Pixel Scroll 6/18/22 It Takes A Scroll To Laugh, It Takes A Pixel To Cry

(1) IT’S STILL HOME. Samit Basu is a best-selling author in India who’s been published in the US/UK since 2013. His book The City Inside is a recent release from Tordotcom. In a guest post at Stone Soup he questions “When Is A Dystopia Just The Real World?”

…I wanted to write a near-future projection of my surroundings that was pragmatic, but optimistic. I’ve lived in Delhi for many years now, and however bad it gets, you can’t really see the place where you live as dystopian – genrewise, it’s also the setting for your romances, your office comedies, your reluctant action-adventures, your gritty urban dramedies, your heartwarming holiday specials. You live in this odd multi-tab chaos that makes you extremely conscious of your own privileges, because you’re in proximity to people whose living conditions are extremely challenging, especially in politically apocalyptic times. And this convinces you – or convinced me, at least – that whatever happens, however bad things get, the people in this city – or any other – will outlast it, because they have no choice. Not because they are passive, but because they are used to all systems failing them, and will always cling on to hope. And if you have hope, if you have purpose, you’re not living in a dystopia, even if it looks like one from outside….

(2) LIGHTS! CAMERA! ACTION FIGURES! Cora Buhlert has posted another ingenious Masters of the Universe action figure photo story on her blog: “Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre: ‘Siblings’”.

Now Roboto has a bit of a strange history. He was an action figure in the 1980s, but he only had a handful of appearances in the original Filmation cartoon, where he was an alien explorer from a planet of robots who crashlanded on Eternia, was repaired by Man-at-Arms and wound up staying and fighting alongside He-Man and his friends.

The 2002 cartoon retconned his origin and made him a sentient and intelligent robot built by Man-at-Arms originally as a chess partner for Man-e-Faces. However, Roboto wanted to be a warrior, upgraded himself and heroically sacrificed himself in order to save He-Man and all of Eternia from a plague of multiplying skeletons. Luckily, Man-at-Arms was able to repair him and so Roboto was frequently seen fighting alongside the other heroic warriors.

Masters of the Universe: Revelation tweaked Roboto’s backstory yet again. He’s still a sentient and intelligent robot who was built by Man-at-Arms, but in Revelation Roboto considers Duncan his father and Teela his sister and refers to them as such….

It’s also on Twitter – here is an excerpt.

(3) WRITERS GET PAID. Preferably.

(4) PLEASE KEEP YOUR SEATS ‘TIL THE TRAIN COMES TO A COMPLETE STOP. Deadline has learned “‘Snowpiercer’ To End With Season 4 On TNT”.

TNT’s Snowpiercer will be pulling into the station. The post-apocalyptic drama’s upcoming fourth season, which is in production, will be its last. I hear the cast’s options were coming up and were not picked up, releasing the actors to book other jobs….

Snowpiercer, which follows the passengers of a perpetually moving train carrying the remnants of humanity after the world becomes a frozen wasteland, was the last remaining original scripted series on TNT as the other original drama still on the network, Animal Kingdom, is launching its final season on Sunday. The TNets already had been scaling back on original scripted fare; the process was accelerated by the Discovery-WarnerMedia merger….

(5) SOMETHING SHORT OF INFINITY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Lightyear may be coming up a bit short. The new Disney/Pixar flick was expected to easily lead at the box office this Father’s Day/Juneteenth weekend. Instead, it seems to be coming in below expectations and in a close race with the latest Jurassic World movie. “Box Office: ‘Lightyear’ Could Get Clobbered by ‘Jurassic World 3’” in The Hollywood Reporter.

The animated family film was expected to open to at least $70 million to $85 million in North America, but now it looks like Lightyear may only buzz to $52 million to $55 million for the three-day weekend.

Universal and Amblin’s Jurassic World Dominion could stomp to $57 million in its second outing.

Monday is a federal holiday honoring Juneteenth, so Monday could look more like a Saturday and Sunday in terms of traffic at the box office. Universal insiders believe Jurassic World 3‘s domestic total could climb as high as $66 million for the four days.

(6) HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Book Riot’s Arvyn Cerézopoints to “11 Must-Read Filipino Sci-Fi Books”.

Philippine literature is slowly gaining international recognition, especially when it comes to general fiction and fantasy. And there are even more sub-genres waiting to be explored by international readers. For instance, though there’s a dearth of Filipino sci-fi books, they are so rare and precious that it’s only once in a while when they come out. In fact, you can count them on one hand.

… Although there’s an apparent short supply of Filipino science fiction books in circulation, I’ve managed to find 11 of them.

Their recommendations lead off with:

SCIENCE FICTION: FILIPINO FICTION FOR YOUNG ADULTS BY DEAN FRANCIS ALFAR AND KENNETH YU

Dean Francis Alfar, one of the more widely recognized Filipino speculative fiction writers, has written many books in the genre. Salamanca, his first novel, is considered to be a modern classic.

In this collection, however, he edited science fiction stories for Filipino young readers, which might be the first in the Philippines. The collection features stories from known Filipino spec fic writers such as Victor Fernando Ocampo, Nikki Alfar, Eliza Victoria, and Gabriela Lee. This is really sure to please.

(7) YOU’RE FIRED. “SpaceX employees fired after writing letter criticizing Elon Musk” – the Guardian has the story.

At least five employees were fired by private rocket company SpaceX after drafting and circulating an open letter criticizing founder Elon Musk and calling on executives at the start-up to make the company’s work culture more inclusive, according to two people familiar with the matter.

…SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell sent an email saying the company had investigated and “terminated a number of employees involved” with the letter, the New York Times said.

The newspaper said Shotwell’s email said employees involved with circulating the letter had been fired for making other staff feel “uncomfortable, intimidated and bullied, and/or angry because the letter pressured them to sign onto something that did not reflect their views”.

Reuters could not independently confirm that report.

The earlier open letter to SpaceX executives seen by Reuters had called Musk a “distraction and embarrassment” to the company he founded.

In a list of three demands, the letter said: “SpaceX must swiftly and explicitly separate itself from Elon’s personal brand.”

It added: “Hold all leadership equally accountable to making SpaceX a great place to work for everyone” and “define and uniformly respond to all forms of unacceptable behavior”.

(8) SF LISTENING ON BBC RADIO 4. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The Machine Stops is airing on BBC Radio 4.  

This is an audio adaptation of the classic E. M. Forster 1909 short story ‘The Machine Stops‘. This is a new version to the previous BBC Radio 4 one half a decade ago (2016).

A far future sees humanity living underground in a vast, highly automated complex run by a machine…

You can download it from here.

(9) NOTION’S ELEVEN. Gizmodo opines that these are “The 11 Best (and Worst) Sentient Robots From Sci-Fi”. (I’d liked to have seen the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz here, too.)

HAL 9000 (2001: A Space Odyssey)

To kick things off, we have to talk about one of the most terrifying sentient bots of all—the “Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic Computer,” or HAL—from Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001, A Space Odyssey. And by design, he’s a pretty hard working bot: he’s built into the spacecraft where the film takes place, and is tasked with essentially running the ship. He opens doors, keeps life support systems afloat, and, like LaMDA, he can talk.

Unlike LaMDA though, HAL comes programmed with real, human emotions. And after encountering a minor glitch at the start of the film, those emotions are what cause HAL to go off the rails (to put it mildly).

“Most advanced computer theorists believe that once you have a computer which is more intelligent than man and capable of learning by experience, it’s inevitable that it will develop an equivalent range of emotional reactions—fear, love, hate, envy, etc,” Kubrick said about the bot in an interview. “Such a machine could eventually become as incomprehensible as a human being, and could, of course, have a nervous breakdown—as HAL did in the film.”

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

2005 [By Cat Eldridge.] On this evening seventeen years ago, we got our first true look at David Tennant in that role. The episode was “The Parting Of The Ways” The episode of course, SPOILER ALERT! (Cue Dalek sound here) It featured Christopher Eccleston making his final appearance as the Ninth Doctor and marks the first appearance of David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor as we got our first regeneration of the modern era. END SPOILER ALERT!

It was written by Russell T. Davies who as we all know was responsible for reviving this series. It was directed by Joe Ahearne whose main credit to was the vampire series Ultraviolet. It was produced by Philip Collinson who is returneing to that role under Davies.

Of the modern Doctors, Tennant is by far my favorite one and I thought the stories were very fitting to him. He seemed both very human and very alien at the same time. From the very beginning in this episode, he seemed to have the role spot on. (Baker is by far my favorite of the older Doctors. BritBox is showing all of the surviving older Who episodes.)

Neither of the two male Doctors that followed was really to my liking, not quite sure why as the stories for the most were fine, though I did like the Thirteenth Doctor a lot. I just never warmed to either of them. I actually like the Tenth Doctor better than either of them.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 18, 1908 — Bud Collyer. He’s best-remembered  for his radio-starring role of Kent and Superman beginning in early 1940 on The Adventures of Superman on the Mutual Broadcasting System, a role he also would do in the later Superman and other cartoons such as Aquaman and the Batman/Superman Hour. He was posthumously named as one of the honorees by DC Comics in the company’s 50th anniversary publication Fifty Who Made DC Great. (Died 1969.)
  • Born June 18, 1917 — Richard Boone. He did only two genre roles of which one, playing Maston Thrust Jr. in The Last Dinosaur, I’m willing to bet almost all of you have never seen it. (It gets a fifty percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.) The other however is one that nearly everyone here has heard, yes heard, as he voiced Smaug in the Rankin/Bass animated version of The Hobbit. Of course his major non-genre role was as Paladin in Have Gun, Will Travel which I’ve seen every episode of at least three times. Really I have. (Died 1981.)
  • Born June 18, 1931 — Dick Spelman. A fan and a legendary book dealer who was active at SF conventions from the late Seventies through the early Nineties. He chaired Windycon IX in 1982. He was a member of the board of directors of Chicon IV, and ran the Dealers’ Room at many Worldcons. In 1991 he sold his book business to Larry Smith and retired to Orlando, where he was active in local fannish affairs. (Died 2012.)
  • Born June 18, 1942 — Roger Ebert. He got his start as a fanzine writer while in high school, publishing the Stymie zine and having his writing appear in Xero, Yandro and many other zines such as Kipple, Parsection and Psi-Phi. At university, he was a member of the Champaign-Urbana Science Fiction Association. His fannish autobiography is How Propellor-Heads, BNFs, Sercon Geeks, Newbies, Recovering GAFIAtors and Kids in Basements Invented the World Wide Web, All Except for the Delivery System. Of course, he grew up to be a Pulitzer Prize-winning film reviewer. Mike has much more to say about him here. (Died 2013.)
  • Born June 18, 1947 — Linda Thorson, 75. Though Diana Rigg as Emma Peel was John Steed’s best known partner on The Avengers, she was not his first nor his last. His last one would be Tara King played by this actress. She was the only one to be a real spy. Interesting that other than an appearance on Tales from The Darkside, her only other genre performances was on The Next Gen as Gul Ocett in “The Chase” episode, and on the Good Witch as Mrs Hansen in “Graduation” episode.
  • Born June 18, 1949 — Chris Van Allsburg, 73. For some twenty years now until the Pandemic came upon us, the local Narrow Gauge Railroad ran a Polar Express every Christmas season compete with cars decorated in high Victorian fashion and steaming cups of hot chocolate for the children. It always sold out for the entire month they ran it. Allsburg‘s Polar Express book is just magical for me and I enjoy his Jumanji every bit as much. (I’ve never seen the film and won’t.) He illustrated A City in Winter which was written by Mark Helprin and I highly recommended it. 
  • Born June 18, 1958 — Jody Lee, 64. Illustrator with a long career in genre work. Her first cover art was Jo Clayton’s Changer’s Moon for DAW Books in 1985. Her latest is Passages: All-New Tales of Valdemar, a Mercedes Lackey anthology, that came out last year on DAW Books which seems to be her primary client. Her rather excellent website is here. Her cover for Mercedes Lackey’s The Oathbound won her a Chelsey Award.
  • Born June 18, 1960 — Barbara Broccoli, 62. Daughter of the late James Bond producer Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli. She has producer or director credit on at least fourteen Bond films which are definitely genre. Her only acting role is as an uncredited Opera patron in The Living Daylights. She produced the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang production staged in NYC at the Hilton Theater sixteen years ago. That must have been really interesting. She was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2022 Queen’s New Year Honours List.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark shows a variation on a childhood bedtime ritual that makes sense if you think about it.
  • Lio knows why these aren’t on the aliens’ bill of fare.

(13) SIMULTANEOUS TIMES. Space Cowboy Books presents stories by Ai Jiang and Ricardo Victoria in episode 52 of the Simultaneous Times podcast.

Emotion: XXXX – by Ai Jiang – https://aijiangauthor.wordpress.com/
music by Phog Masheeen – https://phogmasheeen.com/
read by Jean-Paul Garnier 

Last Witness – by Ricardo Victoria – https://ricardovictoriau.com/
music by Patrick Urn – https://morlox.bandcamp.com/
read by Jean-Paul Garnier

(14) MARVEL BRICK UNIVERSE. 9to5Toys has a series of reveals from LEGO CON 2022 including the Sanctum Sanctorum, and a Star Wars item (see it at the link).

Showcasing the latest addition to the Marvel side of the lineup, the new Sanctum Sanctorum has been revealed. In the same style as last year’s Daily Bugle, this one arrives with 2,708 pieces and nine minifigures. There’s tons of references packed into the three different floors, as well. It will sell for $249.99 once it launches on August 1.

Here’s a breakdown of who’s included this time around:

  • Doctor Strange
  • Sinister Strange
  • Dead Strange
  • Wong
  • Iron Man
  • Spider-Man
  • The Scarlet Witch
  • Master Mordo
  • Ebony Maw

(15) SENSITIVE SUBJECT. The Hollywood Reporter tells why: “‘Late Show’ Staffers Arrested for Unlawful Entry at U.S. Capitol After Taping Triumph the Insult Comic Dog Skit”.

A number of people working for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert were arrested Thursday night at a U.S Capitol office building after taping a skit. Among those arrested was Robert Smigel, the former SNL and Conan writer, best known for portraying Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. According to authorities, the group was confronted by police in the Longworth House Office Building on Thursday evening, after it was closed to visitors. They were charged with unlawful entry. 

… “On Wednesday, June 15 and Thursday, June 16, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog was on-site at the Capitol with a production team to record interviews for a comedy segment on behalf of The Late Show,” a CBS spokesperson said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “Their interviews at the Capitol were authorized and pre-arranged through Congressional aides of the members interviewed. After leaving the members’ offices on their last interview of the day, the production team stayed to film stand-ups and other final comedy elements in the halls when they were detained by Capitol Police.”

(16) BLOW IT OUT YOUR A&$. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] One maker of robot “dogs” has a new water jet accessory available, allowing the bot to propel itself across relatively calm waters. (But don’t call it Spot — this isn’t the Boston Dynamics pooch.) “A new propulsion system allows this robotic dog to ‘swim’”.

… And now the NAUT allows a dog-shaped robot to move with water jet propulsion. The jet takes in water and ejects it at greater speed, allowing the Vision 60 to move with vectored thrust in a body of water.

“The system is capable of propelling the robotic dog and speeds up three knots and can operate at full power using a dedicated power source for approximately 35 minutes,” reports The War Zone. “The ‘tail’ can also continue to function after that by drawing electricity from the robot dog’s own internal power source.”

At 3 knots, or just 3.4 mph, the NAUT-powered Vision 60 won’t be winning any races, but should be perfectly capable of crossing streams and calm waters. The ability to go amphibious makes a robot useful in scouting and patrols in coastal or riverine terrain, and possibly even of use in the tricky terrain of a marsh or bayou….

(17) THEY CALL ME MISTER ROCKET. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket likes to go by a different name. They’ve taken to calling it Mega Moon Rocket, even in official press releases. One supposes it has a better ring to it. Imagine, though, what Bezos or Musk might have come up with. “NASA prefers this nickname for Artemis’ new lunar rocket” at Mashable.

If this NASA launch vehicle could talk — say at an international consortium of the world’s most elite, hobnobbing space rockets — this is how it would introduce itself after filling out its “Hello, my name is” sticker.

Space Launch System? Bleh, only my mother and technical manuals call me that.

SLS? Not since grade school.

Please, friends call me Moon Rocket. Mega Moon Rocket.

Technically, this gargantuan is the U.S. space agency’s Space Launch System or SLS for short. But somewhere along the line, the mission crew stopped calling it by its given name and started referring to it by its badder, Transformers-ish nickname. Even the news releases from the agency use it now….

(18) CLOTHES MAKE THE WIZARD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Daniel Radclliffe, Emma Watson, directors Mike Newell ad Alfredo Cuaron and several constume designers talk about the clothes in Harry Potter in this video that dropped two weeks ago (and is a 2022 film).

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Chicago Sun-Times is looking forward to “’It Came from Outer Space’ musical, inspired by cult classic film” which was based on Ray Bradbury’s story. The show runs June 22-July 24 at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

Before there was “Alien,” before there was “Star Trek,” before there was “Star Wars,” there was “It Came from Outer Space.” The 1953 sci-fi film may look cheesy by today’s standards but that, and its Ray Bradbury pedigree, has only added to its status as a cult classic.

Now Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair, the musical theater team behind the hit show “Murder for Two,” have met the challenge of transforming the film, which was based on a Bradbury story, into a stage musical….

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

Pixel Scroll 6/4/22 Pixel Of Illusions

(1) ANOTHER BURKE CO-PANELIST MAKES A STATEMENT. Shahid Mahmud, Arc Manor Books publisher, who was one of the panelists on “Diversity Readers and Why You Need Them” at Balticon 56, today told Facebook readers that he and Stephanie Burke “got into a heated discussion” but that Burke did “nothing that warranted her treatment” or expulsion from program afterwards.

…One of the panels that keeps getting referred to is a panel I was on with Stephanie, the one on Sensitivity Readers. Not only that, but I was also the one who got into a heated discussion with her on the panel.

