Pixel Scroll 9/25/22 It’s Raining Marshmallows! And The Unicorns Are Spearing Them!

(1) STAR WARS AMID REAL WARS. “Darth Vader’s Voice Emanated From War-Torn Ukraine”Vanity Fair details how and why it was done.

Bogdan Belyaev was working from home when the air raid sirens went off. They hadn’t been heard in the city of Lviv since World War II, but it was February 24, and Russia had just invaded Ukraine. “When we heard that missiles were attacking and that our [internet] connection was dropping from parts of our country, we got into shelter,” says Belyaev. That meant him, his wife, and their dog and two cats huddling in the center of their building. “It’s a ‘shelter,’ really in quotes because it was actually our bathroom,” he says. “There is a rule of two walls. You need to be behind two walls. The first wall is taking the impact, and the second one is stopping the small shrapnel.” But for Belyaev, work carried on because he needed it to. People on the other side of the world were relying on him, and the project was the culmination of a passion he’d had since childhood: Star Wars.

Belyaev is a 29-year-old synthetic-speech artist at the Ukrainian start-up Respeecher, which uses archival recordings and a proprietary A.I. algorithm to create new dialogue with the voices of performers from long ago. The company worked with Lucasfilm to generate the voice of a young Luke Skywalker for Disney+’s The Book of Boba Fett, and the recent Obi-Wan Kenobi series tasked them with making Darth Vader sound like James Earl Jones’s dark side villain from 45 years ago, now that Jones’s voice has altered with age and he has stepped back from the role. Belyaev was rushing to finish his work as Putin’s troops came across the border. “If everything went bad, we would never make these conversions delivered to Skywalker Sound,” he says. “So I decided to push this data right on the 24th of February.”

Respeecher employees in Kyiv also soldiered on while hunkered down. Dmytro Bielievtsov, the company’s cofounder and CTO, got online in a theater where tabletops, books, and more had been stacked in front of windows in case of blasts. Programmers “training” the A.I. to replicate Jones’s voice and editors piecing together the output worked from corridors in the interior of their apartments. One took refuge in an ancient brick “basement” no bigger than a crawl space.

Back at Skywalker Sound in Northern California, Matthew Wood was the supervising sound editor on the receiving end of the transmissions from Ukraine. He says that they hired Respeecher because the vocal performances that the start-up generates have an often elusive human touch. “Certainly my main concern was their well-being,” says Wood, who is a 32-year veteran of Lucasfilm. “There are always alternatives that we could pursue that wouldn’t be as good as what they would give us. We never wanted to put them in any kind of additional danger to stay in the office to do something.”…

(2) THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE. Charles Payseur takes up the “Fan vs. Pro” debate about contenders for the fan Hugos at Quick Sip Reviews“Quick Sips 09/23/2022”

… “What kind of fan work should be recognized by the Hugo Awards?” If you answer “the kind of fan work that is underappreciated and deserves recognition” then I’m sorry, that’s not what a popular vote award is going to give you by definition. Already appreciated fans, fanzines, fancasts, and fan artists are going to have the advantage because by virtue of having fans of their own, they’ll get more votes. If you want awards that will seek to award people doing thankless and vital work, you’re going to need a juried award (both steps, too, because even a juried first stage, popular vote second stage is going to probably favor already popular fans).

And I could propose that we get together and create The Fannies (bwahahahaha), but that again is avoiding the question again. “What kind of fan work should be recognized by the Hugo Awards?” Like with all the other categories, the answer is that we should recognize the fan work that was the most popular in a given year. Yes, platform will effect that a lot. Money will effect that a lot. But unless we’re going to seek to correct for wealth, access, and privilege across all the Hugo categories, singling out the fan awards without reckoning with the current shape and state of SFF fandoms is pointless at best. Might as well just say with your whole voice that you don’t think specific finalists or winners DESERVE the recognition. At which point everyone can see what it is you’re really doing….

(3) GONE INDIE. Brian Keene is moving into indie all the way. He tells why in this interview with Bloody Disgusting: “Manhattan On Mars – Horror Author Brian Keene Launches His Own Publishing Imprint”.

BD: What led you to first consider launching an imprint?

BK: J.F. Gonzalez and I had often talked about doing this, but we were both of a generation where making this sort of transition was seen as crazy talk. So we never did. But even after he died, the idea was there in the back of my brain, gnawing and gnawing. And I started watching authors younger than me, whom I admire, and the success they were having making the plunge. Two of them are thriller writer Robert Swartwood and horror/sci-fi writer Stephen Kozeniewski. They were who finally convinced me to make the move. Rob got me to see that with the size of my audience and fan base, it was ridiculous not to do this.

For the entirety of my career, other companies — big and small — have had partial ownership of my rights and my intellectual properties. And these days, IP is king. These corporations aren’t paying for books or films or comics or video games. They’re paying for IP. I want to fully own my IP again. Now, obviously, I’m not talking about the properties I’ve worked on for others — stuff like Aliens, Doctor Who, The X-Files and all of the Marvel and DC Comics stuff. That’s somebody else’s IP and I was paid to play with it. But I’ve got over fifty books and over three hundred short stories of my own. Why should somebody else get a cut of those profits and a share of the ownership when the technology and infrastructure exists for me to produce them myself and get them into stores and the hands of readers?

And I should stress, I have a great relationship with most of my current publishers. But when I reached out to each of them individually and told them this was the direction I wanted to go, they all understood. They get it. This is what’s best for my remaining years, and for my sons.

And that’s what it comes down to, really. My sons. I turn fifty-five this week, and while I’m in relatively good health (despite the misadventures of my first fifty years), I can also hear that mortality clock ticking. I don’t plan on leaving yet, but most of us don’t really get a say in that, you know? Surprises happen. When I’m gone, I don’t want the executor of my literary estate having to chase down royalty checks from twenty different sources, and I don’t want my sons to have to share my intellectual property with a bunch of other people. By bringing everything in house, they’ll have total control over all of that.

(4) CENSORING FOR POWER. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, YA sf writer David Levithan, who PEN America rates as the 11th most censored author in the US, says censorship ultimately won’t prevail and supporters of free expression will win. “Standing up to the new censorship”.

… What I’ve come to believe, as I’ve talked to authors and librarians and teachers, is that attacks are less and less about the actual books. We’re being used as targets in a much larger proxy war. The goal of that war isn’t just to curtail intellectual freedom but to eviscerate the public education system in this country. Censors are scorching the earth, without care for how many kids get burned. Racism and homophobia are still very much present, but it’s also a power grab, a money grab. The goal for many is a for-profit, more authoritarian and much less diverse culture, one in which truth is whatever you’re told it is, your identity is determined by its acceptability and the past is a lie that the future is forced to emulate. The politicians who holler and post and draw up their lists of “harmful” books aren’t actually scared of our books. They are using our books to scare people….

(5) AGE OF EMPIRES AGING WELL. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times, Chris Allnutt discusses a tournament for Age Of Empires II, first released in 1999, with a $200,000 prize and how older games still get big prizes at tournaments.

It is, by and large, older titles–those that have had longer to build a competitive scene and tweak their game mechanics–that dominate the most lucrative tournament rosters.  Data 2 continues to top the table for e-sports prize money, with about $48 million up for grabs in 2021, eight years after its initial release.  Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (2022) and League Of Legends (2009) earned players $21 million and $8 million respectively.  That’s nearly a third of all 2021’s prize money.

As a franchise, Age Of Empires speaks particularly well to the penchant for nostalgia. The series has spawned four games in total, with Age Of Empires IV released last year. But the second game still boasts the higher player count on Steam.

(6) FINAL WRITE-A-THON RESULTS. The Clarion Workshop Write-a-Thon raised $6,713.34 this year. The majority of the funds will go to scholarships for the Clarion Class of 2023. Forty-four writers participated in the Thon this year.

(7) HAVE A CUPPA. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Here is a nice article from Stewart A. Shearer about the rise of cozy fantasy: “Orcs, Coffee, and the Rise of Cozy Fantasy” at Side Quest.

… While [Travis] Baldree wrote Legends & Lattes for his own satisfaction, the book has still gone on to be a genuine hit. Even months later, it’s holding strong in some of Amazon’s most competitive fiction markets. It’s currently the 19th most popular book on the retail giant’s competitive Romantic Fantasy list. It’s also number five in the LGBQT+ Fantasy category.

If there’s one place where its influence has been most deeply felt, however, it’s the realm of “cozy fantasy.”

Inspired directly by Legends & Lattes, enthusiastic readers established the CozyFantasy community on Reddit. Since its inception in May 2022, r/CozyFantasy has added more than 5,000 subscribing members. The community sees hundreds of posts  every week from people sharing reviews, looking for recommendations, and eager to chat about their favorite works from the sub-genre.…

(8) PYTHON ALUM PALIN’S NEW BOOK. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times, Sir Michael Palin discusses his newest book, Into Iraq, which also is part of a series that was broadcast on Channel 5 beginning on September 20.

In September 2019 I went into Bart’s Hospital in London for open-heart surgery (during which a mitral valve was repaired and an aortic valve replaced0, but within a few months I was feeling not only better but bolder too, and looking at my atlas again with a renewed confidence. Before I could rush to the nearest airport, however, the world hit the pause button.  Airports emptied and the world fell silent…

…On a bright morning, we gathered outside the Rixos hotel in the town of Duhok.  “Candle In The Wind’ was playing in the lift as I checked in the previous night, and ‘Hey Jude’ as I sat down to breakfast.  Shielded from the road by blast barriers, we were briefed by James Willcox, whose company Untamed Borders socializes n taking people to places most other people don’t want to go.  Standing beside him was Peter, ex-army, accompanying us as security and medical escort.  No one suggested that he was here because I was so old, but I couldn’t help sensing that he was keeping an eye on me.  I, in turn, was determined to pretend I was 29, not 78.

If you want a signed copy, Palin will happily send you one through his website.

(9) TOM MADDOX HEALTH UPDATE. Tom Maddox’s wife Mary told his Facebook followers he’s had a stroke:

Tom is in the hospital (ICU) after having a severe stroke. He is unconcious and may not wake up the doctors say at present. The doctor told me if he lives he will go to a nursing home for critical care. I am beyond grief stricken and am going everyday to the hospital and he is restless but when I am there he sleeps peacefully.

(10) TOM CHMIELEWSKI (1952-2022). Science fiction writer Tom Chmielewski died in June at the age of 70. The family obituary is here.

He worked in the field of journalism beginning in 1975, and worked at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1987-1997. After leaving the Gazette, he worked as a part-time instructor at WMU; started a monthly publication called Great Lakes Stage, which covered theatre in the Midwest; and served as editor of Trains.com, an online publication based in Milwaukee that covered model railroading, one of his passions.

He was a member of the Clarion workshop class of 1984. He served as Treasurer to the Clarion Foundation from 2016-2022, where he did tremendous work behind-the-scenes for the Foundation, including supporting their Thon fundraiser for numerous years.

He published his first novel Lunar Dust, Martian Sands in 2014 through his company, TEC Publishing, followed by two more novels in his Mars trilogy, Rings of Fire and Ice (2018), and The Silent Siege of Mars (2019). He created and released an audio drama, “Shalbatana Solstice,” a prequel to his first novel, that was later broadcast by the BBC.

Chmielewski is survived by his brothers and sisters-in-law, four nieces and a nephew, and his former wife, Susan Lackey.

Contributions may be made to the Tom Chmielewski Memorial Fund, which is designated for older writers who wish to attend Clarion, set up in his honor by the Clarion Foundation. To make a donation, go to theclarionfoundation.org (if donating online, designate your contribution for Tom’s fund by sending an email to info@theclarionfoundation.org. You may also mail a check made out to The Clarion Foundation to 716 Salvatierra St., Stanford, CA 94305-1020.)

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1987 [By Cat Eldridge.] Thirty-five years ago, what might indeed be the sweetest damn film ever released premiered today in The Princess Bride. Yes, I’m biased. 

Based off the exemplary novel of fourteen years previously by William Goldman who adapted in the film here, I need not detain the story here as I know there’s not a single individual here who’s not familiar with it. If there is anyone here with that hole in their film education, why are you reading this? 

It’s streaming on Disney + right now and you can rent it pretty much everywhere. Go and then come back here! 

It’s a very sweet love story, it’s a send-up of classic adventure tales, it’s a screwball comedy, it’s a, well, it’s a lot of things done absolutely perfectly. Did I mention sword fights? Well I should.

I fell in love with The Princess Bride when Grandfather played by Peter Falk repeated these lines from the novel: “That’s right. When I was your age, television was called books. And this is a special book. It was the book my father used to read to me when I was sick, and I used to read it to your father. And today, I’m gonna read it to you.” A film about a book. Cool!

Yes, they shortened the title of book which was The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure, The “Good Parts” Version. But unwieldy for a film. Though a stellar book title indeed. 

There are very few films that successfully adapt a book exactly as it written. (Not looking at you the first version of Dune or Starship Troopers.) The only one I’ve seen that did was Like Water for Chocolate off the novel by Laura Esquivel. That Goldman wrote the script obviously was essential and the cast which you know by heart so I’ll not detail here were stellar in their roles certainly made a difference.

Rob Reiner was without doubt the director for it and the interviews with him have indicated his love for the novel.

That it won a Hugo at Nolacon II was I think predestined. I won’t say it magical, no I take that back, in many ways it was magical. And I think that it was by far the best film that year. My opinion, yours of course might well be different.

Only six percent of the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes don’t like it. Ponder that. 

Deluxe one-sixth scale figures of the cast members are starting to be released. You can stage your own version of the film. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 25, 1919 Betty Ballantine. With her husband Ian, she created Bantam Books in 1945 and established Ballantine Books seven years later. They won one special World Fantasy Award for professional work in 1975 and another one shared with Joy Chant et al for The High Kings which is indeed an amazing work. ISFDB lists just one novel for her, The Secret Oceans, which I’ve not read. Who here done so? (Died 2019.)
  • Born September 25, 1930 Shel Silverstein. Not sure how he is SFF but ISFDB lists him as such for his Every Thing On It collection and a handful of aptly named poems, and I’m more than thrilled to list him under Birthday Honors. I’m fond of his poetry collection Where the Sidewalk Ends and will also note here A Light in the Attic if only because it’s been on “oh my we must ban it now attempts” all too often. So what do you think is genre by him? (Died 1999.)
  • Born September 25, 1932 J. Hunter HollyHer various book dedications showed she had a strong love of cats. I’ve not encountered her novels but she wrote a fair number of them including ten genre novels plus The Assassination Affair, a novel in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. franchise. Only The Flying Eyes novel by her is available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 1982.)
  • Born September 25, 1946 Felicity Kendal, 76. She plays Lady Clemency Eddison in the the Tenth Doctor story, “The Unicorn and The Wasp”, one of my favorite Who tales which I reviewed at Green Man here. She recently played Baroness Ortsey in the new Pennyworth series. And though it’s definitely really not genre, I’m noting her role in Shakespeare-Wallah, story of a family troupe of English actors in India, just because it’s a fascinating story.
  • Born September 25, 1951 Mark Hamill, 71. OK, I’ll confess that my favorite role of his is voicing The Joker in the DC Universe. He started doing this way back on Batman: The Animated Series and has even done so on other such series as well. Pure comic evilness! Oh, and did you know he voices Chucky in the new Child’s Play film? Now that’s really, really creepy. 
  • Born September 25, 1952 Christopher Reeve. Superman in the Superman film franchise. He appeared in the Smallville series as Dr. Swann in the episodes “Rosetta” and “Legacy”. His Muppet Show appearance has him denying to Miss Piggy that he’s Superman though he displayed those superpowers throughout that entire episode. (Died 2004.)
  • Born September 25, 1977 Clea DuVall, 45. A long genre history if we include horror (and I most gleefully do) — Little Witches, Sleeping Beauties, Ghosts of Mars and How to Make a Monster. Series appearances include Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a main role on Carnivàle as Sofie Agnesh Bojakshiya (loved that series), a recurring role as Audrey Hanson on Heroes, and though we didn’t see it, she was in the unsold television pilot for the never to be Virtuality series as Sue Parsons, she had a recurring role in American Horror Story: Asylum as Wendy Peyser, and finally another recurring role in The Handmaid’s Tale as Sylvia.
  • Born September 25, 1983 Donald Glover, 39. A cast member of Community as Troy Barnes, a series that is least genre adjacent. His first genre appearance is in The Muppets film as a junior CDE executive. He also appeared in a season 43 episode of Sesame Street as famous musician LMNOP. And then there’s the minor matter of being in Solo: A Star Wars Story as someone called Lando Calrissian, Spider-Man: Homecoming as Aaron Davis and then voicing Simba in The Lion King. Not bad at all.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Flying McCoys shows Superman trying to come up with a new theme song.
  • Sally Forth shows why it’s hard to decide which super-power to wish for.
  • Dilbert is told how he can help robot sales.

(14) CROSSING SPACE VIA WINDMILL. Literary Hub invites you to “Watch the first episode of a forgotten 1970 TV adaptation of Don Quixote . . . set in space.”

For about two months in 1970, ITV aired episodes of a bonkers science fiction comedy series based (oh so very loosely) on Miguel de Cervantes’ literary classic Don Quixote. The show, entitled The Adventures of Don Quick, follows an astronaut named Don Quick (Ian Hendry) and his sidekick, Sam Czopanser (Ronald Lacey), who are part of an “Intergalactic Maintenance Squad” that sends them, each episode, to try to “maintain” or otherwise improve alien planets—which usually do not at all need their help, and whose citizens range from bemused to quite irritated by the intrusion.

Fun fact: Angela Carter, the queen of feminist fairy tales herself, was once commissioned by ITV to write the script for an episode of the show, which was (alas!) never produced….

(15) LEAP YEARS. “’Quantum Leap’ revival to address Sam’s leap into Magic” reports SYFY Wire.

Did you know the character played by Ernie Hudson in NBC’s Quantum Leap revival goes back more than 30 years within the world of the show?

