Pixel Scroll 1/30/23 Many Scrolls And Files Knew What It Was To Be Roasted In The Depths Of The Pixels That Day, I Can Tell You

(1) PUBLISHING CONTROVERSY REVISITED. Pamela Paul, former New York Times Book Review editor, returned to the three-year-old American Dirt controversy in an op-ed for the New York Times: “The Long Shadow of ‘American Dirt’”.

…From the moment Cummins’s agent sent “American Dirt” out to potential publishers, it looked like a winner. The manuscript led to a bidding war among nine publishing imprints, resulting in a game-changing, seven-figure deal for its author. In the run-up to publication, as the editor of The New York Times Book Review, I asked attendees at Book Expo, then the most significant annual publishing conference, which upcoming book they were most excited about. The answer was as unanimous as I’ve ever heard: “American Dirt.” Publishers, editors, booksellers, librarians were all wildly enthusiastic: “American Dirt” wasn’t only a gripping novel — it brought attention to one of the most vexing and heartbreaking issues of our time, the border crisis. This, its champions believed, was one of those rare books that could both enthrall readers and change minds.

But in December 2019, a month before the novel’s release, Myriam Gurba, a Latina writer whose memoir, “Mean,” had been published a couple of years earlier by a small press, posted a piece that Ms. magazine had commissioned as a review of “American Dirt,” and then killed. In her blog post and accompanying review, Gurba characterized the novel as “fake-assed social justice literature,” “toxic heteroromanticism” and “sludge.” It wasn’t just that Gurba despised the book. She insisted that the author had no right to write it.

A central charge was that Cummins, who identifies as white and Latina but is not an immigrant or of Mexican heritage, wasn’t qualified to write an authentic novel about Latin American characters. Another writer soon asserted in an op-ed that the “clumsy, ill-conceived” rollout of Cummins’s novel was proof that American publishing was “broken.” The hype from the publisher, which marketed the book as “one of the most important books for our times,” was viewed as particularly damning. Echoing a number of writers and activists, the op-ed writer said it was incumbent upon Mexican Americans and their “collaborators” to resist the “ever-grinding wheels of the hit-making machine,” charging it was “unethical” to allow Oprah’s Book Club to wield such power. More than 100 writers put their names to a letter scolding Oprah for her choice….

Dana Snitzky takes issue: “This Week in Books: It’s Pamela Paul Week”.

…American Dirt was merely criticized. Criticized, probably most famously (yet not by any means initially) in the pages of the New York Times Book Review. The New York Times Book Review as edited by Pamela Paul. Yes, friends, you heard correctly—as Max Read and others online have pointed out, Pamela Paul’s powers of discourse are such that she has established a vertically integrated outrage machine, seeing the process through from initial cancellation to reactionary backlash…. 

Silvia Moreno-Garcia addressed Paul’s op-ed in an extended Twitter thread that starts here. A few of her comments are:

(2) ELSEWHERE MONTELEONE KEEPS DIGGING THE HOLE DEEPER. It was taken down today, however, yesterday YouTube’s Hatchet Mouth posted their “Tom Monteleone Interview”, an extended opportunity for Monteleone to deliver more remarks in the vein of his now-removed Facebook post. He belittled a past Horror Writers Association award winner in derogatory racial terms (while making every effort to assign the wrong ethnicity to the person being insulted), and gave the same treatment to the woman who called for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer to be renamed (as it was). Copies of the YouTube auto-generated transcript are floating around. In fact, I made my own if you need to see one…

(3) BACK TO THE DINOSAURS. Apex Publishing’s Jason Sizemore, responding to a particular thread within the Monteleone kerfuffle, told Facebook readers what was wrong with the latest attack on an award-winning story.  

There’s another old white male author who has found offense at the award recognition of non-white, non-male writers by the HWA. It’s been all over my FB feed.

Inevitably, the usual cadre of traditionalists and self-anointed old school sci-fi readers rallied around this writer rehashing the same tired arguments that showcase a poor understanding of capitalism, reality, and the depth of fiction they bemoan.

Apex Magazine was accused of catering to reactionary and psychotic (not my words) people.

“If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” by Rachel Swirsky was evoked. Again. This story came out in March of 2013….

(4) BUFFY SLAYS TROLLS & SLIMEBALLS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Working now from a position of earned respect and power, Sarah Michelle Gellar expressed her opinions on mistreatment of women in visual media. In an interview with the Guardian, she takes shots at both the trolls who sit in front of the screen and certain slimeballs who reside behind the cameras. “’A lot of the demons seem a little cheesy now’: Sarah Michelle Gellar on Buffy, her burnout and her comeback”.

…For all its similarities to Buffy, Wolf Pack has one key difference: this time Gellar is in a position of influence, as an executive producer as well as the lead.

The title can be almost meaningless, a way to sweeten the deal for a star, but Gellar says she told Davis: “I’ve been doing this for 40 years. I have a lot of experience, and I have a lot to bring to the table. If you’re just looking for an actor that just wants to have the credit, I’m not your person. I’m going to have ideas, and I’m going to be vocal about them.”…

(5) IN MEMORIAM 2022. Steven H Silver’s list “In Memoriam: Those We Have Lost in 2022” has been posted at Amazing Stories.

(6) LISA LORING OBITUARY. TV’s original Wednesday Addams, Lisa Loring, died January 30 at age 64 reports the BBC.

…Her daughter, Vanessa Foumberg, told The Hollywood Reporter she died of a stroke caused by high blood pressure.

“She went peacefully with both her daughters holding her hands,” Foumberg said.

The actress had been on life support for three days, her friend Laurie Jacobson posted on Facebook.

“She is embedded in the tapestry that is pop culture and in our hearts always as Wednesday Addams,” she said in her post.

The Addams Family, which was the first adaptation of Charles Addams’ New Yorker cartoons, ran from 1964 to 1966 on ABC.

Ms Loring also appeared in the soap opera “As the World Turns” and the sitcom “The Pruitts of Southampton.”…

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1987 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

And now we come to the end of the genre quotes (at least for now) with a most splendid one from Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint: A Melodrama of Manners novel. As y’all know, it’s the first work of the Riverside series which continues in The Fall of the Kings, was co-written with her wife Delia Sherman, and finished in The Privilege of the Sword.

Yes, it’s one of my favorite novels, and the series as well, to re-read. Preferably on a cold winter’s night. I do think that Swordspoint is the best of the novels though The Privilege of the Sword is quite tasty as well. 

And you have to love a society where chocolate is the drink of choice among everyone. 

BY MIDDAY, MOST OF THE NOBLES ON THE HILL COULD be counted on to be awake. The Hill sat lordly above the rest of the city, honeycombed with mansions, landscaped lawns, elaborate gates, and private docks on the cleanest part of the river. Its streets had been built expressly wide and smooth enough to accommodate the carriages of nobles, shortly after carriages had been invented. Usually, mornings on the Hill were passed in leisurely exchange of notes written on colored, scented, and folded paper, read and composed in various states of dishabille over cups of rich chocolate and crisp little triangles of toast (all the nourishment that ought to be managed after a night’s reveling); but on the morning after the garden duel, with the night’s events ripe for comment, no one had the patience to wait for a reply, so the streets were unusually crowded with carriages and pedestrians of rank.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 30, 1911 Hugh Marlowe. First let me note that he was first to play the title character in the very first radio version of The Adventures of Ellery Queen. No, it’s not even genre adjacent but neat nonetheless. As regards genre roles, he’s Tom Stevens in The Day the Earth Stood Still, and Dr. Russell A. Marvin in Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. He was also Harold McPherson in Seven Days in May if you want to count that as genre which I definitely think you should. (Died 1982.)
  • Born January 30, 1920 Michael Anderson. English Director best remembered for Around the World in 80 Days, Logan’s Run, and perhaps not nearly as much for, Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze. Yes, I saw it. It was, errrr, interesting. He also directed The Martian Chronicles series. (Died 2018.)
  • Born January 30, 1924 Lloyd Alexander. His most well-crafted work is The Chronicles of Prydain. Though drawn off Welsh mythology, they deviate from it in significant ways stripping it of much of its negativity.  To my belief, it is his only genre writing as I don’t hold the Westmark trilogy to actually be fantasy, just an alternative telling of European history. Splitting cats hairs? Maybe. He was also one of the founders of Cricket, an illustrated literary journal for children. The late illustrator Trina Schart Hyman whose art I lust after, errrr, adore was another founder. (Died 2007.)
  • Born January 30, 1926 Peter Brachacki. Set designer for the very first episode of Doctor Who. Everything I’ve been able to read on him says that he was not at all interested in working on the series and did so reluctantly under orders. Doctor Who producer Verity Lambert would later recount that she was impressed with Brachacki’s work on the TARDIS interior even though she personally did not like him at all. His design elements persist throughout the fifty years the series has been produced. His only other genre work that I’ve been able to find was Blake’s 7 and a short series called the The Witch’s Daughter done in the late Seventies. The BBC wasn’t always great at documenting who worked on what series. (Died 1980.)
  • Born January 30, 1941 Gregory Benford, 82. His longest running series is Galactic Center Saga, a series I find a little akin to Saberhagen’s Beserker series. I’ve not read enough of it to form a firm opinion though I know some of you of have done so.  Other novels I’ve read by him include Timescape (superb) and A Darker Geometry: A Man-Kzin Novel which was actually was quite excellent. Yes I do read Baen Books. 
  • Born January 30, 1955 Judith Tarr, 68.  I’m fond of her Richard the Lionheart novels which hew closely to the historical record while introducing just enough magic to make them fantasy. The novels also make good use of her keen knowledge of horsemanship as well. Her Queen of the Amazons pairs the historical Alexander the Great, with a meeting with the beautiful Hippolyta, who is queen of the Amazons. Highly recommended.
  • Born January 30, 1973 Jordan Prentice, 50. Inside every duck is a self-described person of short stature. His words, not mine. In the case of Howard the Duck from the movie of the same name, one of those persons was him. He’s not in a lot of SFF roles after his performing debut there though he shows up next as Fingers Finnian in Wolf Girl, playing Sherrif Shelby in Silent But Deadly, Napoleon in Mirror Mirror and Nigel Thumb in The Night Before the Night Before Christmas.
  • Born January 30, 1974 Christian Bale, 49. First enters our corner of the mediaverse in a Swedish film called Mio in the Land of Faraway where he plays a character named Yum Yum. Note though that he doesn’t speak in this role as his Swedish voice is done by Max Winerdah. So his playing Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is his first speaking role. Next up is American Psycho in which he was Patrick Bateman, that was followed by a role in Reign of Fire as Quinn Abercromby. He was John Preston in Equilibrium, and he voiced Howl in Howl’s Moving Castle, a film well worth seeing.  Need I say who he plays in Batman Begins? I thought not. He’d repeat that in The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. Amidst being Batman, he was also John Connor in Terminator Salvation. His last genre role to date was voicing Bagheera in Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle asked off Kipling’s All the Mowgli Stories. He’s got a television genre credit, to wit Jim Hawkins in Treasure Island off the Robert Louis Stevenson of that name.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Candorville shows a dad telling his shrink about trying to get his kid to watch Star Trek.
  • Foxtrot’s “Goodnight Doom” adapts the verses of a children’s book to a kid’s computer.

(10) ALTERNATE OVAL OFFICES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Welcome to an alternate universe. Actually, six different ones.

Have you ever wondered what the White House Oval Office would look like if it were outfitted completely in IKEA furniture? Or perhaps another home furnishing brand? House Fresh will be glad to show you.

Some of the choices are breathtaking; albeit perhaps not in the way a President might desire. “If 6 Iconic Home Brands Redesigned The Oval Office” at HouseFresh.

Consider the Pottery Barn version….

(11) THE BIRD HAS THE WORD. “’An Ostrich Told Me the World Was Fake’ Director Discusses Oscar Nom” in Variety.

…The short film follows a young telemarketer named Neil who is confronted by a mysterious talking ostrich who tells him that the universe is actually stop-motion animation. Neil, voiced by Pendragon, then tries to convince his colleagues about the discovery….

Let’s talk about “An Ostrich Told Me the World Was Fake” and its journey. Where did it begin?

It was part of a doctorate in visual arts program at film school. It had to come from a research perspective. The project needed to have a level of innovation and something that you were doing differently that you could write about and talk about. I wanted to do something on stop-motion because it’s something that I love doing, but I hadn’t thought too much about it yet. There was so much potential about what could be done and explored.

I wanted to look at the handmade quality of stop-motion animation and ensure they were as apparent as possible. That led me down this path of doing something that breaks the fourth wall and deconstructs it, so that the audience could be watching the behind-the-scenes as they were watching the film. I thought it was entertaining because it would show all that goes into making this kind of film. But then on the other side, it’s like, how do I make sure that it’s not too distracting that you can still connect with these characters? Finding that balance was difficult….

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Honest Trailers – Snakes on a Plane” shows that if you steal ideas from enough different places it’s not plagiarism. But first, you also have to steal enough special effects snakes.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/25/23 The Demolished Music Man

(1) CANADA READS SFF. Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic is a finalist in the 2023 CBC Canada Reads competition. She told her newsletter readers today:

Canada Reads is a literary battle, with panelists championing five books. Each day, they vote to eliminate one book, until a single title is chosen as the book the whole country should read this year. 

 The champion for my novel is TikTok creator and nursing student Tasnim Geedi, known as groovytas. The debates will take place March 27-30, 2023. They will be hosted by Ali Hassan and will be broadcast on CBC Radio One, CBC TV, CBC Gem and on CBC Books. 

(2) SF RELATED CONTENT ON JEOPARDY! 2023-01-24. [Item by David Goldfarb.] The current Jeopardy! champion is four-time LearnedLeague champion Troy Meyer. On Tuesday’s episode he faced some SF-related clues.

In the first round, one of the categories was “Finding Nimoy”. At the $1000 level:

This remake about a pod people takeover moved the action from a small town to San Francisco, with Leonard as a famous psychologist.

Troy Meyer correctly responded, “What is Invasion of the Body Snatchers?”

At the $400 level:

Nimoy’s plentiful voice-over work included the evil robot Galvatron in the cartoon movie version of this TV show.

Joe Incollingo responded, “What is Transformers?”

At the $200 level:

Nimoy appeared in other TV series with this “Star Trek” co-star, including “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” and “T.J. Hooker”.

Troy Meyer responded, “Who is William Shatner?”

In the Double Jeopardy round, one of the categories was “Pop Culture Goes to Mars”. This category was actually majority mundane, cluing things like “Veronica Mars” and the rock band “30 Seconds to Mars”, but there were two actual SF clues:

$1200: Jack Nicholson was the President & Glenn Close, the First Lady in this 1996 Tim Burton film.

Troy Meyer responded, “What is Mars Attacks?”

$400: “Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids, in fact it’s cold as hell”, sang Elton John in this hit.

Troy Meyer responded, “What is Rocket Man?”

(3) ROME PLUS MAGIC. At Speculative Fiction Showcase, an “Interview with Cass Morris, author of The Bloodstained Shade, Book 3 of The Aven Cycle”.

… Where Aven differs from the Rome of antiquity is that, in this version of the world, magic has shaped the course of history as much as war, politics, law, and religion. Adding that additional lever of power complicates both interpersonal and geopolitical relationships in ways that I adore playing with.

You co-host the Hugo Award Finalist podcast Worldbuilding for Masochists. Why ‘for masochists’?

It’s a teasing way of referring to those of us with a tendency to go way overboard in our worldbuilding. The “iceberg principle” of worldbuilding says that there’s far more below the surface than makes it onto the page of the finished product. My cohosts and I are people who have really, really big icebergs, and the way we create them can sometimes seem like self-torture….

(4) STRONG Q&A. Karen Strong, editor of the young adult anthology Cool. Awkward. Black, answers questions about books she’s read in “Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, January 25, 2023”.

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

CoolAwkwardBlack. is a multi-genre anthology that centers Black teens who celebrate their nerdy passions of cosplay, manga, STEM, gaming and the arts….

Favorite line from a book:

“In her spare time, she looked to books or the stars for company.” —Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

I read so many books and have many favorite lines but this particular one has stayed with me. I truly believe books and stars can be great company.

(5) MELTS IN YOUR BRAINS, NOT IN YOUR HANDS. “M&M’s Replaces ‘Spokescandies’ With Maya Rudolph”The Takeout has the story.

In news that has arrived suspiciously close to Super Bowl Sunday, M&M’s announced today that the brand’s “beloved spokescandies” would be placed on “indefinite pause” for being ostensibly divisive. The spokescandies will be replaced by comedian Maya Rudolph, who will be tasked with “champion[ing] the power of fun.”…

In the past year, M&M’s changes to the personalities and likenesses of its candy characters have stoked the ire of conservatives, who facilitated a minor uproar against the brand for being too “woke” as it made such minor adjustments as redesigning some M&M’s shoes and removing titles like “Mr.” and “Mrs.” from certain candies.

(6) IN PASSING: MICHAEL DOUGAN. Cartoonist Michael Dougan died recently. Specifics about exactly when are scarce, however, there are two solid tributes.

The Editors of The Comics Journal: “Remembering Michael Dougan”.

… Michael was so well-rounded; he was at times a cartoonist, a newspaperman, a barista, a restauranteur, a tv writer, and a great conversationalist, to name a few. His work is not as well-remembered as it should be, although his best book, I Can’t Tell You Anything, was released by Penguin in 1993 and still holds up as some of the best autobiographical work of its era. Part of Michael’s obscurity is because in 2006 a fire destroyed his house in Seattle, taking all of his art and archives—and in some ways his comics career—with it. He seemed to process what was a cartoonist’s Worst Case Scenario better than most could have, but it also seemed to fuel a desire to move forward rather than look backward. He spent a couple of years in LA writing for television. Whenever I brought up doing a collection of his work, he was interested but ultimately dismissed it as being too much of an “epic undertaking” to find the time for…. 