As a fellow panelist (particularly one who got into that that discussion with her) I would like to, in no uncertain terms, make it clear that Stephanie NEVER crossed the ‘line.’ I found her charming, informative, and forceful (in a good way).

At one point I did turn to the audience and apologized for us having hijacked the discussion for the last few minutes and several of them pointed out how refreshing it was to hear different sides of the issue (a couple of them reiterating it after the panel as well).

After the panel ended, Stephanie and I did chat briefly and both of us indicated to the other how much we had enjoyed the discussion even though we disagreed with each other.

So, imagine my shock when I found out that she had been kicked off panels. Even more so, since no from Balticon bothered to contact me about the panel (and no one still has).

Anyway, as a fellow panelist on the panel that is being cited as the reason for her expulsion, I want to make it absolutely clear that Stephanie did nothing that warranted her treatment.

What I find incredulous is that someone at Balticon took it upon themselves to treat another person like that without even bothering to find out what happened or having any investigation of a any kind. Escorting someone out of a panel is pretty extreme. I do think Yakira (the Balticon Chair) is trying to set it right to the extent she can (she has publicly apologized and is now leading an investigation into the incident). I hope the investigation also focuses on Lisa Adler-Golden (the program chair, and I believe the person behind the expulsion) and her actions, motivations and suitability for participation in future Balticons.

David Weber responded at length in comments (here and here), saying in part:

…I’m waiting to see how this all works out, and I hope the con chair is able (and willing) to tell the world what really happened and issue a very sincere and public apology (if appropriate) based on the results of her investigation.

If, as I suspect from all I have heard so far, an apology IS appropriate, I think it should be accompanied with an invitation to return as a special guest and, particularly, for a panel on just how destructive this sort of thing is for the fan community as a whole, and not just for the pros/guests immediately affected by it. It’s an issue that needs to be dragged out into the daylight and confronted, without accepting it as long as it only happens to people WE don’t like, and without degenerating into fruitless rounds of whataboutism. This is goring ALL our oxen. It needs to stop, and I hope one response to this fiasco is that Balticon will tell us how IT intends to prevent it going forward….

Also in comments, Gregory Benford reminded readers why he was removed from the 2019 Loscon.  

(2) THE MESSAGE RECEIVED VARIES WITH THE READER. Jeff VanderMeer addresses the question if “Le Guin’s ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’ is a classic for its portrayal of gender, but is it also sometimes, for the modern reader, a climate change parable?” in  “Landscape, Change, and the Long Road Ahead” at Orion Magazine.

…Le Guin, in creating both this world and this situation, meant to interrogate the politics and logic of countries, and how societies deal with the outsider. Even the long, harrowing journey by Genly and his erstwhile friend from Winter, Estraven, across barren ice can be interpreted as a traditional Jack Londonesque extreme wilderness survival tale, rather than anything more modern.

Yet, the reader changes a book because the world changes, and so when I read of the “facts” of Genly being disputed in Orgoreyn, I could not help but think about the “disputed” facts and proofs of the climate crisis.  

Climate crisis is about extremes, and in The Left Hand of Darkness cultures are shaped by an immeasurably hostile physical environment. The coldness of the place, which forces adaptation to its conditions and discourages certain kinds of risk. The fact the nations of Winter do not engage in war constitutes one unique manifestation of this adaptation to an extreme environment. Full-scale conflict, as opposed to minor sorties, skirmishes, individual feuds, simply seems alien to the nations of Winter…. 

Genly describes war as “the opposite of civilization,” and this is literally true on Winter—if not on our Earth. The planet’s inhabitants cannot afford the destructiveness of war or risk Death by Planet, by diverting or destroying resources needed for survival. They do not have the luxury of surviving both the climate and war….

(3) ALMOST BREAKING EVEN. Despite having cancelled Arisia 2022 due to Covid and the small number planning to attend or be on the program, Arisia, Inc. reports they have made up their annual expenses from grants and donations.

…We have heard back from the grants from this cycle, and we’ve gotten quite a few of them.  A few were contingent on holding a convention and I’ll get into the disposition of each of those.

The big news is that we got $15,000 from the City of Boston!  This is $10,000 for COVID relief and $5,000 in general operating support.  We can use this money to pay organizational expenses such as rent, which comes to $15.600 per year.

We got a grant for $2,275 from SFWA for convention expenses and we can use this for expenses the convention had even though it didn’t actually happen.  We have easily enough eligible expenses to get the access grant and $2500 for organizations that did.  This appears to be what happened, as we were approved for $2500 for training.  We have heard back from the grants from this cycle, and we’ve gotten quite a few of them.  A few were contingent on holding a convention and I’ll get into the disposition of each of those.

…We proposed to use this general staff anti-racism training, and I also requested in the application to be able to use the money for board training, in case we get other funding for anti-racism trainings.  I believe the Anti-Racism Committee is working on specifics for this training.

We got $3000 for CART from the Universal Participation Fund and the expenses didn’t happen.  This is the grant that we qualify for because of Card to Culture.  I don’t know if the money can be repurposed, or if so how.

Speaking of Card to Culture, we had 12 people registered for A22 via Card to Culture, vs. 3 in 2021.  I am hopeful that we get even more in 2023.

Finally, we have gotten about $4,000 in donations, with one large donation pending in an unknown amount.

This is a total of almost $24,000 not including the access grant.  Our annual expenses are a little over $19,000 and the convention had $6,000 in expenses that can’t be passed on to Arisia 2023, plus one of the grants obliges us to spend money on training that we might not have spent otherwise.  So we aren’t quite square, but we’re pretty close….

(4) LAWSUIT GOING FORWARD. “Freedom to Read Advocates Sound Alarm as Obscenity Lawsuit Advances in Virginia” reports Publishers Weekly.

Library groups this week joined with booksellers, publishers, and public advocacy groups in sounding the alarm over a lawsuit in Virginia in which two popular authors and their publishers have been ordered to defend their works against obscenity charges.

The legal action was filed last month by Virginia Beach lawyer and delegate in the Virginia Assembly Tim Anderson (on behalf of local plaintiff and congressional candidate Tommy Altman), citing an obscure state obscenity law. It alleges that two books for sale in a Virginia Beach Barnes & Noble—Maia Kobabe’s popular graphic memoir Gender Queer (Oni Press) and A Court of Mist and Fury (Bloomsbury) by bestselling author Sarah J. Maas—are “obscene for unrestricted viewing by minors.”

According to the Virginia Mercury, “the little-utilized state law allows ‘any citizen’ to ask a court to weigh in on books alleged to be obscene.” And in a development that has shocked observers, a local judge on May 18 found there was probable cause the books could be deemed obscene and ordered the authors and publishers to defend the books later this month.

According to the Mercury, the judge who issued the order, Pamela Baskervill, is “a retired Petersburg-area judge,” who is handling the case because “all other judges in Virginia Beach recused themselves.”

The court’s order raises the possibility that the court could issue a restraining order barring the books from public display and restraining booksellers and libraries from selling or loaning the books to minors without parental consent. In a Facebook post, Anderson hailed the judge’s order as “a major legal victory” and laid out the playbook for those seeking to restrict access to materials they find objectionable: “Suits like this can be filed all over Virginia,” Anderson wrote. “There are dozens of books. Hundreds of schools.”…

(5) HEAR FROM EUGEN BACON. Space Cowboy Books will host a free “Online Reading & Interview with Eugen Bacon” on Thursday, July 7 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Get tickets at the link.

(6) INSPIRATIONAL WOMEN. “Can a book change a young woman’s life?” Hear The Conversation with Nnedi Okorafor and Mel Mazman on BBC Sounds.

Can a book change a young woman’s life? Kim Chakanetsa talks to two women in the publishing world about the importance of writing stories that inspire and empower girls. 

Nnedi Okorafor is an award-winning Nigerian-American writer of fantasy and science fiction for both children and adults. Her books have strong female leads and draw inspiration from her Nigerian roots. Nnedi has also written comics for Marvel: she was the first woman to write the character of T’challa, the Black Panther, and she wrote a series about his tech loving sister, Shuri. She is a recipient of the World Fantasy, Hugo and Nebula Awards. 

Mel Mazman is the chief product officer at Rebel Girls, a franchise publishing books and digital content aimed at empowering young women. The company started in 2016, with a crowdfunding campaign for Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, a book featuring the stories of 100 inspirational women. Since then, they sold 7.5 million books in over 100 countries. Mel shares her insights on how the publishing industry is changing to cater for the needs and interests of younger generations of readers. 

(7) BREAKFAST WITH TIFFANYS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Jo Walton talks to Helen Zaltzman about what she calls “The Tiffany Problem, or how do you tell readers that the “anachronisms” they find in novels aren’t actually anachronistic.  “Tiffany” is an authentic 12th century name (ultmately derived from “Epiphany”) but use it in a historical novel and readers complain,  Walton discusses how she handles this problem in her novels. “The Tiffany Problem” at The Allusionist podcast.

(8) KEN KELLY (1946-2022). Prolific genre and album artist Ken Kelly died June 3 at the age of 76. He was particularly known for his sword & sorcery cover art. He depicted Conan the Barbarian, Tarzan and the rock acts KISS, Manowar, Sleepy Hollow, Rainbow, and Ace Frehley.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1982 [By Cat Eldridge.] On this day forty years ago, my favorite Trek film by far, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, premiered. As I noted yesterday in my essay on the ending of the original series, there have been thirteen films so far — the good, the bad and the just plan forgettable. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is in my opinion stellar.

Now I’ll admit that the episode that spawned it, “Space Seed”, isn’t one of my favorite episodes, but the screenwriter for this film, Jack B. Sowards, who based it off a story by him and Harve Bennett, created a story here that is fantastic. Neither had any genre background so Bennett watched all of the original series after being hired by Paramount and decided to do a film off the “Space Seed” story.

Damn, they did a great job. From the Kobayashi Maru simulation (named after Soward’s neighbor) to the over-the-top villain that Ricardo Montalbán is here (far more than he was in “Space Seed”), there is nothing that is not completely entertaining here. Most of these Trek films have a spot or two where I want to say to the editor why is that scene in here, but not in this film. I loved it from beginning to end unreservedly.

(Roger Ebert in his review had an interesting point about Khan: “Khan is played as a cauldron of resentment by Ricardo Montalban, and his performance is so strong that he helps illustrate a general principle involving not only Star Trek but ‘Star Wars’ (1977) and all the epic serials, especially the ‘James Bond’ movies: Each film is only as good as its villain.”) 

(Some of them are entirely like that.) 

They were given a lousy budget, just twelve million, as Paramount really didn’t believe the film was going to do crap. It did as it made ninety million. 

What did the critics think? If they were Trekkies, they liked it. If they weren’t, they didn’t.

Kevin Thomas of the L.A. Times definitely liked it: “In this new film there’s no feeling that its makers are straining to compete with ‘Star Wars’ and other special-effects spectaculars, instead, they’re attempting to recapture the spirit of the beloved TV series. (It is, in fact, probably a plus that the film actually began production intended for TV.) The result is a brisk, handsomely designed film in which its hardware, sturdy as it is, never overwhelms its humanity.” 

Whereas David Khmer of the Chicago Reader wasn’t impressed: “In this second Star Trek feature (1982), the crew of the Enterprise confronts middle age in a plot that makes very little literal sense but is packed with pertinent life-out-of-death, Waste Land imagery: a 200-year-old heavy (Ricardo Montalban) living on a barren planet, a secret project code-named ‘Genesis’ that can turn deserts into tropical jungles, Captain Kirk wearing specs and rediscovering his long-lost family. If only director Nicholas Meyer had grasped the implications of his tale more fully and enthusiastically, this might have become a classic piece of cornball SF poetry, but as it stands the tepid acting and one-set claustrophobia take a heavy toll.” 

It was nominated for a Hugo at ConStellation losing out to Blade Runner. Rotten Tomatoes reviewers really like giving a ninety percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 4, 1951 Wendy Pini, 71. With husband Richard, responsible for Elfquest which won them a Balrog. Over the years Elfquest has been self-published by the Pinis through their own company Warp Graphics, then Marvel Comics, then the Pinis again, more recently DC Comics and then Dark Horse Comics. Everything prior to 2013 is free online at the Elfquest Comic Viewer. Be prepared to spend hours lost in great reading! 
  • Born June 4, 1960 Kristine Kathryn Rusch, 62. If you’ve not discovered the delights of her Diving Universe series, you’re in for a treat — it’s that good. Her Retrieval Artist series is one that can be read in no particular order so is great deal of fun no matter where you start. And her Spade / Paladin series of which the first novel just came out, Ten Little Fen, is absolutely delightful.  Oh, and she won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. Her website is here; don’t miss her appreciation of A.J. Budrys. 
  • Born June 4, 1960 Bradley Walsh, 62. His first genre was on The Sarah Jane Adventures as Odd Bob Elijah Spellman aka The Pied Piper in “The Day of the Clown” story. His major genre role video wise however is Graham O’Brien, companion to the Thirteenth Doctor. Now it’s worth noting that he has a lot of theatre experience that is genre having appeared in multiple versions of AladdinCinderellaJack & the Bean StalkPeter Pan and Snow White.
  • Born June 4, 1964 Sean Pertwee, 58. Let’s see, where did I see him first? Oh, of course, playing Sheriff Hugh Beringar on Cadfael but that’s not genre, is it? Captain Heinz in “Trenches of Hell, Part 2 “,  on The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles which was his first genre role followed being Pilot Smith on Event Horizon and Macbeth in a UK film of that name the same year. He did a bit of low-budget horror playing Bradley Cortese in Tale of the Mummy and likewise in being Sergeant Harry G. Wells in Dog Soldiers. There were some fairly low budget SF as well, say Father in Equilibrium. Not to mention Brother Proteus in Ultramarines: A Warhammer 40,000 Movie which I dearly want to see! All of which gets redeemed by his Inspector Lestrade in Elementary, a stunning take on that character. And then there’s his Alfred in Gotham.
  • Born June 4, 1969 Julie Gardner, 53. She was executive producer on the revival of Doctor Who and the spin-offs of Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures. She co-founded with Julie Tranter Bad Wolf, best known for the BBC TV series His Dark Materials and A Discovery of Witches on which she serves as an executive producer.
  • Born June 4, 1972 Joe Hill, 50. I’ve met him once or twice down the years as he shows up here in Portland for signings at both book shops and comic shops pre-Pandemic. Really nice guy like his father. Actually the whole family is amazingly nice. Locke & Key is a superb graphic novel series and I’m fond of all of his short stories, particularly those collected in 20th Century Ghosts, and his collection Full Throttle. I notice that though he’s not yet won a Hugo, he’s won a fistful of Stokers, many BFAs, a World Fantasy Award and even an International Horror Guild Award.
  • Born June 4, 1975 Angelina Jolie, 47. I really liked her two Tomb Raider films and thought Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow was a really cool film with her role being quite magnificent. I never saw her early Cyborg 2 undertaking but think Hackers and her role as Kate “Acid Burn” Libby was rather good. I’ve not seen her Maleficent films. 
  • Born June 4, 1991 Jordan Danger, 31. She is best known for her role as Zoe Carter on Eureka. (Now inexplicably renamed A Town Called Eureka in syndication but not on Peacock which is streaming it now along with Warehouse 13.) She also showed up in Ragin Cajun Redneck Gators which as horror is genre of sorts, plus the SF films, Higher Power and Beyond the Sky. And even a vampire film, Living Among Us. All low budget, all straight to DVD productions.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) COWL SCOWL. In “What Is Batman” the Pretty Much Pop podcast shares its taxonomical theories.

In light of the recent release of Matt Reeves’ film The Batman, we consider the strange alternation of darkness and camp that is Batman. Is he even a super hero? What’s with his rogues’ gallery? What’s with DC’s anti-world-building?

Your Pretty Much Pop host Mark Linsenmayer is joined by philosophy prof/NY Times entertainment writer Lawrence Ware, improv comedian/educator Anthony LeBlanc, and Marketing Over Coffee host John J. Wall, all of whom are deeply immersed in the comics, and we touch on other recent shows in the Batman universe.

(12) HUMOR IN THE DARKNESS. Death’s Intern by D.C. Gomez is the debut novel in the Intern Diaries series launched in 2017.

A talking cat, a boy genius, missing people, and an untrained Intern for Death. What could possibly go wrong?

Did that really happen?

There’s no way Death offered me a job. I’m a musician that makes her living as a waitress, with absolutely no training in the supernatural world. This is all a very bad dream.

But Bob has been kidnapped, and I can’t possibly lose the only friend I have.

Bob, you’d better be alive. Because if I just gave my soul to Death for nothing, I will personally kill you. Not to mention, it seems Death’s Interns have fairly short life expectancies.

God, don’t let me die.

D. C. Gomez was born in the Dominican Republic, and grew up in Salem, Massachusetts. She study film and television at New York University. After college she joined the US Army, and proudly served for four years. Those experiences shaped her quirky sense of humor. D.C. has a love for those who served and the families that support them. She currently lives in the quaint city of Wake Village, Texas, with her furry roommate, Chincha.

One of D. C.’s passions is helping those around her overcome their self-limiting beliefs.  She writes both non-fiction and fiction books, ranging from Urban Fantasy to Children’s Books. To learn more about her books and her passion, you can find her at www.dcgomez-author.com.

Available at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.

(13) SCIENCE TAKES A HOLIDAY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] You don’t know what it has been like the past few days as you are a citizen living in a flawed democracy, conversely, I am a subject living in a full democracy kingdom. Anyway, our Queen has ruled that we must have four days celebrating 70 years of her reign. So it has been street parties, barbecue, coronation chicken and a right old national knees-up this side of the Pond. It is a tough life, but we Brits are used to it.

It has also meant that, with the exception of this morning, the library cybercafés have been closed, hence no science news until now.

“NASA’s Perseverance rover begins key search for life on Mars” in Nature.

More than fifteen months after landing in Jezero Crater on Mars, NASA’s Perseverance rover has finally begun its hunt for ancient life in earnest.

On 28 May, Perseverance ground a 5-centimetre-wide circular patch into a rock at the base of what was once a river delta in the crater. This delta formed billions of years ago, when a long-vanished river deposited layers of sediment into Jezero, and it is the main reason that NASA sent the rover here. On Earth, river sediment is usually teeming with life.