Herbert “Magic” Williams first appeared in the original iteration of the series in the 1990 episode entitled “The Leap Home, Part II,” where Dr. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) travels back to the days of the Vietnam War, leaping into the body of Herbert “Magic” Williams, who served in the same Navy SEALs platoon as Sam’s older brother, Tom.

This will actually be addressed by Williams in the fourth episode of the revamp. “[Magic] does explain, from his point-of-view, that leap,” showrunner and executive producer Martin Gero (Blindspot) teased during a recent interview with TVLine. “Ernie [Hudson] gives this phenomenal monologue. It’s so beautiful. It might be my favorite scene of this first chunk [of episodes]. It’s really, really special.” He also went on to tease an adventure in the Old West — circa the 1870s — come Episode 5. “We’re telling some stories that have not been told about the West, and that is very exciting for us.”

(16) HOLMES ON THE RANGE. “Millie Bobby Brown’s Detective Service Is Open for Business in ‘Enola Holmes 2’ Trailer”. Yahoo! cues up the film —

…Poor Enola is still facing down misogynist creeps in this new trailer. After opening her very own detective agency, people are still uncertain of her crime-solving abilities. Cut the girl some slack! Hasn’t she gone through enough? Still, folks beg to be assigned to her older brother Sherlock (Henry Cavill), reliant on his wits instead of hers.

“While I have not a single case, Sherlock’s latest seems to be vexing him,” Enola tells us. Cut to Sherlock playing a sad violin, panicking over his inability to crack the case.

Not only does Enola have a sad big bro to fix, she does have a big case to prove herself as a professional sleuth….

(17) REVISIT AN EIGHTIES OPEN FILK SESSION. Fanac.org has posted video from when Julia Ecklar was the special filk guest at Tropicon 8, held in Dania, Florida, in 1989. This recording captures the second part of an open filk at the convention, and includes 11 songs (of which Julia sings seven). 

The singers in order of appearance are: Julia Ecklar, Linda Melnick, Dina Pearlman, C.J. Cherryh, Francine Mullen, and Doug Wu.

This includes much of the conversation between songs, the laughter and the real feel of a 1980s convention filk session. 

One lovely addition is that Linda Melnick signs on one of the songs, as well as sings. 

Another bonus – this video includes several songs by Orion’s Belt, which consisted of Dina Pearlman, Francine Mullen and Doug Wu. 

Tropicon was a small convention, and you will see some of the author guests in the filk. That’s Tropicon 8 GoH Lynn Abbey sitting next to C.J. Cherryh for example, and Joe Green sitting back against the wall…

Thanks to Eli Goldberg for sound editing on this recording and for the details in the song listing. 

(18) WORRIES. Some say this is feminist sf in the vein of The Stepford Wives“Don’t Worry Darling”.

Alice (Pugh) and Jack (Styles) are lucky to be living in the idealized community of Victory, the experimental company town housing the men who work for the top-secret Victory Project and their families. The 1950’s societal optimism espoused by their CEO, Frank (Pine)—equal parts corporate visionary and motivational life coach—anchors every aspect of daily life in the tight-knit desert utopia. While the husbands spend every day inside the Victory Project Headquarters, working on the “development of progressive materials,” their wives—including Frank’s elegant partner, Shelley (Chan)—get to spend their time enjoying the beauty, luxury and debauchery of their community. Life is perfect, with every resident’s needs met by the company. All they ask in return is discretion and unquestioning commitment to the Victory cause. But when cracks in their idyllic life begin to appear, exposing flashes of something much more sinister lurking beneath the attractive façade, Alice can’t help questioning exactly what they’re doing in Victory, and why. Just how much is Alice willing to lose to expose what’s really going on in this paradise? An audacious, twisted and visually stunning psychological thriller, “Don’t Worry Darling” is a powerhouse feature from director Olivia Wilde that boasts intoxicating performances from Florence Pugh and Harry Styles, surrounded by the impressive and pitch-perfect cast.

(19) GLASS ONION NEWS. Rian Johnson introduces a clip from his sequel to Knives Out – “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery — Exclusive Clip”.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Nope,” the Screen Junkies, in a spoiler-packed episode, says that Jordan Peele is one of the few directors trying to preserve cinema “in a world dominated by corporate IP.”  Daniel Kaluuya is “the oldest young man ever” and Nope is “an old-fashioned Black cowboy movie.”  But while Peele is geeky enough he has an Akira reference as an Easter egg, much of the film shows “we’re so emotionally stunted that we can only process trauma through old SNL references.”

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

Pixel Scroll 9/17/22 The Last Scroll Title On Earth Sat Alone In A Room

(1) JAYMEE GOH ANTHOLOGY HAS EKPEKI STORY. Don’t Touch That, an anthology about parenting edited by Jaymee Goh, was released this week. It includes Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki’s latest short story “Mother’s Love, Father’s Place”. He says, “It’s a historical fantasy story set in southern Nigeria and touches on the killing of Twins in Calabar & how it ended. (spoiler, not by Mary Slessor).”

(2) NO TURNING BACK! The New Yorker remembers “The Enduring Allure of Choose Your Own Adventure Books”.

You were a girl who wanted to choose your own adventures. Which is to say, you were a girl who never had adventures. You always followed the rules. But, when you ate an entire sleeve of graham crackers and sank into the couch with a Choose Your Own Adventure book, you got to imagine that you were getting into trouble in outer space, or in the future, or under the sea. You got to make choices every few pages: Do you ask the ghost about her intentions, or run away? Do you rebel against the alien overlords, or blindly obey them?

This was the late eighties in Los Angeles. You binged on these books, pulling tattered sun-bleached copies from your bookshelf: four, five, six in the course of a single afternoon. All over the country, all over the world, other kids were pulling these books from their bookshelves, too. The series has sold more than two hundred and seventy million copies since its launch, in 1979. It’s the fourth-best-selling children’s-book series of all time. Its popularity peaked in the eighties, but the franchise still sells about a million books a year….

The story of Choose Your Own Adventure is largely the tale of two men: Edward Packard, a lawyer who came up with the concept while telling bedtime stories to his two daughters (who sometimes wanted the protagonist to do different things), and R. A. (Ray) Montgomery, an independent publisher who put out Packard’s first book, in 1976, after all the big houses had rejected it….

Both men went through divorces shortly before the series started gaining momentum, and ended up writing many of their books as single fathers. Their children remember helping their fathers invent and flesh out new scenarios: Packard’s daughter Andrea suggested the idea of a time-travelling cave; Montgomery’s sons, Anson and Ramsey, suggested cars (the Saab 900 Turbo, the Lancia Stratos) for “The Race Forever.” Packard paid his children thirty-five cents an hour to read his manuscripts and offer feedback: Which parts were boring? Which choices would kids enjoy? (Andrea, Anson, and Ramsey ended up writing for the franchise, publishing their first Choose books during college.)…

(3) INTERIOR LIFE OF THE ARTIST. Melissa Capriglione is “just journaling some thoughts” – that we probably can all relate to in our own way.

(4) RECIDIVIST. Bob Roehm posted a clever photo on Facebook taken after he was apprehended with a banned book – Fahrenheit 451 – at Carmichael’s Bookstore in Louisville, KY.  

(5) THE DNA OF THE DEATH STAR. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The San Francisco Chronicle looks at how John Dysktra built the Death Star in Star Wars based on his work in 1972 building a realistic model of Berkeley. “This obscure Bay Area study shaped the ending of ‘Star Wars’”.

The newly released six-part Disney Plus streaming docuseries “Light & Magic” goes deep into the history of George Lucas’ San Francisco-based special effects studio Industrial Light & Magic, which was founded in 1975. The ending of the second episode explores the process behind the Death Star scene, in which the fate of the Rebel Alliance hangs on Luke Skywalker’s ability to speed his X-wing through a narrow trench and blast a thermal exhaust port that is only 2 meters wide.

In reality, the entire surface of the Death Star was a hand-built model that measured approximately 15 by 40 feet. Meticulous craftsmanship contributed to the verisimilitude, but the documentary reveals that the filmmaking techniques that made the scene feel so real are actually rooted outside the realm of special effects. It turns out that the entire sequence hinged on a model developed during an urban planning study at UC Berkeley in the early 1970s, which also happened to shape the future of San Francisco’s skyline.

“The Berkeley Experiment,” as it is referred to in the documentary, was funded by the National Science Foundation and led by urban planning professor Donald Appleyard at the school’s Environmental Simulation Lab. Completed in 1972, the project entailed building a small-scale model of Marin County and a computer-controlled stop-motion 16 mm camera system. The goal was to achieve a sense of realism as a model car traversed the miniature cityscape, in hopes that the technique could guide civic decision-making regarding construction choices. …

An archival photo of the UC Berkeley Environmental Simulation Laboratory.

(6) ATTACK OF THE 50-YEAR-OLD CONVENTION. Rob Hansen draws on contemporary reports by Fred Pohl, Rob Holdstock, Sam Long, Bob Shaw and many others to reconstruct the events of “Chessmancon (1972)”. Many photos, too, including GoH Larry Niven giving a physics lecture?

CHESSMANCON, the twenty-third post-war UK National Science Fiction Convention, took place over the weekend of Friday, 31st March to Monday, 3rd April 1972. Named for both its location (Chester) and the city (Manchester) from whose Delta Group most of those organising it were drawn, CHESSMANCON was the fourth MANCON, the others being MANCON, SUPERMANCON, and THIRDMANCON.

…Presumably because of its name, the organisers of CHESSMANCON decided to include a chess tournament. Sadly, I don’t think SUPERMANCON made any reference to Clark Kent, or THIRDMANCON any reference to Harry Lime. So far as I’m aware, CHESSMANCON is the only con to be named after *two* cities.

And here’s another excerpt —

BOB SHAW:

I suppose that in what purports to be a con report one should make some mention of the official programme. Regrettably, I have a tendency to go to conventions and not see any of the programme items, but this doesn’t mean that the programme isn’t important to me. I like to be near the programme and let it induce currents in me, a coil of nerves in the vicinity of the con hall’s electromagnetic field. Some other fans feel the same way (I won’t name any names) and it is pleasant to sit with them in the bar, speculating on what is actually happening in the hall and listening to fragmentary reports from runners – “George Hay has got up to ask a question”, “The projector has broken down”, “There’s been an outbreak of sporran rash among the Scottish fans”, “George Hay is still asking his question”….

(7) RAMMING SPEED. Science is watching as “NASA’s asteroid deflection mission takes aim”.

On 26 September, an act of targeted violence will unfold 11 million kilometers from  Earth,  as  a  spacecraft  about  the size  of  a  vending  machine  smashes into a small asteroid at 6 kilometers per   second.   Unlike   some   asteroids that stray worrisomely close to Earth’s orbit, Dimorphos—the 160-meter moon of a larger body—is  an  innocent  bystander,  posing  no threat to our world. But the looming assault represents humanity’s first-ever field test of a planetary defense mission: NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART. The  hope  is  that  the  collision  will  nudge Dimorphos  toward  its  780-meter  partner, Didymos,  shortening  a  nearly  12-hour  orbital period by minutes. A successful strike would support the idea that, in the future, similar efforts could deflect threatening asteroids onto safer courses. But simulations and lab experiments show the fate of the mission  depends  on  a  crucial  question: Are  such  small  asteroids  solid  boulders or—as astronomers increasingly believe—loose heaps of rubble?…

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1964 [By Cat Eldridge.] Bewitched premiered on ABC fifty-eight years ago this evening.

Creator Sol Saks’ said his basis for this series were I Married a Witch,  the 1942 film that came from Thorne Smith’s unfinished novel The Passionate Witch, and the John Van Druten Broadway play Bell, Book and Candle, which was adapted into the 1958 film. Yes, both films were properties of Columbia Pictures, which also owned Screen Gems, which also produced Bewitched.

The show was popular, finishing as the second-rated show in America during its debut season, staying in the top ten for its first three seasons, and ranking in eleventh place for both seasons four and five.

It starred, as you well know, Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha Stephens, Dick York for the first, and Dick Sargent for the rest of the series, as Darrin Stephens. Agnes Moorehead as Endora was really the only other ongoing character. 

Look I need no SPOILER ALERTS here as y’all know the characters, the setting and the story. I bet everyone here has seen some or all of it. 

Historical note here.

Series director William Asher started rehearsals for the pilot on November 22, 1963 which of course coincided with President Kennedy’s assassination.  He felt deeply affected by the event as he personally knew Kennedy — he had produced the 1962 televised birthday party where Marilyn Monroe sang “Happy Birthday, Mr. President”.

End historical note. Back to the series.

The Stephens house, inside and out, was inspired by a location used in two Gidget movies. Gidget was filmed in 1959 at a real house at 267 18th Street in Santa Monica. The blueprints of this house were later reversed and replicated as a house facade attached to an existing garage on the backlot of Columbia’s Ranch. This was the house seen on Bewitched

Then, the patio and living room sets seen in Columbia’s Gidget Goes to Rome (1963) were adapted as the permanent Bewitched set for 1964. (At least some episodes of I Dream of Jeannie also were filmed using this interior set which makes sense as it’s the same production company. Using material from one series or film on another is very, very economical.) 

Bewitched lasted eight seasons and two hundred fifty episodes. Both the opening and closing animated credits were produced by Hanna-Barbera. Naturally they are on YouTube.

No, I’m not mentioning or discussing the reboot. I’m really not.

As near as I can tell, Bewitched is only streaming for free, errr, on Freevee. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 17, 1885 George Cleveland. He was Professor Hensley aboard the Thirties Flash Gordon film serial. IMDb says that he was supposed be in 1938’s Flash Gordon’s Trip To Mars, but his bits ended up not being in the film. (Died 1957.)
  • Born September 17, 1908 John Creasey. English crime and SF writer who wrote well over than six hundred novels using twenty-eight different names. His SF writings were mostly in the Dr. Palfrey series, a British secret service agent named Dr. Stanislaus Alexander Palfrey, who forms Z5. There’s a lot of his novels available from the usual suspects. And I do many really a lot, so I’m going to ask all of you where to start reading his SF novels as I am curious as to how they are. (Died 1973.)
  • Born September 17, 1917 Art Widner. He was a founding member of The Stranger Club which created Boston fandom. He chaired Boskone I and Boskone II which were held in 1941 and 1942, they being the very first two Boston cons. Fancyclopedia 3 has a very detailed  look at him here. (Died 2015.)
  • Born September 17, 1920 Dinah Sheridan. She was Chancellor Flavia in “The Five Doctors”, a Doctor Who story that brought together the First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Doctors. Richard Hurndall portrayed the First Doctor, as the character’s original actor, William Hartnell, had died. (Died 2012.)
  • Born September 17, 1920 Roddy McDowall. He is best known for portraying Cornelius and Caesar in the original Planet of the Apes film franchise, as well as Galen in the television series. He’s Sam Conrad in The Twilight Zone episode “People Are Alike All Over” and he voices Jervis Tetch / The Mad Hatter in Batman: The Animated Series. And where’s a treat for you. Here he is on The Carol Burnett Show wearing his Planet of the Apes makeup. (Died 1998.)
  • Born September 17, 1939 Sandra Gimpel, 83. Performer and stunt woman. Though you’ll literally not recognize her, she was the salt monster aka the M-113 creature (as it was called in the credits) in “The Man Trap” episode of the original Trek. In “The Cage” episode, she played a Talosian. As a stunt woman, she’s been on genre shows ranging from Lost in Space to Lucifer and even appeared on films like Escape from New York
  • Born September 17, 1950 Roger Stern, 72. Comics writer who’s most noted work who was on AvengersCaptain AmericaDoctor Strange, and Starman. I’m very, very impressed of his work on the first twenty-eight issues of Starman, which were published from 1988 to 1990. 
  • Born September 17, 1979 Neill Blomkamp, 43. South African born Canadian filmmaker of District 9 which was nominated for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form at Aussiecon 4. EofSF says also, “Of particular note were Tetra Vaal (2004), a RoboCop-inspired advertisement for a fictional range of third-world law-enforcement drones; Alive in Joburg (2005), about an influx of Alien immigrants from a Spaceship stalled over Johannesburg; and Tempbot (2006), about a Robot office worker attempting to parse cubicle culture.” Other genre films include Elysium and Chappie.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Close to Home’s joke probably really isn’t about the first thing that came to my mind.
  • Lio today is a real sinus friction story.

(11) NEW SUPERHERO CASTING CONTROVERSY. “With an Israeli Superhero, Marvel Wades Into an Intractable Conflict” reports the New York Times.

It was the latest addition to a fantasy world populated by an ever-growing cast of superheroes and villains: Marvel Studios announced this past week that it had cast the Israeli actress Shira Haas to play Sabra, a mutant Israeli police officer-turned-Mossad agent, in the next installment of the “Captain America” franchise.

While Jewish Israelis rejoiced at the casting of an actress from Israel as a superhero in a major Hollywood production (“Israeli Pride,” declared the Hebrew news site Maariv), the backlash among Palestinians and their supporters was swift, and #CaptainApartheid soon appeared on social media.

Many critics expressed outrage about Sabra’s character and her identity as an Israeli intelligence agent, accusing Marvel of buying into Zionist propaganda; of ignoring, or supporting, Israel’s occupation of territory captured in 1967; and of dehumanizing Palestinians….

(12) HE CAN DO IT! Paul Weimer takes up the challenge of reviewing the latest entry in a long-running series: “Microreview [book]: The Untold Story by Genevieve Cogman” at Nerds of a Feather.

How does one really review the 8th(!) book in a series and make that review intelligible to readers who have never read any of the books, and yet helpful to readers both old and new alike. This is the situation where I find myself talking about Genevieve Cogman’s The Untold Story, eighth in her Invisible Library novels. 

I’ll start by saying that the Invisible Library novels, which the first was published in 2016, were multiverse before the multiverse was the new hotness. Imagine a multiverse of worlds , aligned on an order-chaos spectrum a la Moorcock. Imagine these worlds taking cues from Earth cultures and societies.  Imagine two sets of superhuman beings–Dragons, representing order, and Fae, representing chaos, struggling for control and domination of these worlds.  Now imagine a third power, a third party, the Library, seeking to stabilize the worlds, and collect books from all of them at the same time.   

