Pixel Scroll 8/15/22 Pixel Scrolling to the Faraway Towns

(1) WHO IS NUMBER ONE? At The Splintered Mind, Eric Schwitzgebel continues his annual ratings with the “Top Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazines 2022”. The scoring is done in the following way:

(2.) I gave each magazine one point for each story nominated for a HugoNebulaSturgeon, or World Fantasy Award in the past ten years; one point for each story appearance in any of the Dozois, Horton, Strahan, Clarke, or Adams “year’s best” anthologies; and half a point for each story appearing in the short story or novelette category of the annual Locus Recommended list.

(2a.) Methodological notes for 2022: Starting this year, I swapped the Sturgeon for the Eugie award for all award years 2013-2022. Also, with the death of Dozois in 2018, the [temporary?] cessation of the Strahan anthology, and the delay of the Horton and Clarke anthologies, the 2022 year includes only one new anthology source: Adams 2021. Given the ten-year-window, anthologies still comprise about half the weight of the rankings overall.

The ratings are followed by various observations, for example:

For the past several years it has been clear that the classic “big three” print magazines — Asimov’s, F&SF, and Analog — are slowly being displaced in influence by the four leading free online magazines, Tor.com, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and Uncanny (all founded 2006-2014).  Contrast this year’s ranking with the ranking from 2014, which had Asimov’s and F&SF on top by a wide margin.  Presumably, a large part of the explanation is that there are more readers of free online fiction than of paid subscription magazines, which is attractive to authors and probably also helps with voter attention for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards.

(2) ALTERNATE SPACE. Polygon’s article “For All Mankind season 3 showed how hard Star Trek’s utopia is to achieve” is a spoiler-filled summary of the show, but also a good way to catch up if you haven’t been watching.

After two seasons of an extended Cold War, For All Mankind moved into the technology boom of the ’90s. If the real ’90s were driven by a techno-optimism, For All Mankind explores an idea of what a utopian America driven by technology would actually look like. In this alternate space-focused timeline, the go-go ’90s are filled with electric cars, videophones, and moon-mining. Sounds pretty good, right? But over the course of the season, For All Mankind shows how even if the utopianism of the actual ’90s could have been translated into reality, we couldn’t have left our problems behind.

By the third season, For All Mankind’s alternate history has moved leaps and bounds beyond where our ’90s found us. The larger powers have wound down their military snafus in Vietnam and Afghanistan to focus on building military bases on the moon. The Equal Rights Amendment entered the Constitution thanks to the prominence of female astronauts, electric cars are readily available thanks to investments in technology, and the Soviet Union never collapsed….

(3) MYTHIC MOMENTS. Rivera Sun and David Bratman were the Author and Scholar guests of honor, respectively, at Mythcon 52 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

If you’ve never heard David Bratman speaking about Tolkien and other mythopoeic figures, don’t miss the opportunity to at least read the text of his GOH Speech, hosted on the Southwestern Oklahoma State University site.

And you can listen to Rivera Sun’s GoH speech in a video here.

(4) CRITICAL MASS. The Guardian interviews Namwali Serpell, who won the Clarke Award in 2020: “Namwali Serpell: ‘I find uncertainty compelling in literature’”.

As a critic, you’ve been sceptical about how we tend to construe literary value, not least in your 2019 essay The Banality of Empathy.

The idea that literature’s ethical values stem from its ability to produce empathy has become the be-all and end-all of how we talk about it. The incredible immersion in the minds of others [that fiction offers] is something I wouldn’t be able to live without, but I’d push against the notion that it is valuable for a kind of portable empathy that makes us better people. Many bad people don’t read. Many good people never got to learn how to read. The equation of reading with morally positive effects [resembles] the neoliberal model of eating well and doing exercise. We can see that in the way books are commodified right now: pictures of your latte or smoothie next to a beautiful book cover on Instagram are meant to reflect one’s engagement in a project of self-improvement, rather than actual engagement with other people, talking and thinking about that book. My scepticism isn’t of art – it’s of what we take art to be for.

(5) ONE SMELL IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS. Cora Buhlert posted a lengthy Masters of the Universe toy photo story about He-Man’s long lost twin sister She-Ra: “Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre: ‘The Mystery of He-Man’s Long-Lost Twin Sister’”.

Here is the long-awaited Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre Photo Story about She-Ra, He-Man’s long lost twin sister. To recap, last year I bought myself a Masters of the Universe Origins He-Man and Battlecat and then a Teela figure, because I couldn’t find my vintage figure. Gradually, they were joined by other Masters of the Universe Origins figures. I also started posing the action figures to re-enact scenes from the cartoons and my imagination and started posting the results first on Twitter and then here.

This is part 3 in a sub-series of posts called “Secrets of Eternia” about how much the entire Masters of the Universe franchise is driven by secrets….

“Halt! Put down the babies, fiends! You are under arrest.”

“Tell Randor that he will never see his precious children again, bwahaha.”

“Waaah!”

“Why is it making those sounds, Keldor? And what’s that smell?”

“Just shut up and take the baby!”

(6) FRANKED BY URSULA. [Item by Kevin Standlee.] Today, we mailed the last batch of Westercon 74 program books to the members whose records showed that they did not pick up their membership badge, including supporting members. Whenever possible, we included that person’s membership badge and one of the Westercon 74 ribbons that we gave to every member until they ran out. We excluded “Guest of” members and those people we knew to have died over the past three years. Of course, we also did not try to send a program book to any member who did not provide a valid postal mailing address. In total, we mailed 156 program books, which coincidentally was almost exactly the same number of members who did pick up their membership badges.

We mailed everything from Fernley, Nevada by first class mail. The last 27 in this batch went out a few days after the main mailing because we exhausted the supply of Ursula K. Le Guin high-value stamps from our local post office and had to wait for another shipment of stamps to arrive.

(7) MOURNING. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Here is a very touching piece by Melissa Navia, who plays Lieutenant Erica Ortegas in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, about losing her partner to cancer between seasons: “An Actor, a Helmsman, and My Brian: Boldly Going Where No Widow Has Gone Before” at Talkhouse.

…All I thought before now rings inconsequential and incomplete. Death will do that to you. Grief transforms you. Losing the love of your life breaks you. So, this is the beginning of a new story, one I am still finding the strength to tell. Of how I went from not being able to physically leave my couch, all of six months ago, to reluctantly leaving the country to film the much-anticipated second season of a yet-to-be-aired, internationally anticipated TV show. Of how I went from becoming a widow in an agonizing heartbeat to re-becoming Erica Ortegas, helmsman of the USS Enterprise on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, and how the two will forever be inextricably linked….

(8) MEMORY LANE.  

1951 [By Cat Eldridge.] I was downstairs this morning as I as most mornings chatting with the usual group when someone mentioned that Yul Brynner’s The King and I had played here at Merrill Auditorium and that she saw it.

So I got interested to see just what the history of The King and I was. It is based on Margaret Landon’s Anna and the King of Siam novel which came out in 1944, which she based upon the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam in the early 1860s. Mongkut reigned for an astonishing sixty-four years.

(It has since been established by historians that the memoirs of Anna Leonowens are, to put it mildly more fiction than actual reality.)

I discovered it was a Richard Rodgers (the music) and Oscar Hammerstein II (the lyrics) affair (I didn’t know that) that first opened in 1951 with, of course, Yul Brynner who had shaved his head for the role (something he never stopped doing) and Gertrude Lawrence as Anna Leonowens, the widowed Briton who was teaching his children. 

It opened on Broadway’s St. James Theatres and ran for nearly three years, making it the fourth-longest-running Broadway musical in history at the time,

Brynner would perform the role of the King of Siam four thousand six hundred and twenty-five performances on Broadway and off Broadway on stages in places like here in Portland. 

He of course starred in the film version of The King and I whose screenplay was written by Ernest Lehman. The film starred Deborah Kerr as Anna Leonowens. The film made five times what it cost to make.  The Variety review at the time praised it lavishly: “All the ingredients that made Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I a memorable stage experience have been faithfully transferred to the screen.” 

He also starred in 1972 in Anna and the King, the CBS series that lasted thirteen episodes. Samantha Eggar co-starred. Anyone see it? 

Oh, and it was banned in Thailand but so is the book, and any adaptations of the book including other film versions. 

Yes, I like it very much so and have watched the film a number of times. 

