Pixel Scroll 2/1/24 Scroll Pixel Like Fritos, Scroll Pixel Like Tab And Mountain Dew

(1) 2024 HUGO VOTING STALLED. The Glasgow 2024 Worldcon paused Hugo nomination voting on January 28, announcing in social media, “We are aware of an issue with nominations. We have taken that system offline as a precaution.” Their January 30 update said, “We committed to update you on the temporary pause of Hugo Award nominations. Our UK software provider is still working on a solution. We will provide you with our next status update no later than the 6th February.” At this time they do not expect to extend the nomination voting deadline.

(2) NEW STAR IN THE FIRMAMENT. Margaret Atwood appears as a guest star on the CBC series Murdoch Mysteries this coming Monday, February 5. She plays Loren Quinnell, Amateur Ornithologist. “Her and her feathered friends help crack the case…”

(3) NEW CLARION WEST SCHOLARSHIPS. The Salam Award and Clarion West Week One Instructor Usman T. Malik (CW ‘14) have offered two new scholarships for 2024 Students: “The Salam Award and the Malik Family Sponsor Scholarships for Pakistani and Palestinian Students”.

The Salam Award Scholarship: For the year 2024, The Salam Award has agreed to sponsor a student of Pakistani origin, whether a Pakistani resident of any ethnicity, or a Pakistani-origin student anywhere in the world up to USD $1,000. 

The Malik Sharif-Fehmida Anwar Scholarship: Usman T. Malik and his parents Malik Tanveer Ali and Shabnam Tanveer Malik have offered an annual travel scholarship to help fund travel up to USD $2,500 for a student of Palestinian-origin. The applicant should be Palestinian Arab-Muslim or Arab-Christian from Gaza, West Bank, or Golan Heights, or may be Palestinian diaspora located anywhere in the world. 

Through the generosity of our donors, Clarion West provides a number of scholarships for writers every year. Approximately 60-90% of our Six-Week Workshop participants receive full and partial-tuition scholarships. You must indicate your need for financial aid when you apply to the six-week workshop. Your application is reviewed without regard to your financial aid request.

You can learn more about scholarships for the Six-Week Workshop here

(4) WHAT WE DON’T TALK ABOUT. RedWombat took inspiration from the continuing Hugo controversy to pen these lyrics, shared in ha comment on File 770 today.

This only works if you pronounce it “Wisfuss,” but…

We don’t talk about WSFS, no no no
We don’t talk about WSFS

But!

It was Hugo nom day
(It was Hugo nom day)
We were running numbers
and there wasn’t much good to be found
Standlee stops by with a glint in his eye
(Trademark!)
You filking this thing or am I?
(Sorry, sorry, please go on)

Standlee says, “we can’t enforce…”
(Why did he say it?)
The lawyers are aghast, of course
(That’s not how you play it)
And MPC did not endorse
(Had to resign but nevermind…)

We don’t talk about WSFS, no no no
We don’t talk about WSFS

Hey, grew to live in fear of what the lawyers might find next
Feeling like the whole organization’s been hexed
I associate it with the sight of scathing posts
(Tsk tsk tsk)
It’s a heavy job sieving through this murk
Implicit contract no longer seems to work
Can’t rely on the Old SMOFs Network
Who’s gonna do the work?

M-P-C, taken aback
People still mad about the AO3 attack
How can you enforce this implicit contract?
Yeah, the lawyers scream and break into teams
(Hey)
We don’t talk about WSFS, no no no
We don’t talk about WSFS

We never should have asked about WSFS, no no no
Why did we talk about WSFS?

(I put that song in my head for the next year doing this, so if you’re going to complain, believe me, I have already been punished.)

(5) WRITERS AT GEN CON. The 2024 Gen Con Writers’ Symposium guests will include Linda D. Addison, Mikki Kendall, and quite a few featured speakers who are sff authors. Gen Con 2024 will be held August 1-4 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The Gen Con Writers’ Symposium is a semi-independent event hosted by Gen Con and intended for both new and experienced writers of speculative fiction. All registration is handled through the Gen Con website.

(6) WHO ELSE HAD A STAKE IN DRACULA? Bobby Derie tells readers that H. P. Lovecraft claimed his friend Edith Miniter was offered the chance to revise Bram Stoker’s Dracula. What do we know about this claim? Find out! “Lovecraft, Miniter, Stoker: the Dracula Revision” at Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein.

In The Essential Dracula (1979), Bram Stoker scholars Raymond T. McNally and Radu Florescu revealed a letter (H. P. Lovecraft to R. H. Barlow, 10 Dec 1932) that had been drawn to their attention by horror anthologist and scholar Les Daniels, where H. P. Lovecraft claimed that an old woman he knew had turned down the chance to revise Stoker’s Dracula. The letter had not been published before this. Although Lovecraft’s claim had been made in print as early as 1938, and a letter with the anecdote was published in the first volume of Lovecraft’s Selected Letters from Arkham House in 1965, this seems to be the first time the Stoker scholar community became generally aware of the claim. The authors were intrigued by the possibilities…

(7) LDV NEWS. J. Michael Straczynski shared that Blackstone Indie has unveiled a webpage for The Last Dangerous Visions. It does not take preorders yet.

In 1973, celebrated writer and editor Harlan Ellison announced the third and final volume of his unprecedented anthology series, which began with Dangerous Visions and continued with Again Dangerous Visions. But for reasons undisclosed, The Last Dangerous Visions was never completed.

Now, six years after Ellison’s passing, science fiction’s most famous unpublished book is here. And with it, the heartbreaking true story of the troubled genius behind it.

Provocative and controversial, socially conscious and politically charged, wildly imaginative yet deeply grounded, the thirty-two never-before published stories, essays, and poems in The Last Dangerous Visions stand as a testament to Ellison’s lifelong pursuit of art, representing voices both well-known and entirely new, including: David Brin, Max Brooks, James S. A. Corey, Dan Simmons, Cory Doctorow, and Adrian Tchaikovsky, among others.

With an introduction and exegesis by J. Michael Straczynski, and a story introduction by Ellison himself, The Last Dangerous Visions is an extraordinary addition to an incredible literary legacy.

(8) ANOTHER ENTRY FOR THE CAPTAIN’S LOG. The Visual Effects Society will honor Actor-Producer-Director William Shatner as the recipient of the VES Award for Creative Excellence in recognition of his valuable contributions to visual arts and filmed entertainment at its annual ceremony on February 21. “William Shatner Named as Recipient of the VES Award for Creative Excellence”.

(9) ST:TNG GETTING SATURN HONORS. “The Cast Of ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ To Receive Special Lifetime Achievement Saturn Award” at TrekMovie.com.

…The cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation will receive The Lifetime Achievement Award at the 51st Annual Saturn Awards, being held in Los Angeles this Sunday. For 2024 the Academy is doing something different for the TNG cast with this award. A statement from the Academy to TrekMovie explains:

“The Lifetime Achievement Award is usually presented to an individual for their contributions to genre entertainment. Top luminaries like Stan Lee and Leonard Nimoy, Mr. Spock himself, have received this top honor. It’s not new, but we extended this award to cover the entire cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation, due to its continued influence on the face of general television. It was originally doomed to failure since it was following in the footsteps of the original Star Trek, yet it carved its own identity, and its diverse cast was light years ahead of its time!”…

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 1, 1954 Bill Mumy, 70. Bill Mumy is best remembered of course for being on Lost in Space for three seasons (“Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!”) though he has a much more extensive performance resume.

At the rather tender age of seven, he makes his genre acting debut on The Twilight Zone as Billy Bayles in “Long Distance Call”.  He’d appear in two Twilight Zone episodes, “It’s A Good Life” as Anthony Fremont, a child with godlike powers and finally as the young Pip Phillips in “In Praise of Pip”.

He’d show up much later on in Twilight Zone: The Movie in one of the segments, not unsurprisingly a remake of “It’s A Good Life” which here is listed as being from a screenplay by Richard Matheson. Here he’s Tim. Whoever that is. 

He’d be on the reboot of the Twilight Zone in “It’s Still A Good Life” as the Adult Anthony Fremont.

Photo of Billy Mumy in 2013
Billy Mumy in 2013. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

He next had three appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, none genre. His next genre outing would be playing two different characters on BewitchedI Dream of Jeannie and the Munsters followed.

Then of course was the eighty-three episode, three season run on Lost in Space. He’d be eleven years old when it started. I know I’ve seen all of it at least once. No idea how the Suck Fairy would treat it nearly this long on, but I really liked it when I saw it at the time. 

Remember the 1990 Captain America? If you don’t, you’re not alone. In this WW II version, he plays a young boy, Tom Kimball, who photographs Captain America over the Capital building kicking a missile off after batting Red Skull so crashes in Alaska, burying itself and Steve Rogers under the ice. 12%, repeat 12%, is the rating audience reviewers gave it on Rotten Tomatoes. 

He showed up once in the first iteration of a Flash series, and then has three appearances as Tommy Puck in the Nineties Superboy series. The first I saw and quite like, the latter not a single episode have I encountered. 

The next thing that is quite worthy of note is his stellar role on Babylon 5 as Mimbari warrior monk, I think that’s the proper term,  Lennier. Of one hundred and ten episodes, he was in all but two. That’s right, just two. Or at least credited as being so. What an amazing role that was. I’ve watch this series including the six films at least twice straight through. No Suck Fairy dares comes near it. 

The last thing of note, and I’m not seen the series, was him playing Dr. Zachary Smith on the reboot of the Lost in Space series that came out just a few years ago for two episodes. Please, please don’t ask who he’s playing as my continuous headache got even worse when I tried to figure out who he really was. Really I did. What they with that series was a crime. 

(11) PUTTING THE BITE ON TOURISTS. [Item by Steven French.] If you’re ever in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Atlas Obscura recommends a visit to “Vampa: Vampire & Paranormal Museum”.

TUCKED AWAY IN THE SAME building as an antiques store in a small Pensylvania town lies a shockingly large collection of antique vampire-killing sets.

Covering the walls are the standard tools of the vampire hunter: the stake, the crucifix, the holy water bottle. But the stakes are far more than pointy, wooden sticks. Believed to date back centuries, all the weapons have been beautifully decorated with a variety of religious and allegorical carvings. They are spectacular objets d’art from every corner of the world, including several personal collections from actors who played Dracula in films. One wooden “traveling vampire hunter kit,” from around 1870 was owned by actor Carlos Villarias, who portrayed the famous count in a Spanish language Dracula….

(12) EARTH FARTS? Space reports that the “Mystery of Siberia’s giant exploding craters may finally be solved”.

The craters are unique to Russia’s northern Yamal and Gydan peninsulas and are not known to exist elsewhere in the Arctic, suggesting the key to this puzzle lies in the landscape, according to a preprint paper published Jan. 12 to the EarthArXiv database.

Researchers have proposed several explanations for the gaping holes over the years, ranging from meteor impacts to natural-gas explosions. One theory suggests the craters formed in the place of historic lakes that once bubbled with natural gas rising from the permafrost below. These lakes may have dried up, exposing the ground beneath to freezing temperatures that sealed the vents through which gas escaped. The resulting buildup of gas in the permafrost may eventually have been released through explosions that created the giant craters.

… But the historic-lake model fails to account for the fact that these “giant escape craters” (GECs) are found in a variety of geological settings across the peninsulas, not all of which were once covered by lakes, according to the new preprint, which has not been peer reviewed….

… Permafrost on the Yamal and Gydan peninsulas varies widely in its thickness, ranging from a few hundred feet to 1,600 feet (500 m). The soil likely froze solid more than 40,000 years ago, imprisoning ancient marine sediments rich in methane that gradually transformed into vast natural gas reserves. These reserves produce heat that melts the permafrost from below, leaving pockets of gas at its base.

Permafrost in Russia and elsewhere is also thawing at the surface due to climate change. In places where it is already thin on the Yamal and Gydan peninsulas, melting from both ends and the pressure from the gas may eventually cause the remaining permafrost to collapse, triggering an explosion.

This “champagne effect” would explain the presence of smaller craters around the eight giant craters, as huge chunks of ice propelled out by the explosions may have severely dented the ground, according to the preprint….

(13) HUNT TO EXTINCTION. The stories you hear from Brian Keene.

(14) NEW HEADSHOT. Scott Lynch introduced his new photo with a wry comment.

(15) COMING ATTRACTIONS. The “Next on Netflix 2024: The Series & Films Preview” sizzle reel includes clips from Bridgerton, Squid Game, Umbrella Academy and Rebel Moon.

(16) OCTOTHORPE. John Coxon, Alison Scott and Liz Batty respond to a letter of comment from Tobes Valois in episode 102 of the Octothorpe podcast, “I fully comprehend the mysteries”.  

Octothorpe 102 is here! We discuss the Hugo Awards debacle in some depth and SOLVE ALL THE ISSUES (no, really) but we book-end it with letters of comment and picks for those who need a bit of respite. Artwork by Alison Scott. Listen here!  

Alt text: Scooby, Velma and Daphne unmask the panda from last week’s cover art, and the person wearing the panda suit looks a lot like Dave McCarty. They say “It was old Mister McCarty all along!” and he says “And I would have gotten away with it too if it hadn’t been for you meddling Hugo finalists!” He is tied up with rope. The words “Octothorpe! 102” appear at the top of the image.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 9/18/23 Take A Pixel, Leave A Pixel

(1) WORLDCON VENUE DISPLAY. [Item by Ersatz Culture.] Blogger skyxiang1991, who posts photos of the Chengdu SF museum/convention centre, uploaded a video earlier today showing a test of the light/laser (?) display at what is perhaps the entrance. See the video here.

The 2 characters on the left of the entrance are 科幻 (kehuan/science fiction), I can’t make out the stuff on the right.

(2) WORLDCON INVITATION. [Item by Ersatz Culture.] Whilst looking for any relevant posts or updates on the Xiaohongshu social media platform, I came across this post from September 5, which — based on the footer — indicates that the Chengdu organizers were still sending out invitations as of September 4. [Click for larger images.]

Google Translate indicates that the English and Chinese language pages have broadly the same information.  There’s nothing about the nature of the invitation though e.g. will they be appearing on panels, that says the Worldcon is offering any assistance towards their attendance, etc.

One of the comments is from a volunteer, who says that they have started training for the event.

I have no idea who Chen Ming Da / 晨鸣达 is, although their Xiahongshu bio and posts indicate they are a street artist in Guangdong province.

(3) BACK YOUR FAVORITE MAGAZINES. Jason Sanford says “Don’t Let Our Current Golden Age of Genre Magazines Fade Away” in a post at Apex Magazine.

…Last month, Fantasy Magazine announced they’re closing their doors, in part because of Amazon’s change to Kindle Newsstand. And there are fears more magazines could follow.

As magazines deal with the fallout from Amazon nuking the digital subscription landscape, people will no doubt be told that magazines are no longer relevant in today’s genre. That it is the magazine’s fault for trusting Amazon. Or that only writers read these magazines (an outright myth, with Neil Clarke’s recent analysis of Clarkeworld’s readership data showing that only 13% of his known subscribers are writers who also submitted to the magazine).

The truth is that in today’s fragmented online world, genre magazines are even more vital to the SF/F/H genre. Magazines are where new and marginalized voices can be heard. Magazines are where genre communities and connections can be formed. Magazines are where our genre futures are being created today….

(4) FIND OUT “HOW TO”. Mary Soon Lee’s How to Navigate Our Universe, released this past week, is a collection of 128 poems, ranging from whimsical to serious — poems about planets, stars, black holes, and astronomers, complete with essential advice such as “How to End the Universe”.

 Here’s an example —

How to Be a Star

Gravitationally collapse a nebula.
Fuse hydrogen into helium.
If desired, explode.

And there is other How-to astronomy poetry to answer vexing questions such as “How to Surprise Saturn”, “How to Blush Like Betelgeuse”, and “How to Survive a Black Hole”.

Mary Soon Lee is a Grand Master of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association, and has won the Rhysling Award, the Elgin Award, and the AnLab Readers’ Award.

The book is self-published, and available through Amazon.com.

This is her second collection of science poetry, following on from Elemental Haiku: Poems to honor the periodic table three lines at a time.

(5) I COULD SING THIS ALL DAY. “Captain America’s MCU Musical is Now Streaming”Gizmodo alerts the media.

You usually go to the Marvel Cinematic Universe for a lot of things, but memorable original music isn’t really one of them. But Rogers: The Musicala corny Hamilton-alike that told a very condensed story of Chris Evans’ Captain America—is one of the more successful attempts at musically spicing things up for the films, if only because people seemed to like its brief appearance in the first episode of Hawkeye. It even took off well enough that Disney brought it to its theme parks for the summer—which is why Disney’s now putting the album out on streaming.

Marvel released Rogers’ 12-track album at the start of the weekend, which comes from the most recent performance held at Disney’s California Adventure Park at the Hyperion Theater. Beyond the novelty of being an MCU musical, the album boasts five brand new original songs that were made specifically for the production.

(6) ONLY 97 SHOPPING DAYS BEFORE CHRISTMAS. This is what someone at TrekCore.com is getting this year: “Hallmark Honors Data and His Cat with 2023 ‘Ode to Spot’ STAR TREK Ornament”.

…Featured in the episode “Schisms” — did that episode mess anyone else up? Just me? — the poem “Ode to Spot” has a special place in this 90s kid’s Star Trek lovin’ heart. I was delighted to see that Hallmark decided to immortalize this iconic TNG moment in this year’s ornament line up.

The push button audio includes the first and final stanzas of the poem…

(7) A DEAL, DEPENDING ON HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT IT. [Item by Daniel Dern.] I see that Amazon is currently offering three free months of Kindle Unlimited. (Just noticed after pre-ordering a book, by an author I’m overdue to write a scroll about.)

I’m well aware that while this is good for us voracious read’n’release readers, it’s arguably trebleplusungood for creators. OTOH, IMHO much of the reader/creator $ chain seems problematic, e.g., as mostly library/e-library user, not to mention a frequent rereader of the books I own, and still-occasional used-book buyer, creators aren’t being remunerated for much of my eyeball input (ditto audio, etc.)

(8) SUING ANOTHER INTERNET BOOK INFRINGER. “Four large US publishers sue ‘shadow library’ for alleged copyright infringement” – the Guardian briefs readers about the case.

Four leading US publishers have sued an online “shadow library” that allows visitors to download textbooks and other copyrighted materials free.

Cengage, Macmillan Learning, McGraw Hill and Pearson Education filed the suit against Library Genesis, also known as LibGen, in Manhattan federal court, citing “extensive violations” of copyright law.

LibGen operates a collection of different domains that allow users to search for and download pdf versions of books. The suit, filed on Thursday, said LibGen holds more than 20,000 files published by the four suing companies.

“LibGen’s massive infringement completely undermines the incentive for creation and the rights of authors, who earn no royalties for the millions of books LibGen illegally distributes,” Matt Oppenheim, the attorney representing the publishing companies, told the Guardian.

The publishers asked for an unspecified amount of money in damages and called for LibGen domain names to be deleted or transferred to the four companies. The complaint said that LibGen’s activities cause “serious financial and creative harm” because they devalue the textbook market and deprive publishers of income from textbook purchases, which may lead companies to stop publishing “deserving” titles that have low sales….

(9) IS STRIKE AGAINST VIDEO GAME COMPANIES NEXT? “SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher Urges Members To Approve Strike Authorization Against Video Game Companies” at Deadline.

SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher, saying that “right now is the time to show our solidarity,” is urging her members to authorize a strike against the video game industry. The guild, which has been on strike against the film and TV industries since July 14, could go on strike against the gaming companies any time after September 25, when voting on the strike authorization ends. The guild’s first and only strike against the gaming companies lasted 183 days in 2016-17.

In a new video, Drescher notes that voting for a strike authorization doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be a strike. But rather, it authorizes the board to “to call a strike if needed.”