Irene Winters is one of these interdimensional Librarians. Her previous adventures have had her tangle with a traitor to the library (Alberich, more on him anon) deal with both Fae and Dragon politics (her first assistant is a Dragon, and her newest apprentice is a Fae) and visit a variety of worlds in places inspired by Venice, Vienna, New York, and more….

(13) SHE DREAMS OF GENIE. Nerds of a Feather film reviewer Arturo Serrano says it is no easy task to convey the feelings roused by this movie: “Love is a freely chosen yoke in ‘Three Thousand Years of Longing’”. But he does!

When one encounters an impeccably beautiful work of art, the attempt to explain it feels like a desecration. Three Thousand Years of Longing is that kind of art that you’re meant to experience more than understand. It does follow a plot, and the plot does make arguments, but to dissect those arguments risks losing sight of the experience. I can’t properly communicate to you the emotional content of this story. What I can try to do is describe what happens in it, but I will fall short of conveying all it says. This is one of those films that leave you permanently changed, and the only way for that secret alchemy to happen is to go yourself to the theater and let it wash over you….

(14) FIFTY YEARS LATER. Totally not sff, but a fascinating interview with insights about screenwriting: “Alan Alda on ‘M*A*S*H’: ‘Everybody Had Something Taken From Them’” in the New York Times.

Were there story lines that you thought “M*A*S*H” hadn’t quite tackled yet that you wanted to bring into the world of the show as a writer and director?

When I wrote, I tried to find out a little bit more about each of the characters. Who is Klinger [Jamie Farr] really? What was underneath — I almost said, what was underneath the dresses. [Laughs.] What was underneath the wearing of the dresses? Who was Margaret [Loretta Swit]?

I see on the internet that people assumed that because I was politically active, trying to get the Equal Rights Amendment passed, that in my writing I was trying to make political points, too. And I wasn’t. I really don’t like writing that passes as entertainment when it’s really propaganda. I want to hear a human story.

(15) EARLY CLUES. Jess Nevins writes about the history of Chinese detective fiction at CrimeReads: “Pre-Revolution Chinese Detective Fiction”.

Mysteries and detective fiction are usually thought of as the inventions of Edgar Allan Poe, but the truth is that they have both been popular in China for over a thousand years. The Chinese have no clear place or person of origin for mysteries and detective fiction, the way the West has Poe, but what the Chinese do have are centuries’ more mysteries and detective stories than the West does.

The first Chinese proto-mysteries—that is, mysteries who some but not all of the elements of modern mystery fiction—were the “gong’an” (“court case”) stories. Told in the form of oral performances and puppetry shows, the gong’an began appearing during the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). Gong’an traditionally featured incorruptible government officials solving criminal cases and bringing about justice to the guilty and restoration to those who were wronged…. 

(16) CAME TO THE WORLD IN THE USUAL WAY. CNN invites everyone to “Meet the mystery diamond from outer space”.

Scientists have debated its existence. Tiny traces provided clues. Now, researchers have confirmed the existence of a celestial diamond after finding it on Earth’s surface.

The stone, called lonsdaleite, has a hardness and strength that exceeds that of a regular diamond. The rare mineral arrived here by way of a meteorite, new research has suggested….

The revelation started to unfold when geologist Andy Tomkins, a professor at Monash University in Australia, was out in the field categorizing meteorites. He came across a strange “bended” kind of diamond in a space rock in Northwest Africa, said study coauthor Alan Salek, a doctoral student and researcher at RMIT University in Australia.

Tomkins theorized the meteorite that held the lonsdaleite came from the mantle of a dwarf planet that existed about 4.5 billion years, Salek said.

“The dwarf planet was then catastrophically struck by an asteroid, releasing pressure and leading to the formation of these really strange diamonds,” he added.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Alasdair Beckett-King explains why you should be nice to the annoying little guy with a squeaky voice who offers to show you a fantasy world!

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

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

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

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

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

The ratings are followed by various observations, for example:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Waaah!”

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

“Just shut up and take the baby!”

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

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

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

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

(8) MEMORY LANE.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 8/13/22 Never Mind The Shoggoth, Here’s The Pixel Scroll

(1) RUSHDIE MEDICAL UPDATE. “Agent: Rushdie off ventilator and talking, day after attack” reports SFGate.

“The Satanic Verses” author Salman Rushdie was taken off a ventilator and able to talk Saturday, a day after he was stabbed as he prepared to give a lecture in upstate New York.

Rushdie remained hospitalized with serious injuries, but fellow author Aatish Taseer tweeted in the evening that he was “off the ventilator and talking (and joking).” Rushdie’s agent, Andrew Wylie, confirmed that information without offering further details.

Earlier in the day, the man accused of attacking him Friday at the Chautauqua Institution, a nonprofit education and retreat center, pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and assault charges in what a prosecutor called a “preplanned” crime.

An attorney for Hadi Matar entered the plea on his behalf during an arraignment in western New York…. 

(2) THAT TODDLING TOWN. “Neil’s Native Guide, Chicon 8 Edition” is Neil Rest’s updated array of suggestions about how everyone coming to year’s Worldcon can enjoy the city it’s in.

This compendium is for members of Chicon, who are only in town for a few days, with hours or half-days (or empty stomachs!) to fill, so “here” is the Hyatt Regency on East Wacker (city center map  We’re part of Illinois Center on the south side of the mouth of the river.). Except for Hyde Park (Museum of Science and Industry, University of Chicago, site of the first nuclear “pile”, site of 1893 Columbian Exposition), marked with the Ferris Wheel, I’ve tried to restrain myself from things more than a couple of miles from the Loop….

(3) A “PARADE OF HORRIBLES.” At Discourse Magazine, Adam Thierer discusses “How Science Fiction Dystopianism Shapes the Debate over AI & Robotics”.

… AI, machine learning, robotics and the power of computational science hold the potential to drive explosive economic growth and profoundly transform a diverse array of sectors, while providing humanity with countless technological improvements in medicine and healthcarefinancial services, transportation, retail, agriculture, entertainment, energy, aviation, the automotive industry and many others. Indeed, these technologies are already deeply embedded in these and other industries and making a huge difference.

But that progress could be slowed and in many cases even halted if public policy is shaped by a precautionary-principle-based mindset that imposes heavy-handed regulation based on hypothetical worst-case scenarios. Unfortunately, the persistent dystopianism found in science fiction portrayals of AI and robotics conditions the ground for public policy debates, while also directing attention away from some of the more real and immediate issues surrounding these technologies….

(4) ABOUT THE BLURB. At the Guardian, Louise Willder talks about “Killer crabs and bad leprechauns: how the best book blurbs excite our brains”.

…Part compression, part come-on, blurbs can also, as I found when I wrote a book about them, open up a world of literary history and wordy joy. Here are some things I discovered….

5 Old blurbs are unhinged

Most blurbs written more than 30 years ago now sound highly eccentric. Many don’t want to be liked: the anti-blurb on an elderly paperback of Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory informs us that: “A baleful vulture of doom hovers over this modern crucifixion story.” Some bear little or no resemblance to the books they describe, such as the gloriously tin-eared 1990s Tor editions of Jane Austen’s novels. “Mom’s fishing for husbands – but the girls are hunting for love” is the sell on Pride and Prejudice.

Horror blurbs, especially those on the night-black Pan paperbacks found in holiday cottages, are their own special brand of nonsense, whether summoning up killer crabs (“A bloody carnage of human flesh on an island beachhead!”) or psychotic leprechauns (“They speak German. They carry whips…”).

(5) SPSFC 2022. Book Invasion has a shiny new video promoting Year Two of the Self Published Science Fiction Competition and introducing their judging team.

(6) INDEX OF LGBT RIGHTS IN COUNTRIES CURRENTLY BIDDING FOR WORLDCON. Equaldex publishes the Equality Index, which measures the current status of LGBT rights, laws, and freedoms as well as public attitudes towards LGBT people. [Tammy Coxen pointed out this site.]

2025

2026

2027

2028

2029

2031

(7) HOW TECHNOLOGY HELPS HUMANS CONNECT. The National Air and Space Museum’s “One World Connected” exhibition opens October 14.

One World Connected will tell the story of how flight fostered two momentous changes in everyday life: the ease in making connections across vast distances and a new perspective of Earth as humanity’s home. Featuring an array of satellites and other tools that have increased human connection, the exhibition will ask visitors to consider how global interconnection touches their lives and to imagine how advances in technology might impact our near-future.

Here are two examples of what will be included.

Artifact Spotlight: Sirius FM-4 Satellite

Sirius Radio (later Sirius XM Radio) developed the first generation of space-based, commercial radio service, launching in 2001 with three satellites. The stowed solar panels on the first-generation Sirius satellites would span 78 feet once opened in space and provided service to North America with access to more than 150 channels. The Sirius FM-4 Communications Satellite pictured above was built as a flight-ready backup for the system but was never used and will be on display in One World Connected.

Person Spotlight: Vikram Sarabhai

As one of the primary architects of the Indian rocket and space program, Vikram Sarabhai believed that science and technology could transform his country. He felt that an Indian space program promised both self-reliance and economic benefits. Sarabhai’s efforts led to the creation of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). In the 1970s, ISRO collaborated with NASA on the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment, which provided educational programming to 24,000 Indian villages and led to the development of India’s own satellites.

(8) MEMORY LANE.  

1974 [By Cat Eldridge.] It was five o’clock on a winter’s morning in Syria. Alongside the platform at Aleppo stood the train grandly designated in railway guides as the Taurus Express. It consisted of a kitchen and dining car, a sleeping car and two local coaches. — Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express has been adapted several times into films and into film versions, all rather successful. 

The first, and I have the film poster (not a reproduction) on the wall behind as I write this up as it is by far my favorite version, was the 1974 version directed by Sidney Lumet, starring Albert Finney as the Belgian detective who no, he didn’t resemble at all. The screenplay was written by Paul Dean which did a marvelous job. The casting of the suspects was amazing: Jacqueline Bisset, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Vanessa Redgrave, Michael York, Rachel Roberts, Anthony Perkins, Richard Widmark and Wendy Hiller.

Though the train exteriors were shot throughout Europe, alas interiors were filmed at Elstree Studios. 

Critics loved it, audiences loved it and it made far than it cost retuning thirty-five million against one point four million. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a seventy-eight rating. 

The next film version of Murder on the Orient Express was almost fifty years later.  It would be 2017 when Kenneth Branagh decided to take a turn portraying Hercule Poirot. And no, like Finney, he’s not even remotely close to Christie’s description of her detective (Short, somewhat vain, with brilliantined hair and a waxed moustache, the aging bachelor) as only the television actor really is him. And we will get to him in a minute.

Liket the first version, it had an all-star cast: Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer and Daisy Ridley. I still prefer the first version as this one seemed to do a lot of stunt casting. 

It did well at the box office making back six times its fifty-five million production cost. But critics noted, and I’ll only quote two of them, that “it never quite builds up to its classic predecessor’s illustrious head of steam” and another echoed what several noted this Poirot was “less distinct and, ultimately, less interesting”. 

It gets a sixty rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.

I’m skipping the 2001 Murder on the Orient Express film directed by Carl Schenkel as it is set in the present day, and I refuse to watch it as I’ve absolutely no interest in that premise.  If you’re interested, and I have no idea why you’d be, Alfred Molina plays the Belgian detective. 

And we finally get to the only performer who actually looks and acts like Christie described her fussy little man in the form of David Suchet. It aired on Agatha Christie’s Poirot on the 11th of July 2010 first in the States and it was a ninety-minute film length production in which everything was done just right.  It was directed by Philip Martin with screenplay by Stewart Harcourt.  

It’s a wonderful production but then than the entire run of that series was stellar, wasn’t it?

The interior of the Orient Express was reproduced at Pinewood Studios in London. Other locations include the Freemason Hall, Nene Valley Railway, and a street in Malta which was shot to represent Istanbul as it wasn’t modern like most of present-day Istanbul.

So there are two versions I really like: the 1974 version for the setting more than for the Detective and the latter for the David Suchet performance of Poirot. Branagh’s version just feels like play by the numbers. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 13, 1895 Bert Lahr.  Best remembered and certainly beloved as The Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, as well as his counterpart who was a Kansas farmworker. It’s his only genre role, though in the film Meet the People, he would say “Heavens to Murgatroyd!” which was later popularized by a cartoon character named Snagglepuss. (Died 1967.)
  • Born August 13, 1899 Alfred Hitchcock. If he’d only done his two Alfred Hitchcock series which for the most part were awesome, that’d be enough to get him Birthday Honors. But he did some fifty films of which a number are genre such as The Birds and Psycho. Though I’ve not read it, I’ve heard good things about Peter Ackroyd’s Alfred Hitchcock. (Died 1980.)
  • Born August 13, 1909 Tristram Coffin. He’s best remembered for being Jeff King in King of the Rocket Men, a Forties SF serial, the first of three serials featuring this character. He showed up on the Fifties Superman series in different roles, sometimes on the side of Good, sometimes not. He played The Ambassador twice on Batman in “When the Rat’s Away the Mice Will Play” and “A Riddle a Day Keeps the Riddler Away”. (Died 1990.)
  • Born August 13, 1922 Willard Sage. He showed up on Trek as Thann, one of the Empaths in, errr, “Empath”. He was Dr. Blake in Colossus: The Forbin Project, and had roles in The Land of GiantsInvadersThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Outer Limits and The Sixth Sense. (Died 1974.)
  • Born August 13, 1965 Michael De Luca, 57. Producer, second Suicide Squad film, Childhood’s EndGhost Rider and Ghost Rider: Spirit of VengeanceDracula Untold, Lost in SpaceBlade and Blade IIPleasantville and Zathura: A Space Adventure which is not a complete listing. Also writer for an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, the first Dredd film (oh well), the Freddy’s Nightmares series and the Dark Justice series which though not quite genre was rather fun. Anyone remember the latter?
  • Born August 13, 1990 Sara Serraiocco, 32. She plays the complex role of Baldwin on the Counterpart series which I finally got around to watching and it’s absolutely fascinating. I will also admit it’s nice to see a SF series that’s truly adult in nature. 

(10) WEIRD AND WONDERFUL. Let CBR.com introduce you to “The Most Obscure DC Superheroes With The Weirdest Powers”.

8. Danny The Street Is Only Just Starting To Get Their Due

Danny The Street’s inclusion in the TV series Doom Patrol (2019-) has raised the character’s profile a bit but they’re still wonderfully obscure and notably less recognizable than their allies, Robotman and Elasti-Girl. Since they regularly rearrange their molecules and appearance, they don’t have a single, signature “look,” though they enjoy playing with historically gendered imagery.

Being a teleporting sentient street is as weird as any superpower but Danny knows how to use their abilities to their advantage. Their flexibility actually makes them all the more effective not just at fighting evildoers but at providing a haven for the world’s outcasts and oddities.

(11) FEELING THE FORCE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] You know how it is. You are with a couple of friends minding your own business when the forces of the dark side collar you…  Actually, this was Northumberland Heath SF Society member Kel Sweeny’s (centre) 50th. Fellow N.Heath SF member, Mark (left) and myself (right). (Yes, those knees are his own and rumoured to be bionic: well, they’ve lasted half a century but mysteriously haven’t aged much! It’s either that or there is a portrait of them in his attic.)

No surprise, Kel is into Star Wars and even has his own, screen-ready storm-trooper kit. He belongs to UK Garrison, a nation-wide group of storm troopers who occasionally hire themselves out, or volunteer if it’s for what they consider is a charity/good cause, to events. This being his birthday, Kel came as himself, but a couple of his local storm-trooper comrades were in the mix to give his 50th added colour.

(12) ROUND FOUR. On the way – more Love, more Death, and more Robots. And will John Scalzi be involved again? He told Whatever readers:

Seriously, the answer to any question you might have at this point for LD+R (including any possible involvement by me) is: I don’t know, and if I did know, I couldn’t tell you. I swear I’m not being obstinate. I just don’t have anything to share at this point. When or if I do have something to share, obviously I will share it at the appropriate time.

(13) DECREASING SNAPPY DUMBACKS. “‘Data void’: Google to stop giving answers to silly questions”  explains the Guardian.

Google will stop giving snappy answers to stupid questions, the company has announced, as it seeks to improve its search engine’s “featured snippets” service.

That means users should see fewer answers to questions such as “When did Snoopy assassinate Abraham Lincoln?”, to which the service would once merrily respond with “1865” – the right date, but very much the wrong assassin.

“This clearly isn’t the most helpful way to display this result,” said the company’s head of search, Pandu Nayak, in a blogpost announcing the changes. “We’ve trained our systems to get better at detecting these sorts of false premises, which are not very common, but there are cases where it’s not helpful to show a featured snippet. We’ve reduced the triggering of featured snippets in these cases by 40% with this update.”…

More examples of false premise questions at the link.

(14) NOT QUITE THE GRAIL, BUT CLOSE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Tested’s Adam Savage explains some of his favorite replica props from sf and fantasy movies in this video: “Ask Adam Savage: Props That Have NEVER Been Properly Replicated”.

In this livestream excerpt, Tested Members Thomas Esson and King Sponge & Leech ask Adam about a prop that he feels has eluded accurate replication and if Adam ever considered making Hellboy’s Big Baby.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Vicki Bennett explains how to trap a golem in this 2013 piece for Britain’s Channel 4. “The Golem – An Inanimate Matter.”

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

Pixel Scroll 8/6/22 Ours Is Not To Pixel Why, Ours Is But To Scroll And Die

(1) THEY COULD HAVE BEEN CONTENDERS. Rich Horton has “Hugo Nomination Recommendations, 1959”, which he says is the next-to-last in the series.

…I have cited Jo Walton’s excellent Informal History of the Hugos before, and in that book you can find Jo’s comments on the short lists, her choices for the winners, and comments by a variety of people (myself included) discussing the stories and often offering additional possible nominees or winners. I’ll list Jo’s choices below, along with Richard Lupoff’s short fiction selection from What If, Volume 1. And for the years from 1960 on, I’ll leave the field to Jo! (After all, my thoughts are generally recorded in her book anyway.) I’ve decided to go ahead and make one additional post for stories from 1959, for two reasons: one, to round out the decade of the 1950s by story publication year, not just Worldcon year; and, two, because I was born in 1959….