Images of the freshly ground spot show small sediment grains, which scientists are hoping will contain chemical or other traces of life. Poet William Blake’s “‘To see a world in a grain of sand’ comes to mind,” wrote Sanjeev Gupta, a planetary geologist at Imperial College London, on Twitter….

Meanwhile, the journal Science has been looking at Mayan astronomy and this features on their cover: “The Stargazers”.

The historic Maya oriented their lives by the heavens. Today, their descendants and Western scholars team up to understand their sophisticated astronomy

In the past few years, slowly converging lines of evidence have been restoring the clearest picture yet of the stargazing knowledge European colonizers fought so hard to scrub away…

(14) SHADOWPAW PRESS MAKES DUOTERO AVAILABLE AGAIN. Duatero by Vancouver author Brad C. Anderson, a searing far-future science fiction novel about the struggles of an abandoned human colony to survive on a hostile alien world, is back in print in a new edition from Shadowpaw Press after being orphaned by the closing of its original publisher, Bundoran Press.

Majstro Falchilo Kredo has devoted his life to protecting the abandoned Earth colony of Duatero from Malamiko, the indigenous ecosystem that makes their crops fail and whose contamination turns humans into mindless monsters.

But Malimiko is changing, becoming more dangerous, more aware, even as the ancient technology the humans use to combat it fails piece by precious piece. Kredo and his fellow soldiers must risk everything or see all they hold precious wiped away and forgotten.

Kredo is prepared to sacrifice himself—and anyone around him—to do his duty. But what if the price demanded is even higher?

Duatero is a powerful work of science fiction that confronts issues of morality and survival head-on in a carefully thought-out and terrifying alien world,” said Edward Willett, editor and publisher of Shadowpaw Press. “It deserves to find many new readers, and I’m thrilled to be able to give it that opportunity.”

Duatero can be bought directly from the publisher or from most online bookstores in both ebook and print and can also be ordered through any brick-and-mortar bookstore. This handy URL provides links to multiple online sources:  https://books2read.com/duatero/

(15) SPELL TREK. “Harini Logan is the 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee champion after a historic spell-off” reports CNN.

…This year’s host was LeVar Burton. The Emmy and Grammy-award winner hosted the semifinal and the final round of the event.

In a statement in December, Burton called the position “an honor.”

“Like a lot of folks, I look forward to the competition every year and am excited to be a part of this wonderful tradition that celebrates excellence,” he said….

(16) IT’S ALMOST TIME. Suspension by Andrea Faye Christians – “a time travel tale of epic proportions” — is Book One of the Time Binder Series.

When Carla Thompson falls asleep and doesn’t wake up, she is shocked to discover what destiny has in store for her. Suspended between two worlds, she meets Isambard Brunel, the legendary eighteenth-century civil engineer, who built the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol, England, and who now serves as guardian of its secrets. Historical events intertwine with Carla’s current reality and along the way she discovers a murder, encounters a host of characters including Jamaican psychic, Matilda, and engages in verbal banter with literary legend, Ernest Hemingway. Her adventures lead her to a startling revelation about why she was chosen for her strange new role. In death Carla realises she has never felt more alive.

Andrea Faye Christians was born and raised in Swansea, South Wales. Following a successful career in British radio including the BBC, she moved to the southern Mediterranean island of Malta to pursue her dream of becoming a freelance writer. A decade later she bought a farm in the Madonie Mountains of Sicily where a menagerie of rescue animals found their way to her. With a son in Malta and a daughter in Sicily, Andrea has a home and her heart in both places, and she now divides her time between the neighboring islands.

The book will be released June 30 and is available for pre-order from Bookshop, Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk, Book Depository, and Barnes & Noble.

(17) PHILIP K. DICK WILL BE SORRY HE MISSED THIS SHOW. Matt O’Dowd on PBS Space Time dares to ask,“What If Physics IS NOT Describing Reality?”

Neils Bohr said, “It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how Nature is. Physics concerns what we can say about Nature.” Well it turns out that if we pay attention to this subtle difference, some of the most mysterious aspects of nature make a lot more sense.

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

Third Annual Space Cowboy Award

Space Cowboy Books today announced that the 2022 Space Cowboy Award goes to Rachel Cordasco. Rachel Cordasco is the author of Out of This World: Speculative Fiction in Translation from the Cold War to the New Millennium, translator, and host of the amazing website SF in Translation.

The Space Cowboy Award is given annually for supportive endeavors and excellence in the field of science fiction. Each year a committee composed of Space Cowboy Bookstore owners Jean-Paul L. Garnier and Zara Kand, and the prior Space Cowboy Award recipients nominate several potential awardees, then vote to determine the year’s winner. Past award winners include Gideon & Janice Marcus (2020), and Cora Buhlert (2021).  

Pixel Scroll 5/15/22 The Arc Of The Moral Universe Is Long, But It Scrolls Toward Pixels

(1) TIME IS FLEETING. The SFWA Silent Auction ends tomorrow at noon. Organizer Jason Sanford says, “In particular you and your File 770 readers might get a kick out of seeing the original Munchkin card in the auction, which I think is amazing and is shown in the press release. Also, the auction has up for bid original, first edition hardback copies of Green Hills of Earth and Revolt in 2100 by Robert A. Heinlein from the early 1950s — both of which are signed by Heinlein! I’m a little frustrated that more people haven’t noticed these two rare, signed copies of his books from the Golden Age of SF.”

Specifically, these are the links to the two books Jason pointed out: Green Hills of Earth by Robert A. Heinlein, an autographed Shasta hardcover first edition (1951; no jacket); and Revolt in 2100 by Robert A. Heinlein an autographed Shasta hardcover first edition (1953; no jacket). Both books include a chart of Heinlein’s Future History on a flyleaf.

(2) BRITISH FANTASY AWARDS SEEK NOMINATIONS. The British Fantasy Society is taking nominations for the British Fantasy Awards 2022. You can vote in the BFAs if you are any of the following: A member of the British Fantasy Society; An attendee at FantasyCon 2021; or A ticket-holder for FantasyCon 2022. The voting form is here. Voting will remain open until Sunday May 29, 2022.

Voters may list up to three titles in each category. A crowdsourced list of suggestions has been created here. You may vote for titles not on the suggestions list. Further guidance on the eligibility criteria for each category can be found here.

The four titles or names with the highest number of recommendations in each category will make the shortlist.

(3) ALERT THE MEDIA. “David Tennant and Catherine Tate returning to Doctor Who in 2023” reports Radio Times.

After plenty of rumours and red herrings, the BBC has confirmed the shock news that former Doctor Who stars David Tennant and Catherine Tate are returning to the long-running sci-fi drama, over 12 years after they originally handed in their TARDIS keys and just a week after Sex Education’s Ncuti Gatwa was announced as the new star of the series (taking over from current Doctor Jodie Whittaker).

As the time-travelling Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble, the pair presided over a popular and critically-acclaimed era for Doctor Who still fondly remembered by fans. And now, according to the BBC, they are set to reunite with screenwriter Russell T Davies to film new “scenes that are due to air in 2023”, coinciding with Doctor Who’s 60th anniversary celebrations.

…It could be that these scenes are little more than a cameo, or they could be a major comeback. For now, they’re keeping it all a bit mysterious….

(4) NEXT, THE GOOD NEWS. Yesterday’s Scroll ran an item about what was getting axed at CW. Today Variety has published “UPFRONTS 2022: The Full List of New Broadcast Series Orders”, which it will continually update. Here are examples of what different companies are planning to air next season.

KRAPOPOLIS (Fox Entertainment)

Logline: Animated comedy set in mythical ancient Greece, the series centers on a flawed family of humans, gods and monsters that tries to run one of the world’s first cities without killing each other.

QUANTUM LEAP (Universal Television)

A sequel to the original 1989-1993 time-traveling NBC fantasy drama picks up 30 years after Dr. Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator and vanished. Now a new team has been assembled to restart the project in the hopes of understanding the mysteries behind the machine and the man who created it.

GOTHAM KNIGHTS (Warner Bros. Television)

Logline: In the wake of Bruce Wayne’s murder, his rebellious adopted son forges an unlikely alliance with the children of Batman’s enemies when they are all framed for killing the Caped Crusader.

THE WINCHESTERS (Warner Bros. Television/CBS Studios)

Logline: This prequel to “Supernatural” tells the untold love story of how John and Mary Winchester met and put it all on the line to not only save their love, but the entire world.

(5) ANOTHER INTERPRETATION. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Nilanjana Roy discusses feminist retellings of classic myths.

In her debut novel Kaikeyi published this month, Chicago-based writer Vaishnavi Patel dramatically reframes a story from the great Hindu epic The Ramayana, of Queen Kaikeyo who demands that her husband King Dashrath exile her stepson, the young man-god Rama. ‘I wanted to discover what might have caused a celebrated warrior and beloved queen to tear her family apart,’ Patel writes in her introduction.

Like Patel, many are interested in questioning the framing of mythical women as both villains and heroes.  Korean-American writer Axie Oh writes a less submissive protagonist into the legend of Shim Cheong in her young-adult book, The Girl Who Fell Beneath The Sea. In Oh’s version Mina, a village girl, takes the place of Shim Cheong, the dutiful daughter in the legend who sacrifices herself to the sea gods–but her role in the story is a more active one.  ‘My fate is not yours to decide,’ she says.  ‘My fate belongs to me.’

(6) GENRE STAR GILLAN WEDS. “Karen Gillan marries American boyfriend in closely guarded ceremony at castle in Argyll” – the Daily Record has the story.

Avengers star Karen Gillan has wed her American boyfriend in a closely guarded ceremony at a castle in Argyll.

The Inverness-born star tied the knot this afternoon with American comedian Nick Kocher, 36, after jetting back to Scotland for her nuptials.

Some of the A-list guests at the wedding in Castle Toward in Dunoon included fellow action star Robert Downey Jnr and Pretty Woman star Julia Roberts, who were spotted in the town earlier today.

Steven Moffat, who was executive producer of Doctor Who when Karen was Matt Smith’s Tardis companion, was also a guest for her big day.

The 34-year-old, who had kept her engagement to the Saturday Night Live scriptwriter a secret, had chartered a yacht, The Spirit of Fortitude, to take family and friends to the 3.30pm ceremony….

(7) SFF FILLS THE 1953 MAGAZINE STANDS. [Item by Mlex.] James Wallace Harris of the Auxiliary Memory blog & SF Signal, posted a bibliographic essay on the year 1953 for science fiction short stories. “The 1953 SF&F Magazine Boom” at Classics of Science Fiction.

Science fiction in 1953 spoke to a generation and it’s fascinating to think about why. The number of science fiction readers before WWII was so small that it didn’t register in pop culture. The war brought rockets, atomic bombs, computers, and nuclear power. The late 1940s brought UFOs – the flying saucer craze. The 1950s began with science fiction movies and television shows. By 1953, science fiction was a fad bigger than the hula-hoop would ever be, we just never thought of it that way. I do wonder if the fad will ever collapse, but I see no sign it will.

He also posted a related cover gallery of magazine issues from that year at the Internet Archive: “1953 SFF Magazine Covers”.

(8) READING ALOUD. Space Cowboy Books presents the 51st episode of the Simultaneous Times podcast. Stories featured in this episode:

“The Jellyfish from Nullarbor” by Eric Farrell; music by RedBlueBlackSilver; read by Jean-Paul Garnier

“Apotheosis” by Joshua Green; music by Phog Masheeen; read by Jean-Paul Garnier

Theme music by Dain Luscombe

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2006 [By Cat Eldridge.] Sixteen years on this date, one of the most unusual strips to come into existence did so in the form of Mark Tatulli’s Liō. It was very easy to market globally as it had almost no dialogue except that spoken by other people in the parodies that I’ll mention in a minute as Liō and the other characters don’t speak at all, and there were no balloons or captions at all again giving it a global appeal. 

Liō, who lives with his father and various monsters, i.e. Ishmael a giant squid and Fido a spider, various animals like Cybil a white cat (of course there’s a cat here, a very pushy feline indeed), aliens, lab creations, and even Liō’s hunchbacked assistant.  Why there’s even Archie, Liō’s psychopathic ventriloquist’s dummy. Liō’s mother is deceased. Though why she’s deceased is never stated. Definitely not your nuclear family here.

An important aspect of the strip is that will riff off other strips, and lots of them: BlondieBloom CountyCalvin and HobbesCathyGarfieldOpusPeanuts, even Pearls Before Swine (not one of my favorite strips I will readily admit) will become fodder for parody by this strip.  That’s where the only dialogue is spoken. 

Currently  the strip which runs daily globally in more than two hundred and fifty papers. 

Tatulli on the Mr. Media podcast back a decade or so said “It’s really a basic concept. It’s just Liō who lives with his father, and that’s basically it, and whatever I come up with. I set no parameters because I didn’t want to lock myself in. I mean, having no dialogue means that there is going to be no dialogue-driven gags, so I have to leave myself as open as possible to any kind of thing, so anything basically can happen.” 

There a transcript of that podcast here as the audio quality of that interview is, as the interviewer admits, rather awful. He got better after that first interview by him. 

In multiple interviews, Tatulli has said the two major contemporary influences on his style are Gahan Wilson and Charles Addams.

And yes, it’s still in existence and offending people as this strip from late last year will demonstrate.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 15, 1856 L. Frank Baum. I adore The Wizard of Oz film and I’m betting you know that it only covers about half of the novel which is a very splendid read indeed. I’ll confess that I never read the numerous latter volumes in the Oz franchise, nor have I read anything else by him. Nor have I seen any of the later adaptations of the Oz fiction. What’s the rest of his fiction like?  There is, by the way, an amazing amount of fanfic out here involving Oz and some of it is slash which is a really, really scary idea. (Died 1919.)
  • Born May 15, 1877 William Bowen. His most notable work was The Old Tobacco Shop, a fantasy novel that was one runner-up for the inaugural Newbery Medal in 1922. He also had a long running children’s series with a young girl named Merrimeg whom a narrator told her adventures with all sorts of folkloric beings. (Died 1937.)
  • Born May 15, 1926 Anthony Shaffer. His genre screenplays were Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy and Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man. Though definitely not genre, he wrote the screenplays for a number of most excellent mysteries including the Agatha Christie-based  Evil Under the Sun,Death on the Nile, and Murder on the Orient Express. (Died 2001.)
  • Born May 15, 1948 Brian Eno, 74. Worth noting if only for A Multimedia Album Based on the Complete Text of Robert Sheckley’s In a Land of Clear Colors, though all of his albums have a vague SF feeling  to them such as Music for Civic Recovery CentreJanuary 07003: Bell Studies for the Clock of  The Long Now and Everything That Happens Will Happen Today which could be the name of Culture mind ships. Huh. I wonder if his music will show up in the proposed Culture series?
  • Born May 15, 1955 Lee Horsley, 67. A performer who’s spent a lot of his career in genre undertakings starting with The Sword and the Sorcerer (and its 2010 sequel Tales of an Ancient Empire), horror films Nightmare ManThe Corpse Had a Familiar Face and Dismembered and even a bit of SF in Showdown at Area 51. Not sure where The Face of Fear falls as it has a cop with psychic powers and a serial killer.
  • Born May 15, 1960 Rob Bowman, 62. Producer of such series as Alien NationM.A.N.T.I.S.Quantum LeapNext Generation, and The X-Files. He has directed these films: The X-FilesReign of Fire and Elektra. He directed one or several episodes of far too many genres series to list here.  
  • Born May 15, 1966 Greg Wise, 56. I’m including him solely for being in Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story. It is a film-within-a-film, featuring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon playing themselves as egotistical actors during the making of a screen adaptation of Laurence Sterne’s 18th century metafictional novel Tristram Shandy. Not genre (maybe) but damn fun. 
  • Born May 15, 1971 Samantha Hunt, 51. If you read nothing else by her, do read The Invention of Everything,  a might be look at the last days in the life of Nikola Tesla. It’s mostly set within the New Yorker Hotel, a great concept. I’m avoiding spoilers naturally. She’s written two other genre novels, Mr. Splitfoot and The Seas, plus a handful of stories. 

(11) BUILDING THE GENRE BRICK BY BRICK. “Lego’s next batch of official unofficial sets go on sale May 17th, and you’ll want to be quick” The Verge tells collectors. (This is the link to the sale: Designer Program 2021 Invitational at BrickLink.) The quotes below were written by the designers.

…A from-the-ground-up rebuild of the original “Bulwark” gunship design of the Space Troopers project, the spaceship you see here is chock full of the developments of a decade’s worth of building, yet remains sturdy and with a chunky simplicity that reminds me of what I’d have loved to play with as a boy. From the rear’s double cargo doors ready to discharge rovers, troops, or scientists on an expedition, to the inner hatch and gunner’s console with its cramped ladder allowing access to the cockpit, the hold is packed with scenes ripe for customization and exploration. Crew bunks and a tiny galley round out the hull, and the off-center cockpit rises up between a sensor array and two massive engines that can rotate up or down for flight.

The sliding cargo doors aren’t just there for show; a sturdy mechanism just behind the wings allows you to attach the two included modules or design your own, dropping them off on some distant planet or opening the doors to allow for use in-flight. Two crimson hardsuits in the classic Space Troopers red are more than just my concession to the strictures of the brick—they’re my homage to the classic sci-fi writers whose tales of adventure on far-off planets and dropships swooping from the sky have shaped my life. Deploying on two rails from a module that locks into place in the dropship’s rear, the suits are chunky, bedecked with pistons and thrusters, and, most importantly, fit a minifigure snugly inside to allow for armored adventures….

…I think around this time I also watched some The Big Bang Theory episodes. During one of these nights I “designed” an observatory made from LEGO bricks in my mind. I really love science and space, and I have never seen an observatory as an official LEGO set. That’s when I thought about building an observatory in real bricks. But I didn’t want to use an IP because that would only be interesting for people who has a connection to the place. I wanted to create a playable observatory that has a unique design. I imagined a building on the top of a mountain and what it would look like. And that’s why I called it “Mountain View.”…

…The Steam Powered Science (previously known as the Exploratorium) is a Steam-Punk themed research facility whose mission is to delve into the mysteries of the universe. One half of the facility is dedicated to researching celestial motion while the other is dedicated to traversing the ocean’s depths. The set was designed as part of the Flight Works Series, a group of Steam-Punk themed submissions on LEGO Ideas….