“It’s been nearly a year since SAG-AFTRA began negotiating the Interactive Media Agreement with video game companies, “she says in the video. “Despite many multi-day bargaining sessions, the companies are refusing to meet our members’ needs in vital areas.”…

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 18, 1884 Gertrude Barrows Bennett. She’s been called a pioneering author of genre fiction. She wrote a number of fantasies between in the late teens and early twenties, and has been called “the woman who invented dark fantasy”. Her short story, “The Curious Experience of Thomas Dunbar” which was published under G.M. Barrows in Argosy is considered first time that an American female writer published SF story using her real name. I’m pleased to say that both iBooks and Kindle are heavily stocked with her works. (Died 1948.)
  • Born September 18, 1917 June Foray. Voice performer with such roles as Cindy Lou Who, Natasha Fatale and Rocky the Flying Squirrel. She also provided the voice of Lucifer the Cat from Disney’s Cinderella. She also did a lot of witches such as Looney Tunes’ Witch Hazel which you can hear over here courtesy of WB Kids. She was instrumental in the creation of the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature twenty years ago. OGH has a most touching remembrance here. (Died 2017.)
  • Born September 18, 1946 Struan Rodger, 77. He was the Bishop in Stardust, and shows up in the A Discovery of Witches as John Dee. (Loved the novels, skipped the series as I always do.) He voiced the Three-Eyed Raven in The Game of Thrones’ “The Lion and The Rose” and “The Children”.  More interestingly he’s got multiple roles in Doctor Who. First he’s The Voice of The Face of Boe in the Tenth Doctor stories, “New Earth” and “Gridlock”, next he’s Clayton in the Twelfth Doctor story, “The Women Who Lived” and finally he’s a voice again, that of Kasaavin in “Skyfall, Part One”, a Thirteenth Doctor story. 
  • Born September 18, 1948 Lynn Abbey, 75. She’s best known for co-creating and co-editing with Robert Lynn Asprin (to whom she was married for awhile) the Thieves’ World series of shared-setting anthologies. (All twelve volumes!) Her Sanctuary novel set in the Thieves’ World universe is quite excellent. I’ve not kept up with her later work, so y’all will need to tell me how it is.
  • Born September 18, 1951 — Dee Dee Ramone. Yes, the Ramones bassist. He penned Chelsea Horror Hotel, a novel in which he and his wife move into New York City’s Hotel Chelsea where the story goes that they are staying in the same room where Sid Vicious allegedly killed his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen. Many predictable ghosts visit them. (Died 2002.)
  • Born September 18, 1953 Michael R. Nelson, 70. Conrunner from the BaltiWash area who got into fandom in 1989. He chaired Disclave 41, Capclave 2002 and co-chaired the DC17 Worldcon bid. He is a member of the Washington Science Fiction Association.
  • Born September 18, 1984 Caitlin Kittredge, 39. Wiki say she’s best known for her Nocturne City series of adult novels, and for The Iron Codex, a series of YA novels, but I think her best work is by far the Black London series. She’s also writing the current Witchblade series at Image Comics. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Close to Home features a super-proud dad.
  • The Argyle Sweater imagines climate change affecting Westeros.
  • Dog Eat Doug is another Game of Thrones gag – and don’t you wonder what kind of seed they’re using?
  • A Tom Gauld doubleheader.

(12) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter was tuned into tonight’s Jeopardy! where a couple contestants were stumped by the show’s final item.

Final Jeopardy: Authors

Answer: He dedicated books to each of his 4 wives, including Hadley Richardson and Martha Gelhorn.

Wrong questions: Who is [C.S. crossed out] Tolkien? Who is Mark Twain?

Correct question: Who is Hemingway?

(13) THE OPPOSITE OF DÉJÀ VU IS NOT DEJAH THORIS. But ScienceAlert will be happy to tell you what it is in “The Opposite of Déjà Vu Exists, And It’s Even More Uncanny”.

…The opposite of déjà vu is “jamais vu”, when something you know to be familiar feels unreal or novel in some way. In our recent research, which has just won an Ig Nobel award for literature, we investigated the mechanism behind the phenomenon.

Jamais vu may involve looking at a familiar face and finding it suddenly unusual or unknown. Musicians have it momentarily – losing their way in a very familiar passage of music. You may have had it going to a familiar place and becoming disorientated or seeing it with “new eyes”.

It’s an experience which is even rarer than déjà vu and perhaps even more unusual and unsettling. When you ask people to describe it in questionnaires about experiences in daily life they give accounts like: “While writing in my exams, I write a word correctly like ‘appetite’ but I keep looking at the word over and over again because I have second thoughts that it might be wrong.”…

(14) SHOULD THESE HOMINID FOSSILS HAVE BEEN TAKEN FOR A RIDE? According to BGR, “Archaeologists are losing it over Virgin Galactic’s latest spaceflight”.

Last week, Virgin Galactic completed yet another flight, sending three passengers and an instructor to the edge of space. But it wasn’t the living passengers onboard the VSS Unity that had a lot of people in an uproar. Instead, reports note that archaeologists worldwide are upset that one of the passengers carried ancient human fossils into space aboard the flight….

The taking of these ancient human fossils into space was part of an elaborate publicity stunt to draw attention to “science, exploration, human origins, and South Africa,” Berger’s request noted. Despite the possible exposure it could bring, archaeologists say that the move put the remains in danger and could have led to the loss of one of the key identifying references for A. sediba, as the shoulder bone taken into space is actually the first A. sediba fossil to be discovered, and thus a reference that helps define the species.

Of course, this story would probably be a lot different if the flight hadn’t been successful, not only because of the loss of life, but because of the loss of history possible if the flight had not gone so smoothly. Luckily, that isn’t the case….

(15) PERMISSION DENIED. “Space Drugs Factory Denied Reentry to Earth” reports Gizmodo.

After manufacturing crystals of an HIV drug in space, the first orbital factory is stuck in orbit after being denied reentry back to Earth due to safety concerns.

The U.S. Air Force denied a request from Varda Space Industries to land its in-space manufacturing capsule at a Utah training area, while the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) did not grant the company permission to reenter Earth’s atmosphere, leaving its spacecraft hanging as the company scrambles to find a solution, TechCrunch first reported. A spokesperson from the FAA told TechCrunch in an emailed statement that the company’s request was not granted at this time “due to the overall safety, risk and impact analysis.”

Varda Space launched its spacecraft on board a Falcon 9 rocket on June 12. The 264-pound (120-kilogram) capsule is designed to manufacture products in a microgravity environment and transport them back to Earth. On June 30, its first drug-manufacturing experiment succeeded in growing crystals of the drug ritonavir, which is used for the treatment of HIV, in orbit. The microgravity environment provides some benefits that could make for better production in space, overall reducing gravity-induced defects. Protein crystals made in space form larger and more perfect crystals than those created on Earth, according to NASA

(16) IT’S A GAS. “Jupiter’s Moon Callisto Has a Whole Lot of Oxygen Scientists Struggle to Explain”CNET has the story.

…It isn’t clear what’s happening at Callisto to produce so much oxygen, but Carberry Mogan hopes to get a better understanding of processes active in the moon’s surface that may yield an explanation or clues. 

“That’s probably Callisto’s most enigmatic feature is its surface,” said Carberry Mogan, who’s a postdoctoral researcher in planetary science at the University of California at Berkeley. “It’s supposed to be an icy body, but when you look at it, it’s mostly this dark surface, anywhere from millimeters to kilometers deep.”

It’s still up for debate whether Callisto’s surface is more rock or ice. The dark material on its surface could also be ice-rich, providing a plentiful source for the mysterious amount of oxygen in the atmosphere. 

For help with the mystery, Carberry Mogan is looking to upcoming robotic missions like ESA’s Juice and NASA’s Europa Clipper, which may swing close enough to Callisto to gather new data that could shed light on the puzzle….

(17) NUMBER NINE, NUMBER NINE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The Science & Futurism with Isaac Arthur YouTube channel marked its ninth year this weekend.  Its first ever YouTube video was on ‘Megastructures in Space’ that came out on September 17, 2014.  To mark this anniversary at the weekend the month’s “Sci-Fi Sunday” with an episode “The Fermi Paradox: Fallen Empires”. In it he contemplated what the ruins of ancient Galactic Empires and the remains of their mega-structures of ancient, interstellar civilizations floating around the Galaxy might look like….

The cosmos seem silent and empty of any great interstellar empires, but perhaps they once existed, and if so, what titanic ruins might they have left behind?

(18) IF THE ROARING TWENTIES WERE SUPER. Today’s ShortyVerse — lots of nice close-ups! Interestingly, a mix of DC and Marvel characters. And an ad for Hulk Chocolate Protein Bars! “Epic Superhero Moments Throughout History”.

Let’s imagine what current movies/series would be like in 1920

[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Mary Soon Lee, Daniel Dern, Kathy Sullivan, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 7/12/23 You Can Scroll Scroll Scroll, You Can Pixel Pixel Pixel, But You Got To Know The Metastory

(1) THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON PERN. As soon as Threads started up, Catherynne M. Valente realized she needed to remind everyone she knows that “Mark F***king Zuckerberg Is Not Your Friend”.

…I’m not even very surprised at how many suspiciously-positive posts and memes I saw the millisecond Threads launched. Or how many big names and brands who’d refused to move to any of the other available competitors, not even so far as to hold a username and a server on Mastodon, the one most usable most quickly, just in case, suddenly had thriving Threads feeds. This is Facebook. It’s been several interminable minutes. We all know how this works. Bots, farms, artificial boosting, algorithms, astroturfing, paying influencers, brands, and celebrities to migrate without saying they were paid. We are not new here. Asking Facebook to not fake engagement and steal data is like asking Canadian goose not to rip anyone’s face off. That is, fundamentally, what it does and what it’s for.

What did surprise me? Well, it’s pretty fucking weird how the launch of Threads, which is ostensibly, you know, a company and a profit-generating service, almost immediately did a sickening costume reveal and became Mark fucking Zuckerberg’s Redemption/Woobiefication tour, and only like four non-Nazi people and one of their alt accounts are pushing back on that because everyone rushed to join this thing with a smile on their lips and a song in their heart a big anime heart-eyes for the guy we all knew was Noonian Soong’s first janky and obviously evil Build-a-Bloke workshop project three weeks ago.

Seriously, have we all lost our entire screaming minds?…

She has assembled acres of evidence about Zuckerberg’s and Facebook’s track record in case you forgot.

(2) BOTH A SPRINT AND A MARATHON. Cora Buhlert is doing the July Short Story Challenge again and she hasn’t missed a day yet: “The 2023 July Short Story Challenge – Day by Day”.

… What is the July Short Story Challenge, you ask? Well, in July 2015, Dean Wesley Smith announced that he was planning to write a brand new short story every day during the month of July. The original post seems to be gone now, but the Wayback Machine has a copy here. At the time, several people announced that they would play along, so I decided to give it a try as well. And then I did it again the following year. And the next. And the next….

(3) QUITE THE VARIETY. Rich Lynch’s diverting My Back Pages #28 is available to download from eFanzines.

The 28th installment of my personal time capsule is a “I think we’re finally escaping the pandemic” issue and has essays involving cheap hotel rates and a very expensive personal boondoggle, big balloons and a small cat, scary rollercoasters and not-so-scary sci-fi movies, notable edifices and ordinary-looking spring blossoms, artificial satellites and a very real sense-of-wonder, a long walking tour and a relatively short drive, a famous quote and a semi-obscure composer, a smart chatbot and a dumb stunt, complex machinations and elegant simplicity, drowsy Worldcon attendees and rousing march music, photos of the heavens and an underground fallout shelter, an extended hotel stay and a brief mountain climbing career, specialized historical research and an eclectic museum, National Poetry Month and The Year of the Jackpot.  And also an ‘Un-bucket List’ – hey, *everybody* ought to have one of those!

(4) THE HOBBIT: COMPARING RANKIN/BASS WITH PETER JACKSON. [Item by Dann.] The first episode of the Cinema Story Origins Podcast Hobbit series dropped a couple of days ago.  Paul J. Hale announced it on Facebook:

This whole episode is the first chapter of the book, the first 8 minutes of the Rankin/Bass Animated film, and the first 45 minutes of Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”.

A big chunk is about J.R.R. Tolkien, another chunk is Jackson’s prologue, but pretty much the rest of it takes place inside Bag End (Bilbo’s house). But I do some extra digging here and there, some stuff about the origin of The Dwarves in Tolkien’s Legendarium, and some extra info and context for certain things.

This is a large project, and I’m already started on Part 2. I have no clue how long these are all going to be. I want these episodes to be meaty on the Tolkien end, and lighter on the Jackson end, but we’ll see… I’m going to try hard to have this done by the end of summer but I can’t guarantee that. I really hope you enjoy this first chapter in the CSO Hobbit Series.

The CSO page for the episode is here: “The Hobbit: Part 1”

The link to the Apple podcasts page is here: Cinema Story Origins: CSO 011a The Hobbit Part 1”.

I’ve listened to the first episode.  Paul opens with roughly 20 minutes of history about JRR Tolkien.  Some of the broad strokes are well known to Tolkien fans; his wartime service, his position as editor of the Oxford English dictionary, etc.  There were a couple of morsels that were new to me.  For example, the first line of The Hobbit originated from a very unusual circumstance.

As with all CSO series, Paul Hale is comparing and contrasting the original book with the movie versions.  In this case, he is comparing the book the Rankin/Bass version of The Hobbit and with the Peter Jackson trilogy films.  While Paul makes it clear that he thinks that making three films for a single book is excessive, he deals with the trilogy films as they exist and not as he might want them to be.  Paul’s focus is on delving into the book and how the film creators interpreted the book.  I believe that he will be only lightly touching on the many elements of the Jackson movies that do not exist in the book version of the story.

The first episode ends as Bilbo is rushing out the front door to meet the dwarves.  The runtime is ever-so-slightly over 2 hours.  Paul’s style makes every moment entertaining and informative.  He sprinkles in audio stingers and other verbal bon mots to keep the presentation lively.

(5) AS FRIGHTENING AS DISCOVERING FIRE. Game Thinking TV brings us an interview with Gödel, Escher, Bach author Doug Hofstadter on the state of AI today”.

Douglas Hofstadter, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Gödel, Escher, Bach, reflects on how he got interested in the mind and consciousness, how he came to write Gödel, Escher, Bach, and why he is terrified by the current state of AI.

(6) HAPPY BIRTHDAY WEBB TELESCOPE! The James Webb Space Telescope today celebrated its “First Year of Science With Close-up on Birth of Sun-like Stars”.

From our cosmic backyard in the solar system to distant galaxies near the dawn of time, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has delivered on its promise of revealing the universe like never before in its first year of science operations. To celebrate the completion of a successful first year, NASA has released Webb’s image of a small star-forming region in the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex. 

“In just one year, the James Webb Space Telescope has transformed humanity’s view of the cosmos, peering into dust clouds and seeing light from faraway corners of the universe for the very first time. Every new image is a new discovery, empowering scientists around the globe to ask and answer questions they once could never dream of,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Webb is an investment in American innovation but also a scientific feat made possible with NASA’s international partners that share a can-do spirit to push the boundaries of what is known to be possible. Thousands of engineers, scientists, and leaders poured their life’s passion into this mission, and their efforts will continue to improve our understanding of the origins of the universe – and our place in it.”

The new Webb image released today features the nearest star-forming region to us. Its proximity at 390 light-years allows for a highly detailed close-up, with no foreground stars in the intervening space….

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1995 [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

Stephen Baxter’s a truly prolific writer, he’s written close to fifty novels now with the Long Earth series that he co-wrote with Terry Pratchett being my favorite work by him.  He’s written essays and short fiction beyond counting. Since there are fifteen collections of his short fictions, I’m guessing that most of it has been collected. 

So what is our Beginning the Scroll? It’s The Time Ships, the sequel to The Time Machine, which was published by HarperPrism twenty-eight years ago. 

It was nominated for a Hugo at the third L.A. Con.  It also nominated for a BFA and a Clarke. It won the BSFA, John W. Campbell Memorial and Philip K. Dick Awards.

Shall we take a look at our Beginning?

The attached account was given to me by the owner of a small second-hand bookshop, situated just off the Charing Cross Road in London. He told me it had turned up as a manuscript in an unlabelled box, in a collection of books which had been bequeathed to him after the death of a friend; the bookseller passed the manuscript on to me as a curiosity–‘You might make something of it’–knowing of my interest in the speculative fiction of the nineteenth century. 

The manuscript itself was typewritten on commonplace paper, but a pencil note attested that it had been transcribed from an original ‘written by hand on a paper of such age that it has crumbled beyond repair’. That original, if it ever existed, is lost. There is no note as to the manuscript’s author, or origin. 

I have restricted my editing to a superficial polishing, meaning only to eliminate some of the errors and duplications of a manuscript which was evidently written in haste.

What are we to make of it? In the Time Traveller’s words, we must ‘take it as a lie–or a prophecy … Consider I have been speculating upon the destinies of our race until I have hatched this fiction …’ Without further evidence, we must regard this work as a fantasy–or as an elaborate hoax–but if there is even a grain of truth in the account contained in these pages, then a startling new light is shed, not merely on one of our most famous works of fiction (if fiction it was!), but also on the nature of our universe and our place in it.

I present the account here without further comment. Stephen Baxter

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 12, 1923 James E. Gunn. Writer, editor, scholar, anthologist. Hugo winner at ConStellation (1983) for Isaac Asimov: The Foundations of Science Fiction. MidAmeriCon (1976) presented him with a Special Committee Award for Alternate Worlds: The Illustrated History of Science Fiction. The This Immortal series based on his novel by that name received a Best Dramatic Presentation nomination at Heicon ’70. Not surprisingly, he won a First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 12, 1933 Donald E. Westlake. Though he specialized in crime fiction, he did dip into the genre on occasion such as with Transylvania Station with a lovely cover by Gahan Wilson. You can think of it as a Clue style novel.  With monsters. He wrote with his wife Abby. On the horror end of things was Anarchaos. And he wrote a lot of genre short fiction, some fifty pieces by my count. Meteor Strike: Science Fiction Triple Feature has three of his SF stories is available from the usual suspects for ninety-nine cents. (Died 2008.)
  • Born July 12, 1947 Carl Lundgren, 76. He co-founded ASFA (Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists of America), and won 4 Chesleys, including Artistic Achievement. At the tender age of eighteen, he was co-chairman of the first media SF convention, The Detroit Triple Fan Fair which featured comics, movies and various things of a SF nature. At Chicon IV, he was nominated for Best Professional Artist but lost out to Michael Whelan.
  • Born July 12, 1946 — Charles R. Saunders. African-American author and journalist, much of his fiction is set in the fictional continent Nyumbani (which means “home” in Swahili). His main series is the Imaro novels which he claims are the first sword and sorcery series by a black writer. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 12, 1970 Phil Jimenez, 53. Comics illustrator and writer. He was the main artist of Infinite Crisis, a sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths. He also did the awesome first issue of Planetary/Authority: Ruling the World, and was responsible for the first six issues of Fables spin-off, Fairest.
  • Born July 12, 1976 Gwenda Bond, 47. Writer, critic, editor. She’s written a prequel to the Stranger Things series, Suspicious Minds, and I’m very fond of the two novels (The Lost Legacy and The Sphinx’s Secret) so far in her Supernormal Sleuthing Service which she wrote with her husband Christopher Rowe.  And she penned the Dear Aunt Gwenda section of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet that Small Beer Press published in the early part of this millennium. 

(9) DEAD AND ALIVE. Animation World Network is on hand when “‘Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead’ Comes to Crunchyroll”.

It’s alive! Crunchyroll has officially acquired the streaming rights for the zombie horror comedy anime series Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead, which began its simulcast on July 9 with new subtitled episodes dropping weekly. The animated series, based on the hit manga series of the same name, is streaming on Crunchyroll in the United States; Canada; Australia; New Zealand; Latin America; Europe; the Middle East; North Africa; and the Indian subcontinent.

In the series, with three years under his belt at the company from hell, Akira Tendo is mentally and physically spent, all at the ripe old age of 24. Even his crush from Accounting, Saori, wants nothing to do with him. Then, just when life is beginning to look like one big disappointment, the zombie apocalypse descends on Japan! Surrounded by hordes of hungry zombies, Akira comes to the marvelous realization that he never has to go to work again and may now pursue his bucket list!

(10) NOT ALL THE BOTTLES ARE VINTAGE. ScreenRant points out the “10 Harsh Realities Of Rewatching Star Trek: The Next Generation 29 Years Later”.