Robert Boyd: “In memoriam Michael Dougan” at The Great God Pan Is Dead.

I first became aware of Michael Dougan in the mid-80s from his work in Weirdo. The first story of his that I can remember was “Dennis the Sullen Menace”, written by Dennis P. Eicchorn. This issue (no. 19) was edited by Aline Kominsky-Crumb, who took over the editorship of the magazine after Peter Bagge moved on. Bagge had been the editor until issue 17, and his tastes still informed the contents of Weirdo. In addition to Michael Dougan and Dennis P. EicchornWeirdo No, 19 had Mark Zingarelli and Bagge himself. Bagge knew all of the aforementioned cartoonists because they were all Seattle homers. Bagge got a bunch of his fellow Seattlites to contribute. Therefore, when I moved to Seattle in 1989, I got to know those guys, as well as other cartoonists from the region in Bagge’s artistic and social circle….

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1958 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Poul Anderson loved beer. In fact, he was the first writer to imagine a spaceship powered by beer in the Bicycle Built for Brew novel published in Astounding Science Fiction sixty-five years ago.  It’s available from the usual suspects in The Makeshift Rocket.

It wasn’t unusual for his characters to hoist a brew or two as I experienced when listening to some of the Nicholas Van Rijn stories recently. 

So I leave you with a quote from “The Innocent Arrival” which is collected in Karin and Poul Anderson’s The Unicorn Trade (highly recommend and available from the usual suspects as a Meredith Moment): 

“I see. Well, what are you having to drink?”

“Beer,” said Matheny without hesitation.

“Huh? Look, pal, this is on me.”

“The only beer on Mars comes forty million miles, with interplanetary freight charges tacked on,” said Matheny. “Tuborg!”

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 25, 1905 Margery Sharp. Her best remembered work is The Rescuers series which concerns a mouse by the name of Miss Bianca. They were later adapted in two Disney animated films, The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under. I’m reasonably sure I’ve seen the first one a very long time ago. Her genre novel, The Stone of Chastity, is according to her website, based on English folklore. Other than the first volume of The Rescuer series, she’s not really available digitally though she is mostly in print in the dead tree format. (Died 1991.)
  • Born January 25, 1918 King Donovan. His first SF films has him as Dr. Dan Forbes in the 1953 The Magnetic Monster and as Dr. Ingersoll In The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. The very next year, he plays James O’Herli in Riders to the Stars. And now we get to the film that you know him from — Invasion of the Body Snatchers in which he plays Jack Belicec. After that, I show him only in Nothing Lasts Forever which has never been released here in the States. (Died 1987.)
  • Born January 25, 1920 Bruce Cassiday.Under two different pen names, Con Steffanson and Carson Bingham , he wrote three Flash Gordon novels (The Trap of Ming XIIThe Witch Queen of Mongo and The War of the Cybernauts) and he also wrote several pieces of non-fiction worth noting, The Illustrated History of Science Fiction, co-written with Dieter Wuckel, and Modern Mystery, Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers. The latter done in ‘93 is rather out of date and out of print as well. Checking the usual suspects shows nothing’s available by him for this genre though some of his pulp novels are available with appropriately lurid covers such as The Corpse in the Picture Window. (Died 2005.)
  • Born January 25, 1943 Tobe Hooper. Director of such genre films as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (the original of course), Poltergeist (damn scary film) Invaders from Mars and Djinn, his final film. He directed a smattering of television episodes including the “Miss Stardust” of Amazing Stories, “No More Mr. Nice Guy” of Freddy’s Nightmares, “Dead Wait” of Tales from the Crypt and the entire Salem’s Lot miniseries. He also wrote a horror novel with Alan Goldsher,  Midnight Movie: A Novel, that has himself in it at a speaking engagement. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 25, 1958 Peter Watts, 65. Author of the most excellent Firefall series which I read and enjoyed immensely. I’ve not read the Rifters trilogy so would welcome opinions on it. And his Sunflower-linked short stories sound intriguing. He won a Hugo for Best Novelette at Aussiecon 4 for “The Island”.
  • Born January 25, 1973 Geoff Johns, 50. Where to begin? Though he’s done some work outside of DC, he is intrinsically linked to that company having working for them for twenty years. My favorite work by him is on Batman: Gotham KnightsJustice League of America #1–7 (2013) and 52 which I grant which was way overly ambitious but really fun. Oh, and I’d be remiss not to note his decade long run on the Green Lantern books. He’s the writer and producer on the most excellent Stargirl that streamed on HBO Max. Johns is producing the Green Lantern series that will stream on HBO Max.
  • Born January 25, 1975 Mia Kirshner, 48. She was Amanda Grayson in Star Trek: Discovery. Her first genre was in the really not great The Crow: City of Angels as Sarah Mohr. (I editorialize, it is what I do. It’s like cats playing with string.) She had another run as Isobel Flemming in The Vampire Diaries and one-offs in The War of The WorldsDracula: The SeriesAre You Afraid of the Dark? and Wolf Lake. She had a plum role in Defiance as Kenya Rosewater. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Blondie copes with cats’ wedding ideas.

(10) INSTANT RED PLANET LIBRARY. Manhattan Rare Books has an online preview of the specialty collection it is offering for $975,000: “Mars and the Imagination: A Record of Our Relationship with the Red Planet”.

Background

Mars and the Imagination was conceived and assembled by the experienced collector David Wenner – whose comprehensive collection on the history of physics now resides at the Niels Bohr Library of the American Institute of Physics – and represents much more than a “collection” of works. Through his years of research and study, Wenner was able to unearth important and previously unrecognized literary and historical texts, making new connections among them. Contextualized in such a way, the items in Mars and the Imagination collectively tell an illuminating story through primary sources that to our knowledge has not been previously attempted. It is the story of our fascination with the Red Planet, a story of our wonder about something that is just out of reach, a story that has revealed as much about us as it has about Mars.

Fiction and Non-Fiction

For hundreds of years, Mars has been observed by scientists, but lurked tantalizingly on the edge of our ability to truly understand the nature of the planet. It thus became a perfect template for speculation: What are the conditions on Mars? Is it hospitable to life? Are there, or have there ever been, living beings on Mars and if so, are they like us? Superior to us? Threatening to us? Will we ever be able to visit Mars?

The approaches to answering these questions have been varied, with both scientific inquiry and imaginative fiction in a continual dialogue of influence on each other. Mars and the Imagination, therefore includes texts by such scientific giants such as Kepler, Huygens, Hooke, and Cassini, but also fiction by literary masters such as Swift, Wells, Asimov, Bradbury, and Clarke.

(11) A KLINGON SCREWDRIVER. Or more like a Swiss Army knife, except these aliens aren’t neutrals: “Star Trek Klingon Bat’leth 6-In-1 Multitool Kit”.

Tools Of Honor: No Klingon ever breaks his word. Shaped like the traditional Klingon Bat’leth weapon, this 6-in-1 multitool will help you tackle a variety of daily tasks. Perfect for when you’re exploring the universe, hiking, or camping.

(12) NOT ICE NINE. BBC News covers how the “Webb telescope hunts life’s icy chemical origins”.

The new super space telescope James Webb has ventured into the freezer.

It’s been probing some of the darkest, coldest regions in space for clues about the chemistry that goes into making planets, and perhaps even life.

This newly released image shows a segment of the Chameleon I molecular cloud, some 630 light years from Earth.

It’s here, at temperatures down to about -260C, that Webb is detecting types of ice grains not previously observed….

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

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 10/16/22 I Can Scroll Clearly Now The Pixel’s Come, I Can See All Comments Now In This Thread, Gone Are The Strange Trolls That Spoiled My View, It’s Going To Be Bright, Bright, Bright Pixelly Scroll

(1) WISCON HANGS IN THE BALANCE. WisCon not only is trying to recruit people for leadership, their blog says the fate of their 2023 event depends on whether the positons are filled by November 30. “Co-Chair and Online Con Leads needed to have in-person, online events in 2023”.

…Last week Stephanie [Sarac] announced she would be stepping down as co-chair for WisCon 46 in 2023. Please join us in thanking Stephanie for all the hard work she did on the post-con survey, Guest of Honor nominations, and department outreach/coordination as co-chair. We’re really grateful for her willingness to jump into things after having only attended WisCon one time!

…In the interest of transparency, we want to let you all know that if the open Co-Chair position isn’t filled by end of November, the in-person con will be cancelled.  It is possible we may still do an Online-only con in that scenario, but that depends on a number of other variables.  If we’re able to fill the Co-Chair position but aren’t able to recruit Online Con Department lead(s), the con will be in-person only (we won’t be able to have online or hybrid programming). In either scenario of in-person and/or online con not being able to happen, we will use that time to build up departments, train up leads and chairs, fundraise, and put ourselves in the best possible position for a full event the following year.

(2) THE NEXT FANAC.ORG ZOOM. Fanac.org will host an interview with Maggie Thompson titled “Before, During and After the Origins of Comics Fandom,” with interviewer Dr. Chris Couch on Sunday October 30 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.  To attend the Zoom session, send a request to Edie Stern, the FANAC webmaster at [email protected].

A list of past sessions, which are all available on FANAC’s Fan History YouTube channel, go to https://fanac.org/zoom.html.

(3) SIMPLE ANSWER. Dorothy Grant has sound answers to the question “What do you have to read in order to write in a genre?” at Mad Genius Club. Similar to what Larry Niven says, that a writer must read widely in order to “stock the shelves” of the imagination.

This question was posed elsewhere, and responses were quick to make fun of mandatory reading, and of “Reading The Classics”. I, on the other hand, propose a different answer.

There is no have to. Do I look like your abuela? But here is what you should do, in order to improve:

Read widely. Read deeply. Read the critically-acclaimed successes. Read the high-selling works the critics declaimed as Trash or Merely Pulp….

(4) EYES LOCKED ON. Joachim Boaz considers TV in “Future Media Short Story Review: Ray Bradbury’s ‘Almost the End of the World’ (1957)” at Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations.

…Ray Bradbury conjures a strange new world without television….

.. Ray Bradbury’s “Almost the End of the World” first appeared in The Reporter (December 26, 1957). It later appeared in his short story collection The Day It Rained Forever (1959). If you have an Internet Archive account, you can read it online here.

In multiple earlier reviews in this series, I’ve laid out television’s transformative and speedy infiltration of the American consciousness and daily activities over the course of the 1950s. Multiple Bradbury stories critique this new world. The lovely and crystalline “The Pedestrian” (1951) imagined a future night city in which its denizens are transfixed by their TV scenes. The city, observed by the solitary one-time writer Leonard Mead, is as silent as “a wintry, windless Arizona country” (90). “Almost the End of the World” (1957) ruminates on the effects on American society if a cosmic event severs the viewer from the succor of the screen….

(5) BILL AT 91. “William Shatner talks growing older, living life without regrets” in a Yahoo! interview about his new memoir, Boldly Go.

You write in your book about when you first told your parents that you wanted to be an actor. Did they live long enough to see your success?

[When I told them], they looked at me like, “Who are you? Where did you come from? What’s acting again? Isn’t that what a minstrel does?” [Laughs] I think my father must have thought, because he came from Europe to Montreal when he was about 9 or 10 … that his son wanted to be on a horse and wagon roaming across the country.

My father was around when Star Trek began [in 1966]. He died in 1968. I don’t how much of a success I was then, but I was making a living. My mother lived until a few years ago, so she saw that success. The success part wasn’t as [important to them] as long as I could make a living. And that varied as time went on, and as more and more children arrived. The definition of what a living was increased.

(6) CHAN DAVIS APPRECIATION.  [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Alan Wald, H. Chandler Davis Collegate Professor at the University of Michigan, remembers the sf writer Chan Davis, who died last month at 96. “H. Chandler Davis Was a Lifelong Radical and a Moral Touchstone for the Left” at Jacobin.

Chandler Davis (born Horace Chandler Davis and called “Chan” by his friends) was an internationally esteemed mathematician, a minor science fiction writer of note, and among the most celebrated political prisoners in the United States during the years of the high Cold War.

Dismissed from the University of Michigan (U-M) in 1954 for refusing to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) on First Amendment grounds, he served six months in Danbury Federal Correctional Institution in Connecticut, then faced an academic blacklist that drove him to pursue a career in Canada.

The death of this endlessly resilient, lifelong radical at the age of ninety-six on September 24 in Toronto seems like the passing of an emissary from a world of the socialist Left that no longer exists. Despite errors of political judgment, which Chan was the first to acknowledge, he was for many of us a moral touchstone in our own decades of political upheaval and unpredictability….

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1959 [By Cat Eldridge.] The Twilight Zone’s “Mr. Denton On Doomsday” (1959)

Portrait of a town drunk named Al Denton. This is a man who’s begun his dying early—a long, agonizing route through a maze of bottles. Al Denton, who would probably give an arm or a leg or a part of his soul to have another chance, to be able to rise up and shake the dirt from his body and the bad dreams that infest his consciousness. In the parlance of the times, this is a peddler, a rather fanciful-looking little man in a black frock coat. And this is the third principal character of our story. Its function: perhaps to give Mr. Al Denton his second chance. — Opening narration

Rod Serling was, if I must say so, bloody brilliant. And “Mr. Denton On Doomsday”, just the third episode of this series, shows this. (If you’ve not seen it of late, the series it is airing on Paramount +.) A Western, it’s also really look at how a man, two in fact can be redeemed.

SPOILERS LIKE WHISKEY IN A FICTIONAL WESTERN BAR FLOW NOW, SO GO AWAY!

Denton, our lead here played  by Dan Duryea, was once known as the quickest draw in town, but riddled with increasing guilt over the dead in his gun fights, one just a teenager, he became drunk and the derision of everyone in this Western town.

(There’s an animated Jonah Hex where this very storyline comes up. It’s called DC Showcase: Jonah Hex and Jonah, when the way-too-young male draws on him, hits with his rifle and knocks him quite unconscious. Right now, I think the only place you can see that is HBO Max.) 

A stranger offers him redemption. But he knows gunslingers come from miles around to seek him out and, inevitably, kill him. Or so he fervently hopes. The stranger named Fate (HA!) offers him and another gunfighter each a bottle of the potion. 

They fight, do not kill each other, but wound their shooting hand, thus ending their days as gunslingers. 

Fate tips his hat to Denton and rides quietly out of town.

DRINK UP, I’M DONE WITH SPOILERS. REALLY, I AM.

Martin Landau who played Dan Hotaling (the younger gunslinger) here would return to play Major Ivan Kuchenko in “The Jeopardy Room” which I’ve already essayed. He would also appear in two more Twilight Zone episodes, “The Beacon” and “One Life, Furnished in Early Poverty”. 

The harmonica music you hear in the background is an old Russian folksong known as “Stenka Razin”.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 16, 1924 David Armstrong. He appeared in two Trek episodes, “A Taste of Armageddon” as a guard to the Eminiar, uncredited of course, and as Kartan in “Operation – Annihilate!” and, though having a name, also uncredited according to Memory Alpha. He also had an amazing twenty-two appearances on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. where he was only credited when he showed as Thrushman, which must have been some sort of inside joke. Genre roles were common for him — I SpyGet Smart!The InvadersThe Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and Kolchak were all where he showed up. (Died 2016.)
  • Born October 16, 1925 Dame Angela Brigid Lansbury. She first shows up in a genre work as Sibyl Vane in The Picture of Dorian Gray. A few years later, she’s Queen Anne of France in The Three Musketeers. Somewhat later, she’s Miss Eglantine Price in Bedknobs and Broomsticks. She voices Mommy Fortuna in The Last Unicorn, and is Granny in A Company of Wolves which won the BSFA Award for Best Film and is based off Angela Carter’s A Company of Wolves. And yes, she’s in Mary Poppins Returns as The Balloon Lady. (Died 2022.)
  • Born October 16, 1926 Joe Sinnott. He worked primarily as an inker. He is best remembered for his work on the Fantastic Four from the Sixties to into the Eighties, with it being first over the pencils of Jack Kirby. He worked, mostly as a freelancer, some sixty years at Marvel, where he had long runs on The AvengersThe Defenders and Thor. And yes, he deserved many an Award  — the Alley Award, the  Inkpot Award, the Will Eisner Hall of Fame, the Inkwell Awards Hall of Fame and finally the Retro Inkwell Awards Favorite Inker. (Died 2020.)
  • Born October 16, 1947 Guy Siner, 75. Apparently he’s one of only 32 actors to appear in both the Star Trek and Doctor Who franchises. He appeared in the “Genesis of the Daleks”, a Fourth Doctor story, and on Enterprise in the “Silent Enemy” episode. Interestingly he shows up on Babylon 5 as well in “Rumors, Bargains and Lies”.  And that might place him in very select acting company indeed.
  • Born October 16, 1958 Tim Robbins, 64. I think his finest role was as Nuke LaLoosh in Bull Durham, but his first genre role was Phil Blumburtt in Howard the Duck. He played Erik in Erik the Viking, and is in The Shawshank Redemption as Andy Dufresne. He’s Woodrow “Woody” Blake in Mission to Mars. He was Harlan Ogilvy in War of the Worlds followed by being Senator Robert Hammond in Green Lantern
  • Born October 16, 1965 Joseph Mallozzi, 57. He is most noted for his work on the Stargate series. He joined the Stargate production team at the start of Stargate SG-1’s fourth season in 2000. He was a writer and executive producer for all three Stargate series. He also co-created the Dark Matter comic book series with Paul Mullie that became a Syfy series. 
  • Born October 16, 1973 Eva Röse, 49. Most likely best known for her role as the android Niska in Season 1 of the Swedish Real Humans upon which AMC’s Humans was based. She also was one of the voice cast for the animated Creepschool series, and was Jasmie on The Befallen, a supernatural series that lasted one season there. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

Tom Gauld blends literary analysis with psychoanalysis.