(2) SUGGESTED INFLUENCES. Phil Christman has an “Interview With Adam Roberts” in his newsletter The Tourist.

…As a British Gen X-er, you were a child during an era of televised fantastika that strikes me (if maybe only me, and a handful of bloggers who use the word “hauntology” a lot) as uniquely rich. I’m thinking of the later Nigel Kneale, or of things like The Owl Service, Sapphire and Steele, and Children of the Stones, not to mention some of the stronger seasons of “Doctor Who,” and even “The Tomorrow People” (laughable as it often is). Was this an influence on you? I’m wondering partly because these shows do “haunted suburb” scenes really well, and that’s true of some of your work—though I suppose that could all just be the influence of Ballard. 

I read Owl Service, and indeed all of Alan Garner (my Dad was at Manchester Grammar School with Garner—I mean, he wasn’t a family friend or anything, but going back to visit relatives meant wandering around Alderley Edge and so on which added a frisson to my reading of Weirdstone of Brisingamen) … although I never saw the TV version. But I did watch Sapphire and SteeleTomorrow People—maybe if I rewatched that one I’d find it laughable, but I certainly didn’t at the time—and of course Doctor Who. But also US shows like The Time Tunnel and Star Trek. TOS Trek is intensely suburban, I think: the bridge of the USS Enterprise is a comfortable suburban living room with a big comfy chair for the ‘Dad’ to sit as he watches the universe come to him via his gigantic TV screen. So much of Trek is a manifestation of the comfortable life, surrounded by labour-saving devices, demure women to attend you like suburban wives and so on.

I never watched what are, now, some of the classic shows—the Patrick Goohan Prisoner series for instance was before my time, I only saw when I was properly grown up, by which time it was basically a period piece. But two shows nobody talks about any more made a big impact upon me: Greatorex’s 1990, and Terry Nation’s Survivors. I also remember the last of the Quatermass series, with John Mills as an elderly Quatermass: I hadn’t seen, and frankly had no idea about, the earlier Quatermass shows, but that 1979 drama worked strangely and powerfully upon my teenage imagination….

(3) INTERNATIONAL SHORT FICTION. InterNova edited by Michael K. Iwoleit is an international SF zine with fiction in English. It’s an offshoot of the German SF zine Nova. The current online issue is here: July 2022 – InterNova.

InterNova is intended be a showcase of contemporary SF writing in all those countries and regions that are generally neglected by the Anglo-American centered sf markets. American and British writers will not be excluded but the main intention is to feature stories and essays by writers who are rarely published outside of their home countries. We will try to be as international as possible, advancing our editorial work into countries and areas that are rarely associated with Science Fiction.

To make InterNova available for readers in as many countries as possible this e-zine is published in English which has become the lingua franca of the international SF community. It is planned, however, to later include some stories in the original languages, especially in Spanish, but also in French and German.

(4) WRITING VIDEO GAME MUSIC. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber discusses video game music and interviews Austin Wintory, whose music for Journey earned him a BAFTA Award.  On August 1, the BBC Proms held their first concert devoted to video game music.

Wintory’s first step is to analyse the gameplay and map out the ‘spider web of possibilities’ of player behaviour.  In his score for Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, an open-world adventure game, he accommodated not only whether a player was fighting or exploring, but also which part of the Victorian London setting they were in, writing musical themes inspired by boroughs such as Whitechapel and Westminster which played as they crossed those particular rooftops.  There would be alternate versions of the score with additional instruments and vocal layers, depending on whether it was day or night on the in-game clock, whether the player had completed specific missions and even which of the game’s two protagonists they were controlling at the time.

What makes one game soundtrack rise above the rest in popularity?  It could be the nostalgia factor, or the marriage of a memorable gameplay moment with the perfect musical accompaniment.  Wintory suspects that it might be the undeniable appeal of a great melody.  “Humans are fundamentally melodic instruments,” he says. “We can’t strum a chord with our vocal cords or simulate a choir on our own.  We sing one note at the time, so it’s not a shock that the music we hold on to is the stuff we can sing back. Melody has always been the thing that united the classics.”

(5) THEY’VE GOT IT GOING ON. Episode 2 of the If This Goes On (Don’t Panic) podcast is “Priuses of the Apocolypse with Tobias Buckell”.

If This Goes On (Don’t Panic) is a podcast about hope and resistance in Science Fiction and Fantasy. Cohosts Alan Bailey, Cat Rambo, Diane Morrison, and Graeme Barber interview a diverse breadth of writers, editors, activists, gamers, and various other members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy community.

(6) CENSORSHIP PROCEEDINGS. Publishers Weekly reports on Virginia litigation that could affect the availability in the state of Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe and A Court of Mist and Fury by bestselling author Sarah J. Maas: “With Hearing Set, Court Urged to Dismiss Closely Watched Virginia Obscenity Lawsuits”.

A Virginia state judge has set an August 30 hearing to consider two lawsuits that, if successful, would cause two popular books to be pulled from bookshelves across the state, alleging they are “obscene” under an obscure state law.

First filed in May by lawyer and Republican Virginia assembly delegate Tim Anderson on behalf of plaintiff and Republican congressional candidate Tommy Altman, the suits allege that the graphic memoir Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe and A Court of Mist and Fury by bestselling author Sarah J. Maas—are “obscene for unrestricted viewing by minors.” On May 18, judge Pamela Baskervill (a retired judge hearing the case by designation after all the sitting judges in the circuit disqualified themselves) found there was “probable cause” and ordered the defendants to answer the charges.

While the two lawsuits have not been officially consolidated, the court will consider the fate of both cases at the single hearing, noting their “overlap.” According to a June 30 order, the hearing will focus on motions, which, if granted, “would result in dismissal of the suits.” Lawyers for the authors and publisher defendants as well as bookseller Barnes & Noble filed motions to dismiss the suits late last month. Reply briefs from the plaintiffs are due August 9, with final replies due from the defendants on August 16….

(7) LOCAL LIBRARY DEFUNDED. The Guardian reports Gender Queer is also under attack in a Michigan town: “US library defunded after refusing to censor LGBTQ authors: ‘We will not ban the books’”.

A small-town library is at risk of shutting down after residents of Jamestown, Michigan, voted to defund it rather than tolerate certain LGBTQ+-themed books.

Residents voted on Tuesday to block a renewal of funds tied to property taxes, Bridge Michigan reported.

The vote leaves the library with funds through the first quarter of next year. Once a reserve fund is used up, it would be forced to close, Larry Walton, the library board’s president, told Bridge Michigan – harming not just readers but the community at large. Beyond books, residents visit the library for its wifi, he said, and it houses the very room where the vote took place.

…The controversy in Jamestown began with a complaint about a memoir by a nonbinary writer, but it soon spiraled into a campaign against Patmos Library itself. After a parent complained about Gender Queer: a Memoir, by Maia Kobabe, a graphic novel about the author’s experience coming out as nonbinary, dozens showed up at library board meetings, demanding the institution drop the book. (The book, which includes depictions of sex, was in the adult section of the library.) Complaints began to target other books with LGBTQ+ themes.

(8) IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD. Nina Nasseth looks at how horror movies manipulate your brain. “This is Your Brain On Horror” at CrimeReads.

…When we look at what gives any good horror movie its true horror vibe, we end up with two distinct elements: terror and horror. We often use these terms interchangeably, but they are very different. Terror is where tension lives. It’s that awful, creepy-crawly feeling, the anxiety and anticipation that builds toward a horrifying event or realization— basically, it’s the heebie-jeebies. Horror is how we react once that event actually occurs. We can thank Ann Radcliffe, mother of Gothic literature, for those definitions….

(9) UHURA FILK. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] With the sad news of Nichelle Nichols’ passing earlier this week, I kept thinking about this great filksong “Uhura” I heard decades ago by Joey Shoji, a Hawaiian-style love crooner for the Communications Officer of the Enterprise NCC-1701.  It occurred to me, belatedly, to see if the song had been uploaded to the Internet. Turns out, it has, although the quality is a little iffy. It’s the lead-in song in the following video.  I thought it might be a nice tribute.

(10) MEMORY LANE.  

1988 [By Cat Eldridge.] In 1988 during the American fall television season was hampered by a writers’ strike that prevented the writing of any new scripts. Producers, anxious to provide new series for viewers but with the prospect of a lengthy strike, went into the archives for previously written material. And the Powers That Be decided a new Mission Impossible series would be a good idea. 

Now the only actor from the original series that ran from 1966 to 1973 (and which is streaming on Paramount+ though this one is not, odd that) who would end being involved in his series would be Peter Graves who once again is playing Jim Phelps. That might be because the Powers That Be decided to film it in Australia and a lot of actors did decline to disrupt their live by relocating there. The first season was in Queensland before moving to Melbourne.

The only other regular cast member (of course completely unseen) to return for every episode was the voice of “The Tape” (in this series, “The Disc”) in the form of Bob Johnson. I’m assuming his bit was voiced back in the States.

The rest of the cast was of course mostly Australian. Nicholas Black, portrayed by Thaao Penghlis, was an actor, master of makeup/disguise, visual effects, voice impersonation, mimicry. He was there for all thirty episodes. Max Harte who played Tony Hamilton, an expert in strength, acting, role playing and marksmanship. 

Now we get a connection to the first series — Grant Collier, played by Phil Morris who’s the son of Greg Morris, was the computer expert here. And obviously he’s American. 

We had two women, who each did one season and were described as femme fatales in the press releases at the time. Terry Markwell played Casey Randall for the first season and Jane Badler played Shannon Reed, an ex-Secret Service agent, for the second season. She’s actually Australian-American and is best remembered for her role as Diana, the main antagonist on V.

So how were the stories? I liked them a lot. They were more sophisticated in their use of SFX than the earlier series was but that was to be expected, say in “The Devils” where they investigated a member of the English gentry, and involves various officials in Satanic rituals and human sacrifice for blackmail purposes: they are available to make the eyes of Phelps and one other member glow very convincingly and they leave burning cloven hoofs as they leave the room.

Some scripts are reworked ones that were done during the original series. Some like “The Banshee” were from what we could call the slush pile as they never got used. 

To my knowledge as I said, it’s not streaming anywhere, but it on DVD fir quite reasonable prices. I got mine off eBay.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 6, 1874 Charles Fort. Writer and researcher who specialized in anomalous phenomena. The term fortean is sometimes used to characterize such phenomena. No, not genre as such, but certainly an influence on many a writer. The Dover publication, The Complete Books of Charles Fort, that collects together The Book of The Damned and Lo!Wild Talents and New Lands has a foreword by Damon Knight. L. Sprague de Camp reviewed it in Astounding Science-Fiction in the August 1941 issue when it was originally published as The Books of Charles Fort. (Died 1932.)
  • Born August 6, 1877 John Ulrich Giesy. He was one of the early writers in the Sword and Planet genre, with his Jason Croft series. He collaborated with Junius B. Smith on many of his stories though not these which others would call them scientific romances. He wrote a large number of stories featuring the occult detective Abdul Omar aka Semi-Dual and those were written with Smith. I see Apple Books has at least all of the former and one of the latter available. Kindle just has the latter. (Died 1947.)
  • Born August 6, 1911 Lucille Ball. She became the first woman to run a major television studio, Desilu Productions, which is where Star Trek was produced. Her support of the series kept it from being terminated by the financial backers even after it went way over budget in the first pilot. (Died 1989.)
  • Born August 6, 1926 Janet Asimov. Wife of Isaac Asimov. Author of some half dozen novels and a fair amount of short fiction on her own, mostly as J.O. Jeppson; co-author with Isaac of the Norby Chronicles. Her memoir, Notes for a Memoir: On Isaac Asimov, Life, and Writing, came out sixteen years ago. (Died 2019.)
  • Born August 6, 1956 Ian R. MacLeod, 66. Another author I need to read more of. I’ve read the first two in what’s called the Aether Universe series, The Light Ages and The House of Storms, but there’s a number of novels I’m intrigued by including Song of Time and The Great Wheel. Anything else y’all would recommend I read? 
  • Born August 6, 1960 Leland Orser, 62. If you look closely, you’ll spot him in Escape from L.A. as Test Tube and in Independence Day in the dual roles of the Day Tech and a Medical Assistant.  He’s in Daredevil as Wesley Owen Welch, Kingpin’s right-hand man. And someone at Trek casting liked him as he was on Deep Space NineVoyager and Enterprise. All different roles. 
  • Born August 6, 1962 Michelle Yeoh, 60. Ok, I have to give her full name of Yang Berbahagia Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Michelle Yeoh Choo-Kheng. Her first meaningful genre roles was as Wai Lin in Tomorrow Never Dies and Yu Shu Lien in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I actually remember her as Zi Yuan in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, the first film of a since cancelled franchise. And then there’s her dual roles in the Trek universe where she’s Captain Philippa Georgiou and Emperor Philippa Georgiou. A deliciously twisted role. Roles? The forthcoming Section 31 series will involve one of them but I’m not sure which one… or maybe both… Michelle Yeoh is Evelyn Wang in Everything Everywhere All at Once, a role that Filers now are thinking about for their Hugo ballot. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld shows a proofreading machine. It works alarmingly like the File 770 comments section.

(13) POTTERING AROUND. Ranker’s Saim Cheeda presents “Things You Didn’t Know About Wizarding Professions”. First on the list:

1. Curse-Breakers Dig Up Gold And Magical Artifacts

The nature of Bill Weasley’s job isn’t too clear in the novels apart from his status as a curse-breaker for Gringotts Bank. Curse-breakers are specialized roles in which the witch or wizard needs to raid places like tombs and pyramids to find gold and magical artifacts for Gringotts to procure.

Curse-breakers make sure that the protective enchantments and curses around ancient locations are removed to ensure the safety of everyone involved. It’s a dangerous but thrilling job, and Bill Weasley’s distinguished O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. scores are the reason he managed to become a curse-breaker.

(14) A VISIT TO LA-LA-LAND. Ed Brubaker talks to CrimeReads about his graphic novel about Ethan Reckless. “Exploring a Reckless Vision of Los Angeles, with Ed Brubaker”.

…“One of my favorite things about comics, graphic novels, whatever you want to call them, is that it costs the same to do a period piece (or a sci-fi) as it does to do something that takes place in modern times. It’s just about research and trying to get it right. For the Reckless books, I’ve been trying to recreate my kind of ‘dream LA’ from my childhood,” Brubaker said. “I didn’t grow up in Los Angeles, but we visited it a lot in the 70s and 80s, and I was always Hollywood obsessed, because my uncle was a once-famous screenwriter—he wrote Crossfire, On the Beach, and The Wild One, among many others. So in making these books, I’m also trying to showcase forgotten or lost places in LA that meant something to me growing up. Like pieces of the LA punk scene, or cool old restaurants, or the way Venice used to feel—cheaper and more dangerous, but with lots more roller skaters.”…

(15) THEY STEPPED ON SUPERMAN’S CAPE. Last weekend’s box office had a leader you may not have heard about yet because it’s only been released in China so far: “Chinese sci-fi movie ‘Moon Man’ becomes biggest movie in the world after $129 million weekend”.

The Chinese sci-fi movie “Moon Man” outshined all others at the global box office over the weekend.

The film grossed $129 million over the weekend, according to Comscore, and that’s only from the Chinese market. DC’s animated movie “League of Super Pets,” which follows the adventures of Superman’s dog, lagged behind at $41 million internationally.

“Moon Man” follows the story of an astronaut stranded on the moon who believes he’s the last human alive after witnessing an asteroid crashing into Earth.

The film is directed by Zhang Chiyu (“Never Say Die”) and produced by the studio Mahua FunAge (“Hello Mrs Money”).

Before its premiere on July 29, “Moon Man” had over 1.4 million fans rating the movie as “want to see” on Chinese film tracking platforms. It has since gone on to score a 9.4 and 9.5 out of 10 on film sites Maoyan and Taopiaopiao, respectively, according to Variety.

(16) NEW EDITION OF GADALLAH FAVORITE. The Legend of Sarah by Alberta author Leslie Gadallah, a classic Canadian science fiction novel originally published as The Loremasters by Del Rey Books in 1988, is now available in a new, revised edition from Shadowpaw Press.

At fourteen, Sarah is an accomplished pickpocket who knows all the back streets and boltholes of the town of Monn. She steers clear of Brother Parker and his Church of True Faith, knows better than to enter the Inn of The Honest Keeper, and avoids the attentions of Butch, the Miller’s son, as best she can.

The one bright spot in Sarah’s day is listening to the storyteller’s tales of the magically easy lives of the Old People—and if,  as darkness falls, one of the wealthier listeners happens to be so intent on the storyteller’s voice that he becomes careless of his own purse, well, so much the better. Inspired by the storyteller’s narratives, Sarah often imagines her own life as the stuff of legend for some future troubadour.

But even such daydreams can’t prepare her for becoming embroiled with a witchy Phile—an agent of the devil, come in search of the Old People’s hidden secrets. How could Sarah have known that picking the wrong pocket would strand her in the middle of a power struggle among Brother Parker, the Governor, and the encroaching Phile spies?

Leslie Gadallah grew up in Alberta and is currently living in Lethbridge with her geriatric black cat, Spook. Educated as a chemist, she has worked in analytical, agricultural, biological, and clinical chemistry.  She has written popular science for newspapers and radio, has served as a technical editor, and is the author of four SF novels and a number of short stories.

The Legend of Sarah can be bought directly from the publisher or from most online bookstores. This handy URL provides links to multiple online sources:  https://books2read.com/thelegendofsarah

(17) THUMBS UP AND DOWN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This video where Patton Oswalt discusses his picks for the five best and five worst sf films for GQ dropped Wednesday. Independence Day is on the bottom. “Patton Oswalt Critiques Sci-Fi Films (Top 5 & Bottom 5)”.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Gizmodo declares “Weird Al’s ‘Scarif Beach Party’ Is a Star Wars Summer Bop”. It’s from LEGO Star Wars: Summer Vacation which premieres August 5 on Disney+.