10. TNG’s Holodeck Dangers Were Problematic

While several of TNG’s holodeck episodes included fun stories, there’s one thing about them that never made sense. While it’s understandable that the holodeck would need safety protocols, there is no logical reason why anyone (or anything) should be able to turn those safety protocols off. In TNG season 1’s “The Big Goodbye,” the safety protocols get mistakenly turned off by a probe scan, nearly resulting in the death of an Enterprise crewmember. In “Elementary, Dear Data,” the holodeck computer creates an adversary, Professor James Moriarty (Daniel Davis), who nearly takes over the Enterprise. It makes no sense that Starfleet would put holodecks on their most important ships when such catastrophic failures are possible.

(11) LOOKING GOOD. Okkto has a lot of suggestions about how you can get rid of that money burning a hole in your pocket. They have a page full of “’The Rocketeer’ Officially Licensed Collectibles” that includes this watch.

And artist Scott Nelles offers everything from a pulpy ray gun to this King Kong bank (cast in aluminum and bronze, and weighing four pounds!)

Sand-cast aluminum and bronze coin bank, depicting Kong climbing the Empire State Building. A pulpy and charming addition to your home or office, this coin bank will be a conversation piece and unique accent to your décor. Unscrew the pieces to collect your saved-up coins. Designed and hand cast by Scott Nelles in his studio/foundry in Elk Rapids, Michigan. 

(12) PLAY YOUR CARDS RIGHT AND THEY’LL GET RICH. And Heritage Auctions would love for you to spend even more on these rarities: the Mars Attacks and Monsters from Outer Limits trading card sets.

There are 2 highly controversial trading card sets, that are very sought after today, that I would like to discuss a little about. Today they may seem a bit tame, but back in the 60s these were created by Topps with a pseudonym Bubbles, Inc. so that the company could distance the Topps name with the anticipated uproar that they would eventually create. The trading cards had a lot to do with aliens in space! Have you guessed it yet?….Did you guess Mars Attacks and Monsters From Outer Limits? If you did, then you are correct!

The infamous Mars Attacks was first released in 1962 by Topps via their Bubbles Inc banner, originally named “Attack from Space” on the test prototype launch. The standard 2.5”x3.5” set was 55 cards total in a $.05 pack of 5 cards with a piece of gum. All 55 cards tell a very graphic and gruesome story of Martians attacking Earth and eventually Earthlings attacking back. On the front of each card, there are colorful depictions of a progression of Mars attacking. The backs tell an explanation of what is depicted in the pictures on the front of the card. The cards and the concept were invented by Len Brown.

The drawings were mainly done by Norman Saunders and the story was created by Woody Gelman. It didn’t take long for these very graphic cards depicting Martians brutally killing humans and animals, gory death scenes, and sexual inuendos to create an upset with many parents. The parents were understandably upset because these very colorful cards of horror were marketed for kids. Lawsuits came one after another and Topps worked quickly to sensor 13 of their more violent pictures to be reprinted and dispersed. However, this never happened because a very large suit came forward from the community of parents and halted the production completely. Fortunately, for collectors, this meant the original set of 55 is very rare and valuable….

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Here’s the official trailer for Wonka.

Based on the extraordinary character at the center of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl’s most iconic children’s book and one of the best-selling children’s books of all time, “Wonka” tells the wondrous story of how the world’s greatest inventor, magician and chocolate-maker became the beloved Willy Wonka we know today.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Cliff, Dann, Jeffrey Smith, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jim Janney.]

Pixel Scroll 2/15/23 A Robot In Motion Will Remain In Motion. The Rest Of The Robots Will Remain At Rest

(1) SHORT FICTION MARKET COPING WITH SPAM PROBLEM. Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld bemoans “A Concerning Trend”, the growing rate of spam story submissions. He says regular and spam submissions are both up, but the spam is way up.

…Towards the end of 2022, there was another spike in plagiarism and then “AI” chatbots started gaining some attention, putting a new tool in their arsenal and encouraging more to give this “side hustle” a try. It quickly got out of hand…

…What I can say is that the number of spam submissions resulting in bans has hit 38% this month. While rejecting and banning these submissions has been simple, it’s growing at a rate that will necessitate changes. To make matters worse, the technology is only going to get better, so detection will become more challenging. (I have no doubt that several rejected stories have already evaded detection or were cases where we simply erred on the side of caution.)…

(2) WELCOME ABOARD. On February 16 The View will reunite the cast of ST:TNG: “Whoopi Goldberg hosts Star Trek Next Generation reunion on The View” at EW.

Whoopi Goldberg‘s love for Star Trek: The Next Generation is written in the stars. The Oscar-winning actress held an epic cast reunion for the beloved sci-fi series on The View — and EW has an exclusive first look at the talk show’s transformation for the stellar event.

Airing on Thursday’s episode of the ABC talk show as a special pre-recorded edition, the reunion features Goldberg reprising the role of Guinan — whom she played on The Next Generation between 1988 and 1993 — to welcome her Star Trek franchise costars Patrick Stewart (Jean-Luc Picard), Jonathan Frakes (William Riker), Gates McFadden (Beverly Crusher), and Michael Dorn (Worf) to the set….

(3) VISITING TOLKIEN’S REVOLVER. Tim Bolton is making a fannish pilgrimage: “In the Footsteps of J.R.R. Tolkien – the revolver at the Imperial War Museum North”  at The Green Book of the White Downs.

The first trip, as a “Tolkien Randír” (pilgrim1), on what I hope to be a year-long (and more?) tour of Tolkien-related sites isn’t in fact a place Tolkien visited, but a place where one of the objects associated with his life has ended up….

The Imperial War Museum is free entry. There is a café, shop and toilets on ground floor. The main exhibition space is on level one, where the Tolkien object is. Level one is accessible by a stairwell and also lifts. You can see the Imperial War Museum North floor plans here.

The Tolkien object, the Webley .455 Mark 6 (VI military) revolver, is located on Level One in the World War One section. I’ve marked its location with a Gandalf Rune below.….

(4) RAQUEL WELCH OBITUARY. Actress Raquel Welch died today at the age of 82. In addition to her iconic roles in One Million Years B.C. and Fantastic Voyage, her genre resume includes TV appearances in episodes of Bewitched, Mork & Mindy, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. (And you can talk among yourselves about whether the Richard Lester-directed Musketeers movies, or The Magic Christian, are genre, too.) Late File 770 columnist James H. Burns’ 2015 tribute to her is worth reading: “Raquel Welch: Still ‘The Fair One’”

(5) JEFF VLAMING OBITUARY. TV writer and producer Jeff Vlaming hdied January 30 at age 63. Deadline lists some of his many genre credits:

…With his first credits in the early 1990s — Lucky Luke, Northern Exposure, The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., among others — Vlaming established his sci-fi bona fides with his mid-’90s work on Weird Science and, beginning in its third season in 1995, Fox’s The X-Files.

After X-Files, Vlaming wrote for Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, the TV adaptation of Honey I Shrunk The Kids, Xena: Warrior Princess, Sheena, NCIS, Numb3rs, Battlestar Galactica, Fringe, Teen Wolf, Hannibal, Outcast, The 100 and, most recently, Debris in 2021…

(6) MEMORY LANE.

1987[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Possibly the one of the greatest space opera series ever done was Iain M. Banks’ Culture series. The Culture series comprises nine novels and one short story collection. The first, the one which our Beginning appropriately comes from, Consider Phlebas, was published first thirty-plus years ago in the UK by McMillian. 

(Though calling it space opera really doesn’t do it full justice, does it? So one of the greatest SF series ever?)

I will offer up no spoilers here on the very sane grounds that it is highly likely that some Filers here may not yet have read this stellar series. All I’ll say is that Consider Phlebas is one my two favorite works in this series with the other being, somewhat wistfully, its final novel, The Hydrogen Sonata.

And now our Beginning of both the novel and that series. 

Prologue 

The ship didn’t even have a name. It had no human crew because the factory craft which constructed it had been evacuated long ago. It had no life-support or accommodation units for the same reason. It had no class number or fleet designation because it was a mongrel made from bits and pieces of different types of warcraft; and it didn’t have a name because the factory craft had no time left for such niceties. 

The dockyard threw the ship together as best it could from its depleted stock of components, even though most of the weapon, power and sensory systems were either faulty, superseded or due for overhaul. The factory vessel knew that its own destruction was inevitable, but there was just a chance that its last creation might have the speed and the luck to escape.

The one perfect, priceless component the factory craft did have was the vastly powerful—though still raw and untrained—Mind around which it had constructed the rest of the ship. If it could get the Mind to safety, the factory vessel thought it would have done well. Nevertheless, there was another reason—the real reason—the dockyard mother didn’t give its warship child a name; it thought there was something else it lacked: hope. 

The ship left the construction bay of the factory craft with most of its fitting-out still to be done. Accelerating hard, its course a four dimensional spiral through a blizzard of stars where it knew that only danger waited, it powered into hyperspace on spent engines from an overhauled craft of one class, watched its birthplace disappear astern with battle-damaged sensors from a second, and tested outdated weapon units cannibalized from yet another. Inside its warship body, in narrow, unlit, unheated, hard-vacuum spaces, constructor drones struggled to install or complete sensors, displacers, field generators, shield disruptors, laserfields, plasma chambers, warhead magazines, maneuvering units, repair systems and the thousands of other major and minor components required to make a functional warship.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 15, 1883 Sax Rohmer. Though doubtless best remembered for his series of novels featuring the arch-fiend Fu Manchu, I’ll also single out his Salute to Bazarada and Other Stories as he based his mystery-solving magician character Bazarada on Houdini who he was friends with. The Fourth Doctor did a story, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang” whose lead villain looked a lot like most depictions of Fu Manchu did. (Died 1959.)
  • Born February 15, 1907 Cesar Romero. Joker in the classic Sixties Batman series and film. I think that Lost Continent as Major Joe Nolan was his first SF film with Around the World in 80 Days as Abdullah’s henchman being his other one. He had assorted genre series appearances on series such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Get SmartFantasy Island and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. (Died 1994.)
  • Born February 15, 1916 Ian Ballantine. He founded and published the paperback line of Ballantine Books from 1952 to 1974 with his wife, Betty Ballantine. The Ballantines were both inducted by the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2008, with a joint citation. During the Sixties, they published the first authorized paperback edition of Tolkien’s books. (Died 1995.)
  • Born February 15, 1939 Jo Clayton. Best remembered for the Diadem universe saga which I’m reasonably sure spanned twenty novels before it wrapped up. Damned good reading there. Actually all of her fiction in my opinion is well worth reading. Her only award is the Phoenix Award given annually to a Lifetime achievement award for a science fiction professional who has done a great deal for Southern Fandom. Pretty much everything of hers is at the usual suspects. (Died 1998.)
  • Born February 15, 1945 Jack Dann, 78. Dreaming Down-Under which he co-edited with Janeen Webb is an amazing anthology of Australian genre fiction. It won a Ditmar Award and was the first Australian fiction book ever to win the World Fantasy Award. If you’ve not read it, go do so. As for his novels, I’m fond of High Steel written with Jack C. Haldeman II, and The Man Who Melted. He’s not that well-stocked digitally speaking though Dreaming Down-Under is available at the usual suspects.
  • Born February 15, 1945 Douglas Hofstadter, 78. Author of Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. Though it’s not genre, he wrote “The Tale of Happiton“, a short story included in the Rudy Rucker-edited Mathenauts: Tales of Mathematical Wonder
  • Born February 15, 1948 Art Spiegelman, 75. Obviously best known for his graphic novel Maus which retells The Holocaust using mice as the character. What you might not know is there is an annotated version called MetaMaus as well that he did which adds amazing levels of complexity to his story. We reviewed it at Green Man and you can read that review here.
  • Born February 15, 1958 Cat Eldridge, 65. He’s the publisher of Green Man. He’s retconned into Jane Yolen’s The One-Armed Queen as an ethnomusicologist in exchange for finding her a rare volume of fairy tales. He is very fond of space operas and classic mysteries equally. And obviously he does the Birthdays and currently the Beginnings here at File 770.  And yes, he not only gifts dark chocolate but really likes it.

(8) TINTIN MVP. The Guardian sees a record broken when the hammer comes down: “Tintin drawing by Hergé sells at auction for record £1.9m”.

An artwork by Tintin creator Hergé has set the world record for the most valuable original black and white drawing by the artist after selling at auction for more than €2m.

The drawing, Tintin in America – created in 1942 – was used for the colour edition of the Belgian cartoonist’s 1946 book of the same name.

The book is the third instalment in Hergé’s The Adventures Of Tintin series about the young Belgian reporter and his dog Snowy.

It features the pair as they travel to the US, where Tintin reports on organised crime in Chicago.

At the sale on Friday, organised by French auction house Artcurial, the black and white drawing sold for €2,158,000 (£1.9m).

(9) IRRESISTABLE SERIES. [Item by rcade.] Even though I’m neck-deep in SPSFC 2 reading, I had to take a break and read the sequel to Rebecca Crunden’s A Touch of Death. It’s another well-written story that’s less dependent on the love-hate thing that Nate and Catherine had going in book one. “Review: Rebecca Crunden’s A History of Madness at Workbench.

A History of Madness picks up right where the last book left off for Nate and Catherine, two members of the upper class who threw away lives of easy affluence within the King’s inner circle because they could endure no more tyranny. Actually, only one of them did that with full intent (Nate) and the other was more of an accidental revolutionary (Catherine).

Without spoiling the ending of book one, I’ll say that it left Nate and Catherine in serious doubt of living to see book two….

(10) BACK TO THE TITANIC. AP News reports “Rare video of Titanic wreckage to be released today”.

The sheer size of the vessel and the shoes were what struck Robert Ballard when he descended to the wreckage of the RMS Titanic in 1986, the year after he and his crew from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution helped find the ocean liner that struck an iceberg and sank in the North Atlantic in 1912.

“The first thing I saw coming out of the gloom at 30 feet was this wall, this giant wall of riveted steel that rose over 100 and some feet above us,” he said in an interview from Connecticut on Wednesday, the same day the WHOI released on 80 minutes of never before publicly seen underwater video of the expedition to the wreckage.

“I never looked down at the Titanic. I looked up at the Titanic. Nothing was small,” he said.

See the video “When Alvin visited the wreck of the Titanic” here.

(11) TODAY’S COCKY LAW ENFORCEMENT NEWS. “Faleena Hopkins: Romance author who trademarked word ‘cocky’ goes missing after police chase” according to The Independent.

A romance novelist who engaged police in a car chase in in Grand Teton National Park at the end of January has been reported missing by friends and family.

Faleena Hopkins, 52, is currently listed on the WyomingDivision of Criminal Investigations Missing Persons page. A friend told the Jackson Hole News & Guild last Friday that Ms Hopkins had been missing for 10 days.

Ms Hopkins was confronted by police on January 27 when National Park Service officers say they saw her parked in the road at a junction in the park. Ms Hopkins then fled from the officers in her vehicle, leading them on a 24-mile long chase that ended with officers used spike strips to puncture her tires.

The novelist, who made headlines in 2018 when she successfully trademarked the word “cocky,” is scheduled to appear in federal court on charges related to her conduct in the national park on the morning of Feburary 28. She is facing charges of stopping or parking on the roadway, speeding, and fleeing from the police….

(12) SCARY FAST. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] An SFnal ghost story, The Hauntening, on BBC Radio 4.

Travel through the bad gateway in this modern ghost story as writer and performer Tom Neenan discovers what horrors lurk in our apps and gadgets. In this episode a taxi app offers some unexpected destinations.

Modern technology is terrifying. The average smartphone carries out 3.36 billion instructions per second. The average person can only carry out one instruction in that time. Stop and think about that for a second. Sorry, that’s two instructions; you won’t be able to do that.

But what if modern technology was… literally terrifying? What if there really was a ghost in the machine?

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

Pixel Scroll 3/22/22 Captain Pixel Versus The Winter Solstice

(1) GORINSKY OUT AT EREWHON. Erewhon Books announced today that its founder, Liz Gorinsky, is stepping down as Publisher.

We are grateful for Liz’s incredible work and vision as our Publisher and Founder, and we wish Liz the very best in all future endeavors. 

Senior Editor Sarah Guan will continue to guide Erewhon’s editorial program while leading the expansion of the editorial team in coming months.

Cassandra Farrin, (Director of Publishing and Production) and Martin Cahill (Marketing and Publicity Manager) will continue in their roles. 

Erewhon Books would like to take this time to recognize several new additions to the team:

Viengsamai Fetters (they/them) has joined the team as our new Editorial Assistant. 

Kasie Griffitts (she/her) has joined as our new Sales Associate.

Gorinsky tweeted:

Gorinsky also tweeted today:

(2) WRITER BEWARE HAS MOVED. Victoria Strauss explains the reason there is “A New Home For the Writer Beware Blog”.

… After many years on the Blogger platform, we have finally transitioned to WordPress, which offers much greater flexibility in terms of design, control, and ease of use.

We also have a new, easy to remember web address: writerbeware.blog.

I’ve been dissatisfied with Blogger for a while now. I’m not a web developer, but I’m not helpless, either; I maintain the Writer Beware website on the SFWA site, and I built and maintain two additional websites, my own and another for an organization my husband is part of. But every time I thought about moving to a new platform, the size of the challenge just seemed too daunting. How would I transfer hundreds of posts, not to mention the thousands of comments and images that go with them? What about all the non-working inbound links the move would create? Links wouldn’t be a problem if I just started fresh on a brand-new WordPress site–but then the blog would exist on two platforms, with two different web addresses. And what about WB’s thousands of followers and subscribers?

The turning point came last summer, when the only email subscription widget supported by Blogger discontinued service. If people couldn’t subscribe to the WB blog, there was just no reason to remain on Blogger…. 

(3) RESISTANCE. Eugen Bacon discusses the process of “Finding Me: Towards Self-Actualization in Writing” at the SFWA Blog.

I read Maurice Broaddus’s “Black Joy and Afrofuturism for Young Readers,” which heartens us to be present, fully and joyfully, not just for ourselves but for our children, our new adults, and our future generations. He dares that we find unapology for being, that ours becomes an everyday commitment to a joyful resistance against carefully charted devices of oppression.

That reading nudged an inward gaze at my own writing, and I saw its trajectory:

  • Please, let me…
  • I am Black…
  • I am here.

(4) SANDERSON KICKSTARTER. Checked the ticker on the Brandon Sanderson Kickstarter today. It is still spinning like mad, and flew past $31,759,250 while I was copying the number. Still nine days to go: “Surprise! Four Secret Novels by Brandon Sanderson by Dragonsteel Entertainment”.

(5) TAFF ITINERARY TENTATIVELY JELLING. Michael J. “Orange Mike” Lowrey will finally get his Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund trip this year. This is what he’s mapped out so far:

It looks like (unlike the “lost voyage” of 2020) Spain will not be part of my 2020/2022 TAFF delegate voyage. So:

Starting at the Eurocon/Luxcon, popping over to Poland for visits in a couple of places (Warsaw and Silesia), to England for Eastercon/Reclamation, from there to visit Sverifans in Uppsala and Malmö. If I haven’t overstayed my welcome in the U.K., I could return from Sweden and spend a few days in the U.K., maybe actually SEE Scotland and Scotfen in their native habitat? I don’t HAVE to be back in the States until 6 a.m. May 2….

(6) AIDING UKRAINE. Sales of Building a Better Future, edited by David Flin, will help raise money for charity. Contributing author Alex Wallace explains: “I am proud to say that a group of online alternate history fans (myself included) came together to put together an anthology, Building a Better Futureall proceeds of which go the British charity Disaster Emergency Commission’s Ukraine Humanitarian Aid Appeal. My short story Our Lady of Guidance, is among the stories therein.” 

Following the start of the tragic events in Ukraine, a group of historical writers on an Internet forum discussed what they could do to help. The feeling of helplessness in the face of the man-made tragedy was palpable. We considered many options, each less practical than the previous one.

Then, someone had an idea. We were writers. We should write a book, an anthology, with proceeds going to help with the rebuilding of Ukraine.

From that, things flowed quickly. The theme of rebuilding became adopted: “Building a Better Future.”

That’s what you’re holding in your hands. The product of a group of historical writers trying to do something to help the people of Ukraine.

(7) WHAT WAS YOUR NEXT IDEA? James Davis Nicoll ticks off “Five SFF Stories In Which the Best-Laid Plans Are Thwarted” at Tor.com.