(10) THE GHOSTS OF COMICS PAST. “When DC Seriously Tried to Prove Bob Kane Wasn’t Actually Drawing Batman” – a “Comic Legend” history piece by Brian Cronin.

COMIC LEGEND:

Mort Weisinger tried to prove that Bob Kane wasn’t actually drawing his Batman comics when Kane added Lew Sayre Schwartz as his ghost in 1948

STATUS:

True

A while back, I wrote about the peculiar situation when it came to Bob Kane’s ghosts on the Batman comic books heading into the 1960s. The majority of the artwork being done for Batman comic books throughout the 1950s and 1960s was by “Bob Kane,” but obviously, for that much artwork to be produced, no one believed that Bob Kane was doing it all himself. As it turned out, by the mid-1950s, Kane wasn’t doing it at ALL, with Sheldon Moldoff doing ALL of the work that was credited to Kane…

(11) AN EARLY FILER. [Noted by John Hertz.]

Plutarch grappled with … the import of the word E’i inscribed on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. In Greek it can mean “Five”; it can mean “If”: but above all it means “Thou Art”.

M.A. Screech, intr. to Montaigne’s Apology for Raymond Sebond p. xxix (1993)

(12) GETTING WHAT THEY DESERVE? Molly Odintz reviews books by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Stephen Graham Jones at CrimeReads: “These Books Prove We’re Living In a Golden Age of Horror”.

…There are several converging factors for the rise in horror. First, we can’t underestimate the impact of Jordan Peele or the film Midsommar on the trends of social horror and folk horror, respectively. We apparently now wish to not only watch what we want to read, but read what we want to watch. Second, horror fiction, like crime fiction, is a vastly more diverse landscape than just a few years ago, and a genre that I’d previously stereotyped as full of fear of the other (sorry, Stephen King!) is now distinguished by sympathy for the other. Third, we’ve all gotten far more interested in haunted houses since we became forced to spend every waking hour in them. And fourth, people have simply gotten worse, and it is correspondingly more satisfying to watch them die (hence the return of the slasher)….

(13) ALSO ON CRIMEREADS. Michael Gonzales looks at the 1968 sf film Wild In The Streets. “Rock & Roll Apocalypse: ‘Wild in the Streets’”.

…It was during one of my Saturday night movie marathons that I first saw the politically charged sci-fi satire Wild in the Streets (1968), a flick about a bugged-out alternative America guided by an insane pop star named Max Frost, his band mates The Troops and the millions of fans. Twenty-two-year-old Max despised anyone over 30, and throughout the film worked hard to get rid of mature adults who were “stiff with age.” Played with crazed charisma by method actor Christopher Jones, a southern mumbler who critics compared to James Dean, Max Frost began his mission by partnering with a youngish (thirty-seven years old) congressman who helped him by getting the voting age lowered to fourteen…. 

(14) EYE OPENER. This must be my Mercedes Lackey moment, because our printing “Bulgaria” when it should have been “Croatia” is something I would have thought was more like an easily fixed mistake. Evidently it’s much worse.

(15) LIZARDS IN THE WILD. Check out the rather funny cosplay encounter at “EV Grieve: Saturday’s parting shot”.

A tail of two cities today near Union Square … photo by Derek Berg

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Ryan George discovers that it’s really hard for people in 2022 to explain to the world in 1996 what the metaverse is like. “Time Traveler Discovers The Metaverse – THE FUTURE IS DUMB”.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/27/22 And Did Those Files, In Ancient Time, Scroll Upon England’s Pixels Green?

(1) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. “Stranger Things is being edited retroactively by Netflix. Is this the beginning of a dangerous TV trend?” asks British GQ. It’s not a long article and these tweets have the gist of it.

(2) VIDEO GAME NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber reviews The Quarry, a new game from Supermassive that stars Ted Raimi, David Arquette, and Grace Zabriskie.

While much horror cinema has taken a turn for the intellectual over the past decade, this is a straight-up lesson in the schlock doctrine, a love letter to campy teen slashers such as Friday The 13th.  You’ll find every trope in the book here, from full moons to mysterious trapdoors to flimsy metaphors for intergenerational trauma. The set-up is simple:  it’s the end of summer camp and your group of teenage counsellors are planning to stay one last night to have a party in the woods. The forest inevitably harbours a dreadful, murderous secret, but it will take a lot to faze these kids–theyre horny, wisecracking and ready to make some truly terrible decisions…

…For most of this ten-hour adventure, watching is all you’ll do. Rather than playing, you’re mostly observing scripted sequences and influencing the story by making choices,  These might be fluffy character beats (who do you want to flirt with?) or grim decisions (do you want to pull the knife out of your stomach, risking blood loss?)You’ll also be faced with that horror ur-choice:  run, or hide? There’s no right or wrong; characters can die and the story will keep going.  Each choice leads you towards one of the game’s 186 possible endings.

(3) REMEMBER WHAT THE DORMOUSE SAID. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Royal Society concludes that playing video games will not rot your brain. “Time spent playing video games is unlikely to impact well-being”.

Abstract

Video games are a massively popular form of entertainment, socializing, cooperation and competition. Games’ ubiquity fuels fears that they cause poor mental health, and major health bodies and national governments have made far-reaching policy decisions to address games’ potential risks, despite lacking adequate supporting data. The concern–evidence mismatch underscores that we know too little about games’ impacts on well-being. We addressed this disconnect by linking six weeks of 38 935 players’ objective game-behaviour data, provided by seven global game publishers, with three waves of their self-reported well-being that we collected. We found little to no evidence for a causal connection between game play and well-being. However, results suggested that motivations play a role in players’ well-being. For good or ill, the average effects of time spent playing video games on players’ well-being are probably very small, and further industry data are required to determine potential risks and supportive factors to health….

(4) INSIDE BABYLON 5. As J. Michael Straczynski’s Babylon 5 new commentaries get uploaded to his Patreon page, older ones get a public release. The latest posted to YouTube is: “Babylon 5: Message From Earth commentary by J. Michael Straczynski”.

A full-length, sync-up commentary by creator Straczynski about Messages From Earth, the first installment of a trilogy that would forever alter the course of the series.

(5) OKORAFOR PROFILED. “Africanfuturista! The fantastical adventures of Nnedi Okorafor” at Geek Afrique.

Spaceships, terrorist aliens, water spirits, soldiers, Boko Haram, and wet piles of meat. These aren’t part of a kind of dark poetry, but mainstays of some of the best work of writer Nnedi Okorafor. Her work in her genre of choice Africanfuturism (one word, no space), her speculative fiction and fantasy work, are among the most unique today. Africanfuturism, which Okorafor coined, is an exciting subgenre that welds science fiction and technology to African mythologies, weaving black people —or blackness, really— into fertile worlds rife with story possibilities….

(6) OBAMA’S BOOK RECS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Barack Obama put books by Emily St. John Mandel and Silvia Moreno-Garcia on his Summer 2022 reading list.

He also put S.A. Cosby’s novel on there. In “Noir at the Bar”, a piece I wrote for File 770 in 2019 about going to hear crime writers read short stories, I said that Cosby was clearly the best writer in the room…

(7) CREEPY CRAWLIES. “Giant spiders, creeping tentacles all in a day’s work for this Ypsilanti artist”Michigan Live profiles Anna Miklosovic. (Her website is here.)

…Miklosovic currently has two art series depicting the unusual. The first shows a paranormal side of Ypsilanti and features work with giant spiders crawling up the side of the iconic Ypsilanti water tower and a giant tentacle in the Peninsula Paper Company Dam. The 12-part series was turned into a calendar, Miklosovic said.

Her second series focuses on Ann Arbor through the lens of the apocalypse, showing abandoned versions of well-known city locations….

(8) NOT JUST ANY USED CLOTHING. The prices didn’t quite go to infinity and beyond, but close: “Buzz Aldrin’s Space Memorabilia Sells for More Than $8 Million” reports the New York Times.

white, Teflon-coated jacket worn by the astronaut Buzz Aldrin during the Apollo 11 mission to the moon in 1969 sold for $2.7 million at a Sotheby’s auction on Tuesday, fetching the highest price among dozens of pieces of rare memorabilia tracing his career in space exploration.

Mr. Aldrin, now 92, has a storied career as an astronaut, joining NASA in 1963 after flying for the Air Force. Within three years, he had walked in space on the Gemini 12 mission. Then, on July 20, 1969, millions of people watched on television as he became the second man to walk on the moon, about 20 minutes after Neil Armstrong, who declared it “one giant leap for mankind.”

The custom-fitted jacket Mr. Aldrin wore on that mission sold after fierce bidding lasting nine minutes, with the auctioneer calling it “the most valuable American space-flown artifact ever sold at auction.” (The garments worn by the two other Apollo 11 astronauts from that mission are owned by the Smithsonian.)

In all, 68 of 69 lots of Mr. Aldrin’s belongings were sold for a combined $8 million on Tuesday by Sotheby’s in Manhattan at an auction that lasted more than two hours….

(9) MEMORY LANE.  

2008 [By Cat Eldridge.] Your essay tonight is brought to you courtesy of two of my loves — Agatha Christie and Doctor Who. Doctor Who’s “The Unicorn and The Wasp” involved both and had the added advantage of being a David Tennant story — bliss!

This episode aired first aired by BBC One on May 17, 2008. As I said it’s a Tennant Doctor and the Companion was Donna Noble as played delightfully by Catherine Tate. I didn’t care for her at first by she grew on me nicely. 

SPOLIERS ABOUND. GO AWAY NOW!

The two arrive at British manor of Lady Clemency Eddison, (Manor house mysteries are another fascination of mine), where Christie is staying. The episode is a murder-mystery where a shapeshifting giant wasp, in disguise as one of the party guests, murders the other guests using methods similar to those in the novels of Christie. The Doctor and Christie, wonderfully played by Fenella Woolgar, collaborate rather deliciously in uncovering what is going on.

Doctor Who does CGI really well and the wasp here comes off nicely even though it could’ve come as damn silly given how big it is. It didn’t. I mean a giant wasp in the British countryside? Seriously? 

More than a few Christie novels get mentioned. Actually a lot acoording to the writer and Russell T Davies. Titles that were noted were: The Murder of Roger AckroydWhy Didn’t They Ask EvansThe Body in the LibraryThe Secret AdversaryN or M?NemesisCat Among the PigeonsDead Man’s FollyThey Do It With MirrorsAppointment with DeathCards on the TableSparkling CyanideEndless NightCrooked HouseDeath in the CloudsThe Moving FingerTaken at the FloodDeath Comes as the EndMurder on the Orient Express and The Murder at the Vicarage

And there’s a neat riff at the end where the Doctor pulled a copy of a Christie novel out of a locker on the TARDIS from five billion years in the future refuting Christie’s belief that she would be remembered. 

They tie the story into the real life mystery of Christie disappearing for nearly eleven days. Mind you, their explanation is fantastical in the extreme.  

So we get The Doctor playing effectively Holmes in a manor house mystery with the assistance of Christie. 

It’s worth noting Christopher Benjamin who is Colonel Hugh Curbishley here played Henry Gordon Jago in The Talons of Weng-Chiang, another favorite episode of mine.

END SPOILERS. REALLY. 

It’s a delightedly written episode that was penned by Gareth Roberts, who previously wrote the another episode that played off history, “The Shakespeare Code”. I’ve watched it least half dozen times and enjoyed it every times. It’s streaming on HBO Max.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 27, 1938 Gary Gygax. Game designer and author best known for co-creating  Dungeons & Dragons with Dave Arneson. In addition to the almost beyond counting gaming modules he wrote, he wrote the Greyhawk Adventure series and the Dangerous Journeys novels, none of which is currently in print. I’ll admit that I’ve not read any of the many novels listed at ISFDB, so I’ve no idea how he is as a genre writer. Opinions, oh intelligent masses? (Died 2008.)
  • Born July 27, 1949 Maury Chaykin. Though best remembered as portraying Nero Wolfe staring with The Golden Spiders: A Nero Wolfe Mystery on A&E, a role that lasted twenty-seven episodes, he did have some appearances in genre work. He was in WarGames as Jim Sting, he showed up in The Twilight Zone’s “A Game of Pool” as James L. “Fats” Brown, the Millennium film as Richard Keane, on Andromeda in “Pieces of Eight” as Citizen Eight and so forth. (Died 2010.)
  • Born July 27, 1949 Robert Rankin, 73. Writer of what I’d call serious comic genre fiction. Best book by him? I’d single out The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse as the best work he ever did bar none. Hell even the name is absolutely frelling great. 
  • Born July 27, 1968 Farah Mendlesohn, 54. She’s an historian and prolific writer on genre literature, and an active fan. Best works by her? I really like her newest work on Heinlein, The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein which won a BSFA and was a 2020 Hugo finalistHer Diana Wynne Jones: Children’s Literature and the Fantastic Tradition is also a fascinating read. And I highly recommend her Rhetorics of Fantasy as we don’t get many good theoretical looks at fantasy. Her only Hugo to date was at Interaction for The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction though she won a lot of other Awards including BSFAs for the introduction to “Reading Science Fiction”, Rhetorics of Fantasy and The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein. She’s also garnered a BFA for Children’s Fantasy Literature: An Introduction (shared with co-writer Michael Levy) which also got a Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Myth and Fantasy, and she’s also won the Karl Edward Wagner Award as well.
  • Born July 27, 1969 Bryan Fuller, 53. Let’s see…There’s credits as either Executive Producer, Producer or Writer for Voyager and DS9American GodsMockingbird Lane, the  last being a reboot of The Munsters which lasted one episode and was, err, strange, Pushing Daisies, a Carrie reboot, Heroes and Dead Like Me. And animated adaptation of a quirky Mike Mignola graphic novel entitled The Amazing Screw-On Head. Go see it. It’s quite amazing.
  • Born July 27, 1970 Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, 52. Jaime Lannister in Game Of Thrones and Game of Thrones: Conquest & Rebellion: An Animated History of the Seven Kingdoms; as the lead in the short lived New Amsterdam series which is not based on the series by the same name by Elizabeth Bear; also genre roles in the Oblivion and My Name Is Modesty: A Modesty Blaise Adventure films.
  • Born July 27, 1977 Jonathan Rhys Meyers, 45. Dracula in the 2013 – 2014 Dracula series, other genre roles includes being in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, the Gormenghast series and Killer Tongue, a film with poodles transformed into drag queens. Would I kind you about the latter? It’s genre. 

(11) HULK ALUM RETURNS. Peter David, known for his legendary and impactful run on Incredible Hulk, is proving his acclaimed work on the Hulk mythos is far from over.  Having just finished an epic trilogy of limited series that told the grand saga of Hulk villain Maestro, David will now turn his attention to another iconic creation of his—Joe Fixit! The fan-favorite Hulk persona that muscled his way through Las Vegas as a hedonistic bodyguard will star in his very own limited series set during David’s original time on the Incredible Hulk. Joining David in this Sin City adventure will be artist Yildiray Cinar (The Marvels).

 “When I created Joe Fixit decades ago, it was merely as a means to shake up the standard formula,” David explained. “Typically Bruce would have set up some sort of situation and he would be worried that the Hulk would inevitably show up and screw things up. The storyline with Joe flipped the formula on its head, and set up the Hulk with his great situation in Vegas and he was worried that Bruce would show up to screw things up. I had no idea that the character would have this much staying power, and that so much would eventually be done with him in the pages of the Immortal Hulk. I’m thrilled that Marvel has given me this opportunity to revisit with an old friend.”

(12) 2023 EASTERCON. Chair Caroline Mullan announced that Conversation, the 2023 Eastercon, will be at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole at the NEC, from April 7-10, 2023.

…Expect to see more information from us soon about booking hotel rooms, booking for the dealers’ room and fan tables, and the timing and details of our initial rise in membership rates.

This has been a difficult year for site negotiations. We are very grateful to Vanessa May and the Persistence committee for providing the continuity with this site that has given us this outcome….

(13) THESE ARE THE DAYS OF OUR UNDEAD LIVES. Rest of World purports to take you “Inside the global gig economy of werewolf erotica on platforms like Dreame, GoodNovel and Amazon Kindle Vella”.

…The central characters of many of Dreame’s most beloved werewolf novels often inhabit Americanized settings, but the authors don’t typically live in the U.S. Rather, they come from countries like Mexico, the Philippines, Nigeria, and China – and often write novels in their second or third language. One student in Bangladesh, who writes under the pen name Anamika, spends five hours a day, seven days per week writing romance novels. She ends each chapter with a cliffhanger to keep readers hooked. Each book earns her up to $300, along with adoring messages from Western fans. “They are very sweet,” she said. “Their comments are my encouragement.” 

The emerging web novel industry spans the globe, taking a business model from Asia, assembling a global supply chain of authors in lower-income countries, and paying them to churn out thousands of words a day for English-speaking readers in the West. Rest of World spoke to four current and former employees at these platforms, who described how the art of novel writing is broken down into a formula to be followed: take a popular theme like werewolves, sprinkle it with certain tropes like a forbidden romance, and write as many chapters as you can. Some novels have hundreds of chapters, most ending on a cliffhanger to keep readers engaged and eager to read on.

The platforms, some backed by Tencent or TikTok’s parent ByteDance, thrived during the pandemic amid a surge in demand for online content – jobs that can be done from home. Dreame, GoodNovel, Webnovel, and Fizzo consistently rank among the most-downloaded reading apps in the U.S., the U.K., the Philippines, and Indonesia, and together rake in millions of dollars in revenues every month. The model has proven so successful that, in 2021, Amazon launched Kindle Vella, featuring similar episodic titles and plotlines. Kindle Vella even mimics a key mechanic of the other platforms: readers earn coins by spending more time engaged in the apps, which they can then spend to unlock more chapters….