We knew that “Weird Al” Yankovic wouldn’t just be appearing in the Lego Star Wars Summer Vacation special, but singing an entirely new song for it. And now that the special has arrived on Disney+ today, the full song has been released as well, and frankly? It rules.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/23/22 Filers, Tick Not, Now Or Ever, Where To Scroll Your Pixels Go

(1) AURORA AWARDS VOTING DEADLINE. Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association members have only a few minutes left to vote for 2022 Aurora Awards. The deadline is 11:59 p.m. EDT, on Saturday, July 23.

The awards ceremony will be held as a YouTube and Facebook live streaming event at 7:00 p.m. EDT on Saturday, August 13 at When Words Collide. 

(2) BEAUTIFYING THE BRICKS. DreamHaven Books showed off the progress on their new outside wall mural to Facebook friends. There’s also this smaller peek on Instagram.

(3) HEAR HEAR. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA) resumes its series with 2022 Rhysling Long Poem Reading Series Part 2.

(4) THE SPIRIT OF ’46. First Fandom Experience links up with Chicon 8’s “1946 Project” (which they’re doing instead of Retro Hugos). “Science Fiction and Fantasy in the Pulps: 1946” is a bibliography of sff published in that year.

…Presented here for your perusal and possible amusement is a fiction bibliography for science fiction and fantasy pulps issued in 1946. The list includes magazines that primarily published new works. Excluded are reprints of works published in prior years (most of Famous Fantastic Mysteries, all of Strange Tales). Non-fiction articles and editorials are also omitted. For brevity, we didn’t cite specific issue dates. For richness, we’ve transcribed the introductory blurbs that appeared in the Table of Contents or masthead for each story….

(5) DOODLER. [Item by Michael Toman.] “In a world where Franza Kafka became one of the first Big Name Fan Artists…?” “Kafka’s Inkblots” by J.W. McCormack, behind a paywall at New York Review of Books.

…Such an active imagination—the fever for annotation, familiar from Pale Fire or Flaubert’s Parrot, that distorts the inner life of the artist even as it seeks to illuminate it—is required of any reader hoping to get their money’s worth from Franz Kafka: The Drawings, a volume of the writer’s archival sketches and ephemera edited by Andreas Kilcher and Pavel Schmidt. A bearded maestro presides from the back of a business card. A stick figure seems to throttle a mass of squiggles. A harlequin frowns under the chastisement of an irate lump. Two curvilinear ink blots pass each other on a blank-page boulevard. A bushy-browed Captain Haddock-type glowers in profile on a torn envelope and, in the margins of a letter, a wrigglesome delinquent is bisected by a torture device that seems to clearly reference the one from “In the Penal Colony.” Limbs jut out cartoonishly from bodies, loopedy-loop acrobats snake up and down the gutter of a magazine, figures of authority preside in faded pencil, and then there are the stray marks on manuscript pages, neither fully letters nor drawings….

(6) BRICK BY BRICK. “E. E. Cummings and Krazy Kat” by Amber Medland at The Paris Review site puts the famous strip in perspective as an inspiration to all manner of creators of modern 20th-century literature and art.

…The Kat had a cult following among the modernists. For Joyce, Fitzgerald, Stein, and Picasso, all of whose work fed on playful energies similar to those unleashed in the strip, he had a double appeal, in being commercially nonviable and carrying the reek of authenticity in seeming to belong to mass culture. By the thirties, strips like Blondie were appearing daily in roughly a thousand newspapers; Krazy appeared in only thirty-five. The Kat was one of those niche-but-not-really phenomena, a darling of critics and artists alike, even after it stopped appearing in newspapers. Since then: Umberto Eco called Herriman’s work “raw poetry”; Kerouac claimed the Kat as “the immediate progenitor” of the beats; Stan Lee (Spider-Man) went with “genius”; Herriman was revered by Charles Schulz and Theodor Geisel alike. But Krazy Kat was never popular. The strip began as a sideline for Herriman, who had been making a name for himself as a cartoonist since 1902. It ran in “the waste space,” literally underfoot the characters of his more conventional 1910 comic strip The Dingbat Family, published in William Randolph Hearst’s New York Evening Journal….

(7) ANTICIPATION. Rich Horton abhors a vacuum, which is why he keeps his series going with “Hugo Nomination Recommendations, 1951”.

As noted, I’m planning to finish up my posts on potential Hugo nominees for 1950s Worldcons, including those that didn’t award Hugos. This is a case (as with 1954) where stories from the eligibility year (i.e. 1950) had a shot at Retro-Hugos, as Milliennium Philcon, the 2001 Worldcon, chose to award them. (Appropriate, I suppose, as the 1953 Philcon originated the Hugo Awards.) And in fact I wrote a post back in 2001 giving my recommendations for Retro Hugos that year. This appeared in SF Site here I am bemused to find that my recommendations from back then are almost exactly the same as I came up with surveying 1950s SF just now.

The 1951 Worldcon was Nolacon I, in New Orleans, the ninth World Science Fiction Convention. As noted, they gave no Hugo awards. This was the first year of International Fantasy Awards, and both were given to books published in 1949: fiction went to George Stewart’s, Earth Abides (surely a strong choice) and non-fiction to The Conquest of Space, by Willy Ley and Chesley Bonestell….

(8) LATHE OF HEAVENS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Hack writers get hackier with AI! The Verge blabs about “How independent writers are turning to AI”.

… Lepp, who writes under the pen name Leanne Leeds in the “paranormal cozy mystery” subgenre, allots herself precisely 49 days to write and self-edit a book. This pace, she said, is just on the cusp of being unsustainably slow. She once surveyed her mailing list to ask how long readers would wait between books before abandoning her for another writer. The average was four months. Writer’s block is a luxury she can’t afford, which is why as soon as she heard about an artificial intelligence tool designed to break through it, she started beseeching its developers on Twitter for access to the beta test. 

The tool was called Sudowrite. Designed by developers turned sci-fi authors Amit Gupta and James Yu, it’s one of many AI writing programs built on OpenAI’s language model GPT-3 that have launched since it was opened to developers last year. But where most of these tools are meant to write company emails and marketing copy, Sudowrite is designed for fiction writers. Authors paste what they’ve written into a soothing sunset-colored interface, select some words, and have the AI rewrite them in an ominous tone, or with more inner conflict, or propose a plot twist, or generate descriptions in every sense plus metaphor. 

Eager to see what it could do, Lepp selected a 500-word chunk of her novel, a climactic confrontation in a swamp between the detective witch and a band of pixies, and pasted it into the program. Highlighting one of the pixies, named Nutmeg, she clicked “describe.”…

(9) UP FROM THE UNDERGROUND. [Item by Dann.] This Reason Podcast focuses on the early days of comix in an interview with Brian Doherty regarding his newly published book Dirty Pictures: “Brian Doherty Talks Dirty Pictures, Comix, and Free Speech”.

Dirty Pictures: How an Underground Network of Nerds, Feminists, Misfits, Geniuses, Bikers, Potheads, Printers, Intellectuals, and Art School Rebels Revolutionized Art and Invented Comix, by Reason Senior Editor Brian Doherty, tells the story of how people such as Robert Crumb, Trina Robbins, and Art Spiegelman redefined not just what comic books were capable of but what gets counted as art.

(10) NOSTALGIC X-MEN SERIES. Yahoo! Entertainment is at SDCC when “’X-Men ’97’ Gets First Nostalgic Look, Fall 2023 Release and Season 2”.

Nearly 30 years after “X-Men: The Animated Series” debuted, many of the beloved characters are returning for Marvel Studios’ upcoming show “X-Men ’97,” coming to Disney+ in fall 2023 with a second season already confirmed.

“X-Men ’97” will continue the story of the original “Animated Series,” which ran from 1992 to 1997 on Fox Kids Network. “X-Men: The Animated Series” helped usher in the popularity of the mutant superheroes before Fox made the first live-action take on the team in 2000.

The new series will include Rogue, Beast, Gambit, Jean Grey, Wolverine, Storm, Jubilee and Cyclops. Magneto, now with long hair and a purple suit, will lead the X-Men. The animation, revealed at Comic Con on Friday, stays true to the original animated series, but looks more modern, updated and sleek.

Cable, Bishop, Forge, Morph and Nightcrawler will also join the X-Men onscreen. Battling them will be the (non-“Stranger Things”) Hellfire Club with Emma Frost and Sebastian Shaw, plus Mr. Sinister and Bolivar Trask will appear.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1995 [By Cat Eldridge.] It is said that God made man in His image, but man fell from grace. Still, man has retained from his humble beginnings the innate desire to create, but how will man’s creations fair? Will they attain a measure of the divine or will they, too, fall from grace? — The Control Voice

Twenty-seven years ago, The Outer Limits’ “I, Robot” first aired on HBO. 

This is a remake of “I, Robot” that aired thirty-one years earlier. Leonard Nimoy, who played the reporter Judson Ellis in that episode, plays attorney Thurman Cutler in this version, a role played by Howard Da Silva in the original. This remake was directed by Nimoy’s son Adam Nimoy. 

Now “I, Robot” was written by Eando Binder, the pen name used by the SF authors, the late Earl Andrew Binder and his brother Otto Binder. They created a heroic robot named Adam Link. The first Adam Link story, published in 1939, is titled “I, Robot”. Adam Link, Robot, a collection of those stories, is available from the usual suspects. 

Robert C. Dennis who wrote the screenplay here would go on to write multiple episodes of Wild, Wild West and Batman. He was also one of the primary writers for the earlier Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 23, 1888 Raymond Chandler. He of the Philip Marlowe series who I hold in very high esteem is listed by ISFDB as doing some stories of a genre nature, to be exact, ”The Bronze Door”, “The King In Yellow”, “Professor Bingo’s Snuff” and “English Summer: A Gothic Romance”. I’ve neither heard of nor read these. So who here has read them? (Died 1959.) 
  • Born July 23, 1914 Virgil Finlay. Castle of Frankenstein calls him “part of the pulp magazine history … one of the foremost contributors of original and imaginative artwork for the most memorable science fiction and fantasy publications of our time.”  His best-known covers are for Amazing Stories and Weird Tales. “Roads”, a novella by Seabury Quinn, published in the January 1938 Weird Tales, and featuring a cover and interior illustrations by him, was originally published in an extremely limited numbers by Arkham House in 1948. It’s now available on from the usual suspects. (Died 1971.)
  • Born July 23, 1938 Ronny Cox, 83. His first genre role was in RoboCop as OCP President Dick Jones who comes to a very bad end. Later roles were Gen. Balentine in Amazon Women on the Moon in “The Unknown Soldier” episode, Martians Go Home as the President, Total Recall as Vilos Cohaagen, Captain America as Tom Kimball and a recurring role for a decade on Stargate SG-1 as Senator Robert Kinsey/Vice President Robert Kinsey. 
  • Born July 23, 1957 Gardner Dozois. He was founding editor of The Year’s Best Science Fiction anthology and was editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine for twenty years. He won fifteen Hugos for his editing and was nominated for others. He also won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story twice, once for “The Peacemaker” and once for “Morning Child”. Stories selected by him for his annual best-of-year volumes have won, as of several years ago, 44 Hugos, 32 Locus, 41 Nebulas, 18 Sturgeon Awards and 10 World Fantasy. Very impressive! (Died 2018.)
  • Born July 23, 1982 Tom Mison, 40. He is best known as Ichabod Crane on Sleepy Hollow which crosses-over into Bones. He’s Mr. Phillips in The Watchmen. It’s barely (if at all) genre adjacent but I’m going to note that he’s Young Blood in A Waste of Shame: The Mystery of Shakespeare and His Sonnets. Currently he’s got a main role in second season of the See SF series on Apple TV which has yet to come out. Apple hasn’t put out any publicity on it. 
  • Born July 23, 1989 Daniel Radcliffe, 33. Harry Potter of course. Also Victor Frankenstein’s assistant Igor in Victor Frankenstein, Ignatius Perrish in Horns, a horror film, and Rosencrantz in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at the Old Vic in London.  

(13) THIS ICE CREAM DOESN’T CUT THE MUSTARD. Well, actually, it does, and that’s the problem.The Takeout’s Brianna Wellen declares “This Grey Poupon Ice Cream Needs More Mustard”.

…As described in a press release sent to The Takeout, the Grey Poupon with Salted Pretzels is “An unexpected yet delightful blend of sweet ice cream, honey-dijon swirl, and salted pretzels.” It’s part of Van Leeuwen’s line of summer limited edition flavors, which also includes Campfire S’mores, Summer Peach Crisp, Honey Cornbread with Strawberry Jam, and Espresso Fior di Latte Chip. All of these flavors are available at Walmart until the end of the season.

… Even the smell of the ice cream was slightly mustardy—I was prepared for a real dijon bomb.

But the first scoop left some things to be desired. First, the mustard flavor is a little muddled and lost amidst the creaminess….

(14) STAR WARS SANS CULOTTES. Yes, it’s what you think it is: “I saw a ‘Star Wars’ strip show in SF, and I’m forever changed” says SFGate’s Ariana Bindman.

…With each draw of the curtain, we saw a series of burlesque acts that were visually decadent and tonally unique. Aside from Jabba the Hutt and captive Leia, my other personal favorite was when Sheev Palpatine — who looked absolutely grotesque thanks to a wrinkled blue-and-white skin suit — fully stripped and swung on a massive disco ball to Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball.” Just before that, R2-D2, resident space pimp, made it rain by ejecting wads of cash into the air while a braggadocious Han Solo undulated to “Smooth Criminal,” making every goth and nerd in the audience scream like animals…. 

(15) IT’S ABOUT TIME. “Strange new phase of matter created in quantum computer acts like it has two time dimensions” at Phys.org.

By shining a laser pulse sequence inspired by the Fibonacci numbers at atoms inside a quantum computer, physicists have created a remarkable, never-before-seen phase of matter. The phase has the benefits of two time dimensions despite there still being only one singular flow of time, the physicists report July 20 in Nature.

This mind-bending property offers a sought-after benefit: Information stored in the phase is far more protected against errors than with alternative setups currently used in quantum computers. As a result, the information can exist without getting garbled for much longer, an important milestone for making quantum computing viable, says study lead author Philipp Dumitrescu….

(16) KEEP WALKING. Yahoo! introduces the trailer shown at SDCC: “’Tales of the Walking Dead’ Trailer Shows How the Zombie Apocalypse Is Kind of Like COVID”.

…The trailer features elements from several of the show’s standalone stories that all paint a very stark picture of how the world fell — and honestly we’re reminded of a ton of the drama from the COVID-19 era, particularly the denialism, rugged individualist posturing, and the scapegoating.

For example, we see Parker Posey as an apparently well-to-do woman who straight up refuses to believe reports of a zombie apocalypse… of course, until it runs right up and bites her. Crews meanwhile plays a survivalist who lives an isolated, paranoid life, until he (for an as-yet unrevealed reason) ends up sheltering with Olivia Munn and gets called out. Will he change? We’ll have to find out….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers:  The Quarry,” Fandom Games, in a spoiler-packed episode, say this game about teenagers getting munched on in the quarry by monsters “is a B movie with AAA production values that has “two hours of story and eight hours of wandering around like a stoned teen.”  But the CGI is so lifelike that the characters are actors you almost recognize, including “That guy who was in the thing you saw once.”

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

Pixel Scroll 7/6/22 I Come From A Pixel Down Under, Where Fen Scroll and Pros Wonder

(1) HEARING FROM DELANY. Sally Wiener Grotta kicks off a new video interview series — “What If? Why Not? How?” – with the help of Samuel Delany (who has more to say in the comments at Facebook).

A few weeks ago, when Samuel Delany and I were at a gathering of friends at Michael Swanwick‘s and Marianne Porter’s home, he explained why he feels that spelling “black” with a capital “B” is racist. As is always true, Chip’s discourse was fascinating, keeping us spellbound. There and then, I knew I would want to record him on the subject. So, here he is, helping me launch my new video interview series: “What If? Why Not? How?” 

(2) IN PERSON IN SAN DIEGO. Heidi McDonald scouts the layout for Publishers Weekly in “San Diego Comic-Con Is Back”.

For the first time in three years, San Diego Comic-Con is returning as an in-person event. However, in a world changed by an ongoing global pandemic, even the gigantic pop culture institution will look very different when fans finally return to the San Diego Convention Center July 20–24.

It’s all part of the event industry’s transition away from the most severe pandemic restrictions, as comics publishers and media companies approach events, sales, and marketing in a new social and economic landscape. For publishers, online sales have soared, and the cost of exhibiting at giant pop culture conventions isn’t always justified financially. Nevertheless, the glamour and excitement of SDCC remains a draw, and the intangible value of seeing popular artists, as well as industry colleagues, in person has been much missed.

But this year the layout of the exhibit floor at the San Diego Convention Center will feature significant changes. Warner Bros. Discovery, the newly formed parent company of DC, has pulled out of the massive booth that once anchored the end of one hall and housed DC’s SDCC booth presence. DC will have a full lineup of panels and talent, but no booth. Dark Horse Comics, which has had a large centrally located booth for years, will also be missing, along with the longtime floor presence of indie publisher Drawn & Quarterly and publisher/merchandise producer Graphitti Designs. Image Comics, also a major presence on the exhibit floor, will have a much smaller booth.

Making up for this, newer graphic novel publishers, such as Immortal Studios, Interpop, Tapas Media/Wuxia World, Three Worlds/Three Moons, and Z2, will have booths for the first time….

(3) TRACKING COVID AFTER WESTERCON. Westercon 74, held over the July 4th weekend in Tonopah, has created a COVID tracking page on its website to collate COVID-19 reports.

We ask that any person who contracts COVID-19 during Westercon 74 or for one week following the convention please send an email to covid@westercon74.org so that we can track any possible outbreak. We will not release any personally-identifying information without prior approval from the person who reports having been infected.