Who among us has not been betrayed by the failure of a simple plan that should have worked? One sets out to collect firewood, only to be suddenly concussed; one tries to kill time with a round of cards, only to crush four of one’s own phalanges; one seeks the comfort of restful sleep, only wake with a mysterious deep incision down one’s abdomen. It’s not just me—this seems to be a perverse tendency of the universe: I see it in the news and I see it in what I read. Consider these five SFF tales in which plans are thwarted, foiled, and frustrated by circumstance…

(8) STAR TREK, THE NEXT REGENERATION. Another fun read, this time about how the sausage gets made: “‘Is This a Joke?’ How a Classic ‘Star Trek’ Episode Broke the Rules of the Franchise” in The Hollywood Reporter.

… Unfortunately, Braga was largely on his own when it came to the second most difficult thing about writing the episode: The briefing room scene. Here, Geordi (LeVar Burton) explains to his shipmates that they are caught in a very Trek-ian “temporal causality loop.” Ironically, Braga found himself in a time loop of his own, rewriting the scene over and over again.

“It was my first big ‘technobabble’ scene, so it couldn’t just sound cool. It had to sound plausible. It had to resolve all the clues that had been accumulating,” says Braga. “In addition to all the explaining, you have to bring your own voice to it, too. You try to pepper in some cool or shocking moments, like when Picard asks how long we have been in the loop and Geordi responds with something like ‘it could be years.’ But Piller had me rewrite that scene so many times. I remember over Christmas break of that year, I was working on that scene.”…

(9) I CAN TELL BY YOUR OUTFIT. At CrimeReads Matthew Lyons recommends horror novels set in the American West: “Black Sunset: New Essential Horror Reads from the American West”.

…Stories about the American West have always been rife with scares and horrors sure to delight and repulse even the most hardened of horror fans, from pulpy matinee fare like Billy the Kid Vs. Dracula to literary classics like Blood Meridian, but by taking what works and leaving what doesn’t, writers today are riding into the sunset with some of the most breathtaking and terrifying fiction in recent memory….

(10) WILLIAM A. JOHNSON (1956-2022.) Writing as Bill Johnson, he won a Hugo Award in 1998 for his novella, “We Will Drink a Fish Together” which was also a Nebula nominee. His stories were published in The Year’s Best Science Fiction several times. The family obituary is here.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1995 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-seven years ago on FOX, the Sliders series first aired on this evening. Created by Tracy Tormé and Robert K. Weiss, it would air on that network for three years before moving to Sci Fi for another two years. As a consequence of that it was first produced in Vancouver before being finally being so done in Los Angeles. 

Befitting a cross-time series,  it had an expansive cast led by the brothers of Jerry and Charlie  O’Connell along with Cleavant Derricks, Sabrina Lloyd, John Rhys-Davies, Kari Wuhrer, Robert Floyd and Tembi Locke with Derricks being the only cast member to stay with the series throughout its entire run.

There has also been gossip among Martin fans that this series was inspired by George R.R. Martin’s 1992 ABC pilot Doorways but everyone involved said that was not true. 

So how was the reception at the time? Not good. The Los Angeles Time was typical when it said “Now comes ‘Sliders,’ a banal bore of a mishmash adventure series starring Jerry O’Connell as a genius grad student named Quinn Mallory, who discovers a way to visit parallel Earths by whooshing himself through a space portal known as a ‘wormhole.’ It beats studying.”  

It does get a rather excellent sixty-four percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 22, 1911 Raymond Z. Gallun. An early SF pulp writer who helped the genre to become popular. “Old Faithful” published in Astounding (December 1934) was his first story and led to a series of that name. “The Menace from Mercury,” a story published in the Summer 1932 issue of Wonder Stories Quarterly, was penned from a suggestion by Futurian John Michel and is considered famous among fans. His first published novel, People Minus X, didn’t appeared until 1957, followed by The Planet Strappers four years later. You can get all of his fiction at the usual suspects. (Died 1994.)
  • Born March 22, 1930 Stephen Sondheim. Several of his works were of a fantastical nature including Into The Woods which mines deeply both Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault for its source material. And there’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street which is damn fun even if it isn’t genre. (Died 2021.) 
  • Born March 22, 1931 William Shatner, 91. Happy Birthday Bill! Ok that was short. We all know he was Captain Kirk, but how many of us watched him as Jeff Cable on the rather fun Barbary Coast series? I did. It was really, really bad acting on his part though. Or that he was The Storyteller in children’s series called A Twist of The Tale? I was I surprised to discover that T.J. Hooker ran for ninety episodes! 
  • Born March 22, 1946 Rudy Rucker, 76. He’s certainly best known for the Ware Tetralogy, the first two of which, Software and Wetware, each won the Philip K. Dick Award. Though not genre, I do recommend As Above, So Below: A Novel of Peter Bruegel.
  • Born March 22, 1950 Mary Tamm. She’s remembered for her role as Romana as the Companion to the Fourth Doctor in “The Key to Time” storyline. It seemed liked she was there longer only because another actress, Lalla Ward, played her in the following season and she looked a lot like her. Ward was soon to be married to Tom Baker.  She also appears briefly in the 20th Anniversary special The Five Doctors through the reuse of footage from the uncompleted story Shada that Douglas Adams wrote. Tamm had only one other genre gig as Ginny in the “Luau” story part of the Tales That Witness Madness film. (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 22, 1969 Alex Irvine, 53. I strongly recommend One King, One Soldier, his offbeat Arthurian novel, and The Narrows, about a WW II Detroit golem factory where fantasy tropes get a severe trouncing. A Scattering of Jades, which won a International Horror Guild Award, is well worth reading.  He also wrote The Vertigo Encyclopedia which was an in-house project so, as he told me back then, DC delivered him one copy of every Vertigo title they had sitting in the warehouse which was a lot.  For research purposes, of course. It came in a very, very large crate. And he’s written a fair number of comics, major and minor houses alike.  His newest novel, Anthropocene Rag, sounds very intriguing. Has anyone read it? 

(13) HE SAYS IT’S BUNK. “Hugh Who? Grant dismisses reports he will be the next Doctor” reports the Guardian.

… Grant had played the Doctor in a Comic Relief special in 1999. He was offered the role in 2004, but turned it down.

Whittaker announced in 2021 that she would not play the Doctor again after three special episodes due to air later this year, meaning a vacancy has arisen.

However, in response to a Guardian article about his potential new role, Grant tweeted: “Nothing against Dr W but I’m not. No idea where the story came from.”…

Filers were not shocked to learn that a news item that first appeared in the Mirror was cracked.

(14) THE GIRL WHO WASN’T WEDNESDAY. Entertainment Weekly reports “Christina Ricci joins Addams Family show Wednesday as new character”.

Immortal souls (and mortal ones too), rejoice! Christina Ricci has joined the cast of Wednesday, Netflix’s upcoming live-action series based on the beloved Addams Family character.

The actress, who played Wednesday Addams in the 1991 Addams Family film and its 1993 sequel, will portray an “exciting new character” this time around — in other words, not a grown-up Wednesday. Details are being kept under wraps, though we know Ricci will be a series regular….

(15) PORTAL OPENING AT PRIME. SlashFilm’s B.J. Colangelo marks her calendar: “J.K. Simmons-Led Sci-Fi Series Night Sky Sets May Release Date On Prime Video”.

After spending the last two years mostly staring at the same four walls and continuing to carve out a perfect bottom-shaped dent in my living room couch, there are few things that sound more appealing than getting the opportunity to explore the limitless possibilities of time and space. Starring J.K. Simmons and Sissy Spacek, Prime Video’s “Night Sky” (formerly known as “Lightyears”) features the duo as Franklin and Irene York, a couple who discover a passageway in their backyard that leads to a distant planet. The Yorks have enjoyed their secret for years, but when a mysterious young man (Chai Hansen of “The Newsreader” fame) arrives out of nowhere, the Yorks realize that their unexplainable passageway may be part of an even bigger mystery than they ever thought fathomable.

The new eight-part series will hit the Prime Video streaming platform globally on Friday, May 20, 2022. All eight episodes will be available simultaneously, so we can all spend our weekend binging J.K. Simmons and Sissy Spacek’s adventures through time and space….

(16) CONTINUED NEXT UNIVERSE. Guardian reviewer Charles Bramesco shares his mixed verdict on Michelle Yeoh’s new movie: “Everything Everywhere All At Once review – ambitious, exhausting trip to the multiverse”.

… Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh, unstoppable), a Chinese American immigrant/laundromat owner/last hope for all existence, slingshots between realities with the raw kinetic energy of a boulder launched by a trebuchet. Sometimes, she need only open a door to find herself in another iteration of her life, or walk backward through bushes, or tap the Bluetooth-earpiece-looking gizmos an ally gives her. …

(17) ON STAGE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Suzi Feay reviews After The End by Dennis Kelly, a post-apocalyptic play  performed at the Stratford East Theatre (“After The End” – Stratford East) through March 26.

“Very strong language, nudity…violence and sexual violence”–since there are only two characters in Dennis Kelly’s After The End, the caveats constitute spoilers.  Louise regains consciousness after a nuclear explosion to find herself safe in an underground bunker belonging to Mark, a work colleague.  Outside, she was popular and ambitious, and he was the office dolt:  dull, friendless, and pedantic.  No one more sociable would have built a fallout shelter to begin with.  They have two weeks to ensure each other before it’s safe to emerge.

Sweary Louise (a pugnacious Amaka Okafor) has never checked her social privilege; being forced to get along with someone she has hitherto despised may prove character-building.  Mark (Nick Blood), thrilled at his unexpected access to the office princess, chivalrously takes the top bunk but his obsequiousness turns sour over a fraught game of Dungeons and Dragons.  Locked within four oppressive walls, their makeshift alliance of hobbit and elf disintegrates into a battle for control.

(18) SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST. Jeff Foust reviews “Space films at SXSW” for The Space Review.

…This year’s SXSW saw space make its way into the film festival as well. Several films screened at SXSW had links to space, from documentaries to movies that took some inspiration from spaceflight.

The most prominent of those movies was Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood, directed by Richard Linklater (Before SunriseBoyhoodDazed and Confused, among others.) The movie is a semi-autobiographical account of Linklater’s own childhood in Houston, not far from NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center (now Johnson Space Center) in the summer of 1969. The film uses rotoscope animation, like some of Linklater’s previous movies, making it appear like some hybrid of reality and imagination….

(19) C’EST OINK. ToughPigs asks “Did ‘Muppets TV’ Save The Muppets?”

…In 2005 French comedian Sébastien Cauet and French television network TF1 made a deal with The Walt Disney Company which would allow Cauet to write and produce his own version of The Muppet Show, as well as supply the voice of Kermit the Frog for the series. Rather than send the puppeteers to France, the puppets themselves were instead packed up and shipped off, and a team of French puppeteers would perform them instead, later being dubbed by voice actors.

Yeah. They made that. And not just a one episode thing, this abomination lasted TEN EPISODES! That’s way more than the three that Little Muppet Monsters got on the air!

Thanks to YouTube, we have a few clips of Muppets TV available, which I’ll admit I oddly enjoyed, even though I don’t speak the language (besides saying Bonjour and singing the theme song to ‘Madeline’)….

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers:  Horizon Forbidden West,” Fandom Games, in a spoiler-filled episode, says that gamers have to complete “the usual Excel sheet of objectives” for a game that’s ultimately “a child’s fantasy about robot dinosaurs.”  “At least they get robots in their apocalypse,” the narrator complains. “What do we get? Twitter!”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Will R., Michael J. “Orange Mike” Lowrey, Cathy Green, Steven French, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 9/26/21 Gonna Scroll Them Pixels

(1) A COLORADO FAN MARRIAGE. “A Wedding 18 Years in the Making for Colorado Governor”. The Governor of Colorado and his spouse first met at a bookstore in 2003, and a month later went to MileHiCon. They finally wed earlier this month.

Gov. Jared Polis of Colorado gets one question a lot about his Sept. 15 wedding to Marlon Reis. “People say, ‘You know, it took you a while to get married,’” Mr. Polis, a Democrat, said. “But what’s important to remember is that Obergefell v. Hodges wasn’t until 2015. So we really only waited six years.”

Obergefell v. Hodges is the U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage. Mr. Polis, 46, and Mr. Reis, 40, met 18 years ago. Back then, neither imagined he would one day be able to have a legal union. Finding others who identified as L.G.B.T.Q. in Boulder was hard enough.

“It was a relatively small community here,” Mr. Polis said. “There was no Tinder.” There were chat sites and forums that helped connect the community, though. Which is how Mr. Polis and Mr. Reis ended up meeting at Boulder Book Store in September 2003. First came a browse through the sci-fi section, then came dinner.

Mr. Reis, a writer whose focus is animal welfare and L.G.B.T.Q. rights, was in his last year of college at the University of Colorado. Mr. Polis was an entrepreneur with political aspirations; before he became governor in 2019, he served for a decade in the U.S. House of Representatives. At the bookstore, “we just really hit it off,” Mr. Polis said.

By the time they attended MileHiCon, a gathering for science fiction and fantasy fans, a month later, they were falling in love. The weekend-long convention in Denver was, for Mr. Polis, a yardstick for compatibility. “I remember Jared being slightly nervous about it, saying, ‘This is the test to see if we can be around each other a few days,’” Mr. Reis said. “I had never seriously dated anybody. To my way of thinking, it was, Of course we’re going to be fine.”…

(2) HOW FANTASTIC WAS SHE? At Galactic Journey, John Boston and Cora Buhlert profile a legendary editor in “[September 26, 1966] All that glitters: in praise of Cele Goldsmith Lalli”.

Boston, the blog’s resident Amazing reviewer, comments on Amazing and Fantastic in general:

…Goldsmith’s most often recognized achievement is the significant number of excellent writers whom she discovered and who went on to considerable success. The list speaks for itself: Keith Laumer, Neal Barrett, Jr., Roger Zelazny, Sonya Dorman, Thomas M. Disch, Ursula K. LeGuin, Phyllis Gotlieb, Piers Anthony. She also provided a home for David R. Bunch, who had been publishing in semi-professional and local markets throughout the ‘50s, but who became a regular in Amazing and Fantastic, albeit to decidedly mixed reception. Similarly, she was the first American editor to publish J.G. Ballard, who had made a substantial reputation in the British SF magazines but had not previously cracked the US magazines. Lalli’s lack of background in SF before she came to Ziff-Davis may have served her well by leaving her more open than other editors to departures from genre business as usual….

Cora Buhlert sets her focus on Cele Goldsmith Lalli’s role in ushering in the sword and sorcery revival of the 1960s: 

…Cele Goldsmith had only just been born during sword and sorcery’s first heyday in the 1930s and certainly did not read Weird Tales in the crib, but she knew a rising genre when she saw one. So she began publishing more sword and sorcery stories by other authors.

Roger Zelazny is one of Cele Goldsmith’s great discoveries. His first professional story “Horseman!”, which appeared in the August 1962 issue of Fantastic, was a sword and sorcery story. It wasn’t even the only sword and sorcery story in that issue. The title story “Sword of Flowers” by Larry M. Harris a.k.a. Laurence M. Janifer as well as “The Titan,” a reprint of a 1934 story by P. Schuyler Miller, were sword and sorcery as well….

(3) PSYCHOHISTORY’S FIRST PAGES. On Cora Buhlert’s own blog, she reviews the first episode of Foundation: “Foundation enjoys “The Emperor’s Peace” and turns out better than expected”.

… But Foundation? Yes, my 16-year-old self would have killed for a Foundation TV show and indeed she is the reason I watched and reviewed it, because she would not forgive me. But my 48-year-old self says, “Ahem, better leave that one alone and film something that’s easier to adapt and also more suited to modern sensibilities.” Because Foundation is less a novel or several, but a series of interconnected short stories from the 1940s, which span a period of 500 years and have no continuing characters except for Hari Seldon’s wisdom dispensing hologram (and Daneel, if you want to include him). Worse, the characters that make up the cast of the individual stories are rather underdeveloped and not particularly memorable. Also, the first five stories, which make up the first book, are a little dull, heavy on the talking and low on action. All the really exciting stuff, which will leave you at the edge of your seat with your jaw dropping open, happens in books 2 and 3. So in short, Foundation is extremely difficult to adapt, probably impossible, if you take Hollywood’s insistence that their audiences are stupid into account.

But no one wants my opinion and so, after decades of trying, Apple has finally adapted Foundation series for its streaming service. …

(4) VARIATIONS ON A THEME. In case it’s the sort of thing you like to keep track of, Screen Rant covers “Foundation Book Differences: All Major Changes The Show Makes”.

… Gaal Dornick isn’t the only one to have been changed significantly. Salvor Hardin has been gender-swapped as well, played by industry newcomer Leah Harvey, and she’s been reinvented as the Warden of Terminus rather than its mayor. This fundamentally alters the dynamics on Trantor, because Salvor’s role is a military one rather than an administrative one. In the books, Hardin was well-known for his many sayings, with the most famous being that “violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” But Foundation‘s Salvor Hardin feels like a much more action-oriented character, suggesting her role going forward will be very different….

(5) VISIT TO THE LEIBER ARCHIVE. Michael Curtis gives Goodman Games readers a tour of the Fritz Leiber Papers Archive at the University of Houston: “Michael Curtis Visits Leiber’s Legendary Lankhmar Library in Houston”. This is also where Leiber’s Retro Hugos reside. Not sure about the regular Hugos he won.

…In the meantime, here’s a partial summary of some of the things I examined while in Houston:

The correspondence between Leiber and Harry Otto Fischer, the co-creator of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Amongst many revelations in the letters, I discovered Fischer had plans for another F&GM story he discussed with Leiber but never penned. The story, as Fischer envisioned it, “all ends in a single handed combat with the Mouser unarmed (or so it seems) dressed as a He-whore of Lankhmar against a peculiar foe (axman deluxe).” Am I the only one who wishes I could read a story featuring the Gray Mouser dressed as a gigolo fighting a maniacal axe-wielding warrior empty-handed?…

(6) RETURN TO SENDER OF THE JEDI. An opinion piece published by Scientific American seeks to persuade readers “Why the Term ‘JEDI’ Is Problematic for Describing Programs That Promote Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion”.

The acronym “JEDI” has become a popular term for branding academic committees and labeling STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine) initiatives focused on social justice issues. Used in this context, JEDI stands for “justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.” In recent years, this acronym has been employed by a growing number of prominent institutions and organizations, including the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. At first glance, JEDI may simply appear to be an elegant way to explicitly build “justice” into the more common formula of “DEI” (an abbreviation for “diversity, equity and inclusion”), productively shifting our ethical focus in the process. JEDI has these important affordances but also inherits another notable set of meanings: It shares a name with the superheroic protagonists of the science fiction Star Wars franchise, the “Jedi.” Within the narrative world of Star Wars, to be a member of the Jedi is seemingly to be a paragon of goodness, a principled guardian of order and protector of the innocent. This set of pop cultural associations is one that some JEDI initiatives and advocates explicitly allude to.

Whether intentionally or not, the labels we choose for our justice-oriented initiatives open them up to a broader universe of associations, branding them with meaning—and, in the case of JEDI, binding them to consumer brands. Through its connections to Star Wars, the name JEDI can inadvertently associate our justice work with stories and stereotypes that are a galaxy far, far away from the values of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. The question we must ask is whether the conversations started by these connections are the ones that we want to have.

As we will argue, our justice-oriented projects should approach connections to the Jedi and Star Wars with great caution, and perhaps even avoid the acronym JEDI entirely. Below, we outline five reasons why.

The first reason advanced is —

The Jedi are inappropriate mascots for social justice. Although they’re ostensibly heroes within the Star Wars universe, the Jedi are inappropriate symbols for justice work. They are a religious order of intergalactic police-monks, prone to (white) saviorism and toxically masculine approaches to conflict resolution (violent duels with phallic lightsabers, gaslighting by means of “Jedi mind tricks,” etc.). The Jedi are also an exclusionary cult, membership to which is partly predicated on the possession of heightened psychic and physical abilities (or “Force-sensitivity”). Strikingly, Force-wielding talents are narratively explained in Star Wars not merely in spiritual terms but also in ableist and eugenic ones: These supernatural powers are naturalized as biological, hereditary attributes. So it is that Force potential is framed as a dynastic property of noble bloodlines (for example, the Skywalker dynasty), and Force disparities are rendered innate physical properties, measurable via “midi-chlorian” counts (not unlike a “Force genetics” test) and augmentable via human(oid) engineering. The heroic Jedi are thus emblems for a host of dangerously reactionary values and assumptions. Sending the message that justice work is akin to cosplay is bad enough; dressing up our initiatives in the symbolic garb of the Jedi is worse.

