Lis Carey Review: The Crown Jewel Mystery

An American actress has come to London, seeking her unknown father who funded her education. She knows the money is sent from a particular bank, but she only has the account number, not the name of the account holder. Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, and Inspector Gregson are on the trail of a major bank robbery that will happen today. It’s the same bank, and what goes down will be dangerous, even deadly. If the actress and her friend survive, it will be due to her intense, careful, attention to detail, and ability to reason out what the details mean.

The Crown Jewel Mystery (Sherlock Holmes and Lucy James Mystery #0.5), by Anna Elliott (author), Charles Veley (author)
Wilton Press, June 2017

Review By Lis Carey: Lucy James, an American actress, arrives in London, officially for a position in the D’Oyly Carte Opera which she has been offered. In reality, her main motivation is to try to find the identity of her father. The stipend that supported her and paid for her education came from the Capital and Counties Bank on Oxford Street in London. She has the account number, but no name. She wants that name.

Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, and Inspector Gregson, have been called to the scene of the seemingly sudden death of a bank clerk at the Capital and Counties Bank. They’re on the trail of a master criminal, and the death of this bank clerk, along with additional information from his brother, tells them this is the day a major attack on the bank will occur. In alternating chapters, we get the story from the different perspectives of Lucy and Watson.

Lucy is accompanied by her friend, Johnny Rockefeller–yes, John D. Rockefeller Jr., which is enormously helpful in getting to talk to the bank manager, and then getting him to take Johnny on a tour of the vault, while leaving the “claustrophobic” Lucy in his office. She has just enough time to find that there’s no name attached to the account, just a safety deposit box number. It’s after she’s gotten the manager to take them to the safety deposit boxes and leave them there briefly, that the bank robbers arrive and begin their attack. 

From there on, Holmes outside and Lucy inside are each working to defeat the gang, each with that peculiarly high attention to detail that we expect of Holmes, but which surprises everyone who meets the young actress. It’s high stakes and dangerous, and exciting right down to the end. I find it a very good Holmes pastiche, true to the tone and the established characters, along with late 19th century London.

Recommended.

I received this book as a gift.

Pixel Scroll 12/9/22 Where We’re Scrolling, We Won’t Need Pixels

(1) AUTHOR SIGNING ANNOUNCED. Catherine Asaro is doing a signing/panel next week on Wednesday, Dec 14, 2022 at 7:00 pm in the Port Jefferson Library, NY with two other authors, Sarah Beth Durst and Kelley Skovron. If you can attend, register here. Asaro explains why registration, while optional, will help assure all three can attend:

You can do a walk in instead of registering, and many people do. However, that means that they don’t know how many will show up or even if anyone will come. Kelly Skovron has to travel from Washington D.C. to Long Island, a several day trip for her, with the associated costs, so if they don’t get enough pre-registrations, she may not be able to come.

Sarah and I will be there regardless because we are local, but it would be lovely if they had enough sign-ups that they felt okay about asking Kelley to come.

Here’s the full address for the library: 150 East Main Street, Port Jefferson, NY 11777. Phone: (631) 509-5707. Web site: portjefflibrary.org

(2) THE BOOK IN HAND. “Shelf Awareness for Friday, December 9, 2022” includes “Reading with… Denise Crittendon”.

Journalist Denise Crittendon has been a newspaper reporter, magazine editor, motivational speaker, ghostwriter and adjunct community college professor. …Where It Rains in Color (Angry Robot, December 6, 2022), an Afrofuturistic sci-fi/fantasy, is her debut novel…. 

On your nightstand now: 

The Deep by sci-fi author Rivers Solomon. Considering the controversy about a Black actress starring in Disney’s The Little Mermaid, this novel is pretty timely. Solomon tends to write passionate speculative fiction that incorporates the transatlantic slave trade. In The Deep, she offers an inventive twist on what happened to Africans who either jumped from ships during the Middle Passage or were thrown overboard due to illness.

Your top five authors:

Octavia Butler–I’m amazed by her extraordinary vision and fascinating usage of the natural world for organic technology. In her Lilith’s Brood series (DawnAdulthood Rites and Imago), the space vessel is an actual living being. Also, the aliens in this world can place sleeping humans inside biologically altered carnivorous plants, thereby prolonging their lives for centuries…. 

(3) CONDENSED CREAM OF WHO. SYFY Wire reveals “Doctor Who Season 14 shortened, to feature just 8 episodes”.

The Tenth Doctor may be in (again), but David Tennant’s return trip as Doctor Who himself — this time as time traveler no. 14 in the venerable sci-fi series — won’t require quite as many TARDIS trips when the reportedly shorter, 8-episode new season finally does arrive.

Season 14 showrunner Russell T. Davies, also back at the reins of Doctor Who after famously helping revive the series back in 2005, recently explained to Doctor Who Magazine (via Bleeding Cool) that the new season might be compact, but that it also should serve as just the first tasty bite in a more ambitious slate of bigger doings within the endlessly discoverable Who-verse.

… While it’s not known whether, or where, in Season 14 the story might find Tennant’s Fourteenth Doctor ceding the role over to inbound Fifteenth Doctor Ncuti Gatwa, both Tennant and Gatwa are still on track to take up the Time Lord’s mantle as the series picks up where outgoing Thirteenth Doctor Jodie Whittaker left off.

(4) YEAR’S TOP VIEWING. The Hollywood Reporter lists “AFI Best Movies and TV Shows of 2022”.

The American Film Institute has revealed its picks for the best movies and TV shows of 2022.

The group’s picks for the 10 best films are, in alphabetical order: Avatar: The Way of Water, Elvis, Everything Everywhere All at Once, The Fabelmans, Nope, She Said, Tár, Top Gun: MaverickThe Woman King and Women Talking.

On the TV side, AFI’s picks for the 10 best TV shows of the year are, again alphabetically, Abbott ElementaryThe BearBetter Call Saul, Hacks, Mo, Pachinko, Reservation Dogs, Severance, Somebody Somewhere and The White Lotus.

(5) WYLIE PROFILE. It’s not about his sff, however, you may be interested: “The Man Who Hated Moms: Looking Back on Philip Wylie’s ‘Generation of Vipers’” in LA Review of Books.

IN 1943, PHILIP WYLIE, then best known for his cosmic disaster novel When Worlds Collide (1933) and its sequel, After Worlds Collide (1934), dropped a literary bombshell into the laps of readers with Generation of Vipers (1943), a blistering critique of American society whose impact has yet to be equaled….

(6) A CENTURY OF VAMPIRA. American Cinematheque in Los Angeles is offering tickets to various events that are part of “Vampira’s 100th Birthday Celebration!” on December 11.

On Sunday, December 11th, The American Cinematheque remembers Maila “Vampira” Nurmi with a 100th birthday celebration. We have a a book signing with Sandra Nieme for Maila Nurmi’s biography Glamour Ghoul prior to the screening of the Tim Burton classic ED WOOD followed by a panel with screenwriters Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski, author Sandra Niemi (Glamour Ghoul), filmmaker Ray Greene (VAMPIRA AND ME) and make-up legend Ve Niell (ED WOOD) moderated by comedian Dana Gould and Ed Wood’s classic PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE preceded by a reel of rare footage of Vampira’s TV appearances in the 1950’s. It’s a one-night only special celebration of a very special woman.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1999 [By Cat Eldridge.] Statues of Sherlock Holmes

Tonight we are discussing two statues of Sherlock Holmes done by the same sculptor. Yes statues. Being a fictional character of his stature, it wouldn’t do for there to be just one statue to honor him, would there.

The first is almost where you would expect to be which would be 221B Baker Street. It was dedicated on September 23rd,1999 with this  sculpture being  funded by the Abbey National building society whose headquarters were on the fictional site of that address. 

Unfortunately there was no place on Baker Street for this sculpture by John Doubleday who also crafted as The Beatles and Laurel and Hardy to be erected so it is located outside Baker Street tube station on Marylebone Road, near both the detective’s fictional home at 221B Baker Street and the Sherlock Holmes Museum between numbers 237 and 241.

The nearly ten foot high bronze statue depicts Holmes wearing an Inverness cape and a deerstalker and holding a calabash pipe, attributed as first given to him by Sidney Paget, the illustrator of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories for The Strand Magazine.

The other statue is I think more interesting.

It completed by John Doubleday in 1988 and shows the great detective a few hours before his final and fatal encounter James Moriarty at the Grand Reichenbach Fall.  He is just sitting, just thinking one presumes, as you can see in the first image. 

On the statue and, in the second image you’ll see the plaque next to the statue are sculpted clues, most of which are symbols. It is said by obsessed Sherlock Holmes fans that with intent observation one can compile a complete list of all the sixty Sherlock Holmes stories from these symbols. Huh. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 9, 1848 Joel Chandler Harris. American journalist, fiction writer, and folklorist who is best known for his collection of Uncle Remus stories. He’s white and the stories are about the ‘Brer Rabbit’ stories from the African-American oral tradition. Some, like Henry Louis Gates, Jr., credit him for preventing these tales from being lost, while some others criticize his work as cultural appropriation. James Weldon Johnson called them “the greatest body of folklore America has produced.” (Died 1908.)
  • Born December 9, 1900 Margaret Brundage. An illustrator and painter who is now remembered chiefly for having illustrated Weird TalesHere is her first cover for them.  She’s responsible for most of the covers for between 1933 and 1938. Wiki claims without attribution that L. Sprague de Camp and Clark Ashton Smith were several of the writers not fond of her style of illustration though other writers were. She’d win the Retro Hugo at CoNZealand for Best Professional Artist after being nominated four times before. And she’s a member of the First Fandom Hall of Fame. (Died 1976.)
  • Born December 9, 1902 Margaret Hamilton. Most likely you’ll remember her best as The Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz. She would appear later in The Invisible Woman, along with much later being in 13 Ghosts, a horror film, and she had a very minor role in The Night Strangler, a film sequel to The Night Stalker. And then there were her coffee commercials in the Seventies — absolute fantasy! See Maxwell House Coffee ad with Margaret Hamilton. (Died 1985.)
  • Born December 9, 1911 Don Ward. Author of H. Rider Haggard’s She: The Story Retold. More intriguingly, he ghost-wrote works credited according to ESF to both Alfred Hitchcock (Bar the Doors: Terror Stories) and Orson Welles (Invasion from Mars: Interplanetary Stories). He also worked with Theodore Sturgeon on Sturgeon’s West. (Died 1984.)
  • Born December 9, 1934 Judi Dench, 88. M in a lot of Bond films. Aereon in The Chronicles of Riddick, Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love which is at genre adjacent, Society Lady in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Miss Avocet in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Her very first genre film in the late Sixties, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, was poorly received by critics and I recall her role being a mostly nude faerie. 
  • Born December 9, 1947 Sarah Smith, 75. She has authored King of Space, a work of genre fiction published as a hypertext novel by Eastgate System, one of the first such works. She’s written two conventional genre novels, The Knowledge of Water and The Other Side of Dark, plus a double handful of short fiction and essays.
  • Born December 9, 1952 Nicki Lynch, 70. She and her husband Rich Lynch edited Mimosa which won six Best Fanzine Hugos and was nominated a total of 14 times. She and her husband have been members of WSFA, the Southern Fandom Confederation, the Chattanooga Science Fiction Association. She has also been a member of SAPS, SFPA, Myriad (Galactic Hitch Hiker), and LASFAPA.  
  • Born December 9, 1970 Jennifer Brozek, 52. She picked up a Hugo nomination at Sasquan for Best Editor Short Form for the Beast Within 4: Gears & Growl steampunk anthology (she also edited numbers 2 and 3 in the series). Her novel The Last Days of Salton Academy garnered a Stoker nomination.

(9) WILDLIFE ANTICIPATION. “A little girl in California has been granted a license to keep a unicorn” reports NPR.

Madeline wrote to LA county officials asking for approval to keep a unicorn in her backyard if she could find one.

The animal control department agreed, granting her their very first unicorn license….

Insider quotes the county’s letter to Madeline: “LA County gave a girl a ‘unicorn license’ for her backyard — but only if she gives the mythical creature ‘regular access to rainbows’ and biodegradable glitter”.

…The department responded to her in a letter penned by Marcia Mayeda, the director of the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control, on November 30. In the letter, Mayeda granted the license Madeline sought, as long as she followed the county’s conditions for keeping a unicorn, including caring for the pet in compliance with Title 10 of the Los Angeles County Code, which lays out the county’s laws for animal control and health.

Additionally, any unicorn owners must give their magical pets “regular access to sunlight, moonbeams, and rainbows,” Mayeda explained in the letter, adding that the unicorn must be fed watermelon — “its favorite treats” — at least once a week. 

In order to maintain the unicorn’s horn in “good health,” Madeline would be required to polish it “at least once a month with a soft cloth.” Also, “any sparkles or glitter used on the unicorn must be nontoxic and biodegradable.”… 

(10) DAILY ROBOTS. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.] Came across this on Twitter from a fellow who does a coloring Advent picture every year. Only saw it yesterday, so it’s a bit late for the start of Advent, but it thought it was pretty adorable even as a standalone collection of cartoon robots.

(11) OVERFLOW. The Guardian profiles a famous Stephen King movie adaptation: “’The police came because of the sea of red gore’: unseen photos from the set of The Shining”.

Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining has legions of admirers the world over – not the least Lee Unkrich, director of Pixar classics including Toy Story 3 and Coco. Unkrich spent years collecting pictures, artefacts and stories about the making of the film, uncovering deleted scenes and getting to grips with its most obscure details. Here are a collection of unseen photographs from his forthcoming book about the 1980 horror classic…

…“Stanley was extremely nervous,” said Leon Vitali, actor and personal assistant to Kubrick, of the infamous blood elevator shoot. “We didn’t know if it was going to work. It was a one-off. We had thousands of gallons of this stuff that was going to be coming out of those elevator doors and it had to work … It was so beautiful you wanted to hug [him].” To the horror of nearby residents, a good deal of the blood allegedly escaped from the studio into the surrounding areas, and police were called to address the sea of red gore running through town….

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

Pixel Scroll 12/8/22 By The Scrolling Of My Thumbs, Something Pixeled This Way Comes

(1) PETER WATTS Q&A. Media Death Cult’s Moid Moidelhoff hosts Peter Watts in “The Big Interview”.

Peter Watts is a Canadian marine biologist who also writes awesome science fiction stories. We talked for about three hours, we will do it again.

(2) KNOW YOUR COMICS. [Item by David Goldfarb.] The most recent LearnedLeague match day had a question that was at least SF-adjacent. 

The DC Comics superheroes Kid Flash, Robin, Aqualad, and Wonder Girl were the four original members of what superhero team, which has included countless other members over the years including (recently) Cyborg, Starfire, Raven, and Beast Boy?

The answer is “the Teen Titans”. Get rate was 50%, with the most common wrong answer (7% of answers) being “the Justice League”.

(3) OCTOTHORPE. The confession “I’m Not A Fan In The Way John Is” is the title of the Octothorpe podcast’s 72nd episode. But who’s confessing?

John Coxon isn’t gambling, Alison Scott isn’t reading, and Liz Batty doesn’t care. We discuss semiprozines quite a lot, mostly by accident (we might have to revisit that again sometime.) Oh, and we briefly touch on Andor, but we don’t say much.

(4) THE GAME’S AFOOT. ‘Sherlock Holmes in Oz’ and others’: The Sherlockian Writings of Ruth Berman, published by the Norwegian Explorers of Minnesota (December 2022, 110 pages) is available from the Norwegian Explorers, c/o Phil Bergen, 3829 179 Ave NW, Andover MN 55304-1820. $11.00, which includes postage.

The Norwegian Explorers of Minnesota is a “scion society of the Baker Street Irregulars of New York, dedicated to keeping green the memory of the Master, Sherlock Holmes, and honoring his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.”

Berman, an award-winning sff poet, was also a 1968 nominee for Best Fan Writer.

(5) MAJOR STATHOPOULOS PORTRAIT EXHIBIT. Blue Mountains Cultural Center in Australia has put up a webpage for its forthcoming exhibit “The Semblance of Things: portraits by Nick Stathopoulos”, running from February 4-April 2, 2023. It’s always exciting to see his achievements recognized, since along the way Nick’s work for sff publications has garnered 10 Ditmar Awards and a Hugo nomination.

The Semblance of Things is a comprehensive survey of Nick Stathopoulos’ portraits from the past 30 years documenting the evolution of his hyper-real style. The artist delves beneath the painted surface to reveal psychological insights into the subject, beyond the superficial likeness often expected of portraiture.  As well as the curated selection of portraits, the exhibition includes archival photographs, sketchbooks, and video clips. Subjects include celebrities Isla Fisher, David Stratton, Barry Crocker, Shaun Tan, Grahame Bond (Aunty Jack), Mr. Squiggle, and many more. This is the first time these portraits have been exhibited together, with works ranging in scale from the blockbuster Archibald finalists to more intimate and personal work.

(6) RALPH ROBERTS (1945-2021). [Item by Steven H Silver.] Ralph Roberts (b.1945) died on June 24, 2021. Roberts was the author of The Hundred-Acre Spaceship and from 1995-2012 ran Farthest Star Publishing (which mostly seems to have published works by Mike Resnick).

