to say that my dad had a special way of seeing the potential in people. He will surely be missed.

Words can’t express the emotions of losing a loved one.

Eric Flint is among the many paying tribute, here on Facebook:

…Dave was part of my writing career from the very beginning. In fact, he’s the person whom you could say started it. He was the coordinator of the Writers of the Future contest in 1992. I submitted a story which he liked well enough to include in the finalists from whom the judges chose the winners, and I won first place in the winter quarter of that year. Winning that award is what kicked off my writing career. I stayed in touch with Dave after the contest and he was a help to me in many ways, from giving me excellent editing advice to connecting me with the person who became (and still is) my literary agent.

Some years later, Dave and I were two of the five founders of the Superstars Writing Seminar. (The other three were Kevin Anderson, Rebecca Moesta and Brandon Sanderson.) As a result of that association, we met every year at the four-day event, which is held in Colorado Springs in February. I was expecting to see him next month and looking forward to it.

David Doering’s appreciation about him will appear shortly on File 770.

(7) RICK COOK (1944-2022). Rick Cook, author of the Wizardry series (starting with Wizard’s Bane in 1989), died January 13. He wrote a total of nine sff novels, and much short fiction. His short story “Symphony for Skyfall,” co-written with Peter L. Manly, was shortlisted for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award in 1995. His fact article “The Long Stern Case: A Speculative Exercise” won the Analog Readers Poll in 1987 (and between 1995-1998, three more short stories co-authored with Manly placed second or third in the poll.)

Sir Richard Ironsteed.

He was a co-founder of the Society for Creative Anachronism’s Kingdom of Atenveldt, which encompasses the state of Arizona. In the SCA he was known as Sir Richard Ironsteed. Recalling the early days of the Kingdom of Atenveldt, Cook wrote:

We made it up as we went along. In 1968 I went to Worldcon in San Francisco. The SCA appeared there for the first time. It was then I was introduced to the SCA. I picked up the Known World Handbook and brought it back to the Valley of the Sun. I couldn’t build up much interest, but shared the information with Mike Reynolds. In 1969, he suggested we start a branch. We were the first group that wasn’t started by people who had lived in the Kingdom of the West.

I was part of building the initial group, martial activities, including the administrative duties of marshalling. As first king of Atenveldt, I enjoyed making up the fun as we went along. Those things of great tradition from the early days were really just having a good time. I was also the first herald of Atenveldt, long before we were a kingdom. I tried my hand at many things from helping make our first (infamous) trebuchet to making jewelry.

He became the First King of Atenveldt in 1971.

Heather Jeffcott shared warm memories of him on Facebook:

…He used words like swordplay. Strong and persuasive, nimble and light when needed, then *SMACK*! There came the pun that would lighten the tenor of the conversation. He could be blunt without being rude. (Which is not to say he couldn’t descend into crudity, it just wasn’t his first choice. He was selective in how and when to apply such words for he had plenty of others in his arsenal.) He had a talent for telling you a truth and making it seem like a tall tale. And if he told you a Tall Tale, it took on the manner of a LEGEND….

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1977 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-five years ago, the first version of Fantasy Island aired its first episode this evening on ABC. The series starred Ricardo Montalbán who was previously known for his Chrysler Cordoba commercials, with their tagline of “Fine Corinthian Leather”, as Mr. Roarke, the Host, and Hervé Villechaize as his dwarf assistant, Tattoo. It was created by Gene Levitt who had very little previous genre experience. 

The critics were unanimous in their utter loathing of it. Newsday was typical of the comments about: “Given the premise, the [pilot] movie could have been fun, but it’s not. It drips with Meaning, but there is none. Actually, it’s quite dumb.”

It was obviously critic-proof as it had an amazing run lasting seven seasons of one hundred fifty-two episodes, plus two films called Fantasy Island and Return to Fantasy Island

A one-season revival of the series with Malcolm McDowell and Mädchen Amick in the two roles aired fourteen years later while a re-imagined horror film version was released two years ago. I’ve seen neither of those versions. I do remember the original series and remember rather liking it.