(14) REBRANDING MURDER HORNETS? Like you need little branding irons for branding ants? MSN.com reports “Invasive ‘murder hornet’ is getting a rebrand. Here’s why.”

… The Asian giant hornet, commonly known as the murder hornet, has a new name as its former moniker could stoke anti-Asian sentiment.  

The Entomological Society of America (ESA) chose to rebrand the invasive species as the northern giant hornet, with the ESA concluding the political climate contributed to the need to change the name…. 

(15) A BAD DAY FOR STURGEON. “Two of the Largest Freshwater Fish in the World Declared Extinct”. MSN.com has details.

The Yangtze sturgeon lived in its namesake river for 140 million years. Now it doesn’t. Nor does another behemoth it shared China’s longest waterway with for ages, the Chinese paddlefish. Updating its Red List of Threatened Species on Thursday for the first time in 13 years, the International Union for Conservation of Nature declared the two species, known as “the last giants of the Yangtze,” extinct.

Once the largest freshwater fish in the world, the Yangtze sturgeon, Acipenser dabryanus, could reach 26 feet in length and weigh 1,500 pounds. Its historic range extended throughout Asia, including Japan, Korea, and the Yellow River in China. Dubbed a “living fossil,” it sported a rounded snout, large pectoral fins, and rows of elevated ridges on its spine and flanks. Though there are still captive fish in breeding programs, authorities, despite many efforts, have failed to successfully reintroduce the fish to the river system, and now it considered extinct in the wild.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Matthew Van Ness duplicates himself dozens of times as he sings “Hedwig’s Theme” from the Harry Potter movies: “I sing the ENTIRE orchestra in Hedwig’s Theme”.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/21/22 This Pixel Intentionally Left Indescrollable

(1) WICKED GOOD. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] I was browsing this article in Slate and was pleasantly shocked to find Estraven from The Left Hand of Darkness on the list. There are other more mainstream SFFnal entries too. “The best death scenes in movies, TV, books, theater, songs, and more.”

…The death scene is one of the sharpest tools in a writer’s toolbox, as likely to wound the writer themself as the reader—for if a well-written death scene can be thrilling, terrifying, or filled with despair, so can a poorly written one be bathetic, stupid, and eye-rolling.

But let’s not talk about those. Let’s talk about the good ones, the deathless death scenes. We’ve assembled the 50 greatest fictional deaths of all time—the most moving, most funny, most shocking, most influential scenes from books, movies, TV, theater, video games, and more. Spoilers abound: It’s a list that spans nearly 2,500 years of human culture, from Athens to A24, and is so competitive that even poor Sydney Carton and his famous last words couldn’t make it…. 

(2) MOBY CLICK. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] In connection with the previous item, Slate also posted “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Douglas Adams explains the whale scene”, a piece reprinted with the permission of his estate in which Douglas Adams reacts to the ways that some of his readers reacted to the death of the whale. And, one supposes, this Reprinted Reaction Reaction is now Canon. 

(3)  TIMING IS THE SECRET (NOT JUST OF COMEDY). Gizmodo reports the resolution of a story I first read on Petréa Mitchell’s SMOF News: “As Comic-Con Begins, Hotel Workers Went On Strike… And Won”.

Just as the Hilton Bayfront was set to open its doors to San Diego Comic Con attendees, special guests, and press, the workers at the hotel set up a picket line in front of the hotel. The strike only lasted a few hours, proving once again that collective action, worker solidarity, and excellent timing will often force management to come to the bargaining table willing to present reasonable offers.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that last Wednesday, despite the oncoming legion of nerds, geeks, and fans that are set to swarm the sold-out hotel, management had not come to an agreement with the Unite Here Local 30, which represents nearly 450 full-time employees and an additional 150 on-call workers. Today, however, they have presented an agreement that Brigette Browning, president of Unite Here Local 30, views positively, which ended the strike, for now….

(4) PICKET DUTY. Meanwhile, on the East Coast, “HarperCollins Workers Strike For Increased Wages, Benefits and Diversity”  reports the New York Times.

HarperCollins union members went on a one-day strike on Wednesday, with around 100 employees and additional supporters marching in front of the company’s corporate headquarters in Manhattan in the sticky heat for higher wages, better family leave benefits and a stronger commitment to diversity from the company.

Publishing has long offered meager wages to entry and midlevel employees, making it difficult to live in New York City, where the industry is based, without a second job or financial support from a spouse or family.

Many workers say that the low wages also make it hard for potential employees who don’t come from wealth to consider a career in publishing, which hampers efforts to diversify the mostly white industry.

“I love my job, I love my authors, it’s an incredible privilege to get to work on these books, and I would love to do it for the rest of my life, if I can afford to,” said Stephanie Guerdan, an associate editor in the children’s department who joined the strike.

But with a salary of $56,000 a year, she said, she worries she won’t be able to stay.

(5) HEAR THEM RING. A Marriott hosting San Diego Comic-Con visitors is wrapped with publicity for The Rings of Power.

Two tracks of music from the series have been made available to hear online.

(6) GAIMAN AS OPERA. The West Edge opera production of Coraline, based on Neil Gaiman’s book, will be performed at the Oakland Scottish Rite Center in Oakland, CA from July 30-August 7. Tickets here.

With great pleasure we present an opera that is for people of all ages who love gruesome things!

Coraline is a young girl whose life has been uprooted. As she wanders alone through her new creaky house, she tries to get the attention of her work-at-home parents to no avail. One day she discovers a mysterious door, through which she sets out on a terrifying adventure that tests the limits of human bravery.

(7) POWERS OF PERSUASION. While I’m already interested in Jane Austen, if I weren’t, Abigail Nussbaum’s “Four Comments on Netflix’s Persuasion at Asking the Wrong Questions would still rivet my interest. Following the four comments referenced in the title, she sums up:

…The correct attitude when approaching a field this vibrant and busy isn’t condescension, but humility. When even the specific sub-type of Austen adaptation you’re attempting—irreverent and modernized—includes films like Clueless, you don’t have the option of half-assing your work, or failing to think through your choices and how they affect the characters and plot. You have to be able to justify what you’re doing both as a reflection of what Austen wrote, and as a work in its own right. Persuasion does not even seem to have realized that it needed to do this…. 

(8) THAT EXPRESSION IS A SMILE. You might not expect to find James Davis Nicoll recommending “Five Feel-Good Comfort Reads”, but never underestimate his versatility.

Unlike the news, fiction is not limited to a seemingly unending cavalcade of disaster, calamity, and egregiously poor choices, a cavalcade as comforting as glancing up a mountainside to see an avalanche swiftly bearing down on one.  So, if doomscrolling is getting you down, consider stepping away from the newsfeeds to enjoy a comfort read or two…

First on the list, a work with previously unsuspected sff credentials:

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (1932)

Orphaned at nineteen, Flora Post embodies “every art and grace save that of earning her own living.” Without any other means at hand, she goes to live with distant relatives: the Starkadders, whose homestead, Cold Comfort Farm, is in the depths of rustic Sussex.

Flora intends to earn her living. The rural melodramas of such luminaries as Mary Webb (Gone to Earth) assure Flora that her unfortunate rural relatives must languish under a myriad of troubles that their simple rustic minds are incapable of solving. Indeed, each Starkadder struggles with issues so profound as to seem parodic. Flora, on the other hand, is a very modern, very organized girl. What seem like insurmountable challenges for her kinfolk are to her simple challenges easily solved.

Readers who know Cold Comfort Farm only from the otherwise exemplary 1995 film adaptation—”There’ll be no butter in hell!”—may be surprised to learn that Cold Comfort Farm was a science fiction novel of sorts. The 1932 text references the Anglo-Nicaraguan wars of ’46, establishing that the book takes place in what is now an alternate history.

(9) TONOPAH ON HIS MIND. Alan White’s personal Westercon 74 Memory Book is filled with entertaining snark and Alan’s marvelous art. It can be downloaded from eFanzines.com. Here’s a paragraph about staying at the Mizpah Hotel in Tonopah.

…The wind came up howling through the window with such force, we thought someone was testing a jet-engine in the alley. The window we could neither open nor close and not until closer inspection see the latch was off-kilter less than a hair’s breadth and with some force, clicked into place (phew). Not long after, there were other noises of speculation every time our neighbor visited the bathroom. There were noises not unlike the Titanic signaling for help whenever the faucets turned on and whenever they drew a bath, I swear there was the sound as if the Lady in Red was blowing a Vuvuzela from the drain in our bathtub. I won’t belabor you dear reader with the trifling sound coming from the air duct…

(10) MEMORY LANE.  

1986 [By Cat Eldridge.] So let’s talk about the five volumes of The Hugo Winners that Isaac Asimov edited, published in various editions between 1962 and 1986. The basic facts are that Asimov selected stories that won a Hugo Award for Short Story, Novelette or Novella at the Worldcons held between 1955 and 1982. That was fine.

However, the powers that be at Doubleday decided that Asimov was free to express his opinions. And oh, did he do so! To put it bluntly, this was quite unusual as the text ordinarily found in these anthologies is, errr, bland to a degree that should surprise no one. Just the facts, ma’am.

Not Asimov, who wrote a short introduction about each author in each anthology. And my. He named writers that he didn’t like, those he was quite jealous of. And he went at length about those writers who won awards ahead of him and how angry that made him as he should have won those awards instead. Of course, he always believed that he should’ve won every award. Poor Isaac.

He discussed his political beliefs as he supported the ending of the Vietnam War. Basically, he used the anthologies to express his annoyance with the universe.  Ok Asimov was never shy about expressing his opinions. I’m just surprised that Doubleday gave him carte blanche authority to write what he wanted.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 21, 1911 Marshall McLuhan. He coined the expressions the medium is the message and global village, and predicted the World Wide Web almost thirty years before it was invented. I read The Medium Is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects a long time ago. Somehow it seemed terribly quaint. (Died 1980.)
  • Born July 21, 1921 James Cooke Brown. He’s the creator of Loglan. Oh, and he did write SF. The Troika Incident written in 1970 features a global data net. That, and two short pieces of fiction, are the sum total of his of genre writings. The Troika Incident is available from Kindle but not from iBooks.  (Died 2000.)
  • Born July 21, 1929 John Woodvine, 93. First role in our realm is as Macbeth at Mermaid Theatre back in the early Sixties. Shortly thereafter, he’s Badger in Toad of Toad Hall at the Comedy Theatre before being The Marshal in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Armageddon Factor”.  He’s in An American Werewolf in London as Dr. J. S. Hirsch, and he had a recurring role in The Tripods as Master West. He did show up on The Avengers several times, each time as a different character, and he was Singri Rhamin for the episodes of Danger Man
  • July 21, 1933 John Gardner. Novelist, critic, teacher, medievalist, among other things. His student Jeffrey Ford described Gardner’s knowledge of literature as ‘encyclopedic,’ with no regard whatever for genre boundaries. He considered Stanislaw Lem the greatest living writer, disliked Tolkien’s poetry (an assessment I agree with) but thought The Lord of the Rings ‘one of the truly great works of the human spirit’. Most of his best works are fantasy: most famously Grendel, but also Freddy’s Book, Mickelson’s Ghosts, the short story collection The King’s Indian, and his posthumously-published short story, “Julius Caesar and the Werewolf”. His book The Art of Fiction is well worth reading for anyone interested in fiction, as a writer or a reader. (Died 1982.) (PhilRM)
  • Born July 21, 1948 G. B. Trudeau, 74. Ok we decided when I first put this Birthday up that there’s enough content to be genre, but he did an amazing series on the Apple Newton when it came out. A Doonesbury Retrospective series is up to three volumes and is available from the usual suspects at very reasonable prices. 
  • Born July 21, 1951 Robin Williams. Suicides depress me. I remember a bootleg tape of a performance of him and George Carlin in their cocaine fueled days. No, not even genre adjacent but damn brilliant. Such manic energy. Genre wise, he was brilliant in most everything he did, be it Mork & Mindy, Hook which I adore, The Fisher KingBicentennial Man or Jumanji. (Died 2014.)
  • Born July 21, 1960 Lance Guest, 62. He’s an American film and television actor, best known for his lead role in The Last Starfighter. He also shows up in Jaws: The Revenge as Michael Brody, as Jimmy in Halloween II, as Kyle Lane in “Fearful Symmetry” episode of The X-Files and as The Burning Zone in “The Critical Mass” episode of The Burning Zone
  • Born July 21, 1976 Jaime Murray, 46. If you watch genre television, you’ve most likely seen her as she’s been Helena G. Wells in Warehouse 13, Stahma Tarr in Defiance, Fiona/the Black Fairy In Once Upon a Time, Antoinette in The Originals, and Nyssa al Ghul in Gotham. She voices Camilla in Castlevania. Filmwise, she was Livinia in The Devil’s Playground and Gerri Dandridge in Fright Night 2: New Blood

(12) BLACK ASL. Black Nerd Problems tells how “’The Champion’s Hike’ Brings African American Sign Language to ‘Craig of the Creek’”.

…“The Champion’s Hike” episode centers around Craig trying to fit in among his former enemies turned friends and Maya being the one to let him know that it’s okay to just be himself. The other portion of this story is how we get to see African American Sign language on screen via Jackie who is deaf. We see Jackie’s father communicating with him prior to the group leaving. We also see Keun-Sup signing communicating to Jackie with ASL as well. Not only do we get to see African American Sign Language, but this episode gives us sign language conversation between two characters of color. We also see Craig learning more ASL and remembering what he’s learned prior from Keun in order to interact with Jackie. Craig of the Creek really be out here thinking of everything man.

There is an artist touch used here as well where we know what is being said of the conversation only by how Keun reacts verbally to what Jackie is saying. We viewers who aren’t versed in ASL won’t understand what’s being said (like the conversation between Jackie and his father) However, that’s fine because it’s not for us….

The episode also attracted the attention of the Los Angeles Times: “How ‘Craig of the Creek’ got Black American Sign Language right”.

…It’s a moment that the episode’s consultants, from Southern California Black Deaf Advocates, point to as a highlight of their experience on the series.

“I teach parents [who have deaf children] how to sign, so the fact that a Black father was signing to his son, that exposure and that emphasis was so amazing,” said Deaf mentor Bibi Ashley through a sign language interpreter during a recent video call. “Just seeing that interaction, that was my favorite part.”…

(13) TALKING HEADS. Let SYFY Wire usher you through “Funko’s tour of Funkoville at SDCC 2022”.

With San Diego International Comic-Con returning this week at full capacity for the first time since July 2019, plenty of companies are finding space around the Gaslamp or on the show floor to welcome back fans and communities in a big way.

One of them is Funko, the collectible company which has long catered to corralling their hyper-engaged audience with live events at cons and at their HQ stores in Everett, Washington and Hollywood, California. After having to go virtual with their FunKon event in 2021, SDCC 2022 finds Funko incorporating the lessons learned during the pandemic and applying them to their massive new show floor booth space which they’ve dubbed Funkoville. 

(14) THEME PARK PUNCHOUT. “Disney World Brawl: Fantasyland Becomes Nightmare As Melee Breaks Out”Deadline has the story.

Close on the heels of a massive brawl that forced Knott’s Berry Farm in Southern California to close early on Saturday, video has surfaced of another large melee at Walt Disney World in Florida on Wednesday.

Video posted online shows at least 6 people simultaneously engaged in physical combat, as dozens of others hover at the edges, some trying to break it up and others at times joining the fray. One large group of about a half-dozen people are dressed in coordinated red shorts and white t-shirts with mouse ears on the front. They seem to be fighting with another equally large group, at least one of whom is heard using a racial slur.

The melee took place behind Cinderella’s Castle just in front of Peter Pan’s Flight in Fantasyland, according to a local Fox affiliate. The sheriff also confirmed to the outlet that one man was hospitalized after the incident and three people were arrested for misdemeanor battery.

This is at least the third sizable fistfight at the Magic Kingdom in as many months, according to reports.

Video of the incident and further updates are posted at WDW News Today: “UPDATE: Guest Involved in Magic Kingdom Brawl Reveals Story & More Footage”.

(15) FANCY DUDS. Just what hangs in the TARDIS closet anyway? “Doctor Who costumes ranked from William Hartnell to Jodie Whittaker” at Radio Times.

The Seventh Doctor once claimed to have “an impeccable sense of haute couture”. Which was a pretty bold statement for a man wearing so many questions marks that even The Riddler probably thought it was “a bit on-the-nose”.

It’s far from the only statement look the Time Lord has sported over the years, of course. And now, if tabloid reports are to be believed – and they’re usually not, but go with me here – it seems Ncuti Gatwa’s Doctor is set to gallivant around the cosmos in a fetching pair of space wellies. So what more perfect time to bring you the Definitive Guide to Wellies in Doctor Who?

Just kidding (although the Cybermen did rock some delightful silver moon boots, back in the day): we’re actually here to talk about the Doctor’s duds down the years. And from Hartnell’s hat to Gatwa’s gumboots, it’s quite the catwalk parade…

(16) WHO HYPE. The Radio Times also reveals: “Doctor Who ‘gets behind-the-scenes spin-off series on BBC Three’”.

Returning Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies has commissioned a special behind-the-scenes series ahead of the next season with new Doctor Ncuti Gatwa, according to reports.

The BBC Three Doctor Who spin-off series will be titled Doctor Who: Unleashed and give fans a sneak-peek at the filming process, beginning with the 60th anniversary special next year and the surprise return of David Tennant and Catherine Tate, according to The Mirror.