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1952 [By Cat Eldridge.] Robin Hood statue, Castle Place, Nottingham

Continuing our look at statues of fantasy characters, we now have the Robin Hood statue at Castle Place.

The statue was commissioned by local businessman, Philip E. F. Clay to provide a landmark that recognized Nottingham’s connection with the world-famous folk hero. Nottingham-born and resident Royal Academy sculptor James Woodford was chosen to design and cast the statue at a cost of a rather princely sum of five thousand pounds. 

Though it’s not visible to the eye, Robin Hood is actually in eight pieces as a single piece statue would have been way too exorbitant to cast. 

As I just noted, the figure was cast in eight pieces of half-inch thick bronze like the Rudyard Kipling statue we were talking about last Scroll,  and stands in a traditional archer’s pose on a two-and-half ton block of white Clipsham stone.

Extensive research was done by Woodford to understand what historians believed the stocky-built medieval foresters of the period would look like, but he made one change that upset a Hell of a lot of individuals. And still does seventy years later.

They expected Robin Hood to have the triangular pointed hat with a long feather which Errol Flynn had in his film role, so the statue’s authentic headgear of a woodsman’s leather skull cap did not go down well at all. 

They originally planned to place it in the roadway at the top of Castle Road but the realization dawned that that traffic and congestion would be a nightmare as everyone stopped to look at it. 

The statue was officially presented to the city to commemorate the visit of Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh on June 28, 1949, during Nottingham’s quincentenary celebrations. Keep in mind that actually it wasn’t actually completed and installed until three years later.

The statue was finally unveiled on July 24, 1952, by the Duchess of Portland on the specially-prepared lawn beneath the walls of Nottingham Castle. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 8, 1861 Georges Méliès. Director of A Trip To The Moon which I know was one of Kage Baker’s most-liked films. It surely must be one of the earliest genre films and also one of the most visually iconic with the rocket ship stuck in the face of the moon. He did some other genre shorts such as Baron Munchausen’s Dreamand The Legend of Rip Van Winkle. (Died 1938.)
  • Born December 8, 1894 E.C.Segar. Creator of Popeye who of course is genre. Who could not watch Altman’s film and not know that? Segar created the character who first appeared in 1929 in his comic strip Thimble Theatre. Fantagraphics has published a six-volume book set reprinting all Thimble Theatre daily and Sunday strips from 1928–38. (Died 1938.)
  • Born December 8, 1950 Rick Baker,72. Baker won the Academy Award for Best Makeup a record seven times from a record eleven nominations, beginning when he won the first award given for An American Werewolf in London. So what else is he known for? Oh, I’m not listing everything but his first was The Thing with Two Heads and I’ll single out The ExorcistStar WarsThe Howling which I love, Starman for the Starman transformation, Beast design on the Beauty and the Beast series and Hellboy. 
  • Born December 8, 1951 Brian Attebery, 71. If I was putting together a library of reference works right now, Attebery would be high on the list of authors at the center of my shopping list. I think The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature: From Irving to Le Guin is still essential reading and Parabolas of Science Fiction with Veronica Hollinger is very close to a Grand Unification Theory of the Genre. He won a World Fantasy Award for his editing of Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, and a Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Stories about Stories: Fantasy & the Remaking of Myth.
  • Born December 8, 1954 Rebecca Neason. She wrote a Next Generation novel, Guises of The Mind, plus several Highlander novels, and two fantasy novels; her widower says one novel went unpublished. She was a regular panelist at conventions in the Pacific Northwest. Jim Fiscus has a remembrance here. (Died 2010.)
  • Born December 8, 1957 Laura J. Mixon, 65. She won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer at Sasquan. She has written a number of excellent novels including Glass Houses and Up Against It which got an Otherwise nomination. She is married to SF writer Steven Gould, with whom she co-wrote the novel Greenwar.
  • Born December 8, 1965 David Harewood57. First genre appearance is the BBC adaptation of Philip Pullman’s The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in the North (Billie Piper plays the lead). He played Tuck in the BBC’s Robin Hood series and showed up as Joshua Naismith in Doctor Who’s ‘The End of Time’ episode. He played two separate characters on Supergirl, J’onnJ’onzz/Martian Manhunter / Hank Henshaw and Cyborg Superman. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Least I Could Do suspects a skill you’re using right now will become extinct.
  • Bizarro has another example of fans getting ahead of creators.  
  • Candorville has a romantic “miss you more” exchange, couched in sff terms.

(10) THREE, NOT FIVE. Camestros Felapton shares his “Review: Children of Memory by Adrian Tchaikovsky”. Beware mild spoilers.

Tchaikovsky’s third book in the Children of Time series continues to build up the series about deep time and sapience with another tale of mysterious planets, lost colonies and nature of intelligence and identity.

As with the previous novels, the story is technically a stand-alone story but the depth of the background to the events sits within the previous two stories. Each novel adds to and expands the evolving space-faring culture around whom these stories take place….

(11) BLAST OFF! Dreams of Space takes us back to a Fifties magazine’s answer to “Will your child visit the Moon?” in Women’s Day -August (1953) Part 1”. The article is reproduced at the link.

Women’s Day magazine also got involved in the spaceflight fad in the early 1950s. This 1953 (August) issue had a number of space related articles including: Will Your Child Visit The Moon? The article makes the case to the mothers of America that travel into space and the Moon is possible. It lays out the current development of spaceflight and how it will evolve. Not a lot of illustrations for all this text but a most interesting article in an unlikely place….

(12) OR MAYBE ALIVE IN A DIFFERENT FORM. “Wonder Woman 3 Dead: Patty Jenkins Script Rejected” reports Cosmic Book News.

…The report comes from THR who reports how Wonder Woman 3 is not moving forward as the DC movies have hit a turning point.

Worth a mention is that just yesterday saw Gal Gadot tweet about playing Wonder Woman, which was liked on Twitter by the new co-head of the DCU, James Gunn.

“A few years ago it was announced that I was going to play Wonder Woman. I’ve been so grateful for the opportunity to play such an incredible, iconic character and more than anything I’m grateful for YOU. The fans. Can’t wait to share her next chapter with you,” tweeted Gadot.

It’s unknown if Gal Gadot knew about Wonder Woman 3 not moving forward prior to tweeting what she said, but it probably does seem likely that she knew about it as did James Gunn, so maybe Gadot is sticking around, as Gadot is rumored to appear in The Flash; however, more on that below….

(13) IN MEMORY YET GREENLAND. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] No, not an SF classic but this week’s Nature cover story.

The cover shows an artist’s impression of the rich ecosystem that existed in parts of northern Greenland some 2 million years ago. The ecosystem is reconstructed from ancient DNA in this week’s issue by Eske Willerslev and colleagues. Working at the Kap København Formation in Peary Land, the researchers gathered sediment samples rich in organic material from 5 different geological sites. By extracting and sequencing DNA from these samples, they were able to piece together a picture of the flora and fauna present around 2 million years ago. The team found evidence of open boreal forest mixed with Arctic species such as cedar, spruce and birch, as well as signs of animals including hares, mastodons, reindeer and geese. The evidence affirms that this part of Greenland, now a polar desert, was 11–17 °C warmer than it is today and suggests it was home to an ecosystem composition that no longer exists anywhere in the world.

 Research paper here. (Open access). 

(14) URGE TO MERGE. “Strange flashes linked to stars merging rather than dying” discussed in Nature.

Brief, intense flashes known as γ-ray bursts appear every day at random locations in the sky. These bursts are classified according to their duration. Short γ-ray bursts, lasting less than one second, are thought to derive from the merging of two neutron stars in a binary system, whereas long γ-ray bursts are active for a few seconds or more, and result from the collapse of a massive star. Four papers published in this issue of Nature by Troja et al.1Rastinejad et al.2Mei et al.3 and Yang et al.4 now challenge this long-standing paradigm, by providing evidence of a long γ-ray burst that seems to have been produced by the merger of a compact binary system.

One of the papers is open access here.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Another sff short released this week by DUST, “Eureka!” starring Karen Gillan.

A lazy, uninspired woman is visited by an otherworldly being responsible for giving humanity all its great ideas.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Steven H Silver, John A Arkansawyer, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 11/10/22 What the Pixels Need Now Is Scroll, Sweet Scroll

(1) HARPERCOLLINS UNION EMPLOYEES STRIKE. “HarperCollins Workers Strike for Better Pay and Benefits” – the New York Times has the story.

Unionized employees at HarperCollins went on strike Thursday, saying they planned to stop working until they reached an agreement on a new contract.

The HarperCollins union represents about 250 employees in editorial, publicity, sales, marketing, legal and design. In a statement, the union said its members, who have been working without a contract since April, wanted better family leave benefits and higher pay.

Olga Brudastova, the president of Local 2110 of the U.A.W., which represents unionized HarperCollins employees, said that the union had decided to go on an indefinite strike after negotiations with the company stalled. The union is proposing that HarperCollins raise the minimum starting salary to $50,000, from $45,000. It has also demanded that the company address the lack of diversity in its work force.

Publishing has long been a low paying industry with long hours for its entry and midlevel employees, and it is based in New York, a very expensive city. It is also an overwhelmingly white industry, and many in the industry feel the low pay is part of what makes diversifying the industry difficult.

A recent report from PEN America, a free speech organization, said that according to company data, 74 percent of employees at Penguin Random House were white last of year, as were more than 70 percent of employees at Macmillan and about 65 percent of employees at Hachette. Those concentrations were even higher among senior managers.

Some employees joining the strike said that they hoped their collective action would also drive changes across the industry.

(2) THE COSPLAY CANDIDATE. Looked at from a certain viewpoint – as Vice is doing — the Georgia Senate election has been forced into a runoff because Libertarian Party candidate Chase Oliver pulled votes away from one of the other candidates (your choice of which one). “This Guy Just Threw the Senate Election Into Chaos From His Basement”.

… Asked whether he just upended the entire Senate election from his basement for less than the price of a used car, Oliver casually agreed. 

“Yeah, you could say that,” he said. “And, good on me, I guess. You, too, can do this.” 

Oliver racked up over 81,000 votes, according to the official tally. That’s more than twice the gap between the two main candidates. Warnock led on Wednesday afternoon with about 1,941,000 votes, compared to roughly 1,906,000 for Walker.

That wafer-thin margin means Oliver’s supporters could swing the runoff, too, if they all get behind one candidate. Their choice will be Warnock, a pastor at the church where Martin Luther King Jr. preached; or Walker, a football star with a stormy personal life, endorsed by former President Donald Trump…. 

And Oliver has some fan credentials, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution profile published in September: “Chase Oliver could send Georgia’s Senate race to a runoff – he’s OK with that”.

Chase Oliver loves to dress up for Dragon Con, the fantasy and science-fiction convention held over Labor Day weekend in Atlanta. He prefers villains. One year he came as the Riddler; another as the Norse god Loki.

But this year, Oliver, 37, is playing a different role altogether on a much different stage. As the Libertarian candidate for the U.S. Senate in Georgia, he may be the spoiler.

In the neck-and-neck contest between Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker, Oliver might peel off enough votes to send the nationally watched race into a runoff. That would translate into four more weeks of campaigning and millions more dollars in spending for a contest already expected to be among the costliest and most consequential in the nation.

Oliver is OK with that.

“The voters send this to a runoff. I don’t,” he said in an interview. “If one of the candidates can’t get 50% plus one of the vote, they don’t deserve to win.”

(3) DEPARTURE LOUNGE. There are probably many such announcements being made, I just happened to see this one.

(4) EKPEKI’S WFC ACCEPTANCE SPEECH. Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki has posted on Facebook and his YouTube channel two videos of his World Fantasy Award, Best Anthology, acceptance speech. The first from the WFC has audience reactions muted. A second one taken from the audience is slightly less clear but has audible audience reactions.  

(5) PLAY LONG AND PROSPER. The idea of it may be more entertaining than the actual account, still, you may enjoy reading about “When Jimi Hendrix met Spock: the incredible story of the guitar legend’s encounter with a sci-fi icon” at Guitar World.

…And then there is the “Mind-Meld Experience,” the day that Jimi, a renowned traveler through space, time and dimension, encountered Nimoy, another astral musical voyager. 

Here, then, is WKYC Radio disc jockey Chuck Dunaway’s fascinating account of a wild night with Jimi and Leonard Nimoy in Cleveland on March 25, 1968. It is Chuck D.’s story of that day, illustrated with a few rare artifacts, some of which I published in the March 1988 Guitar World [Special Collectors’ Edition: Hendrix Lives! Tribute to a Genius] and others from Chuck’s personal archives….

(6) DAW’S TAD WILLIAMS ACQUISITIONS. Betsy Wollheim, Publisher at DAW Books, has acquired North American rights to two fantasy books by Tad Williams, represented by Matt Bialer at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates.

The first of the two books, scheduled for Fall 2024, is The Splintered Sun. Set in Williams’ beloved and well-known fantasy world of Osten Ard, The Splintered Sun follows the adventures of Robin Hood-esque figure Flann Alderwood and his band of misfit rebels in one of Osten Ard’s oldest and strangest cities, Crannhyr.

The Splintered Sun is a fast-moving adventure that will thrill newcomers diving into the world of Osten Ard for the first time, while weaving together many parts of previously unrevealed Osten Ard history for all the readers who are eager to delve into the pre-Dragonbone Chair history of Hernystir and Erkynland.

The Splintered Sun will be published by DAW Books in Fall 2024.

(7) THEY’RE FASH, AND I’M FURIOUS. [Item by Olav Rokne.] A few of us at the Hugo Book Club Blog have been musing about what the depiction of fascist empires in space-based science fiction tells us about the popular conception of what it means to be “nazi.” There’s often a lack of engagement in pop culture with the question of what “fascism” actually means, which unfortunately probably makes it easier for real-world fascists to peddle their wretched ideology. (The blog post title is a reference to a classic 1987 Trauma movie about neo-nazis on surfboards.) “Space Nazis Must Die”.

Nazis should be opposed wherever they exist: on the battlefield, at the ballot box, in the streets, and across the tenebrous depths of interstellar space. As such, depicting villains as Nazis — and therefore Nazism as villainous — has value. But depiction without engaging with the premises of motivation is lacking.

(8) GILLER PRIZE. The 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize winner was announced November 7. The Prize is a celebration of Canadian literary talent. It went to the non-genre novel The Sleeping Car Porter by Suzette Mayr.

There had been two works of genre interest on the shortlist, Kim Fu’s story collection Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century, and Sheila Heti’s Pure Colour.

(9) GOODREADS CHOICE. The opening round for the 2022 Goodreads Choice Awards begins November 15.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1932 [By Cat Eldridge.] One of the earlier Sherlock Holmes films is Conan Doyle’s Master Detective Sherlock Holmes which it’s ninetieth anniversary this year. It came sixteen years after the first such film, Sherlock Holmes, was released.

It was an American pre-Code film starring Clive Brook as the eponymous London detective. It was not based directly off the writings of Doyle but on the very successful Sherlock Holmes stage play by William Gillette. 

Gillette was a manager of actors, a playwright, and stage-manager in that era. He is best remembered for portraying Sherlock Holmes on stage and in a 1916 silent film thought to be lost until it was rediscovered in 2014 which I essayed about here.

The 1932 film was directed by William K. Howard for the Fox Film Corporation. Brook had played Holmes previously in The Return of Sherlock Holmes and the “Murder Will Out” segment of Paramount on Parade.

The story here in brief is that Holmes is pulled away from retirement with his fiancée when the condemned Moriarty escapes from prison and swears vengeance.

Interestingly Reginald Owen plays Dr. Watson, and Ernest Torrence is Holmes’s arch-rival, Professor Moriarty. Reginald Owen played Sherlock Holmes the following year in A Study in Scarlet.

Owen is but a very one of a small number of performers ever that have performed the roles of Holmes and Watson. 