Chrysler Cordoba commercial (proof nothing vanishes on the net) here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 14, 1924 Guy Williams. Most remembered as Professor John Robinson on Lost in Space though some of you may remember him as Don Diego de la Vega and his masked alter ego Zorro in the earlier Zorro series. (Is it genre? You decide. I think it is.) He filmed two European genre films, Il tiranno di Siracusa (Damon and Pythias) and Captain Sinbad as well. (Died 1989.)
  • Born January 14, 1943 Beverly Zuk. Ardent fan of Trek: TOS who wrote three Trek fanfics, two of them on specific characters: The Honorable Sacrifice (McCoy) and The Third Verdict (Scotty). Let’s just say that based on her artwork that I found I’d not say these are anything less than R rated in places. She was a founding member of the Trek Mafia though I’m not sure what that was, but I’m betting one of y’all can tell me. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 14, 1948 Carl Weathers, 74. Most likely best remembered among genre fans as Al Dillon in Predator, but he has some other genre creds as well. He was a MP officer in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, General Skyler in Alien Siege, Dr. Artimus Snodgrass in the very silly The Sasquatch Gang comedy and he voiced Combat Carl in Toy Story 4. And no, I’m not forgetting he’s currently playing Greef Karga on The Mandalorian series. I still think his best role ever was Adam Beaudreaux on Street Justice but that’s very, very not genre. 
  • Born January 14, 1949 Lawrence Kasdan, 73. Director, screenwriter, and producer. He’s best known early on as co-writer of The Empire Strikes BackRaiders of the Lost Ark and Return of the Jedi. He also wrote The Art of Return of the Jedi with George Lucas which is quite superb. He’s also one of the writers lately of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Solo: A Star Wars Story
  • Born January 14, 1957 Suzanne Danielle, 65. A Whovian as she showed up as Agella in “The Destiny if The Daleks “ a Fourth Doctor story. She was on the Hammer House of Horror series in the Carpathian Eagle” episode, and she’s also in Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected multiple times in different roles. To my knowledge, her only other SFF appearance was on the Eighties Flash Gordon film.
  • Born January 14, 1962 Jemma Redgrave, 60. Her first genre role was as Violette Charbonneau in the “A Time to Die” episode of  Tales of the Unexpected which was also her first acting role. Later genre roles are scant but include a memorable turn as Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, daughter of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart on Doctor Who. Not at all surprisingly,she has also appeared as Stewart as the lead in myriad UNIT adventures for Big Finish Productions.
  • Born January 14, 1967 Emily Watson, 55. Her first genre appearance is in Equilibrium as Mary O’Brien before voicing Victoria Everglot in Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. Next is she’s Anne MacMorrow in the Celtic fantasy The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep. She apparently also was in a Nineties radio production of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase but I’ve no information on it. 
  • Born January 14, 1990 Grant Gustin, 32. The actor, known as Barry Allen aka the Flash in the Arrowverse. I’ve got him as a boyfriend on an episode on A Haunting, one of those ghost hunter shows early in his career. Later on, well, the Arrowverse has kept him rather busy.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest meet some genetic engineers whose experiments result in terrible puns.

(11) SPRING HAS SPRUNG AT SF2 CONCATENATION. SF² Concatenation has just posted its seasonal edition of news, articles, conreps, genre film analysis, and over 40 standalone book reviews. Vol. 32 (1) contains:

v32(1) 2022.1.15 — Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Reviews

v32(1) 2022.1.15 — Non-Fiction SF & Science Fact Book Reviews

(12) FOUNDRY EVENT. Flights of Foundry, a virtual convention for speculative creators and their fans, will be held online from April 8-10. Programming is now being organized, and registrations taken, at the link.

The world’s biggest multi-disciplinary, round the clock, international virtual convention is returning for its third year, and it’s going to be even better than ever. With stellar guests of honor such as L. D. Lewis and Jana Bianchi, an intensive workshops series, and activities to fill the whole weekend, there’s something for everyone and more than you’ll make it to. Donation-based registration means everyone can attend, and you’ll have a rare opportunity to meet people you’ll never see on the regular con circuit. Join us to learn about craft and business from creatives in your field and those you’ll collaborate with over the course of your career. Talk about your favorite works with people who love them, and love to dissect them, too!

(13) A JAR FULL OF MONEY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna notes that now that Winnie-the-Pooh is in the public domain, artists and writers will have a field day as long as they don’t make the bear wear a shirt (Disney owns that shirt!), don’t mention Tigger (not introduced until the still-under-copyright The House At Pooh Corner) and they should probably put a disclaimer in saying Disney has nothing to do with their work. “’Winnie-the-Pooh’ just entered the public domain. Here’s what that means for fans.”

He notes that Ryan Reynolds has used Winnie the Pooh’s public domain status to promote his cellphone company.

(14) SPIDER-MAN IS THE HOTTEST PROPERTY ON THE BLOCK. The auction block, that is: “Spider-Man comic page sells for record $3.36M bidding”.

Mike Zeck’s artwork for page 25 from Marvel Comics’ “Secret Wars No. 8” brings the first appearance of Spidey’s black suit. The symbiote suit would eventually lead to the emergence of the character Venom.

The record bidding, which started at $330,000 and soared past $3 million, came on the first day of Heritage Auctions’ four-day comic event in Dallas.

(15) THE HORTHMAH. [Item by Hampus Eckerman.] I saw that a new movie has been released, but the title is a bit weird. It mixes existing nordic runes with some that are made up from our ordinary latin alphabet. The closest I come when translating it is “The Horthmah”, but perhaps it is more than two alphabets in there. Is there any filers that are better at runes than me and can help out here? Anyway, I have no idea of what a Horthmah is, but I guess I’ll have to see the movie to find out.

(16) TRAILER TIME. Dance along to the opening credits of James Gunn’s Peacemaker, starring John Cena. Peacemaker is now streaming on HBO Max.

(17) CREDENTIALS IN SPACE. Adventures in Purradise entices viewers to watch “Fur Trek: Tribble Troubles”.

Are you a Star Trek fan? Do you like funny cats? Then this episode is right up your alley. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley, move over! Fur Trek is coming at warp speed. Capt. James T. Purrk of the UFS Kittyprise responds to a distress call from the planet Tribbiani, home of the adorable indigenous creatures known as Tribbles. Ambassador Barker suspects the warlike Klingoffs plan to steal his cargo of the life-saving grain, quadrokittycale, so he enlists Purrk’s help. Will the innocent Tribbles get caught up in a war between the Furderation and the Klingoff empire? Get ready to travel at warp speed on Jan. 1st to find out.

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