The series will apparently be similar in format to Doctor Who Confidential, the behind-the-scenes sister show that ran from 2005 to 2012. It will reportedly continue to air alongside the next full season.

(17) DOPEST NIGHT SKY. Sometimes it isn’t aliens… “Strange Pink Glow in Sky Turns Out to Be Caused by Monster Weed Farm” says the Daily Beast.

Turns out that residents in the Australian city of Mildura didn’t need to panic when a mysterious pink glow appeared in the sky on Wednesday night—the feared alien invasion was really just light coming from a huge medical cannabis farm where staff forgot to close the blinds. The sinister hue of the celestial phenomenon was attributed to special lamps used in weed cultivation….

(18) CSI SKILL TREE. The Center for Science and Imagination’s Skill Tree event on sound and worldbuilding can now be viewed on YouTube here, and all ten CSI Skill Tree episodes are available from this playlist.

In this episode of CSI Skill Tree, we discuss how sound design and music in games contributes to worldbuilding, storytelling, and immersion. We look closely at Inside, a moody adventure game with environmental puzzles and grim, industrial aesthetics, and the iconic Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (1992), and consider how the possibilities for sound and music in games have changed over time. Our special guests are science fiction and fantasy author Tochi Onyebuchi (Goliath, Riot Baby) and composer and sound designer Amos Roddy, who has worked on a number of video games, including the recent cyberpunk hit Citizen Sleeper.

(19) MAD, YOU KNOW. Silvia Moreno-Garcia promotes The Daughter of Doctor Moreau on CrimeReads. “Bad Seeds and Mad Scientists: On the Build-A-Humans of 19th-Century Literature”.

…We owe the concept of criminal brains to Cesare Lombroso, an Italian physician who promulgated the idea that criminality was inherited, and that criminals could be identified by physical defects, which indicated savage or atavistic traits. Sloping foreheads or left-handedness were some of the physical signs of primitive qualities inherent in criminal brains. Lombroso’s theories on criminality would be incorporated into eugenic discourse, and the idea of the criminal brain as a source for the creature’s violent actions would be reused in many more adaptations to come….

(20) NOT JUST ANY REC ROOM. As Gizmodo phrases it, “Owen Wilson Is Iron Man With Kids in the Superhero Comedy Secret Headquarters”. Secret Headquarters streams beginning August 12 on Paramount+.

While hanging out after school, Charlie and his friends discover the headquarters of the world’s most powerful superhero hidden beneath his home. When villains attack, they must team up to defend the headquarters and save the world.

(21) LEAP YEAR. In the lead-up to SDCC, the showrunners of the new Quantum Leap sequel series have released some information about the show, which begins airing in September. Entertainment Weekly has the story: “Quantum Leap bosses preview thrilling new chapter”.

…Described as a spiritual scientist, quantum physicist Dr. Song has a specific approach to time travel. “He is compelled over and over again to make the right decision, even if his own life is at stake, so he is a much better person than I am in real life. He’s something to strive for,” Lee says. Dr. Song immigrated from Korea with his mother, which will be integral to the story Quantum Leap is telling. “We’re telling an immigrant story at its core, and it is how Ben is experiencing life moving forward,” Lilien explains.

Dr. Song’s partner will be decorated Army veteran Addison (Caitlin Bassett), who assists in the form of a hologram that only Ben can see and hear. While the pair’s dynamic has the banter of Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) and Admiral Albert Calavicci (Dean Stockwell), the new iteration will be different. “Their relationship runs deeper than just being a hologram. They have a close relationship,” Lilien teases….

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] RE the upcoming Quantum Leap series sequel, several years ago Colbert had Scott Bakula on The Late Show and they tried a reboot of their own.  Maybe the new series can take a page from them.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Bernie Phillips, Bill, Daniel Dern, Joey Eschrich, PhilRM, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day JeffWarner.]

Pixel Scroll 5/13/22 Make Room Party, Make Room Party

(1) COME THE MILLENNIUM. This year marks 60 years of the iconic Spider-Man. Marvel Comics will celebrate this milestone anniversary with a special issue honoring the comic that started it all, Amazing Fantasy. Arriving in August, Amazing Fantasy #1000 will be a giant-sized one-shot brought together by some of the industry’s most acclaimed creators.

Here’s just some of what fans can expect from this landmark issue:

  • Visionary writer Neil Gaiman’s grand return to the Marvel Universe
  • Emmy Award winning creator behind “Veep” and “Avenue 5” Armando Ianucci’s Marvel Comics debut
  • Spider-Man mastermind Dan Slott and superstar artist Jim Cheung team up to explore the enduring love between Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson in a story set in the far future
  • Acclaimed artist Michael Cho and novelist Anthony Falcone introduce a new Spider-Man villain
  • Ho Che Anderson crafts a horror-fueled Spidey adventure that cuts to Peter Parker’s core
  • Plus stories by Rainbow Rowell, Jonathan Hickman, and many more!

 “It’s Spider-Man’s 60th and we wanted to celebrate in style by inviting some of the greatest creative minds in the world to celebrate it!” Editor Nick Lowe said.

Join the industry’s top talent in celebrating Spider-Man’s birthday when Amazing Fantasy #1000 arrives in August. 

(2) THE SKY IS FALLING. Chillercon, the Horror Writers Association’s UK event, announced a change of venue after the ballroom ceiling collapsed in their planned facility. The con will still take place in Scarborough from May 26-29.

The convention received news this week that there has been a ceiling collapse in the Cabaret Ballroom of the Grand Hotel, one of our main programming rooms in that hotel, and asbestos has been discovered. The room has been closed off and the hotel declared safe to run by the relevant authorities, but for the last forty-eight hours the convention committee has been working with both hotels towards the best solution for both the ability of ChillerCon UK to run effectively and for the safety of our attendees, as obviously we are keen to ensure there’s no risk to anyone attending.

To that end, we are pleased to confirm that all programming and accommodation has now been moved to the Royal Hotel with immediate effect….

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to join John Appel for a dry-aged burger in Episode 171 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

John Appel

John’s debut novel Assassin’s Orbit, published last year, was a finalist for the 2022 Compton Crook Award. He’s a former US Army paratrooper, a long-time information security professional, a historical fencer, and a life-long gamer who’s written the occasional tabletop RPG adventure. He co-edited the anthology Skies of Wonder, Skies of Danger along with Mary Alexandra Agner. John’s also a graduate of the Viable Paradise workshop and a founding member of the Maryland Space Opera Collective writing group.

We met for lunch at the White Oak Tavern, which is in the Enchanted Forest Shopping Center in Ellicott City, Maryland, and if there was ever a proper place to record an episode of Eating the Fantastic, an Enchanted Forest certainly sounds like it.

We discussed how pitching his debut novel as “Battlestar Galactica meets Golden Girls” got him an agent, why his background in table-top RPGs might be the reason he writes novels rather than short stories, how he deals with the “candy bar” scenes of his plots, the way critique groups and sensitivity readers can help make books better, how to juggle multiple viewpoints and still have them all be equally compelling, the political aspects of his novel which make it a different read than it would have been when it was first begun, his particular set of skills which helped bring fight scenes alive, and much more.

(4) BARRIERS REMAIN. Nalo Hopkinson is profiled by Silvia Moreno-Garcia for the University of British Columbia publication Beyond: “As publishing becomes more varied and diverse, challenges remain for writers of colour”.

…Hopkinson believes universities can help enrich the literary landscape by embracing genre fiction, looking at alternatives that deviate from traditional forms of learning and helping students develop a sense of belonging. For example, the traditional workshop model, where students sit around a circle discussing their stories, may be of little value to a student if they are the only writer of colour in a class.

“I encounter a lot of emerging writers who come from a marginalized community who feel that they won’t be welcomed,” she explains.

Hopkinson believes something that helped her become a writer was “middle class entitlement.” She grew up in a place where Black people were in the majority, where her father was a teacher and her mother a librarian and literature seemed an obtainable pursuit.

“There’s a certain type of entitlement because of that. Not wealth, but entitlement,” she says. “That sense of I have a right to be here.”

The hardest lesson for Hopkinson to teach is this self-empowerment….

(5) THE MEMORY LIBRARIAN. “Janelle Monáe: ‘Erasure is happening right under our noses’” the singer and author tells Christiane Amanpour at CNN Style.

…As Monáe wrote on Instagram in December, they have always used sci-fi and Afro-Futurism as “vehicles” for translating ideas into music, art and now literature. But the singer told Amanpour that they believe memory and history are under threat in today’s America.

“I think that there is definitely an agenda for erasure,” Monáe said, pointing to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signing the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which bans LGBTQ+ topics in elementary school classrooms, and Texas Governor Greg Abbott signing legislation that restricts how race and US history is taught in the state’s schools.

“These are real experiences for our ancestors, real experiences for us,” Monáe said. “And erasure is happening right underneath our noses. And it’s being done through lawmaking.”…

(6) VIDEO GAMES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber discusses TV adaptations of games.

What film directors seem to miss while adapting games for cinema is that games do not resolve around stories we are told but worlds we inhabit. They need to ask what it means for this story to be watched rather than played, and how it might have to change accordingly. In that respect, TV may prove a more natural fit. The length of a series creates space for the spreading storytelling style of games and their myriad characters. This breathing room should also allow showrunners to capitalise on the abundant lore and environmental detail of modern games, which assist in the trendy pursuit of ‘world building.’

Two TV shows that offer hope for the future are both animations. Castlevania, a vampire story based on a series of hit 1990s games, has become a surprise hit on Netflix since launching in 2017.  It is sharply written with mature themes and thoughtful plotting and paved the way for last year’s Arcane. Another Netflix show, Arcane digs into the origin stories of two heroes from the online battle arena game League Of Legends using striking animation that blends hand-painted textures with 3D graphics. Unlike other adaptations, Arcane forgoes fussy plot exposition in favor of character-driven drama and plays loosely with its source material, focusing on the complex relationship between two women and including action only where it meaningfully impacts the narrative.

(7) STURGEON SYMPOSIUM. The Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction is hosting the first annual Sturgeon Symposium on September 29-30 at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS. Here’s the call for papers. They are accepting proposals until June 30.

(8) TIME TRAVEL AND SEX. Nibedita Sen is interviewed by Sarah Gailey in “First Times” at Stone Soup.

First Times is structured unlike anything I’ve read before, using recursion in the narrative to expand and deepen the theme of the story. What inspired you to work in this particular structure? How did you approach storytelling in this medium?

A couple of things, actually – the most important of which is that this was my very first time (hah) writing interactive fiction. As such, I really wanted to keep the game as short and simple as possible, having been warned how easily the simplest-seeming idea can balloon once you actually get down to writing multiple branches of a narrative. Another piece of advice I was given, as a first time IF-writer, was to think about replayability – a game shouldn’t be a one-and-done (hah) kind of thing, but something a reader could go back to multiple times, discovering something new every time….

(9) FRED WARD (1942-2022). Actor Fred Ward has passed on at the age of 79. Detective Harry Philip Lovecraft in Cast a Deadly Spell, Earl Bassett in Tremors and sequels, and the lead in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. He was also in The Crow: Salvation, Invasion Earth (miniseries), had parts in episodes of The Incredible Hulk and The Hitchhiker. The New York Times tribute here comments:

…Mr. Ward was likely best known for his performances in “The Right Stuff,” the acclaimed 1983 adaptation of a book by Tom Wolfe, and “Tremors,” a monster movie that ascended to cult classic status since its release in 1990.

But his long career included a broad range of roles in which he applied a sometimes gruff but almost always grounded charisma to parts on film and TV: among other parts, a union activist in “Silkwood,” a detective in “Miami Blues,” Henry Miller in “Henry and June,” and a motorcycle racer in “Timerider: The Adventures of Lyle Swann.”…

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1994 [By Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-eight years ago, The Crow premiered. I saw it at the theatre and yes, I liked it quite a bit. I’m not a horror fan but I found this quite impressive.  I hadn’t realized until now that it was co-written by John Shirley along with David J. Schow but I’ll get back to that in awhile. 

It was directed by Alex Proyas who would later be nominated for a Hugo at Aussiecon Three (1999) for Dark City. (The Truman Show won that year.) And he’d also later direct I, Robot.

The Crow was produced by Jeff Most, Edward R. Pressman and Grant Hill. Most would produce the sequels, The Crow: City of AngelsThe Crow: Salvation and The Crow: Wicked Prayer. Pressman was the uncredited executive producer for Conan the Destroyer and Grant Hill was involved in the Matrix films plus V for Vendetta.

Of course the movie starred Brandon Lee, an actor who gave the film a certain tragic edge by dying. The other major roles were held by Ernie Hudson and Michael Wincott. Ernie you know, but Michael Wincott has largely played villains in such films as Alien Resurrection and The Three Musketeers (remember I hold them to be genre). 

So yes, it was written by John Shirley along with David J. Schow. Checking IMDB, I see Shirley has written far too many screenplays too list all of them here, so I’ll just note his work on Deep Space NineBatman Beyond and Poltergeist: The Legacy. Though definitely not genre, he also wrote one episode of the Red Shoe Dairies. Really he did.

The Crow did well at the box office making nearly a hundred million against twenty-four million in costs. 

So what did the critics think? Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribune had this to say: “What’s scary about The Crow is the story and the style itself: American Gothic, Poe-haunted nightmare, translated to the age of cyberpunk science fiction, revenge movies and outlaw rock ‘n’ roll, all set in a hideously decaying, crime-ridden urban hell.” And Caryn James of the New York Times said: “It is a dark, lurid revenge fantasy and not the breakthrough, star-making movie some people have claimed. But it is a genre film of a high order, stylish and smooth.”

It holds a most exemplary ninety percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 13, 1922 Bea Arthur. Really only one meaningful genre credit but oh but what a credit it is. She’s in the Star Wars Holiday Special as Ackmena. That character in the Star Wars canon was the nightshift bartender in Chalmun’s Cantina in Mos Eisley on Tatooine who joined the resistance. (Died 2009.)
  • Born May 13, 1937 Roger Zelazny. Where do I start? The Amber Chronicles are a favorite, as is the Isle of The Dead, To Die in Italbar, and well, there’s very there’s very little by him that I can’t pick him and enjoy for a night’s reading. To my knowledge there’s only one thing he recorded reading and that’s a book he said was one of his favorite works, A Night in the Lonesome October. No, I’ve not forgotten about his Hugos. Roger Zelazny would win his first Hugo for …And Call Me Conrad which would later be called This Immortal.  It would be the first of six Hugos that he would win and one of two for Best Novel, the other being for Lord of Light. His other four Hugos would be for the “Home Is the Hangman” novella, the “Unicorn Variation“ novelette, “24 Views of Mt. Fuji, by Hokusai” novella and “Permafrost” novelette. (Died 1995.)
  • Born May 13, 1946 Marv Wolfman, 76. He worked for Marvel Comics on The Tomb of Dracula series for which he and artist Gene Colan created Blade, and the Crisis on Infinite Earths series in which he temporarily untangled DC’s complicated history with George Pérez. And he worked with Pérez on the direct-to-DVD movie adaptation of the popular “Judas Contract” storyline from their tenure on Teen Titans. (I’m not going to list his IMDB credits here. Hell, he even wrote a Reboot episode!) 
  • Born May 13, 1949 Zoë Wanamaker, 73. She’s been Elle in amazing Raggedy Rawney which was a far better fantasy than Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone where she was Madame Hooch. And she was Cassandra in two Ninth Doctor stories,” The End of the World” and “New Earth”. 
  • Born May 13, 1951 Gregory Frost, 71. His retelling of The Tain is marvellous. Pair it with Ciaran Carson and China Miéville’s takes on the same legend taking an existing legend and remaking it through modern fiction writing. Fitcher’s Brides, his Bluebeard and Fitcher’s Bird fairy tales, is a fantastic novel though quite horrific.
  • Born May 13, 1964 Stephen Colbert, 58. Ubernerd who’s currently recovering from his third bout of Covid. He’s hosted charity showings of Tolkien. Genre credits a cameo as a spy in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the voice of Paul Peterson in Mr. Peabody & Sherman and the voice of President Hathaway in Monsters vs. Aliens

(12) THE SLEEPER SYMBIOTE CLAIMS A NEW HOST IN VENOM #11. This cover reveal is really only the first phase of Sleeper Agent’s look. They are symbiotes, after all. Pick up his debut issue when Venom #11 arrives in August.

Writers Al Ewing and Ram V and artist Bryan Hitch’s acclaimed run on Venom continues to reshape the symbiote mythos in each explosive issue! And luckily for Venom fans, the trio of superstar creators have no plans to slow down as the ongoing series enters its’ third terrifying arc this August in Venom #11. Kicking off a three-part story called “VENOMWORLD”, readers will see Eddie and Dylan Brock’s journey take a sharp turn as they deal with the shocking revelations of Venom #10. Dylan is still at the mercy of Bedlam while Eddie battles his way across the cosmos, discovering more about the symbiotes than ever before. And the hits keep coming as the Sleeper symbiote joins the fray with a deadly new look… 

(13) LIVE TWEETING. Cat Rambo did the Writers Corner Live show, talking about The Reinvented Heart with Mary Elizabeth Jackson. 

(14) BEWARE SPOILERS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Doctor Strange 2 writer Michael Waldron, in a spoiler-packed article, discusses his screenplay and the Star Wars film he is working on for Kevin Feige. BEWARE SPOILERS! “’Doctor Strange 2′ Writer on Wanda, Mr. Fantastic, ‘Star Wars’ Movie” in Variety.

SPOILER ALERT: This story discusses major plot points in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, currently playing in theaters. Do not read until you’ve seen the movie.

As an alum of “Community” and “Rick and Morty,” screenwriter Michael Waldron certainly knows outré, genre-hopping science fiction; with “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” Waldron found a kindred spirit in director Sam Raimi, who invented outré, genre-hopping horror with his “Evil Dead” trilogy.