It includes Jeremy Brett, who played Watson on stage in the United States and, of course, Holmes later on, Carleton Hobbs, who did both roles in British radio adaptations, and Patrick Macnee, who did both roles in US television movies.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 10, 1889 Claude Rains. Actor whose first genre role was as Dr. Jack Griffin in the 1933 film The Invisible Man. He would go on to play Jacob Marley in Scrooge, Prince John in The Adventures of Robin Hood, Sir John Talbot in The Wolf Man, and Erique in The Phantom of the Opera. (Died 1967.)
  • Born November 10, 1924 Russell Johnson. Best known in what is surely genre for being Professor Roy Hinkley in Gilligan’s Island. His genre career started off with four Fifties films, It Came from Outer Space, This Island Earth, Attack of the Crab Monsters and The Space Children. He would later appear in both the Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. On ALF, he would appear as Professor Roy Hinkley in “Somewhere Over the Rerun”.  (Died 2014)
  • Born November 10, 1943 Milt Stevens. Today is indeed his Birthday. On the day File 770 announced his unexpected passing OGH did a wonderful post and y’all did splendid commentary about him, so I’ll just send you over there. (Died 2017.)
  • Born November 10, 1946 Jack Ketchum. Writer who was mentored by Robert Bloch, horror writer par excellence. Winner of four Bram Stoker Awards, he was given a World Horror Convention Grand Master Award for outstanding contribution to the horror genre. I’ll admit I’m not sure that I’ve read him, so I’ll leave it up to the rest of you to say which works by him are particularly, errr, horrifying. Oh, and he wrote the screenplays for a number of his novels, in all of which he quite naturally performed. (Died 2018.)
  • Born November 10, 1950 Wesley Dean Smith, 72. Editor of Pulphouse magazine, about which fortunately Black Gate has provided us with a fascinating history which you can read herePulphouse I first encountered when I collected the works of Charles de Lint who was in issue number eight way back in the summer issue of 1990. As a writer, he is known for his use of licensed properties such as StarTrekSmallvilleAliensMen in Black, and Quantum Leap. He is also known for a number of his original novels, such as the Tenth Planet series written in collaboration with his wife, Kristine Kathryn Rusch. 
  • Born November 10, 1960 Neil Gaiman, 62. Where to start? By far, Neverwhere is my favorite work by him followed by the Sandman series and Stardust. And I sort maybe possibly kind of liked American GodsCoraline is just creepy. By far, I think his best script is Babylon 5’s “Day of The Dead” though his Doctor Who episodes, “The Doctor’s Wife” and “Nightmare in Silver” are interesting, particularly the former. 
  • Born November 10, 1971 Holly Black, 51. Best known for her Spiderwick Chronicles, which were created with fellow writer and illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi, and for the Modern Faerie Tales YA trilogy.  Her first novel was Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale. (It’s very, very good.) There have been two sequels set in the same universe. The first, Valiant, won the first Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy.  Doll Bones which is really, really creepy was awarded a Newbery Honor and a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award.  Suffice it to say if you like horror, you’ll love her. 
  • Born November 10, 1989 Aliette de Bodard, 33. Author of the oh-so-excellent Xuya Universe series. Her Xuya Universe novella “The Tea Master and the Detective” won a Nebula Award and a British Fantasy Award, and was nominated for the Hugo and World Fantasy Award. “The Shipmaker”, also set herein, won a BSFA Award for Best Short Fiction. Her other major series is The Dominion of the Fallen which is equally lauded. More Hugos noms?  Oh yes indeed. LoneStarCon3 saw her nominated both for her oh so amazing “On a Red Station, Drifting” novella and her “Immersion” short story; Loncon 3 for her “The Waiting Stars” novelette (a Nebula winner); “Children of Thorns, Children of Water” novelette nominated at Worldcon 76; at Dublin2019, In a Vanishers’ Palace was nominated as was the ever so stellar The Tea Master and The Detective novella (a Nebula winner), a favorite of mine ever more; DisCon III saw another novelette, “The Inaccessibility of Heaven”, nominated . And this year, her most excellent Fireheart Tiger novella was up for a Hugo.

(12) MARVEL REVEALS ITS 2023 FREE COMIC BOOK DAY TITLES. In 2023, Free Comic Book Day will lure customers to their local comic shops on May 6. Here are Marvel’s four giveaway titles. For more information, visit Marvel.com.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2023: AVENGERS/X-MEN #1 features a pair of all-new stories that set the stage for the next evolution in mutant adventures, FALL OF X, and introduces an uncanny new lineup for a new team book launching next year. Plus a preview of Jonathan Hickman and Valerio Schiti’s upcoming mystery project.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2023: SPIDER-MAN/VENOM #1 will web-sling readers into the exciting developments currently taking place in Zeb Wells and John Romita Jr.’s hit run of Amazing Spider-Man and lay the groundwork for the SUMMER OF SYMBIOTES. Plus a preview of new Marvel epic just on the horizon.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2023: MARVEL’S VOICES #1 invites readers to the groundbreaking and critically acclaimed Marvel’s Voices series, which spotlights creators and characters across Marvel’s diverse and ever-evolving universe. The book will include a range of stories from previous Marvel’s Voices issues as well a brand-new one!

 And last but certainly not least, FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2023: SPIDEY & FRIENDS #1 is back! Swing into adventure with Spidey, Ghost-Spider, and Miles as they face off against Green Goblin, Doc Ock and more in this spectacular special. Filled with easy-to-read comic stories based on the hit Disney Junior show, this book is perfect for the youngest readers aged 5-7. Young fans will even be able to test their wall-crawling skills with thrilling interactive activity pages! Kids will love this not-to-be-missed comic: the perfect primer for the newest generation of Spider-Fans!

 (13) OCTOTHORPE. John Coxon, Alison Scott, and Liz Batty are back with episode 70 of the Octothorpe podcast —  “Oh”.

We read your lovely letters before talking about a bunch of news, including the Clarke Awards, Pemmi-Con, the Chengdu Worldcon, World Fantasy Con 2025, and Novacon.

(14) A QUESTION. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Question: Do authors get paid (reasonably) for special-press/signed editions of their books?

(In some Facebook Groups I’m following) I’m seeing special collector/collectible editions of books with a mix of additional content (essays, art, etc.), print quality (nicer paper, leather-bound, bound-by-hand, etc), and limited-edition indicia (numbered, signed-by-author)… priced often in the hundreds of dollars.

I have no doubt that the price reflects the work and materials… my question is, are authors getting a reasonable piece of the action? (Particularly when they’d put in the time to sign.)

(15) GRINCHWORMS. It’s understandable you wouldn’t be looking for Easter Eggs in a Grinch movie, but they’re there: “15 details you probably missed in ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’” at Yahoo! For example —

…There are lots of fun architectural features in Whoville, including an elephant statue that seems to be a reference Dr. Seuss’ “Horton Hears a Who.”

In his story, the titular elephant saves the city of Whoville (which exists on a tiny speck of dust), so it makes sense that they’d have a statue for him in the town.

Jim Carrey also voiced both the Grinch and Horton in film adaptations of the stories….

(16) CHANGE IS COMING. Deadline heralds plan by “Universal Orlando To Shut Down Five Attractions To Make Room For New Family Entertainment Based On ‘Beloved Animated Characters’” – whatever they may be.

Universal Orlando Resort today announced the closing of at least five attractions to make way for what it termed “new family entertainment.” Fievel’s Playland, Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster, Curious George Goes to Town, DreamWorks Destination and Shrek and Donkey’s Meet & Greet will permanently close at end of day on January 15 203, according to an announcement posted to the resort’s Twitter page.

… Universal confirmed in March that its Orlando Resort will be getting a Super Nintendo World sometime after a same-named area opens at the L.A. park,. That is scheduled for early next year. But, according to permit filings reportedly obtained by the Park Stop blog, the Florida Super Nintendo World appears to be a part of the vast new Epic Universe park being built in Orlando.

Some educated guesses about what will fill the space include a possible Pokémon attraction, or concepts based on DreamWorks or Illumination IP such as Trolls or The Secret Life of Pets — Illumination’s Minions already have their own zone coming next year. Universal promised more details “in the months ahead.”

(17) UNDERWATER DISCOVERY. “Section of destroyed shuttle Challenger found on ocean floor” reports Yahoo!

A large section of the destroyed space shuttle Challenger has been found buried in sand at the bottom of the Atlantic, more than three decades after the tragedy that killed a schoolteacher and six others.

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center announced the discovery Thursday.

“Of course, the emotions come back, right?” said Michael Ciannilli, a NASA manager who confirmed the remnant’s authenticity. When he saw the underwater video footage, “My heart skipped a beat, I must say, and it brought me right back to 1986 … and what we all went through as a nation.”

It’s one of the biggest pieces of Challenger found in the decades since the accident, according to Ciannilli, and the first remnant to be discovered since two fragments from the left wing washed ashore in 1996.

Divers for a TV documentary first spotted the piece in March while looking for wreckage of a World War II plane. NASA verified through video a few months ago that the piece was part of the shuttle that broke apart shortly after liftoff on Jan. 28, 1986. All seven on board were killed, including the first schoolteacher bound for space, Christa McAuliffe….

(18) ASTROCLICKBAIT. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Physicist and professor of particle physics Brian Cox explains whether the big bang theory is wrong. Despite major scientific discoveries that provide strong support for the Big Bang theory, there´s been a viral paper spreading over the Internet lately which says that the James Webb Space Telescope has refuted the theory. This has led many to think that our understanding of the Big Bang may be wrong. Could this really be the case? Is the James Webb telescope rewriting fundamental theories of the cosmos?

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

Pixel Scroll 8/30/22 Set Out Filing But I Take My Time, A Friend Of The Pixel Is A Scroll Of Mine

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to join writer David Ebenbach for cheesecake in D.C. on Episode 179 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

David Ebenbach

David’s the author of eight books of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction, the most recent being his novel How to Mars, published last year by Tachyon Press, and the short story collection The Guy We Didn’t Invite to the Orgy and Other Stories, published in 2017 by the University of Massachusetts Press. His short stories have appeared in such genre markets as Asimov’sAnalog, and Not One of Us, but he’s also been published in such literary markets as the Kenyon ReviewIowa Review, and New England Review.

His writing has won him the Drue Heinz Literature Prize, the Juniper Prize, the Patricia Bibby Award, and other awards. He works at Georgetown University, teaching creative writing and literature at the Center for Jewish Civilization and creativity through the Masters in Learning, Design, and Technology Program, and promoting inclusive, student-centered teaching at the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship.

We discussed the way he started writing science fiction without realizing he was writing science fiction, the final line of the worst thing he’s ever written, how his first scribbling as a kid was a violent spy novel about The Smurfs, why it’s important to root for an author and not merely our own reading experience, the cliches some in the literary and science fiction worlds believe about each other, the newspaper article which sparked his novel How to Mars, the way he’s managed to carve himself out a bifurcated writing life, the philosophical differences between those writing novels and short stories, and much more.

(2) KEEPING THE LAW GREEN. “Tatiana Maslany on ‘She-Hulk’, Joining Marvel, and LGBTQ Advocacy” in an ELLE interview.

… When she was announced as the next Marvel superhero, her cult following—which refers to themselves as the Clone Club—rejoiced. Maslany shielded both her pleasure and her apprehension well.

“I had always been wary of entering this universe or doing anything of this scale,” Maslany admits when we meet for the first time over Zoom. “There’s a part of me that always feels a bit more comfortable in a smaller piece. Just something that I can guarantee will be focused on character, guarantee will be collaborative.”

Her She-Hulk audition arrived “at this very raw, very interesting time for her,” says her best friend and Arrow actor Ben Lewis, who’s known her since they met in the early aughts on the set of the misguided Rob Lowe-led film Stir of Echoes: The Homecoming. (Lewis is reluctant to even name the film, but acknowledges Google maintains its existence.) When, during the height of the pandemic, Maslany told Lewis she planned to audition for She-Hulk, the idea of the 5’3” Maslany in a cape and tights—perhaps worse, as a derivative of the Incredible Hulk—seemed “incongruous” at best, Lewis says….

(3) COULD LIGHTNING STRIKE TWICE? Savannah Walsh’s Vanity Fair article recaps the teen dystopia’s rise and fall: “Nobody Ever Found the Next ‘Hunger Games’—But Boy, Did They Try”.

… “For years everyone tried to have the next Harry Potter and no one managed to do so, but that didn’t stop companies from trying,” Craig Dehmel, then head of international distribution for Fox, told TheWrap in 2015. “And in a sense, the Twilight and Hunger Games franchises were both born out of that pursuit.” 

The first film both rode and inspired a wave of similar films as studios began clamoring to find the next Y.A. juggernaut. In 2013 and 2014, there were no less than eight teen-centered sci-fi/fantasy films based on best-selling books crammed into theaters: Ender’s Game, The Maze Runner, The Giver, The Host, Beautiful Creatures, Percy Jackson Sea of Monsters, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, and Divergent

These films all adhered to a similar formula: promising up-and-coming actors (Saoirse Ronan, Logan Lerman, Lily Collins) played heroic and/or divinely gifted teenagers with the power to stop a tyrannical leader and/or oppressive government structure. Some were set in the future, others in an alternate universe. Most lured in veteran stars for scenery-chewing supporting roles (Kate Winslet, Jeff Bridges, Viola Davis) or hedged in a watered-down love triangle. And all were angling for a piece of the Hunger Games pie….

(4) HOUSE OF THE DRAGON VIEWERSHIP GROWS. Lost Remote reports “House of the Dragon Continues to Light HBO Ratings on Fire”.

…On Sunday, Episode 2 of the Game of Thrones spinoff was up 2% from its debut, earning 10.2 million viewers domestically across HBO Max and linear telecasts, based on a combination of Nielsen and first-party data. HBO previously noted that Sunday night viewership for a series typically represents just 20-40% of the show’s total gross audience.

House of the Dragon’s debut on Aug. 21 was the largest in HBO history, reaching nearly 10 million viewers. That episode is now approaching 25 million viewers in the U.S., according to the company….

(5) TOUGH QUIZ. Book Riot challenges fans: “Can You Guess the Sci-Fi Book By Its Pixelated Cover?” I got zero, so bleep them! (Many are not what I think is the iconic cover for a particular title, but one was, and I still didn’t get it.)

So, you consider yourself a sci-fi expert. You’ve read the classics and keep up with new releases. Well, then I’m sure you know all of these titles. They’re a mix of the most well-known and enduring stories in the genre and some very popular new releases. There’s nothing here that a sci-fi fan hasn’t heard of — in fact, you’ve likely read many of them. The trick is: can you name the title and author based on a pixelated version of the cover? After all, it’s when you have to test yourself that every book title leaves your mind.

(6) THE FORCE IS DOOP WITH THIS ONE. “Futurama’s Silliest Character Highlights a Constant Flaw in Sci-Fi” according to CBR.com.

… Any time the stakes get high enough on Futurama, it’s not uncommon to see the show’s perpetual blowhard, Zapp Brannigan, enter the fray. An oafish commanding officer within the intergalactic peacekeeping force known as DOOP, Brannigan frequently gets his men slaughtered in a series of heartless decisions and strategies. When things get particularly dire, it’s not uncommon to see Brannigan arrive in the Nimbus — a truly massive spaceship that serves as the flagship for DOOP forces. But despite the inherent power of the ship, it’s frequently being shown as completely useless in combat missions….

Across multiple stories, films and shows, it’s often shown that truly massive spaceships like the Nimbus just aren’t all that useful. They lack maneuverability, making for easy targets. The Star Wars series in particular is full of these, with the Moon-sized Death Star being destroyed with a single well-placed shot, while a massive flagship Star Destroyer is brought down when a single A-Wing crashes into the bridge in Return of the Jedi. Shows like Battlestar Galactica focused on the massive populations and crews necessary to keep those ships floating — and highlighted how quickly supplies can quickly run out…. 

(7) MEMORY LANE.  

1891 [By Cat Eldridge.] Excerpt from J.M. Barrie’s Sherlock Holmes : My Evening with Sherlock Holmes pastiche:

I am the sort of man whose amusement is to do everything better than any other body. Hence my evening with Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes is the private detective whose adventures Mr. Conan Doyle is now editing in the Strand magazine. To my annoyance (for I hate to hear anyone praised except myself) Holmes’s cleverness in, for instance, knowing by glancing at you what you had for dinner last Thursday, has delighted press and public, and so I felt it was time to take him down a peg. I therefore introduced myself to Mr. Conan Doyle and persuaded him to ask me to his house to meet Sherlock Holmes.

For poor Mr. Holmes it proved to be an eventful evening. I had determined to overthrow him with his own weapons, and accordingly when he began, with well-affected carefulness, “I perceive, Mr. Anon, from the condition of your cigar-cutter, that you are not fond of music,” I replied blandly, “Yes, that is obvious.

J.M. Barrie was a close personal friend of Arthur Conan Doyle, a fellow Scots. That was because Conan Doyle had worked on a new magazine called The Idler, which allowed him to meet other writers including James Barrie, the actual name of of J.M Barrie.

J. M. Barrie would write three pastiches about Sherlock Holmes : My Evening with Sherlock Holmes (1891), The Adventure of the Two Collaborators (1893) and The Late Sherlock Holmes (1893) where Dr. Watson is accused of the murder of Sherlock Holmes before being proven innocent when Holmes is found alive.

Otto Penzler, the expert on these matters, states that it is the earliest Holmes parody ever done.

So let’s look at the very first pastiche about Sherlock Holmes : My Evening with Sherlock Holmes. It was originally written anonymously by J. M. Barrie and published in The Speaker magazine on November 28, 1891, which was four months after the publication of the first Sherlock Holmes “A Scandal in Bohemia” story.

It’s an odd bit of writing as it’s narrated by Anon who’s determined to beat Holmes at his own game. 

SPOILERS BE HERE!

The narrator, Mr. Anon, convinces Conan Doyle to introduce him to Sherlock Holmes. The narrator then proceeds to beat Holmes at his own game, deducing his recent movements and his plans for the rest of the evening. 

He taunts Holmes like this, “Fool, fool! I have kept you in luxury for years. By my help you have ridden extensively in cabs where no author was ever seen before. Henceforth you will ride in buses!”

Angrily annoyed, Holmes leaves abruptly.

END SPOILERS

Barrie would write two more of these, The Adventure of the Two Collaborators and The Late Sherlock Holmes which Doyle really liked. They are available at the usual suspects though finding them takes a bit of Holmesian hunting. 