The role would net Brynner two Tony Awards, and an Academy Award for Best Actor. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 15, 1858 E. Nesbit. She wrote or collaborated on more than sixty books of children’s literature including the Five Children Universe series. She was also a political activist and co-founded the Fabian Society, a socialist organization later affiliated to the Labour Party. (Died 1924.)
  • Born August 15, 1932 Robert L. Forward. Physicist and SF writer whose eleven novels I find are often quite great on ideas and quite thin on character development. Dragon’s Egg is fascinating as a first contact novel, and Saturn Rukh is another first contact novel that’s just as interesting. (Died 2002.)
  • Born August 15, 1933 Bjo Trimble, 89. Her intro to fandom was TASFiC, the 1952 Worldcon. She would be active in LASFS in the late 1950s onward and has been involved in more fanzines than I can comfortably list here. Of course, many of us know her from Trek especially the successful campaign for a third season. She’s responsible for the Star Trek Concordance, an amazing work even by today’s standards. And yes, I read it and loved it. She’s shows up (uncredited) as a crew member in the Recreation Deck scene in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Bjo and her husband John Trimble were the Fan Guests of Honor at the 60th Worldcon, ConJose. She was nominated at Seacon for Best Fanzine for Shangri L’Affaires, and two years later at DisCon 1 for the same under the Best Amateur Magazine category. 
  • Born August 15, 1952 Louise Marley, 70. Winner of two Endeavour Awards for The Glass Harmonica and The Child Goddess. Before becoming a writer, she was an opera singer with the Seattle Opera, and so her works often feature musical themes.
  • Born August 15, 1943 Barbara Bouchet, 79. Yes, I’ve a weakness for performers who’ve shown up on the original Trek. She plays Kelinda in “By Any Other Name”.  She also appeared in Casino Royale as Miss Moneypenny, a role always noting, and is Ava Vestok in Agent for H.A.R.M. which sounds like someone was rather unsuccessfully emulating The Man from U.N.C.L.E. It will be commented upon by Mystery Science Theater 3000.  
  • Born August 15, 1945 Nigel Terry. His first role was John in A Lion in Winter which is at least genre adjacent as it’s alternate history, with his first genre role being King Arthur in Excalibur. Now there’s a bloody telling of the Arthurian myth.  He’s General Cobb in the Tenth Doctor story, “The Doctor’s Daughter”, and on the Highlander series as Gabriel Piton in the “Eye of the Beholder” episode. He even played Harold Latimer in “The Greek Interpreter” on Sherlock Holmes. (Died 2015.)
  • Born August 15, 1972 Ben Affleck, 50. Did you know his first genre role is in Buffy the Vampire Slayer? He’s a basketball player in it. He’s Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League. IMDB claims he shows up in an uncredited spot in Suicide Squad as well. He’s reprising his role as Batman in forthcoming Flash. He’s Matt Murdock / Daredevil in Daredevil which I have seen. He’s actually in Field of Dreams too as a fan on the stands in Fenway though he’s not credited. Can I nominate Shakespeare in Love as genre? If so, he’s Ned Alleyn in it.
  • Born August 15, 1972 Matthew Wood, 50. He started out as, and still is, a sound engineer but he also became a voice actor with his best known role being that of General Grievous in The Revenge of the Sith and The Clone Wars. He often does both at the same time as on 2013 Star Trek Into Darkness where he was the lead sound editor and provided the ever so vague additional voices. If you’ve been watching The Mandalorian, he was Bib Fortuna in “The Rescue” episode. 

(10) TURN UP THE VOLUMES. “Exploring a literary gem: Milwaukee’s Renaissance Book Store endures through decades of change” is the local CBS affiliate’s love letter to an indie bookstore.

For some people reading is a hobby but for C Kay Hinchliffe it’s a lifestyle. She’s been working at Renaissance Book Store for more than 40 years.

“I started working for Renaissance in January of 1980 when we were still in the big building downtown,” said Hinchliffe. “You meet all sort of people in used books. Part of the fun for me is the joy I can give people because they come in and say I’m looking for a book and I say okay what’s the name?”

Renaissance Books is one of the only standing independent bookstores left in Milwaukee, first opening back in the 1950s when its original location was downtown in a five-story building.

In 1979, it opened a location inside Mitchell International Airport becoming the first used bookstore inside an airport in the country.

“At the airport store you have people coming from all over. There are people who fly into Milwaukee just so they can come to the store,” said Hinchliffe.

…Working at Renaissance has become a family affair. Hinchliffe’s husband Michael has worked at the store since the 1970’s.

“Michael has worked for Renaissance since ’76 and I started working at Renaissance because he worked at Renaissance,” said Hinchliffe.

Since working at this location Hinchliffe estimates she’s sold more than 25,000 books and says she will work at Renaissance for as long as possible.

“We’re a dying breed but we’re small but fierce,” said Hinchliffe.

And the “Michael” referred to is TAFF delegate and Filer “Orange Mike” Lowrey.

(11) YOU’VE SEEN THIS FACE BEFORE. S.E. Lindberg is hosting videos of writing and literature panels from the 2022 GenCon Writer’s Symposium here.

Paul Weimer is one of the panelists on “Sword & Sorcery Renaissance in Writing” along with Jaym Gates, Howard Andrew Jones, Matt John; Jason Ray Carney, and S.E. Lindberg.

(12) LET THE GAMES BEGIN. Variety reports “Viola Davis to Star in ‘Hunger Games’ Prequel as Head Gamemaker”.

Viola Davis is headed to Panem as the head gamemaker in “The Hunger Games” prequel, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.”

The Lionsgate movie is based on the 2020 book of the same name, which takes place decades before the adventures of Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games.” The prequel story is focused on 18-year-old Snow, who eventually becomes the tyrannical leader of the dystopia known as Panem. In “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” he’s chosen to be mentor during the 10th Hunger Games, a televised event in which teenagers are chosen via lottery to fight to the death.

Davis, who is playing Volumnia Gaul, the mastermind of the diabolical teen death-match, will star opposite Tom Blyth as young Coriolanus Snow, Rachel Zegler as tribute Lucy Gray Baird, Hunter Schafer as Snow’s cousin and confidante Tigris Snow and Peter Dinklage as Academy dean Casca Highbottom….

(13) CALIFORNIA’S DROUGHT ISN’T ITS ONLY WORRY. [Item by Tom Becker.] Researchers from UCLA and National Center for Atmospheric Research have found that climate change has doubled the risk of a major “mega-flood” in California. The Great Flood of 1862 inundated the Central Valley. Steamships went along the main streets of towns, picking up passengers from rooftops. Sacramento was under ten feet of water. Climate change increases the severity of both droughts and floods. A major flood can occur when an “atmospheric river” melts the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada and it all runs off at once. It has happened before in California, hence the Great Flood of 1862. When it happens again, 5 to 10 million people may be in the path of the flood. Evacuating that many people would be an enormous task, never done before. There are ways to mitigate the flooding, but they would necessarily involve changes to water rights and land use policies that will be highly controversial. Science fiction writers, take note.

(14) VARIATION ON A THEME. From Jeff Blyth: “Wall-E’s Old Man”.

My latest tribute film about Wall-E, this time an “origin” story. Yes, I know the true background of the beloved character, but, like all fan fiction, I wanted to try putting out my own version of how he might have come to be. To those who have faithfully followed my other Wall-E films in the past, this one has been made especially for you. There are a few Easter eggs you’ll find throughout the film and in the soundtrack as well. This is the longest and most complex animation project I’d ever attempted and took me over a year, working alone and on a single computer, with many new challenges.

(15) THE FUTURE IS HERE. It’s a lovely trailer, I’ve got to say that. “L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 38 Book Trailer”.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Isaac Arthur picks out the “Dumbest Alien Invasions”.

An Alien Invasion of Earth is a terrifying scenario, yet science fiction rarely has good reason for those invasions. Today we’ll discuss the worst reasons aliens invade in fiction and some plausible scenarios for why they might do it in fact.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/21/20 Pounded
In The Scroll By The Anthropomorphic Concept
Of Pixels

(1) COLUMBUS NASFIC OPENING CEREMONIES. [Item by David Doering.] Watching the Opening Ceremonies of the Columbus NASFiC, I noted the number of apologies for lack of the in-person meetings.

However, I also think we should celebrate that we are LIVING an SF novel. If we had written this 20 years ago, it would have been SF–real-time linkups with AV from around the globe!! Is that KEWL or what??

We did NOT have to cancel. We still have a great slate of programming. AND we still can get together to honor Mike Resnick.

I should add that we also don’t have worry about scaring each other with pathogens if we were in person. Thus potentially setting off a “War of the Worlds” scenario with all of us “aliens” descending on a single city only to be doomed by GERMS.

(2) ROGUE NASFIC. Chris Garcia is the virtual Columbus NASFiC’s Editor Guest of Honor. The con newsletter made everyone aware he’s also got some real-life concerns right now:  

Please share your positive thoughts, hopes, prayers – as appropriate – and spare a moment of contemplation for Christopher J. Garcia (GOH), his wonderful family Vanessa, John Paul and Ben, as they await news of their home, and neighbourhood, evacuated as they are from Boulder Creek in the Santa Cruz County CZU August Lightning Complex Fire. Certainly, we all wish them well. (submitted by James Bacon)

In better Chris Garcia news, check out his Rogue NASFiC YouTube channel of extra programming. As Chris explained on Facebook:

This is what happens when I’m given the power of Guest of Honor without oversight!

This YouTube Channel has some great videos of interviews and more! I’ll be adding as the Weekend (and beyond!) goes on!

Coming soon will be our Podcast channel!

I wanna thank the entire team of the NASFiC for letting me have a little fun!!!

Here’s one example:

(3) NINA ALLAN FIRES A CANON. [Item by PhilRM.] Here’s another very interesting piece by Nina Allan, discussing, among other things**, the notion of an SFF canon:  “Weird Wednesdays #11: the question of lineage”. There’s a well-known quote by Borges, from his essay on Kafka: “The fact is that every writer creates his own precursors. His work modifies our conception of the past, as it will modify the future.” Nina’s take (which I completely agree with) is that every writer creates their own canon; I’d extend this to say that every reader creates their own canon also.

**Her piece also convinced me that I really need to read William Golding’s The Inheritors and The Spire, which sound like fascinating books.