Together, Raimi and Waldron have made one of the most distinctive — and, for some, controversial — movies ever in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. To wit (the big spoilers start here): Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) goes full Scarlet Witch and brutally murders anyone who gets in the way of her mission to find a universe in which her sons from the 2021 Disney+ series “WandaVision” are still alive. It’s a heel turn that has shocked many — including Olsen — especially when Wanda decimates the Illuminati, the team of superheroes from an alternate reality that includes Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier (from 20th Century Fox’s “X-Men” movies), Anson Mount’s Black Bolt (from ABC’s “Inhumans” TV series), and John Krasinski’s Reed Richards, the first time the leader of the Fantastic Four has appeared in the MCU….

(15) IT WILL BECOME ROUTINE. “Huntsville International Airport becomes first commercial airport allowed to land a space vehicle” reports WAFF.

The Huntsville International Airport was approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to allow commercial space vehicles to land at the airport….

Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser is a space utility vehicle that is designed to transport crew and cargo to destinations such as the International Space Station.

Sierra Space was awarded six missions by NASA to resupply the International Space Station. The FAA could grant the Dream Chaser the option to land in Huntsville in 2023.

“This is a significant milestone for Huntsville International and for our community in the pursuit of landing a commercial space vehicle right here in Rocket City U.S.A.,” Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Port of Huntsville/Huntsville International Airport, Mark McDaniel, said in a statement. “That’s going to be an exciting day, not just for the Airport but also for the talented and dedicated partners in this effort.”

(16) EATING OUTSIDE THE BOX. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Marylou Tousignant says that May 11 was National Eat What You Want Day and recommended ten foods kids could try, including Japanese tuna eyeballs, Vietnamese coconut worms, and Marmite. “On Eat What You Want Day, try something new”.

… It’s easy to think of foods you love and want to eat. We decided to tinker with the idea and tell you about 10 unusual dishes from around the world that you may never have heard of. We’re calling it International Give It a Try Day….

She alerted me to all the damage Paddington caused in this commercial when he switched from marmalade to Marmite sandwiches! “Paddington Bear Marmite TV Commercial “.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/28/21 He Left The Galactic Library To Riverworld City But He Gave All The Scrolls To Her

(1) FUTURE TENSE. The September 2021 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “The Wait,” by Andrea Chapela, translated by Emma Törzs—a story about disappearances, ubiquitous surveillance, and stultifying bureaucracy.

… When the bell chimes for the next appointment, you raise your eyes from the book you weren’t really reading in the first place. 347. You’re next. You shut the book, a poetry collection you brought intentionally because it lets you open any page and read a few verses before losing the thread and looking back up at the screen…..

It was published along with a response essay by biomedicine and genetics researcher Vivette García-Deister. “Who Wins When the State Appropriates Self-Defense Technologies Developed by Communities?”

… This registry was created in 2018, and it includes disappearances from all the recent violence associated with the nation’s drug cartel wars. But it also includes cases that date back to the “dirty war” of the 1960s, when repressive governments ruthlessly targeted and eliminated revolutionary groups that had taken up arms against the state and anyone else whom they considered political threats, all under the auspices of U.S. anti-communist foreign policy.

Regrettably, therefore, the setting of Andrea Chapela’s “The Wait”—a short story about a woman waiting indefinitely in a governmental office (the “National Institute of Citizen Registration and Geolocation”) for news about Víctor, her missing brother—is painfully familiar to many people in Mexico. And indeed, much like in “The Wait,” women are mainly the ones who do the inquiring of authorities or actually do the searching, sometimes as members of highly organized search collectives….

(2) ROSARIUM ZOOM. Bill Campbell and Rachelle Cruz discuss The Day The Klan Came To Town in a Facebook livestream on Tuesday, October 5 at 7:00 p.m. Pacific.

Join us for a Zoom talk with Bill Campbell, author and publisher at Rosarium Publishing. His latest work, The Day the Klan Came to Town, is a graphic novel based on historical events: The Ku Klux Klan attack on the Jewish, Catholic, Black, and southern and eastern European immigrant communities of Carnegie, Pennsylvania, in 1923, and how they rose up to send the Klan packing.

In dialog with Campbell will be Rachelle Cruz,Professor of Creative Writing in the Genre Fiction concentration at Western Colorado University, and author of Experiencing Comics: An Introduction to Reading, Discussing and Creating Comics.

This event is sponsored by the Orange Coast College Multicultural Center.

(3) LEARNING FROM THE BEST. The Speculative Literature Foundation has put up an index to its Deep Dives video series.

We like to think of Deep Dives as Khan Academy, but for creative writing. …

Each module is based on a clip from our featured interviews with masters of the field and concerns a specific aspect of the writers’ craft (plot, character-building, establishing a setting, how to get published, copyrighting, and so on). Right now we’re focused on posting individual modules, but as we continue to build this project we plan to create syllabi, study guides, and assignments for specific course structures (such as eco-literature for a science classroom, or a seminar on feminist dystopian fiction)…. 

(4) OH, THE INHUMANITY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the September 21 Financial Times (behind a paywall). Isabella Kaminska, in a piece about whether homemade experimenters could genetically modify things at home for bad ends, interviewed Simon Wain-Hobson, a retired virologist who was the first to genetically sequence HIV.

Wain-Hobson “likens the scientific compulsion to tinker with fantasy novelist Terry Pratchett’s observation that ‘if you put a large switch in some cave somewhere with a sign on it saying “End of the world switch. Please do not touch,” the paint wouldn’t have time to dry.'”

(5) CLICKS FROM A DEAD MAN’S EYES. Alexandra Erin has a Twitter thread going about Asimov and the Foundation series’ lack of decent women characters.  Thread starts here.

In the thread there’s a link to a blog post by Justine Larbalestier that reprints some letters from a teenage Asimov on the subject of women in SF stories: “Letters”.

Dear Editor,

Three rousing cheers for Donald G. Turnbull of Toronto for his valiant attack on those favoring mush. When we want science-fiction, we don’t want swooning dames, and that goes double. You needn’t worry about Miss Evans, Donald, us he-men are for you and if she tries to slap you down, you’ve got an able (I hope) confederate and tried auxiliary right here in the person of yours truly. Come on, men, make yourself heard in favor of less love mixed with our science!

—Isaac Asimov, 174 Windsor Place, Brooklyn, N. Y.
Astounding Science Fiction September 1938 p. 161

Isaac Asimov was eighteen when this letter was published.

(6) GAMING COMPANY WILL SETTLE EEOC COMPLAINTS. “Activision Blizzard says it will pay $18 million to settle harassment claims”CNN has the story.

Activision Blizzard will pay $18 million to settle a lawsuit by a US government agency alleging harassment and discrimination, the firm said Monday.

The gaming company, which owns hugely popular titles such as “Call of Duty,” “World of Warcraft” and “Candy Crush,” announced it had reached a settlement agreement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in response to a complaint the agency filed earlier in the day.

As part of the settlement agreement, which is subject to court approval, Activision Blizzard (ATVI) said it will create an $18 million fund “to compensate and make amends to eligible claimants.” Any remaining amount will either be donated to charities focused on harassment, gender equality and women in the video game industry, or will be used to create diversity and inclusion initiatives within the company, it added….

In a complaint filed earlier on Monday, the EEOC accused Activision Blizzard of subjecting female employees to sexual harassment, retaliating against them for complaining about harassment and paying female employees less than male employees. The company also “discriminated against employees due to their pregnancy,” the complaint alleged.

(7) DAY AFTER DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the September 22 Financial Times, behind a paywall, Tom Faber discusses video games based on Groundhog Day-style time loops.

These (time loop fames) follow in the footsteps of modern classic Outer Wilds, in which players explore a tiny galaxy which resets every 22 minutes when the sun explodes, the minimalist Minit, where you have just 60 seconds to adventure before the game restarts, and the compelling ancient Roman mystery The Forgotten City, in which a whole city is doomed to repeat a day as punishment for its sins.  That’s not to mention the macabre Loop Hero. murder mystery loop The Sexy Brutale, Hamlet-inspired riiff Elsinore, and even a VR game based on the Groundhog Day Ip called Like Father Like Son. There are more every year.  What keeps drawing writers to this particular trope? And why do we never get bored witnessing the same scenes over and over?…

…Gamers have always been at home in loops; traditionally, game environments reset every time they are entered, with enemies respawning and treasure chests restocked with gold.   Game designers speak of the ‘gameday loop,’ the central repeated action which keeps players engaged. Games are the perfect medium to unpack the pleasure in the patterns of a repeated timeframe.  The loop becomes a puzzle that can be solved, while its cyclical nature suggests experimentation–try anything you like, because you can always reset and start again.

(8) VISION QUEST. The wait is almost over. Vox reports “The Webb Space Telescope is 100x as powerful as the Hubble. It will change astronomy”. It will be launched into orbit on December 18.

…The Webb was originally supposed to launch in 2010 and cost around $1 billion. Its price tag has since ballooned to $10 billion, and it’s way overdue. But the wait will be worth it, at least according to the scientists who expect new and revealing glimpses of our universe.

“We’re going right up to the edge of the observable universe with Webb,” says Caitlin Casey, an assistant professor of astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin. “And yeah, we’re excited to see what’s there.”

The Webb will surpass the Hubble in several ways. It will allow astronomers to look not only farther out in space but also further back in time: It will search for the first stars and galaxies of the universe. It will allow scientists to make careful studies of numerous exoplanets — planets that orbit stars other than our sun — and even embark on a search for signs of life there….

(9) REFLECTION IN A GOLDEN VISOR. NASA’s Astronomy Picture Of The Day for September 27, “Five Decade Old Lunar Selfie” turns around a well-known photo taken during the first Moon landing. See the picture here.

Here is one of the most famous pictures from the Moon — but digitally reversed. Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969 and soon thereafter many pictures were taken, including an iconic picture of Buzz Aldrin taken by Neil Armstrong. The original image captured not only the magnificent desolation of an unfamiliar world, but Armstrong himself reflected in Aldrin’s curved visor. Enter modern digital technology. In the featured image, the spherical distortion from Aldrin’s helmet has been reversed. The result is the famous picture — but now featuring Armstrong himself from Aldrin’s perspective. Even so, since Armstrong took the picture, the image is effectively a five-decade old lunar selfie. The original visor reflection is shown on the left, while Earth hangs in the lunar sky on the upper right. A foil-wrapped leg of the Eagle lander is prominently visible. 

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1996 – Twenty-five years ago on CBS, the Early Edition first aired on this evening. The premise was What If tomorrow’s newspaper arrived at your doorstep today? Our protagonist uses this knowledge to prevent terrible events every day.  It was created by Ian Abrams, Patrick Q. Page and Vik Rubenfeld. It was the first major series for all three of them.  It had a cast of Kyle Chandler, Shanésia Davis-Williams, Fisher Stevens, Kristy Swanson and Billie Worley. Set in Chicago, it was largely filmed there as well. It had a successful run of four seasons and ninety episodes. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 28, 1909 — Al Capp. Cartoonist responsible of course for the Li’l Abner strip. Is it genre? Of course. A decade ago, IDW announced Al Capp’s Li’l Abner: The Complete Dailies and Color Sundays as part of their ongoing The Library of American Comics series. The series would be a reprinting of the entire forty year history of Li’l Abner encompassing a projected twenty volumes. So far nine volumes have come out. (Died 1979.)
  • Born September 28, 1923 — William Windom. Commodore Matt Decker, commander of the doomed USS Constellation in “The Doomsday Machine” episode, one of the best Trek stories told. Norman Spinrad was the writer. Other genre appearances include being the President on Escape from the Planet of the Apes, The Major in “Five Characters in Search of an Exit” episode of Twilight Zone and Ben Victor in the “The Night of the Flying Pie Plate” story of The Wild Wild West. This is a sampling only! (Died 2012.)
  • Born September 28, 1935 — Ronald Lacey. He’s very best remembered as Gestapo agent Major Arnold Ernst Toht in Raiders of the Lost Ark. He’s actually in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as Heinrich Himmler though it’s an uncredited role.  One of his first genre appearances was as the Strange Young Man in The Avengers episode “The Joker”.  In that same period, he was the village idiot in The Fearless Vampire Killers which actually premiered as The Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My NeckAnd he’s in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as President Widmark. This is but a thin wafer of his genre roles so do feel free to add your favorite. (Died 1991.)
  • Born September 28, 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 September 28, 1950 — John Sayles, 71. I really hadn’t considered him a major player in genre films but he is. He’s writer and director The Brother from Another Planet and The Secret of Roan Inish; andhe wrote the scripts of PiranhaAlligatorBattle Beyond the StarsThe HowlingE.T. the Extra-TerrestrialThe Clan of the Cave Bear and The Spiderwick Chronicles.
  • Born September 28, 1963 — Greg Weisman, 58. Writer who’s best remembered for Gargoyles, Spectacular Spider-Man and Young Justice. He also produced Gargoyles from early on. He also scripted some of Men in Black: The Series and Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles. He also wrote the children’s novel World of Warcraft: Traveler, followed by a sequel, World of Warcraft: Traveler – The Spiral Path. Children’s novels in the Warcraft universe? Hmmm… 
  • Born September 28, 1982 — Tendai Huchu, 39. Zimbabwean author who’s the editor along with Raman Mundair and Noel Chidwick of the 2020 issue Shores of Infinity zine. He’s also written a generous number of African centric stories of which “The Marriage Plot” won an African Speculative Fiction Society Nommo Award for African Speculative Fiction for Best Short Story. That issue of Shoreline of Infinity (Issue 18, Summer 2020) is available from the usual digital suspects. His newest novel, The Library of the Dead, is the first in Edinburgh Nights series.
  • Born September 28, 1986 — Laurie Penny, 35. They are the writer of one genre novella to date, Everything Belongs to the Future, published at Tor.com, and a generous number of genre short stories. They were a finalist for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer at Worldcon 75 won by Ada Palmer. “Vector at Nine Worlds: Laurie Penny”, an interview with them by Jo Walton is in Vector 288

(12) BEHIND THE MAGIC 8-BALL. Books by Lincoln Michel, S.B. Divya, and Tade Thompson are praised in this CrimeReads roundup by Molly Odintz: “They’ve Seen the Future And They Don’t Like It: The Year’s Best Scifi Noir (So Far)”.

The future is bleak, whether you’re at the bottom of an underwater sea-scraper, in a spaceship headed to a distant galaxy, or just searching for plastic in the polluted rivers of Scrappalachia. More tech leads to more debt, and AI is as likely to compete with humans as to help them. The denizens of the future are buried in the trash of today, and doomed by the politics of yesterday and tomorrow. And yet, as is the surprisingly hopeful message behind any dystopian novel, life continues. Life will always continue. And sometimes, life even finds a way to thrive….

(13) SPIKE THE CANON. The New York Times finds that “In ‘Star Wars: Visions,’ Lucasfilm and Anime Join Forces, and Go Rogue”.

What would happen if some of the most creative animation studios in Japan were let loose in a galaxy far, far away?

In the anime anthology series “Star Wars: Visions,” Jedi warriors battle enemies with faces like oni (a kind of Japanese demon), and straw-hatted droids inhabit feudal villages straight out of Akira Kurosawa’s classic samurai film “Yojimbo.” There are Sith villains and rabbit-girl hybrids, tea-sipping droids (OK, it’s really oil) and sake-sipping warriors. Lightsabers are lovingly squirreled away in traditional wrapping cloths called furoshiki and in red lacquer boxes.

And this being anime, there are over-the-top action sequences, stunning hand-painted backgrounds and computer-generated wonders. And of course, there’s plenty of “kawaii,” the distinctly Japanese form of cuteness….

(14) DISCH TRIBUTE. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Artist Will Quinn did this piece based on the 1987 movie The Brave Little Toaster, an adaptation of Thomas M. Disch’s 1980 novel.

(15) SEE MOVIE RELICS. The Icons of Darkness exhibit, which represents itself to be the most extensive privately-owned collection of sci-fi, fantasy and horror film artifacts on earth, has now moved to its new home on the corner of Hollywood Blvd. and Highland in Hollywood.

From “Star Wars” to “Jurassic Park”, “Terminator” to “Harry Potter”, “Batman” to “Iron Man”, and so many more, the Icons of Darkness exhibition has something for everyone. You’ll see screen-used props, original costumes, life casts, production-made maquettes, makeup effects heads, and artifacts from some of Hollywood’s most famous sci-fi, fantasy, and horror classics. The exhibition will feature pieces from “Dracula”, “Frankenstein”, “The Wizard of Oz”, “Spider-Man”, “Edward Scissorhands”, “Silence of the Lambs”, “Lord of the Rings”, “Game of Thrones”, and more!

(16) GETTING CHIPPY. Gene Wolfe gets a one-line mention in “Julius Pringles gets a makeover to celebrate brands’ 30th birthday in the UK” at Bakery and Snacks. Which the site is programmed to stop me from excerpting. You bastards!

(17) A GRAND MACHINE. The New York Times is there when “Amazon announces Astro, a home robot that it swears is more than Alexa on wheels”.

“Customers don’t just want Alexa on wheels,” Dave Limp, the head of Amazon’s devices, said at a company event on Tuesday. Then he proceeded to introduce a technology-packed home robot that looked a lot like … Alexa on wheels.

At least four years in the making, the small robot, called Astro, has a large screen and cameras attached to a wheeled base that can navigate a home…

Of all the products it showed, Amazon was clearly most excited about Astro, which was shown as the finale. And from the start, the company tried to sort out the differences between Astro and Alexa, the company’s digital assistant. Amazon said Astro’s large eyes on the screen, and the different tones it emitted, helped give the machine a “unique persona.” (At a starting price of $1,000, Astro is also a lot more expensive than most Alexa-enabled devices.)