So far there is one report from an attendee of Westercon 74 reporting a positive COVID-19 self-test.

Kevin Standlee emphasizes, “We won’t report personal information without the person’s permission.”

(4) A SLICE OF MIDDLE-EARTH. Here’s about 25% of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Prime Video Exclusive Sneak Peek available today to Prime Video subscribers.

(5) DOMINIQUE DICKEY Q&A. Sarah Gailey interviews “Dominique Dickey of Plant Girl Game, “a cozy tabletop roleplaying game about a family of plant children working together to prevent an ecological disaster.” The crowdfunding appeal for the game is open for another 14 days at Gamefound.

The character age range for this game is young, ranging from 11 years old and up. What makes a child or adolescent’s perspective on community unique?

Children often think of very simple solutions to complex problems, because they’re more immersed in how the world should work than how it actually functions. Adolescents tend to run face first into that complexity: I remember at the age of fifteen or so, going from “Well, why can’t we just fix climate change?” to “A lot of very powerful people are invested in maintaining the status quo, and we have a narrow window of time in which to break that status quo, and it won’t be easy to do so.” I was absolutely enraged, because the childish part of me was still unable to conceptualize cruelty on a larger scale than playground bullies or mean girls in the locker room. I had a child’s expansive empathy, and wasn’t able to understand why anyone would lack that empathy.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that I want players to face that tension. I want players to begin a session of Plant Girl Game with the childlike knowledge that the world should be a kinder, fairer place, and leave with the adolescent realization that if we want that world—for ourselves and for our loved ones—we’re going to have to fight like hell for it….

(6) BE A FRINGE FAN IN A GOOD WAY. [Item by Alison Scott.] Filers might in general be interested in the Chicon Fringe programme, with local Chicago and online events. Events are free and you do not need to be a Chicon 8 member to attend. 

But I’m writing specifically because I’m hosting, on behalf of Glasgow in 2024, an online ‘book club’ discussion on the Best Fanzine finalists.

Tuesday 19th July, 19:30 p.m. BST, 1:30 p.m. CDT. Tickets, which are free, are available at Eventbrite here.

It would be lovely to see Filers, and fanzine readers more generally, there. 

(7) DEVELOPING FRIENDSHIPS. Elizabeth Bear’s guest post on Mary Robinette Kowal’s blog is about a different bit than she anticipated: “My Favorite Bit: Elizabeth Bear Talks About The Origin of Storms.

When I sat down to write this essay, I was thinking that I was going to write about the extremely ancient and slightly dimensionally shifted dragon, possibly, or maybe that I was going to write about the snarky magic pen. But (“upon contemplation,” as they say) I realized my favorite part of The Origin of Storms—the thing that was absolutely the most fun to write—is the friendships…..

(8) ON THE TUBE. “Neil Gaiman’s Books Have Enchanted Millions. Finally, Hollywood Is on Board” reports the Washington Post.

…“All of the things that made ‘Sandman’ wonderful were the same things that made it almost impossible to adapt for film and television for 30 years,” says David S. Goyer, a filmmaker and producer who was a co-writer on the “Dark Knight” Batman trilogy. “All of the features that we love about ‘Sandman’ — that it is, in essence, a story about stories — are the bugs that stymied Hollywood.”

Today that is no longer the case. Quietly and steadily over the past six years, Gaiman has matched some of the most prolific creators in Hollywood. And after 32 years trapped in the purgatory of Hollywood development, a 10-episode series based on “The Sandman” will premiere on Netflix on Aug. 5. Developed by Gaiman, Goyer and writer Allan Heinberg, it represents one of the streaming service’s biggest-budget original productions. Meanwhile, Gaiman’s 2005 novel “Anansi Boys,” a modern twist on the ancient stories of the West African trickster god Anansi, is now an Amazon Studios series in postproduction, and “Good Omens” recently wrapped filming its second season. These follow on the heels of the series“American Gods,” which premiered in 2017 on Starz — earning two Emmy nominations for its first season — and aired its third season last year.

In total, Gaiman has seven shows that he has developed or that are based on his writing, with more in the works. He has become the great adapter, pulling from the store of fable and myth for his books, and transmogrifying his written work into radio and stage plays, audiobooks and movies. And now television.

Gaiman’s books “couldn’t get made in a three-network landscape,” Hamm says, owing to their complexity. As television has matured, though, so too have the opportunities to tell more-nuanced stories….

(9) MEMORY LANE

1957 [By Cat Eldridge.] Sixty-five year ago, one of the very best Warner Bros. cartoons ever done was released on this in the form of Bugs Bunny’s “What’s Opera, Doc?”

It directed by Chuck Jones as written by Michael Maltese whose longest association not unsurprisingly was with Warner Bros. Cartoons, though he did work with other animators such as MGM Cartoons and Hanna-Barbera.

BEWARE! SPOILERS! I MEAN IT! 

In this cartoon, Elmer is chasing Bugs through a number of Richard Wagner’s operas, including Der Ring des NibelungenDer Fliegende Holländer, and Tannhäuser. Fudd is dressed as Siegfried and Bugs as Brunhilda to start it off and then, well let’s just say it’s just it gets even more manic. 

Bugs is apparently dead at the end of the cartoon as Fudd carries him off but he suddenly breaks the fourth wall and raises his head to face the audience while remarking, “Well, what did you expect in an opera? A happy ending?”

END SPOILERS

Given it has only two characters, it won’t surprise there’s only two voice actors. Mel Blanc was Bugs Bunny (as Brünnhilde) and  Elmer Fudd (yelling “SMOG”) which is no surprise, but the surprise for me that that Mel Blanc wasn’t Elmer Fudd being Siegfried but rather it was Arthur Q. Bryan who went uncredited in the cartoon.

It has been voted the best Warner Bros. Cartoon ever. 

A look at the iTunes stores shows it is available there. 

There’s are clips from it legally up YouTube but the entire cartoon is not so please do not offer links to such as they’ll just need to be removed as we don’t host pirated material here. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 6, 1916 — Donald R. Christensen. Animator, cartoonist, illustrator, writer. He worked briefly at Warner Bros. studio, primarily as a storyboard artist for Bob Clampett’s animation unit.  After that, he worked for Dell, Gold Key and Western Publishing comic books, as well as Hanna Barbera, Walter Lantz Productions and other cartoon studios. He wrote and provided illustrations for such comic book titles as Magnus, Robot Fighter, Donald Duck, and Uncle Scrooge. (Died 2006.)
  • Born July 6, 1918 — Sebastian Cabot. He’s here because he’s in The Time Machine, which was nominated for a Hugo at Seacon, as Dr. Philip Hillyer. Several years later, he’ll be in the animated The Sword in the Stone voicing both Lord Ector and The Narrator. Likewise he’d be Bagheera in The Jungle Book, and The Narrator in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Lastly he shows up in several episodes of Fifties series Conrad Nagel Theater. (Died 1977.)
  • Born July 6, 1927 — Janet Leigh. Certainly best remembered as doomed Marion Crane in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. She would also be in with her daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, in both The Fog and Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. She’s also in the Night of the Lepus, a very odd 70s SF film. (Died 2004.)
  • Born July 6, 1945 — Rodney Matthews, 77. British illustrator and conceptual designer. Among his many endeavors was one with Michael Moorcock creating a series of 12 large posters that showed scenes from Moorcock’s ‘Eternal Champion’ series. This is turn became the Wizardry and Wild Romance calendar. He also worked work with Gerry Anderson on the Lavender Castle series. 
  • Born July 6, 1945 — Burt Ward, 77. Robin in that Batman series. He would reprise the role in voicing the character in The New Adventures of Batman and Legends of the Superheroes, and two animated films, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and Batman vs. Two-Face. (Has anyone seen these?) The latter are the last work done by Adam West before his death. 
  • Born July 6, 1946 — Sylvester Stallone, 76. Although I think Stallone made a far less than perfect Dredd, I think the look and feel of the first film was spot on for the 2000 A.D. series which was something the second film, which though it had a perfect Dredd in Karl Urban, utterly lacked. And Demolition Man and him as Sergeant John Spartan were just perfect.
  • Born July 6, 1950 — Rick Sternbach, 72. Best known for his work in the Trek verse sharing with Star Trek: The Motion Picture where he designed control panel layouts and signage for the Enterprise. He’s next hired for Next Gen where communicator badge, phasers, PADDs and tricorders are all based on his designs. These designs will also be used on DS9 andVoyager. He also pretty much designed every starship during that time from from the Cardassian and Klingon ships to the Voyager itself. He would win Best Professional Artist Hugos at SunCon and IguanaCon II, and he was the Artist Guest of Honor at Denvention 3. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro is about a bit of financial planning for frogs that reminds me of a bit in Hitchhiker’s Guide.
  • The Argyle Sweater is funny – if you get the reference. I once had a 5-year-old, so I do.

(12) MALTIN ON MOVIES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to the podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Dean Fleischer Camp about Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.  Both the Maltins very much like this film. Camp doesn’t provide many technical details, although he credits animation director Kirsten Lepore with doing a lot of the work during the 2 1/2 years it took to make this film.  He also explained that Isabella Rosselini was attached to the project because she likes making quirky artistic choices. Camp also discussed how he and Jenny Slate, who voices Marcel and worked on the script, remain close professional collaborators even though they broke up their relationship. Fun unrelated fact:  director Mike Mills lifts the spirits of his set by bringing in a harpist every friday to play for an hour. Maltin on Movies: Dean Fleischer-Camp”.

The Maltins also had a 2017 conversation with Jenny, available here.

(13) UPGRADE. “The Mars Express spacecraft is finally getting a Windows 98 upgrade” reports The Verge. Although you probably want to know, the ESA hasn’t detailed the exact software that the MARSIS is being upgraded to.

Engineers at the European Space Agency (ESA) are getting ready for a Windows 98 upgrade on an orbiter circling Mars. The Mars Express spacecraft has been operating for more than 19 years, and the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding (MARSIS) instrument onboard has been using software built using Windows 98. Thankfully for humanity and the Red Planet’s sake, the ESA isn’t upgrading its systems to Windows ME.

The MARSIS instrument on ESA’s Mars Express was key to the discovery of a huge underground aquifer of liquid water on the Red Planet in 2018. This major new software upgrade “will allow it to see beneath the surfaces of Mars and its moon Phobos in more detail than ever before,” according to the ESA. The agency originally launched the Mars Express into space in 2003 as its first mission to the Red Planet, and it has spent nearly two decades exploring the planet’s surface….

(14) SOMETHING FOR HUMMERS TO BE HUMBLE ABOUT. “Over 11 years and 570 episodes, John Rabe and Team Off-Ramp scoured SoCal for the people, places, and ideas whose stories needed to be told, and the show became a love-letter to Los Angeles. Now, John is sharing selections from the Off-Ramp vault to help you explore this imperfect paradise.” Off-Ramp at LAist.

Alex Ross says you’re probably humming “Star Wars” wrong … and more on the surprising music of John Williams, who is NOT a copycat.

John Williams is so ubiquitous now, as former leader of the Boston Pops and the man behind the music for so many Lucas and Spielberg films; and old-fashioned lush orchestral scores are now so common, it’s hard to believe they were endangered a few decades ago. But they were, and Alex Ross, the New Yorker music writer, says you can thank Williams. In a long Off-Ramp interview from 2016 with tons of musical examples, Alex makes the case for Williams, and debunks the notion that the maestro is any sort of plagiarist. He also gamely demonstrates how to properly hum the Star Wars theme. Support for this podcast is made possible by Gordon and Dona Crawford, who believe that quality journalism makes Los Angeles a better place to live; and bythe Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people. (Off-Ramp theme music by Fesliyan Studios.)

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Metal Gear Rising: Revengance,” the narrator says that this game is like equivalent of “if George Orwell downed 10 Monster Energies and asked you to cut up with a katana in the backyard.” It’s slice and dice action that “lets you rip through everything like a kid at Christmas.” And “revengance” means “revenge with a vengance.”

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

Pixel Scroll 7/5/22 Omnia Scrollia Divisa Est In Pixellae Tres

(1) WORD OF MOUTH BECAME WORD OF EYE. The New York Times analyzes “How TikTok Became a Best Seller Machine”.

…Now one of the commanding forces in adult fiction, BookTok has helped authors sell 20 million printed books in 2021, according to BookScan. So far this year, those sales are up another 50 percent. NPD Books said that no other form of social media has ever had this kind of impact on sales.

The most popular videos don’t generally offer information about the book’s author, the writing or even the plot, the way a traditional review does. Instead, readers speak plainly about the emotional journey a book will offer.

And that, it turns out, is just what many people are looking for, said Milena Brown, the marketing director at Doubleday.

“‘This is how it makes me feel, and this is how it’s going to make you feel,’” Ms. Brown said, describing the content of many of the videos. “And people are like, ‘I want to feel that. Give it to me!’”…

(2) VICIOUS CIRCLES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Dante Alighieri’s 9 rings face some stiff competition from these movies, though they overlap in ways much more complex than mere circles. Plus, columnist Danielle Ryan carefully points out at least one way our reality is worse than each movie. I suppose that means that, climate change notwithstanding, we should all break out our warmest winter gear for the icy lake ahead. “8 Dystopian Movies That Are Better Than Our Current Hellscape” at Slashfilm.

It is not an understatement to say that life in the United States right now is absolutely terrifying for the majority of its population. In 2016, a game show host won the highest seat of power in the country on a platform of lies and hatred, emboldening the worst of Americans to be angrier, louder, and more violent. More than 1 million Americans are dead from a pandemic, lives that could have potentially been saved with proper leadership and planning in public health instead of one president who publicized injecting bleach as a cure and one who can’t seem to make a firm decision on anything. A sneakily stacked Supreme Court has just overturned Roe v. Wade with the potential to go after other landmark civil rights cases, revoking bodily autonomy from more than half of the population. Things are looking pretty bleak, and while sometimes looking to hopeful fiction like “Star Trek” can be a balm, sometimes a person needs to find comfort in a fictional dystopia to remind them of the tenacity of the human spirit and that there is good even in the worst of times. 

Here are some of the best movie dystopias that provide an alternative to our current, real-life one. After all, if we’re going to have to live through corporations owning everything, having no privacy whatsoever, and basically being in a boring version of a William Gibson story, shouldn’t we at least have flying cars by now? 

(3) FIRST IN, LAST OUT. Kevin Standlee’s photos on Flickr show the Tonopah Westercon winding down.

In 2008, Lisa Hayes was the first person who was part of what would become the 2022 Westercon 74 committee to set foot in the Tonopah Convention Center. On July 5, 2022, she was the last member of the Westercon 74 com

First In, Last Out

Kevin Standlee sports his newly-minted Former Westercon Chair ribbon bestowed upon him by past Westercon Chair Patty Wells and other former chairs during the Alien Autopsy Party at Westercon 74 in Tonopah.

Former Westercon Chair

(4) VISIT FROM A SMALL PLANET. Vulture gathers surviving members of the team for “An Oral History of ‘Contact’ the Movie”.

Ahead of Contact’s 25th anniversary, we spoke to nearly two dozen people involved in its making, including Zemeckis, Foster, McConaughey, Druyan, Sasha Sagan, and veteran producer Lynda Obst. They disagreed on several aspects of Contact’s development saga, but settled on some consensus: Contact was a lightning-in-a-bottle project, the kind of thing big movie studios barely made before and would probably never make again — intellectually challenging, emotionally messy, heavy with metaphor, wherein nobody shoots an alien in the face in front of an American flag. “We used to do that,” said Foster. “We used to make movies that were resonant and were entertaining.”…

Ann Druyan: This is 1978. Carl and I are still working on CosmosCosmos: A Personal Voyage is a 13-part TV series written by Sagan, Druyan, and Steven Soter, that first broadcast on PBS in 1980.. At the time, it was popular to say things like, “Well, if men are as smart as women, then how come there are no female Leonardos? No female Einsteins?” This made both of us furious. I had just co-written the part of Cosmos about the Great Library of Alexandria and the fact that Hypatia, who was the leader of the library, was a mathematician focusing on the Diophantine equations that Newton would later become interested in. Her reward for being the great intellectual light of the library in 415 AD was to be ripped from her chariot that she was driving herself and carved to bits with abalone shellsSagan gave Druyan an abalone shell that she says she always keeps with her..

People were throwing everything at Carl then. He was such a phenomenon in the culture, and everybody wanted to do something with him. So we knew we could get a book and a movie contract. We agreed one night, sitting in the pool at our little rented house in West Hollywood, that we were going to tell a story in which not only would a woman be the intellectual hero but, in the great tradition of Gilgamesh, she was going to go on the voyage and the guys would stay home.

(5) UNIQUE HONOR. Author TC Parker’s wish has been granted!

(6) HIS WORLD IS ENOUGH. In the Washington Post, Thomas Floyd interviews Dean Fleischer Camp, who directed Marcel The Shell With Shoes On. Camp discusses how he created the tiny crustacean with Jenny Slate in 2010 and how the shorts, having been viewed nearly 50 million times on YouTube, led to the feature film, which has just been released. “’Marcel the Shell’ made it to the big screen by staying small”.

Crafted out of a hermit crab shell, a googly eye and a pair of pink Polly Pocket tennis shoes, Marcel the Shell leaves an outsize impression that belies his one-inch stature. Dean Fleischer Camp realized as much in the summer of 2010, when the first audience was introduced to the stop-motion character’s trembling timbre and infectious positivity.

After promising he’d make a video for a friend’s Brooklyn comedy show, the filmmaker got his then-partner, “Saturday Night Live” alum Jenny Slate, to riff in character as a minuscule mollusk in a big world. (One quip: “Guess what I do for adventure? I hang-glide on a Dorito.”) Dropping Slate’s voice in Marcel’s roughly sketched mouth, Camp delivered a three-minute mockumentary that played as amusing, absurdist and, to his surprise, delightfully disarming….

(7) KSR. The LA Times interviews Kim Stanley Robinson about his mountain memoir The High Sierra: A Love Story. “Sci-fi master Kim Stanley Robinson on the Sierra and why humans might just ‘squeak by’”

Would the planet be better off without us?