(12) CHARGE IT! Are Colin Kuskie and Phil Nichols really going to advocate for that most controversial of critics’ notions? To find out you will need to listen to episode 17 of Science Fiction 101, “Canon to the left of me, canon to the right”.

Colin and Phil return, buoyed by the news that Science Fiction 101 has risen to number 6 in Feedspot’s league table of Best UK Sci-Fi Podcasts!

Our main discussion topic the contentious issue of the “canon” of science fiction, triggered by a blog post by Dr Shaun Duke. We also have a movie quiz, and the usual round-up of past/present/future SF.

(13) STRANGE NEW TREK PARAPHERNALIA. TrekCore is pleased to report that after a long wait “QMx Finally Beams Down USS ENTERPRISE Delta Badges”.

More than three years after their initial announcement, QMx has finally brought their Star Trek: Discovery-era USS Enterprise Starfleet delta badges into Earth orbit — just in time for the debut of Captain Pike’s own series, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

Originally announced all the way back in February 2019, the metal Starfleet badges were showcased at that year’s Toy Fair expo in New York City… only to shuffle off the horizon, as they’d gone “on hold” by the early part of the next year (as a QMx representative told us at Toy Fair 2020), likely waiting for the then-in-the-works Captain Pike series to be announced to the public….

(14) INGENUITY BEGINNING TO AGE OUT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter on Mars showed its first sign of approaching old age when it failed to wake on time to “phone home.” After far outlasting its planned life, the approach of winter with shorter days and more dust in the air is beginning to play havoc with its ability to keep a charge on its batteries overnight. “Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Went Silent, Leaving Anxious NASA Team in the Dark” at Gizmodo.

Late last week, NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter managed to reestablish its connection with the Perseverance rover following a brief communications disruption. The space agency says the looming winter is likely responsible and is making adjustments as a result.

On Thursday, Ingenuity—mercifully—sent a signal to Perseverance after the intrepid helicopter missed a scheduled communications session. It marked the first time since the pair landed together on Mars in February 2021 that Ingenuity has missed an appointment, according to NASA.

The team behind the mission believes that Ingenuity had entered into a low-power state to conserve energy, and it did so in response to the charge of its six lithium-ion batteries dropping below a critical threshold. This was likely due to the approaching winter, when more dust appears in the Martian atmosphere and the temperatures get colder. The dust blocks the amount of sunlight that reaches the helicopter’s solar array, which charges its batteries….

(15) BABY TALK. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Baby Yoda showed up on Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” to promote Obi-Wan Kenobi and discuss his questionable new friends.  But don’t ask him about Baby Groot or he’ll get really angry! “Baby Yoda on His Spiritual Awakening”.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/18/22 You Get A File, I’ll Get A Troll, We’ll Head Down To The Pixel Scroll, Honey, Enemy Mine

(1) NEXT YEAR’S EASTERCON COMMITTEE PICKED. Conversation is the 2023 Eastercon – it will be held April 7-10. Where? “We don’t have a confirmed site yet,” they say. But somewhere in England. The convention website is here: Conversation 2023. And the guests of honor will be —

  • Zen Cho
  • Niall Harrison
  • Jennell Jaquays
  • Kari Sperring
  • Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • Ursula Vernon (T Kingfisher).

(2) EUROCON REPORT. Polish fan Marcin Klak writes about “Luxcon Eurocon 2022 – Convention From Behind the Mask” – a report that includes a photo of TAFF delegate “Orange Mike” Lowrey.

It was so good to see the people. I haven’t seen some friends for two and more years. Being able to greet them differently than on Zoom was great. Meeting some new people was also awesome. And last, but not least I had the opportunity to meet in person people whom I met online but haven’t yet seen in the real world – this was so cool. I had no idea how strongly I missed all of that. Don’t understand me wrong – virtual conventions are awesome. I appreciate them and think they were a blessing for those of us who attended them. Yet getting back to in-person conventioning was magical….

(3) SEPTEMBER SONG. Allen Steele told Facebook followers his email contained “A ROTTEN EASTER EGG”, and after being turned down as a Chicon 8 program participant he had much to say about the application process. He says he was “uninvited” after answering the questionnaire — because he claims they initiated the contact thus, in his view, issued an invitation. However, Chicon 8’s head of program says it was Steele who initiated things by filling in the form on the website requesting to be contacted.

When I opened my email this morning, here was what I found, printed verbatim. It came from a staff member for this year’s World Science Fiction Convention, an annual event I’ve attended — albeit infrequently in recent years — as a fan since 1973 and as a professional SF writer since 1989. I hadn’t yet decided whether to attend this year’s worldcon, but if I had, it would’ve been the fourth time I’ve been to one in Chicago (including once as a writer with a story on that year’s Hugo ballot).

“Dear Allen Steele.

“Thank you for reaching out to us with your interest in being on Program at Chicon 8: The 80th World Science Fiction Convention. We’re sending this email to inform you that we will not be extending you an invitation to participate as a panelist for the 2022 Worldcon in Chicago.

“Deciding who to invite as panelists is an ongoing multistep process that includes reviewing your program survey answers and the input of many members of the Chicon Program Team. As we have received requests from well over 1500 people, we cannot accept everyone, and so some difficult choices have to be made.

“Best,

“[NAME DELETED}

Head of Program for Chicon 8

My Pronouns: They/Them/Theirs”

This has really floored me, in a number of ways and for a number of reasons. First: I didn’t “reach out” to them. Instead, they reached out to me, in email I received in early March asking whether I would be interested in attending this year’s worldcon. Perhaps it was not technically an invitation, but in the past when I’ve received letters of this nature from worldcon committees, I’ve always felt it safe to assume that I was being asked to attend (for those who don’t know: this kind of invitation doesn’t include a free membership or having any of my hotel or travel expenses paid; it simply asks whether you would like to participate in panels, book signings, readings, etc.). So when I received it, I gave a positive response, assuming this was another worldcon invitation, something I’ve done dozens of times for dozens of years….

Steele also “joked” about pronoun preferences such as they/them/theirs.

Artist Bob Eggleton, in comments, made a suggestion in the spirit of Jon Del Arroz:

Chicon 8’s process for becoming a program participant is explained in detail here. After someone contacts the committee, this is the first of several things that happen —

    • Within a few weeks we will send you the program participant survey. This tells us who you are, and gives us an overview of what you hope to contribute to the program. Among other things, this survey will include the opportunity to (optionally): Suggest panel topics that you would like to see run at the convention. Propose workshops and presentations that you would like to conduct as solo or duo presenters.
    • Potential participants will be put through a vetting process to make sure that they are aligned with the values and principles set out in the convention code of conduct and anti-racism statement….

(4) THAT’S NOT STREAMING, IT’S A FLOOD. Ask.com wants to know “When Did It Become a Job to Be a Fan?” You might wonder after reading the previous item. But conrunning is not the focus of this article.

I never watched episodes three and four of Disney+’s The Book of Boba Fett. I read recaps and just tuned in for the juicy Mando-and-Baby-Yoda-filled episodes of the Star Wars show. I didn’t bother with HBO Max’s Peacemaker; James Gunn’s brand of humor and the absurdist violence in the DC Extended Universe’s (DCEU) The Suicide Squad wasn’t exactly my thing. And even though I have a soft spot for Oscar Isaac, I don’t know if I’ll ever finish watching the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) Moon Knight. 

There’s way too much stuff to watch to be able to stay on top of everything — just take a look at our selection of movie and TV releases for April — and yet I can’t help but feel like a failed pop culture writer and media critic for all the things I’m skipping. I should be watching — and probably enjoying — all of it. But, most of the time, these serialized shows and movies that are part of a larger universe feel like homework….

(5) CHINESE SF. The Shimmer Program has released New Voices in Chinese Science Fiction, a collaboration between Clarkesworld and Storycom, edited by Neil Clarke, Xia Jia and Regina Kanyu Wang , including eight stories from Chinese sf writers. Early bird copies of the anthology have been sent out to the Kickstarter backers and it will be made available for purchase in June.

Writers: Shuang Chimu, Liu Xiao, Yang Wanqing, Hui Hu, Congyun “Mu Ming” Gu, Liang Qingsan, Shi Heiyao, Liao Shubo

Translators: Carmen Yiling Yan, Andy Dudak, Rebecca Kuang, Judith Huang, Emily Jin

(6) LONG REMEMBERED THUNDER. “Prehistoric Planet” is a five-night documentary event coming to Apple TV+ May 23.

…This series is produced by the world-renowned team at BBC Studios Natural History Unit with support from the photorealistic visual effects of MPC (“The Lion King,” “The Jungle Book”). “Prehistoric Planet” presents little-known and surprising facts of dinosaur life set against the backdrop of the environments of Cretaceous times, including coasts, deserts, freshwater, ice worlds and forests. From revealing eye-opening parenting techniques of Tyrannosaurus rex to exploring the mysterious depths of the oceans and the deadly dangers in the sky, “Prehistoric Planet” brings Earth’s history to life like never before. 

(7) HALF A CENTURY OF SIMULTANEITY. Space Cowboy Books of Joshua Tree, CA has released the 50th episode of the Simultaneous Times podcast.

Stories featured in this episode are:

  • “RealView”- by Liam Hogan (music by RedBlueBlackSilver), read by Jean-Paul Garnier & Robin Rose Graves
  • “Psionic Thread” by Sam Fletcher (music by Phog Masheeen), read by Jean-Paul Garnier

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1997 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] On this date a quarter of a century ago on Canada’s Citytv (which is sometimes just called City), Lexx (also known as LEXX: The Dark Zone Stories and Tales from a Parallel Universe) premiered as a series of four films. The series follows a group of rather unique and sometimes dysfunctional individuals aboard the living craft Lexx as they travel through two universes and encounter various planets including an Earth that is decidedly not ours. 

It was created by Paul Donovan, Lex Gigeroff and Jeffrey Hirschfield, none of which had a background in the genre in any meaningful sense before this. Hirschfield wrote for three of the four seasons Lexx ran and voiced the character of the robot head 790. 

Now Lexx had a large cast including Brian Downey, Eva Habermann and Xenia Seeberg. Should you be so inclined, and I’m not saying saying that you should be, go ask Google for the uncensored versions of the City broadcast Lexx as regards Eva Habermann and Xenia Seeberg. Let’s just say that when it hit Syfy that network reduced it from a hard “R” to a very friendly “PG” rating in terms of both language and nudity. I’ve also heard that quite a bit of violence was also removed as well. Remember that I’ve mentioned previously that Syfy emasculated Fifties SF series when they ran there too.

It would run, including the original four films of ninety-three minutes in length, for five seasons with the four actual seasons ending with a total of sixty-one episodes with a conventional running time of between forty-five and forty-eight minutes. SyFy trimmed three to five minutes out of each of these episodes. 

Though the series was primarily filmed in Canada and Germany befitting it being a Canadian and German co-production, additional filming done on location in the British Virgin Islands. Iceland, Namibia, New Zealand, Thailand, and the United Kingdom. I need a guide to which scenes were filmed where. Seriously I do. 

Reception was decidedly mixed. The New York Daily News reviewer said she “can only imagine that the great SciFi channel must have been captured by idiot monsters from outer space and Germany” but the Independent got it spot-on when they noted that it is “extremely gory, not a little nasty and rather fun”.  Finally the TV Guide summed it up by noting it is “a siren of distinction for its black comedy, skewed take on the human condition and open sexuality.” 

It currently has a ninety-two percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 18, 1884 Frank R. Paul. Illustrator who graced the covers of Amazing Stories beginning with this cover for April 1926, as well as Science Wonder Stories and Air Wonder Stories from June 1929 to October 1940 and a number of others.  He also illustrated the cover of Gernsback’s Ralph 124C 41+: A Romance of the Year 2660 (Stratford Company, 1925), published first as a 1911–1912 serial in Modern Electrics. He was the Guest of Honor at the very first WorldCon, Nycon, in July 1939. He was inducted into Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2009. Stephen D. Korshak and Frank R. Paul’s From the Pen of Paul: The Fantastic Images of Frank R. Paul published in 2010 is the only work I found that looks at him. (Died 1963.)
  • Born April 18, 1930 Clive Revill, 92. His first genre role was as Ambrose Dudley in The Headless Ghost, a late Fifties British film. He then was in Modesty Blaise in the dual roles of McWhirter / Sheik Abu Tahir followed by The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes playing Rogozhin. A choice role follows as he’s The Voice of The Emperor in The Empire Strikes Back.  As for one-offs, he shows up in The Adventures of Robin HoodThe New AvengersWizards and Warriors in a recurring role as Wizard Vector, Dragon’s Lair, the second version of The Twilight ZoneBatman: The Animated Series in recurring role as as Alfred Pennyworth, Babylon 5Freakazoid in a number of roles, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and Pinky and The Brain… that’s not even close to a full listing! 
  • Born April 18, 1946 Janet Kagan. Another one who died way too young, damn it. “The Nutcracker Coup” was nominated for both the Hugo Award for Best Novelette and the Nebula Award for Best Novelette, winning the Hugo at ConFrancisco. She has but two novels, one being Uhura’s Song, a Trek novel, and quite a bit short fiction which is out in The Complete Kagan from Baen Books and is available from the usual digital suspects as everything else by her.  (Died 2008.)
  • Born April 18, 1965 Stephen Player, 57. Some Birthday honor folks are elusive. What I did find is awesome as he’s deep in the Pratchett’s Discworld and the fandom that sprung up around it. He illustrated the first two Discworld Maps, and quite a number of the books including the25th Anniversary Edition of The Light Fantastic and The Illustrated Wee Free Men. Oh, but that’s just a mere small taste of all he’s done, He also did the production design for the Sky One production of Hogfather and The Colour of Magic. He did box art and card illustrations for Guards! Guards! A Discworld Boardgame. Finally, he contributed to some Discworld Calendars, games books, money for the Discworld convention. I want that money.
  • Born April 18, 1969 Keith R. A. DeCandido, 53. I found him working in these genre media franchises: such as Supernatural, AndromedaFarscapeFireflyAliensStar Trek in its various permutations, Buffy the Vampire SlayerDoctor WhoSpider-ManX-MenHerculesThorSleepy Hollow,and Stargate SG-1. Now I will admit that his Farscape: House of Cards novel is quite fantastic, and it’s available from the usual suspects. He’s also written quite a bit of non-tie-in fiction.
  • Born April 18, 1971 David Tennant, 51. The Tenth Doctor and my favorite of the modern Doctors along with Thirteen whom I’m also very fond of. There are some episodes such as the “The Unicorn and The Wasp” that I’ve watched repeatedly and even reviewed over at Green Man.  He’s also done other spectacular genre work such as the downright creepy Kilgrave in Jessica Jones, and and Barty Crouch, Jr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. He’s also in the Beeb’s remake of the The Quatermass Experiment as Dr. Gordon Briscoe.
  • Born April 18, 1973 Cora Buhlert, 49. With Jessica Rydill, she edits the Speculative Fiction Showcase, a most excellent site. She has a generous handful of short fiction professionally published, and was a finalist for Best Fan Writer Hugo at CoNZealand and DisCon III, and has been nominated this year again at Chicon 8. Very impressive indeed! And of course she’s a member of our community here. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) COMICS FOR UKRAINE. Kurt Busiek is among the many stellar contributors to Comics for Ukraine: Sunflower Seeds, a benefit anthology edited by multi-Eisner Award-winner Scott Dunbier. The book will be full-color, 96 pages, 8×12 inches, and available in both hardcover and softcover editions.

Mark Evanier will be in the book, too:

Among the many writers and artists contributing to this effort are Sergio Aragonés and myself. We’re doing a new Groo story that will be included. You can see the whole list of contributors here and you can get your order in for a copy of this historic volume on this page.

There have been $28,808 of pre-orders, with 30 days to go. Order here.

A benefit anthology featuring an all-star lineup of comic book creators, with all proceeds being donated to Ukrainian refugees. Comics for Ukraine: Sunflower Seeds features an incredible roster of comics talent united under the mission of providing relief to the war-torn Ukraine, which has suffered attacks from neighboring Russia since late February. With the exception of hard costs (printing, credit-card fees, marketing) all of the funds raised by Comics for Ukraine: Sunflower Seeds will benefit the relief efforts in Ukraine in partnership with Operation USA. Since time of of the essence, if the campaign is successful, right after the campaign is over and payments have been collected by Zoop, all funds will be sent to Operation USA immediately.

(12) NO BRAINER? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] It’s apparently been a burning question for almost 2 decades. Is 28 Days Later a zombie movie or not? I mean, the revening hordes are not technically undead – type zombies, but they do act pretty much like one & spread the infection by biting their victims.

So, what does screenwriter Alex Garland say? But what about director Danny Boyle?  “28 Days Later writer settles long-running debate” at Digital Spy.

…The premise of 28 Days Later follows a pandemic caused by the accidental release of a contagious virus named The Rage, but the infected don’t die and then come back to life like a typical zombie.

However, they do exhibit zombie-like aggressive behaviour and spread the disease by biting victims, though, so that’s where the debate comes in….

(13) HE’S A BLOCKHEAD. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] News has broken that Jason Momoa will be trading in the ripped physiques of Aquaman and Duncan Idaho for the squared off physique of a lead character in a movie based on Minecraft. Or, at least, negotiations to that effect are nearing completion. “Jason Momoa to Star in ‘Minecraft’ Movie for Warner Bros.” says The Hollywood Reporter.

… Gaming movies have been on a hot streak in recent years, with 20th Century launching a hit franchise with Ryan Reynolds’ Free Guy last year, and Paramount finding success with its Sonic sequel earlier this month.