This caution about JEDI can be generalized: We must be intentional about how we name our work and mindful of the associations any name may bring up—perhaps particularly when such names double as existing words with complex histories….

Lela E. Buis’ response was: “Scientific American Tries to Cancel Star Wars”. She concludes:

…So, this article was rated on Twitter and mentioned in a couple of news feeds. It did not fare well. The obvious problem is that they’re dissing the Jedi, so Star Wars fans are derisive. The films are built on important archetypes and have entered the cultural consciousness of our society, which means they’re pretty sacred. The other problem hasn’t been pointed out very clearly, which is that this is an example of the pot calling the kettle black. Enforced conformity to an ideal? Who’s the absolute worst for that?

(7) TOLKIEN’S THIRD LIFE. Bradley J. Birzer praises Carl Hostetter’s new book, which continues the revelation of Tolkien’s unpublished material: “Book Review: ‘The Nature of Middle-earth’ Reminds Us of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Greatness” at National Review.

When J. R. R. Tolkien (b. 1892) passed away in 1973, he left an immense amount of unpublished writings — much of which consisted of his own personal Middle-earth mythology, known as the legendarium, begun just prior to World War I. After his father’s death, Tolkien’s youngest son, Christopher (1924–2020), became his literary heir, publishing his father’s The Silmarillion in 1977, Unfinished Tales in 1980, the twelve-volume History of Middle-earth (1983–1996), the three great tales of the First Age, as well as several books on various non-Middle-earth mythologies, such as on the Nibelungenlied, Beowulf, and King Arthur.

Amazingly, however, even with Tolkien’s writings taking two adult professional lives to publish, the corpus of Tolkien’s work is still not completely available to the public in book form. Just this month, a full year and a half after Christopher Tolkien’s death, Houghton Mifflin has released yet another volume of Tolkien’s mythological writings. Titled The Nature of Middle-earth, it is beautifully and expertly compiled and edited by one of our greatest living Tolkien scholars, Carl F. Hostetter….

(8) DOUG BARBOUR (1940-2021). Canadian fan, poet and academic Doug Barbour died of cancer September 25 at the age of 81. His “Patterns of Meaning in the SF Novels of Ursula K. Le Guin, Joanna Russ and Samuel R. Delany, 1962-1972,” in 1976 was the first Canadian doctoral dissertation in the field of science fiction.

He also co-edited with Phyllis Gotlieb Tesseracts 2 (1987), one of the Tesseracts series of anthologies containing original Canadian stories.

As a fanwriter he contributed to Ash-Wing and Riverside Quarterly. Also, notes Bruce Gillespie, “He has been a tireless writers of letters of comment and articles for my magazines. We shared many enthusiasms, especially music (classical, jazz, and what is now called Americana), some SF writers, and poetry. Doug was a well-known Canadian poet and writer about poetry. …He did several poetry-reading tours of Australia, during which he met and made friends with far more Australian poets than most Australian poets ever meet.”

 The Canadian Encyclopedia entry about him discusses his accomplishments as a poet.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1987 – Thirty-four years in syndication, Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s “Encounter at Farpoint” opening episode premiered. It was written by D. C. Fontana and Gene Roddenberry and directed by Corey Allen. The series would run for seven years. It was premiered eighteen years after the original series was cancelled. I’m not going to list the cast as y’all well know who they are. The series would win two Hugos, first at ConFrancisco for the “Inner Light” episode, and then for “All Good Things…” at Intersection. The “Encounter at Farpoint” premier episode was nominated at Nolacon II but lost out to The Princess Bride. It currently holds a ninety-one percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 26, 1888 — T. S. Eliot. He’s written at least three short poems that are decidedly genre, “Circe’s Palace” “Growltiger’s Last Stand” and “Macavity: The Mystery Cat”. Then there’s his major work,  “The Waste Land” which is genre as well.  It’s worth noting that Lovecraft intensely hated the latter and wrote a parody of it called “Waste Paper: A Poem of Profound Insignificance”. (Died 1965.)
  • Born September 26, 1941 — Martine Beswick, 80. Though she auditioned for Dr. No, she was instead cast in From Russia with Love as Zora. She also appeared as Paula Caplan in Thunderball. She would appear in One Million Years B.C. opposite Raquel Welch.  She made several Hammer Studio films including Prehistoric Women and Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde. She showed up on Fantasy Island once. 
  • Born September 26, 1942 — Kent McCord, 79. Several genre roles with his first being an uncredited role as a Presidential aide in Seven Days in May.  His next is in Predator 2 as Captain Pilgrim, then he had a recurring role as Commander Scott Keller on Seaquest DSV, and finally being Jack Crichton on Farscape.  Oh, and if you look very carefully in “The Quadripartite Affair” episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., you’ll spot him as the Man in Hallway. 
  • Born September 26, 1946 — Louise Simonson, 75. Comic editor and writer. She started as editor on the CreepyEerie, and Vampirella titles at Warren Publishing. Working for DC and Marvel, she created a number of characters such as Cable and Doomsday, and written quite a few titles ranging from DoomsdayWonder WomanConan the Barbarian and X-Terminators. She’s written a Star Wars title for Dark Horse. 
  • Born September 26, 1956 — Linda Hamilton, 65. Best known for being Sarah Connor in The Terminator film franchise and Catherine Chandler in the Beauty and the Beast series. (I wonder what the Suck Fairy would do to the latter series. It’s on Paramount+ which I subscribe to.) She is also Vicky Baxter in Children of the Corn, and Doctor Amy Franklin in King Kong Lives. She would be Acacia, a Valkyrie in “Delinquents” of the Lost Girl series, a role she would reprise in two more episodes, “End of a Line” and “Sweet Valkyrie High”. She’s currently playing General Macalliaster in the Resident Alien, the Syfy series based on the comic book series of the same name by Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse. 
  • Born September 26, 1957 — Tanya Huff, 64. Her now-concluded Confederation of Valor Universe series is highly recommended by me.  And I also give a strong recommendation to her Gale Family series. I’ve not read her other series, so I’ll ask y’all what you’d recommend.
  • Born September 26, 1959 — Ian Whates, 62. The Noise duology,  The Noise Within and The Noise Revealed, are space opera at its finest. As an editor, he’s put together some forty anthologies of which I’ll note only the most recent, London Centric: Tales of Future London, as it’s a quite amazing collection. 
  • Born September 26, 1968 — Jim Caviezel, 53. John Reese on Person of Interest which CBS describes as a “crime drama”. Huh. He was also Detective John Sullivan in Frequency, and Kainan in Outlander. And yes, he played Number Six in the rather unfortunate reboot of The Prisoner

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) SET AND MATCH. Trekonderoga 2021 took place this weekend in Ticonderoga, NY. There’s a reason for the location, as we learn from a Gothamist article: “Interview: The Star Trek Fandom Lives Long & Prospers At Trekonderoga”.

First of all: why does Ticonderoga have this incredible replica of the bridge of the starship Enterprise? I suppose the answer is “why not?”, but I’d expect to see something like this in Hollywood. Well, here’s the thing. It’s 13,000 square feet, so it’s massive. And as we all know, real estate in Manhattan and Los Angeles is extremely expensive, and this is a permanent attraction — it doesn’t move from place to place. So you’re literally walking into a one-to-one recreation of the Desilu soundstage from 55 years ago. So you have to plan it out and build it appropriately so that it stays in one place. And Ticonderoga is part of the greater Lake George region. We have a very beautiful tourist area up here in the Adirondacks so it’s a great place for it. A lot of people come through here annually and we expect that just to continue to grow.

There’s also the transporter room. Why was this something that you felt like you had to do? It’s more than the bridge and the transporter room. It’s every set that the actors worked on every day, laid out and recreated exactly the way they were when the actors worked on them. So you’re talking about the transporter room, the sick bay, the lab, Dr. McCoy’s office, Captain Kirk’s quarters, the briefing room, engineering, the entire corridor layout. It’s literally like being an actor on a time trip and going back to work on the show. I grew up with Star Trek. I was just enamored with it and never lost the passion for it. So here we are today still celebrating it.

How accurate is the set? Deadly. We worked from the original blueprints. They were given to me by the original costume designer who had them in his possession. We kept thousands of stills from the original series in high definition. We’ve sourced and located hundreds of antiques and antique furniture. We’ve rebuilt every jelly bean button. Everything is laid out, every color, proportionally. Every surviving actor from the main cast has been here, and many of the guest stars. Bill Shatner loves it so much he’s here twice a year.

(13) A WHOLE LOTTA SHAKIN’ GOING ON. “Mars probe records a big hour-and-a-half Martian quake” reports Mashable.

NASA recently reported that its InSight lander — sent to observe geologic activity beneath the Martian surface — recorded one of its biggest quakes yet on Sept. 18. The 4.2 temblor, a quake that would have been big enough for people to feel had it happened on Earth, lasted an hour-and-a-half….

(14) DROP EVERYTHING! Hypebeast says this seasonal flavor was recently spotted in a SoCal grocery store. OMG! “Kit Kat’s Pumpkin Pie-Flavored Wafers Return”.

As summer comes to an end, Kit Kat is bringing back its seasonal Pumpkin Pie creme-covered wafers. Fall is the season for turning leaves, a new NFL season, and a variety of pumpkin-flavored food and drinks such as Nissin’s “Pumpkin Spice” cup noodles and Kraft’s Pumpkin Spice mac and cheese.

While there may be mixed feelings about the flavor of the season, Kit Kat’s Pumpkin Pie is a highly sought-after rendition…. 

Meanwhile, Taste of Home promises “Gingerbread Kit Kat Bars Will Be Here for Christmas 2021”. Makes no difference if you’re naughty or nice.

…The Gingerbread Kit Kat takes your favorite breakable candy bar and jollies it up for the holidays. Instead of the classic chocolate coating, you’ll instead find yourself biting into a blanket of gingerbread-flavored creme. Ooh, yes please! 

(15) EAT ‘EM ALL. A corporation manipulating the marketplace, imagine that. Food & Wine tells why “Pokémon Oreos Are Listed on eBay for Thousands of Dollars”.

…So here’s some news Oreo probably saw coming: Earlier this month, the world’s best known cookie brand launched a collaboration with the game Pokémon, and in true “catch ’em all” fashion, each specially-branded pack was filled at random in what Oreo billed as its “first-ever cookie rarity scheme.”

In total, 16 different Pokémon characters were embossed onto the cookies, with some being harder to find than others. Oreo even stressed that “the hardest to find (Mew) is featured on an extremely limited amount of the total cookies produced!”

As a result, each pack “does not necessarily contain cookies with all 16 embossment designs.” So what’s someone who’s landed a bag full of worthless Pikachus and Bulbasaurs supposed to do? Turn to eBay, of course.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, Lise Andreasen, Bruce Gillespie, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jerry Kaufman.]

Pixel Scroll 8/18/21 Science Fiction Grand Pixel Banned From Scroll

(1) WHEN SHALL I MAKE AN END. Lois McMaster Bujold is one of the authors who answers the question “When should writers return to old, abandoned work?” for The Writer. Can you guess the story she’s discussing? Click through to see if you’re right.

Mood as a factor

Mood can take two forms – the mood of the story or novel you abandoned and the mood you’re in when you try to get back into it – that is, your emotional state of mind. As any writer can tell you, the mood you’re in makes a great difference when you tackle any work of fiction. But let’s say this project’s been gathering dust for several years. Are you charged up enough to take it on? Do you have the right inspiration?

Lois McMaster Bujold, speculative fiction writer and four-time winner of the Hugo Award, can speak to these very questions. She returned to an abortive novella after a seven-year hiatus. In 2011, she had completed 15,000 words on a “high-concept tale” about bioengineering, which she nicknamed Radbugs! Then she ran into a brick wall: “Radbugs, and then what?”

Plot-wise she had drawn up short: “The internal problem was that of making the Radbug bioengineering project central, as semi-realistic science (fiction) – it didn’t have a novella-like time frame or structure.” She considered two options, the first being a story that concentrated more on the research. “But scientific research like that is just a whole lot of tedious back-and-forthing on experiments and data collection for several years until the concept either becomes viable or is proved not to work.” Her second option didn’t seem viable, either. “Letting the story focus instead on some of the human problems encountered in those first 15,000 words seemed too much like another story I’d written. I eventually stopped and went on to other things, thinking I’d finally own a trunk story. But it itched. It was half done.”

In 2018, she was in the right frame of mind to return to it….

(2) FIFTY SENSE. NPR has posted its choices for “The 50 Best Science Fiction And Fantasy Books Of The Past Decade”. I’ve read 17 of these. Which doesn’t sound like a good score, yet is higher than I expected. My favorite book of them all happens to be the first one listed, Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice.

This year’s summer reader poll was also shaped by a series of “what ifs” — most importantly, what if, instead of looking at the entire history of the field the way we did in our 2011 poll, we only focused on what’s happened in the decade since? These past 10 years have brought seismic change to science fiction and fantasy (sometimes literally, in the case of N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth series), and we wanted to celebrate the world-shaking rush of new voices, new perspectives, new styles and new stories. And though we limited ourselves to 50 books this time around, the result is a list that’s truly stellar — as poll judge Tochi Onyebuchi put it, “alive.”…

How We Built This

Wow, you’re some dedicated readers! Thanks for coming all the way down here to find out more. As I said above, we decided to limit ourselves to 50 books this year instead of our usual 100, which made winnowing down the list a particular challenge. As you may know, this poll isn’t a straight-up popularity contest — though, if it were, the Broken Earth books would have crushed all comers; y’all have good taste! Instead, we take your votes (over 16,000 this year) and pare them down to about 250 semifinalists, and then during a truly epic conference call, our panel of expert judges goes through those titles, cuts some, adds some, and hammers out a final curated list….

(3) SHAUN TAN ART. Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book Week runs August 21-27 with the theme “Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds.” The campaign includes this poster by Shaun Tan.

(4) DODGY PRACTICES. Smashwords informed Nigerian writer and editor Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki that they cannot pay him outstanding e-book royalties, because he doesn’t have a PayPal account – which is due to PayPal not operating in Nigeria.

(5) WRITING MODULE. Speculative Literature Foundation’s video interview “Paolo Bacigalupi: Values Fiction” comes with a set of discussion questions.

In this clip, author Paolo Bacigalupi discusses how he writes fictional solutions into the personas and experiences of the characters that populate his novels

Discussion Questions

(1) Ecological message fiction provides a space for authors to imagine inspired, inventive technology for the future. Bacigalupi believes that crafting these ideas for a better life within dystopian settings ultimately creates a more powerful message for his readers. Do you agree? Why or why not? Can you think of any examples of message fiction that are not set within a dystopian context?

(2) The focus on a ‘chosen one’ or set of heroes as the solution to the problems presented in values fiction can be limiting for a narrative’s overall message. Why do you think this would be? Are there any broader societal implications for ‘chosen one’ style-plots? Is there a situation in which this narrative structure would be useful?

(3) Bacigalupi says that writing fully “lived-in”, interesting characters with varied perspectives on the topic at hand is more effective in getting your message across than creating characters who specifically espouse your values. Do you agree with Bacigalupi? As a reader, what do you find you relate most to in the characters you read?

(4) Bacigalupi cites Gene Wolfe’s claim that those who want to write values fiction need to be able to argue all sides of the argument they’re engaging with in order to make their own point as strong as possible. Can you think of any topic in which arguing all sides would completely contradict your own values as a writer? Would you do it anyway? 

(6) ARC MARKET. The return of the sale of of ARCs. From the Wall Street Journal: “Stephen King, J.K. Rowling and Others Whose ‘Not-for-Sale’ Books Are Fetching Thousands”. Andrew Porter recalls, “I sold a bound galley of a Stephen King Doubleday book for $500 in 1984.” (The WSJ is usually paywalled, but this was open to read today.)

“Not for sale,” reads the fine print on the back of an advance reader copy (ARC) of Sally Rooney’s forthcoming novel, Beautiful World, Where Are You, which days ago sold on eBay for $79.99 (with tote bag). Another advance copy sold earlier this summer for around $200—roughly 10 times what it costs to preorder the hardcover. An ARC of Jonathan Franzen’s forthcoming Crossroads was recently listed on eBay for $165. 

Free copies of forthcoming books—in the form of ARCs, galleys and uncorrected proofs—are typically sent by publishing houses to authors, reviewers, bookstores and, increasingly, celebrities and influencers months before publication. The copies can draw a bidding frenzy, especially inside the literary world. One publicist described Rooney’s galleys, along with Ottessa Moshfegh’s, as “almost like trading cards” among junior publishing employees. 

Early, unfinished versions of classic novels have long been collectible, with some fetching astronomical prices. This is especially true for early-20th-century books, when advance copies were rare and tended to be made with higher-quality materials. They can also provide a window into a canonical author’s process—highlighting revisions made between drafts, say—and may include handwritten corrections.

An uncorrected advance copy of John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row is currently available for $35,000; an early version of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea is on sale for $28,000. More recent releases from bestselling authors—such as an uncorrected proof of Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, on sale for $3,000—typically sell for less. And then there’s Harry Potter. This May, an uncorrected version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone sold for over $29,000….

(7) NEW B5 COMMENTARY. J. Michael Straczynski has released another Babylon 5 commentary, on the episode “Signs and Portents”. These commentaries originally were only available through his Patreon page.

(8) YOUNGSON OBIT. Jeanne Youngson, founder of the Vampire Empire (originally the Count Dracula Fan Club), has died reports Nancy Kilpratrick. The Free Dictionary’s article about her accomplishments notes:

…In 1960 she married Robert G. Youngson, a renowned movie producer and historian, and that same year she launched a career as an independent filmmaker, winning numerous prizes as an animator. She also produced medical documentaries, including “My Name Is Debbie,” about the life of a post-operative male to female transsexual. The film is still being shown at Gender Identity conferences in tandem with a Canadian documentary featuring the actual operation.

The idea for a Dracula Club came to Youngson in 1965 while on a trip to Romania. Society Headquarters were set up in London, England, and New York City upon her return; and by the beginning of the 1970s the club had become a growing concern. In the meantime she found it necessary to give up filmmaking to devote her energies to the Dracula and Bram Stoker genres….