We aren’t that important to the biosphere either way! If we wreck civilization and cause a mass extinction event, the biosphere will be fully reoccupied in a few million years by new species. Life will forge on. Humans, who knows. We are probably somewhat ineradicable — check out the near-extinction event from 73,000 years ago that left only a few thousand humans alive on the planet — that was a close one! And yet without our current capabilities we still squeaked through what appears to have been a decades-long volcanic “nuclear winter” event. So, best not to get apocalyptic about it. Put it this way — it could always get better or get worse, it will never end: So try for better.

(8) MEMORY LANE

1993 [By Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-nine years ago, a film that Mike has actually seen to my surprise, debuted on the FOX network here in the States, 12.01 as it was called. It was written by Richard Lupoff, Jonathan Heap and Philip Morton. It was a time loop affair very similar to Groundhog Day, one of Mike’s favorite films. Mike obviously has great taste in films. 

It came from Richard Lupoff’s short story “12:01 PM” which had published in the December 1973 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. It had previously been adapted as the 1990 12:01 PM film starring Kurtwood Smith.

Groundhog Day, which has a similar time loop premise, was released later in 1993. The writers and producers of 12:01 believed their work was stolen by that film. To quote Lupoff, “The story was also adapted—actually plagiarized—into a major theatrical film in 1993. Jonathan Heap and I were outraged and tried very hard to go after the rascals who had robbed us, but alas, the Hollywood establishment closed ranks.” 

Now my question to you is simple: do you recall similar plot lines before Groundhog Day came out? 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 5, 1941 — Garry Kilworth, 81. The Ragthorn, a novella he co-authored with Robert Holdstock, won the World Fantasy Award and the BSFA. It’s an excellent read and it makes me wish I’d read other fiction by him. Anyone familiar with his work?
  • Born July 5, 1946 — Joyce Ballou Gregorian Hampshire. A fascinating woman who was way too short-lived due to a long illness with cancer. She was an SF writer, an expert on Oriental rugs, and a horse breeder. She wrote the Tredana trilogy, an alternative world fantasy. She collaborated with her father, Arthur T. Gregorian, and her nephew, Douglas Christian, on a book on Armenian oriental rugs. (Died 1991.)
  • Born July 5, 1948 — Nancy Springer, 74. May I recommend her Tales of Rowan Hood series of which her Rowan Hood: Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest is a most splendid revisionist telling of that legend? And her Enola Holmes Mysteries are a nice riff off of the Holmsiean mythos. She won an Otherwise Award for her Larque on the Wing novel, and her latest, The Oddling Prince, came out several years ago on Tachyon. 
  • Born July 5, 1957 — Jody Lynn Nye, 65. She’s best known for collaborating with Robert Asprin on the ever so excellent  MythAdventures series.  Since his death, she has continued that series and she is now also writing sequels to his Griffen McCandles series as well. She’s got a space opera series, The Imperium, out which sounds intriguing. Her latest two novels are both written with Travis Taylor, Moon Beam and Moon Tracks.
  • Born July 5, 1962 — Marc Gascoigne, 60. Winner of the World Fantasy Special Award—Professional for his Angry Robot press, and later he won the British Fantasy Award in the category Best Independent Press, again for Angry Robot. If you’re a gamer, you’ll be impressed by knowing that he co-wrote Games Workshop’s original Judge Dredd RPG, and wrote the original Shadowrun source book. And yes, I played the latter longer ago than I want to think about. Read more than a few of the novels as well.
  • Born July 5, 1963 — Alma Alexander, 59. Author of three SF series including the Changer of Days which is rather good. I’m including her here for her Abducticon novel which is set in a Con and concerns both what goes on at that Con and the aliens that are involved. Very, very cool indeed!  It is available as a Kindle book. 
  • Born July 5, 1964 — Ronald D. Moore, 58. Screenwriter and producer who’s best remembered for his work on Star Trek: The Next Generation where he fleshed out the Klingon race and culture, on the rebooted Battlestar Galactica and Outlander. He’s the creator and writer of For All Mankind. He was one of the folks who won a Hugo at Intersection for the Next Generation’s “All Good Things…”, and among the filmmakers nominated for another at LoneStarCon 2 for First Contact. His latest Hugo was won at Interaction for Battlestar Galactica’s “33”.
  • Born July 5, 1972 — Nia Roberts, 50. She appeared in two Doctor Who episodes during the time of the Eleventh Doctor, “The Hungry Earth” and “Cold Blood”. But it’s an earlier role that gets her a Birthday citation just because it sounds so damn cool: Rowan Latimer in the “Curse of the Blood of the Lizard of Doom” episode of the Dr. Terrible’s House of Horrible which spoofed shows such as Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected. Damn that sounds really, really amazing. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side has its own theory of evolution.
  • Macanudo shows how a ship in the age of sail dealt with a sea monster.

(11) SEMI-LIVE BEAST COMING IN DECEMBER. “’Beauty and the Beast’ Gets ABC Live Treatment for 30th Anniversary”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

Beauty and the Beast is getting the live treatment at ABC to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the beloved animated classic’s history-making Academy Award nomination.

…The Disney-backed broadcast network is making a two-hour, live-action/animated special that will feature a new cast and air Dec. 15 on the broadcast network. Jon M. Chu (In the HeightsWicked) is on board to executive produce the project, which will be directed by Hamish Hamilton. The latter is best known for helming awards shows including the Emmys and Grammys, as well as the Super Bowl halftime show, ABC’s The Little Mermaid Live and a pair of Disney’s quarantine-era sing-alongs. The special will be available to stream Dec. 16 on Disney+. …

(12) ACTORS WITH BIG SECRETS. “Star Wars’ TV Rebellion: ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi,’ ‘Ahsoka,’ and ‘Andor’ Rise” at Vanity Fair.

Diego Luna couldn’t trust the driver. He didn’t think he could trust anybody. And hadn’t he read something about an epidemic of eavesdroppers hacking phones? “That was just my paranoia,” the actor says now. “Not connected to reality.” Still, he pressed his phone so tightly to his ear that it made his face hot, as a voice from thousands of miles away told him secrets from another galaxy. The car was stuck in traffic on the top tier of a double-decker highway in Mexico City. “I was speaking in code words because I was trying not to say too much in the car,” says Luna. The words he was avoiding most strenuously were star and wars.

Luna had played the dauntless Rebel spy Cassian Andor in the 2016 film Rogue One. Now, on the other end of the phone, was Tony Gilroy, who had punched up the movie’s script for reshoots. Gilroy—whose credits include writing the first four Bourne thrillers and writing and directing Michael Clayton—was developing a series that would explore Andor’s backstory, revealing what drew him into the galactic Rebellion and how he evolved from a self-serving nihilist into a selfless martyr. Luna’s call with Gilroy—the first time he heard the full plan for the Andor story—happened more than three years ago. “One thing I remember, from being part of this since day one, is how little you can share of what happens,” says the actor. “I have kids, man. It’s painful for them—and for me.”…

(13) BUG JUICE. HotHardware reports “Bacteria Powered Biofuel Breakthrough Could Lead To Cleaner Space Travel”. Daniel Dern, who sent the link, calls it “Another entry in ‘What could possibly go wrong…?’ (in an sf plot at least).”

A group of biofuel experts have developed a completely new type of fuel using bacteria that could have an energy density greater than most advanced heavy-duty fuels being used today. The new discovery could be used to develop a cleaner and more cost-efficient rocket fuel for NASA and other space agencies….

“The larger consortium behind this work, Co-Optima, was funded to think about not just recreating the same fuels from biobased feedstocks, but how we can make new fuels with better properties,” remarked Sundstrom. “The question that led to this is: ‘What kinds of interesting structures can biology make that petrochemistry can’t make?'”…

(14) THIS IS CERTAINLY HIDEOUS. This is like a horror movie. Beware the visuals when Last Week Tonight with John Oliver displays those “Beach Dolls”.

John Oliver discusses a surplus of dolls which have been mysteriously washing up on the beach in Texas, and, crucially, how they can be destroyed.

(15) HOW DID THEY DO THAT? “Someone Got YouTube Videos To Play on a 40-Year-Old Computer That Can Only Display Green Text” says MSN.com. Thorbjörn Jemander explains in a YouTube video.

…Not only was the PET 600’s screen limited to just displaying characters (letters, numbers, punctuation, etc.) but the machines behind them were impossibly slow, often taking a few seconds to load and display lists of files or other data. There was zero chance a dedicated YouTube app could be developed for Commodore BASIC which the PET 600 ran, so Jemander had to take the long road….

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness,” the Screen Junkies say the film is “full of gore that would shock a 13-year-old raised without Internet” and you get “the creepy feeling at hand that Marvel doesn’t know what to do with the X-Men and the Fantastic Four.” But instead of watching this “MCU content slop,” the narrator recommends watching Everywhere Everything All At Once, which he thinks far more entertaining than Doctor Strange 2.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/30/22 Pixel Scroll Them From Orbit, It’s The Only Way To Be Sure

(1) PKD IS READY FOR HIS CLOSEUP. A movie will be made about the life of Philip K. Dick announces The Hollywood Reporter: “Blade Runner Author Philip K. Dick Gets ‘Only Apparently Real’ Biopic”. It will be based in part on the book written by Paul Williams, the one-time literary executor of Dick’s estate and friend of the author. 

…His own life was just as mind-bending as his work, filled with drug use and hallucinations, a suicide attempt and letters to the FBI, paranormal experiences and believing he was living parallel lives in two different time periods, one in the present and the other in the Roman Empire.

Only Apparently Real centers on a break-in at Dick’s house that took place in the early ’70s. He was in the midst of his fourth divorce, trying to give up amphetamines, battling writer’s block and possibly being spied on by the United States government. Then his house was ransacked, his safe blown open and his manuscripts were stolen. But then again, maybe they weren’t and maybe there was never a break-in.

“His life was as surreal as his books,” says Shestack. “He was a high-level functioning person and you never know, even when reading his journals, what is real and what isn’t.”

The story also tackles what Dick himself described as a tragic theme that pervaded his life: the death in infancy of his twin sister, Jane, and the reenactment of it over and over again. Dick attributed many of his psychological issues and personal life challenges to her death, including his attachment anxieties….

(2) BRANCHING OUT. Lois McMaster Bujold received some major league help in expanding her family tree she told Facebook readers.

A while ago, I was invited to be a guest subject on a website called WikiTree, which is an online association of dedicated genealogy enthusiasts. https://www.wikitree.com/ They run a group effort called WikiTree Challenge, in which they turn their skills loose upon the guest’s family tree for one week, and compete to see who can find out the most previously unknown information about the guest’s ancestors; sort of a cross between Roots and Time Team, crowdsourcing genealogy research.

The link to the Bujold entry on WikiTree is: Lois (McMaster) McMaster Bujold (b. 1940s)

The Bujold page is linked to WikiTree’s page which collects information about a number of well-known sf writers – “Which Science Fiction author are you most closely connected to?”

The experience inspired Bujold to assemble the diaries of three Civil War era family members and make them available for sale: The Gerould Family of New Hampshire in the Civil War: Two Diaries and a Memoir.

“When family history meets history…

“This chapbook is a collection of eyewitness historical documents from the American Civil War handed down through descendants of the Gerould family. Two transcribed pocket diaries for the year 1864 describe the day-by-day tribulations of young Union navy surgeon Dr. Martin Gerould, assigned to the ill-fated ironclad Eastport in the Red River Campaign; and his aging mother Cynthia Locke Gerould, the wife of a clergyman, back home in New Hampshire. The increasingly gripping cross-illumination of the paired accounts is further rounded out by the later-written memoir of Martin’s eldest brother Reverend (soon to be Private) Samuel L. Gerould, detailing his experiences in the Fourteenth New Hampshire Volunteers: three voices from the past speaking directly, in their own words.

“Editor Lois McMaster Bujold is a well-known science fiction and fantasy writer, and the great-granddaughter of Samuel L. Gerould.”

With my added introductions and other material, it ended up running about 42k words, about the size of a long novella. Really, it was a lucky intersection of stimulus, time, technology, and ebook skillset, most of which I’d not had until recently.

(3) THOSE THRILLING DAYS OF YESTERYEAR. You can now see video of the “Fandom through the Generations Panel” from the recent Star Wars Celebration Anaheim 2022.

Which era did you enter into Star Wars fandom – classic, prequel, The Clone Wars/Rebels, sequels? Join fandom tour guides Richard and Sarah Woloski from Skywalking Through Neverland as they take you through four decades of fandom. Featured guests include Craig Miller (Former Director – Fan Relations for Lucasfilm), Dan Madsen (Founder – Star Wars Insider), and Matt Martin (current Lucasfilm Senior Creative) who share stories of the ever-evolving fan communities.

(4) CLARION WEST UPDATE. In Clarion West’s Six-Week Summer Workshop, the class is finishing up Week 2 with P. Djèlí Clark. Listen to him read from A Master of Djinn for the Summer of Science Fiction & Fantasy Reading Series on YouTube.

They’re now heading into Week 3 with instructor Fonda Lee. She will be reading on July 5th at the Seattle Public Library; register here to attend either in-person or online.

(5) INTERZONE MIGRATES. TTA Press has announced that the UK prozine “Interzone Has A New Publisher”

From issue #294 Interzone will be edited by Gareth Jelley and published by MYY Press.

Buy a 6-issue print subscription to Interzone and get a high-quality full-colour magazine packed full of mind-expanding fiction and nonfiction delivered directly to your door bimonthly, all for just €47 (price includes VAT and free delivery worldwide).

New subscriptions begin with issue #294.

If you are renewing or extending a TTA Press subscription, we will combine them to ensure you don’t miss out on an issue.

SUBSCRIBE TO INTERZONE

Many thanks to all the collaborators, contributors, readers, and everybody else who helped and supported us through the past one hundred issues. Interzone #292/293, our 100th and final issue, should be purchased as normal from the TTA Shop.

(6) INTERZONE DIGITAL. Meanwhile, Ansible Links alerted readers to the creation of Interzone Digital – mind-bending fantastika from all over the planet, and a web page that concisely explains, “Interzone Digital is like Interzone, but digital.” They’re open for story submissions.

(7) IN THE BLACK FANTASTIC. The Guardian’s Aindrea Emelife visits an Afrofuturism exhibit at a London gallery: “In the Black Fantastic review – reaching for tomorrow’s art world”

Hayward Gallery, London
Eleven contemporary artists inspired by Afrofuturism consider possible futures with a hopeful, fizzing energy

Of the many themes addressed by In the Black Fantastic, a new exhibition inspired by Afrofuturism at the the Hayward Gallery, the negotiations of the Black body is perhaps the most resonant.

Take Chain Reaction, a dramatic new commission by the American sculptor Nick Cave, which sees casts of the artist’s arm, joined together in both unity and struggle, hang from the ceiling, fingers grasping for each other. Elsewhere, Cave’s Soundsuits – colourful costumes that cover the wearer’s face and body – loom with unsettling yet celebratory fervour. When in movement, as part of Cave’s performances, they ensure that the Black male body is seen. It is no coincidence that Cave’s first Soundsuit was made in 1992 following the Rodney King beating in Los Angeles. Soundsuit 9:29, the latest iteration on display here, is a homage to George Floyd and the duration of time former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck. For Cave, taking up space and sound is a form of protest and a means of envisioning new realities.

With its hopeful, fizzing energy, this collection of work by 11 contemporary artists from the African diaspora is important because it offers a glimpse of the way ahead…. 

(8) A HOLE NEW WORLD. Gizmodo nominates these as “The 8 Worst Apocalypse Bunkers in Science Fiction”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

If the world were to end, you’d probably want to be as sequestered as possible—preferably underground with a freshly stocked pantry, your loved ones close by, and plenty of stuff to distract you from the fiery inferno outside your door….This list compiles some of the worst, most grotesque, and eeriest bunkers in recent years, with shelters that tried everything from draining people of their blood to experimenting with cryogenics….

(9) IF YOU KNOW WHERE THEY ARE, THAT’S ALL THAT MATTERS. The Atlantic’s Leslie Kendall Dye contends that “The Organization of Your Bookshelves Tells Its Own Story”.

….Now I use “The Library of Babel” as a metaphor for the landscape of my own library. My books are not organized alphabetically, or, for the most part, by genre. The arrangement seems to have been made entirely at random, unless you know the quirk by which it was conceived. Books are placed next to one another for companionship, based on some kinship or shared sensibility that I believe ties them together. The Little Prince is next to Act One, by Moss Hart, because I think Hart and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry convey, in their respective works, a similar purity of heart and openness of expression. The Little Prince is a French fable set primarily in the Sahara; Act One is a memoir of a poor Jewish boy’s journey to Broadway. But to me, they are about the same thing: finding what matters in life, and shutting out all that is of no consequence….

(10) NOT ELEMENTARY AT ALL. At CrimeReads, Erika Kobayashi discusses what it was like having parents who were determined to translate all of the Sherlock Holmes stories into Japanese. “My Poison Snake: Erika Kobayashi on Growing Up in a Household of Sherlock Translators”.

…Papa and Mama would sit in the kitchen munching senbei crackers.

They were peering intently at foreign-language books spread out before them: the stories of Sherlock Holmes, written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Papa had once been a doctor, and Mama had once worked at a bank.

But with the arrival of their fourth daughter—that is, me—they decided to quit their jobs and devote themselves full time to translating the stories of Sherlock Holmes.

Their dream was to translate all sixty works—the entire Canon….

(11) MEMORY LANE

2011 [By Cat Eldridge.] On this date, Men in Black: The Series (also known as, depending on where you were watching it, as MIB: The SeriesMIB: The Animated Series, and Men in Black: The Animated Series) ended its four year run. The date hereafter refers to its run on KId’s WB. 

The animated series was developed by Duane Capizzi, Jeff Kline and Richard Raynis. Cappizzi was the writer/producer of the animated The Batman, a series I really liked. Kline was co-executive producer of Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles, and Raynis was the same. 

The show is set in an alternate timeline to the Men in Black reality with  the major differ differences being that Agent K is still active, and Agent J is still regarded as a rookie. It has a more than new characters and considerably new technology, something you can do with an animated series.