Momoa and Warners have Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom due out in March 2023. The film is the sequel to the $1 billion-grossing 2018 film Aquaman

(14) DROPPING THE HAMMER. Marvel Studios’ Thor: Love and Thunder opens in theaters July 8, 2022.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) on a journey unlike anything he’s ever faced – a quest for inner peace. But his retirement is interrupted by a galactic killer known as Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), who seeks the extinction of the gods. To combat the threat, Thor enlists the help of King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Korg (Taika Waititi) and ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who – to Thor’s surprise – inexplicably wields his magical hammer, Mjolnir, as the Mighty Thor. Together, they embark upon a harrowing cosmic adventure to uncover the mystery of the God Butcher’s vengeance and stop him before it’s too late.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Lindsay Ellis and Princess Weekes discuss “Why Magical Realism is a Global Phenomenon”.

Blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, magical realism in literature and other media combines fantasy elements with concrete realities to make statements about the world we live in. In this episode, we explore its roots, lay out the tenets of the genre, and discuss how it has flourished in Latin American Literature. Hosted by Lindsay Ellis and Princess Weekes, It’s Lit! is a show about our favorite books, genres, and why we love to read.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Rob Thornton, Bill, Will R., Nickpheas, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day John A Arkansawyer.]

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

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

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

That’s the small picture.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It reads [in part]:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The panel description was as follows:

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

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

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

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

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1964 [Item by Cat Eldridge]

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

“No sir.” – Mike 

“Wise answer.” – Dr. Lao

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s a demonstration in this tweet:

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 2/17/22 I Have No Internet And I Must Stream

(1) BREATHTAKING. Here’s a chance to admire Nalo Hopkinson’s magnificent SFWA Grand Master award.

(2) SILVER Q&A. Sea Lion Press’ Gary Oswald has a conversation with a co-founder of the Sidewise Awards for Alternate History: “Interviewing the AH Community: Steven H Silver”.

In 2020, a Sea Lion Press story won a Sidewise Award for the first time. Most Sidewise winners are paper novels by major book publishers which sell in the thousands so it was exciting to us that an ebook by a minor publisher with more modest sales could win it. You’re obviously not the only judge but do you consider popularity or legitimacy at all or would you be happy to vote for a self published ebook with barely any sales if you felt the work was good enough?

I try to read each story or novel for the Sidewise Award pretending I know nothing of its provenance. I try to ignore who the author is, who published it, or the way it got to press. To me, it is about the story being told and the way it is told. I try to judge each book on two levels. Is it a good/interesting alternate history and is it a well written book. I’ve voted down books I like because they were strong in one of those two categories, but weak in the other. If the writing isn’t good, the concept doesn’t matter and if the writing is good but the alternate history is weak, it is hard to consider it a contender….

(3) WHO CAN RESIST CETACEANS? [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Artist JohannesVIII (@ViiiJohannes) did this piece of two humpback whales assimilated as Borg from Star Trek.

(4) FANHISTORY ZOOM. Fanac.org’s next Fan History Project Zoom Series presentation is happening on February 26. To RSVP, or find out more about the series, please send a note to fanac@fanac.org.

  • Death Does Not Release You – LASFS Through the Years with Craig Miller (M), Tim Kirk, Ken Rudolph and Bobbi Armbruster

Date: February 26, 2022
Time: 4pm EST, 1pm PST, 9PM London, 8AM Sunday AEDT (Melbourne)

LASFS is unique – in its history and impact on fandom. LASFS has a clubhouse, a long list of professional writers that have been members, and has had an incredibly active fan group over the decades. Los Angeles area fandom has produced innumerable fanzines, six Los Angeles Worldcons (and many other conventions). Join us for a session with our real world AND fannishly accomplished participants – convention runners (including a Worldcon chair), a noted fan and professional artist, and a fanzine editor, all past or present LASFS members – in conversation about Los Angeles fandom from the inside.

Upcoming Fanac.org fanhistory Zooms are:

  • March 19 — Traveling Ghiants, Fan Funds from the Days of Mimeo to the Days of Zoom

Geri Sullivan (m), Lesleigh Luttrell (DUFF), Justin Ackroyd (GUFF) and Suzle Tompkins (TAFF)

4pm EDT, 1pm PDT, 8pm London, 7am AEDT (Melbourne) – 

  • April 23 — Fandom From Both Sides

Joe Haldeman and Gay Haldeman

2pm EDT, 11am PDT, 7pm London – 

(5) OMICRON AT ANIME NYC. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The CDC has published a study of what ABC News identifies as the 2021 Anime NYC COVID-19/Omicron outbreak. The function isn’t named in the study, but details that are given match that convention. “Omicron spread quickly at convention in New York City — but boosters helped at ABC News.

…According to convention rules, attendees were required to have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and wear masks indoors.

The first case was reported to the CDC by the Minnesota Department of Health on Dec. 2 in a man — called Patient A — who had flown to New York City for the convention, the report said.

For the report, the CDC teamed up with the MDH and state and local departments across the country interviewing Patient A, and 23 of his 29 close contacts from 13 states who also attended the convention.

Patient A had traveled to New York City on November 18. He was fully vaccinated and received a booster shot earlier in November, according to the authors.

However, he developed symptoms on Nov. 22 and subsequently tested positive for COVID-19, after which he notified all his close contacts, the report said.

Of the 23 attendees contacted, 16 tested positive for the virus, equating to an attack rate of 70%.

All the contacts were fully vaccinated, but only 11 had received a booster dose before going to the convention, according to the report. The authors indicate that having a booster dose lowered the odds of testing positive for COVID-19.

Ten of the 12 people, or 83%, who didn’t receive a booster tested positive for the virus while six of the 11 people, 55%, who tested positive were boosted, meaning there were 1.5 times fewer infections in boosted individuals….

(6) TEXMOOT CALL FOR PAPERS. Signum University is hosting a hybrid event, TexMoot 2022, whose theme is “Starships, Stewards, and Storytellers: How Imaginary Worlds Teach Us to Care for This One”. It takes place in Austin, TX on March 26. Registration costs $50 for on-site participants, $25 for online attendees, and $15 for students in either mode. To register, click here. The complete call for papers is here.

In 2022, Signum University’s Annual Texas Language and Literature Symposium (TexMoot) invites you to join us as we consider the ethical turn in speculative fiction: How do imaginary worlds teach us to care for this one?

From ecological concerns to social commentary, science fiction and fantasy offer readers a mirror through which to view our own world. For example, the struggles of a terraforming planet may remind us how precious and fragile is the one we live on. The real-world conflict between nature and technology comes to life on the page when trees march to war. We may find insights into how to interact with people around us by spending time with characters in a fellowship—or on a starship. 

At TexMoot 2022, you will explore questions like: How do we relate to the Other—the “monsters” and “aliens” beyond the bulkhead door? What roles can technology play in preserving nature or reinforcing what makes us human? Do humans change the nonhuman environment, or are they inevitably changed by it? Is there really a clear line between the human and the nonhuman, anyway? And whose responsibility is it to preserve “civilization” and transmit its legacy to future generations?

TexMoot 2022 will also investigate the ways authors convey these commentaries. What literary techniques best serve the message; at what point does a work cross the line into propaganda? When does the message serve the story, and when does the story serve the message?

The TexMoot Team is looking for both traditional academic papers (of about 15 minutes) and shorter discussion prompts in which the presenter talks for 5 minutes and ends with a provocative question to start a roundtable discussion. Presentations and discussion topics can be more academic or popular, according to your preference and experience. 

(7) STRANGER THINGS GETS FIFTH SEASON. The airdates for the fourth season of Stranger Things have been announced, as has the greenlit fifth and last season. Deadline has the story, and a gallery of promotional posters. “’Stranger Things’ Renewed For Fifth And Final Season, Gets Premiere Dates For Split Season 4 On Netflix”.

Stranger Things, a signature show for Netflix since its premiere in 2016, has been renewed for a fifth and final season.

In addition to the climactic renewal, the company said the long-awaited Season 4 of the show will premiere in two “volumes,” the first on May 27 and the second on July 1. In an open letter to fans (read it in full below), co-creators Matt and Ross Duffer said the split season resulted from the season’s nine episodes having a total running time twice as long as that of any previous season.

The Duffer Bros noted that the full arc was expected to be “four or five” seasons when they first envisioned the show, so the end is not a surprise. Plus, it won’t be the end of the franchise, they promised.

“There are still many more exciting stories to tell within the world of Stranger Things: new mysteries, new adventures, new unexpected heroes,” they wrote. “But first we hope you stay with us as we finish this tale.”

(8) IT HAPPENED TO JANE. You may not be able to watch Natalie Portman gear up as Thor just yet, but you can pre-order an action figure of her. Gizmodo offers “Thor Love and Thunder Natalie Portman as Thor First Look”, but it comes with a spoiler warning.

While movie studios like Marvel like to keep all details about their films under complete wraps, there’s one truth they simply cannot get around: It takes a long time to make merchandise, especially action figures. That’s why they’re often the first looks at movie outfits and characters, and it’s why we’re getting this first look at Natalie Portman as Jane Foster as the Mighty Thor in the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder. In related news, she’s awesome—as regular Thor’s new movie outfit, which you can also see here!…

(9) RIDE WITH THE SPACE COWBOY. Simultaneous Times science fiction podcast episode 48 is live, featuring short stories by F.J. Bergmann and Toshiya Kamei with original soundtracks by Phog Masheen and RedBlueBlackSilver. “Simultaneous Times Ep.48 – F.J. Bergmann & Toshiya Kamei”. Simultaneous Times is a monthly science fiction podcast produced by Space Cowboy Books in Joshua Tree, CA.

(10) FAREN MILLER (1950-2022). Faren Miller, a Locus staffer and contributor for 37 years, died February 15 at the age of 71 reports Locus Online. Miller was hired by Locus in 1981, and her last review column for the magazine was in 2018. Her only published novel, The Illusionists (1991), was a finalist for the William Crawford – IAFA Fantasy Award for first fantasy book.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1989 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Thirty-three years ago, the first film of what would become the Bill & Ted franchise, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, premiered on this day. It was directed by Stephen Herek as written by Chris Matheson, son of author Richard Matheson, and Ed Solomon, writer of the first Men in Black film, who would write all three of these films. 

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, of course, stars Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter and George Carlin. (I met the latter many years ago. A rather nice gentleman he was.) Two out of the three had successful careers after this, one really didn’t. 

It was a box office triumph earning back forty million against a modest budget of just ten million.

Critics generally hated it. The New York Times in reviewing it flatly stated that it was a “painfully inept comedy”. And the Los Angeles Times said that it was an “unabashed glorification of dumbness for dumbness’ sake”. Dissenting from this unrelenting hostility, the Radio Times cheerfully said ir was a “flawless, purpose-built junk movie”. 

So how do audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes view it now? Well, they give it a most bodacious seventy-five percent rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 17, 1912 Andre Norton. She penned well over a dozen series, but her major series was Witch World which began rather appropriately with Witch World in 1963. The first six novels in that series were Ace Books paperback originals published in the Sixties. I remember them with fondness quite some decades after reading them. (Died 2005.)
  • Born February 17, 1913 David Duncan. A screenwriter and novelist who was nominated twice for Hugos, first for being writing the screenplay for The Time Machine at Seacon, and for the same work on Fantastic Voyage at NyCon 3. He also wrote Time Machine: The Journey Back sequel to The Time Machine. And he wrote The Outer Limits’ “The Human Factor” episode. (Died 1999.)
  • Born February 17, 1939 Kathy Keeton. Founder and publisher of the now defunct Omni. It was founded by her and her partner and future husband Bob Guccione, the publisher of the also defunct Penthouse. It would publish a number of stories that have become genre classics, such as Card’s “Unaccompanied Sonata”, Gibson’s “Burning Chrome” and “Johnny Mnemonic” and George R. R. Martin’s “Sandkings” to name a few of the stories that appeared there. (Died 1997.)
  • Born February 17, 1954 Don Coscarelli, 68. A film director, producer, and screenwriter best known for horror films. His credits include the Phantasm series, The Beastmaster, and Bubba Ho-Tep, the latter based a novella by Joe R. Lansdale whom I’ve met and who is a really nice person.
  • Born February 17, 1971 Denise Richards, 51. Her first genre role was as Tammy in Tammy and the T-Rex (really don’t ask). Her next role was the one she’s known for as Carmen Ibañez in Starship Troopers. A few years later she’ll be Dr. Christmas Jones in The World Is Not Enough, the eighteenth Bond film. She played Victoria Dare in Timecrafters: The Treasure of Pirate’s Cove.
  • Born February 17, 1975 Jerry O’Connell, 47. Quinn Mallory on Sliders, a series whose behind-the-broadcast politics is too tangled to detail here. His first SF role was on Mission to Mars as Phil Ohlmyer with the SF dark comedy Space Space Station 76 with him as Steve being his next role. He’s done a lot of of DCU voice work, Captain Marvel in Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam, Clark Kent / Superman in Justice League vs. Teen Titans and Justice League: Throne of AtlantisJustice League DarkThe Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen where he also plays Cyborg Superman to great, chilling effect. The latter film is kickass excellent.

(13) SUBSCRIBERS MUST SQUINT. According to Polygon, “recent updates have made it harder to read, shop, and publish on the U.S.’s most popular digital comics platform” — “Amazon’s big Comixology changes ignite concern from comic book creators, fans”.

This week Amazon, launched a new app for its digital comics platform, Comixology, and a new Amazon-native online storefront that will eventually replace Comixology’s browser-based store and reader. But the new changes have alarmed both users and creators.

Long-time Comixology users have taken to social media to list all the ways the new web and app user experience represents a step backward from what they’re used to. Chief among the many complaints is a new web reader that doesn’t display double page spreads correctly, has removed creator credits from book listings on the storefront, and lacks both panel-by-panel and zoom functions, rendering most comics in illegibly small images….

(14) MISSING A PART OF THE FUTURE. Voice acting veterans Mark Hamill, Tara Strong, Kari Wahlgren, and Charlie Adler call out Hulu, which is reviving Futurama but hasn’t been willing to meet the terms of Bender’s voice John DiMaggio: “Futurama Hulu revival: Actors supporting John DiMaggio” at SYFY Wire.

A number of established Hollywood veterans have come to the side of John DiMaggio as the actor continues to clash with Hulu and 20th Century Studios over proper compensation for the streamer’s upcoming revival of Futurama.

The official announcement of the beloved series’ return from co-creators Matt Groening and David X. Cohen was slightly marred by the fact that DiMaggio (who voices foul-mouthed robot Bender and a plethora of supporting characters) was the only member of the original cast who had not signed on for the revival. It was soon reported that the show would recast Bender in the wake of contract negotiations stalling out. If talks have ended for good between both parties, some fans say they won’t be tuning in if DiMaggio isn’t brought back for the 20 additional episodes slated to premiere sometime next year (production kicks off this month)….

(15) STORYLIVING BY DISNEY. Love Disney parks so much you’d want to live in one?  Now you can (sort of). “Disney is developing planned communities for fans who never want to leave its clutches”The Verge will fill you in.

Disney has launched a new business for fans who can’t bear to leave the pristine, family-friendly world the corporation has nurtured through its theme parks and media ventures.

“Storyliving by Disney” will operate as part of the company’s theme parks division, developing a series of master-planned communities for residential living, designed by Disney’s creative staff and offering the same pampered tranquility found in its resorts.

“Picture an energetic community with the warmth and charm of a small town and the beauty of a resort,” said Disney Parks, Experiences and Products exec Helen Pak in a promotional video.

Only one location has been announced so far: a community of 1,900 housing units named Cotino that will be built in the city of Rancho Mirage in California’s Coachella Valley (a location where Walt Disney himself once lived)….

(16) SPLISH SPLASH, YOU’LL BE TAKIN’ A BATH. [Item by Michael Toman.] I can’t be the only Filer who would be interested in reading this Kim Stanley Robinson nightmare scenario, with or without fires and earthquakes. What will California’s coast look like in 100 years? “We’re Kind of Built on This Knife’s Edge” at Alta.

Eighteen thousand years ago, give or take, the continental shelf 30 miles off the coast of San Francisco was exposed as a wide, flat coastal plain with an extensive system of dunes and river valleys connecting the Farallon Islands to the continental United States, which didn’t go by that name. Farther north, salt waters from the Pacific Ocean stretched all the way inland to present-day Sacramento.

Rising sea levels have continued to erode the shoreline ever since, as human beings established a society they would eventually call California. Some of our biggest cities were built in this 10 miles of dynamic coastline.

“We often think of the California coast as this high-relief terrain with active tectonics, which it is, but we’ve put millions of people in the lowest parts of the entire state, like the San Diego Bay, the San Francisco Bay, and the Los Angeles Basin,” says Patrick Barnard, the research director of the climate impacts and coastal processes team at USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center in Santa Cruz….

(17) YAKKITY-YAK. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Not satisfied with something commonplace like a robotic dog, China is going for a robotic yak. They are said to be essentially ready for troop support, but Popular Mechanics isn’t buying it. “China’s New ‘Robotic Yak’ Will Support Ground Troops, But It’s Not as Capable as It Seems”.

Chinese engineers are developing a large, four-legged robotic “yak,” supposedly capable of hauling as much cargo as two real yaks. The unnamed robot—which seems destined for military use—is similar to the robo-dog concept that Waltham, Massachusetts-based Boston Dynamics has popularized over the last decade. But a careful reading of the video shows that it may just be a bunch of Chinese Communist Party propaganda.

Supported by its four spindly legs and barrel-shaped body, the robot is topped off with a cargo-carrying metal rack. Global Times, a Chinese tabloid with links to the Chinese government, claims it can carry up to 160 kilograms (352 pounds) and travel at up to 6.21 miles per hour. It cites the Chinese Communist Party news site People’s Daily as saying the robot was “the world’s largest, heaviest and most off-road-capable of its kind.”…

…. Robo-yak isn’t going anywhere anytime soon for the same reasons the Marines never pursued LS3: robots run on batteries and once the batteries run down, it takes hours—at a place with abundant power to spare, which is not exactly the desert—to recharge them. 