…I have explored and will continue to explore some of the ‘canonical’ works from science fiction’s so-called Golden Age – not because I feel I should but because I am interested. I enjoy thinking about these things, I enjoy writing criticism, and I happen to believe that the more widely you read around a subject, the more fiercely you can argue your corner, the more enjoyment you can derive. And having said that, I saw an interesting comment somewhere at some point during the post-Hugo furore with words to the effect that it is actually the middle generation of science fiction writers – Le Guin, Butler, Russ, Delany, Disch, Haldeman, Pohl – who are the true pioneers of the American tradition, who not only wrote better then but speak better now to the generation of writers currently winning Hugos. That definitely rings true for me, though it might not for you. But that’s the beauty of such contentions: they are there to be discussed.  

(4) SFF WRITERS ON AMW PODCAST. The American Writers Museum in Chicago is doing a series of science fiction-themed podcast episodes for the Ray Bradbury Centennial.

In celebration of Bradbury, the AWM will also air in August on its newly launched podcast four conversations with contemporary science fiction and fantasy writers. Each weekly episode of the podcast features one of the AWM’s past live programs and covers a range of topics including process, writing influences, and the life of a writer. J. Michael Straczynski, author of Becoming Superman headlines the August 10 episode. On the August 17 episode, Annalee Newitz, author of The Future of Another Timeline, is joined by journalist Dan Sinker. Hugo-Award winner John Scalzi, author of The Consuming Fire, is featured on the August 24 episode. Isabel Ibanez, author of Woven in Moonlight, closes out the month on the August 31 episode.

Episodes already online —

(5) THE POWER OF FIVE. James Davis Nicoll has assembled another listicle for Tor.com: “Five SF Books That Would Make Great Musicals”.

If there is one lesson to be learned from Hamilton’s Broadway success, it’s that a surprising diverse number of themes can be successfully turned into musicals. After all, who would have believed Ontario’s steel town—just a second—I have just been informed that the musical Hamilton is not in fact about Hamilton, Ontario, but rather about a significant figure in the American Revolution. I see.

Nevertheless, my point stands: almost everything can be turned into a musical, given sufficient talent. Even science fiction epics. Which brings me to the exciting topic of What Science Fiction Works I Would Like to See as Musicals.

(6)  HARRYHAUSEN SCULPTURE. This piece is up for bid at Nate D. Sanders Auctions until August 27. “Ray Harryhausen Original Bronze Sculpture — One of 12 in His Limited Edition Self-Portrait Entitled ‘Giving Life to Fantasy'”

Ray Harryhausen original sculpture, #10 in the limited edition of 12 created in the early 1990s, and then cast in 2010, the last work of fine art by the cinematic trailblazer before his passing. Entitled ”Giving Life to Fantasy”, this self-portrait sculpture depicts Harryhausen as he wanted to be remembered, filming the animated creatures of his imagination: the Cyclops and Dragon in their climactic battle in ”The 7th Voyage of Sinbad”. Other personal touches in this detailed sculpture include Harryhausen’s Giant Octopus from ”It Came from Beneath the Sea” in a box on the floor (along with his inspiration, the gorilla from ”King Kong”), and his Brontosaurus from ”The Animal World” on the side table. Signed and numbered by Harryhausen on the corner of the table, ”Ray Harryhausen 10/12”. Sculpture stands on a green marble and wooden base, with entire presentation measuring 19” x 11.5” x approximately 11” tall, and weighing nearly 50 lbs. Some light patina to bronze, overall near fine condition.

(7) HUNGER GAMES IN EVERYDAY LIFE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Reader, Financial Times.] This is the lede of an article by John Reed in the August 20 Financial Times about protests against the Thai government.

“It is a morning ritual at every Thai school, steeped in tradition and nationalist decorum: children stand still and sing the national anthem as the kingdom’s blue, white, and red flag is raised.

But this week, amid a growing ‘Free People’ youth protest movement, children across Thailand raised their hands during the ceremony to make the protesters’ trademark, defiant three-fingered salute.

The gesture originated in The Hunger Games, the dystopian young adult franchise of books and films, but has been adopted as an emblem of a movement that has spread from university campuses to secondary schools…

…”it has become a peacefully powerful symbol of anti-authoritarianism,’ said Viengrat Nethipo, assistant professor of political science at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University.  ‘Recently it’s been described among youth as symbolic of the French Revolution’s values of liberty, equality, and fraternity, so it’s easily adopted as a symbol.'”

(8) STATUE READY FOR PRIME TIME. [Item by rcade.] Medusa, a 2008 statue by the Argentine-Italian sculptor Luciano Garbati, is getting a seven-foot tall bronze version in New York City across from the New York Criminal Courthouse where Harvey Weinstein was put on trial. NSFW image in a tweet here

Garbati’s statue is a response to Benvenuto Cellini’s famous Perseus with the Head of Medusa statue and the idea that Medusa is the villain of the story.

Quartz explains in “The story behind the Medusa statue that has become the perfect avatar for women’s rage” – 

The original Greek myth of Medusa offers plenty to be angry about. The monstrous being with snakes for hair starts out as a human woman, who Poseidon rapes in Athena’s temple. The goddess then punishes Medusa by turning her into a Gorgon and exiling her. Perseus is later sent on an errand to bring Medusa’s head to King Polydectes. Equipped with a mirrored shield, winged sandals, and a special sack for her head, Perseus creeps up on Medusa while she lies sleeping, cuts off her head, and then uses it as a weapon for turning enemies into stone.”

Garbati says, “The representations of Perseus, he’s always showing the fact that he won, showing the head…if you look at my Medusa…she is determined, she had to do what she did because she was defending herself. It’s quite a tragic moment.”

(9) STEVEN UNIVERSE AND SHE-RA. “In Conversation: Rebecca Sugar and Noelle Stevenson” at Paper.

…With Steven Universe and She-Ra both having ended this year, PAPER invited showrunners Rebecca Sugar and Noelle Stevenson to sit down with one another and reflect on the legacies of their respective series, getting their start in comics, the state of representation in the animated field and where things go from here.

PAPER: Since you’re both wrapping up your respective series’, looking back at what each of you have accomplished, in those series what are you proud of, what do you wish you could have improved on or pushed further?

Rebecca Sugar: Okay, well looking back on everything, I’m really proud of what we were able to do with the characters of Garnet and Ruby and Sapphire. It really goes all the way back to the time I spent on Adventure Time and when I got a chance to do some of the earlier episodes with Marceline and Bubblegum. This was 2010 so Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was still a national policy. It would be half a decade before same-sex marriage was legal in The United States and I wanted to do something with the characters of Marceline and Bubblegum but figure out how to get it on TV. The strategy at the time that I pitched was that because they’re both centuries-old, millenniums-old, had a relationship sometime in the past and they’re unpacking that in a way that would be apparent. That was the only way to be able to do something with these characters and their relationship on screen.

As I was entering my show, I really wanted to find a way to be able to show characters actively in a relationship happening in real-time. We strategized the concept of fusion to be able to explore relationships and include queer relationships. Central to that, one of the things we were excited about was to have the character of Garnet have a ton of screen time and be a main character. There were a lot of things I wanted to explore with an active relationship to parallel my own relationship. I was inventing these characters with my co-executive producer Ian Jones-Quartey, who is also my partner. We wanted to explore an active, queer relationship that would parallel a lot of our experiences with bigotry as an interracial couple.

(10) N.K. [Item by rcade.] While discussing a project called Women’s Prize for Fiction Reclaim Her Name that asked to publish one of her stories for free, then asked to publish one of her novels for free, Nora Jemisin explains how she came to write novels under the initials N.K. Thread starts here.

“(And for those wondering, I’ve said this in multiple interviews, but I did it bc at the time I was an academic starting to publish papers, and thought the initials would separate my fiction writing from my academic writing. [Yeah, this was before natural language processing.])”

Read the whole thread for how she handles a question about what the K stands for.