They’re available in various collections, so you’ll just need to decide which one you want to download. Some are free, some are Meredith moments, and some are actually professionally produced therefore cost quite a bit. The latter actually are edited properly. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 30, 1797 Mary Shelley. Author of the Gothic novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus which I’ll admit that I’ve not read. Who here has read it? It certainly has spawned a multiverse of novels and films since it came, some quite good, some quite bad.  (Died 1851.)
  • Born August 30, 1942 Judith Moffett, 80. Editor and academic. She won the first Theodore Sturgeon Award with her story “Surviving” and the fame gained for her Pennterra novel helped her win John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer at Nolacon II. Asimov wrote an introduction for the book and published it under his Isaac Asimov Presents series.  Her Holy Ground series of The Ragged World: A Novel of the Hefn on EarthTime, Like an Ever-Rolling Stream: A Sequel to the Ragged World and The Bird Shaman are her other genre novels. The Bear’s Babys And Other Stories collects her genre short stories. All of her works are surprisingly available at the usual digital suspects.
  • Born August 30, 1943 Robert Crumb, 79. He’s here because ISFDB lists him as the illustrator of The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick which is likely they say an interview that Dick did with Gregg Rickman and published in Rickman’s The Last Testament. They’re also listing the cover art for Edward Abby’s The Monkey Wrench Gang as genre but that’s a very generous definition of genre.
  • Born August 30, 1955 Jeannette Holloman. She was one of the founding members of the Greater Columbia Costumers Guild and she was a participant at masquerades at Worldcon, CostumeCon, and other conventions. Her costumes were featured in The Costume Makers Art and Threads magazine. (Died 2019.)
  • Born August 30, 1955 — Mark Kelly. He maintains the indispensable Science Fiction Awards Database, which we consult almost daily. He wrote reviews for Locus in the Nineties, then founded the Locus Online website in 1997 and ran it single-handedly for 20 years, along the way winning the Best Website Hugo (2002). (OGH)
  • Born August 30, 1965 Laeta Kalogridis, 57. She was an executive producer of the short-lived not-so-great Birds of Prey series and she co-wrote the screenplays for Terminator Genisys and Alita: Battle Angel. She recently was the creator and executive producer of Altered Carbon. She also has a screenwriting credit for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, a film the fanboys hate but which I really like. 
  • Born August 30, 1972 Cameron Diaz, 50. She first shows as Tina Carlyle in The Mask, an amazing film. (The sequel is bloody awful.) She voices Princess Fiona in the Shrek franchise. While dating Tom Cruise, she’s cast as an uncredited Bus passenger in Minority Report. Oh, and she’s Lenore Case in the Green Hornet.
  • Born August 30, 1980 Angel Coulby, 42. She is best remembered for her recurring role as Gwen (Guinevere) in the BBC’s Merlin. She also shows up in Doctor Who as Katherine in the “The Girl in the Fireplace”, a Tenth Doctor story. She also voices Tanusha ‘Kayo’ Kyrano in the revived animated Thunderbirds Are Go series.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio is present when something goes viral.

(10) PHONE HACKER. “Artist Turns Old Payphone Into Fantastical Sci-Fi Art Display: ‘It’s Generated A Lot Of Interest’”Block Club Chicago has the story.

…The art display is named for its coordinates: 42.004587, -87.690123. It features an inscription with a cryptic quote attributed to St. Luna, another alias of the artist, saying, “Some day the words of an old, beloved song will go, “Parlin’s space is vast and so is time … .’”

The payphone is across the street from Warren Park, a few blocks from Luna Rail’s West Ridge home. One day, the artist took note of the payphone infrastructure that had been left to decay.

Luna Rail figured there could be a better use for it and conceived of the installation. The piece was installed in June.

“There’s so few of these left,” Luna Rail said. “I looked at it [and thought], ‘It’s perfect.’”

Luna Rail visits the display most days. He comes by at night to turn on lights connected to the installation. During the day, he fixes issues caused by weather or vandalism….

(11) DEATH FROM ABOVE. “The Giant Meteor Trope In Science Fiction, Explained” by GameRant.

… There is perhaps no simpler trope in science fiction. The giant meteor is what it says on the tin. A piece of a comet or an asteroid that once orbited the sun breaks and gets caught up in Earth’s gravity. As it enters the atmosphere, it reaches terminal velocity. When it hits the surface, it does so with cataclysmic force. The first recorded meteor strike witnessed by a person was in 1064, near Changzhou, China. Shen Kuo reported the sights, the sound, and his findings in the resulting crater. There are a few cases of meteorites landing in Europe in the 1400s to be studied by scientists. In 1980, a team of award-winning scientists concluded that the age of the dinosaurs ended in an impact event. Those elements, along with mankind’s general fear of the endless unknown that makes up outer space led to a tradition of tales about things falling from the sky…

(12) CAT GOT THEIR TONGUE? [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The New York Times investigates whether AI tools can help SJWs figure out what their cat wants. “Did My Cat Just Hit On Me? An Adventure in Pet Translation”.

… MeowTalk, whose founders enlisted Dr. Ntalampiras after the study appeared, expands on this research, using algorithms to identify cat vocalizations made in a variety of contexts.

The app detects and analyzes cat utterances in real-time, assigning each one a broadly defined “intent,” such as happy, resting, hunting or “mating call.” It then displays a conversational, plain English “translation” of whatever intent it detects, such as Momo’s beleaguered “Let me rest.” (Oddly, none of these translations appear to include “I will chew off your leg if you do not feed me this instant.”)

MeowTalk uses the sounds it collects to refine its algorithms and improve its performance, the founders said, and pet owners can provide in-the-moment feedback if the app gets it wrong.

In 2021, MeowTalk researchers reported that the software could distinguish among nine intents with 90 percent accuracy overall. But the app was better at identifying some than others, not infrequently confusing “happy” and “pain,” according to the results….

(13) YESTERDAY’S TOMORROW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Kate Bellingham explains in 1994 how “something called the Internet” can let you watch movies and buy things and even write to politicians because she wrote President Clinton and got a response but British Prime Minister John Major didn’t have a modem. “1994: Are YOU Ready for the INTERNET?” from BBC’s Tomorrow’s World.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Xenoblade Chronicles 3,” Fandom Games, in a spoiler-filled episode, says that this game may be “the most Japanese thing” since the dude who sings “Pen Pineapple Apple Pen,” since you cosplay a character who spends a third of the time playing the flute for dead people, there’s a fat kid who dies, and a required friendship robot.  “No one likes a game about the power of friendship more than a drudge who hasn’t seen an actual human being in weeks,” says the narrator.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Jennifer Hawthorne, Scott Edelman, 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 Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 1/27/22 All Ringworlds Great And Small

(1) MAUS OUT OF SCHOOL LIBRARY. In response to the banning of Art Spiegelman’s Maus by the McMinn County Tennessee School Board Neil Gaiman has tweeted: “There’s only one kind of people who would vote to ban Maus, whatever they are calling themselves these days.” “Tennessee school board bans Holocaust comic ‘Maus’ by Art Spiegelman” at CNBC.

A Tennessee school board has voted to remove the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel “Maus” from an eighth-grade language arts curriculum due to concerns about profanity and an image of female nudity in its depiction of Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust.

The Jan. 10 vote by the McMinn County School Board, which only began attracting attention Wednesday, comes amid a number of battles in school systems around the country as conservatives target curriculums over teachings about the history of slavery and racism in America.

“I’m kind of baffled by this,” Art Spiegelman, the author of “Maus,” told CNBC in an interview about the unanimous vote by the McMinn board to bar the book, which is about his parents, from continuing to be used in the curriculum.

“It’s leaving me with my jaw open, like, ‘What?’” said Spiegelman, 73, who only learned of the ban after it was the subject of a tweet Wednesday – a day before International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

He called the school board “Orwellian” for its action….

In “Maus,” different groups of people are drawn as different kinds of animals: Jews are the mice, Poles are pigs and Nazi Germans — who had a notorious history of banning and burning books — are cats. It has won a slew of awards, including a 1992 Pulitzer Prize.

(2) CATHERYNNE M. VALENTE MEDICAL UPDATE. Author Catherynne M. Valente has contracted Covid and has been tweeting about how she feels, and is handling quarantining away from the rest of the family. She also will be unable to appear in person at Capricon the first weekend in February.

(3) THE GAME’S AFOOT. In the Washington Post, Michael Dirda gives a con report on the Baker Street Irregulars annual convention. “Sherlock Holmes gets the gala treatment in New York”.

…This year, socializing got underway on Thursday afternoon at the Grolier Club, the country’s leading society for bibliophiles. Opening that week, and running till April 16, was “Sherlock Holmes in 221 Objects,” an exhibition drawn from the fabled collection of Glen S. Miranker. Fabled? As I once wrote, “If the Great Agra Treasure — from ‘The Sign of Four’ — contained rare Sherlockian books and manuscripts instead of priceless gems, it would resemble Glen Miranker’s library.”

In display cases below a huge banner depicting Holmes in his signature dressing gown, one could see the only known copy in its dust jacket of the first edition of “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,” with original artwork by Sidney Paget and Frederic Dorr Steele, handwritten drafts of four major stories, and even Conan Doyle’s work ledger containing the December 1893 memorandum, “Killed Holmes.” This refers to “The Final Problem,” which ends with the great detective and his arch-nemesis, Professor Moriarty, both falling to their deaths, or so it seemed, at the Reichenbach Falls….

(4) PHILOSOPHICAL FAVES. University of California (Riverside) philosopher Eric Schwitzgebel picks five sf novels of interest to philosophers. “Science Fiction and Philosophy – Five Books Expert Recommendations”.

It’s an interesting conundrum, because some science fiction seems to extrapolate from existing science to a future that’s possible and consistent with what we know about science today. That is, a hypothetical situation that is a plausible, possible future world—or maybe not so plausible, but still could happen. But there’s another kind of science fiction which doesn’t seem to be bound by anything we know about science now—it just allows what you might call magical things to happen. I wonder how the two of them relate to philosophy.

Fantasy just allows magical things to happen. And that can be very useful in thinking through philosophical issues because you might be interested in considering things that aren’t scientifically plausible at all, exploring them as conceptual possibilities. Now, within the constraints of scientific plausibility we can find a second big philosophical value in science fiction: thinking about the future. For example, I think it’s likely that in the next several decades, or maybe the next 100 or 200 years, if humanity continues to exist and continues along its current trajectory, we will eventually create artificial beings who are conscious. Maybe they’ll be robots or maybe they’ll artificial biological organisms. Or they might be a bio-machine hybrid or the result of technology we can’t yet foresee. We might create artificial entities who are people—entities with conscious experiences, self-knowledge, values, who think of themselves as individuals. They might be very much unlike us in other ways—physiologically, physically, maybe in their values, maybe in their styles of thinking.

If that happens, that’s hugely significant. We’d have created a new species of person—people radically different from us, sharing the world with us. Humanity’s children, so to speak. Few things could be more historically momentous than that! But these matters are hard to think about well. Maybe that future is coming. But what might it even look like? What would it do to ethics? To philosophy of mind? To our sense of the purpose and value of humanity itself? Science fiction is a tool for imagining the possible shape of such a future. So that’s just one example of the way in which science fiction can help us think about future possibilities.

(5) WTF. In the Washington Post, Jonathan Edwards says that Peter Dinklage, a guest on”WTF With Marc Maron,” slammed the live-action remake of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as “a backward story about seven dwarfs living in a cave.” “Actor Peter Dinklage calls out ‘Snow White’ remake for its depiction of dwarves”.

…Dinklage, 52, told Maron he was surprised by what he saw as a contradiction.

“They were very, very proud to cast a Latino actress as Snow White, but you’re still telling the story of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,’ ” Dinklage said, adding, “You’re progressive in one way … but you’re still making that … backward story about seven dwarfs living in a cave. What … are you doing, man?”

On Tuesday, Disney responded, saying it will aim to present the characters in a sensitive manner….

(6) POUL AND GORDY. Fanac.org has posted a 1977 video recording from ConFusion 14 with Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson holding forth about a chapter in sf history: “The Way It Was (Pt  1): Minneapolis Fantasy Society”.

This short video features a conversation between authors Poul Anderson and Gordon Dickson on the history of the Minneapolis Fantasy Society (MFS). Gordy, the older of the two, begins with a description of the prewar (World War II) MFS, a serious writers’ group with members such as Clifford Simak and Donald Wandrei. Poul and Gordy then bring the calendar forward with anecdotes of traveling to Torcon (1948), MFS parties, and how the writing community worked in the middle of the century. 

These much loved members of the science fiction community are by turns very earnest, very funny and always very engaging in telling us “The Way It Was”…

Note that this is part 1 of a longer program. As of January 2022, we are working to digitize the next part.

Also note that there are about 5 seconds of disrupted video towards the end of the recording.

Thanks to Geri Sullivan and the Video Archeology project for providing the recording. 

(7) SEE VIDEO OF MANCHESS ADAPTATION. On Muddy Colors, Gregory Manchess posted a link to a video of the stage production of Above the Timberline, based on his story and art. “Watch the Stage Play of Above the Timberline!” (The video has to be watched at the link.)

In an alternate future where the weather of the world has been permanently altered, the son of a famed polar explorer sets out in search of his father, who disappeared while looking for a lost city buried under the snow. But Wes Singleton believes his father is still alive – somewhere above the timberline. Adapted from the exquisitely painted novel, the world premiere stage adaptation is sure to delight.

(8) FARLAND MEMORIES. The Writers & Illustrators of the Future have produced a visual tribute to their coordinating judge who recently died: “David Farland Memorial (1957 – 2022)”.

One only needs to look at Dave Farland’s vast roster of names discovered and nurtured. It is no wonder his keen eye for talent was dubbed “Writer Whisperer.” Dave was an extraordinary individual, a kind soul, and a cherished personal friend and friend to everyone in the writing community. He was always there to lend a helping hand. Dave will be greatly missed. But it is good to know that due to his excellent work and dedication to creating the future, science fiction and fantasy will continue to be in good hands.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1999 [Item by Cat Eldridge.]

Captain Janeway: Coffee, black. 

Neelix: I’m sorry, Captain. We’ve lost another two replicators – 

Kathryn Janeway: Listen to me very carefully because I’m only going to say this once. Coffee – black.

Twenty three years ago this evening on the UPN network, Star Trek: Voyager‘s “Bride of Chaotica!” first aired. It was the twelfth episode of the fifth season of the series. The episode is loving homage to the 1936 Flash Gordon film serial and 1939 Buck Rogers film serial that followed film. Much of the episode was shot in black and white to emulate the look of those shows. 

The story was Bryan Fuller who was the writer and executive producer on Voyager and Deep Space Nine; he is also the co-creator of Discovery. The script was by Fuller and Michael Taylor who was best known as a writer on Deep Space Nine and Voyager.

Critics really liked it. SyFy Wire said it was “campy, hilarious, hysterical, brilliant, and an absolute joy.” And CBR noted that Voyager was “having fun with its goofier side.”

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 27, 1832 Lewis Carroll. Writer, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass. In 1876, he also produced his work, “The Hunting of the Snark”, a fantastical nonsense poem about the adventures of a very, very bizarre crew of nine tradesmen and a beaver who set off to find the snark. (Died 1898.)
  • Born January 27, 1938 Ron Ellik. A well-known sf fan who was a co-editor with Terry Carr of the Hugo winning fanzine Fanac in the late Fifties. Ellik was also the co-author of The Universes of E.E. Smith with Bill Evans which was largely a concordance of characters and the like. Fancyclopedia 3 notes that ‘He also had some fiction published professionally and co-authored a Man from U.N.C.L.E. novelization.’ (ISFDB says it was The Cross of Gold Affair.) Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction says he died in an auto accident the day before his wedding. (Died 1968.)
  • Born January 27, 1940 James Cromwell, 82. I think we best know him as Doctor Zefram Cochrane in Star Trek: First Contact, which was re-used in the Enterprise episode “In a Mirror, Darkly (Part I)”.  He’s been in other genre films including Species IIDeep ImpactThe Green MileSpace CowboysI, Robot, Spider-Man 3 and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. He played characters on three Trek series, Prime Minister Nayrok on “The Hunted” episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Jaglom Shrek in the two part “Birthright” story, Hanok on the “Starship Down” episode of Deep Space Nine and Zefram Cochrane once as noted before on Enterprise
  • Born January 27, 1953 Joe Bob Briggs, 69. Writer, actor, and comic performer. Host of the TNT MonsterVision series, and the ongoing The Last Drive-in with Joe Bob Briggs on Shudder from 2018–present. The author of a number of non- fiction review books including Profoundly Disturbing: Shocking Movies that Changed History!  And he’s written one genre novel, Iron Joe Bob. My favorite quote by him is that after contracting Covid and keeping private that he had, he said later that “Many people have had COVID-19 and most of them were much worse off than me.  I wish everybody thought it was a death sentence, because then everyone would wear the f*cking mask and then we would get rid of it.”
  • Born January 27, 1957 Frank Miller, 65. If you’re not a comic reader, you first encountered him in the form of Robocop 2 which I think is a quite decent film. His other films include Robocop 3Sin City300Spirit (fun) and various Batman animated films that you’ll either like or loathe depending on your ability to tolerate extreme violence. Oh, but his comics. Setting aside his Batman work all of which is a must read, I’d recommend his Daredevil, especially the Frank Miller & Klaus Janson Omnibus which gives you everything by him you need, Elektra by Frank Miller & Bill Sienkiewicz, all of his Sin City work and RoboCop vs. The Terminator #1–4 with Walt Simonson. 
  • Born January 27, 1963 Alan Cumming, 59. His film roles include his performances as Boris Grishenko in GoldenEye, Fegan Floop in the Spy Kids trilogy, Loki, god of Mischief in Son of the Mask (a really horrid film), Nightcrawler in X2 and Judas Caretaker in Riverworld (anyone know this got made?)
  • Born January 27, 1970 Irene Gallo, 52. Associate Publisher of Tor.com and Creative Director of Tor Books. Editor of Worlds Seen in Passing: Ten Years of Tor.com Short Fiction which won a World Fantasy Award. Interestingly, she won all but one of the Chesley Award for Best Art Director that were given out between 2004 and 2012. 