(18) THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN. “Homelander’s Vought Origin Story Shown In The Boys Diabolical Trailer”Screen Rant sets the frame:

Set within the same universe as its parent series, The Boys: Diabolical acts as an eight-part collection of animated short films exploring a range of stories related to the corrupt superhero world that fans of The Boys have come to know and love. Each episode will run between 12 and 14 minutes and feature a unique animation style

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: It Takes Two,” Fandom Games says the gimmick of this game is that you’re supposed to play it with your partner and preserve your marriage.  But the narrator says a better test is to “Play Cuphead with your wife, because if your marriage can survive that, it can survive anything!”

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

Pixel Scroll 2/4/22 Mrs. File You’ve Got A Lovely Pixel 

(1) “POINTLESS” QUIZ SHOW. [Item by Christian Brunschen.] I was just watching a repeat of the quiz show “Pointless” on BBC – where questions have been previously asked of 100 people who are given 1 minute to give answers; and the contestants have to try to find answers that are not only correct, but which as few as possible of the 100 polled people knew!

In this episode the final category was “Award-winning authors in specific genres” – and the three options were “Hugo Award for Best Novel”, “Wodehouse Award for Comic Literature” and “Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction”.

The contestants are allowed to give three possible answers, from any of the three options, and in order to win they need to give at least one answer which nobody else among the 100 knew – one “pointless” answer.

They chose to go for three answers from the Hugo Awards category:

  • Frank Herbert
  • Robert Silverberg
  • Brian Aldiss

Each one of those was then counted down to see how many of the group-of-100 had given that answer. 

The counter for Frank Herbert went down to 1 – only a single one of the 100 had given Frank Herbert as an answer – so just 1 away from being pointless.

Neither Robert Silverberg nor Brian Aldiss were correct – so the contestants did not win.

It was mentioned that Robert Silverberg had the most nominations without winning.

Pointless answers in the Hugo award category included Mary Robinette Kowal, Neil Gaiman, Ray Bradbury, Susanna Clarke, William Gibson, Robert A. Heinlein; big scorers (known by many of the 100) were Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Philip K. Dick.

This was apparently season 25 episode 17 broadcast in April 2021, which can be seen by viewers in the UK (only) on BBC iPlayer right here.

(2) MAKING WORLDS AND PUZZLES. Host Kate Elliot discusses a worldbuilding topic with Karen Lord in Narrative Worlds Season 2: Ep. 3 now available on SFWA’s YouTube channel.

Welcome to Episode 3 of Season Two in the Narrative Worlds Webinar Series, hosted by author Kate Elliott! Featuring guest author Karen Lord, this month’s topic is “The Puzzles Inside Worldbuilding: Constructing Narratives at Various Lengths.” This monthly series digs into the theory and practice of building the worlds in which stories are set. Rather than focusing on a survey of basics like “What elements do you need to create a setting?” Elliott discusses a specific single topic in more depth each month with a guest.

(3) WAITING AT THE LIGHT. J. Michael Straczynski, in a public Patreon post, today announced that while the Babylon 5 reboot wasn’t greenlighted for fall 2022, it has been retained in active development at the CW and Warner Bros. for fall 2023. “B5 CW News”.

Anyone who knows the history of Babylon 5 knows that the path of this show has never been easy, and rarely proceeds in a straight line. Apparently, that has not changed.

About a month or so ago it was announced that the CW Network, B5’s home for the last year while the pilot script was in active development, was up for sale. When news of this broke, the immediate question was: will this have any effect on B5? Situations like this have a way of upending development because new owners usually want to put their imprimatur on what programs go forward. Like everyone else, I’d hoped there would be no immediate impact, and that progress on the project would continue onward unabated.

A few days ago, I heard from inside Warner Bros. that there were a number of High Level Conversations taking place with the CW to determine how many pilots, and what sort, could be picked up during this transition, especially given pre-existing deals and commitments. This made sense given the preceding paragraph, but I remained optimistic.

Today, about an hour ago, Deadline Hollywood announced the slate of pilot scripts being picked up for production by The CW. Babylon 5 was not on that list.

When a pilot script is not picked up to production, 99.999% of the time, that’s the end of the road for the project, the script is dead.

However: shortly before that piece was published, I received a call from Mark Pedowitz, President of The CW. (I should mention that Mark is a great guy and a long-time fan of B5. He worked for Warners when the show was first airing, and always made sure we got him copies of the episodes before they aired because he didn’t want to wait to see what happened next.)

Calling the pilot “a damned fine script,” he said he was taking the highly unusual step of rolling the project and the pilot script into next year, keeping B5 in active development while the dust settles on the sale of the CW….

(4) CANDIDATES FOR CHAIR OF GLASGOW IN 2024. Alice Lawson, on behalf of the board of the Glasgow in 2024 bid, has called for anyone who intends to put themselves forward to chair the convention to let the board know by February 7. Bid chair Esther MacCallum-Stewart is already a candidate. Her letter was shared with Glasgow in 2024 supporters.

Dear Alice, the Board of Glasgow 2024, all staff members, and pre-supporters.

I would like to put myself forward as Chair of the Glasgow 2024 Worldcon.

I have been working towards a third Worldcon in Glasgow since 2016, announcing an intention to bid at Novacon alongside Emma England and Vanessa May. Since then I have led the bid team, first as a Co-Chair, and then as Chair. We are currently approaching just under 1000 pre-supporters, and the Bid has had tremendous support from the SFF fan community and beyond.

I have been a volunteer for Worldcon since 2011, when I joined the Loncon 3 team as an AH for games. Since then I have worked as Programme manager and admin (Loncon, MAC II), DH for Facilitation (Dublin 2019), and co-DH for Facilities (ConZealand). I have also volunteered for Eastercons (the UK national convention) and Octocon (the Irish National Convention). Elsewhere I have been Vice-Chair of DiGRA (Digital Games Research Association) and am currently Chair of the UK chapter, which runs events on a yearly basis. In 2021 I was made a Professor of Game Studies at the University of Staffordshire.

I am hugely proud of the Bid Team and their passion for Glasgow 2024. Every day I see something original, funny or hard working from them, and this continues to grow. I have seen friendship, bravery and more than my fair share of armadillos in the last few years, as more people join and add their own sense of wonder and creativity to the bid. We would not be so strong if it were not for all these working parts, in which every single one counts towards something brilliant. I am constantly amazed at the goodwill and passion to create an event that is inclusive, caring and extraordinary. I would be honoured to lead such a group forwards as Chair, towards a Worldcon in Glasgow, a city I love, in 2024, a year which has special importance to me.

/s/ Professor Esther MacCallum-Stewart

(5) SPACE GHOSTS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Isabel Hilton reviews The Subplot: What China Is Reading And Why It Matters by Megan Walsh, a book about fiction popular in China and what Chinese tastes in fiction have to say about the Chinese.  Among the topics Walsh discusses is sf in China.

For many authors who must navigate the uncertainties of shifting official red lines, science fiction offers a safe haven. It is a genre in which to address the disruption and dislocations between past and present, and between official narratives and reality, and to explore otherwise dangerous themes such as social injustice.

Liu Cixin, a computer engineer and bestselling sci-fi author, locates real world problems such as pollution and human greed on distant planets, while in the story “Underground Bricks,” Han Song describes recycling the rubble of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, which contains victims’ remains, into ‘intelligent bricks’ for space colonization, thus populating distant planets with unhappy ghosts.

(6) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to nibble noodles with Daryl Gregory in Episode 164 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Daryl Gregory

It’s time for you to join Daryl Gregory and me as we have lunch at Dolan Uyghur restaurant.

Daryl Gregory’s first novel, Pandemonium (2008), won the Crawford Award and was nominated for a World Fantasy Award. His novella We Are All Completely Fine (2014) won the Shirley Jackson Award and the World Fantasy Award. His short story collection Unpossible and Other Stories was named one of the best books of 2011 by Publishers Weekly. His novel Spoonbenders (2017) was a Top 20 Amazon Editor’s Choice, an Audible.com’s editors choice for the year, and an NPR best book of the year. His most recent novel is Revelator, which was published last August. His comics work includes Planet of the ApesThe Green HornetDracula, and the graphic novel The Secret Battles of Genghis Khan.

If you’d like a tiny taste of Daryl before taking a seat at the table for our full meal, check out what he had to say while eating a raspberry coffee cake donut during the 2018 Nebula Awards weekend.

We discussed how he celebrated the two books he published during the pandemic, what caused him to say about his latest novel, “I like to split the difference to keep everyone as unsatisfied as possible,” the narrative technique which finally unlocked the writing of that book (and why it made Revelator more difficult to complete), how our mothers responded to our writing, the way marketing affects the reading protocols of our stories, how listening to Damon Knight and Kate Wilhelm argue about one of his stories freed him as a writer, the promise a murder mystery makes to a reader, his “Mom Rule” for Easter eggs, the way he tortured a comic book artist with an outrageous panel description, how to play fair when writing a science fiction mystery where anything can happen, what Samuel R. Delany told him which helped him make his first sale to F&SF, how he doesn’t understand why everybody doesn’t want to be writers, the way his writing gets better during the times he isn’t writing, Gardner Dozois’ “ladder of sadness,” and much more.

(7) SHIPPING SCHEDULE. The Orville: New Horizons will now arrive on June 2.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

1998 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Twenty-four years ago, Morn apparently had died on “Who Mourns for Morn?”, an episode of Deep Space Nine. Yes, that character in Quark’s Bar, the one what never spoke on the series despite ninety-one appearances as Morn plus several more as Morn on Next Generation and Voyager

The actor had another eleven appearances as other characters on the DS9 series. Indeed Shepherd makes an appearance (still uncredited as all of his Morn appearances were) as a Bajoran mourner at Morn’s memorial service who sits in Morn’s chair, thus showing the actor’s actual appearance.

Can I spoil a twenty-year-old episode really? I think not. Morn had faked his death to escape some legal troubles and this dealt with aftermath of him doing so. It was a quite funny episode as written by Mark Gehred-O’Connell for season six after previously writing “Second Sight” and “Meredian” for the series.

Critical reviews of it are almost non-existent with the only one being the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch by Keith R. A. DeCandido for Tor.com who said that “Still, this is, ultimately, a gag episode about a gag character, and the gag loses steam at the end when we get the full story, but Quark has to say all of it in order to keep the gag going. It doesn’t work at that point, and the ending falls flat because we can see the strings.” I never thought of Morn as being a gag. He’s somehow sweet despite never saying a word. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 4, 1922 William Phipps. He started off his genre career by being in both The War of The Worlds and Invaders from Mars. He’d later be in Cat-Women of the MoonThe Snow Creature,The Evil of Frankenstein, and the Dune series. He’d have one-offs in BatmanGreen HornetThe MunstersWild Wild West and a lead role in the Time Express series which would last four episodes according to IMDB. (Died 2018.)
  • Born February 4, 1925 Russell Hoban. Author of a number of genre novel of which the best by far is Riddley Walker. Indeed, ISFDB some fifteen such novels by him, so I’m curious how he is as a genre writer beyond Riddley Walker. (Died 2011.)
  • Born February 4, 1936 Gary Conway, 86. Best remembered I’d say for starring in Irwin Allen‘s Land of the Giants. You can see the opening episode here. He was also in How to Make a Monster, a late Fifties horror film which I’m delighted to say that you can watch here. He’s the Young Frankenstein in it. 
  • Born February 4, 1940 John Schuck, 82. My favorite SF role by him is as the second Draal, Keeper of the Great Machine, on the Babylon 5 series. I know it was only two episodes but it was a fun role. He’s also played the role of Klingon ambassador Kamarag in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  He guest-starred in Deep Space Nine as Legate Parn in “The Maquis: Part II”, on Voyager as Chorus #3 in the “Muse” episode, and on Enterprise as Antaak in the “Divergence” and “Affliction” episodes.  Oh. and he was Herman Munster in The Munsters Today.  Now that was a silly role! Did you know his makeup was the Universal International Frankenstein-monster makeup format whose copyright NBCUniversal still owns? 
  • Born February 4, 1940 George Romero. Dubbed by many as Father of the Zombie Film. Certainly his Night of the Living Dead from just over fifty years ago is the root of the Zombie movie craze. He also created and executive-produced Tales from the Darkside. No, I’m not listing all of his films here as I’m assuming you tell me what your favorite film by him is as you always do.  (Died 2017.)
  • Born February 4, 1951 Patrick Bergin, 71. If he had done nothing else, he’d make the Birthday list today for playing Robin Hood in the 1990 Robin Hood which for my money is the finest such film made. Go ahead and argue, I’ve all night. Now as it turns out he has a very long career in this community starting after playing Robin Hood by being in Frankenstein as Victor Frankenstein, then Benjamin Trace In Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace (a film universally despised), George Challenger in The Lost WorldTreasure Island as Billy Bones, Merlin: The Return as King Arthur, Dracula as, well, Dracula Himself, Ghostwood as Friar Paul and Gallowwalkers as Marshall Gaza. 
  • Born February 4, 1959 Pamelyn Ferdin, 63. She was in the “And the Children Shall Lead” episode of Trek. She’ll show up in The Flying Nun (as two different characters), voicing a role in The Cat in the Hat short, Night GallerySealab 2020 (another voice acting gig), Shazam! and Project UFO.She’d have a main role in Space Academy, the Jonathan Harris failed series as well. 
  • Born February 4, 1961 Neal Asher, 61. I’m been reading and enjoying his Polity series since he started it nearly twenty years ago. Listing all of his works here would drive OGH to a nervous tick as I think there’s now close to thirty works in total. I recently finished off Jack Four, his latest novel in that series, and it’s typically filled with his usual mix of outrageous SF concepts. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro eavesdrops on the confessions of a garden gnome.
  • When social distancing should be enough….

(11) IF THE JUSTICE LEAGUE WERE DINOSAURS, MY LOVE. “DC Comics Turns Justice League Into Dinosaurs For Jurassic League” and Bleeding Cool has sample art.

… In the world of Jurassic League, Superman was still sent to Earth on a rocket ship from a dying planet. And he was still raised by humans. It’s just that he’s also a man-shaped brachiosaurus. Batman (rather, Batsaur, Gedeon clarifies for Polygon) is an allosaurus. Wonder Woman is a triceratops. The Joker is a dilophosaurus….

(12) QUESTRISON Q&A. Space Cowboy Books will host a reading and interview with J. Dianne Dotson, author of The Questrison Saga on Tuesday, February 15 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Free registration at Eventbrite.

The Questrison Saga is an epic four-book space opera beginning at the edge of our solar system and expanding out into the galaxy. Within its pages: Love and war. Spaceships and exotic worlds. Aliens, androids, ecosystems. Mages and presidents. Long cons. Family feuds that led to galactic destruction. Family ties that could save the galaxy.

(13) ASK HARRIS. And Space Cowboy Books will also host an interview with Brent A. Harris, author of the science fiction novel Alyx: An AI’s Guide to Love and Murder, on Tuesday, February 22 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Free registration here.

What if your home wanted you dead?

Tech-loving teen Christine makes fast friends with her home’s AI, Alyx. But when a real-world romance threatens their bond, Alyx turns from friend to foe.

Alyx is a positive LGBTQ+ coming-of-age techno-thriller trapped inside a monster-in-the house horror where the home itself is the monster.

(14) THE EYES HAVE IT. Clarion West is offering a “Draw Your Way Out with Julie E. Czerneda” online workshop on March 3 at 10:00 a.m. Pacific. Cost: $75. Register at the link.

Use visual means to organize and connect information about characters, setting, and movement, expand plot options using a flowchart, then combine all into a single large diagram outline.

 Every writer has their approach to resolving plot problems and generating new ideas. One that Julie Czerneda has used successfully for years is to “draw her way out.” In this workshop, you’ll use this technique to work through different story challenges, from character development to plotting. There is no advance preparation required.

Materials Required:

Attendees will be emailed worksheets to be used during the workshop and must have their own large sheet of paper (minimum 40X40cm).

(15) TAKING OFF THE DARK HELMET. Vox is ready to tell you “How fandom sent Boba Fett from minor character to leading man”.

…About 1.7 million households tuned into The Book of Boba Fett’s premiere last December, and a second season seems inevitable. Han Solo might be sabotaging the Death Star, Luke Skywalker might be forging the fate of the Force, but currently, Star Wars fans are far more fascinated with this obscure C+ player in a green visor. Back when I was a preteen Star Wars fan, my friends and I shared an innate understanding that Boba Fett was uncommonly cool, even if we didn’t know much about him. Twenty years later, I’m still trying to figure out why.

James Clarke, 36, is well equipped to answer that question. He’s a longtime editor of the Boba Fett Fan Club, which sports over 14,000 members and is the single most comprehensive repository of Fettian facts, tributes, and theories on the internet. Like me, Clarke fell in love with the bounty hunter as a child, and pursued his fascination to the point of writing reams of Boba-themed fanfiction in middle school. “I probably have 25-year-old stories still on the site somewhere,” says Clarke. (Minutes after our interview, he sent me a photo of himself in full Boba Fett cosplay, a confirmation of his bona fides.)…

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

Pixel Scroll 1/3/22 Barsoomian Rhapsody

(1) AUTHORS CALL OUT DRASTIC PROBLEMS WITH KINDLE DIRECT PUBLISHING. Several indie romance authors recently found themselves banned by Kindle Direct Publishing with no real explanation, including paranormal and SF authors such as Ruby Dixon, author of Ice Planet Barbarians. She’s a successful writer who has been reviewed in mainstream media, so this was very odd. Even when Amazon reinstated the authors and their books, some say they had to fight to get their royalties restored as well.

Lexi Ostrow, another author who experienced this, blogged about it extensively. “The Story of Amazon & The Destruction of a career – USA Today Bestselling Author Lexi Ostrow” is the first of three posts.

… The last 30ish hours have been very hard for me. Somehow, I offended Amazon’s KDP system and my entire career has been taken down. This blog is my attempt to share only the facts, while leaving out any opinions and emotions. At present, 43 books have been unpublished, over $300 in advertising dollars on a new release from 12.20.21 are wasted, and over 700 reviews & ratings are now gone. All of this occurred just 24 hours after my latest release, which was the first release I’ve had since last Christmas, due to fighting a mystery illness and COVID parenting a toddler – writing took a backseat.