(11) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • August 1998Blade premiered. With Wesley Snipes as Blade, this film, the first of a trilogy, was directed by Stephen Norrington and written by David S. Goyer as based on the Marvel character developed by writer Marv Wolfman and penciller Gene Colan. It was produced by Snipes along with Peter Frankfurt and Robert Engelman. Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson, N’Bushe Wright and Donal Logue were the other principal cast. Marvel, along with Amen Ra Films and Imaginary Forces, were the producing film companies. It was generally well-received by critics though several thought it was way too violent. Box office-wise, it did fantastic but Marvel earned just a flat fee of $25,000. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently only give it a 55% rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 21, 1872 Aubrey Beardsley. Best remembered for his often highly erotic art, ISFDB lists him as having a genre novel, The Story of Venus and Tannhäuser, which bears one of the longest subtitles I’ve encountered (“The story of Venus and Tannhäuser in which is set forth an exact account of the manner of State held by Madam Venus, Goddess and Meretrix under the famous Hörselberg, and containing the Adventures of Tannhäuser in that Place, his Repentance, his Journeying to Rome, and Return to the Loving Mountain”). He has two genre novellas as well, “Catullus: Carmen Cl.“ and “ Under the Hill”.  And yes, he was just twenty-five when he died of tuberculosis. (Died 1898.) (CE) 
  • Born August 21, 1888 Miriam Allen deFord. Although it is said that she started writing SF when Boucher became editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, she only published five of her eighteen late Forties through Fifties works there. One published there, “Mary Celestial“, was written with Boucher. And one, “A Death in the Family”,  was adapted in Night Gallery‘s second season. Best remembered as a mystery writer.  I see no indication that she’s in print in any manner these days for her SF (but three of her mysteries are available from the usual suspects) though she had two SF collections, Elsewhere, Elsewhen, Elsehow and Xenogenesis.  (Died 1975.) (CE) 
  • Born August 21, 1911 – Anthony Boucher.  Co-founded The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction with Francis McComas, co-edited with him 1949-1954, alone through ’58; two Hugos for Best Professional Magazine.  Eight Best of F&SF anthologies 1952-1959 (’52-’54 with FM).  A Treasury of SF ’59, one of our best.  Six dozen short stories.  Translated into Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Russian.  Opera lover.  First translator of Borges into English, hello Evelyn Leeper.  Also detective fiction (a star there too), radio drama, poker.  (Died 1968) [JH]
  • Born August 21, 1927 – Arthur Thomson.  Fanartist.  Thirty covers, a hundred forty interiors.  Signature often read as “ATom”, some insist it’s just “Atom”.   Resident illustrator of Hyphen.  Back covers for Nebula.  Here is the Nov 64 Riverside Quarterly.  Here is Banana Wings 49 (repr. from An ATom Sketchbook).  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate, published ATom Abroad.  Official Artist of Boskone 15.  Two Novas.  Rotsler Award.  (Died 1990) [JH]
  • Born August 21, 1943 – Ron Walotsky. A hundred eighty covers, fifty interiors.  Gallery in Locus 500.  Interview in SF Chronicle 214.  Magic: the Gathering cards.  Ancient Warriors of Lost Civilizations series based on horseshoe-crab shells found near his Florida home.  Here is the May 67 F&SF.  Here is Lord of Light.  Here is Earth Ship and Star Song.  Here is The Shores Beneath.  Here is Houston, Houston, Do You Read? (Souls cover bound with it is by Dieter Rottermund.)  Here is the Nov 97 Analog.  Here is Jimi Hendrix.  Artbook, Inner Visions.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born August 21, 1943 Lucius Shepard. Damn, I didn’t know he’d passed on. Life During Wartime which won him the Astounding Award for a Best New Writer is one seriously weird novel. And his World Fantasy Award winning The Jaguar Hunter is freaking amazing as are all his short collections. I don’t remember reading “ Barnacle Bill the Spacer” which won a Best Novella Hugo at ConFrancisco. (Died 2014.) (CE)
  • Born August 21, 1956 Kim Cattrall, 64. Gracie Law in John Carpenter’s amazing Big Trouble in Little China. She also played Justine de Winter in The Return of the Musketeers, Paige Katz in Wild Palms, Lieutenant Valeris in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and Linday Isley in Good v. Evil. Series wise, she was one offs in Tales of the Gold MonkeyLogan’s RunThe Incredible Hulk and The Outer Limits. (CE);
  • Born August 21, 1957 – John Howe, 63.  A hundred sixty covers, two hundred fifty interiors.  The Maps of Middle-EarthThere and Back Again with Brian Sibley; A Middle-Earth Traveler.  Here is Rip van Winkle.  Here is The Lord of the Rings (presumably not meaning to imply Gandalf is he, aiee). Here is The Once and Future King.  Here is Fool’s Errand.  Here is Créatures.  Artbooks Myth & MagicSur les terres de TolkienJohn Howe Fantasy Art WorkshopForging DragonsLost WorldsColoring Dragons.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 21, 1965 – Darynda Jones, 55.  Sixteen novels, three shorter stories.  Summa cum laude from U. New Mexico.  Sign-language interpreter.  RITA Award.  Admits to almost finishing a post-Apocalypse story while in a corner booth at a Tastee Freez, kindly has never shown the manuscript.  Lives in New Mexico with husband and two sons the Mighty Mighty Jones Boys.  Third Grave Dead Ahead NY Times Best Seller.  [JH]
  • Born August 21, 1968 Carrie-Anne Moss, 52. I first saw her as Tara McDonald in the Dark Justice series. Not genre, just her first video I think. Due later played Monica Howard in the “Feeding the Beast” episode of Forever Knight as her first genre role. Oddly enough her next role was as Liz Teel in the Canadian series called Matrix which has nothing to do with the Matrix film franchise where she’s Trinity. Her latest genre role was playing Jeryn Hogarth in the now defunct Netflix based Marvel Universe. (CE)
  • Born August 21, 1972 – Socorro Vegas, 48.  Premio Nacional de Poesía y Cuento «Benemérito de América»Premio Nacional de Novela Ópera Prima «Carlos Fuentes» (Mexico).  Five book-length works (Todos las islas is short stories).  We may claim “The Giant in the Moon”, see it in English here.  Other translations in CompressedConcho River ReviewThe Listening EyeLiteralThe Modern Review.  [JH]
  • Born August 21, 1975 Alicia Witt, 45. Her first role was at age eight as Alia Atreides in David Lynch’s Dune. Next, genre wise at least, voices Caitlin Fairchild In the animated Gen¹³ film. She has series one-offs in Twilight ZonePerson of InterestElementaryWalking DeadSupernatural and The Librarians. She showed up in an episode of the original Twin Peaks and reprised that role nearly thirty years later in Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series. (CE) 

(13) DC FANDOME. In addition to everything else happening this busy weekend is the DC Fandome. It’s free and signing up is easy — here. The 24-hour event starts at 10 a.m. Pacific.

(14) GRATITUDES. In “i am grateful”, Wil Wheaton admits it’s hard for him to fall asleep because when he’s trying, that’s when anxiety works on him most aggressively. He shares a practice that has made it easier.  

…But I started doing something that’s been incredibly helpful, and I thought I’d share it.

Every night as I’m getting ready for bed, I focus on a list of things for which I am grateful. I call it “doing my gratitudes”. I just start somewhere, like “I am grateful that I am going to sleep in a warm, safe bed. I am grateful that I get to share this bed with Anne. I am grateful I have enough food.” Stuff like that. I remind myself that there is so much that is good in my life, and by thinking about those things, recognizing those things, and making space to feel grateful for them, I do not give my anxiety an opportunity to grab hold of anything and go to work on me.

… Those bright lights are so important right now, whether they are stadium lights turning night into day, or pinpricks that barely allow candlelight through black velvet. Spending time in gratitude makes it easier for me to find the light, and remember that it is there, even when I can’t see it.

(15) THE CAST IS IN HERE. SYFY Wire believes “The X-Files Cast Singing Its Theme Song On Zoom Is Now, Like The Truth, Out There”.

Did the iconic theme song for The X-Files need fan-written lyrics? If it got the cast of the sci-fi series to reunite for a musical Zoom call, then, perhaps — like the massive government archives secreting away the supernatural — it’s worth it for the greater good.

…Now how many government secrets are hidden in this song? The new lyrics — courtesy of contest winners Jennifer Large and Rebecca MacDonald — give composer Mark Snow’s classic eerie theme a twist, especially when sung by a wide-ranging collection of cast members and crew.

(16) A KIND OF WORLDBUILDING. Tiffany Meuret analyzes “Our Timely Obsession with Animal Crossing” at the SFWA Blog.

…Explanations abound for the game’s sudden explosion in popularity, but I have noticed a particularly common camaraderie among fellow writers. What is it about this game, with so many other open-concept games already in existence, that draws writers to it with such gusto? The timing of release and the sweetness of the game in such dark times are no doubt factors, but I believe it goes deeper than that, down to the very core of our creative hearts. 

…From that moment on, I unconsciously spun the narrative of my experience. From the clothes I wore to where I placed the coin-operated tourist binoculars I’d shot out of a balloon with a slingshot, I was crafting a story within this story-less game. This is the garden where I breed pink roses. Here is my carnival for when I need a bit of a thrill, outfitted with a popcorn machine and a teacup ride. There is the playground and community pool where I’ll meet my friends on the weekend, lined with color-coded tables for playing chess. Every piece of wallpaper, every color, every pair of jelly sandals I place on my chibi feet are dishing out tone and theme and mood. 

And then there are the villagers. They are a delight to witness as they flit about the island, munching on popsicles, singing, or sprinting Naruto-style on the beach. I’ve dedicated far too many hours to crafting and designing spaces on my island that my residents might enjoy, despite many of the items being stationary and non-interactive. My imagination does all the work the game does not. 

(17) TALL TYPO TALE. [Item by rcade.] The new version of Microsoft Flight Simulator maps the entire world so you can fly over it, using AI and lots of mapping data. Engadget reports “A typo created a 212-story monolith in ‘Microsoft Flight Simulator’”  

Alexander Muscat tweets, “In Microsoft Flight Simulator a bizarrely eldritch, impossibly narrow skyscraper pierces the skies of Melbourne’s North like a suburban Australian version of Half-Life 2’s Citadel, and I am -all for it-.”

(18) VANISHING POINT. BBC Documentary covers “Rulebreakers: How I disappear”.

In Japan, if you want to disappear from your life, you can just pick up the phone and a ‘night moving company’ will turn you into one of the country’s ‘johatsu,’ or literally ‘evaporated people.’ You can cease to exist. Meet the people who choose to disappear and the people who are left behind.

(19) NOT COYOTE AND ROADRUNNER. But there are prints from two animals. “Cliff collapses in Grand Canyon, revealing 313 million-year-old footprints, park says”Yahoo! News has the story.

A geology professor hiking in the Grand Canyon made a “surprising discovery” — the oldest recorded tracks of their kind.

After a cliff collapsed in Grand Canyon National Park, a boulder with fossilized tracks was revealed, park officials said in a Thursday news release. The fossil footprints are about 313 million years old, according to researchers.

“These are by far the oldest vertebrate tracks in Grand Canyon, which is known for its abundant fossil tracks” Stephen Rowland, a paleontologist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said in the news release. “More significantly, they are among the oldest tracks on Earth of shelled-egg-laying animals, such as reptiles, and the earliest evidence of vertebrate animals walking in sand dunes.”