(11) THE SOUND AND THE FURRY. [Item by Michael Kennedy.] A Texas primary candidate for the state House got in an uproar regarding a tall tale about Furries. She decided that it was an outrage that some schools would be lowering their cafeteria tables to make it easier for these anthropomorphs to eat out of their bowls—sans utensils or hands. 

This despite the fact that Furrys don’t do that. Or that the schools in question had no intention of lowering their tables. Or that, in fact, it was impossible to do so given the tables’ design.

This is hardly the only tall tale about Furries and schools. I’ll leave it to your imagination (or to your clicking though to read the article) as to what alternative restroom arrangements were supposedly on the table for one school system in Michigan. Or, rather, on the floor.  “A Texas GOP Candidate’s New Claim: School Cafeteria Tables Are Being Lowered for ‘Furries’”

On Sunday night, a candidate in the GOP primary for Texas House District 136, which includes a large portion of the suburbs north of Austin, tweeted a curious allegation. That candidate, Michelle Evans—an activist who works with the local chapter of conservative parents’ group Moms for Liberty and who cofounded the anti-vaccine political action committee Texans for Vaccine Choice, back in 2015—tweeted that “Cafeteria tables are being lowered in certain @RoundRockISD middle and high schools to allow ‘furries’ to more easily eat without utensils or their hands (ie, like a dog eats from a bowl).”

She was responding to a tweet from right-wing Texas provocateur Michael Quinn Sullivan, who had shared a video of a woman speaking at a December school board meeting in Midland, Michigan, claiming that schools there have added “litter boxes” in the halls to allow students who identify as “furries” to relieve themselves. Sullivan retweeted the video, adding, “This is public education.” (It isn’t; the claims made by the speaker in the video have been shown to be untrue.) 

… Similar reports have popped up elsewhere. In Iowa, an unsourced, anonymous report claimed that school boards were considering placing litter boxes in the bathrooms, while a Canadian public school director took to the media to connect similar rumors in his community to a backlash around accommodations that his schools had created for transgender students. Evans’s claim that Round Rock lowered its tables appears to simply be a new variation on the myth…. 

(12) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter tuned into tonight’s Jeopardy! and saw a contestant struggling with this:

Category: Books and authors

Answer: This feral character raised by jungle animals originally appeared in Rudyard Kipling’s short story “In The Rukh”

Wrong question: Who is Tarzan?

Correct question: Who is Mowgli?

(13) DRY FUTURE FOR SOME. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] With a global population explosion and climate change, both factors will combine to create water shortages in some places (which would not happen otherwise if one or other factor did not exist).  Now, writing in Nature Communications, N. American researchers based in Canada and the US have mapped the global situation.  (Not looking good for SW of the USA.) “Hotspots for social and ecological impacts from freshwater stress and storage loss”.

The most-vulnerable basins encompass over 1.5 billion people, 17% of global food crop production, 13% of global gross domestic product, and hundreds of significant wetlands. There are substantial social and ecological benefits to reducing vulnerability in hotspot basins, which can be achieved through hydro- diplomacy, social adaptive capacity building, and integrated water resources management practices, the researchers conclude.

(14) A LITTLE CHILD SHALL MISLEAD THEM. In “Misunderstandings”, David Bratman says, “A comment elsewhere prompted me to drag out recollections of words whose meaning I misunderstood as a child,” and gives several engaging examples.

*blind spot
I thought this meant you were literally struck blind if you looked in that direction – whether permanently or momentarily I wasn’t sure and didn’t want to find out the hard way. I specifically remember our coming across a road sign with this warning when we were out driving around house-hunting in the hill country, which would put my age at 7. It is characteristic of me that, well over a half century later, I still remember exactly where this was, even though I’ve never gone back to check if the sign is still there. (I might be struck blind!) But from Google street view, apparently not.

(15) A PARAGON. I felt much better about File 770’s copyediting when I read artist James Artimus Owen tell Facebook readers

I have accidentally replaced all the spaces in my current manuscript with the words, “Chuck Norris”. But I’m leaving it in, in hopes that the change will be accepted as one of those necessary, semi-invisible words like “and”, “the”, and “defenestrate.”

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers:  Final Fantasy XIV Endwalker,” Fandom Games, in a spoiler-packed episode, says the concluding Final Fantasy game has many “beautiful and poignant moments” because “you spent 5,000 hours with these characters in the previous 13 episodes,” but there are exciting sidebars, such as “waiting for a really rare monster to appear while someone writes the entire plot of Shrek in chat.”

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Chris Barkley, Joel Zakem, Bruce D. Arthurs, BravoLimaPoppa, 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 Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 1/12/22 Asking Only Filer’s Pixels, I Come Looking For A Scroll

(1) BIPOC WRITERS INVITED. Editor Jonathan Strahan is reserving up to three spots in his upcoming anthology The Book of Witches for new BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and other People of Colour) writers. “Open submission period for BIPOC* writers for The Book of Witches”. He will be taking submissions from March 14-18. Complete guidelines at the link.

Following on from the award-winning success of The Book of Dragons, Harper Voyager will publish an exciting new anthology, The Book of Witches, edited by Jonathan Strahan in the fall of 2023. Like The Book of DragonsThe Book of Witches will be a big, inclusive, illustrated anthology of fiction and poetry, this time looking at “witches”, more specifically your witch and what it means to you.

So far writers who have agreed to contribute to the book include Linda Addison, S.A. Chakraborty, Zen Cho, P. Djèlí Clark, Indrapramit Das, Amal El Mohtar, Andrea Hairston, Millie Ho, Nalo Hopkinson, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Cassandra Khaw, Fonda Lee, Darcie Little Badger, Ken Liu, Karen Lord, Usman T. Malik, Tochi Onyebuchi, C.L. Polk, Rebecca Roanhorse, Kelly Robson, Angela Slatter, Rivers Solomon, Andrea Stewart, Sheree Renée Thomas, and Tade Thompson, and we are reserving up to three spots in the final book for new BIPOC writers.

If you are a BIPOC writer – regardless of whether you’re widely published or just starting out – and would like to see your work appear in a major anthology like The Book of Witches, we’d love to hear from you. Just check out the submissions guidelines below and send us your story. 

(2) KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES. The American Museum of Natural History will livestream Neil deGrasse Tyson’s “Year in Review” on February 26. Purchase tickets at the link.

Find out what’s new in the cosmos as Tyson, the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium, reviews top stories from 2021, including notable commercial space launches, missions to Mars, visits to asteroids, and sky phenomena. 

This program will be presented online. Viewing information will be provided with your purchase confirmation. Only one ticket is needed per household.

(3) APPLY FOR SLF’S BOSE GRANT. The Speculative Literature Foundation is now accepting applications for the 2022 A.C. Bose Grant for South Asian Speculative Literature. Applications will be open through January 31. Complete guidelines are here.

The $1,000 A.C. Bose Grant for South Asian Speculative Literature, co-sponsored by the SLF and DesiLit, is awarded to a South Asian or South Asian diaspora writer developing speculative fiction.

The grant is named in memory of Ashim Chandra Bose, a lover of books, especially science fiction and fantasy, and was founded by his children, Rupa Bose and Gautam Bose.

(4) RELOADING THE CANON. Lois McMaster Bujold has updated her recommended reading order for her various series: “The Vorkosigan Saga Reading Order Debate: The Chef Recommends – Bujold reading-order guide 2022 update (chapter 2)” at Goodreads.

(5) NASA’S WEBB TELESCOPE LEADER PROFILED. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Courtland Milloy profiles James Webb Space Telescope program administrator Gregory Robinson, who is Black. His parents were tobacco sharecroppers and he began his student days in a segregated school, but after graduating from Virginia Union University and then from Howard University joined NASA in 1989 and worked his way up to his current position. Gregory Robinson, Webb telescope director, has had his own journey – The Washington Post

…“I often reflect on how dedicated, smart, encouraging and supportive they were during that time,” Robinson said of his teachers. “They’d tell us that we could do anything we wanted if we had an education. That appealed to me because I wanted to get out of Danville and have a better life.”

“I wanted to go to college but didn’t know if I could afford it,” he recalled. Fortunately, along with his knack for math, he’d been a pretty good high school quarterback. He earned himself a football scholarship to Virginia Union University in Richmond, packed two bags, and caught a Greyhound bus to the university.

At Virginia Union, he earned a bachelor’s degree in math. Then he transferred to Howard University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. He later earned an MBA from Averett College in Danville and attended Harvard University’s Senior Executive Fellows Program at the Kennedy School of Government.

While attending Howard, he met students who had done internships with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. He was intrigued by what he heard. “They were doing really interesting things, unlocking many secrets, mysteries and unknowns about our solar system, our Earth systems,” he said….

(6) FROM AN OLD FAMILIAR SCORE. CBR calls these the “10 Most Overdone Sci-Fi Clichés”.

…However, the overabundance of certain clichés can be a tad tiresome, especially for fans of sci-fi. This is because the genre insists on recycling the same old symbols and allegories, over and over until all meaning is drained out of the story, leaving behind nothing more than a stale skeleton of something that used to be original at one point….

One of the offenders on their list:

7 Hacking Into Computers Is Easy Enough For Anyone

The process of hacking, particularly methods that rely on brute force, is long, slow, and painfully dull. Most people wouldn’t have the attention span to work out the countless algorithmic permutations required to break into secure computing systems, but sci-fi would have audiences believe that anyone can become a hacking professional.

Even scientist characters aren’t immune to this trope: in Independence Day (1995), they somehow write a virus and inject it into the alien’s computer, despite having no formal knowledge of extraterrestrial tech. Similarly, R2-D2 from Star Wars is capable of hacking practically any computing device with ease, even though his build is relatively ancient.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1937 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Eighty-five years ago, the German adaptation of The Hound of Baskervilles, Der Hund von Baskerville, as directed by Carl Lamac premiered in Bavaria from the screenplay by Carla von Stackelberg. 

Two individuals are credited as playing Holmes, Bruno Güttner doing the physical work and Siegfried Schürenberg doing the voice. The latter dubbed most of Clark Gable’s films into German including Gone with the Wind. Fritz Odemar was Dr. Watson it was the ninth German film adaptation of this story with the first being in 1914. (There’s only been three such adaptations since then.) 

This was one of two films that was found in Adolf Hitler’s bunker by the Allies in 1945. The other film was Der Mann, der Sherlock Holmes war (The Man who was Sherlock Holmes), another Thirties film. 

If you’re interested, you can see it here with English subtitles.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 12, 1913 Marc Davis. He was one of Disney’s Nine Old Men who created some of Disney’s most-remembered animated cartoons from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to The Rescuers in the Seventies. He worked on Snow White and the Seven DwarfsBambi, Cinderella, Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty and A Hundred and One Dalmantians. (Died 2000.)
  • Born January 12, 1916 House Peters Jr. Though he’s best remembered as Mr. Clean in the Procter & Gamble commercials of the Fifties and Sixties, he did appear in a fair amount of SFF including Flash Gordon, Batman and RobinKing of the Rocket MenThe Day The Earth Stood StillRed Planet MarsTarget Earth and The Twilight Zone. Here’s one of the pre-animated Mr. Clean commercials. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 12, 1937 Shirley Eaton, 85. Bond Girl Jill Masterson in Goldfinger, and yes, she got painted gold in it. She was not nude as is generally thought but was wearing a monokini. She also shows up as the title character in The Million Eyes of Sumuru, the Sax Rohmer based film we discussed last year. Her other significant role would be as Dr. Margaret E. ‘Maggie’ Hanford in Around the World Under the Sea. She retired from acting in the late Sixties. 
  • Born January 12, 1948 Tim Underwood, 74. Bibliographer with such works as Fantasy and Science Fiction by Jack Vance (done with Jack Miller), Shameless Art: Paintings of Dames, Dolls, Pin-ups, and Bad Girls (genre adjacent at the very least) and Stephen King Spills the Beans: Career-Spanning Interviews with America’s Bestselling Author.  
  • Born January 12, 1951 Kirstie Alley, 71. She’s here for being Saavik on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, her very first film. It was, errr, interesting reading the various rumors why this was her only Trek film. Her SFF experience otherwise was brief limited to being the villain’s ex-girlfriend in Runaway, an uncredited handmaiden on Quark, and being in the Village of the Damned as Dr. Susan Verner.
  • Born January 12, 1952 Walter Mosley, 70. I have read his most excellent Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins series but hadn’t  been aware that he wrote SF of which he has four novels to date, Blue LightFutureland: Nine Stories of an Imminent FutureThe Wave, and 47. There’s a Jack Kirby art book called Maximum Fantastic Four that was conceived of and orchestrated by him.  Interestingly enough, he’s got a writing credit for episode of Masters of Science Fiction called “Little Brother” where Stephen Hawking was the Host according to IMdB.
  • Born January 12, 1952 Rockne S. O’Bannon, 70. He’s the genius behind the rejuvenated Twilight ZoneAmazing Stories, the absolutely frelling fascinating Farscape, the could-have-been-great SeaQuest 2032, the Alien Nation series and Defiance.
  • Born January 12, 1980 Kameron Hurley, 42. Winner of a Best Related Work Hugo at London 3 for We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative. Fiction wise, her most excellent God’s War won a BFA and a Kitschie, whereas her The Geek Feminist Revolution won her a BFA for non-fiction. Very impressive indeed. Oh, and she won a Hugo for Best Fan Writer at London 3 as well. Nice. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

 (10) THINK AGAIN. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt says Andrew Garfield’s good work in Spider-Man: No Way Home should lead to a reassessment of his two Spider-Man movies, which Betancourt believes are underrated. “Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man deserves redemption”.

…That is not to say Garfield’s Spider-Man never had believers. There are plenty of younger fans who were children when he was sticking to walls on the screen between 2012 and 2014 and who identify him as their Spider-Man. For many, however, Garfield’s Peter Parker was the Spider-Man that couldn’t. A Spider-Man who couldn’t beat the worldwide box office of his predecessor, Tobey Maguire. A Spider-Man who couldn’t make it to trilogy status. And worst of all, a Sony Spider-Man that couldn’t swing on his webs alongside the Avengers over at Marvel Studios because of legalities.

But our spidey-senses failed us. Now we know we were wrong about Garfield….

(11) A PREVIOUS PIXEL. Pat Cadigan is always supplying her Facebook readers with essential facts.

Robert Heinlein told me that one winter day, he and his wife were watching one of their cats go from door to door in their house. The cat would look at each door curiously, meow, and then move on to another door.

Heinlein said to his wife, “I wonder what he’s looking for.”

Virginia Heinlein replied, “He’s looking for the door into summer.”

Heinlein said, “Don’t say another word!”

He ran to his typewriter and finished a first draft of the novel within ten days.

Just because I know you couldn’t go a moment longer without knowing this. You’re welcome.

(12) LOOKALIKE COLLECTIBLE. Space Command showrunner Marc Scott Zicree tells “How I Saved Myself $300,000!” Before Marc gets to the main event he talks about some other Star Trek items.

…Then this could easily be an illustration from that but, no, this is an officially licensed product — the Star Trek Coloring Book. Spock has the wrong color uniforms so he’s a red shirt, so he should probably  get killed in this coloring book…

(13) SOLAR BUBBLE. Been having a “lonely, empty feeling” lately? “The Solar System Exists Inside a Giant, Mysterious Void, And We Finally Know Why”ScienceAlert has the story.

The Solar System floats in the middle of a peculiarly empty region of space.

This region of low-density, high-temperature plasma, about 1,000 light-years across, is surrounded by a shell of cooler, denser neutral gas and dust. It’s called the Local Bubble, and precisely how and why it came to exist, with the Solar System floating in the middle, has been a challenge to explain.

A team of astronomers led by the Harvard & Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) has now mapped the Local Bubble with the highest precision yet – and found that the Local Bubble was likely carved out of the interstellar medium by a series of supernova explosions millions of years ago.

(14) DEATH WILL NOT RELEASE YOU. Netflix previews a Korean series about zombies taking over a high school. “All of Us Are Dead”.  Gore warning.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Chris Barkley, Daniel Dern, 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 Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 1/8/22 All My Files Are Packed, I’m Ready To Scroll

(1) SOLDIERING ON THROUGH COVID. ConFusion chair Lithie Dubois has written one of the strongest chair communications I have ever read explaining why the Michigan convention is going ahead. “The State of ConFusion – a Transparent Update from the Conchair”.