But the main uses Amazon presented seemed to mirror some of the abilities of its Alexa and related products, which already put voice and camera surveillance in different rooms of a house. It does move, though, and Mr. Limp said customers could send the robot to check on people and different pets — for example, raising a camera on a telescopic arm to see if the flame on a stove is still on….

(18) WILD PITCH. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In ‘James Bond;  Die Another Day” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says that the last Pierce Brosnan Bond film features Bond escaping from a hospital by willing his mind into cardiac arrest,, a villain who becomes British, gets knighted, and builds a giant empire in 14 months, and characters who practice ‘dNA remodeling by enlarging your bone marrow” which the producer thinks has enough science words for him.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Jennifer Hawthorne, Joey Eschrich, Ben Bird Person, Steven H Silver, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 9/22/21 Or I Will Scroll Thee In The Gobberfiles With My Pixelcruncheon, See If I Don’t!

(1) WORKING FOR THE MAN EVERY NIGHT AND DAY. Yesterday’s Scroll picked up The Mary Sue’s report that “Marvel Fired Joe Bennett After Alleged Anti-Semitic Cartoons”. Today Bounding Into Comics reports Bennett is now working for Vox Day’s Arkhaven Comics: “After Being Blacklisted By Marvel Comics, Joe Bennett Joins Arkhaven Comics”. That obviously wasn’t a hard decision for Bennett.

…In a press release, Arkhaven Comics notes they “did not hesitate to take advantage of Bennett’s unexpected availability, and promptly signed the former DC and Marvel illustrator as its lead artist on two series being written by legendary comics writer Chuck Dixon.”

Not only was Bennett the artist for Immortal Hulk, but his resume also includes Savage Hawkman, Deathstroke, and Arrow Season 2.5 among others at DC Comics. 

…Dixon, who has also been subject to a Marvel Comics blacklist since 2002, welcomed Bennett to Arkhaven Comics stating, “It’s a sign of where the American comic industry is at the moment that they would let a powerhouse talent like Joe Bennett go because his personal politics are not in line with their own.”

“I’m looking forward to working with Joe on both of the projects we have in motion at Arkhaven,” he added….

(2) BARBARIAN AT THE GATES. Funcom has purchased the Cabinet Group, which currently holds the trademarks to Conan and most other Robert E. Howard characters. This mainly affects comics and videogames, since there apparently are no movies, TV shows or new books in the works, although they say a game is in development. “Funcom Acquires Full Control of Conan the Barbarian and Dozens of Other IPs”.

…Funcom CEO Rui Casais said he has high ambitions for the IPs and noted at least one unannounced project is already in development. 

“We are currently overseeing the development of an unannounced game which will combine many of the characters in the Robert E. Howard universe,” said Casais. “And if you combine Funcom’s knowledge of games with Heroic Signatures’ knowledge of the TV/entertainment, publishing, and licensing industries, it makes us perfectly placed to take this venture to the next level. It’s exciting times ahead for us and for fans of the IPs.”… 

(3) BES&ST, Lavie Tidhar and Silvia Moreno-Garcia offer an overview of the best sword and sorcery fiction past and present at the Washington Post“Let’s talk about the best sword and sorcery books”.

Lavie: I love the original “Witcher” stories by Andrzej Sapkowski, collected in English as “The Last Wish” in 2007 and translated by Danusia Stok. They were originally published in the Polish magazine Nowa Fantastyka. I got to read “The Last Wish” in proof before it even came out, but I don’t know that anyone then expected it would become as big as it did. For a time, it was nearly titled “The Hexer” but, hexer or witcher, Sapkowski’s Geralt of Rivia is a worthy successor to its earlier influences….

(4) HE CALLED IT. Goodman Games has a post on Fritz Leiber and Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser by James Maliszewski: “Fritz Leiber, H.P. Lovecraft, and the Origin of Sword-and-Sorcery Stories”.

In the May 1961 issue of the fantasy fanzine Amra, future stalwart of Appendix N, Michael Moorcock, wrote a letter to the editor in which he proposed the term “epic fantasy” for the literary genre pioneered by Robert E. Howard in his stories of Conan the Cimmerian. In the July issue of that same year, however, Fritz Leiber offered another term in reply, writing, “I feel more certain than ever that this field should be called the sword-and-sorcery story.” Leiber elaborates a bit on his coinage, adding that this term “accurately describes the points of culture-level and supernatural element,” as well as being useful in distinguishing these stories from other popular pulp genres….

(5) WHAT BELONGS IN THAT BOX? Also at Goodman Games, — now that we have a name for these stories, how do we define sword and sorcery? Brian Murphy discusses the problem in “Sifting Through a Sword-and-Sorcery Definition”.

…But, in the same essay Moorcock began refining these broad parameters, focusing on a subset of fantasy stories “which could hardly be classified as SF, and they are stories of high adventure, generally featuring a central hero very easy to identify oneself with …. tales told for the tale’s sake… rooted in legendry, classic romance, mythology, folklore, and dubious ancient works of “History.” These were quest stories, Moorcock added, in which the hero is thwarted by villains but against all odds does what the reader expects of him….

(6) RACISM IN S&S. This isn’t new, but Charles R. Saunders’ famous essay “Die, Black Dog, Die” about the latent and not so latent racism in sword and sorcery and fantasy in general from the 1970s is available again online here: “Revisiting ‘Die, Black Dog!’” at Reindeer Motel. (It’s posted as a single image file, so no excerpt here.)

(7) BACKSTAGE TO THE FUTURE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Financial Times Reader.] In the Financial Times, Sarah Hemming reviews Back To The Future: The Musical, which recently opened in London.  Roger Bart, who played Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein, plays Doc.

“As in the film, restless teenager Marty McFly escapes his humdrum home life by hanging out with doc and ends up taking the wheel of the DeLorean for an early voyage.  But he gets more than he bargains for when that voyage lands him back in 1955 and in the hugely awkward position of meeting his teenage mum–who promptly develops a crush on him.  Gale’s script gleefully replicates the film (with a few wise excisions, such as the Libyan terrorists), while relishing the irony that from 2021, 1985 looks like old hat and that, for many in the audience, the whole show is an exercise in nostalgia–coupled with curiosity to see time travel on stage…

…A mix of pastiche and sincerity characterises the show.  The songs (Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard) channel the periods–such as a peppy Fifties number in praise of gasoline and DDT–and there’s a nice streak of self-mockery.”

The website for the show is Back to the Future the Musical.

(8) SUPER-OVERRATED. James Davis Nicoll has decided there are “Five Superpowers That Just Aren’t As Fun as They Sound”.

Who among us has not dreamed of having superpowers? We are urged thereto by the avalanche of comics, movies, novels, and roleplaying games featuring abilities beyond mortal ken. Yet not all superpowers are created equal. Some superpowers require secondary superpowers to survive.  Other abilities have disquieting consequences for their possessors.

I’m not going to talk about superhumans with powers that would kill them or their friends if exercised. No one dreams of being any of the following:

  • X-Bomb Betty (can self-detonate, producing a 150 million megaton explosion (once))
  • Hazmat (lethal radioactive aura)
  • Absorbing Man (can duplicate the properties of materials he touches; see footnote)

I’m talking, here, about powers that appear on their surface to be useful but later reveal themselves to be harmful to, or at least extremely alienating for, those who wield them. Below are my musings about five such examples…

(9) NOW, THE NEWS. Also, James Davis Nicoll recommends this comedy sketch on Tik-Tok as an interpretation of “the Canadian election seen through the lens of the Matrix”.

(10) GIANT PEACH OF A DEAL. Netflix now owns the rights to Roald Dahl’s stories. Roundup at Adweek: “Netflix Acquires Roald Dahl Story Company, Plans Extensive Universe”.

The U.S. streaming giant announced Wednesday it has bought the Roald Dahl Story Company, which manages the rights to the British novelist’s characters and stories. It comes three years after Netflix signed a deal to create a slate of new animated productions based on the works of Dahl. (CNBC)

Under the previous deal, Taika Waititi is working on Roald Dahl animated series projects for Netflix, covering Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and its sequel, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. That’s in addition to two different versions of Matilda, including a film version of Matilda the Musical and an animated series, plus plans to make a BFG cartoon. (The Verge)

(11) 1001, A FACE ODYSSEY. “What About the Heroine’s Journey?” asks the New York Times in its review of Maria Tatar’s The Heroine With 1,001 Faces.

…[Joseph] Campbell’s ideas have rippled out in the culture for decades — especially after a popular series hosted by Bill Moyers in 1988 — but he has long demanded a feminist response. It would be hard to conjure up a more suitable person to provide one than Maria Tatar, the Harvard professor who is one of the world’s leading scholars on folklore.

Her new book, “The Heroine With 1,001 Faces,” out this month from Liveright, is an answer to Campbell, though she is careful not to frame it as an assault. “Even though my title suggests that I’m writing a counternarrative, or maybe an attack on him, I think of it as more of a sequel,” Tatar said in a video interview from her home in Cambridge, Mass.

She is stirring what J.R.R. Tolkien once called the “cauldron of story” in search of the girls and women, some silenced and some forgotten, some from the Iliad and some from Netflix, who live in Campbell’s blind spot. The reader jumps from Arachne’s battle with Athena to the escape of Bluebeard’s trickster wife to Pippi Longstocking and Nancy Drew and even to Carrie Bradshaw typing away on her laptop.

(12) LIGHTEN UP. Sarah Gailey is joined by Sophie Lee Mae and Jaxton Kimble to play with this new writing prompt in “Building Beyond: That’s Just Super” at Stone Soup:

Exposure to fluorescent lights gives people a 98% chance of developing a superpower under conditions of duress.

(13) J. RANDOLPH COX (1936-2021). Randy Cox died in a nursing home on September 14 reports Mysteryfile.com. Cox edited The Dime Novel Round-Up for over 20 year. He wrote several books including Man of Magic & Mystery: A Guide to the Work of Walter B. Gibson, about the man who created The Shadow; Flashgun Casey: Crime Photographer, co-authored with David S. Siegel, about the character originally created for Black Mask by George Harmon Coxe; Masters of Mystery and Detective Fiction: An Annotated Bibliography;  and The Dime Novel Companion: A Source Book. He received the Munsey Award at PulpFest in 2014.

(14) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1964 – Fifty-seven years ago on NBC, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. premiered. It was created by Sam Rolfe who was responsible for Have Gun, Will Travel and Norman Felton who directed All My Children, the first daytime soap which debuted in the Forties. It starred Robert Vaughn, David McCallum and Leo G. Carroll. It would last four seasons of one hundred and five episodes, most in color. Harlan Ellison scripted two episodes, “The Sort of Do-It-Yourself Dreadful Affair” and “The Pieces of Fate Affair.” A reunion film, Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. with the subtitle of The Fifteen Years Later Affair with Vaughn and McCallum reprising their roles with Patrick Macnee replacing Leo G. Carroll, who had died, as the head of U.N.C.L.E. There was a film reboot recently that was very well received. 

(15) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 22, 1917 — Samuel A. Peeples. Memory Alpha says that he’s the person that gave Roddenberry the catch phrase he used to sell Star Trek to the network: “[As] fellow writer Harlan Ellison has credited him with the creation of one of the most famous catch phrases in Star Trek lore, “[Gene Roddenberry] got ‘Wagon Train to the stars’ from Sam Peeples. That’s what Gene said to me. They were at dinner and Sam Peeples, of course, was a fount of ideas, and Gene said something or other about wanting to do a space show and Sam said, ‘Yeah? Why don’t you do Wagon Train to the stars?’” (Died 1997.)
  • Born September 22, 1952 — Paul Kincaid, 69. A British science fiction critic. He stepped down as chairman of the Arthur C. Clarke Award in April 2006 after twenty years. He is the co-editor with Andrew M. Butler of The Arthur C. Clarke Award: A Critical Anthology. He’s also written A Very British Genre: A Short History of British Fantasy and Science Fiction and What It Is We Do When We Read Science Fiction. His latest publication is The Unstable Realities of Christopher Priest.
  • Born September 22, 1954 — Shari Belafonte, 67. Daughter of Harry Belafonte, I first spotted her on Beyond Reality, a Canadian series that showed up when I was living in upstate Vermont. You most likely saw her as Elizabeth Trent in Babylon 5: Thirdspace as that’s her most well known genre performance. 
  • Born September 22, 1957 — Jerry Oltion, 64. His Nebula Award winning Abandon in Place novella is the beginning of the Cheap Hyperdrive sequence, a really fun Space Opera undertaking. Abandon in Place was nominated for a Hugo at LoneStarCon 2 (2013). The Astronaut from Wyoming was nominated for a Hugo at Chicon 2000. 
  • Born September 22, 1971 — Elizabeth Bear, 50. First, let’s all wish her a speedy recovery from her cancer surgery which was this week. Her first sff series was a superb trilogy, which might be considered cyberpunk, centered on a character named Jenny Casey. She’s a very prolific writer; I’m fond of her Promethean AgeNew Amsterdam and Karen Memory series. She won an Astounding Award for Best New Writer, a Hugo Award for Best Short Story for “Tideline”, and a Hugo for Best Novelette for “Shoggoths in Bloom”. One of only five writers to win multiple Hugo Awards for fiction after winning the Astounding Award! Very impressive indeed! It is worth noting that she was one of the regular panelists on now sadly defunct podcast SF Squeecast, which won the 2012 and 2013 Hugo Awards for “Best Fancast”. (CE)
  • Born September 22, 1981 — Maria Ashley Eckstein, 40. She’s voice of Ahsoka Tano on Star Wars: The Clone WarsStar Wars Rebels, and Star Wars Forces of Destiny. She even has a voice only cameo as Ashoka in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. And she voiced the character in the audiobook of E. K. Johnston’s Star Wars: Ahsoka.
  • Born September 22, 1982 — Billie Piper, 39. Best remembered as the companion of the Ninth and Tenth Doctors, she also played the dual roles Brona Croft and Lily Frankenstein in Penny Dreadful. She played Veronica Beatrice “Sally” Lockhart in the BBC adaptation of Philip Pullman’s The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in The North.
  • Born September 22, 1985 — Tatiana Maslany, 36. Best known for her superb versatility in playing more than a dozen different clones in the Orphan Black which won a Hugo for Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) at the  73rd World Science Fiction Convention for its “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried“ episode. She received a Best Actress Emmy and more than two dozen other nominations and awards. She’ll be playing Jennifer Walters / She-Hulk in the upcoming Marvel She-Hulk series.

(16) SHARP POINTY TEETH. Of course it’s a vampire movie. Was there ever any doubt? Night Teeth coming to Netflix on October 20.

(17) IT CANNOT BE DENIED. From a book review in today’s New York Times:

“(Turid is among those names, like Shakespeare’s Titus, for which it is crucial, when spelling, not to omit the second vowel.)”

(18) DANGEROUS HISTORY. A genre study titled Dangerous Visions and New Worlds: Radical Science Fiction, 1950 to 1985 edited by Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre is available for pre-order from PM Press.

…It starts with progressive authors who rose to prominence in the conservative 1950s, challenging the so-called Golden Age of science fiction and its linear narratives of technological breakthroughs and space-conquering male heroes. The book then moves through the 1960s, when writers, including those in what has been termed the New Wave, shattered existing writing conventions and incorporated contemporary themes such as modern mass media culture, corporate control, growing state surveillance, the Vietnam War, and rising currents of counterculture, ecological awareness, feminism, sexual liberation, and Black Power. The 1970s, when the genre reflected the end of various dreams of the long Sixties and the faltering of the postwar boom, is also explored along with the first half of the 1980s, which gave rise to new subgenres, such as cyberpunk.

Dangerous Visions and New Worlds contains over twenty chapters written by contemporary authors and critics, and hundreds of full-color cover images, including thirteen thematically organised cover selections. New perspectives on key novels and authors, such as Octavia Butler, Ursula K. Le Guin, Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison, John Wyndham, Samuel Delany, J.G. Ballard, John Brunner, Judith Merril, Barry Malzberg, Joanna Russ, and many others are presented alongside excavations of topics, works, and writers who have been largely forgotten or undeservedly ignored.

Here’s a sample page that was posted to the book’s Kickstarter site:

(19) THE QUICK SAND AND THE DEAD. Juliette Kayyem remembers a hazard much on the minds of young TV viewers back in the day:

Her tweet inspired E. Gruberman to round up a zillion YouTube links to relevant scenes from old shows of TV heroes up to their hips in quicksand.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Transformers:  Age of Extinction Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says in the fourth Transformers movie, Sam Witwicky disappears without an explanation because Shia LeBouef didn’t want to be in Transformer movies anymore. The writer explains that the Transformers are powered by “transformium,” “which can change into any product placement we want.” but the third act will be “our usual visual mess” but will feature “guns, boobs, America, victory.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Cora Buhlert, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 8/17/21 Podkayne On The Ritz

(1) GOFUNDME FOR MIXON AND GOULD. Stephanie Maez is asking people to signal boost the GoFundMe she has set up on behalf of Aunt Laura and Uncle Steve: “Help Aunt Laura Heal”. Laura J. Mixon, who has Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, a/k/a ME or ME/CFS or chronic fatigue syndrome, is a well-known sff author who also won the Best Fan Writer Hugo (2015). Steven Gould has created multiple sf series and is past president of SFWA. Maez explains:

Due to Aunt Laura’s worsening chronic illness, they’ve been struggling financially for the past several years. They want to sell their home, use the equity to pay off debts, and find a place where they can live affordably. I’ve created a GoFundMe that seeks $20,000: 

  • $3,400 to help pay off existing medical bills;
  • $2,600 to cover impending medical expenses; and,
  • $14,000 for home repairs and moving costs.