(20) IT’S BACK. Like The Blob or The Thing, there’s no stopping Pumpkin Spice from showing up anytime it wants. Morning Consult takes notice: “With Seasonal Products Making an Early Return This Year, Consumers Weigh In on Sweet Spot for Promotions”.

Pumpkin spice came early this year — too early, according to majorities of consumers. 

Dunkin’ Donuts’ pumpkin-flavored coffee and other fall treats returned to the menu earlier than ever this year, the company said, arriving at participating locations Wednesday. Starbucks Corp. has yet to confirm the return date for its much-loved pumpkin spice latte, but one location reportedly said the product would launch on Aug. 28. 

While some social media users are eager for the early return of fall products — a silver lining in an otherwise difficult year — new polling from Morning Consult shows that many consumers would prefer to see products promoted closer to the seasons or holidays with which they’re associated….

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Metal Monsterette is a fun family film made in 1957 with kids and cousins by Ed Emshwiller. His daughter Eve is the heroine and daughter Susan is the mad scientist Dr. Majenius. 

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

Pixel Scroll 5/18/20 “Look, Gracious Host! A Scroll In A Pixel!” “Fan Mail From Some Filer?”

(1) MISKATONIC SCHOLARSHIP. Scott Gray is the 2020 winner of George R. R. Martin’s Miskatonic Scholarship, which supports a promising new writer of Lovecraftian cosmic horror attending the Odyssey Writing Workshop.

As a boy, Martin came across his first story by H. P. Lovecraft. He says, “I had never read a story that scared me more . . . so of course I sought out more Lovecraft wherever I could find it.” Martin’s love of weird fiction grew, and he found that “No werewolf, no vampire, no thing going bump in the night could give me chills to equal those provided by the cosmic horrors that Lovecraft evoked.”

With the annual Miskatonic Scholarship, Martin hopes to provide “encouragement and inspiration to a new generation of writers.” And to one special scholarship candidate, Martin wants to offer the opportunity to learn and improve at the Odyssey Writing Workshop, one of the top programs in the world for writers of the fantastic. The scholarship covers full tuition and housing at the workshop.

Scott Gray lives in New Hampshire.

…He developed a love of stories as a young boy, especially those that transported him to other worlds.

…Jeanne Cavelos, one of the scholarship judges and director of the Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust, says, “The other judges and I loved the unique way that Scott’s story brought heart and a deep sense of humanity to this tale of cosmic horror. It evoked not only fear but also hope and joy.”

Click here to read about the other scholarship winners: “Special Announcement: 2020 Odyssey Writing Workshop Scholarship Winners”.

(2) FEELING DISCONNECTED. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Michael Cavna has a piece in the Washington Post about how comedians miss people getting together in groups and laughing.  Among the people Cavna talks to are Pixar head Pete Docter, who says that Soul is being edited in hundreds of homes of Pixar employees, and Patton Oswalt, who says that when he performs, “each crowd is its own separate sentient living thing” and without an audience, “you lose a check-in with humanity.  You lose a reminder that ‘OK, I’m connected with the planet–I’m connected with the present.” “Without movie theaters, we’re missing communal laughter: ‘You lose a check-in with humanity’’.

…Docter, the chief creative officer of Pixar, says that early filmmakers, in both animation and live-action, understood how their movies were made to be seen with an audience.

“Strange pauses and gaps in Bugs Bunny cartoons suddenly made sense when I saw them with a live audience — those blank areas were filled with audience laughter,” Docter says while self-quarantining in his Bay Area home. “The same was true of Laurel and Hardy and [Buster] Keaton films — they were timed to allow space for the audience to respond.”

(3) STILL IN THE WORKS. Locus Online adds items to its post about COVID-19 cancellations every few days. Locus Award Weekend, on the calendar for next month, has not been cancelled as of today’s update.

Locus Awards Weekend, June 26-28, 2020 in Seattle WA

We are keeping a close eye on the COVID-19 status, and will be diligent about canceling as needed. At this time it seems likely we will not have a physical event, but we are exploring virtual alternatives. We are in a holding pattern and have suspended general ticket sales.

(4) DISNEY WORLD MEETS FLORIDA MAN. Really, you’d think it would have happened before now. From behind a paywall at The Week:

A Florida man has been caught trying to self-isolate on a private island in Disney World.  Richard McGuire, 42, insisted that he hadn’t seen the numerous ‘no trespassing signs’ on the island, or heard the loudspeaker warnings from Disney officials who became aware of his presence.  He claimed to be ‘unaware’ of the police helicopter that hovered overhead because he was asleep on an abandoned building on Discovery Island.  When he was arrested, McGuire told police it felt as if he’d discovered a ‘tropical paradise.’

(5) CLOCKING IN. In “Here’s How Time Works Now” at McSweeney’s, Eli Grober has the 411 about the changing nature of time. For example —

A Day

You may remember that a day used to take place over the course of 24 hours. We felt this was too much. A day is now over the moment you first ask yourself, “What time is it?”

It does not matter what time it actually is when you do this. As soon as you ask or think, “What time is it” for the first time that day, even if it is still ten in the morning, it will suddenly be eight at night. Does that make sense?

(6) THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS. And it feels appropriate to follow with The Lewis Carroll Society of North America’s post “If you knew Time …”, a collection of links to resources about the author.

“Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her, and to wonder what was going to happen next.”

For so many of us, this topsy-turvy world of shelter-in-place has left us with time on our hands. Our president, Linda Cassady, has some suggestions for some fine online Carrollian resources. And who knows? You might discover some unknown or little-known item or a fresh perspective that we can tell the world about!

(7) TAKE THE CHALLENGE. “Antidepressants or Tolkien”— it’s a quiz. The Filer who sent the link says, “It’s more difficult than you would expect.”  I racked up a score of 17/24.

(8) A PIONEER. In this video the late D.C. Fontana being interviewed by Rob Word from the A Word On Westerns podcast.  Her comments are mostly regarding the shows for which she wrote episodes and bounced from westerns to sci-fi and back.

(9) ALIENATED ABDUCTION. The Hollywood Reporter thought he mght have something to say: “Bill Pullman Responds to Donald Trump’s Altered ‘Independence Day’ Clip”.

President Donald Trump on Saturday shared a heavily altered video clip from the 1996 film Independence Day in which it appears that he gives the iconic speech from the President of the United States. 

Not only is Trump superimposed, but so are others in the crowd, including Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, Jr., as well as Fox News’ personalities Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity.

As of 8:30 p.m., the president’s post had been retweeted 50,000 times and had more than 153,000 “likes.”

Actor Bill Pullman, who played President Thomas J. Whitmore in Independence Day, was among those who saw the clip. And he responded.

“My voice belongs to no one but me, and I’m not running for president — this year,” Pullman told The Hollywood Reporter

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 18, 1962They make a fairly convincing pitch here. It doesn’t seem possible, though, to find a woman who must be ten times better than mother in order to seem half as good, except, of course, in the Twilight Zone. — Intro narration. On this date The Twilight Zone aired “I Sing The Body Electric,” an episode based on a story by Ray Bradbury. Although Bradbury contributed several scripts to the series, this was the only one produced. The script was written by Bradbury himself. An large ensemble cast was needed, hence Josephine Hutchinson, David White, Vaughn Taylor, Doris Packer, Veronica Cartwright, Susan Crane and Charles Herbert all being performers.  This was the year that the entire season of the series won Best Dramatic Presentation at Chicon III.  

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz. Typoed by Mike Glyer.]