My name is Lithie Dubois, and I am the 2022 Conchair. I want to update our community and be as transparent as possible with you. This may be long, but if you are a community member, you will want to read this….

First – are we still holding an in-person event? Absolutely. On January 20, 2022 – myself and my team will begin the task of packing in ConFusion gear to the Sheraton Detroit Novi, and setting up.  

The entire ConCom is deeply aware of the current state of this pandemic, and the Omicron Wave. We understand our community’s concerns, and even their disbelief in the fact that we’re holding an in-person ConFusion. We share in the community’s concerns and fears, as well as their hopes.

Truth is, we have a contract with our hotel. That contract does have what is called an Impossibility Clause. The short explanation of that is as follows; Should the government, be it Federal, State or Local impose orders or regulations which would prohibit us, or the Sheraton from being able to have, or provide what is needed for the event – then we’d be released from the contract with no penalties.  Unfortunately, as of today (Jan 7th, 2022) no such regulations or orders are in place at any level. Thus the Impossibility Clause does not apply. 

…Could we cancel the event outright? Legally, yes. Financially – absolutely not. Make no mistake, ConFusion Community – this con and community does not have $80k, – $90k dollars to pay out the entire contract.

Dubois’ message covers in detail their steps to maximize Covid safety, with changes in program, the con suite, etc.

…As a person who has been involved for many many years running not only fan events, but corporate ones, I can say that I have never had to push my team so hard, so fast, and ask for so many pivots than I have had to do this year. There are countless members of my ConCom that have put in hours of work, while always knowing that they themselves can not attend Rising ConFusion. These individuals helped carry the weight and stress of trying our best to do this the safest way we can, while knowing they’d not even be present to reap the benefits. Then there are those members of the Concom who are able to attend, and have also put in countless hours and brain cells to their departments needs. They’re all STILL working at breakneck speeds.  They are each amazing. While the community may not have witnessed all they have faced, I have.  Truly our community is blessed because of these individuals. Truly.

She also hopes members of the community will help prop up their finances, and suggests two ways to do so:

1) You could purchase a membership – and then not attend. This option will not provide you anything other then the knowledge that you did your best to ensure ConFusion lives on, by supporting the con with your membership. To be clear, we will not be rolling over memberships. If you elect to pre-register a membership and then not attend, that membership will not roll over to 2023, and expires at the end of the 2022 con. 

2) You can directly donate to our cost via our Paypal Donation Link…. 

(2) GIVE READERS WHAT THEY DON’T KNOW THEY WANTED. Clarkesworld hosts “Working Towards Legacy: A Conversation with Ann & Jeff VanderMeer by Arley Sorg” in the January issue.

Ann VanderMeer: …Jeff and I have different skills and talents so that helps make these collaborations work well. He is so good with the bigger picture and the overall concepts; and his instincts are spot-on most of the time. I am a detail-oriented person, so I deal with a lot of the nitty gritty, such as the permissions process (not the most fun, but necessary).

We also made a determination early on that each of us gets one veto (to drop a story) and one selection that cannot be vetoed. Luckily, we hardly ever have to use the veto in either scenario, as we generally agree on all selections before finalizing the table of contents. The bottom line is we have a great deal of respect for one another. This is a key component to our work together….

(3) SLUSH ANALYSIS. Editor Neil Clarke has updated the “Clarkesworld Submissions Funnel 2017-2021”, which breaks down by genre stories submitted and the acceptance rates in each category. Clarke advises against taking it all too much to heart for several reasons, beginning with: “Acceptance rates are fundamentally misleading. They suppose that all stories are equal in quality and we all know that isn’t true.”

…Over the last five years, the percentage of submissions reaching the second round has dropped significantly and the conversion from second round to acceptance has grown from 8% to nearly 35%. These changes are the likely result of our work with the slush team and how we recruit, monitor, and provide feedback to them….

(4) SPRING IS COMING. SF² Concatenation has just tweeted its second advance post ahead of its full spring edition. It’s an article comparing the novel Dune with both its cinematic adaptations.

Frank Herbert himself liked the film script, stating in Starlog in January 1983 that “Believe me, it is good, about two hours, 10 minutes, maybe.”.

The critics were less kind. Critic Roger Ebert’s comment is fairly typical of most. He said, “This movie is a real mess, an incomprehensible, ugly, unstructured, pointless excursion into the murkier realms of one of the most confusing screenplays of all time.”

SF² Concatenation’s full spring edition is slated for mid-month.

(5) HOLMES. Collector Glen S. Miranker will share his passion for Holmes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in Sherlock Holmes in 221 Objects, an exhibit at the Grolier Club in New York from January 12-April 16.

Highlights include leaves from The Hound of the Baskervilles; four short story manuscripts; original artwork by the British and American illustrators who created Sherlock’s iconic look for readers; a wealth of holograph letters from Arthur Conan Doyle to friends, colleagues, and well-wishers; a fascinating cache of pirated editions; the only known salesman’s dummy for the US Hound; an “idea book” of Conan Doyle’s private musings in which he (in)famously penned “Killed Holmes” on his calendar for December 1893; and a handwritten speech—never before displayed—with the author’s explanation for killing Holmes:

“I have been much blamed for doing that gentleman to death but I hold that it was not murder but justifiable homicide in self defence [sic] since if I had not killed him he would certainly have killed me.”

The New York Times helps build anticipation for the exhibit in “A Sherlock Holmes Mystery at the Grolier Club”.

This has the makings of a detective story with hints of history: Why did Sir Arthur Conan Doyle sign a pirate edition of “The Sign of the Four,” the second of the four Sherlock Holmes novels? Conan Doyle hated pirate editions. He was as famous for denouncing pirate publishers as they were infamous for grinding out cheap editions — and not paying royalties to authors like him.

Consider the plot possibilities here. Did someone force Conan Doyle to write words above his name that he could not have meant — “Yours cordially”?

Sherlock Holmes and Watson are not available to tackle this one, but Glen S. Miranker is on the case. He acquired the evidence years ago….

(6) RETURN TO THE ROCK. Fraggle Rock has been revived and is going to be on Apple TV+ starting January 21.

(7) TOLKIEN SOCIETY ADDS TO ARCHIVE. The Tolkien Society has purchased a historic collection of Tolkien photos taken by Pamela Chandler in 1961 and 1966.

In 1961, Pamela Chandler was commissioned to take portraits of Professor Tolkien. The formal black and white portraits were taken in his study at 76 Sandfield Road, Oxford.

At that time she also took informal photographs of the Professor and his wife, Edith, in the garden.

In 1966, when visiting the Tolkiens, she took a further series of less formal colour photographs of them both, in the study and in the garden.

…The 64 original negatives (which includes the copyright) were bought by the Tolkien Society at auction earlier this month for £18,000 (auction listing here), and the Society anticipates generating a modest income from these into the future. The Society also purchased at the same event lot 1470, two hand-written letters by Edith Tolkien, and lot 1465, a letter from J.R.R. Tolkien to Pamela Chandler.

The Society anticipates making these photos available to the Tolkien community for research and academic purposes, as well as generating a modest income from photo libraries and similar agreements. The Society shall be including more information about the photographs, as well as Pamela Chandler, on the website in due course. Until then you can support the Society by purchasing a postcard collection of 8 photographs, or by making a donation to the Society.

(8) JANE HAWKINS (1951-2022). Seattle fan Jane Hawkins died January 7, the day after explaining on Facebook why she was going through Washington State’s Death With Dignity procedures to end her own life. Hawkins had survived multiple cancers, but the latest recurrence came with a terminal diagnosis, and last November she stopped treatment and entered hospice care. “I have gotten to the point where enough drugs to quell pain pretty much renders me unconscious. I can’t focus on a book, a few minutes conversation wears me out completely, and snuggling with my lovely cat is just barely pleasant. Bluntly put, I just don’t want to be doing this anymore.”

Hawkins was a member of Seattle’s Vanguard fan group and hosted its monthly meetings for years. She was a founder of Norwescon, co-chaired three Potlatch conventions, and worked on many other cons including WisCon, Corflu, and Noreascon 3. She wrote one novel, Quantum Gate (1996), and was part of the Pacific Northwest Review of Books 

Jeanne Gomoll has written a deep-felt and insightful tribute to her friend Jane here on Facebook.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1989 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Thirty-three years ago, Agatha Christie’s Poirot starring David Suchet as Hercule Poirot, the Belgian Detective, the most famous creation of that author, premiered on ITV.  

Over the thirteen series and seventy episodes which ranged in length between fifty and a hundred minutes, some ten production companies would be involved in creating what we saw. Each episode was indeed adapted from original material by Christie. 

David Suchet is the only actor to appear in the entire series though Hugh Fraser as Captain Arthur Hastings and Philip Jackson as Chief Inspector James Japp appeared in the first eight series. Pauline Moran as Miss Felicity Lemon appeared in most of the first eight series. Their absence reflects the stories of the latter series. 

Reception for the series was excellent starting with the family who recommended Suchet for the part.  Christie’s grandson Mathew Prichard commented: “Personally, I regret very much that she never saw David Suchet.” It even won an Edgar Award for Best Episode in a TV Series for “The Lost Mine”. It holds a near perfect ninety-nine percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 8, 1908 William Hartnell. The very first Doctor when Doctor Who first aired on November 23rd, 1963. He would be the Doctor for three years, leaving when a new Showrunner came on. He played The Doctor once more during the tenth anniversary story The Three Doctors (aired 1972–73) which was the last thing he filmed before his death. I scanned through the usual sources but didn’t find any other genre listings for him. Is that correct? (Died 1975.)
  • Born January 8, 1941 Boris Vallejo, 81. Illustrator whose artwork has appeared on myriad genre publications. Subjects of his paintings were gods, hideous monsters, well-muscled male swordsmen and scantily clad females. Early depictions of Tarzan, Conan the Barbarian, and Doc Savage established him as an illustrator.
  • Born January 8, 1942 Stephen Hawking. Y’all know who he is, but did you know that Nimoy was responsible for his appearance as a holographic representation of himself in the “Descent” episode of Next Gen?  He also guest starred in Futuruma and had a recurring role on The Big Bang Theory. Just before his death, he was the voice of The Book on the new version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio series. (Died 2018.)
  • Born January 8, 1947 David Bowie. First SF role was as Thomas Jerome Newton in The Man Who Fell to Earth. He next shows up in The Hunger which is well worth seeing. He plays The Shark in Yellowbeard, a film that Monty Python could have produced but didn’t. Next up is the superb Labyrinth where he was Jareth the Goblin King, a role perfect for him. From that role, he went on to being Pontius Pilate in The Last Temptation of Christ, an amazing role by the way. He was in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me as FBI AgentPhillip Jeffries which was his last role. He also played Nikola Tesla in The Prestige from Christopher Priest’s novel. Ok, what am I leaving y’all to mention?
  • Born January 8, 1956 Jack Womack, 66. Ok I was trying to remember what I’d read by him. I realized it was his excellent Ambient novel when it first came out and that I hadn’t kept up with his later writings. So what do y’all think of his later novels? I know, he stopped witting essentially a generation ago except for his Flying Saucers Are Real! non-fiction release. Non-fiction? Really? Truly?  I was surprised the he’d won but one Award and that was the Philip K. Dick Award for his Elvissey novel. 
  • Born January 8, 1958 Lou Aronica, 64. Editor and publisher, primarily of science fiction. As a publisher he began at Bantam Books and formed their Bantam Spectra line. Later he moved on to Avon and assisted in the creation of their Avon-Eos line. He co-edited the Full Spectrum anthologies with Shawna McCarthy which won a World Fantasy Award once. He wrote three genre novels.
  • Born January 8, 1965 Michelle Forbes, 57. Best remembered as  Ensign Ro Laren in Star Trek: The Next Generation, she also showed up in the Battlestar Galactica: Razor film as Admiral Helena Cain, and the most excellent pilot of Warren Ellis scripted Global Frequency as Miranda Zero. She played Maryann Forrester on True Blood as well. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) GET YOUR KICKS FROM 1966. “Batman rewatch: We will never see anything like Adam West’s Batman again, alas” mourns Yahoo!

…By the time Adam West published his memoir in 1994, it was conventional to think of him as a bad actor and his Batman as a travesty. Dark Knights on page and screen were moping through BDSM role-play, getting spine-crunched by philosophical ‘roidheads, and carving steel cleats across Superman’s chin. West’s version looked like a toothless punchline in reruns. Which was, of course, the point. “We were farce,” West explains in Back to the Batcave (co-written by Jeff Rovin). “We were a lampoon.” The book reads defensive. Critics were wrong to call his series “camp.” Comic book fans were wrong to say his silliness ruined the character. The creators of the TV show were wrong not to pay him more money. The mega-grossing 1989 film Batman was wrong, because Michael Keaton‘s moody hero was “psychotic,” “addle-headed,” “shallow,” and “unpleasant.” (West wishes the film had starred West.)

No one reading Back to the Batcave had seen Lookwell, the astounding pilot West filmed a few years earlier. He plays a struggling actor semi-famous for a long-gone, three-season TV show: Hmmm. Former fake TV cop Ty Lookwell tries to solve actual crimes, and still chases hot-young-dude casting calls. He should be adrift in the wrong era, a turtlenecked Gloria Swanson washed up on grunge beach — but his baritone assurance warps the world around him. The script came from two young whoevers, Conan O’Brien and Robert Smigel, and they realized West’s stentorian I-Am-So-Normal manners had gotten weirder (and funnier) with age….

(13) SIMULATE KINDNESS. The December 19 New York Times Magazine has an interview with New York University philosopher David J. Chalmers about what life would be like if we were living in a simulated work like The Matrix. “Can We Have a Meaningful Life in a Virtual World?”. [May be paywalled.]

“You can try to think of our own physical universe as being a digital universe with bits at the bottom.  That’s not pathological:  that’s just a way for the world to be.  I want to normalize this idea of simulations; I quite like the recent movie Free Guy where the guy discovers he’s a character in a video game, and instead of totally freaking out— –None of this is real!– –he starts a movement.  It’s like, OK, we’re real people, too, and our lives matter and our world matters. That’s thinking of the simulated world not as dystopia but as a place where people can live meaningful lives.”

(14) HARD TRUTH. Try to control your disappointment (yeah, right) – Yahoo! covers the big non-discovery: “Moon Cube Mystery: Chinese Rover Finds It’s Just a Rock”.

…Last November, China’s Yutu-2 lunar rover spotted something curious on the far side of the moon. The image was blurry, but it was unmistakable: The object looked like a cube sitting on the moon’s surface. Its shape looked too precise to be just a moon rock — perhaps something left by visiting aliens like the monolith in Arthur C. Clarke’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

China’s space authorities called it the “mystery hut.” Others called it the “moon cube.” Yutu-2 was sent for a closer look, and at the leisurely speed the rover is capable of traveling, it took weeks to get up close.

On Friday, Our Space, a Chinese language science channel affiliated with China National Space Administration, posted an update. There is no monolith, no secret base on the rim of a lunar crater. Close up, it turns out to be just a rock. The seemingly perfect geometric shape was just a trick of angle, light and shadow….

(15) BIRDSTRIKE. [Item by Michael Toman.] I thought you (and Other Filers’n’Friends in the Lone Star State?) would be interested in this story I found on MSN: “Texas Walmart Overrun by Thousands of Birds Branded Sign of ‘Apocalypse’”.

…Shoppers were seemingly trapped in their cars—and presumably the store—when the flock descended onto the supermarket’s parking lot, off highway 80 in Mesquite.

One man, named Denis Mehic, filmed the “terrifying” spectacle from his car, where he sat with his children as birds swarmed the vehicle, with droppings landing on the windshield….

Will DisneyNature be streaming this “True Life Adventure” soon?

P.S. And here’s a Shout-Out dedicated to ol’ Winston Hibler!

“Now there’s something you don’t see in the sky every day, Woodrow!”

Now what, Gus?”

“Yonder, over there, past those railroad tracks…”

From Larry McMurtry’s uncut first draft of Lonesome Dove?

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Matthias Pilhede hates wizards especially if they have all-seeing orbs!

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

Pixel Scroll 4/24/21 The Fantastic Voyage Of Space Force Beagle One To The Non-Fungi Bottom Of The Fabulous Mushroom Planet Of The Apes Of Wrath, And Back Again

(1) ERRING EYE. Catherine Lacey’s short story “Congratulations on Your Loss” is the latest from Future Tense Fiction, a monthly series of short stories from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination.

…Inside was a large photograph printed on thin paper, an image filling the whole sheet. The photograph—a grainy shot of a woman jaywalking across a street with a large blue purse tucked under one arm—had been taken from a high angle. On the left edge of the photograph a white car was visible, headed directly toward the woman, and on the right side a bit of a pedestrian walkway could be seen. A citation was printed on the back—this woman, it explained, was Enid, and Enid had illegally crossed Z Street last Thursday at 3:34 in the afternoon. The fine was enough to buy a week of modest groceries….

It comes with a response essay by human rights lawyer Nani Jansen Reventlow: “There’s no such thing as flawless facial recognition technology”.