Please consider sharing this blog on your social media. I want to effect change within Amazon more than I want my career back. If enough of us make noise, it’s possible this can all be changed….

As I am human, my next course of action included breaking down. I have been a published author – indie house, small presses, and self – for just over 6 years. I have been included in or solo’d in 54 novels + the two preorders. 

Per the email, my books were gone. My reviews were gone. My royalties would not be paid – yes, you read that correctly, Amazon was going to keep money I made on all my BACKLIST titles because the preorder raised a flag. I also cannot create another KDP account to begin again (which is fair if I’d done what I was accused of doing or anything else).

I took to social media for help, because my account was blocked so I couldn’t “contact us” beyond a form fill and I wasn’t content with that. To see the Facebook post, click here.

Susan Lyn says she suffered the same fate: “Writing and Life”.

In unrelated yet just as devastating news, I seem to have angered the gods of Amazon and all books have been purged from the behemoth. They seem to be doing a massive author purge, some pretty big names have also been affected.

Never fear, I’m in the process of sending all of my previously published titles wide (to be available everywhere but Amazon) and will update links to where they are available.

Ruby Dixon’s books have since been reinstated.

Lexi Ostrow’s Amazon author page also shows her Kindle books are back, but it was a struggle every step of the way as she explains in two follow-up posts. “Amazon & The Destruction of a Career Part 2” on December 26 contains screenshots of more emails exchanged with the Amazon Content Review Team. “Amazon & The Death of a Career – the Finale” on December 29 says that when Amazon restored her books, they initially did not restore the royalties in her account. Later, Ostrow got a call from someone from KDP’s Executive Customer Relations that her royalties also had been restored. Ostrow’s final post includes these lessons learned:

What did I learn from the call?

  • The KDP content team has no phone access because “they aren’t client facing so it isn’t an issue”. I assure you, I let him know how very much it was/is an issue
  • Executives have no idea why the content team does what they do – AKA NO NOTES!!
  • He found me via Twitter, not via any of my emails or attempted calls.
  • The KDP content team is overseas and doesn’t interact with clients. I was very verbal that this is a problem.
  • I was told there would be an investigation into why I was ignored so many times and not given proper responses.
  • That while nice, I will never put all my eggs in one basket. While I will remain on Amazon for the exposure, I am 100% wide.
  • Our fight to fix this process is not yet done, but I’m still trying to understand what will help as a petition merely expresses a desire for something, but we all know Amazon KNOWS their policy is shit.

(2) WEBB TELESCOPE IN THE SHADE. Yahoo! reports:“NASA’s new space telescope ‘hunky-dory’ after problems fixed”.

NASA’s new space telescope is on the verge of completing the riskiest part of its mission — unfolding and tightening a huge sunshade — after ground controllers fixed a pair of problems, officials said Monday.

The tennis court-size sunshield on the James Webb Space Telescope is now fully open and in the process of being stretched tight. The operation should be complete by Wednesday.

… The sunshield is vital for keeping Webb’s infrared-sensing instruments at subzero temperatures, as they scan the universe for the first stars and galaxies, and examine the atmospheres of alien worlds for possible signs of life.

Getting the sunshield extended last Friday “was really a huge achievement for us,” said project manager Bill Ochs. All 107 release pins opened properly.

But there have been a few obstacles.

Flight controllers in Maryland had to reset Webb’s solar panel to draw more power. The observatory — considered the successor to the aging Hubble Space Telescope — was never in any danger, with a constant power flow, said Amy Lo, a lead engineer for the telescope’s prime contractor, Northrop Grumman….

They also repointed the telescope to limit sunlight on six overheating motors. The motors cooled enough to begin securing the sunshield, a three-day process that can be halted if the problem crops up again, officials said.

“Everything is hunky-dory and doing well now,” Lo said.

(3) HARD TO SWALLOW. Cora Buhlert reviews the opening episode of the new series: “The Book of Boba Fett finds itself a ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’”. Beware spoilers.

…“Stranger in a Strange Land”, the first episode of The Book of Boba Fett continues where both The Mandalorian and Return of the Jedi left off. Because the scenes of Boba Fett establishing himself as the premiere crime lord on Tatooine are interspersed with flashbacks of Boba Fett’s past, including his escape from the Sarlaac’s digestive tract….

(4) ROUTES. In San Marino, the Huntington’s “Mapping Fiction” exhibit will open January 15: “Exhibition to Explore the Construction of Fictional Worlds through Maps and Novels”.

On the occasion of the centennial of James Joyce’s Ulysses, “Mapping Fiction” includes works by Octavia E. Butler, William Faulkner, Jack and Charmian London, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Mark Twain, among others…

…Other featured objects in this section include an Arion Press artist book edition of Edwin A. Abbott’s satirical novella Flatland, a Romance of Many Dimensions; J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy; George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones; maps from the Octavia E. Butler archive related to her Earthseed novels; and a map for The Mortmere Stories of Christopher Isherwood and Edward Upward.

(5) CINEMATIC CLI-FI. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Sonia Rao interviews directors of films that deal with climate change.  Most of the films discussed, including Wall-E, The Day After Tomorrow, and Mad Max:  Fury Road–are sf.  Kim Stanley Robinson is briefly interviewed in the section on Mad Max:  Fury Road. “Climate change is the greatest threat to humanity. Here’s how filmmakers have tried to make sense of it all.”

… Things fall apart rapidly in “The Day After Tomorrow.” Soon after climate scientist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) says at a United Nations conference that climate change could lead to an ice age, a storm system develops and threatens to destroy the Northern Hemisphere. Jack’s son Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his friends seek shelter at the New York Public Library, where they burn books for warmth as snow mounts against the building’s outer walls.

Like its peers in the disaster genre, “The Day After Tomorrow” is consumed by the special effects involved in depicting calamity. Emmerich says his critics often forget that “when you make a movie, it has to be dramatic in a certain way.” People bought tickets to be stunned. This was the guy who made “Independence Day,” after all….

(6) TODD SULLIVAN. Space Cowboy Books presents an online reading and interview with Todd Sullivan author of the fantasy trilogy The Windshine Chronicles on January 25 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Free registration here.

(7) NIGHTMARES ALLEZ. Hear from the legendary director in the Maltins’ podcast: Maltin on Movies: Guillermo del Toro.

Guillermo del Toro is a sorcerer who places no limits on his imagination. His new film, Nightmare Alley, now playing in theaters, is an exquisitely rendered film noir that stands alongside his earlier work (The Devil’s Backbone, Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Shape of Water) with the promise of more to come—like his “take” on Pinocchio. Leonard and Jessie are longtime devotees and are thrilled to share this uniquely eloquent and passionate creator with all of you.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1993 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-nine years ago, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiered in syndication. The fourth spin-off of the original series (counting the animated run) was the first developed after the death of Roddenberry as created by Rick Berman and Michael Piller. It starred Avery Brooks, René Auberjonois, Terry Farrell, Cirroc Lofton, Colm Meaney, Armin Shimerman, Alexander Siddig, Nana Visitor and Michael Dorn. It would run for seven seasons and one hundred seventy-six episodes. It would be nominated for two Hugo Awards but wouldn’t win either of them. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 3, 1892 J.R.R. Tolkien. Yes, It’s the Birthday of J.R.R. Tolkien. I thought I’d do something different, so I asked Filers and other folk I knew what their favorite works by him were. 

Peter Beagle says:

‘You mean my favorite writing by Tolkien? Probably the story of Beren and Luthien, which I’ve always loved – or maybe the one now published as The Children of Hurin. One or the other.’

Cora Buhlert is one of three Filers who gave an answer:

‘The first Tolkien I actually read was The Hobbit, in an East German edition with the illustrations from the Soviet edition. I got it as a present from my Great-Aunt Metel from East Germany, who often sent me books for Christmas and my birthday. It’s still somewhere in a box on my parents’ attic. 

‘I liked The Hobbit a lot, but I didn’t know there were more stories set in Middle Earth, until several years later, when I spotted The Lord of the Rings at a classmate’s place and borrowed it from him. As a teenager, I had a thing for mythology and read my way through the Nibelungenlied, the Odyssey and the Iliad, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, etc… Lord of the Rings fit right into that context and I enjoyed it even more than I had enjoyed The Hobbit.

‘I didn’t read the essay “On Fairy Stories” until university, when I cited it in a paper I wrote for a class. Now I had been educated in an environment which considered the traditional Grimm’s fairy tales too brutal and unsuitable for children (luckily, my parents ignored that and told/read them to me anyway) and which viewed fantasy and science fiction or any kind of genre fiction as escapist trash and potentially harmful. I got regurgitated version of this from my teachers at school and in university I was exposed to the 1970s leftwing pop culture criticism where those ideas had originated. However, I didn’t believe that fairy tales were bad and that SFF was escapist trash, so I was thrilled to read “On Fairy Stories” and find that Tolkien, who surely was considered beyond reproach, agreeing with me.’ 

Lis Carey was our next Filer:

‘I think I have to say that The Hobbit is my favorite Tolkien. I really do identify with Bilbo’s desire to stay home, and enjoy his cozy hobbit hole and its comforts, in his comfortable, familiar neighborhood. Yet, against his better judgment, he is lured into going on an adventure (always a bad idea, adventures) with the dwarves, and finds out just how resilient he is, his unexpected bravery, his ingenuity when faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges (“…he was chased by wolves, lost in the forest, escaped in a barrel from the elf-king’s hall…”) (yes, I love The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins, too.) He finds resources in himself that he never suspected–and at the end, he still goes home, to deal with his annoying relatives and enjoy his home. None of this “and now I will abandon everything I ever cared about, to be a completely different person in a different life.”‘

It’s been a long time for Ellen Datlow: since she read his nibs. so she says:

‘I haven’t read him in so long I don’t remember–I loved all three of the LOTR trilogy and The Hobbit but don’t remember exactly why.’  

Pamela Dean says she “unreservedly loves The Lord of the Rings, the translation of ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,’ and ‘On Fairy-Stories’.” 

Once again, The Hobbit proves popular as Jasper Fforde says it’s:

The Hobbit, because it’s the only one I’ve read – I liked it a great deal but was never really into spells, wizards and trolls, so never took it any further.’ 

Elizabeth Hand gave a lengthy reply:

‘I’d probably have to say The Lord of the Rings, which I’ve read it countless times over the last forty years. It imprinted on me at such an early age — I had the good luck to read it as a kid in the 1960s, when it was still a cult novel, and you had a real sense that you were in some secret, marvelous group of insiders who had visited a place not everyone knew about. Maybe kids discovering it today still have that feeling, in spite of the success of the movies (which I love). I hope so. But I also find that, as I’ve gotten older, I’m far more drawn to reread other works, especially in The Complete History of Middle Earth and The Silmarillion (we have very long Tolkien shelves here). 

‘I love the Beren & Luthien material, and also the various accounts of Turin, which recently were republished as The Children of Hurin. The dark tone of all of it, the tragic cast and also the recurring motifs involving elves and mortal lovers — great stuff. It doesn’t serve the function of comfort reading that LOTR does, and because I’m not so familiar with the stories I can still read them with something like my original sense of discovery. 

‘The breadth and depth of Tolkien’s achievement really becomes apparent when one reads The Complete History — 13 volumes, including an Index. Every time I go back to them I think, I could be learning Greek, or Ancient Egyptian, something that has to do with the real world.  But then, I’m continually so amazed by what this one man came up with, the intensity and single mindedness of his obsession. And I get sucked into it all over again.’ 

Gwyneth Jones says her favorite work is The Lord Of The Rings:

‘Why — Because I read it when I was a child, in bed with bronchitis. My mother brought me the three big volumes, successively, from the library, I’d never met anything like it, and it was just wonderful entertainment for a sick child. I grew out of LOTR, but will never forget that thrill.  More why: I’ve never felt the slightest temptation to open the massive prequels and spin-offs of Middle Earth fantasy, I just don’t have that gene, and I feel the Tolkien industry doesn’t need my money. And the other works are either too scholarly, or everything about them is represented in LOTR anyway.  I admired ‘Tree and Leaf’ when I read it, long ago, but I’m not sure if I still would.’ 

OR Melling says:

‘As a child, I loved reading fantasy – CS Lewis, E Nesbit, JM Barrie and so on – but when the librarian offered me The Hobbit and said “it’s about little men with hairy feet” I recall giving her one of those withering looks only children can give. Why on earth would I want to read a book about men with hairy feet? I did finally read The Hobbit when I was 12, after I had read The Lord of the Rings, and discovered that my initial suspicion was correct. I did not like the book at all, particularly its depiction of the elves. This was a great surprise, of course, considering that I had absolutely fallen in love with The Lord of the Rings. It is still one of my favourite books to this day. Aside from The Silmarillion – which I endured like all faithful fans – I have not read any other of Tolkien’s works.’ 

Catherynne M. Valente picked The Silmarillion:

‘I love The Lord of the Rings. I was once a hardcore Sindarin-speaking LoTR geek, in the days of my misbegotten youth. It is a vast and important book. But I have to say that I feel the book is incomplete without The Silmarillion, which provides a depth and mythology, an understanding of the forces at work, a breadth and beauty that LoTR does not have on its own. I am one of the few who loves The Silmarillion for itself, devoured it in one sitting, had no trouble with the archaic language. It should get more love than it does.’ 

Our final Filer is Paul Weimer who states:

‘I am going to go with a sidewise choice.   While LOTR and the Hobbit are some of my earliest and most beloved of all SFF that I have ever read, the piece by Tolkien that comes back to my mind again and again is the story of Beren and Luthien.  We get the story in a number of ways and forms :the small fragments we see in Lord of the Rings (or the tiny bit in the movie), the longer tale told in the Silmarillion, and the alternate and evolving versions seen in the extended histories of Middle Earth and his letters,  In the end this love story between man and elf, mortal and immortal, is in many ways THE story of Tolkien, more than the story of a Hobbit, or of the One Ring. It is very telling that Tolkien and his wife’s gravestone name check themselves as Beren and Luthien.  It moved me the first time I read the full story, and it moves me still.’

For Jane Yolen, it’s The Hobbit:

‘While it’s true that The Lord of the Rings is his masterwork and The Hobbit his first attempt at writing (and that, some say witheringly, for children) I have to admit I adore The Hobbit. It has adventure, wonderful characters, fine pacing and spacing, some really scary bits (my daughter ran screaming from the room when the trolls grabbed the ponies, and she refused to hear the rest of it.) And if I could ever write a chapter as good as the Riddles in the Dark chapter I would never have to write again.’

(10) COMIC SECTION.

  • Bizarro stretches the truth in a comic way.  

(11) FLIPPED SCRIPTS. “Premee Mohamed on turning science fiction tropes on their head” is one of the segments on the January 2 edition of CBC’s The Sunday Magazine with Piya Chattopadhyay. Listen to the profile at the link.

(12) THE TIME OF HIS LIFE. People always want to know how a successful writer does things. John Scalzi obliges with an account of how he budgets his time: “In Theory, My Work Day” at Whatever.

Now that the holidays have been packed away and we are back into the swing of things, I know that some of you have had an interest in how I manage my work days. The answer to this varies, largely depending on whether I’m working on a novel or not. However, as it happens, I am working on a novel again, and also, I’ve decided to put a bit more structure into my day. So in theory, here’s how my work days should go in 2022….

(13) THE AMAZON PRIME DIRECTIVE. Jeff Foust reviews an Amazon Prime documentary about Shat’s space trip for The Space Review: “Shatner in Space”.

… There is not a lot of drama in the show itself. When winds force a one-day delay in the flight, Shatner briefly ponders if the universe is trying to tell him that he shouldn’t go, but the moment passes. There’s a brief hold in the countdown because of a software issue that threatens a scrub (“You’ve got to be [bleeping] kidding,” Shatner says in the capsule) but that, too, quickly passes. There’s some footage inside the capsule during the flight itself, although not much more than what was shown during and immediately after the flight….

(14) MALLEUS MALEFICARUM. “How do you spot a witch? This notorious 15th-century book gave instructions – and helped execute thousands of women”The Conversation has the story.

Books have always had the power to cast a spell over their readers – figuratively.

But one book that was quite popular from the 15th to 17th centuries, and infamously so, is literally about spells: what witches do, how do identify them, how to get them to confess, and how to bring them to swift punishment.

As fear of witches reached a fever pitch in Europe, witch hunters turned to the “Malleus Maleficarum,” or “Hammer of Witches,” for guidance. The book’s instructions helped convict some of the tens of thousands of people – almost all women – who were executed during the period. Its bloody legacy stretched to North America, with 25 supposed “witches” killed in Salem, Massachusetts, in the late 1600s.

(15) FUSION EXPERIMENT SETS RECORD. “China switches on ‘artificial sun’ that is five times hotter than the real thing” reports MSN.com.

A nuclear fusion reactor in China has set a new record for sustained high temperatures after running five times hotter than the sun for more than 17 minutes, according to state media.

The Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST), known as an “artificial sun”, reached temperatures of 70,000,000C during the experiments, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

The ultimate aim of developing the artificial sun device is to deliver near-limitless clean energy by mimicking the natural reactions occurring within stars.

“The recent operation lays a solid scientific and experimental foundation towards the running of a fusion reactor,” said Gong Xianzu, a researcher at the Institute of Plasma Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who led the latest experiment.

The EAST project, which has already cost China more than £700bn, will run the experiment until June….

(16) TRUTH. Via RedWombat.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/15/21 The Ones Who Stalk Away From Scrollmelas

(1) GOT THAT RIGHT. The imminent Hugo voting deadline – November 19 – caused Camestros Felapton to call forth a special GIF: “Deep from within the sarcophagi of time, a preternatural force awakens!” Remember what the Robot on the original Lost In Space said: “When in trouble, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout!”

(2) I SEE BY YOUR OUTFIT THAT YOU ARE A COWBOY. Christina Tucker tells Slate readers there’s a lot wrong with the new version: “Netflix Cowboy Bebop review: Another underwhelming live-action anime adaptation”.