  • Born May 16, 1918 Sam Dann. Scriptwriter who wrote 311 episodes of the CBS Radio Mystery Theater between 1974 and 1982. The show despite its name broadcast a lot of horror and science fiction stories as well. Much of his work was adaptations such as A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and Murder on the Space Shuttle (Holmes meets Rogers!), the SF content was largely his. (Died 2004.) (CE)
  • Born May 18, 1919 – Margot Fonteyn.  Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire; named prima ballerina assoluta of the Royal Ballet by Elizabeth II.  Danced many fantasies e.g. The FirebirdGiselleRaymondaSwan Lake.  (Died 1991) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1930 Fred Saberhagen. I’m reasonably sure I’ve read the entirety of his Berserker series though not in the order they were intended to be read. Some are outstanding, some less so. I’d recommend Berserker Man, Shiva in Steel and the original Berserker collection. Of his Dracula sequence, the only one I think I read is The Holmes-Dracula File which is superb. And I know I’ve read most of the Swords tales as they came out. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born May 18, 1931 – Don Martin.  Album covers for Prestige Records (Miles Davis, Art Farmer, Stan Getz).  A cover and thirty interiors for Galaxy.  Mad’s Maddest Artist, of hinged feet, onomatopoeia – his car license plate was SHTOINK – and National Gorilla Suit Day.  Fourteen collections.  Ignatz Award, Nat’l Cartoonists Society’s Special Features Award, Will Eisner Hall of Fame.  (Died 2000) [JH]
  • Born May 18, 1948 – R-Laurraine Tutihasi.  Active in fanzines, the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n; won its Kaymar and Franson awards), and otherwise.  Loccer (“loc” also “LoC” = letter of comment, the blood of fanzines) at least as far back as Algol and The Diversifier, also JanusTightbeamBroken Toys.  Her own fanzine is Purrsonal Mewsings.  [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1952 Diane Duane, 68. She’s known for the Young Wizards YA series though I’d like to single her out for her lesser known Feline Wizards series where SJW creds maintain the gates that wizards use for travel throughout the multiverse. A most wonderful thing for felines to do! (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1958 Jonathan Maberry, 62. The only thing I’ve read by him is the first five novels in the Joe Ledger Series which has a high body count and an even higher improbability index. Popcorn reading with Sriracha sauce. I see that he’s done scripts for Dark Horse, IDW and Marvel early on. And that he’s responsible for Captain America: Hail Hydra which I remember as quite excellent. (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1958 Toyah Willcox, 62. English actress who’s done quite a bit of genre work starting with being in The Quatermass Conclusion as Sal and then again in the Quatermass series. She shows up on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as Janet, and as Dog in the superb Ink Thief series. She plays Dialta Downes in Tomorrow Calling based off Gibson’s “The Gernsback Continuum“ with the screenplay by Tim Leandro. (CE)
  • Born May 18, 1959 – Debbie Dadey.  A hundred sixty books, of which six dozen are (with Marcia Jones) short Bailey School Kids, also Ghostville ElementaryThe Keyholders.  Int’l Reading Ass’n Children’s Choice, Young Adults’ Choice awards; ABC Best Book for Children; Sunshine State Young Reader’s Awards.  [JH]
  • Born May 18, 1959 – Sophie Masson.  Member of the Order of Australia.  Forty novels, twenty shorter stories.  Aurealis Award for The Hand of Glory.  [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1963 – Greg Beatty.  Ph.D. in English.  Rhysling Award.  Stories, poems, articles, essays, reviews, interviews, in Abyss & ApexAeonAsimov’sAudiofileHeliosIndependent ScholarInternet Review of SFN.Y. Review of SFPhilological QuarterlySF StudiesStarlineStrange HorizonsTangent Online.  Children’s picture books too.  [JH] 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) WRAPPED UP. She-Ra Said Gay Rights! A Spoiler-Filled Chat with Creator Noelle Stevenson on the Final Season” at Paste Magazine.

…With the rainbow-solid queer credentials brought to the table by creator Noelle Stevenson (LumberjanesNimonaThe Fire Never Goes Out) and her team, and with the equally sparkling queer representation present in the series from the very beginning (Bow’s nerdy dads, thirtysomething Princess couple Spinerella and Netossa, Scorpia’s whole Scorpianess), fans needn’t have worried that their favorite friends-to-enemies lesbian ‘ship would right itself in the end. Still, when the frenemies’ long-awaited admission of love gave Adora enough strength to stop that apocalyptic countdown in the final minutes of “Heart Part 2,” you could almost feel the internet breathe a collective sigh of relieved joy.

(14) LOVE THAT DIRTY WATER. “Mud flows on Red Planet behave like ‘boiling toothpaste”. There’s an analogy for you – if you’re lucky, you’ve never experienced this at home or have any idea what that looks like.

Scientists have made a surprising discovery about Mars by playing with muck in the laboratory.

An international team of researchers wondered how volcanoes that spew mud instead of molten rock might look on the Red Planet compared with their counterparts here on Earth.

In chamber experiments, simulated Martian mud flows were seen to behave a bit like boiling toothpaste.

Under certain conditions, the fluid even began to bounce.

The mucky gunge resembled a certain type of lava referred to as “pahoehoe”, which is observed at Hawaii’s famous K?lauea volcano.

The research results could now complicate some investigations at the Red Planet, believes study lead Dr Petr Brož from the Czech Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Geophysics.

“You’ll look at some features [from space] and you won’t know for sure whether they are the result of lava flows or mud flows.

“Without a geologist on the ground to hit them with a hammer, it will be hard to tell,” he told BBC News.

(15) I WALK TO THE TREES. BBC invites you to “Meet the baby orangutans learning to climb trees”.

While much of the world is in lockdown, youngsters in one very unusual classroom are still having lessons.

At a forest school in Borneo, baby orangutans learn tree-climbing skills from their human surrogate parents.

The orphans spend 12 hours a day in the forest, preparing for a new life in the wild.

The orangutans were filmed and photographed before coronavirus struck, for the TV series Primates, on BBC One.

With human contact routinely kept to a minimum, life goes on much as before for the animals, says Dr Signe Preuschoft, leader of ape programmes for the charity Four Paws, which runs the rehabilitation centre in East Kalimantan.

As a precaution, the staff now have temperature checks, wear facemasks and change into uniforms on site.

…The young orphaned apes climb high into the treetops with their caregivers to help them acquire the skills they would have learned from their mothers in the wild.

They would otherwise spend more time on the ground than is natural for a species that feeds, lives and sleeps in the canopies of trees.

Baby orangutans have a huge advantage when it comes to climbing, as they can hold on “like an octopus”, says Dr Preuschoft.

“I think the orangutans were really completely thrilled when they realised that they could actually be in a canopy together with one of their moms,” she adds.

(16) VACCINE NEWS. “Coronavirus vaccine: First evidence jab can train immune system”.

The first hints that a vaccine can train people’s immune system to fight coronavirus have been reported by a company in the US.

Moderna said neutralising antibodies were found in the first eight people who took part in their safety trials.

It also said the immune response was similar to people infected with the actual virus.

Larger trials to see whether the jab actually protects against infection are expected to start in July.

Work on a coronavirus vaccine has been taking place at unprecedented speed, with around 80 groups around the world working on them.

Moderna was the first to test an experimental vaccine, called mRNA-1273, in people.

The vaccine is a small snippet of the coronavirus’s genetic code, which is injected into the patient.

It is not capable of causing an infection or the symptoms of Covid-19, but is enough to provoke a response from the immune system.

(17) THEY NEEDED TO PULL THE PLUG. BBC reports “Europe’s supercomputers hijacked by attackers for crypto mining”.

At least a dozen supercomputers across Europe have shut down after cyber-attacks tried to take control of them.

A pan-European supercomputing group says they seem to have tried to use the machines to mine cryptocurrency.

“A security exploitation” disabled access to the Archer supercomputer, at the University of Edinburgh, on 11 May.

Staff said they were working with the National Cyber Security Centre to restore the system, which had recently installed a pandemic modelling tool.

“We now believe this to be a major issue across the academic community as several computers have been compromised in the UK and elsewhere in Europe,” the team said.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “At Home With Roz Chast” on Vimeo is a portrait of the New Yorker cartoonist.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, N., Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, Lise Andreasen, Olav Rokne, Dann, Michael Toman, JJ, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jeff Smith.]

Pixel Scroll 5/15/20 Hey, Scrollers! Watch Me Pull a Pixel Out of My Hat!

(1) NEXT TREK. CBS All Access dropped a trailer for Star Trek:  Strange New Worlds, a spinoff from Star Trek; Discovery that stars Anson Mount and Rebecca Romijn.

Fans spoke, Star Trek listened, and a new series aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise is on the horizon! Watch stars Anson Mount, Ethan Peck, and Rebecca Romijn excitedly break the big news. Stay tuned for more information on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, coming soon to CBS All Access. In the meantime, stream full episodes of Star Trek: Discovery, exclusively in the U.S. on CBS All Access.

(2) NOT ENTIRELY A BAD THING. The Romance Writers of America have cancelled the annual gathering planned for San Francisco in August, another consequence of the pandemic. Attendance levels were already in doubt due to the upheaval and disaffection in the group this year, which led to this reaction from Courtney Milan —

(3) DEALING WITH A FAMILIAR MEDIA WEAPON. On Saturday, May 16, professionals in the field of influence operations (“Fake News”) will join Gadi Evron, Sounil Yu, Malka Older, and special guest David Weber to discuss how disinformation can be countered from an operational standpoint, as well as its effects on society and policy. “Countering ‘Fake News’: Professionals Speak” at Essence of Wonder. Registration required

Panel one will cover the effects of “Fake News” on society, and the shaping of policy around the topic. Panel two will dive deeply into methodologies, operational tools, and techniques, for countering “Fake News” attacks.

(4) THINKING ABOUT ADAPTATIONS. The World Fantasy Con 2020 blog featured one of their GoH’s in an “Interview with Charlaine Harris”.

WFC2020: The Sookie Stackhouse books were made into the series True Blood, which ran seven years. In the books Lafayette (the fry cook) doesn’t last long, but the actor, Nelsan Harris, was so popular his role was expanded in the series. What other changes were made to the books’ characters?

CH: I thought the character of Jessica (Deborah Wohl) was a fabulous addition to the storyline. Wished I had thought of her. The fae on screen turned out to be not at all what was in my head, but it worked for the purposes of the show. I loved the sets, which I saw several times: Sookie’s house, Jason’s house, Merlotte’s. And all the actors were amazing. Alan Ball is a genius at casting. Nelsan was wonderful!

(5) HEAR MORE FROM HARRIS. And on May 23, Essence of Wonder will present “Masters of Urban Fantasy: Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs, Dana Cameron, and Toni L.P. Kelner”. (Registration required.)

Dana Cameron, Toni L.P. Kelner (a.k.a. Leigh Perry), Patricia Briggs, and Charlaine Harris will join us on Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron for geeky shenanigans in a panel discussion about Worldbuilding (and maybe pets). Before the panel, Charlaine will interview Patricia on her new Mercy Thompson book, “Smoke Bitten. Join us for this special show with The Leading Ladies of Urban Fantasy on Saturday (23 May).