A few years ago, I attended a meeting for litigators at a digital rights conference. When entering the room, I saw many familiar faces, and a few that were unfamiliar. When I introduced myself to one of the women I had never seen before, a white woman, she reacted in a most offended manner. “Yes, we met this morning at your office,” she snapped at me. Given that I had been nowhere near my office that morning, I was quite sure she was mistaken. In the course of this awkward exchange, it dawned on me that she was confusing me with my boss: also a woman of color, but in no way resembling me otherwise. “Ah, yes, we all look alike,” I sighed, rolling my eyes, and moved on….

(2) HOBBIT READING WITH MANY SFF AUTHORS. The Rutgers Writers House presents “The Hobbit: A Rutgers Day Round Robin Reading (Part 2)” a video on Facebook:  

Tolkien lived through a lot. His own global pandemic, two world wars (which included, of course, the bloody Battle of Somme), the Great Depression, the death of both parents by age twelve. Despite being disillusioned (like most of his generation), his stories are incredibly illusioned. And we need them now. These stories of adventure, of vigilance, of hardship and humor and hope. Here, then, is the next virtual installment of our continuing round robin reading of Tolkien’s The Hobbit (Chp 2 & 3). With over a hundred readers. Featuring a robust roster of RU students/alumni and faculty/staff, as well as two dozen authors, including Lev Grossman, Eoin Colfer, Stephen Graham Jones, Ellen Kushner, Joe Abercrombie, Karen Russell, Catherynne Valente, and Brian Selznick. Plus, Jeff VanderMeer, inexplicably dressed like a giant, blue caterpillar and Darcie Little Badger flipping and fanning a butterfly knife (which I suppose makes a strange sort of sequential sense). Lots of armor, too (both mail and plate). And plenty of hoods, torches, and swords. All in just an hour….

(3) LISTEN IN. “BBC World Service announces new original podcast, The Lazarus Heist”Exchange4Media has the highlights:

The BBC World Service has announced its major new original podcast, The Lazarus Heist. It tells the true story of an attempted $1 billion hack, which investigators say was carried out by a secretive ring of elite North Korean hackers. 

The Lazarus Heist is presented by cybercrime investigative journalist Geoff White and Pulitzer-nominated veteran foreign correspondent and world renowned North Korea expert, Jean Lee. Geoff has been investigating the underworld of digital crime for years, while Jean has extensive experience of reporting from inside North Korea. 

This major new release will initially run for 10 episodes, released weekly.

The first episode is at BBC Sounds: “The Lazarus Heist – 1. Hacking Hollywood”.

A movie, Kim Jong-un and a devastating cyber attack. The story of the Sony hack. How the Lazarus Group hackers caused mayhem in Hollywood and for Sony Pictures Entertainment.
And this is just the beginning…

(4) CHIPPING OFF EVERYTHING THAT ISN’T THE SOLUTION. In “The Creative Sherlock Holmes: Appreciating the Rational Thinker’s Hidden Artistry” at CrimeReads, Bonnie MacBird says that Sherlock Holmes was also an artist as well as a cool, rational thinker, and we need to understand his artistic side if we are to appreciate his abilities.

…Of course Holmes is every bit as much as artist as he is a scientist.

But artists create. What, exactly does Holmes create? You won’t find daubs of cerulean blue paint on his frock coat. “Data, data, data! I cannot make bricks without clay!” says he.

His art material is this data, this clay—the details, the facts of the case which he has observed or ferreted out. But only Holmes creates these bricks which build up the solution. He creates a mental model of “what happened, who did it, how, and why?”…

(5) ABOUT BRADBURY. The American Writers Museum hosts “Sam Weller: Telling Bradbury’s Story” on April 27 at 6:00 p.m. Central. Register for the free program here.

Ray Bradbury’s authorized biographer Sam Weller discusses the life and legacy of the iconic American writer. In conversation with American Writers Museum President Carey Cranston, Weller will speak on Bradbury’s writing, his worldwide impact, and his enduring relevance in American literature today. This program will be hosted on Zoom. 

(6) BEAR’S WRITER SURVIVAL TIPS. Elseweb on April 27, Anglia Ruskin University hosts Elizabeth Bear in another free online event: “AHSS Presents – a conversation with: Elizabeth Bear ‘How to Survive a Literary Life’”. Begins at 9:30 a.m. Pacific.

There’s a lot of information out there on how to perfect your work and seek publication. There’s not as much about how to deal with the stresses of writing for a living—inconsistent income streams, uncertainty, arbitrariness of the market, mental health issues, public exposure, professional jealousy, exploitative contracts, and more.  

Elizabeth Bear

(7) FORMERLY FAMOUS. Jeff Foust reviews a new documentary about Gerard K. O’Neill, “The High Frontier”, for The Space Review.

…O’Neill is largely forgotten, even among many who work in the space industry in some way today. But at the peak of interest in space colonies in the 1970s, O’Neill was, at least briefly, in the cultural mainstream, appearing on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson and profiled on “60 Minutes.” The prospect of giant cities in space, built of out lunar materials that could also support development of space solar power facilities, seemed at least in the realm of the possible at the time.

The new documentary The High Frontier: The Untold Story of Gerard K. O’Neill attempts to rekindle that interest while reexamining the life of O’Neill. The 90-minute film had its premiere Saturday night on the Space Channel online, and is now available to rent or buy on various services, including iTunes and Google Play.

The movie extensively uses archival footage, including those “The Tonight Show” and “60 Minutes” appearances, as well as another show where O’Neill appeared alongside Isaac Asimov. That footage is combined with interviews with his family, colleagues, and others who knew or were inspired by him. It’s a who’s-who of the space advocacy community, with people such as Rick Tumlinson, Peter Diamandis, and Lori Garver, as well as pioneers in the commercial space industry like Charles Chafer and Jeffrey Manber. (Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk also appear in the film, but in footage from speeches they gave rather than interviews with the filmmakers.)…

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 24, 1955 — The X Minus One radio program aired on NBC for the first time. Written by Ray Bradbury, “And The Moon Be Still As Bright” is the tale of Mars expedition which finds the Martians extinct due to chickenpox brought to them by previous expeditions. The crew save one decide to destroy all Martian artefacts. Ernest Kinoy wrote the script from the story by Bradbury, and the cast included John Larkin and Nelson Olmstead.  The show would run from now until January 8, 1958 with many of coming from well-known SF authors including Anderson, Pohl, Asimov, Blish, Leiber, Heinlein and Simak to name just a few. You can hear this episode here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 24, 1900 – Elizabeth Goudge, F.R.S.L.  A score of novels, thirty shorter stories; here is The Little White Horse.  Nonfiction e.g. a Life of St. Francis.  Carnegie Medal.  Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.  Memoir The Joy of the Snow.  (Died 1984) [JH]
  • Born April 24, 1911 – Evaline Ness.  Half a dozen covers, many interiors for us; much else.  Here is The Book of Three.  Here is Coll and His White Pig.  Here is Taran Wanderer.  Here is an interior for Sam, Bangs & Moonshine.  Caldecott Medal.  Society of Illustrators Original Art Lifetime Achievement Award.  See this Univ. Minnesota note.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born April 24, 1930 Richard Donner, 91. He’s credited in directing Superman which is considered by many to be the first modern superhero film. H’h. Well I’m instead going to celebrate him instead for ScroogedThe Goonies and Ladyhawke. Not to mention the horror he did — Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight and Bordello of Blood. Oh, and the first X-Men film which was superb.  (CE) 
  • Born April 24, 1936 Jill Ireland. For her short life, she showed up in an amazing number of genre shows. She was on Star Trek romancing Spock as Leila Kalomi In “This Side of Paradise” episode. She had five appearances on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well as being on Night Gallery, My Favorite MartianVoyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Voodoo Factor and the SF film The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything based on the 1962 novel of the same name by John D. MacDonald. (Died 1990.) (CE) 
  • Born April 24, 1946 Don D’Ammassa, 75. Considered to be one of the best and fairest long-form reviewers ever. His Encyclopedia of Science Fiction covers some five hundred writers and his two newer volumes, Encyclopedia of Fantasy and Horror Fiction and Encyclopedia of Adventure Fiction are equally exhaustive. I can’t comment on his fiction as I’ve only ever encountered him as a reviewer. It appears the only novel of his available from the usual suspects is THE 39 ADEPTS: A Wanda Coyne novel. (CE) 
  • Born April 24, 1950 Michael Patrick Hearn, 71. Academic who has some of the best annotated works I’ve had the pleasure to encounter. I wholeheartedly recommend both The Annotated Wizard of Oz and The Annotated Christmas Carol, not to overlook Victorian Fairy Tales which is simply the best collection of those tales. (CE) 
  • Born April 24, 1953 – Larry Carmody, age 68.  Fanzines Eternity Road and (with Stu Shiffman) Raffles.  Chaired Lunacon ’84.  [JH]
  • Born April 24, 1955 – Wendy Delmater, age 66.  Eight short stories, four poems for us; editor, Abyss & Apex.  Otherwise e.g. Confessions of a Female Safety Engineer.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born April 24, 1973 – Judy Budnitz, age 48.  One novel, three shorter stories for us; maybe we should count others, see this note in Harvard Magazine.  “Magical or horrific or impossible things might happen in my stories, but the characters are always guided by the same human emotions that we all share.”  Two collections.  Jaffee Foundation Award, Wallant Award.  [JH]
  • Born April 24, 1974 – Leigh Fallon, age 47.  Four novels, one shorter story.  After a career in corporation treasury, traveling to eight countries, decided to write; now, with husband and four children, only travels between U.S. and Ireland.  So much for escapism.  [JH]
  • Born April 24, 1983 Madeline Ashby, 38. California-born Canadian resident writer whose Company Town novel created an entire city in an oil rig. Interestingly In 2013, she was a finalist for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer but recused herself on the grounds that her pro career started with her ‘09 publication of a short story in Nature, so her two-year eligibility period had already expired. And  her Machine Dynasties series is simply brilliant with resonances of the Murderbot series on it. (CE) 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark covers a kaiju fashion dispute.
  • And Frankenstein strives for sartorial splendor at Bizarro.

(11) BARBARELLA. Bleeding Cool reports “Sarah A. Hoyt Writes Barbarella #1 For Dynamite July 2021 Solicits”. Believe me, I’m not going to start reporting every time a Puppy writes a comic, however, I wasn’t previously aware Hoyt was working in the field. So, news to me!

Sci-fi and fantasy novelist Sarah A. Hoyt, author of Uncharted, Darkship Thieves, and many more, is writing a new Barbarella series from Dynamite, based on the classic comic books, novels and movie, with new artist Madibek Musabekov, coming out in July.

(12) PURCHASING MATERIALS VS. SERVICES. “Libraries Can Use ARPA Funds on E-books, but Change May Be Needed”Publishers Weekly analyzes the issue.

Federal and state library officials have confirmed that funds allocated under the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARPA) can be used to purchase digital content. But in guidance issued this week, leading vendor OverDrive clarified that the current licensing terms used by some publishers may have to be amended for libraries to license titles using those funds.

In a notice that went out to library customers on April 20, following conversations with IMLS officials, state librarians, and publishers, OverDrive explained that while IMLS has advised that licensing digital content is an acceptable use of ARPA funding, the agency also concluded that “metered” e-book access (licenses that apply lend or time limits on circulation) may be categorized as a “service” rather than as a “materials” purchase. And because ARPA funds must be used within a 16-month window (from June 1, 2021 through September 30, 2022), some of the lend-limited or time-limited licenses currently offered by publishers may not fully qualify under ARPA if the license term extends beyond the September 30, 2022 deadline for using ARPA funds….

(13) CRIME AND PUNISHMENT. Yahoo! News says that “An Oklahoma woman was charged with felony embezzlement for not returning a ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’ VHS tape more than 20 years ago”. But the charge has now been dismissed.

…Caron McBride reportedly rented the “Sabrina The Teenage Witch” tape at a now closed store in Norman, Oklahoma in 1999, according to KOKH-TV. She was charged a year later, in March 2000, after it was not returned, KOKH-TV reported citing documents. 

McBride was notified about the charge by the Cleveland County District Attorney’s Office when she was attempting to change the name of her license after she got married, the news station reported. 

“She told me it was over the VHS tape and I had to make her repeat it because I thought, this is insane. This girl is kidding me, right? She wasn’t kidding,” McBride told KOKH-TV, adding that she does not recall renting the video. 

“I had lived with a young man, this was over 20 years ago. He had two kids, daughters that were 8, 10, or 11 years old, and I’m thinking he went and got it and didn’t take it back or something. I have never watched that show in my entire life, just not my cup of tea. Meanwhile, I’m a wanted felon for a VHS tape,” McBride told the news station.

The district attorney’s office has dismissed the charges.

McBride also recalled randomly getting let go from a few jobs, and now she understands why.

“This is why… because when they ran my criminal background check, all they’re seeing is those two words: felony embezzlement,” McBride told KOKH-TV. 

(14) NOT QUITE A PAIL OF AIR. Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait tells how“NASA’s MOXIE made oxygen on Mars” for SYFY Wire readers,

Well, isn’t this a breath of fresh air: An experiment on board the Mars Perseverance rover designed to produce breathable oxygen from carbon dioxide has been switched on and is working! On April 20 it produced 5 grams of oxygen — not a huge amount, but it’s designed to make as much as 10 grams per hour, and this is the very first time oxygen has been converted from native air on another planet.

The device is called MOXIE — the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment — and it’s small (like everything sent to Mars, size and mass are at a premium)….

(15) THE TERRIBLY WRONG OF SPRING. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Rite of Teletubbies” on YouTube, Martim Gueller fuses the Teletubbies with “The Rite of Spring”! (This will really get your weekend started right!)

(16) PULP HISTORY. On the 1950s British Science Fiction YouTube channel, lifelong fan Philip Harbottle talks about his introduction to sff in the 1950s, and show some rare vintage books from his collection. Episode 20 covers the Tit-Bits Science Fiction Library.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel “A Man, A Plan, A Pleonasm” Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 4/8/21 Illinois Pixels! I Hate Illinois Pixels.

(1) AMAZING STORIES ON HIATUS. Steve Davidson’s Amazing Stories issued a press release announcing that “A major licensing agreement using the Amazing Stories name has been terminated owing to non-payment.” As a result, the magazine won’t be coming out. (The website will remain active.)

… Due to the failure to pay and due to the many other costs directly related to this contract, Experimenter Publisher is currently no longer able to maintain the publishing schedule of Amazing Stories magazine, and that publication has been placed in hiatus pending the resolution of these issues…

The licensee is not named, although curiously the press release criticizes another company, Disney, by name. (Disney isn’t the licensee. And you don’t need to tell me in comments who you think it is – I know who it is. The point is this press release announces litigation yet refuses to speak the target’s name out loud.)  

The Amazing Stories’ Patreon page is slightly more forthcoming than the press release.

We licensed a major corporation several years ago and factored licensing fees into our budget.  Unfortunately, those fees have not been received, which places us behind the 8-ball.

Our licensee has been formally notified of numerous breeches of our contract and our intention to terminate that contract.  Service was sent to the contractually designated addresses and we have received no response, not even an acknowledgement of our notice to them.

This strongly suggests that they are planning on waiting to see what we are going to do and then will use their enormous budget and other assets to continue to ignore the fact that they no longer have the rights to use the name, or, perhaps even more problematic, sue us in order to remove us from the picture.

We can not afford to defend ourselves from such an unjustified action at this point in time.  Further, the current state of limbo discourages any other studio from working with the property, preventing us from developing other potential revenue sources.

Perhaps “encouraging” us to go away was the plan all along – but given the lack of communication, we doubt we’ll ever know the real reasons behind why they have chosen not to honor their contractual obligations.

What we DO know is, fighting this fight has put us in a deep hole and if the licensee decides to fight (likely), we’ll be in an even deeper hole.

We need your help to keep this dream alive.

(2) VANDERMEER’S LATEST. Paul Di Filippo reviews “’Hummingbird Salamander,’ by Jeff VanderMeer for the Washington Post.

… Now from this daring and ever-shifting author comes “Hummingbird Salamander,” a volume more naturalistic, more like a traditional thriller than its predecessors, but one that also features hooks into the literary novel of paranoid conspiracy, a genre best exemplified by Thomas Pynchon’s “The Crying of Lot 49.” In fact, our doughty and frankly terrifying heroine, “Jane Smith,” might be the Oedipa Maas the 21st century needs.

(3) THAT DIDN’T TAKE LONG. Joel Hodgson is running a Kickstarter — “Let’s Make More MST3K & Build THE GIZMOPLEX!” Did people think that was a good idea? Yes! In the first 24 hours they’ve raised $2,162,492 of their $2,000,000 goal. The reasons for returning to crowdfunding the series include —

In the not-too-distant past – about 6 years ago, November 2015 AD – we ran a Kickstarter to BRING BACK MST3K after 15 years in hibernation.

It was a little bit stressful, and a lot of work, but I’ve gotta tell you… the whole experience went better than we had ever hoped:

  • Thanks to you, our campaign broke a bunch of Kickstarter records.
  • Over 48,000 of you took up the cause… and together, we raised over $6 million.
  • With your help, we got picked up on Netflix and made 20 new episodes!