Cowboy Bebop, directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, remains one of the most iconic anime of all time. Lauded by mainstream critics and anime fans alike for its visual style, Yoko Kanno’s soundtrack, and its explorations of mortality, nihilism, and identity, Cowboy Bebop has enjoyed an excellent reputation since its 1998 premiere. And stateside, it is especially renowned for being many Americans’ first experience with anime, first airing in English on Cartoon Network in 2001 as part of the nascent Adult Swim programming block. All told, it remains one of the most beloved anime by new and old fans, who still praise it as a must-watch and a modern classic.

This legacy, however, is something of an albatross around the neck of Netflix’s 2021 live-action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop. Netflix’s take on the show has a love-hate relationship with its source material, retaining the premise and almost every single character from the original and re-creating and referencing memorable shots and scenes, but adding original elements like comically trite dialogue, embarrassing dramatic turns, and an original and unengaging plotline that only pull focus from the core story it’s trying to adapt. The result only creates unfavorable comparisons with the original and is likely to turn off both fans of the original and newcomers. If this Cowboy Bebop accomplishes anything, it’s to highlight the quality of the original series, justifying many anime fans’ belief that trying to translate anime series from one medium to another never works out….

(3) VISIT WITH THE EATON COLLECTION. Space Cowboy Books of Joshua Tree, CA will have an online “Spotlight on the Eaton Science Fiction Library” on Tuesday, November 30 at 4:00 p.m. Pacific.

Join us for an in depth interview about the behind the scenes at one of the world’s largest public collections of science fiction. Sandy Enriquez and Andrew Lippert of the Eaton library will share how you can utilize the collection and some of the many treasures contained within. Learn about SF from an academic perspective.

Register for free here at Eventbrite

(4) SIMULTANEOUS TIMES. Also available is Space Cowboy Books’ podcast “Simultaneous Times” featuring readings of “Tips for Living Out-of-Synch for the Frequent Time Traveler” by A.C. Wise (read by Jean-Paul Garnier) and “Premium Resurrection Pack $99” by by Renan Bernardo (read by Jean-Paul Garnier & Zara Kand).

(5) NEW STOKERCON GOH. StokerCon2022 has added Jennifer McMahon as its sixth GOH. The convention takes place in Denver from May 12-15 next year.

Jennifer McMahon is the author of The Children on the Hill and ten other novels, including the New York Times bestsellers Promise Not to Tell and The Winter People. She lives in Vermont with her partner, Drea, and their daughter, Zella. Visit her at Jennifer-McMahon.com or connect with her on Instagram @JenniferMcMahonWrites and Facebook @JenniferMcMahonBooks.com.

She joins a GoH lineup that includes John Edward Lawson, Sheree Renée Thomas, Ernest Roscoe Dickerson A.S.C., Gemma Files, and Brian Keene.

(6) FOR YOUR STOCKING. Is this the first time that the Library of America has offered this kind of a deal on a book edited by an SFWA Grandmaster? American Christmas Stories:

Library of America and Connie Willis present 150 years of diverse, ingenious, and uniquely American Christmas stories

Ghost stories and crime stories, science fiction, fantasy, westerns, humor, and horror; tales of Christmas morning, trees, gifts, wise men, and family dinners everywhere from New York to Texas to outer space: this anthology is an epiphany, revealing the ways Christmas has evolved over time—and how the spirit of the holiday has remained the same. Ranging from the advent of the American tradition of holiday storytelling in the wake of the Civil War to today, this is the best and widest-ranging anthology of American Christmas stories ever assembled.

…Available now. Clothbound 467 pages. List price: $29.95. Web Store price: $22.50 | With coupon code LIB2021: $19.12 .

(7) CELEBRITY CRUSH. Adam Driver told Graham Norton Show viewers why he will never go to Comic-Con again.

… The Oscar nominee then elaborated, describing his experience at SDCC as more than a little constricting. “I didn’t know the rules of Comic-Con,” he said. “I got in at the hotel at 2 in the morning… and I’m like, ‘Maybe tomorrow I’ll go get a coffee.’ And they’re like, ‘Oh no, you can’t get a coffee.’ I’m like, ‘Well, maybe I’ll get a coffee in the hotel.’ They’re like, ‘No, you can’t get a coffee in the hotel.'”

Driver went on to explain that he was given the option of wearing either an Iron Man mask or a Darth Vader mask in order to leave. “‘If you want to go outside,’ they’re like, ‘Put a mask on so nobody knows who you are.'”

This doesn’t happen only to Star Wars actors. John King Tarpinian remembers being one of Ray Bradbury’s five escorts at Comic-Con and “that was a pain traversing the hall.” And if they wanted to give a Darth Vader mask to Adam Driver, what mask would they have had Ray put on? 

(8) ROLL ON IN. Billy Todd touts Wheel of Time fandom in “Welcome to the Family: An Open Letter to Old and New Fans of The Wheel of Time” at Tor.com.

…Worrying about new fans—and any talk of gatekeeping around the series—is historically out of character for the Wheel of Time fandom. I’ve participated in many sci-fi and fantasy franchise fandoms in the past 40 years, and I remain amazed at how open, inclusive, and downright familial the Wheel of Time fanbase is. I have been an active fan since cramming pages between junior high classes in 1992. After I finished my friend’s copy of The Shadow Rising, our friend group fell into a hole of geeking out over these books. I never made it out of that hole. Shortly thereafter, in the days before the World Wide Web, I discovered the Robert Jordan USENET newsgroup and its population of Darkfriends who modeled rational, good-natured, respectful debate online.

It took many years before I realized this was not how the rest of the Internet was going to turn out….

(9) PRE-PREDATOR ON THE WAY. “Predator Prequel Starring Indigenous Actress Amber Midthunder Reveals Title Prey , Summer 2022 Release Date” reports Yahoo!

Amber Midthunder is making her mark on the Predator franchise with its next installment.

Entitled Prey, the upcoming prequel will premiere on Hulu in summer 2022, it was announced Friday during Disney+ Day.

“Set in the world of the Comanche Nation 300 years ago, the action-thriller follows Naru, the skilled warrior who fiercely protects her tribe against a highly evolved alien predator,” a plot summary from Disney reads.

Midthunder, 24, celebrated the news on Instagram, sharing an image of herself in the film with the franchise’s extraterrestrial villain lurking behind her in the shadows.

(10) DREAM TIME. By the way, Melanie Stormm is very inventive but she didn’t have to make up the two tweets she included in today’s “Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the Fourteenth”:

(11) NEW BUCKELL COLLECTION ANNOUNCED. Apex Publications has acquired a new short story collection from Tobias S. Buckell titled Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance and Other Stories. It’s scheduled to come out next year. Apex has also acquired the trade paperback rights to his four-book Xenowealth series (Crystal RainRagamuffinSly Mongoose, and The Apocalypse Ocean).

Tobias S. Buckell

Tobias S. Buckell is a New York Times Bestselling and World Fantasy Award-winning author born in the Caribbean. He grew up in Grenada and spent time in the British and US Virgin Islands, which influence much of his work.

Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance and Other Stories is Tobias S. Buckell’s seventh short fiction collection and is comprised of 15 stories, several of which are original to the collection or were previously only available through his Patreon.

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1968 — Fifty-three years ago on NBC, Star Trek’s “The Tholian Web” first aired on this date. It was written by Judy Burns, her first professional script, and Chet Richards, his only such script. She would later write scripts for myriad genre series including Mission: ImpossibleThe Six Million Dollar Man and Fantasy Island

Primary guest cast was Sean Morgan as Lt. O’Neil, Barbara Babcock as the voice of Loskene who was the Tholian commander and Paul Baxley as Captain of the Defiant. It is considered by critics and fans alike to be one of the best Trek episodes done though it did not get a Hugo nomination unlike a lot of other Trek episodes. 

In a two-part episode of Enterprise, “In a Mirror, Darkly”, it is told that the Defiant has reappeared in the Mirror Universe of Archer’s time, where it is salvaged by the Tholians and later stolen from them by the Terran Empire. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 15, 1877 William Hope Hodgson. By far, his best known character is Thomas Carnacki, featured in several of his most famous stories and at least partly based upon Algernon Blackwood’s occult detective John Silence. (Simon R. Green will make use of him in his Ghost Finders series.)  Two of his later novels, The House on the Borderland and The Night Land would be lavishly praised by H.P. Lovecraft.  It is said that his horror writing influenced many later writers such as China Miéville, Tim Lebbon and Greg Bear but I cannot find a definitive source for that claim. (Died 1918.)
  • Born November 15, 1929 Ed Asner. Genre work includes roles on Alfred Hitchcock PresentsThe Outer Limits,  Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Girl from U.N.C.L.E.The InvadersThe Wild Wild WestMission: ImpossibleShelley Duvall’s Tall Tales & LegendsBatman: The Animated Series and I’ll stop there as the list goes on for quite some while. What’s your favorite genre role by him? (Died 2021.)
  • Born November 15, 1933 Theodore Roszak. Winner of the Tiptree Award for The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein, and the rather excellent Flicker which is well worth reading. Flicker is available at the usual suspects,  though no other fiction by him other than his Japanese folktales is. Odd. (Died 2011.)
  • Born November 15, 1939 Yaphet Kotto. If we count the Bond films as genre, and I do, his first genre performance was as Dr. Kananga / Mr. Big in Live and Let Die. Later performances included Parker in Alien, William Laughlin in The Running Man, Doc in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, Ressler in The Puppet Masters adapted from Heinlein’s 1951 novel of the same name and a horrid film that it is, and he played a character named Captain Jack Clayton on SeaQuest DSV. (Died 2021.)
  • Born November 15, 1942 Ruth Berman, 79. She’s a writer of mostly speculative poetry. In 2003, she won the Rhysling Award for Best Short Poem for “Potherb Gardening “, and in 2016 for “Time Travel Vocabulary Problems”.  She was the winner of the 2006 Dwarf Stars Award for her poem “Knowledge Of”.  She’s also written one YA fantasy novel, Bradamant’s quest. In 1973, she was a finalist for the first Astounding Award for Best New Writer. She edited the Dunkiton Press genre zine for a decade or so.  She was nominated for Best Fan Writer Hugo at Baycon (1968). Impressive indeed. 
  • Born November 15, 1972 Jonny Lee Miller, 49. British actor and director who played Sherlock Holmes on the exemplary Elementary series, but his first genre role was as a  nine year-old with the Fifth Doctor story, “Kinda”. While he’s had a fairly steady stage, film, and TV career across the pond since then, it’s only in the last decade that he’s become well-known in the States – unless, like JJ, you remember that twenty-three years ago he appeared in a shoddy technothriller called Hackers, with another unknown young actor named Angelina Jolie (to whom he ended up married, until they separated eighteen months months later). Other genre appearances include a trio of vampire films, Dracula 2000Dark Shadows, and Byzantium, the live-action Æon Flux movie, and the lead in the pseudo-fantasy TV series Eli Stone

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro has a hilarious Zoom panel.

(15) A SHOW RECAP. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Last night on Bob’s Burgers, a group of teenagers came in to the burger joint and asked to play a game which was clearly Dungeons and Dragons but which was called something else.  The dungeon master got Bob’s attention because she ordered the Burger of the Day when everyone else was getting plain old cheeseburgers.  The dungeon master made a move where she turned everyone into goblins and they played goblin characters instead of their regular characters.  Bob saw that she was being creative and explained to her his creative outlet was creating the Burger of the Day every day.  The gamers played very late but ordered big breakfasts before they left so Bob was tired but happy after meeting gamers.

(16) FERAL STATES. “Neal Stephenson Predicted the Metaverse. His New Book Imagines Something Even Stranger.” Laura Miller reviews Termination Shock at Slate.

A maestro of the dramatic opener, Neal Stephenson began his 2015 novel, Seveneves, with the line “The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason.” That’s a hard act to follow, but he gives it the old college try in his latest, Termination Shock, heralded, when first announced, as the celebrated science-fiction author “finally” taking on the subject of global warning. Termination Shock begins with the queen of the Netherlands piloting a business jet in an emergency landing at the Waco airport, a maneuver that goes terribly wrong when her plane’s landing gear collides with a herd of feral hogs that, chased by an oversize alligator, swarm the airstrip.

Like a lot of plot twists in Termination Shock, this scenario is not as outlandish as it seems. Frederika Mathilde Louisa Saskia, a fictional character, is apparently the daughter of the real-life King Willem-Alexander, who in 2017 revealed that he had been moonlighting as a commercial airline pilot for more than 20 years. (He said that he found it a “relaxing” hobby.) Saskia, as the queen—who is one of the novel’s central characters—calls herself, has inherited a taste for this pastime from her father. As for the feral swine, they are partly an allusion to a viral tweet defending private ownership of assault rifles in the event that “30-50 feral hogs” run into a yard in which small children are playing. The internet found this argument hilarious, but feral hogs are in fact a dangerous and destructive invasive species in many parts of the U.S. The novel’s second central character, Rufus, a former farmer turned professional hog exterminator, knows this all too well….

(17) GAS SITUATION. CNBC also has an interview with the author: “Neal Stephenson on ‘Termination Shock,’ geoengineering, metaverse”.

How did you get interested in this subject and become fascinated with it enough to base a novel on it?

I’ve been hearing about the idea for a number of years. I’m interested in history. I’m interested in science and the physics of the planet. And so, the idea that a volcano could erupt somewhere and affect temperatures all over the planet is a natural, fascinating topic for me. Over the last decade or two, it’s become increasingly clear that the CO2 content in the atmosphere is a huge problem, and that it’s getting worse fast, and we’re not really being very effective. Despite efforts by a number of people to draw attention to the problem and and push for emissions reductions, that number is still climbing rather rapidly and probably will keep climbing for a while. So rolling that together in the brain of the science fiction novelist, that looks like the basis for a story that that’s got that technical angle to it, but that’s also got a strong geopolitical and personal storytelling basis.

(18) OUT OF THE WILDERNESS AT LAST. The Guardian’s David Smith profiles the new Vonnegut documentary: “Unstuck in Time: the Kurt Vonnegut documentary 40 years in the making”.

… In 1994 Weide took the author back to his childhood home in Indianapolis. Vonnegut is seen touching imprints of his child-size hand, and the hands of of other family members, that remain in concrete poured in the 1920s. The project received a boost when Vonnegut’s brother, Bernie, handed over some 16mm home movies that had been gathering dust in a closet.

But the memories also carried pain. In 1958 his beloved sister, Alice, died of breast cancer days after her husband drowned in a train accident. Weide reflects: “He would say how much he missed his her and how ‘she taught me what was funny; she imbued my sense of humour; we thought the same things were funny’.

“A lot of what they thought was funny had to do with a lot of good comedy, which is a tragedy befalling other people. If they saw somebody fall down on the street in Indianapolis, they’d laugh about it for years sometimes. He talked a lot about his sister in very fond terms. He never was that vocal specifically about how her death affected him but his daughter says in the film all these years later, ‘I don’t think he can even now get his arms around it’.”…

(19) FAMILIAR PLAYBOOK. Yes, John Scalzi has seen these plays run before on social media.

(20) DOO DOO OVER. James Davis Nicoll tells Tor.com readers about “Five Time Travel Stories Where Things Get Rather Messy”.

Who among us has not dreamed over getting a do-over? Perhaps this time around, one could defer the two-hour discourse on the history of stirrups until the second date, leave the nearly-red hot frying pan to cool a little longer, or at the very least, take steps to ensure that some major historical debacle never happens, changing the course of human events for the good of all. Armed with knowledge of how things played out in the original timeline, surely one could shape a more perfect history!

That’s in reality. In fiction, of course, there’s no plot if everything goes as expected. Thus, these five works about altering timelines that did not, alas, work out entirely to plan….

(21) GENRE ADJACENT NEWS. “’It’s like hunting aliens’: inside the town besieged by armadillos” – the Guardian says North Carolina is not welcoming their new overlords.

….“It’s like hunting aliens,” said Bullard, who is more used to hunting feral pigs. “We know nothing about them. We can’t seem to kill them easily. They show up unexpectedly. And their numbers have just exploded.”

…An emerging theory for this advance of armadillos is the climate crisis. The animals dislike freezing conditions and global heating is making winters milder, turning northern parts of the US more armadillo-friendly. Around Sapphire [NC], the armadillos happily root around in the dirt with their snouts and claws, feasting on insects at elevations above 4,000ft. “We just don’t have those really cold winters any more and I’m sure that’s helped them,” said Olfenbuttel.

The armadillos have made it into Missouri, Iowa and even the southern reaches of Nebraska. Barriers such as rivers aren’t a problem – the animals can hold their breath for up to six minutes and walk on the riverbed, or even inflate their intestines to float across to the other side….

(22) ROBOTS UNDERGROUND. In the Washington Post Magazine, David Montgomery reports on the DARPA Subterranean Challenge, held in a giant cavern in Louisville, in which robots competed to see how many “humans” (mannequins with sensors) they could rescue in a simulated underground disaster.

…In this scenario, meticulously constructed for the finale of the DARPA Subterranean Challenge — an elaborate three-year, $82 million Pentagon robotics competition — something bad has happened to humans underground, and the robots are coming to the rescue. Spot and its robo-teammates and competitors — dozens of walking, driving and flying robots — were on a scavenger hunt for “survivors” (mannequins giving off body heat and vocal sounds) and objects such as cellphones, backpacks and helmets. The robots scored points by sending the objects’ locations back to their human teammates. Finding all the objects meant exploring a trap-filled labyrinth with a half-mile of passages, featuring three made-from-scratch environments: urban, with a subway, storeroom and offices; a tunnel (a mock mine shaft); and a cave, a claustrophobic mash-up of spelunking’s greatest hits….

(23) WEIRD WEST. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Here’s an art collage piece by Lauren Fox (@LaurenFoxWrites):

(24) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] This video isn’t short but it’s good. It does a thorough breakdown of both the Starship Troopers book and the film, plots and themes both, and toward the end compares them to Haldeman’s Forever War. “If Veterans Ruled the World”.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Alan Baumler, Steven French, Jennifer Hawthorne, Ben Bird Person, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]