(9) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1950 – Seventy-one years ago on this date, Destination Moon, produced by George Pal, premiered in the United Kingdom. It would be voted a Retro Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at the Millennium Philcon. It was directed by Irving Pichel from the screenplay by Alford Van Ronkel and Robert A. Heinlein and James O’Hanlon. It’s based off Robert A. Heinlein‘s Rocketship Galileo novel. It starred John Archer, Warner Anderson,  Erin O’Brien-Moore, Tom Powers and Dick Wesson. Mainstream critics usually didn’t like it but Asimov said In Memory Yet Green that it was “the first intelligent science-fiction movie made.”  Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a mediocre 48% rating though the critics overall give a sixty four percent rating there. It is not in the public domain but the trailers are and here  is one for you.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 18, 1925 Brian Aldiss. Fiction wise, I’ll single out his Helliconia series, Hothouse and The Malacia Tapestry as my favorites. He won a Hugo at Chicon III for “The Long Afternoon of The Earth”, another at Conspiracy ’87 for Trillion Year Spree which he co-authored with David Wingrove. He’s edited far too many collections to know which one to single out. (Died 2017.)
  • Born August 18, 1929 Joan Taylor. Her first genre role was Earth vs. the Flying Saucers as Carol Marvin, and she followed that with 20 Million Miles to Earth as Marisa Leonardo. Her last genre role was as Carol Gordon in Men into Space, a late Fifties series about a USAF attempt to explore and develop outer space. She retired from acting in the early Sixties. (Died 2012.)
  • Born August 18, 1931 Grant Williams. He is best remembered for his portrayal of Scott Carey in The Incredible Shrinking Man though he did have the role of the psychopathic killer in Robert Bloch’s The Couch. Of course he shows up in Outer Limits where he plays Major Douglas McKinnon in “The Brain of Colonel Barham”.  And he’s Major Kurt Mason in The Doomsday Machine. (Died 1985.)
  • Born August 18, 1934 Michael de Larrabeiti. He is best known for writing The Borrible Trilogy which is noted by several sources online as being an influence on writers in the New Weird movement. Ok folks, I’ve not read it so please explain how The Borrible Trilogy influences that literary movement as it doesn’t seem like there’s any connection. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 18, 1954 Russell Blackford, 67. Writer resident in Australia for awhile but now in Wales. Author of Terminator 2: The New John Connor Chronicles, and editor of the Australian Science Fiction Review in the Eighties. With Van Ikin and Sean McMullen, he wrote Strange Constellations: A History of Australian Science Fiction, and Science Fiction and the Moral Imagination: Visions, Minds, Ethics which is just out.
  • Born August 18, 1958 Madeleine Stowe, 63. She’s in the Twelve Monkeys film as Kathryn Railly, and she’s in the Twelve Monkeys series as Lillian in the “Memory of Tomorrow” episode. Her only other genre work was a one-off in The Amazing Spider-Man which ran for thirteen episodes nearly forty years ago. She was Maria Calderon in “Escort to Danger” in that series, and she also played Mia Olham in Impostor which scripted off Philip K. Dick’s “Impostor” story. 
  • Born August 18, 1966 Alison Goodman, 55. Australian writer who’s won three Aurealis Awards for Excellence in Speculative Fiction for Singing the Dogstar BluesThe Two Pearls of Wisdom and Lady Helen and the Dark Days PactThe Two Pearls of Wisdom was nominated for an Otherwise Award. 
  • Born August 18, 1967 Brian Michael Bendis, 54. He’s both writer and artist, a still uncommon occurrence. Did you know he’s garnered five Eisner Awards for both his creator-owned work and Marvel Comics? Very impressive! He’s the primary force behind the creation of the Ultimate Marvel Universe, launching Ultimate Spider-Man which is an amazing series which I read on the Marvel Unlimited app. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater shows a robot leaving an autograph in an unexpected place.
  • Half Full is about a kind of house that I didn’t think needed an energy saving plan.

(12) VOTING WITH DOLLARS. “Tabletop Game Makers Crowdfund New Projects” Publishers Weekly charts the successes.

…Anya Combs, director of games outreach at Kickstarter, says one of the key reasons that 2020 was such an explosive year of growth for tabletop gaming was the Covid pandemic, which forced everyone indoors for months on end.

Last year, the global board games market grew by 20% over 2019, according to DW, an international news and media site. The market research firm Arizton Advisory and Intelligence predicted that board games would see a compound annual growth rate spurt of approximately 13% from 2020 to 2026—a surge driven in part by Covid-related lockdowns.

But to chalk up all of tabletop’s recent success to the pandemic would be shortsighted. Tabletop gaming has been enjoying expansion for years. In 2019, Grand View Research estimated that the playing cards and board games market would reach $21.56 billion by 2025.

“Tabletop has been having a moment for a long time,” Combs says. “A lot of it stems from this retro nostalgic aspect, and many point to Stranger Things and the resurgence of role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons. Tabletop provides a level of play that people needed during Covid. There’s something very genuine about sitting with your friends and sharing in a communal way.”…

(13) PICARD TO ENTERPRISE. You don’t have to wait for Starfleet to issue yours if you’re willing to order it from Amazon: Star Trek Next Generation 2021 Bluetooth Communicator  Combadge with Chirp Sound Effects, Microphone & Speaker. And there are several styles.

  • Presenting the Star Trek the Next Generation Bluetooth Communicator Badge! Since its debut in 1987 the TNG Communicator Badge has been a sought-after future tech we all wish we had. Now available, a few centuries early, connect to your phone, tablet or computer to enjoy hands and ear. The Star Trek TNG ComBadge features an accurate on-screen matte gold with black outline & silver delta plate. High quality ABS & Zinc materials.
  • The Star Trek Communicator connects to all phones or tablets that have Bluetooth (any modern phone) with Bluetooth version 5 for longer range and extended payback time. It features a built-in Microphone and Speaker for phone calls and music playback. Strong magnet backplate so no holes in your clothes! | 2 hours constant music or phone usage / 48 hours Cos-play “Chirp” mode.
  • HIGH QUALITY SOUND | Plays the classic Star Trek TNG ComBadge chirp sound effect when you press it for Cosplay, when you receive phone calls or enable Siri, Google, Cortana or Alexa! With 30 to 300 foot Bluetooth “Badge to phone” range you can keep your phone in your pocket while you make phone calls, listen to music or use voice your voice assistant.

(14) FLIPPER. A pair of Boston Dynamics robots run a complicated course.

Parkour is the perfect sandbox for the Atlas team at Boston Dynamics to experiment with new behaviors. In this video our humanoid robots demonstrate their whole-body athletics, maintaining its balance through a variety of rapidly changing, high-energy activities. Through jumps, balance beams, and vaults, we demonstrate how we push Atlas to its limits to discover the next generation of mobility, perception, and athletic intelligence.

(15) KEEPS ON TICKING. Ars Technica says Ingenuity is still buzzing Martian skies: “After a dozen flights, NASA’s chopper has yet to come a cropper”.

NASA’s tiny Mars helicopter, which has a fuselage about the size of a small toaster, has successfully flown above the planet for the 12th time.

Nearly half a year after the Perseverance rover landed on Mars, the Ingenuity helicopter is still going strong on the surface of the planet. The small flyer has done so well that it has been separated from Perseverance for some time as it scouts ahead on the red planet….

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [By Martin Morse Wooster.] In the spoiler-filled “Old Pitch Meeting” on YouTube, the producer, when he learns that the aging powers of the mysterious beach enables two six-year olds to mature so fast that they have a baby that dies 20 minutes after it is born, says “I could have been a doctor!”  The shocking third act plot twist is SO ridiculous that George makes you very glad you didn’t spend any money on this stinker.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/20/21 Because A Pixel Softly Filing, Left More Books As I Was Whiling

(1) A LITTLE SMACK, BUT WHERE? Andrew Hoe advises about “Spec-Fic-Fu: How to Make Aliens and Robots Fight Better” at the SFWA Blog.

…The prevalence of human-to-humanlike alien combat in sci-fi has even been lampooned in Star Trek: Lower Decks, where First Officer Jack Ransom needs only his barrel roll and double-handed swinging-fist to throw down–good-natured pokes at the limited repertoire Captain Kirk demonstrates when fighting an anthropomorphic Gorn (TOS, “Arena”) Yet people in the speculative fiction galaxy aren’t cookie-cutter humanoid, and their fighting styles shouldn’t be either.

Enter: Spec-Fic-Fu—the art of using martial philosophy to create enhanced sci-fi battles.  

 Primary Targets

First, consider an attacker’s primary targets. What must be protected? What should be attacked? Do your alien characters have the equivalent of Kung Fu paralysis points? Is your robot’s CPU located in its abdomen, making that a primary area to attack?…

(2) WHY AREN’T THERE MORE NOVELLAS? Lincoln Michel’s previous three posts in this series are quite interesting. The latest one is, too, but has definite flaws and oversights. “Novels and Novellas and Tomes, Oh My!” at Counter Craft. (You probably know Connie Willis wrote the 2011 award winner named in the excerpt.)

…So why are most novels published in a relatively narrow range of 60k to 120k words?

Or to put it another way: why doesn’t anyone publish novellas in America? Novellas as a form thrive in many parts of the world. They’re very popular in Latin America and Korea, and hardly uncommon in Europe. Yet it’s almost impossible to find a book labeled “a novella” in America outside of small press translations or classics imprints….

…Three quick notes on this chart. In 2012, the Pulitzer board refused to pick a winner from the finalists (justice for Train Dreams!). In 2019, the Booker co-awarded Bernardine Evaristo and Margaret Atwood so I averaged their page lengths. The 2011 Nebula and Hugo winner was Blackout / All Clear by Jo Walton, a single novel published as two books of 491 and 656 pages individually. Since the two were awarded as one book, I’ve combined the page count.

To be honest, I expected the page counts to be a bit more bloated than they are. Although the average (mean) for each award was in the tome territory of low 400s for the lit awards and high 400s for the SFF awards, excepting the NBA which came in at a longish-but-not-a-tome average of 321 pages.

The chart does add a data point to the anecdotal evidence that SFF books tend to be longer than literary fiction ones. Although the average (mean) lengths weren’t that different, there is far more variation of length in the lit awards including many shorter books below 300 pages.  Between the Hugo and Nebula, only one book—Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation—is under 300 pages versus seven from the three lit world prizes. The median lit award novel was 336 pages vs. 432 pages for the SFF awards….

(3) HURLEY COLLECTION COMING NEXT YEAR. Apex Publications announced the acquisition of Future Artifacts: Stories by Kameron Hurley, the award-winning author and trained historian specializing in the future of war and resistance movements. Her books include The Light BrigadeThe Stars are Legion, and The God’s War Trilogy, among others.

Future Artifacts is Kameron Hurley’s second short fiction collection and is comprised of 18 stories, many of which were previously only available through her Patreon. These stories include:

“Sky Boys”
“Overdark”
“The Judgement of Gods and Monsters”
“The One We Feed”
“Broker of Souls”
“Corpse Soldier”
“Leviathan”
“Unblooded”
“The Skulls of Our Fathers”
“Body Politic”
“We Burn”
“Antibodies”
“The Traitor Lords”
“Wonder Maul Doll”
“Our Prisoners, the Stars”
“The Body Remembers”
“Moontide”
“Citizens of Elsewhen”

Future Artifacts: Stories is slated to be released in the first quarter of 2022.

(4) BALTIC RESIDENCY. The BALTIC, an art gallery in North East England, released its “BALTIC Writer/Curator Residency Announcement 2021” yesterday.  

We’re pleased to announce that Alice Bucknell will participate in BALTIC’s Writer/curator Residency in Alnmouth, Northumberland in collaboration with Shoreside Huts.

Alice Bucknell’s interdisciplinary practice spans writing, video, and 3D design to develop ecological world-building strategies. Drawing on the work of feminist science fiction authors including Octavia E. Butler and Ursula K. Le Guin, she is interested in the potential of emerging technologies including artificial intelligence and game engines in building alternative more-than-human futures.

Bucknell is currently a staff writer at Elephant Magazine and the Harvard Design Magazine, and her writing is published in titles including Flash ArtfriezeMoussePIN-UP, and The Architectural Review. During the BALTIC Writer/curator Residency, she will be laying the groundwork for ‘New Mystics’, a hybrid curatorial-editorial project that draws together the expanded practices of twelve artists fusing properties of mysticism and magic with advanced technology. The project will continue to be developed at Rupert in Lithuania in May and launched in summer 2021.

(5) HE LOOKED INSIDE. Rich Horton makes “A Delightful Discovery Inside an Old Book” at Black Gate. Let’s not spoil the surprise, but here’s a tiny clue:

…I have an ongoing interest in Twayne Triplets*, even though only two were ever published, so I grabbed my used copy of Witches Three eagerly many years ago. But while I’ve leafed through it before, I haven’t read it, partly because I already had copies of the other stories….

(6) Q&A ABOUT EARLY STAR TREK FANDOM. Fanac.org’s Edie Stern outlines what was discussed in April 17’s interview with two founders of Star Trek fandom. See the hour-plus video on their YouTube channel.

In this Fan History Zoom (April 2021), fan historian Joe Siclari interviews Ruth Berman and Devra Langsam about early Star Trek fandom. Ruth and Devra speak candidly about their introductions to fandom, the origins of their seminal fanzines T-Negative, Spockanalia and Inside Star Trek, and how the first Star Trek convention came to be. Hear the first hand stories of the reactions of science fiction fandom to Star Trek, before, during and after the run of the original series. How did fan fiction become so prominent in Trek fandom? Where did slash fiction come from? How did clips from the show make their way into the community? With contributions by Linda Deneroff, and others, along with an excellent Q&A session, this recording provides an entertaining and informative look at the beginnings of the first real media fandom, and how it grew.

(7) ALL IN THE SKYWALKER FAMILY. “Darth Vader ‘Star Wars’ script reveals how huge secret was preserved”CNN says it will be auctioned on May the Fourth—“Star Wars Day”

A script for “Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back” reveals how a pivotal plot twist in the movie franchise was considered to be such a secret that it was not reflected in the lines provided to actors.

The script, which belonged to Darth Vader actor David Prowse, will be auctioned next month by East Bristol Auctions in the UK. The actor died in November aged 85.

Prowse wore the black suit and helmet to play Vader in the original “Star Wars” trilogy.

But it was the actor James Earl Jones who provided the character’s voice — and who delivered one of Vader’s most famous lines to Luke Skywalker, telling the young Jedi: “I am your father.”

However, the script provided to Prowse omits this key revelation and shows different lines in its place.

“Luke, we will be the most powerful in the galaxy. You will have everything you could ever want… do not resist… it is our destiny,” the script given to Prowse reads….

Prowse’s incomplete copy of the “The Empire Strikes Back” script, which is marked “Vader” at the top of each page, is expected to sell for between £2,500-4,000 ($3,490-5,580) at auction alongside other “Star Wars” memorabilia.

(8) SHOOTING PROMPTS ANOTHER LOOK AT BRONIES. EJ Dickson, in a Rolling Stone article reposted by Yahoo!, asks: “Do Bronies Have a ‘Nazi Problem’? FedEx Shooting Shines Light on Faction of Subculture”.

It is a sad reflection of the times we live in that mass shootings in the United States tend to follow a specific pattern. In the hours after a shooting, reporters tend to comb through the shooter’s social media presence, usually revealing a lengthy history of anonymous message-board postings and far-right indoctrination. Following the April 15th attack on the FedEx ground facility in Indianapolis, which resulted in the deaths of nine people including the gunman, there was a slight variation on this pattern: The 19-year-old gunman was revealed to be affiliated with the brony subculture.

According to The Wall Street Journal — which cited internal memos circulated by Facebook in the wake of the attack — the gunman primarily used his Facebook accounts to discuss his love for My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magica children’s cartoon series featuring magical ponies; male fans of the show are often referred to as “bronies.”

Though the memo was quick to state that there was no indication that brony culture played a role in the attack, the gunman posted about his love of a tawny pony named Applejack, one of the main characters of the franchise, less than an hour before the rampage. “I hope that I can be with Applejack in the afterlife, my life has no meaning without her,” he wrote. “If there’s no afterlife and she isn’t real then my life never mattered anyway.” The gunman also reportedly had a history of posting far-right content, such as a meme suggesting Jesus had been reincarnated as Hitler, the memo stated.

It’s important to note that the brony fandom is highly misunderstood, and it is not inherently racist or white supremacist; the majority of members of the fandom are simply fans of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Members of the community have also rallied to raise money for the victims with various GoFundMe campaigns circulating on social media. Yet the shooter’s social-media presence has drawn renewed attention to a disturbing trend within the community, which has been infiltrated by far-right forces since its beginning….

(9) CATASTROPHIC LIBRARY LOSSES. “Wildfire Deals Hard Blow to South Africa’s Archives” reports the New York Times.

Firefighters in Cape Town battled a wildfire on Monday that had engulfed the slopes of the city’s famed Table Mountain and destroyed parts of the University of Cape Town’s library, a devastating blow to the world’s archives of Southern African history.

… the fallout from this fire was also felt across the region after towers of orange and red flames devoured Cape Town University’s special collections library — home to one of the most expansive collections of first-edition books, films, photographs and other primary sources documenting Southern African history.

“We are of course devastated about the loss of our special collection in the library, it’s things that we cannot replace. It pains us, it pains us to see what it looks like now in ashes,” Mamokgethi Phakeng, vice chancellor of the University of Cape Town, said on Monday. “The resources that we had there, the collections that we had in the library were not just for us but for the continent.”

She added: “It’s a huge loss.”

By Sunday evening, a special-collections reading room at the university’s library had been gutted by the blaze, according to university officials. The reading room housed parts of the university’s African Studies Collection, which includes works on Africa and South Africa printed before 1925, hard-to-find volumes in European and African languages and other rare books, according to Niklas Zimmer, a library manager at the university.

A curator of the school’s archive, Pippa Skotnes, said on Monday that the university’s African film collection, comprising about 3,500 archival films, had been lost to the fire. The archive was one of the largest collections in the world of films made in Africa or featuring Africa-related content.

The library will conduct a full assessment of what has been lost once the building has been declared safe, university officials said.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 20, 1848 – Kurd Laßwitz, Ph.D.  First major SF writer in German.  One novel, seven shorter stories available in English; poetry; a dozen nonfiction books; four dozen essays; four hundred twenty works all told.  Eponym – swell word, that – of the Kurd Laßwitz Award.  (Died 1910) [JH]
  • Born April 20, 1914 – Karel Thole. (“tow-leh”) Best known as cover artist for Urania 233-1330; seven hundred sixty more covers, five dozen interiors.  Here is Urania 247 (L’altra faccia di Mister Kiel “The other face of Mister Kiel” is J. Hunter Holly’s Encounter).  Here is Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  Here is The End of Eternity.  Here is The Long ARM of Gil Hamilton (tr. as “The third hand”).  Here is White Queen.  (Died 2000) [JH]
  • Born April 20, 1917 – Terry Maloney. Twoscore covers.  Here is Sinister Barrier.  Here is The Last Space Ship.  Here is New Worlds 50.  Here is the Apr 57 Science Fantasy.  Here is New Worlds 62.  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born April 20, 1926 – June Moffatt.  First fannish career with husband Eph (“eef”) Konigsberg, then flourishing with 2nd husband Len Moffatt: TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegates, Fan Guests of Honor at Loscon 8, Evans-Freehafer Award (service to LASFS, Los Angeles Science Fantasy Soc.), co-editors with me of Button-Tack; First Fandom Hall of Fame; next door in detective-fiction fandom, co-founders of Bouchercon, named for Anthony Boucher who excelled there and in SF.  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation of JM here; mine here and here.  (Died 2018) [JH] 
  • Born April 20, 1935 – Mary Hoffman, age 86. A score of novels, two dozen shorter stories, a dozen collections for us; seven dozen books all told.  Outside our field Amazing Grace was a NY Times Best-Seller (1.5 million copies sold); its 2015 ed’n has an afterword by LeVar Burton.  Here is Quantum Squeak.  Here is Women of Camelot.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born April 20, 1937 George Takei, 84. Hikaru Sulu on the original Trek. And yes, I know that Vonda McIntyre wouldn’t coin the first name until a decade later in her Entropy Effect novel.  Post-Trek, he would write Mirror Friend, Mirror Foe with Robert Asprin. By the way, his first genre roles were actually dubbing the English voices of Professor Kashiwagi of Rodan! The Flying Monster and the same of the Commander of Landing Craft of Godzilla Raids Again. He also was Kaito Nakamura on Heroes. And later he got to play his character once again on one of those video fanfics, Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II. (CE) 
  • Born April 20, 1939 Peter S. Beagle, 82. I’ve known him for about fifteen years now, met him but once in that time. He’s quite charming. (I had dinner with him here once several years back. His former agent is not so charming.)  My favorite works? A Fine and Private PlaceThe Folk of The AirTamsinSummerlong and In Calabria. He won the Novelette Hugo at L.A. Con IV for “Two Hearts”. And he has the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. (CE) 
  • Born April 20, 1943 Ian Watson, 78. He’s won the BSFA Award twice, first for his novel, The Jonah Kit, and recently for his short story, “The Beloved Time of Their Lives“. He also got a BSFA nomination for his charmingly-titled “The World Science Fiction Convention of 2080”.  (CE)
  • Born April 20, 1949 John Ostrander, 72. Writer of comic books, including GrimjackSuicide Squad and Star Wars: Legacy. Well those are the titles he most frequently gets noted for but I’ll add in The Spectre, Martian Manhunter and the late Eighties Manhunter as well. His run on the Suicide Squad isavailable on the DC Universe app as is his amazing work on The Spectre.  (CE) 
  • Born April 20, 1951 Louise Jameson, 70. Leela of the Sevateem, companion to the Fourth Doctor. Appeared in nine stories of which my favorite was “The Talons of Weng Chiang” which I reviewed here. She segued from Dr. Who to The Omega Factor where she was the regular cast as Dr. Anne Reynolds. These appear to her only meaningful genre roles. And she like so many Who performers has reprised her role for Big Finish productions. (CE) 
  • Born April 20, 1959 Carole E. Barrowman, 62. Sister of John Barrowman. John and Carole co-wrote a Torchwood comic strip, featuring Jack Harkness, entitled Captain Jack and the Selkie. They’ve also written the Torchwood: Exodus Code audiobook. In addition, they’ve written Hollow Earth, a horror novel. She contributed an essay about her brother to the Chicks Dig Time Lords anthology which is lot of fun to read. (CE) 
  • Born April 20, 1971 – Ruth Long, age 50.  Author and librarian.  Half a dozen novels, three shorter stories, some under another name.  Spirit of Dedication Award from Eurocon 37.  [JH]

(11) ACTIVITY IN SPITE OF IT ALL. In the Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik looks at the Paramount Plus series No Activity and all the technical problems when it went from being a live-action comedy to an animated series as a result of the pandemic. “The Paramount Plus show No Activity has gone animated for a fourth season because of the pandemic”.