And you know, you can’t ever please everybody, but it seems like most of you were pretty happy with ’em…. and the critics were too: 

Also, having those new episodes on Netflix, along with a lot of our “classic” episodes, helped a lot of folks discover Mystery Science Theater for the first time. So, if you weren’t there to help #BringBackMST3K… Welcome! We’re glad you’re here to help  #MakeMoreMST3K.

Anyway: as you know, nothing good lasts forever.  Sometime in late 2019, during our third live tour, we got word: even though Netflix liked how our new episodes came out, they wouldn’t be renewing us for a third new season….

2. It’s time to try something new.

  • If enough of you want more MST3K, maybe we don’t need anyone to renew us.
  • From now on, we want you to decide how long MST3K keeps going.
  • We don’t need a network to “let us” make more MST3K. We can make it for you. 
  • When we do, you should be the first ones to see it.

(4) A LAND OF MARVELS. “Avengers Campus at Disneyland Resort Set to Open and Recruit Super Heroes June 4”Disney Parks Blog has a preview.

Super Heroes Assemble! As we’ve all been anticipating, I’m pleased to share that Avengers Campus – an entirely new land dedicated to discovering, recruiting and training the next generation of Super Heroes – will open June 4, 2021 at the Disneyland Resort!

…The first key area is the Worldwide Engineering Brigade – also known as WEB. It brings together bright innovators like Peter Parker who have been assembled by Tony Stark to invent new technologies and equip everyday people to become Super Heroes like the Avengers. WEB will house the new WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure, the first Disney ride-through attraction to feature the iconic friendly neighborhood Spider-Man!

We previously shared that Tom Holland will reprise his role as Spider-Man in the new family-friendly attraction, which invites you to put your web-slinging skills to the test and experience what it’s like to have powers alongside Spider-Man – a feat accomplished with innovative technology adapted specifically for this attraction, perfect for up-and-coming recruits of all ages.

The second anchor attraction looms high above the land, Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!, a fan-favorite that opened in 2017….

(5) FEARS FOR WHAT AILS YOU. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In“Scary Times Call for Scary Reads” on CrimeReads, Jennifer MacMahon says that scary books are what you should be reading during the pandemic.

Recently, I was talking with a friend who was excited to hear I had a new book coming out soon. “But is it scary?” she asked apprehensively. I told her a little about it: a woman returns to her old family home after her sister drowns in the spring fed pool—oh, and the pool is rumored to be bottomless and her sister believed there was something lurking in the water. So yeah, it’s a little creepy. My friend apologized and said that she just couldn’t read unsettling books because of how unsettling the world is right now. I would argue (and did!) that that is exactly when we need these books the most; they take us to dark places and help us explore our fears from the relative safety of our favorite reading spot…

(6) DON’T ASK. “Yahoo Answers, a Haven for the Confused, Is Shutting Down” reports the New York Times.

At times on Yahoo Answers, the people asking questions of strangers lunged for the hallucinatory limits of human curiosity: What would a heaven for elephants be like? Should scientists give octopi bones?

It helped people identify their sense of self: Why do people with baguettes think they are better than me? Is being popular in high school a good skill I can use in a job interview?

It sought explanations for the unexplainable: Smoke coming from my belly button? Why is everything at my grandma’s house moist?

And it gave air to gaps in knowledge and admissions that perhaps had nowhere else to go: What does a hug feel like?

Yahoo, which is owned by Verizon Media, will be shutting down the question-and-answer service and deleting its archives on May 4, erasing a corner of the internet that will be widely remembered for its — to be charitable — less-than-enriching contributions to human knowledge since its arrival in 2005.

Less charitably, BuzzFeed News this week called it “one of the dumbest places on the internet.” Vulture said it was “populated entirely with Batman villains, aliens pretending to be human, and that one weird neighbor you’d rather climb down your fire escape in a blizzard than get caught in a conversation with.”

There is plenty of evidence for that position. People asked: Can you milk Gushers to make fruit juice? Can I cook raw chicken in the Michael wave? I forgot when my job interview is? What animal is Sonic the hedgehog? IS THIS YAHOO EMAIL SUPPORT?

Most famously, in a question that launched a meme, a confused soul who had learned little about reproductive science or spelling asked: How is babby formed?

It was never known how many of the questions were based in earnest ignorance and curiosity, and how much was intentional trolling. Answering required no expertise, and often displayed little of it.

But the site clearly was seen by some people, including children, as a comfortable space to ask the questions — sometimes important ones — they’d never dare to ask friends, families and teachers….

(7) ZOOMING INTO FANHISTORY. [Item by Joe Siclari.] The Fanac Fan History Project has three more Zoom Programs coming up over the next two months.

April 17, Saturday – 2pm EDT, 11AM PDT, 7PM London –  Early Star Trek Fandom, with Ruth Berman and Devra Langsam.  Stories and anecdotes from Ruth and Devra about their entry into fandom, about the origins of Star Trek fandom, and how they came to publish T-Negative and Spockanallia. For those of us that came into fandom later, here’s a chance to hear how Star Trek was received in general fandom, how Trek fandom got started, who the BNFs were and what they were they like.  How did the first Trek fanzines and Trek conventions affect fandom, and how did Trek fandom grow  and become its own thing. RSVP to [email protected].

April 27, Tuesday – 4pm EDT, 1pm PDT,  9PM London. An Interview with Erle Korshak by Joe Siclari. Erle Korshak is one of our remaining FIrst Fans (inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 1996) and a Guest of Honor at Chicon 8 (2022 Worldcon). Erle was an organizer of the first Chicon,  the 1940 Worldcon, and was one of the Worldcon auctioneers for many years. He started Shasta Publishers, one of the first successful specialty SF publishers.  He was also involved with early SF movies. In this session, fan historian Joe Siclari  will interview Erle and his son Steve about early fandom, early conventions (including Worldcons), Shasta, and both Erle and Steve’s continuing interest in illustration art. Note: this is a midweek session. RSVP to [email protected].

May 22, Saturday – 2pm EDT, 11AM PDT, 7PM London – An Interview with Bjo and John Trimble. Bjo and John Trimble have had an enormous impact on fandom from the 1950s onward. They’ve pubbed their ish, and some of the zines are available on FANAC.org. Bjo created the convention art show as we know it today (pre-pandemic) with Project Art Show, and published PAS-tell to share info with interested fans everywhere. In LASFS,  Bjo had a large role in reviving a flagging LASFS in the late 50s. Her most famous contribution was the successful Save Star Trek campaign which resulted in a 3rd year of the original series. Bjo was one of the organziers of Los Angeles fandom’s film making endeavors.  John is a co-founder of the LASFS clubzine, De Profundis and an editor of Shangri-L’Affaires. Bjo and John were Fan Guests of Honor at ConJose (2002), and were nominated twice for Best Fanzine Hugos. Bjo was nominated for the Best Fan Artist Hugo. In this interview, expect stories and anecdotes of Los Angeles fandom, how the art show came to be, Save Star Trek and much more.  RSVP to [email protected].

(8) SPEAKING OF MATH. Although James Davis Nicoll is aTor.com blogging machine, after he ran the numbers he realized, “I still won’t hit 1000 tor essays until 2032 or 2033….” Whichever number this is, the title is: “Five SF Stories That Embrace the Scientifically Improbable Reactionless Drive”.

… The rocket equation is vexatious for SF authors for a couple of reasons: 1) It’s math. 2) It imposes enormous constraints on the sort of stories the sort of author who cares about math can tell.   Drives that produce thrust without emitting mass are therefore very attractive.  Small surprise that persons with an enthusiasm for space travel and a weakness for crank science leap on each iteration of the reactionless drive as it bubbles up in the zeitgeist.

One such crank was John W. Campbell, Jr., the notorious editor of Astounding/Analog (for whom a dwindling number of awards are named). Because of his position and because authors, forever addicted to luxuries like clothing, food, and shelter, wanted to sell stories to Campbell, Campbell’s love of reactionless drives like the Dean Drive created an environment in which stories featuring such drives could flourish, at Analog and elsewhere….

(9) BONANNO OBIT. Author Margaret Wander Bonanno (1950-2021) has died reports Keith R.A. DeCandido. She wrote seven Star Trek novels, several science fiction novels set in her own worlds, including The Others, a collaborative novel with Nichelle Nichols, a biography, and other works. Her novel Preternatural was a New York Times Notable Book for 1997.[

DeCandido’s tribute “Margaret Wander Bonanno, RIP” says in part:

…We remained friends over the years, and when she came back to writing Trek fiction in the 2000s, I got to work with her a few times: I served as the line editor on her Christopher Pike novel Burning Dreams, I was the continuity editor on her Lost Era novel Catalyst of Sorrows, and best of all, I commissioned her to write the conclusion to the Mere Anarchy eBook series that celebrated Trek‘s 40th anniversary in 2006. Margaret did a superb job with the conclusion of this miniseries, which was entitled Its Hour Come Round, and which included one of my favorite scenes in any work of Trek fiction, a conversation between Raya elMora (one of the recurring characters in Mere Anarchy) and Klingon Chancellor Azetbur (from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • April 8, 1887 Hope Mirrlees. She is best known for the 1926 Lud-in-the-Mist, a fantasy novel apparently beloved by many. (I’m not one of them.) In 1970, an American reprint was published without the author’s permission, as part of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series. (Died 1978.) (CE) 
  • Born April 8, 1907 – Vincent Napoli.  Four covers, two hundred forty interiors for us; WPA (Works Progress Adm’n) muralist, e.g. this.  Here is an interior for “Time and Time Again” – H. Beam Piper, Apr 47 Astounding.  Here is one for “The Earth Men” – R. Bradbury, Aug 48 Thrilling Wonder Stories.  Here is one for ”Dark o’ the Moon” – S. Quinn, Jul 49 Weird Tales.  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born April 8, 1912 –Ted Carnell.  Fan Guest of Honor at Cinvention the 7th Worldcon, brought by the Big Pond Fund.  Chaired Loncon I the 15th Worldcon.  Guest of Honour at Eastercon 11.  Developed a pro career, editing New Worlds, Science FantasySF AdventuresNew Writing in SF; five dozen author profiles.  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  (Died 1972) [JH]
  • Born April 8, 1933 – Cele Goldsmith.  Edited Amazing and Fantastic – both at once – living up to those names.  Special Committee Award form Chicon III the 20th Worldcon.  Amazing memoir years later in the Mar 83 issue.  Andrew Porter’s appreciation here.  Mike Ashley’s here.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born April 8, 1939 – Trina Hyman. Twoscore covers, a score of interiors for us; illustrated a hundred fifty books all told, e.g. A Room Made of Windows.  Here is Peter Pan.  Here is the Aug 88 F & SF.  Here is The Serpent Slayer.  Caldecott Medal, Boston Globe – Horn Book and Golden Kite Awards.  (Died 2004) [JH]
  • April 8, 1942 Douglas Trumbull, 79. Let’s call him a genius and leave it at that. He contributed to, or was fully responsible for, the special photographic effects of Close Encounters of the Third Kind2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Blade Runner, and directed the movies Silent Running and Brainstorm. And Trumbull was executive producer for Starlost. (CE) 
  • April 8, 1967 Cecilia Tan, 54. Editor, writer and founder of Circlet Press, which she says is the first press devoted to erotic genre fiction. It has published well over a hundred digital book to date with such titles as Telepaths Don’t Need Safewords and Other Stories from the Erotic Edge of SF/Fantasy (Wouldn’t Bester be surprised to learn that. I digress), Sex in the System: Stories of Erotic Futures, Technological Stimulation, and the Sensual Life of Machines and Genderflex: Sexy Stories on the Edge and In-Between. She has two series, Magic University and The Prince’s Boy. (CE) 
  • Born April 8, 1968 – Alex Toader, age 53.  (Romanian name, “toe-AH-derr”.)  Here is The Day Dreamer.  Here is the Predator drop ship (Predators, N. Antal dir. 2010).  Here is a Terra-to-Mars spaceport.  Here is Tractor Beams Engaged.  [JH]
  • April 8, 1974 Nnedi Okorafor, 47. Who Fears Death won a World Fantasy Award for Best Novel.  Lagoon which is an Africanfuturism or Africanjujuism novel (her terms) was followed by her amazing Binti trilogy. Binti which led it off that trilogy won both a Nebula Award and a Hugo Award for best novella. Several of her works have been adapted for video, both in Africa and in North America. (CE) 
  • Born April 8, 1978 – Natasha Rhodes, age 43.  Eight novels, one shorter story.  Motion pictures too, some of the novels are tie-ins.  Interview here; among much else she says “There were a lot of male sulky faces and pouty lips when women’s rights came in and became the norm rather than the exception.” [JH]
  • April 8, 1980 Katee Sackhoff, 41. Being noted here  for playing Lieutenant Kara “Starbuck” Thrace on the rebooted Battlestar Galactica though I must confess I’ve only seen in her excellent role as Deputy Sheriff Victoria “Vic” Moretti on Longmire. She also played Amunet Black, a recurring character who showed up on the fourth season of The Flash. To my pleasant surprise, I see her on Star Wars: The Clone Wars in a recurring role voicing Bo-Katan Kryze. (CE)
  • April 8, 1981 Taylor Kitsch, 40. You’ll possibly remember him  as the lead in John Carter which I swear was originally titled John Carter of Mars. He also played Gambit in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and was Lieutenant Commander Alex Hopper in Battleship which was based off the board game but had absolutely nothing to with that game. (CE)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) ANSIBLE LINKS. David Langford, in the wake of hosting of Alison Scott’s Eastercon bid speech and Farah Mendlesohn’s ConFusion polemic, has added two more items of interest to the Ansible site:

Alison’s brief Doc Weir Award acceptance speech.

And, Jerry Kaufman’s presentation speech for the “FAAn Award for Lifetime Achievement”, virtually presented to Langford during the recent FAAn Awards ceremony.

… When I share the least fragment of this person’s extensive contributions to fanzines, science fiction, and fan culture, you’ll know immediately who I am talking about. But let’s pretend we don’t. He discovered science fiction at an early age in Wales (how green was his Soylent), and found fandom at the Oxford University SF Group…. 

(13) MARS WAVES HELO. Space.com’s opinion is “These selfies of NASA’s Mars helicopter with the Perseverance rover are just amazing”.

Seán Doran created this mosaic of Perseverance and the Ingenuity helicopter together using 62 images captured by the rover on its 46th Martian sol.

And also – “Perseverance snaps headshots on Mars in latest pics”.

Perseverance’s SHERLOC WATSON camera captured imagery of the Mast ‘head’ of the rover on April 6, 2021 (Sol 45). The imagery is combined with Martian wind audio captured by Perseverance on Sol 4.

(14) AN UNUSED SCROLL TITLE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] As someone who didn’t watch TNG as it happened, only random in returns over the decades since, and who finds Q annoying at best, my thought is, potential title-wise:

Q? Feh

(15) SACRE BLEU! Andrew Porter was tuned into tonight’s episode of Jeopardy! and witnessed this:

Category: Books by the number

Answer: Jules Verne’s first novel was “Cinq Semaines en Ballon”, or this long “In a Balloon”

Wrong question: What is 80 days?

Right question: What is five weeks?

John King Tarpinian, meanwhile, was pleased the show had a Bradbury reference, and sent this screenshot.

(16) HERE’S A CLUE. In “The 100 Best, Worst, and Strangest Sherlock Holmes Portrayals of All-Time, Ranked” on CrimeReads, Olivia Rutligiano ranks 100 actors (99 humans and one dog) who have portrayed Sherlock Holmes.  She includes characters who think they’re Sherlock Holmes, so Data and Stewie from Family Guy are here.  The actors include two who played Doctor Who and three from various versions of Star Trek.

…What are the criteria we’re using to rank these portrayals? Fidelity to the source text? Creativeness of the interpretations? Resemblance to Sidney Paget’s illustrations? Quality of acting? Kind of. Simply put, portrayals are ranked in their ability to present a Holmes who makes sense as a derivation of the original character while exploring, interrogating, and expanding the character’s qualities in a thoughtful and meaningful way. And of course, yes, the quality of the performance itself matters.

The dog ranks ahead of Data! And the new number two is —

2. Basil Rathbone, The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939), etc.

The consummate actor Basil Rathbone, besides having my favorite name ever, is often considered to be the gold-standard for Holmes portrayals, having played Holmes in fourteen films in the 1930s and 40s. For many out there, he is *the* Holmes, and this is more than fair. Rathbone’s Holmes is an interesting take… very logical, though not wry, but also very vigorous. While he’s certainly very affable, there is little whimsy, nothing too nonconformist about him. It’s truly marvelous to behold (though more marvelous is how he never once turns around to flick Nigel Bruce’s idiot Watson on the head).

(17) VIDEOS OF THE DAY. “Leonard Nimoy As Sherlock Holmes:  The Interior Motive (1976) Full Version” on YouTube is a 1976 episode of the PBS show “The Universe and I” in which Leonard Nimoy, as Sherlock Holmes, provides a science lesson about the nature of the earth’s core.

And here’s a clip featuring Peter Capaldi’s performance as Holmes — because you can never have enough Peter Capaldi.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Joe Siclari, James Davis Nicoll, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Ben Bird Person, John Hertz, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]