(6) DON’T MISS OUT. Another WFC 2020 guest of honor, Steve Rasnic Tem, telling about “My First WFC”, includes this wisdom:

…My late friend Ed Bryant and I would sometimes read the glowing tributes to authors who had passed and Ed would say, “Well, I hope they told them these nice things while they were still alive.” Attending a World Fantasy Convention gives you a great opportunity to practice Ed’s advice. The sad fact is you may not have another chance.

(7) IN SPITE OF EVERYTHING. Tor.com is serializing “Never Say You Can’t Survive: How To Get Through Hard Times By Making Up Stories”:

Charlie Jane Anders is writing a nonfiction book—and Tor.com is publishing it as she does so. Never Say You Can’t Survive is a how-to book about the storytelling craft, but it’s also full of memoir, personal anecdote, and insight about how to flourish in the present emergency.

Below is the Introduction, followed by the first chapter, “How To Make Your Own Imaginary Friends”

New installments will appear every Tuesday at noon EST.

Here’s an excerpt –

….So I’m writing a series of essays called Never Say You Can’t Survive, all about how writing and making up stories can help you to survive a terrifying moment in history. (These essays came out of a talk that I gave at the Willamette Writers Conference and elsewhere. And their title is borrowed from the 1977 album of the same name by Curtis Mayfield, which is a piece of music that has given me so much strength and inspiration over the years.)

Stories of Darkness and Escapism

When I wrote “Don’t Press Charges And I Won’t Sue,” I was going to the darkest possible place I could go in a story, and putting my protagonist through the most dehumanizing treatment I could imagine. I needed to face up to the absolute worst that could happen, so I felt like I understood it a little better. I also needed to write about someone facing up to the most nightmarish scenario and still emerging in one piece, surviving, even though it’s a dark ending.

Writing a horrifying story on your own terms means that you can show how someone can survive, or even triumph. And meanwhile, you can cast a light on the injustice of oppressive systems. You can also choose the frame and eliminate some of the ambiguity in some situations, to make things more stark and more clear, or to make juxtapositions that illuminate how the problem started, and how it’ll be in the future.

When you’re telling the story, you get to draw all the lines….

(8) 1990’S GAME MAGAZINE. The Digital Antiquarian presents a bit of video game history in “The Shareware Scene, Part 3: The id Boys”.

…Thus he was receptive on the day in early 1990 when one of his most productive if headstrong programmers, a strapping young metalhead named John Romero, suggested that Softdisk start a new MS-DOS disk magazine, dedicated solely to games — the one place where, what with Apogee’s success being still in its early stages, shareware had not yet clearly cut into Softdisk’s business model. After some back-and-forth, the two agreed to a bi-monthly publication known as Gamer’s Edge, featuring at least one — preferably two — original games in each issue. To make it happen, Romero would be allowed to gather together a few others who were willing to work a staggering number of hours cranking out games at an insane pace with no resources beyond themselves for very little money at all. Who could possibly refuse an offer like that?

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

May 15, 1955X Minus One’s “Universe” first aired. It’s based off Heinlein’s Universe which was first published in Astounding Science Fiction’s May 1941 issue, and George Lefferts wrote the script. The cast includes Donald P. Buka, Peter Kapell, Bill Griffis, Abby Lewis, Edgar Stehli, Jason Seymour and Ian Martin. Untold generations of people traveling in a giant’s spaceship have lost track of who they are and what they set out to do. They think that their ship is the Universe. You can listen to it here.                    

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 15, 1856 – L. Frank Baum. His Wizard of Oz has been translated into 50 languages, selling 3 million copies by the time it entered the public domain in 1956, applauded by the Library of Congress in 2000; 13 more Ozbooks, 28 others, 83 shorter stories, 200 poems, at least 42 scripts, under his own and half a dozen pen names.  While living in the Dakota Territory, he was Secretary of the Aberdeen Woman’s Suffrage Club, and hosted Susan B. Anthony (Aberdeen is now a city in the State of South Dakota).  He knew French, German, Italian. He said at the start that Wizardaspired to fantasy “in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heart-aches and nightmares are left out,” at which he succeeded. Last words, to his wife, “Now we can cross the Shifting Sands.”  (Died 1919) [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1848 – Viktor Vasnetsov.  Co-founder of Russian folklorist and romantic-nationalist panting, key figure in Russian Revivalist movement.  Designed churches, mosaics, a revenue stamp, the façade of the Tretyakov Gallery.  Worked on stage designs and costumes for Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera The Snow Maiden.  V’s fantasy and epics irritated radicals, who said he undermined realist principles.  Here is a flying carpet.  (Died 1926) [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1891 – Mikhail Bulgakov.  Had he only written The Master and Margarita, that would have sufficed us; an elaborate strange masterpiece; Margarita, not the Master, allies herself with the Devil – maybe; I talk a little about it here; in fact not published until decades after his death, too dangerous.  Mick Jagger said it inspired “Sympathy for the Devil”.  Try this Website.  See also DiaboliadThe Fatal EggsHeart of a Dog.  Two rival museums in Moscow – in the same building; one in Kiev.  (Died 1940) [JH]
  • Born May 15. 1906 – Ellen MacGregor.  Librarian, cataloguer, researcher, editrix of the Illinois Women’s Press Ass’n monthly bulletin Pen Points; also worked in Florida and Hawaii.  For children’s fantasy with accurate science she wrote Miss Pickerell Goes to Mars and Goes UnderseaGoes to the Arctic published after her death; then 13 more, 16 shorter stories, by Dora Pantell.  Lavinia Pickerell, prim, angular, and devoted to her pet cow, is an inadvertent stowaway on a rocket to Mars in her first adventure, but she is unflappable.  (Died 1954) [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1932Jack Cady. He won the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the Bram Stoker Award, an impressive feat indeed. McDowell’s Ghost gives a fresh spin on the trope of seeing seeing a War Between The States ghost, and The Night We Buried Road Dog is another ghost story set in early Sixties Montana and is quite horrid. Underland Press printed all of his superb short fiction into two volumes, Phantoms: Collected Writings, Volume 1 and Fathoms: Collected Writings, Volume 2. (Died 2004.) (CE)
  • Born May 15, 1948 Brian Eno, 72. Worth noting if only for A Multimedia Album Based on the Complete Text of Robert Sheckley’s In a Land of Clear Colors, though all of his albums have a vague SF feeling  to them such as Music for Civic Recovery CentreJanuary 07003: Bell Studies for the Clock of  The Long Now and Everything That Happens Will Happen Today which could the name of Culture mind ships. Huh. I wonder if his music will show up in the forthcoming Culture series? (CE)
  • Born May 15, 1955 Nina Kiriki Hoffman, 55. Her book The Thread That Binds the Bones, won the Bram Stoker Award for first novel. In addition, her short story “Trophy Wives” won a Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Other novels include The Silent Strength of Stones (a sequel to Thread), A Fistful of Sky, and A Stir of Bones. All are excellent. Most of her work has a strong sense of regionalism being set In California or the Pacific Northwest. (CE)
  • Born May 15, 1955 – Takayuki Tatsumi.  Professor at Keiô University, chair of K.U. SF Study Group; editor, essayist, interviewer, theoretician; 21st Nihon SF Taishô (Grand Prize) from Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of Japan.  President, American Literature Society of Japan 2014-2017, Poe Society of Japan 2009-  ; editorial boards of ParadoxaMark Twain StudiesJournal of Transnat’l American Studies.  In English, for SF ChronicleSF EyeN.Y. Review of SFSF Studies, the 65th and 72nd Worldcons’ Souvenir Books; The Liverpool Companion to World SF Film (2014); The Cambridge History of Postmodern Literature (2016).  [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1974 – Ahmet Zappa.  Brother of Dweezil, Moon Unit, and Diva; wrote song “Frogs with Dirty Little Lips” with his father Frank.  Debut novel (and interiors), The Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless; debut film, The Odd Life of Timothy Green; television, three-season host of Robotica; co-author with wife Shana Muldoon Zappa, Sage and the Journey to Wishworld and 14 more Star Darlings books.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) WHERE EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME. Polygon’s Alan Kistler asserts “Superheroes are scrapping their secret identities, and it’s for the best”. This might sound a little counterintuitive at a time when we’re all supposed to be wearing masks.

In the beginning, nearly every superhero had a secret identity. It protected them from villainous revenge, and created a delicious dramatic tension while interacting with loved ones who had no inkling of their other life. But the strict secret identity is fast becoming an anachronism.

Most heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe operate in the open, while other caped cinema stars, like Supergirl, are perfectly willing to trust close allies with their name. In comics, the X-Men no longer hide who they are or where they live. Even Superman’s identity has been revealed to the entire world twice in the last decade.

And all of this is for the better, delivering not only greater dramatic possibilities, but also a healthier idea of heroism….

(13) FANTASTIC FOUR COMICS. Marvel’s tells fans that Fantastic Four: Antithesis is coming in August, the first full-length Fantastic Four story ever illustrated by industry legend Neal Adams.

Adams is joined by Eisner Award-winning writer Mark Waid (Daredevil, Captain America, Fantastic Four), who jam-packs this tale with a fan-favorite roster of Fantastic Four heroes and villains! Together, this celebrated creative team create a new nemesis for the Fantastic Four guaranteed to send shockwaves throughout all of fandom.  

 …Adams shares [Waid’s] enthusiasm about the project. “I have always had the sense of missing the chance to draw the Fantastic Four. It was a quiet sense, since I’ve had every opportunity to do my favorites. More, I felt Kirby and Buscema had done it all, hadn’t they…?” he begins. “When Marvel’s Tom Brevoort asked if I’d like to do the Fantastic Four, I knew I had to ask for Galactus and the Silver Surfer as well. I am humbled and thankful to Tom for the opportunity.”