… After all, to make animated TV, actors needed equipment that would normally be at the studio. So kits containing boom microphones, advanced screens and other digital implements were sent to dozens of them around the world, complete with a snake’s den of colorful wires they had to untangle.

“It was a suitcase full of tech with Ikea-level instructions,” Farrell said.

“Actors aren’t usually the head of IT,” said Danny Feldheim, senior vice president of original content for ViacomCBS’s Paramount Plus, who oversees the show.

Hollywood stars decoding Fig B and Input C was only the start of the trouble. Producers and the animation company they hired, Flight School Studio from Dallas, needed to turn around eight half-hour episodes of animation in 11 months to make the Paramount Plus launch. (It can often take 18 months to do that.) The budget also couldn’t grow even though animation can be expensive….

(12) SET YOUR COURSE. At Psychology Today, Zorana Ivcevic Pringle Ph.D. extracts “Creative Leadership Lessons from Female Star Trek Captain Janeway”.

… Captain Janeway’s leadership style is different from other captains in the Star Trek universe. She is more measured than Captain Kirk and less aloof than Captain Picard. She is an immensely successful leader, succeeding in bringing Voyager home and solving problems never seen before. How she did it offers four main lessons about creative leadership.

1. Leading with emotional intelligence

Emotionally intelligent leaders are skilled in four ways related to dealing with one’s own and others’ emotions. First, they are skilled at accurately reading emotions, such as realizing when someone is frustrated or disappointed. They are not only aware of emotions but acknowledge them explicitly. Second, emotionally intelligent leaders help their staff channel feelings, even difficult ones, toward achieving important goals. They inspire enthusiasm and lead by hearing and considering both optimistic and pessimistic voices (or, concerns and hopes behind them). Third, emotionally intelligent leaders understand how their decisions or other events affect staff. And finally, they successfully manage their own emotions, as well as help staff when they are discouraged….

(13) TREK DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKERS. There will be a Zoom panel “Star Trek Deep Space Nine What We Left Behind Documentary Filmmaking with 455 Films and G-Technology” on May 20 from 5:00-6:00 p.m. Eastern. Click on this link to join the webinar. Passcode: 599833?

The production team at 455 Films will be discussing and showcasing the process behind the scenes in creating their recent documentary film “What We Left Behind” about the legacy of the Star Trek Deep Space Nine television series. Come learn how they created this documentary, from start to finish. They will be discussing how they came up with the idea, crowdsourced the financing, obtained legal approvals and contact with the actors and producers for filming, developed the film’s story and content throughout the whole process, and used G-Technology storage solutions during the filming and editing phases. There will also be a sneak peak of the current documentary they are working on for the Star Trek Voyager series. And there will be a raffle at the end of the event for a G-Technology hard drive. 

(14) WORF NEWS. [Item by rcade.] Michael Dorn set all the planets of the federation ablaze with a tweet Monday afternoon.

Dorn played Worf for 272 episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine as well as four movies. But the project doesn’t involve anything for Paramount+, according to TrekMovie.Com: “Confirmed: Michael Dorn’s Cryptic Tweet About Starfleet Return Isn’t For A Star Trek Show Or Movie”.

While Dorn’s tweet about being summoned back into action by Starfleet could be seen as a hint related to his Captain Worf show, or possibly one of the three live-action or two animated Star Trek series currently in development, it appears that isn’t the case. TrekMovie has confirmed with sources that whatever this is, it isn’t related to a Paramount+ Star Trek project.

It probably doesn’t involve a movie either. Go back to your lives, citizens.

(15) RISE AND SHINE. Yahoo! advises, “The Lyrid meteor shower will leave ‘glowing dust trains’ across the sky on Thursday. Here’s how to watch.”

… The best time to glimpse the Lyrids is in the wee morning hours on Thursday, April 22, before the sun rises.

Waiting until the waxing moon sets – about 4 a.m. on the US East Coast – will make it easier to spot the meteors and their dust trains. Otherwise, the bright glow from the almost-full moon (it’ll be 68% full on Thursday) may obscure the meteor streaks.

Head to an area well away from a city or street lights, and bring a sleeping bag or blanket. No need to pack a telescope or binoculars, since meteor showers are best seen with the naked eye….

(16) BEAUTIFUL BALLOON. “The First Flight On Another World Wasn’t on Mars. It Was on Venus, 36 Years Ago” at Air and Space Magazine.

The world was thrilled this week as NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter pulled off something truly novel (see video above)—the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. But if you paid close attention, the precise wording of that accomplishment included qualifiers. Like the Wright brothers’ airplane, the Mars helicopter was preceded by balloons. In Ingenuity’s case it was a pair of aerobots that rode along with the Soviet Vega 1 and 2 Venus spacecraft and flew through the Venusian atmosphere in 1985. The episode is recounted in Jay Gallentine’s lively 2016 history of planetary exploration, Infinity Beckoned, from which the following excerpt is adapted….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. You can speak to a digital Albert Einstein thanks to UneeQ’s “digital human platform.”

On the 100th year anniversary of Albert Einstein winning the Nobel Prize for Physics, one of the smartest minds and most recognisable personalities in modern history is stepping back into the fray. Digital Einstein is a realistic recreation of his namesake, embodying the great man’s personality and knowledge – multiplied by the power of conversational AI and powered by UneeQ’s digital human platform.

(18) VIDEO OF THE NIGHT. In “Honest Game Trailers: Balan Wonderworld” on YouTube, Fandom Games says that Balan Wonderworld is so weird that it has “the deeply cursed vibes of a failed Kickstarter” and “might drive you insane H.P. Lovecraft-style if you play it too long.”

[Thanks to Meredith, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Lorien Gray, Steven H Silver, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, JJ, rcade, John King Tarpinian, Jason Sizemore, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 3/4/21 And All The Scrolls Are Full Of Pix

(1) SPACE OPERATORS ARE STANDING BY. The virtual Tucson Festival of Books will include a panel “Galactic Empires, Murderbots and More!” with Tochi Onyebuchi, John Scalzi, and Martha Wells on Saturday March 6 at 11:00 a.m. Mountain time. Registration info here.

(2) GUEST WHO? “Star Trek: The Next Generation Almost Featured Robin Williams” at CBR.com.

…One actor the show never snagged, however, was Robin Williams, despite the fact that an episode was written specifically for him and the actor’s passion for the series.

The episode written for Robin Williams was Season 5, Episode 9, “A Matter of Time.” The episode focuses on the time-traveler Berlinghoff Rasmussen, a 26th century historian who traveled back in time to observe Picard and the crew of the Enterprise during a crucial moment. Except Rasmussen didn’t come from the future — he came from the past. He had stolen his time machine and was visiting The Next Generation‘s 24th century in order to steal as much technology as he could and become rich back in his own time….

(3) THE WONDER OF THUNDER. Netflix dropped a trailer for Thunder Force, a superhero comedy with Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer.

(4) HARD SF LAUGHS. “Weir(d) Science: PW Talks with Andy Weir” is a Q&A at Publishers Weekly about the author’s neaw book Project Hail Mary.

How did you decide on the level of humor?

I’m a smartass myself, so smartass comments come naturally to me. For me, humor is like the secret weapon of exposition. If you make exposition funny, the reader will forgive any amount of it. And in science fiction—especially with my self-imposed restriction that I want to be as scientifically accurate as possible—you end up spending a lot of time doing exposition.

(5) FIRST STEP INTO SPACE. In the “ESA – Parastronaut feasibility project”, the European Space Agency will try to develop people with physical disabilities as astronauts. (Click for larger image.)

For the first time in over a decade, ESA is looking for new astronauts. These recruits will work alongside ESA’s existing astronauts as Europe enters a new era of space exploration.

In a first for ESA and human spaceflight worldwide, ESA is looking for individual(s) who are psychologically, cognitively, technically and professionally qualified to be an astronaut, but have a physical disability that would normally prevent them from being selected due to the requirements imposed by the use of current space hardware.

ESA is ready to invest in defining the necessary adaptations of space hardware in an effort to enable these otherwise excellently qualified professionals to serve as professional crew members on a safe and useful space mission.

… Because we believe that exploration is the matter of a collective effort, we need to extend the pool of talents we can rely on in order to continue progressing in our endeavour. One effective way of doing this is to include more gifted people of different genders, ages and backgrounds, but also people with special needs, people living with physical disabilities.

Right now we are at step zero. The door is closed to persons with disabilities. With this pilot project we have the ambition to open this door and make a leap, to go from zero to one.

…There are many unknowns ahead of us, the only promise we can make today is one of a serious, dedicated and honest attempt to clear the path to space for a professional astronaut with disability.

(6) AN INCREDIBLE CAREER. Sunday Profile: LeVar Burton on YouTube is an interview of Burton (he’s now a grandfather!) by Mo Rocca that aired on CBS Sunday Morning on February 28.

(7) #ILOOKLIKEANENGINEER . S.B. Divya, in “Hard Science Fiction Is Still Overwhelmingly White—But It’s Getting Better” at CrimeReads, says hard sf is becoming more welcoming to women and people of color as engineering and technology become more diverse professions.

…I didn’t start my adult life as a writer. First, I wanted to be a scientist. I went to Caltech to major in astrophysics, got sideswiped by computational neuroscience, and ended up working in electrical and computer engineering. From the moment I set foot on the Caltech campus, to the most recent tech job I held, I found myself and my fellow female engineers vastly outnumbered by our male cohort. Over almost 25 years in the industry, I have not seen these ratios improve. If anything, they’re getting worse.

The same phenomenon appears in so-called “hard science fiction,” which is another label that people attach to Michael Crichton’s novels. This subgenre encompasses stories whose speculative science and technology elements do not put a strain on credibility. (In contrast, see any fiction involving faster-than-light spacecraft, anti-gravity, or time travel.) Here, too, is a domain whose bestsellers are dominated by white men.

We live in the year 2021, and yet we persist in associating certain jobs—and certain types of stories—with specific groups of people. Engineers are Asian; startup CEOs are white. School teachers are women, and academics are men. Unfortunately, many times the statistics bear these out in reality, too. Why do we struggle to break free of these narratives and associations? Because we have so few counterexamples that are publicized. It’s not that they don’t exist, but they do not permeate our popular consciousness. It takes effort to overcome these associations, whether you fit in the stereotyped demographic or not. Without that struggle, the associations become self-fulling prophecies.

(8) ECHO WIFE NEWS. Sarah Gailey’s new book has been optioned – Deadline has the story: “Annapurna To Adapt Sarah Gailey’s Novel ‘The Echo Wife’ For Film”.

After a competitive situation, Annapurna has successfully optioned the rights to bestselling author Sarah Gailey’s most recent novel The Echo Wife and is adapting the book as a feature film.

Gailey will executive produce the project alongside Annapurna….

Hugo Award-winning and bestselling author Gailey is an internationally published writer of fiction and nonfiction. Gailey’s nonfiction has been published by Mashable and The Boston Globe, and won a Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer. Gailey’s fiction credits also include Vice and The Atlantic. The author’s debut novella, River of Teeth, was a 2018 finalist for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards. Their bestselling adult novel debut, Magic For Liars, published in 2019.

The Echo Wife was published on Feb. 16 by Tor Books, the science fiction and fantasy division of Macmillan Publishers….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 4, 1977 — On this day in 1977,  Man From Atlantis premiered. Created by Mayo Simon and Herbert Solow, the pilot was written by Leo Katzin. It starred Patrick Duffy, Belinda Montgomery, Alan Fudge and Victor Bruno. It ran for thirteen episodes that followed four TV movies. It was not renewed for a full season. We cannot offer you a look at it as it’s behind a paywall at YouTube. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 4, 1923 Sir Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore CBE HonFRS FRAS. Astronomer who liked Trek and Who early on but said later that he stopped watching when “they went PC – making women commanders.” Despite that, he’s here because he shows up in the debut Eleventh Doctor story, “The Eleventh Hour“. And he was also in the radio version of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as well. (Died 2012.) (CE)
  • Born March 4, 1933 – Bernie Zuber.  Original vice-president of the Mythopoeic Society.  Early editor of Mythlore.  Founded the Tolkien Fellowships, edited The Westmarch Chronicle.  Guest of Mythcon XIII.  Active in local (Los Angeles) fandom.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born March 4, 1938 Gary Gygax. Game designer and author best known for co-creating  Dungeons & Dragons with Dave Arneson. In addition to the almost beyond counting gaming modules he wrote, he wrote the Greyhawk Adventure series and the Dangerous Journeys novels, none of which is currently in print. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born March 4, 1952 – Richard Stevenson, age 69.  College English teacher of Canada, has also taught in Nigeria, musician with Sasquatch and Naked Ear.  A score of poetry books, memoir Riding on a Magpie Riff.  Six dozen poems for us.  Stephansson Award (Writers Guild of Alberta).  Has published haikusenryu (two Japanese short-poetry forms, unrhymed 5-7-5-syllable lines), tanka (Japanese short-poetry form, unrhymed 5-7-5-7-7-syllable lines).  [JH]
  • Born March 4, 1954 Catherine Anne O’Hara, 67. First genre role role was in the most excellent Beetlejuice filmas artist Delia Deetz followed by being Texie Garcia in Dick Tracy, a film I’ll be damn if I know what I think about. She voices most excellently Sally / Shock bringing her fully to, errr, life in The Nightmare Before Christmas. I see she’s in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events as Justice Strauss. Lastly, and no this is by no means a complete listing of what she has done, she was on Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events as Dr. Georgina Orwell. (CE) 
  • Born March 4, 1965 Paul W. S. Anderson, 55. If there be modern pulp films, he’s the director of them. He’s responsible for the Resident Evil franchise plus Event HorizonAlien V. PredatorPandorum and even Monster Hunter which no, isn’t based off the work of a certain Sad Puppy. (CE) 
  • Born March 4, 1966 Paul Malmont, 55. Author of the comic strips, The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril and Jack London in Paradise which blends pulp tropes and SF elements including using as protagonists Heinlein and Asimov. He wrote the first four issues of DC Comics’ Doc Savage series with artist Howard Porter. (CE) 
  • Born March 4, 1969 – Sarah Bernard, age 52.  Half a dozen books for us.  Did her own cover for this one.  Has read a Complete Sherlock Holmes, three by Julian May, a dozen by Anne McCaffrey.  [JH]
  • Born March 4, 1973 – Marco Zaffino, age 48.  Author, filmmaker, musician; some for us e.g. Pure Bred Chihuahua.  Things can be unclear at borders (perhaps why those bookshops closed); see this Website.  These Sentries might be ours.  [JH]
  • Born March 4, 1973 Len Wiseman, 48. Producer or Director on the Underworld franchise. Also involved in StargateIndependence DayMen in Black and Godzilla in the Property Department. Sleepy Hollow series creator and producer for much of it, wrote pilot as well. Producer for much of the Lucifer seriesas well and is the producer for the entire series of Swamp Thing. Also produced The Gifted. (CE)
  • Born March 4, 1982 – Maggie Lehrman, age 39.  One novel for us; another outside our field, reviewed by Kirkus as “An earnest high school romp” which I guess leaves ML feeling as I did when someone – who as I’ve said is still my friend – described me as an earnest man in a propeller beanie, I mean what do you want?  Anyway, Website here. [JH]
  • Born March 4, 1982 – Lauren Miller, age 39.  Two novels for us, one other; now working on another as L. McBrayer.  She says “writing and seeing and being.  I have come to believe that there is magic to be found if we can learn to do all three at the same time.”  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) SEUSS ON THE LOOSE. The New York Times’ coverage — “Dr. Seuss Books Are Pulled, and a ‘Cancel Culture’ Controversy Erupts” – includes these interesting sales figures.

…Classic children’s books are perennial best sellers and an important revenue stream for publishers. Last year, more than 338,000 copies of “Green Eggs and Ham” were sold across the United States, according to NPD BookScan, which tracks the sale of physical books at most retailers. “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish” sold more than 311,000 copies, and “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” — always popular as a high school graduation gift — sold more than 513,000 copies.

“And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” one of the six books pulled by the estate, sold about 5,000 copies last year, according to BookScan. “McElligot’s Pool” and “The Cat’s Quizzer” haven’t sold in years through the retailers BookScan tracks. Putting the merits of the books aside, removing “Green Eggs and Ham” would be a completely different business proposition from doing away with new printings of “McElligot’s Pool.” (Though the news that the books would be pulled caused a burst of demand, and copies of “Mulberry Street” were listed on eBay and Amazon for hundreds or thousands of dollars on Wednesday.)

(13) MISSION UNPOSSIBLE. Science Fiction 101 is a new podcast by Phil Nichols and Colin Kuskie: “It’s Alive: Science Fiction 101 first episode!” Their first mission, should they choose to accept it, is to define the term!

In this debut episode, your friendly hosts Phil Nichols and Colin Kuskie first attempt to define “science fiction”. If you want to know more about this thorny subject, check out Wikipedia’s attempt to do the very same thing. Or, for a more in-depth discussion, check out what the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction has to say on the subject.

(14) PIECES OF EIGHT. The latest episode of Octothorpe is now available – “26: I’m Not Even a Single-Tasker”

John [Coxon] is an annoying prick, Alison [Scott] is not sure she’s staying sane, and Liz [Batty] is going to a beach. We discuss all the news from Eastercon, going to Picocon, and then look back on Punctuation before staying sane in the apocalypse.

(15) NOT ULTRAVIOLENCE BUT HYPERVIOLENCE. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Keanu Reeves, who co-created with Matt Kindt and artist Ron Garney BRZRKR, a 12-issue comic published by Boom! Studios. “Keanu Reeves on the joy of writing his first comic book: ‘Why not? That sounds amazing!’”

… To dramatize this “Highlander”-meets-“Logan” fighter during the Boom! introductions, Reeves stood and acted out potential scenes, even flashing some fighting moves — pitch meeting as full-body immersion. The approach was similar to when Reeves first met with Pixar for “Toy Story 4,” striking action poses to play Duke Caboom. “I’ll get in touch with a feeling or thought — or a feeling-thought,” says the bearded Reeves, wearing a black Levi’s jacket and starkly backdropped by a near-white wall — Zoom room as Zen room. “I’ll express it and it tends to come out through the filter of the character.”

“BRZRKR” opens with maximum carnage and minimal verbiage. The creative team promises more textured themes are on the horizon. Discussing the comic’s scope, Reeves riffs until he’s in full mellifluous monologue: “We do want to take on morality, ethics, peacetime, war, violence, whose side, what’s right, what’s wrong, truth, fiction, memory, what do we believe in, who are we, with not only violence but also love — and then our own identities and who we are as humans.” Whoa.

(16) STARSHIP EXPLODES AFTER LANDING. “SpaceX Starship appears to ace touchdown, then explodes in Texas test flight”KTLA has the story.

SpaceX’s futuristic Starship looked like it aced a touchdown Wednesday, but then exploded on the landing pad with so much force that it was hurled into the air.

The failure occurred just minutes after SpaceX declared success. Two previous test flights crash-landed in fireballs.

The full-scale prototype of Elon Musk’s envisioned Mars ship soared more than 6 miles after lifting off from the southern tip of Texas on Wednesday. It descended horizontally over the Gulf of Mexico and then flipped upright just in time to land.