They will donate all additional funds above the needed amount to The Open Medicine Foundation, a non-profit that serves as an open-source clearinghouse and a source of funding for top researchers worldwide, who are working collaboratively toward a cure for ME/CFS.

Here’s more from Aunt Laura: 

Until 2013, my engineering work provided us a steady source of income while Steve built up his writing career and was our two kids’ primary caregiver. Unfortunately, by then a chronic illness that I’d had for decades but had never been properly diagnosed for until recently, ME/CFS, had worsened to the point that I was no longer well enough to work.

As a result of my gradually worsening condition, our family has been solely dependent on Steve’s income. We also have a daughter with multiple disabilities living with us, who still needs our support as she works toward independence. We managed to muddle along until about 2017 or 2018, thanks to Steve’s book sales and a couple of well-paying Hollywood deals. But my illness, the associated medical expenses, and two kids in college for much of that time meant the bills kept piling up. The coup de grâce came in 2020, when my health took a sudden nosedive due to pandemic-induced exertion and stress, and Quibi, the new media company developing Steve’s latest creative project, went out of business.

We have decided to sell our house and use the cash to pay off as much of our debt as possible. Because ours is an older home, it needs a lot of work in order to sell at a better-than-fixer-upper price, and we need to get a good price to make enough of a dent in our debt to live sustainably on our current income.

A final note. The past year and a half has brought hard times for many, and there are many important unmet needs out there. We’d be deeply grateful for any signal boost or help you can give, but we’ll totally understand if your own circumstances—financial, mental, or otherwise—don’t permit. We know all too well what it’s like to be tapped out and spent, no matter how much you care. As ever, we’re thinking of you love, and hopes that all is well in your world.

The appeal has raised $17,081 of its $20,000 goal.

(2) THE HOST WITH THE MOST. The Library of Congress announced today: “LeVar Burton to Host 2021 National Book Festival Broadcast on PBS”.

LeVar Burton, fresh from a hosting gig on “Jeopardy,” turns his attention to hosting a special edition of the Library’s 2021 National Book Festival, a one-hour special on PBS that is studded with some of the world’s brightest literary stars.

The show, “Open a Book, Open the World: The Library of Congress National Book Festival,” premieres Sunday, Sept. 12, at 6 p.m. ET (check local listings) on PBS, PBS.org and the PBS Video app. The show will feature 20 of the world’s most captivating authors and celebrities, ranging from actors Michael J. Fox and Lupita Nyong’o, to Nobel Prize-winning novelist Kazuo Ishiguro and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Annette Gordon Reed….

Burton, a longtime champion of reading, will host from his public library in Los Angeles with Hayden appearing at the Library of Congress on Capitol Hill.

There are many authors featured in the special — these have genre connections:

  • Roxane Gay, essayist and novelist, on her co-authored book “The Sacrifice of Darkness.”
  • Kazuo Ishiguro, Nobel Prize-winning novelist, on his book “Klara and the Sun.”
  • Silvia Moreno-Garcia, novelist in several genres, including horror and noir, on her books “Mexican Gothic” and “Velvet Was the Night.”
  • Christopher Paolini, fantasy and science fiction writer, on his book “To Sleep in a Sea of Stars.”
  • Martha Wells, Hugo and Nebula award-winning writer, on her book “Fugitive Telemetry.”

(3) JEFF SMITH’S GIVEAWAY REPORT. Jeff Smith reports that a solid 2/3 of Filers who claimed lots from his Free Book Giveaway list followed up by sending their shipping addresses to him. Which means that a less solid 1/3…

He started shipping the boxes out today. Jeff says he foolishly set up this giveaway to happen just before his scheduled cataract surgery, so not all shipments will go out as swiftly as this first batch. But any delays should not be extensive, and he begs your indulgence.

(4) THIS IS NOT MY PRECIOUS. Mitchell Clark can think of lots of reasons why “The JRR Token cryptocurrency is almost certainly headed for Mt. Doom”, and lists them in his article for The Verge.

I hate to be the one to tell you this, but there’s a cryptocurrency themed after The Lord of the Rings. It’s dubbed the JRR Token, and its creators have called it “The One Token That Rules Them All.” Upon learning about it, my snap judgment was that it’ll be like The Hobbit’s trilogy of films (pointless and doomed to fail), but that may be unfair. Let’s take a look at the video its creators made to explain what makes it special…

Okay, wait. Before we even go into the crypto stuff, I’m wondering what the legal situation is with this video — the video includes images of rolling green countryside overlaid by very Lord of the Rings-esque text, while what sounds like a piano rendition of Howard Shore’s The Shire plays. Even if those don’t turn out to be infringement, they’re definitely banking on confusion with JRR Tolkien’s name. That doesn’t seem like the kind of thing the Tolkien Estate would let slide without a fight….

(5) EXTENDED NOIR. At CrimeReads, Silvia Moreno-Garcia discusses the classic noir novels that inspired her new novel, Velvet Was The Night: “Seven of the Best Noir Novels of the 1960s and 1970s”.

My latest novel, Velvet Was the Night, is a noir set in the Mexico City of the 1970s. This is a changing world, beset by political and social turmoil, and a space where different forces are violently clashing. To me, it seemed like the perfect decade for a noir, but when I told people what I was working on, they tended to be surprised I was writing a book set in 1971. Most of them associated the word ‘noir’ with the 1950s.

Noir has always had a close relationship with film and it is no wonder that when we think of noir, we tend to harken back to iconic images inspired by Golden Age Hollywood rather than more modern proposals. But noir did not vanish once people traded zoot suits for bell bottoms. Therefore, here is a list of cool, decadent noirs from the 60s and 70s….

(6) RODDENBERRY CENTENARY ZOOM. [Based on a press release.] NASA is helping the legacy of inspiration, hope, and diversity fostered by the creator of Star Trek to live long and prosper. The agency will observe the late Gene Roddenberry’s 100th birthday with a special program called, “Celebrating Gene Roddenberry: Star Trek’s Bridge and NASA” – a panel discussion airing on NASA Television, the agency’s website, the NASA App, and NASA social media on August 19 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.

Rod Roddenberry, top left, George Takei, Tracy Drain, Jonny Kim, bottom left, Swati Mohan, and Hortense Diggs.

The program includes introductory remarks by NASA Administrator Bill Nelson followed by a panel discussion moderated by Rod Roddenberry, son of Gene Roddenberry. Special guest George Takei, Star Trek actor and activist, will participate in the question-and-answer session.

The NASA panelists includes:

  • Tracy Drain, Europa Clipper flight systems engineer
  • Hortense Diggs, director of the Office of Communications and Public Engagement at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida
  • Swati Mohan, lead for Mars 2020 Guidance, Navigation, and Controls Operations at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California
  • Jonny Kim, NASA astronaut

Coinciding with the program, NASA will broadcast into space a 1976 recording of Gene Roddenberry’s remarks on diversity and inclusion through the agency’s Deep Space Network of radio antennas. NASA also is inviting people on social media to join celebrating Roddenberry’s 100th birthday on Thursday by posting a Vulcan salute selfie with the hashtag #Roddenberry100.

(7) HAMMER, SICKLE, AND RADIO TUBE. Natalija Majsova analyzes “Soviet Sci-fi Film and Different Modalities of Future Ecosystems” at Strelka Mag.

Soviet science fiction cinema has a very particular genealogy. Due to the temporal proximity of the emergence of the Soviet state project and of the cinematic medium—a means of surveillance and observation, of propaganda and education, of experiment and reiteration, in short, of monstration and narration of a new world-to-be—science fiction film cannot be considered as mere fantasy, symptom, or flight of fancy. Rather, film is simultaneously a dimension, a perspective, and a voice. The genre of science fiction, on the other hand, played a palette of different functions in Soviet history, from the normatively prognostic and mnemonic, to the revelatory and introspective….

…In literature, science fiction under Stalin is chiefly associated with the so-called “near-reach” formula, i.e. narratives that celebrate the graspable, realistic feats of contemporary science. An important undercurrent of such science fiction, or rather “scientific fantasy” (nauchnaia fantastika), that was characteristic of Soviet science fiction films until the late 1960s remains its clear political statement: Soviet authority is associated with scientific progress and righteous goals, whereas scientific progress outside of the Soviet state is linked to heartless imperialism and colonialism….

(8) OUT OF MANY, ONE. “Hachette to Buy Workman for $240 Million as Publishing Continues Consolidation” reports the New York Times. Workman published Tomorrow and Beyond: Masterpieces of Science Fiction Art edited by Ian Summers, The Grand Tour: A Traveler’s Guide to the Solar System by Ron Miller and William K. Hartmann, Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials, by Wayne Barlowe and Beth Meacham, DiFate’s Science Fiction Hardware, by Vincent DiFate, and other genre titles over the years, notes Andrew Porter.

Hachette Book Group said on Monday that it had agreed to buy Workman Publishing, an independent company known for titles like “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and the “Brain Quest” workbooks, the latest expected acquisition in an industry whose power is increasingly concentrated in a handful of major companies. The cost of the deal was $240 million.

Workman is one of the largest independent publishers in the United States and is appealing to its new parent for, among other reasons, its lucrative backlist. Backlists include books published years ago that continue to sell — as opposed to the front list of new titles — and at Workman, they are a major focus and a steady stream of reliable income. Michael Pietsch, the chief executive of the Hachette Book Group, said that three-quarters of Workman’s revenue comes from those older titles.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1960 – On this day in 1960, The Time Machine premiered. The work of legendary director George Pal, it was based on the H.G. Wells novella of the same name. Pal also handled the production. The screenplay was by David Duncan. It would lose out at Seacon to the Twilight Zone series for Best Dramatic Presentation. Cast was Rod Taylor, Alan Young, Yvette Mimieux, Sebastian Cabot and Whit Bissell. Some critics liked it, some didn’t, and most thought the love interest angle sucked. It did very, very well at the box office making two point six million dollars and costing only a little over eight hundred thousand to make. Despite this, the Studio claimed it barely broke clearing only three hundred thousand. Never trust Studio accountants!  Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an excellent seventy-nine percent rating. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 17, 1917 Oliver Crawford. Screenwriter who overcame the Hollywood blacklist during the McCarthy Era of the 1950s. He wrote three scripts for Trek, “The Cloud Minders,” “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield,” and “The Galileo Seven”. He also wrote for The Outer Limits (“The Special One”), Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (“The Lost Bomb”) and The Wild Wild West (“The Night of the Cossacks” and “The Night of Sudden Death”). No, that’s not everything hescripted. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 17, 1923 Julius Harris. He’s Tee Hee Johnson, the metal armed henchman courtesy of a crocodile in Live and Let Die, the eighth Bond film. Other genre appearances are scant — he’s a gravedigger in Darkman, boat crew in King Kong and he shows up in the horror film Shrunken Heads. He had one-offs in The Incredible Hulk and the Friday the 13th series.(Died 2004.)
  • Born August 17, 1930 Harve Bennett. The individual who gave us Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Really he did. He would then serve as Producer on the next three Trek films, The Search for SpockThe Voyage Home and The Final Frontier. Bennett also wrote Star Trek III, co-wrote the story and screenplay for Star Trek IV, and co-wrote the story for Star Trek V. His only on scene appearance is in the latter as the Starfleet Chief of Staff. He’s the voice of the Battle simulator computer in Wrath of Khan, and the Flight Recorder in the Search for Spock. (Died 2015.)
  • Born August 17, 1945 Rachael Pollack, 76. She’s getting a Birthday note for her scripting duties on her run of issues 64–87 (1993-1995) of Doom Patrol. She’s also assisted in the creation of the Vertigo Tarot Deck with McKean and Gaiman, and she wrote a book to go with it. She won a World Fantasy Award for Godmother Night, and an Arthur C. Clarke Award winner for Unquenchable Fire. She also wrote Salvador Dali’s Tarot, a book-length exposition of Salvador Dalí’s Tarot deck, comprising a full-page color plate for each card, with her commentary on the facing page.
  • Born August 17, 1956 John Romita Jr., 65. If you’ve read Spider-Man since the Sixties, it’s very likely that you’ve seen his artwork as he had six stints on it between 1980 and 2009. He was also on a number of other titles at Marvel and DC including Superman, Ghost Rider, Hulk, All-Star Batman, Eternals, Captain America and Daredevil to name but a few he illustrated. He also worked with Mark Miller at Image Comics on Kick-Ass, and did the one shot Punisher/Batman: Deadly Knights
  • Born August 17, 1960 Chris Baker, 61. He’s the cover artist for British and German versions of the Redwall books, as well as a storyboard and conceptual artist having worked with  Steven Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick and Tim Burton. Among his films are Big Fish, Skyfall, Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryA.I. Artificial Intelligence and Corpse Bride
  • Born August 17, 1962 Laura Resnick, 59. Daughter of Mike Resnick. She is a winner of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in Science Fiction for early work including “No Room for the Unicorn.” I’ve not read her Manhattan Magic series so I’m interested to know what y’all think of it. She’s readily available at the usual suspects. 
  • Born August 17, 1966 Neil Clarke, 55. Editor in Chief of Clarkesworld Magazine which has won an impressive three Best Semiprozine Hugos. SFWA also gave him a Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award. He also edits The Best Science Fiction of the Year series for Night Shade Books.  He’s a nominee at Discon III for Best Editor, Short Form. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater definitely knows how to keep the arg in comics and shown with this horrible pun.

(12) STAR PLONKER. Laughing Squid makes sure we’re listening when “The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain Performs the Original ‘Star Trek’ Theme Including the Full Lyrics”.

The very talented Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain (previously) shared the album version of their truly celestial cover of the theme from the original Star Trek series. Not only did they vocally cover the theremin-like intro, but also the full lyrics to the song.

(13) A TOUCH OF LARCENY. Two Vulture writers trail “The Mysterious Figure Stealing Books Before Their Release”.

…This was a setup Stieg Larsson would have admired: a clever thief adopting multiple aliases, targeting victims around the world, and acting with no clear motive. The manuscripts weren’t being pirated, as far as anyone could tell. Fake Francesca wasn’t demanding a ransom. “We assumed it was the Russians,” Mörk said. “But we are the book industry. It’s not like we’re digging gold or researching vaccines.” Perhaps someone in publishing, or a Hollywood producer, was desperate for early access to books they might buy. Was the thief simply an impatient reader? A strung-out writer in need of ideas? “In the hacker culture that Stieg Larsson depicted, they do a lot of things not for financial benefit,” Mörk pointed out this spring, “but just to show that they can do it.”

When I first heard about the scheme in February, four years after the attempted “Millennium” heist, the thief was still on the loose, exhibiting behavior that was even bolder and more bizarre as they chased after everything from Sally Rooney’s latest to novels by obscure writers never published in English before. This sounded like a fun challenge, a digital mystery to obsess over at a time when the real world was shut down… 

(14) PLURAL. “Aliens: 10 Things That Still Hold Up Today”ScreenRant counts them off.

Ridley Scott’s Alien is the kind of untouchable masterpiece that should never be ruined by sequels. But James Cameron proved that there are exceptions to this rule with 1986’s Aliens, which both satisfies as a follow-up to the first movie and stands as a classic of action cinema in its own right….

10/10 Replacing One Xenomorph With A Hive Of Dozens

Like all the best sequels (including Cameron’s own Terminator 2), Aliens significantly raises the stakes from the first movie by expanding the scope of the premise. The first Alien movie was essentially a haunted house movie in space, with the crew of the cargo freighter Nostromo getting picked off one by one by a ravenous xenomorph wandering around their ship.

In Aliens, there are dozens of these xenomorphs on the loose as opposed to the single alien that threatened the heroes of the original movie. The single xenomorph from the first movie was scary enough, but Cameron upped the ante with a festering swarm of otherworldly monsters.

(15) PULL UP TWO CHAIRS. In the episode 59 of the Two Chairs Talking podcast, David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss discuss the nominees in the Novelette category for this year’s Hugo Awards, and go on to talk about their other recent reading, including a novel by Claire North about the travails of the Harbinger of Death, and some well-worn favorites of the crime and SF genres. Episode 59: “Thoroughly informed”.

(16) LAW NORTH OF THE OZONE. The issue of who is and isn’t an astronaut is legally very complicated! The Space Review asks “Is it time to create the designation of non-governmental astronaut?”

… Of the three, it is the test offered by Professor Yasuaki Hashimoto that is the test that best harmonizes with international law through the Outer Space Treaty.[5]

For the legal status of “astronaut” to apply under Professor Hashimoto’s test the person must be:

  1. in an object located in space
  2. conducting their activities for the benefit and in the interests of all countries
  3. regarded as an envoy of mankind in outer space.

Applying this test to non-governmentals like the personnel who were carried on SpaceShipTwo and New Shepard, the first prong is easily met as arguably both launch and reentry vehicles were “in space.” However, both fail the second and third prong of the test as they are both commercial ventures that are not conducting their activities for the benefit and interest and all countries nor are they or would be regarded as envoys of all mankind in outer space. This means absent legislative action, non-governmental personnel would not have any legal status in the eyes of domestic and international law….

(17) PEOPLE RUIN EVERYTHING. Mind Matters introduces another short film distributed by DUST: “Merv Is the Last Man in a Ruined World”.

This New Zealand-based film company provides a haunting evocation of a totally ruined urban landscape — just an enormous pile of rubble peopled by a surviving hermit. When he catches sight of another human, he pelts like mad for his underground den. Then, arming himself, sets out to confront the stranger….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Pokemon Unite” on YouTube, Fandom Games says that this game is a “sub-par experience” that will disappoint even the most enthusiastic Pokemon fans.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Jeffrey Smith, Cat Rambo, Michael J. Walsh, Rob Thornton, Chris Barkley, Steven H Silver, David Grigg, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]