Who or what is the Antithesis, and will the combined might of the Fantastic Four, the Silver Surfer, and Galactus himself be enough to defeat it?

(14) DC COMICS ARE BIG HITS TOO. The Hollywood Reporter has the numbers: “DC Universe Readership Jumps 35 Percent During Shutdown”.

Two ‘Batman’ titles were atop the most-read list.

With comic book stores closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was an open question just what fans would do to get their fix. New figures released from digital service DC Universe suggest that the answer was, simply, “go online.”

(15) ON THE WILDSIDE. John Betancourt has launched a Kickstarter appeal to produce “Staying In Place”, an “anthology of stories to pass the time.” Various support levels also bring additional rewards in the form of reading material.

With so many people staying at home right now, we at Wildside Press and the Black Cat Mystery & Science Fiction Ebook Club are putting together a mammoth anthology of amazing stories for you to read and enjoy. The anthology will feature 20 novels and short stories by iconic authors such as John Gregory Betancourt,  Paul di Filippo, John W. Campbell Jr., Robert E. Howard, G.D. Falksen, and many more to be announced.  But we need your help to make this happen. We are coming to Kickstarter to fund the anthology. In return for your support, you get the anthology itself, some of our fantastic ebooks, and even a subscription to the Black Cat which gives subscribers 7+ free ebooks every week, including new releases of all of the great Wildside Press magazines (WeirdbookBlack Cat Mystery MagazineSherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, and even the upcoming revival of Startling Stories, the famous pulp magazine).

(16) BORN TO BE DUMPED. “‘Men of Middle-earth as Bad Ex-Boyfriends’ Thread Is Absolutely Perfect” – so says The Mary Sue.

Every now and then, a Twitter act of creation reminds us that good things can still emerge from our hellish Internet stomping grounds. Such is the case with a viral thread from writer Alex Arrelia, in which Arrelia painstakingly—and hilariously—takes on J.R.R. Tolkien’s characters under the heading of “Men of Middle Earth as bad ex boyfriends who ruined your life.”

Thread starts here. Some examples —

(17) THIS CLOSE! And don’t forget Tolkien’s ultimate Bad Boy — “The Lord Of The Rings: 10 Ways Sauron Could Have Won” at ScreenRant.

10. He Could Have Set A Guard On Mount Doom

Most obviously, Sauron could have prevented the destruction of the One Ring–and thus the unraveling of his power–if he’d only done a little more to make sure that Mount Doom was protected from approach and infiltration. Indeed, it is precisely the fact that it is so unguarded–because Sauron couldn’t imagine that anyone would want to destroy the Ring rather than use it – that allows Frodo and Sam to sneak up on it. Sauron is defeated by his own inability to think outside of himself. 

(18) SHE-RA ARRIVES. NPR’s Victoria Whitley-Berry reviews a reboot: “In She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power, True Strength Is In Being Yourself”.

Showrunner Noelle Stevenson has always been a fan of science fiction and fantasy. As a kid, she loved it all: the epic space battles, the magic, the quests that seemed larger than life.

But there was a problem with her favorite childhood stories, like Star Wars and The Lord of The Rings series. “I never quite saw myself reflected in them” Stevenson says, “certainly not at the heart of the story.”

There weren’t a lot of women.

Of course, there’s interstellar rebel Princess Leia and Nazgûl-slaying Éowyn. But Stevenson wanted a female version of Luke Skywalker and a terror-inducing femme Lord Sauron.

So when she started writing stories of her own, she made sure kids like her felt seen, in more ways than one.

…When Netflix and DreamWorks wanted to reboot She-Ra: Princess of Power — an epic showdown between magical princesses and an evil alien invader — Stevenson was all in.

She kept much of the original show’s action and adventure — like the original, the rebooted show takes place on the planet Etheria, and one of the princesses who is trying to stop the evil Horde army from taking over is named Adora.

…Stevenson did make one small but important change to the show: Its name. The Netflix and DreamWorks version is She-Ra and the PRINCESSES of Power. All the princesses are important.

She also gathered an all-female writing staff to update this team of powerful women. In the original show, the princesses are white, skinny and presumably straight. The new rebellion includes women of color. They’re women in all different shapes and sizes. And there are women who love other women.

Princess Weekes is an assistant editor at The Mary Sue, a website that covers the intersection of women and fandom. She’s been writing about the She-Ra reboot since the beginning.

Weekes says that because the team behind She-Ra is made up of LGBTQ people, the stories on the show give genuine representation of queer life for kids.

“You allow queerness for young kids to be just normalized in general,” Weekes says. “What I think Noelle Stevenson and the entire She-Ra team has done is create a society and place where characters can exist, but their biggest problem isn’t that they’re gay.”

(19) THAWED. “Disney Closes ‘Frozen’ on Broadway, Citing Pandemic” – the New York Times has the story.

Even Queen Elsa’s magic is no match for the coronavirus pandemic.

Disney Theatrical Productions said Thursday that its stage adaptation of “Frozen” will not reopen on Broadway once the pandemic eases, making the musical the first to be felled by the current crisis.

“Frozen” had been the weakest of the three Disney musicals that had been running on Broadway — the others were “The Lion King” and “Aladdin” — and the company made it clear that it does not believe audiences will return in substantial enough numbers to sustain all of those shows.

“This difficult decision was made for several reasons but primarily because we believe that three Disney productions will be one too many titles to run successfully in Broadway’s new landscape,” Thomas Schumacher, the president of Disney Theatrical Productions, said in a letter to his staff….

(20) LET THE SUN SHINE IN. WIRED found something the military would let them talk about for “A Secret Space Plane is Carrying a Solar Experiment to Orbit”, and it has a connection to the Golden Age of SF.

On Saturday, the US Air Force is expected to launch its secret space plane, X-37B, for a long-duration mission in low Earth orbit. The robotic orbiter looks like a smaller version of the space shuttle and has spent nearly eight of the past 10 years in space conducting classified experiments for the military. Almost nothing is known about what X-37B does up there, but ahead of its sixth launch the Air Force gave some rare details about its cargo.

…[The] real star of the show is a small solar panel developed by the physicists at the Naval Research Lab that will be used to conduct the first orbital experiment with space-based solar power.

“This is a major step forward,” says Paul Jaffe, an electronics engineer at the Naval Research Lab and lead researcher on the project. “This is the first time that any component geared towards a solar-powered satellite system has ever been tested in orbit.”

Space-based solar power is all about getting solar power to Earth no matter the weather or the time of day. The basic idea is to convert the sun’s energy into microwaves and beam it down. Unlike terrestrial solar panels, satellites in a sufficiently high orbit might only experience darkness for a few minutes per day. If this energy could be captured, it could provide an inexhaustible source of power no matter where you are on the planet.

It’s an idea that was cooked up by the science fiction writer Isaac Asimov in the 1940s; since then, beamed power experiments have been successfully tested several times on Earth. But the experiment on X-37B will be the first time the core technologies behind microwave solar power will be tested in orbit.

(21) TIPTOE THROUGH THE TULIPS. Not genre, but one stunning upside to the pandemic: “The Most Beautiful Flower Garden In The World Has No Visitors For The First Time In 71 Years And I Got To Capture It (31 Pics)” at Bored Panda.

Most of you probably know the world-famous Keukenhof, the most beautiful tulip garden in the world. Every year millions of tourists visit this garden. That’s a huge lot considering the garden is only open in spring! Every year, a hard-working crew makes sure the garden looks as good as ever, including this year!

This year is ‘special’. Keukenhof is closed, for the first time in 71 years. But that doesn’t mean there are no flowers. On the contrary; the flowers look incredible and get as much attention and care as always. All the passionate gardeners do their work as they’re used to. Because even without people, nature and the show of the garden goes on….

(22) UPDATE. Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer’s separation was reported in a recent Pixel Scroll. Gaiman has now made a blog entry about it, which includes an open letter to the world that the couple collaborated on: “Where I Am, What I’m Doing, How I’m Doing And How I Got Here”. Gaiman’s intro says in part —

…Once the world opens up and travel gets easier Amanda and Ash and I are looking forward to being together again in Woodstock. (Yes, I’ve seen the newsfeed headlines saying I’ve moved to the UK, and even that we’re divorcing. No, I haven’t moved the UK, and yes, Amanda and I are still very much together, even with half a world between us.) 

Thank you to everyone who’s been kind and nice and helpful, while Amanda and my problems got rather more public than either of us is comfortable with. We love each other, and we love Ash, and we will sort ourselves out, in private, which is much the best place for things like this….

And the couple’s joint letter follows.

(23) NOT THAT SUBTLE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Kyle Mizokami, in “The Space Force Receives Its ‘Kobayashi Maru’ Space-Tracking System” in Popular Mechanics says it’s no coincidence that Space Force’s warning system is a Star Trek reference; the Space Force also has a Kessel Run, and Mizokami thinks it’s no coincidence that the acronym for the force’s Space Operations Center is SPOC.

The U.S. Space Force announced the development of a brand new software package designed to track and monitor objects in space. Dubbed “Kobayashi Maru,” the cloud-based program was designed to modernize the way the U.S. Air Force—and now the U.S. Space Force—interoperates in space but with its allies in the “Five Eyes” intelligence sharing alliance.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Cliff Ramshaw, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, JJ, David Goldfarb, Paul Di Filippo, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]