The shiny bullet-shaped rocketship remained intact this time at touchdown, prompting SpaceX commentator John Insprucker to declare, “third time’s a charm as the saying goes” before SpaceX ended its webcast of the test.

But then the Starship exploded and was tossed in the air, before slamming down into the ground in flames.

(17) BY THE SEA. You can read the introductory paragraphs to an article about mermaids here — “Splash by Marina Warner – the rest of the article is behind a paywall at the New York Review of Books.

In l819 the French inventor Cagniard de La Tour gave the name sirène to the alarm he had devised to help evacuate factories and mines in case of accident—in those days all too frequent. The siren, or mermaid, came to his mind as a portent, a signal of danger, although it might seem a contradiction, since the sirens’ song was fatal to mortals: in the famous scene in the Odyssey, Odysseus ties himself to the ship’s mast to hear it, and orders his men to plug their ears with wax and ignore him when he pleads to be set free to join the singers on the shore. Homer does not describe these irresistible singers’ appearance—only their flowery meadow, which is strewn with the rotting corpses of their victims—but he tells us that their song promises omniscience: “We know whatever happens anywhere on earth.” This prescience inspired Cagniard: he inverted the sirens’ connection to fatality to name a device that gives forewarning.

In Greek iconography, the sirens are bird-bodied, and aren’t instantly seductive in appearance but rather, according to the historian Vaughn Scribner in Merpeople, “hideous beasts.” A famous fifth-century-BCE pot in the British Museum shows Odysseus standing stiffly lashed to the mast, head tilted skyward, his crew plying the oars while these bird-women perch around them, as if stalking their prey: one of them is dive-bombing the ship like a sea eagle. An imposing pair of nearly life-size standing terracotta figures from the fourth century BCE, in the collection of the Getty Museum, have birds’ bodies and tails, legs and claws, and women’s faces; they too have been identified as sirens… 

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. It’s “FallonVision” with Elizabeth Olsen on The Tonight Show. “Jimmy Fallon’s ‘WandaVision’ spoof with Elizabeth Olsen alters our pandemic reality”.

Jimmy Fallon took viewers on a journey through the decades of talk-show history while spoofing “WandaVision” this week. Because after all, what is “The Tonight Show” if not the tradition of late-night TV persevering?

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

Pixel Scroll 1/18/21 Big Pixel In Little Scroll

(1) COPYRIGHT ALTERNATIVE IN SMALL CLAIMS ENFORCEMENT ACT. Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) sounds unenthusiastic about the new CASE Act which will apply to copyright infringement claims of up to $30,000 and operate outside of the federal court system: “Legal Affairs Committee Alert: CASE Act on Copyright Small Claims Becomes Law” at the SFWA Blog.

…The Copyright Office will set up the tribunal and determine many details governing its use that were not made explicit in the bill. The bill’s passage is good news in general for creators, but it is not a panacea for pursuing copyright infringement claims. Indeed, for most SFWA members, it will likely be of little use, no matter what procedures the Office establishes. That’s because the copyright infringer must voluntarily participate in the process after being notified of the claim. If the infringer is anonymous or difficult to trace, it may be impossible to serve notice of the claim at all. It also only applies to infringers located in the USA, which means it can’t be used to counteract the vast number of overseas pirating websites.

The tribunal will primarily be used in cases in which the rights holder and the infringer both see the benefit of a relatively low-cost method of resolving their dispute. In some cases, a credible threat of escalating the case to federal court may persuade the infringer to participate in the lower cost tribunal. However, it will still not be cheap. Aside from the fee for initiating a claim, whose amount has yet to be set, consulting with a lawyer to present a compelling case will still be necessary, or at least highly advisable. Several groups are looking at arranging lower cost or pro bono legal advice for these cases, and the law does include an option for law students and student legal clinics to act as representatives.

(2) MORE THAN ELIGIBLE. Nerds of a Feather canvassed its contributors and came up with a high-powered list of sff works and series that should be considered for the Hugo: “2021 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Awards Recommended Reading, Part 1: Fiction Categories”.

…The rules for inclusion were simple–just: (a) meet the eligibility criteria; and (b) be “award worthy” (i.e. good). Given the subjectivity of the latter, it should come as no surprise that the selections on our longlist reflect the spectrum of tastes, tendencies and predilections found among our group of writers. You’ll find selections ranging from the obscure and literary to the unabashedly popular and commercial, and from all corners and subdivisions of the genresphere.

That said, this is not – nor does it intend to be – a comprehensive survey of the field. Some books that are undoubtedly “award worthy,” for example, are absent for the simple reason that we haven’t read them yet. Thus we encourage you to think of this as a list of candidates to consider–alongside others…. 

(3) MACPHEE ESTATE SALE CONTINUES. Doug Ellis has put out Spike MacPhee Catalog #5 – SF & Fantasy Art, Books, Magazines & Ephemera Sale, with over 600 items for sale. It’s part of the Spike MacPhee estate sale of original art, books and other material.

From 1977 to 1989, the Science Fantasy Bookstore operated in Harvard Square in Cambridge. Deb and I hung out there when we were in law school and became friends with the owner, Spike MacPhee. Spike was a member of NESFA and also founded the small press, Paratime Press, which published several checklists in the 1970’s. He was also GoH at the first Arisia convention in 1990.

Besides reading SF, Spike was a devoted science art collector. From the late 1960’s into the 1990’s, Spike attended several SF conventions – among them Boskone, Lunacon, Nycon III, Noreascon, Discon, Torcon and Disclave – where he would often buy art at the art show auction. He also became friends with many SF artists of the 1970’s and bought art directly from them as well. Spike remained a passionate fan until he passed away on November 13, 2019.

The PDF catalog with roughly 250 images can be found at this link until January 24. (41 MB file, 114 pages.)

On Facebook, Ellis has posted an image from the catalog with an interesting history:

Among the art that will be that catalog is this piece, done by artist Rick Sternbach in 1974. It was drawn by him on the outside (left side) and inside (right side) of a pizza box, which apparently had contained a pepperoni-hamburger pizza from Franco Pizza House in Cambridge, MA. As related in the Minicon 15 program book from 1979, where Sternbach was Artist Guest of Honor, comes this: “Yessir, Rick, he surely loved to…do pizza box cover artwork. Spike MacPhee, one of the people living at Terminus (the center of a lot of this activity, and Rick’s hang-out, when he was in town), thought a lot of Rick’s work…and he thought that it was his duty to save all those pizza-box covers…”

Definitely a unique piece of art! The pizza box is now in two pieces, as shown in the scan. Pizza not included.

(4) N3F SHORT STORY CONTEST WINNERS. The National Fantasy Fan Federation (N3F) Short Story Contest Judge Jefferson Swycaffer announced the winners in the January issue of TNFF.

  • First Prize: The Azazel Tree, by Chris Owens, a tale of morality, of absolute good and absolute evil, and one hero who strives to uphold the good, despite the awful cost.
  • Second Prize: The Eternal Secret, by John Yarrow, Heroic Fantasy in the classical mold, a tale that might have been told of Odysseus or Jason, fighting monsters and solving riddles.
  • Third Prize: If Music Be The Fruit of Love, by Jack Mulcahy, a tale of music and love, and how a crisis calls upon us to rise to the level of heroism.
  • Honorable Mention: The Haunting of the Jabberwocky, by Charles Douglas, a truly Carrollian story of wordplay and madness, and how a hero, unarmed, has the greatest weapon of all.

There were twenty-one entries, science fiction and fantasy, mostly from the United States, four from Great Britain.

(5) BE THE FIRST ON YOUR BLOCK. [Item by Danny Sichel.] The Science Museum (UK) has combined their digitized collection with their API and their log of pages that have 0 views to create a web tool that will show each visitor a picture of an image that has never been looked at before. You can be the first person to see an object. “Never Been Seen”.

(I saw a page from a 1780 surgical manual and a seton needle and some 19th-century ebony-and-steel forceps)

(6) GERMANY’S OLDEST BOOKSELLER DIES. [Item by Darrah Chavey.] Of possible interest to File770 readers, since we tend to be bookstore fans. The H. Weyhe Bookstore, founded in 1840, is one of the oldest bookstores in Germany, founded before Germany was a country. It was purchased by Helga Weyhe’s grandfather in 1871, and has been in the family since then. Helga Weyhe worked at, and then ran, the bookstore since 1944. She passed away at the end of December or early Jan. at the age of 98. The New York Times has her story here.

(7) HERNANDEZ OBIT. Lail Montgomery Finlay Hernandez, a GoH of the 2014 World Fantasy Con and the daughter of pulp artist Virgil Finlay, died on January 13 from cancer at the age of 71.

She contributed remembrances to Virgil Finlay Remembered: The Seventh Book Of Virgil Finlay (1981) and Virgil Finlay’s Women Of Ages (1982) (see her foreword here: “Lail Finlay Remembers Her Father”) and was closely involved with the publication of The Collectors’ Book Of Virgil Finlay (2019). 

After her house burned down in November 2019 (killing her musician husband), a GoFundMe appeal was launched to help her and her daughter save what they could of her father’s art and papers. (See Pixel Scroll 11/29/19 The Scrolls of Our Teeth item #5.)

(8) LIGHTLE OBIT. Comics artist Steve Lightle died January 8. Yahoo! News has his profile:

As the artist for the popular comic “Legion of Super-Heroes” in the early 1980s, Steve Lightle made a living dreaming up the future, but his own was cut short by Covid-19.

Lightle, 61, died from cardiac arrest in a Kansas City, Missouri, hospital on Jan. 8, just three days after coming down with what he thought was a head cold and just hours after he was rushed to the hospital.

… Best known for his runs on “Legion” and “Doom Patrol” for DC and “Classic X-Men” covers for Marvel, Lightle became a fixture at conventions, never too busy to mentor the next generation. He came across as larger than life and drew visuals that were just as grand.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • January 18, 1952 –On this day in 1952, Tales of Tomorrow’s Frankenstein first aired on ABC. It would be the sixteenth episode of the first season of the series. It was directed by Don Medford. The episode starred Lon Chaney, Jr. in the role of Frankenstein’s monster and John Newland in the role of Victor Frankenstein. Lon Chaney, Jr. is credited here as Lon Chaney as he was in all his later work. He’s no stranger to playing The Monster as he played the role of The Monster in the Universal Pictures Ghost of Frankenstein a decade earlier. You can watch it here. (CE)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 18, 1882 – A.A. Milne.  Talented cricketer; among his teammates Barrie, Conan Doyle (whose surname is really Doyle, not Conan Doyle, but never mind that for now), Wodehouse. Twoscore plays, six novels, poems, nonfiction, besides Winnie the Pooh (two books of stories, and usually including two of poetry although the Pooh characters aren’t in them), which nevertheless remains great fantasy, seems timeless, and shows we can fantasize princes or piglets.  (Died 1956) [JH]
  • January 18, 1920 Constance Moore. She gets Birthday Honors for being in the 1939 movie serial Buck Rogers in which she was Wilma Deering, the only female character in the serial.  Were there ever other female main cast characters in Buck Rogers? (Died 2005.) (CE) 
  • January 18, 1933 John Boorman, 87. Director who’s responsible for one of the best SFF films ever done, Excalibur with Sean Connery, and one of the worst with that also starred Sean Connery, Zardoz. (He wrote the novel for that one as well.)  He also directed the rather nifty Emerald Forest which Holdstock did a far better than merely good job of novelizing.(CE)
  • Born January 18, 1934 – Hank Reinhardt.  Author, editor, armorer, leading U.S. Southern fan.  Co-founded the first Atlanta and Birmingham SF clubs.  Fan Guest of Honor at DeepSouthCon 19, StellarCon 17, Archon 29.  Rebel Award andRubble Award; Georgia Fandom Award, later named for him.  Two short stories, one anthology, posthumous Book of Swords and Book of Knives.  After his first wife died, married fan and pro Toni Weisskopf.  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born January 18, 1935 – Eddie Jones.  Fanartist who developed a spectacular pro career.  TAFF delegate. Fan Guest of Honor at St. Louiscon the 27th Worldcon; Official Artist at Boskone 11, Guest of Honor at Mythcon 1982.  Did the Knight of Pentacles for Bruce Pelz’ Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck (see here; images and BP’s introduction here, scroll down for Pentacles, they come after Cups).  Eight hundred fifty covers, a hundred interiors.  Here is Vector 37.  Here is the Heicon ’70 Program Book (28th Worldcon).  Here is A Gift from Earth.  Here is City.  Here is R is for Rocket.  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born January 18, 1936 – Rhoda Lerman.  Two novels for us, four others, nonfiction, television, films.  One-woman play about Eleanor Roosevelt.  Cultural delegate on first U.S. delegation to Tibet.  Bred champion Newfoundlands.  NY Times appreciation (5 Sep 15) said “her imagination was eccentric … her books didn’t resemble one another.”  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • January 18, 1937 Dick Durock. He was best known for playing Swamp Thing in Swamp Thing and The Return of Swamp Thing and the following television series which ran for three seasons. His only other genre appearances were in The Nude Bomb (also known as The Return of Maxwell Smart) and “The First” of The Incredible Hulk. He shows up in Die Hard with a Vengeance in a subway scene. No, it’s not genre, I just like that film. (Died 2009.) (CE) 
  • Born January 18, 1942 – Franz Rottensteiner, Ph.D., age 79.  Publisher, editor, translator, critic.  Edited Quarber Merkur (SF journal named for the Quarb Ravine in Austria; Merkur = Mercury) since 1998.  Kurd Laßwitz Prize.  Translated into German e.g. Abe, Dick, Lem, Cordwainer Smith, the Strugatsky brothers.  Fifty anthologies, e.g. in English Views from Another ShoreThe Best of Austrian SF.  Ninety biographies e.g. Franke, Hodgson, Le Guin, Malory, Robbe-Grillet, for Das Bibliographisches Lexikon der utopisch-phantastischen Literatur.  Published eighteen volumes of Wells.  [JH]
  • January 18, 1953 — Pamela Dean Dyer-Bennet, 68. Her best novel is I think Tam Lin though one could make an argument for Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary which Windling claims is her favorite fantasy novel. Her Secret Country trilogy is also a great deal of fun to read. Much of her short stories are set in the Liavek shared universe created by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly. All of the Liavek anthologies  are now available on all major digital platforms. According to the files sitting in my Dropbox folder, there’s eight volumes to the series. They’re wonderful reading. End of plug. (CE)
  • January 18, 1960 Mark Rylance, 61. He was in Prospero’s Books, an adaption of The Tempest which I really want to see, The BFG and Ready Player One are the films he’s been in. He’s an active thespian  as well with plays of interest to us that’s he’s been being A Midsummer Night’s Dream at  Royal Opera House, Hamlet at American Repertory Theater and Macbeth at Greenwich Theatre to show but a few of his appearances. (CE) 
  • January 18, 1964 Jane Horrocks, 57. Her first SFF genre role was Pattern in The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, scripted off the Joan Aiken novel. A year later, she showed up in The Witches, scripted off the Raoul Dahl novel playing Miss Susan Irvine. She voices Black Widow / Mrs. Plum in Tim Burton’s The Corpse Bride, and voiced Hannah in the late Ninties Watership Down. (CE)
  • Born January 18, 1984 – C.J. Redwine, age 37.  Seven novels, one shorter story for us; The Shadow Queen NY Times Best-Seller.  “If the villain isn’t worthy of my heroes, then the story no longer matters.”  Has read The Wizard of OzHamlet, a Complete Stories & Poems of Poe (read his essays too, folks), Anne of Green Gables, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, Gone with the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Blondie has a take on ice cream that I hope is a fantasy.

(12) THE BREW THAT IS TRUE. Or maybe — Eats, Shoots, and Leaves? The Republic of Tea has some specials on offer: “Star Wars: The Mandalorian Teas”.

The Mandalorian and the Child continue their journey, facing enemies and rallying allies as they make their way through a dangerous galaxy in the tumultuous era after the collapse of the Galactic Empire. Sip our exotic, Limited Edition teas on adventures throughout your own galaxy. New Season Now Streaming on Disney+

(13) FIERY METAPHOR. Joseph Loconte considers “J.R.R. Tolkien’s Dragons: Exploration of Good & Evil” at National Review.

For its 1937–38 “Christmas Lectures for Children,” the Natural History Society of Oxfordshire announced forthcoming talks on coral reefs, birds, whales, horses — and dragons. The latter topic was taken up by J.R.R. Tolkien, a professor of English literature who had just published The Hobbit, an immensely popular book involving a dragon. Tolkien’s lecture, before an audience packed with children of all ages, tackled a decidedly adult subject: the problem of evil in the world and the heroism required to combat it.

Tolkien began, disarmingly, with a slide show of prehistoric reptiles, including a Pteranodon in flight, to remind his listeners that “science also fills this past with dreadful monsters — many of the largest and most horrible being of a distinctly lizard-like or dragonish kind.” These ancient creatures, he said, embodied legendary qualities found in dragon mythology. The dragons with whom he had an acquaintance “loved to possess beautiful things.” Greed and hatred motivated them. “And how can you withstand a dragon’s flame, and his venom, and his terrible will and malice, and his great strength?”

It probably was not lost on the children present that Tolkien’s mythical dragons sounded a lot like the people who inhabited the real world. The adults might have discerned a more ominous message. Tolkien delivered his lecture on January 1, 1938. Nearly a year earlier, on January 30, 1937, Adolf Hitler had officially withdrawn Germany from the Treaty of Versailles and demanded that its colonies be returned….

(14) DATA FIGURINE. EXO-6 has created a scale model of Lieutenant Commander Data. Twelve inches tall, $189.95. But do I want that face staring at me from across the room?

EXO-6 is proud to present their first 1:6 scale articulated figure from Star Trek™: First Contact – Lt. Commander Data.

When introduced in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Data was a one-of-a-kind cybernetic organism, an artificial being that wanted nothing more than be just like the imperfect humans he served with aboard the Enterprise. In the film First Contact the Borg Queen gives him an opportunity to be more human than he ever thought possible, yet he rejects that hope in the service of loyalty to his friends and the rest of humanity.

Data is one of the most popular characters in Star Trek, and no other character better expresses the wonder of discovery that is the heart of Star Trek than this android with a soul. The EXO-6 1:6 scale figure of Data will not only embody the hopefulness of the character, but also bring an element of Brent Spiner’s performance into collector’s homes.

(15) GOT TO HAND IT TO THEM. Tadiana Jones and Marion Deeds both weigh in about Garth Nix novel at Fantasy Literature: “The Left-Handed Booksellers of London: Selling books and fighting evil”. Jones’ comments include —

…Nix was inspired to write The Left-Handed Booksellers of London (as he related in his acknowledgements at the end) by a fortuitous comment from a left-handed bookseller in Leith. He pulls on his memories from his first trip to the United Kingdom in 1983 (among other things, he hiked the Old Man of Coniston, a famous mountain in the Lake District) and his past experience working as a bookseller. It was both amusing and engaging as I realized just how many actual British landmarks he has woven into the plot of this novel. And also uniquely British foods — Branston pickle sandwiches were a revelation, and I don’t think I’ll soon recover from checking out pictures of stargazy pie.

(16) BATWOMAN. Did football overshadow the Batlight? “Javicia Leslie’s ‘Batwoman’ Debut Plummets 80% in Ratings From Ruby Rose’s” reports Yahoo!

Javicia Leslie debuted as the new caped crusader on The CW’s “Batwoman” last night, but her start didn’t shine nearly as bright (a Bat signal) as Ruby Rose’s. Sunday primetime was dominated by Fox’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints NFL Divisional Playoffs game, which ended just shy of 10 p.m. on the east coast. Due to the nature of live sports, the below Nielsen numbers for Fox should be considered subject to adjustment. Final numbers are expected later today. The new-look “Batwoman” managed just a 0.1 rating last night in the key demo and 663,000 total viewers. Back on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019, Rose’s “Batwoman” debuted to a 0.5 rating and 1.8 million viewers — meaning last night’s Season 2 premiere was down 80% in the demo from the series debut. 

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Star Trek Beyond Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George says the producers of the third Star Trek Kelvin movie forgot the super blood and Carol Marcus from the second Star Trek Kelvin movie but thought that Starfleet would place a state of the art starbase right next door to an unexplored area teeming with bad guys.

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