Charles Napier is Zed and Keith Daimondc as Jay are the only voice performers that are in almost every episodes. Patrick Fraley and Patrick Pinney as the Wormguys voice their characters in all but a handful of episodes. George Berger and Ed O’Ross both play K. 

It lasted for fifty- three episodes over four seasons. 

Yes, I’ve seen more than a handful of episodes. No, it doesn’t have the energy of the films, particularly the first film, but it is reasonably done. The closest comparison I can make to another series is the animated Beatlejuice. You really aren’t going to catch the feel of the original performers, are you? 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a stellar eighty six percent rating.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 30, 1905 — Nestor Paiva. Sometimes it only takes one film or series for a performer to get a Birthday write-up from me. Paiva makes it for Lucas the boat captain in The Creature from the Black Lagoon and its oft-forgotten sequel Revenge of the Creature. Though they were hardly his only genre roles, as his first role was in the early Forties as an uncredited prison guard in Tarzan’s Desert Mystery, and he’d be in many a genre film and series over the decades as Prof. Etienne Lafarge in The Mole People, as the saloon owner in (I kid you not!) Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter, Felicity’s Father in The Spirit Is Willing, Captain Grimby in “The Great Treasure Hunt” of The Addams Family and a Doorman in the “Our Man in Leotards” episode of Get Smart. (Died 1966.)
  • Born June 30, 1920 — Sam Moskowitz. SF writer, critic, and historian. Chair of the very first World Science Fiction Convention held in NYC in 1939. He barred several Futurians from the con in what was later called the Great Exclusion Act. In the Fifties, he edited Science-Fiction Plus, a short-lived genre magazine owned by Hugo Gernsback, and would edit several dozen anthologies, and a few single-author collections, most published in the Sixties and early Seventies. He was the “mystery guest of honor” at Clevention in 1955. His most enduring legacy was as a historian of the genre with such works as The Immortal Storm, Under the Moons of Mars: A History and Anthology of “The Scientific Romance” in the Munsey Magazines, 1912–1920 and Hugo Gernsback: Father of Science Fiction. (Died 1997.) 
  • Born June 30, 1938 — Jeri Taylor, 84. Scriptwriter and producer who wrote many episodes of the Next Generation and Voyager series. To say she was a scriptwriter is a bit of an understatement — she wrote one hundred and sixty-eight of the Voyager episodes, all but four that aired. She only wrote thirteen episodes of Next Gen and three of Deep Space Nine.
  • Born June 30, 1959 — Vincent D’Onofrio, 63. His long running role is Detective Goren on Law and Order: Criminal Intent which is in no way genre. He was Kingpin in that very good Daredevil series, Edgar the Bug in the only truly great Men in Black film to date and Vic Hoskins in Jurassic World. He also was Jason Whitney / Jerry Ashton in The Thirteenth Floor, loosely based upon Simulacron-3, a early Sixties novel by Daniel F. Galouye.
  • Born June 30, 1961 — Diane Purkiss, 61. I’ve not read her Corydon Trilogy she wrote with Michael Dowling, her son, but I can say that At the Bottom of the Garden: A Dark History of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Nymphs, and Other Troublesome Things is as splendid as the title suggests it is. She’s also written Fairies and Fairy Stories: A History
  • Born June 30, 1966 — Peter Outerbridge, 56. Dr. David Sandström in what I think is the underrated ReGenesis series as well being Henrik “Hank” Johanssen in Orphan Black anda recurring role on Millennium as Special Agent Barry Baldwin. He’s also in two series, The Umbrella in a recurring role as The Conductor, and as Calix Niklosin in V-Wars, yet another Netflix SF series. 
  • Born June 30, 1972 — Molly Parker, 50. Maureen Robinson on the current Lost in Space series. One-offs in Nightmare Cafe, The Outer Limits, The SentinelHighlander: The SeriesPoltergeist: The Legacy,  Human Target and she appeared in The Wicker Man asSister Rose / Sister Thorn. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio gets a big reaction when it’s his turn on “Story Sharing Day.”
  • Hagar The Horrible shows a couple with conflicting priorities.
  • Pearls Before Swine shows a possible reason why some writers become recluses.

(14) MS. MARVEL ASSESSMENT. An NPR roundup shows “Many Pakistanis dig the cultural nods on ‘Ms. Marvel’ but are mixed on casting”.

…”The portrayal of a Pakistani household is just right,” wrote Ozan Khan, a lifestyle editor for The Correspondent PK, a digital news organization in Pakistan, on Twitter. “Some references [are] very relatable.”

At home, Kamala’s father watches TV highlights of old cricket matches, a sport that people are fanatical about in Pakistan. Aunties (or as Kamala and Nakia call these nosy community women, “illumin-aunties” — because they see and know everything) gossip about family members and spy on their neighbors. And a cover of the 1966 Pakistani pop hit, “Ko Ko Korina” plays in the background while Kamala and her mom shop for her clothes and jewelry for her brother’s engagement in Jersey City’s South Asian markets.

Many Muslim Pakistanis love the religious touches on the show, too. “It’s the most positive representation of Pakistanis and Muslims out there right now,” wrote Zunaira Inam Khan, a Pakistani social media influencer, on Twitter.

…But our sampling of interviewees did voice criticisms. Some wish that more of the cast had Pakistani heritage. While many of the actors identify as Pakistani (Iman Vellani, the actor who plays Kamala, is Pakistani Canadian, while Nimra Bucha, Samina Ahmed, Mehwish Hayat are regulars in Pakistani TV and film) — the actors who play Kamala’s parents, Zenobia Shroff and Mohan Kapur, are Indian.

Shroff and Kapur “don’t seem like Pakistani parents, quite honestly. And the fact that they are Indian actors is indicative of that,” says Rehman.

“When Shroff spoke, I could hear inflections of a Mumbai accent. She didn’t sound like a Pakistani mother.”

Indian actors from the Bollywood industry dominate South Asian representation in TV and film, wrote @ShabanaMir1 on Twitter. So why did the parents have to be played by Indian actors? “[Disney+], we have a ton of great Pakistani actors,” she tweeted.

(15) DC, THE NEXT GENERATION. DC dropped this trailer about the son of Superman and the son of Batman teaming up. “Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons”.

(16) DREDD ARTIST. The Guardian looks at the “Dredd zone: the anarchic world of comic-book artist Steve Dillon”.

…Dillon’s adopted home town of Luton is currently running an exhibition at the Hat House’s Basement Gallery, featuring work from the artist’s early days through to his illustrations for the satirical dystopian lawman Judge Dredd from British weekly comic 2000AD. There are also pages from Preacher and Warrior, the magazine that launched the careers of a number of British comics luminaries in the 1980s.

“Steve has a special place in this town,” says Samuel Javid, creative director at the Culture Trust Luton. “We have roads called Preacher Close and Cassidy Close, some of his ashes are buried here, and his local pub has a picture of him behind the bar, sticking his middle finger up … ”

Ennis, who also collaborated with Dillon on Judge Dredd and Marvel’s gun-toting antihero the Punisher, first got to know the artist in the early 90s. “I recall sitting up with him one night in the spring of 1990, long after everyone else had crashed, and killing off a bottle of Jameson while we talked about what we thought we could do in comics,” Ennis says. “There was an almost audible click as we realised we’d make a good creative partnership. Each of us simply trusted the other to do the job. I didn’t ask him for the impossible – no 10-panel action-packed pages loaded with dialogue – and he turned in perfect storytelling every time.”…

(17) LIVE LONG AND MODEL. Gigi and Bella Hadid have become Vulcans. Photos at the link: “Gigi and Bella Hadid stun runway with partially ‘shaved’ heads” at CNN Style.

Supermodels Gigi and Bella Hadid debuted bold new looks Monday, storming a New York runway with bleached eyebrows, short bangs and — what appeared to be — half-shaved heads.

But the sisters’ dramatic transformation was soon revealed to be the work of prosthetics artists, who had altered their appearance with the help of bald caps, wigs and makeup.

(18) YE KEN NOW. NME is agog: “Ryan Gosling wore a Ncuti Gatwa ‘Doctor Who’ t-shirt on ‘Barbie’ set”. And Russell T Davies joked that he’s going to sue the actor over the “illegal” merchandise.

Ryan Gosling has been pictured wearing a t-shirt depicting actor Ncuti Gatwa as Doctor Who while filming on the set of Barbie.

Gatwa, who stars alongside Gosling in director Greta Gerwig’s upcoming film, shared the picture of the t-shirt (designed by fan Matthew Purchase) on Instagram….

(19) AIN’T THIS THE PITS. La Brea creator and showrunner David Appelbaum discusses the “La Brea Season 2 teaser trailer” with SYFY Wire.

“This season will still largely take place in 10,000 BC. However, we will no longer be telling a concurrent story in modern-day Los Angeles. Instead, we will be telling a story in 1988 Los Angeles,” Appelbaum continued. “We think this will add a new layer of fun and intrigue to the episodes. It’s also a story I don’t think anyone in the audience would have expected when they first started watching the show. We love the idea of keeping our viewers on their toes and never knowing what’s around the next corner.”

The summary that accompanies the trailer says:

La Brea follows an epic family adventure after a massive sinkhole opens in Los Angeles pulling people and buildings into a mysterious and dangerous primeval land where they have no choice but to band together to survive. In season two, the Harris family remains separated as Eve is reeling from her son, Josh, having mistakenly gone through a portal to 1988. What she doesn’t know yet is that her ex-husband, Gavin, and their daughter, Izzy, have landed in prehistoric Seattle and now must brave the elements and animals to make their way to L.A.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Ryan George, in the spoiler-packed “Obi-Wan Kenobi Pitch Meeting,” has the producer ask the writer if he has “Star Wars milk…so we can milk the franchise we’ve spent billions of dollars on.”  The writer says that Obi-Wan has lost his powers but all he has to do is “think about stuff” and he becomes a Jedi master.  The writer also explains that there’s a really logical place in this series for Obi-Wan to kill Darth Vader but doesn’t “because it’s a contract thing.  Vader has to be in all the other movies.”

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Daniel Dern, rcade, Rich Horton, Steven French, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 6/27/22 Scroll Ain’t Nothing But Pixel Misspelled

(1) STOP STICKING IT TO AUTHORS. In “Amazon’s e-book return policy comes under criticism from authors” NPR takes up the cause of the writers whose pockets are being picked.

… Authors are protesting Amazon’s e-book return policy, a system they say allows readers to “steal” from self-published authors. Amazon’s current return policy for e-books allows customers to “cancel an accidental book order within seven days.” But, for some readers, seven days is more than enough time to finish a book and return it after reading, effectively treating Amazon like a library.

When an Amazon customer returns an e-book, royalties originally paid to the author at the time of purchase are deducted from their earnings balance….

…Those suggesting the read-and-return practice think they’re “sticking it to Amazon,” but in reality are only harming the authors, said Eva Creel, a fantasy writer who publishes under the name E. G. Creel.

“I have my book available at the library. If somebody wants to read it for free, they can,” Creel said. “But reading it and making me think that I’ve made an income and then that income being taken away from me, that feels like stealing.”

Science fiction and fantasy author Nicole Givens Kurtz said she’s concerned that this trend will continue.

“If people continue to promote [reading and returning e-books], it impacts my income, which impacts my quality of life and my ability to take care of my family,” she said. “I don’t think readers quite understand or see the person behind the product.”

(2) STURGEON SYMPOSIUM CFP. The Gunn Center reminds everyone that the deadline for proposals for the first annual Sturgeon Symposium is only 3 days away. The event takes place September 29-30 at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS. See the call for papers here.

(3) INCIDENT INTERRUPTS BUSINESS AT MACMILLAN. “After ‘Security Incident,’ Macmillan Closes, Will Not Process Orders” reports Shelf Awareness. The details are not disclosed.

Macmillan sent a notice to customers saying that because of “a security incident” on Saturday that involved its servers and internal system, the company has closed offices today, Monday, June 27, in order to continue its investigation and to rebuild “a secure working environment.” As a result, Macmillan is currently not able to process, receive, place or ship orders. The company added that it will keep customers posted.

(4) HUGO TAKES. This month the SF Insiders blog launched. Who’s writing it? No idea! It’s a secret.

Not unlike other writers hoping to break into the science fiction and fantasy field, we have high hopes, many opinions, and no power. We remain anonymous to protect ourselves from the Internet horrors we’ve seen inflicted on others.

The blog’s first order of business is evaluating the 2022 Hugo finalists. They’ve written about two Hugo categories and the Astounding Award so far.

2. Sheila Williams

Williams is the only previous winner on this year’s ballot and the editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction. She’s also edited several anthologies, but none of those were published in 2021. Asimov’s output for 2021 was exactly what we’ve come to expect and Williams continued involvement with the Dell Award did not go unnoticed by us. There’s a reason she’s won two Hugos and continues to appear on this list.

5. Escape Pod

A science fiction podcast that publishes a mix of reprint and original stories. Their editors are finalists for Editor Short form and we stand by the opinions stated there. On discussing this publication for the second time, however, we questioned why the same work is eligible for two awards. This isn’t the first time it has happened, but we think it would be more fair if these magazines choose to be in one or the other. With how often there are repeat finalists in these categories, restricting it to one would give us more variety to choose from.

We were supposed to talk about the Astounding Award finalists during this week’s Zoom, but we went in a different direction instead: the “not a Hugo” status of the award. Maybe someone can tell us how has this never become an official Hugo Award? As writers, the current status feels like a slap in the face and we’re not even eligible yet….

(5) LE GUIN, ROBINSON, AND UTOPIAS. The Tin House podcast offers “Crafting with Ursula : Kim Stanley Robinson on Ambiguous Utopias”.

Today’s guest, Kim Stanley Robinson, is perhaps the living writer most associated with utopian literature today. And as a student of the philosopher, political theorist, and literary critic Fredric Jameson, Robinson has thought deeply about the history of utopias, the history of the novel, and the strange hybrid form that became the utopian novel. In his mind it was Ursula K. Le Guin who wrote the first truly great utopian novel. We discuss Le Guin’s utopian work alongside his, and contextualize her importance historically. Robinson also shares some incredible anecdotes from his time in the 70s as her student and the ways their lives as fellow writers have intersected over the decades.

What is a utopian novel? What is an ambiguous utopia? And why has this genre become a particularly vital form and even a critical tool of the human imagination today? Listen in to find out. 

(6) NO COUNTRY FOR YOUNG MEN. [Item by Olav Rokne.] The Ringer does some interesting research into the trend of Hollywood blockbuster action movies that center on older actors and finds that it’s a multifaceted phenomenon that can be tied to economic heft of older moviegoers, changing media tastes in younger generations, and shifts in how movie studios build tentpole features around intellectual property rather than around individual actors and their personal brands. “The Golden Age of the Aging Actor”.

They quote film historian Mark Harris: “Maybe they’re gamers, or maybe what they really enjoy is TikTok, or maybe it’s something else, but a generation can’t generate stars if it doesn’t really love the medium that creates and accommodates stars.”

(7) BRYAN BARRETT OBITUARY. Fan and bookdealer Bryan Barrett, who co-chaired the 1998 World Fantasy Convention, died June 21. Lucy Huntzinger relayed the news from Bryan’s nephew, and wrote a tribute about him on Facebook which says in part:

…I can’t say enough about what a genuine, caring, intelligent, interesting man he was. He was always willing to help out friends with his little truck while he still had it, and he had a marvelous time at the San Jose Worldcon in 2018 seeing many old fannish and mystery friends again.

Because of his poor health in the last few years he lived a life that became increasingly housebound and full of medical appointments, but he never stopped caring about the world, about fairness and justice, about democracy….

(8) MEMORY LANE

1966 [By Cat Eldridge.] Fifty-six years ago this evening on ABC, the rather at first mundane soap opera Dark Shadows first aired. Now it wasn’t until ten months later that the Toothy One, vampire Barnabas Collins, as played by Jonathan Frid, made his first appearance. 

Before its six seasons and one thousand two hundred and twenty-five episodes ran their course, those of us who watched it will have seen Frankenstein style monsters, ghosts, a parallel universe, time travel, warlocks, werewolves, witches, and even zombies. I’m sure I’ve forgotten something of a fantastic nature that happened there. 

It has never left syndication in forty years. Dark Shadows (later referred to as Dark Shadows: The Revival) was attempted in 1991. That too created by Dan Curtis who was responsible for Dark Shadows, it lasted twelve extremely poorly received episodes. Dan Curtis also did two films set in the Dark Shadows continuity, House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows.

It was somewhat unusual in a small company of performers played many roles; and as performers came and went, some characters were played by more than one performer.

I am not going to comment about Tim Burton directing a film version of this starring Johnny Depp, who finally realized one of his childhood fantasies of being Barnabas Collins. Really. I’m not. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 27, 1909 — Billy Curtis. You’ll best remember him as the small Copper-Skinned Ambassador in Trek’s “Journey to Babel” episode. His genre experience goes all the way back to Wizard of Oz where he was a Munchkin, and later on he’s a mole-man in Superman and The Mole-Men, and later on a midget in The Incredible Shrinking Man. He had lots of one-offs, be it on Batman (twice there), Bewitched, Gilligan’s Island, Planet of The Apes or Twilght Zone. (Died 1988.)
  • Born June 27, 1941 — James P. Hogan. A true anti-authoritarian hard SF writer in the years when that was a respectable thing to be. The group that gave out the Prometheus Award certainly thought so with fifteen nominations and two Awards for two novels, The Multiplex Man and Voyage from Yesteryear. I’m sure that I’ve read at least a few of his novels, most likely Inherit the Stars and The Gentle Giants of Ganymede. A decent amount of his work is available at the usual suspects. (Died 2010.)
  • Born June 27, 1952 — Mary Rosenblum. SF writer who won the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel for The Drylands, her first novel. She later won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History Short Form for her story, “Sacrifice”. Water Rites and Horizons are the only ones available at the usual suspects. (Died 2018.)
  • Born June 27, 1959 — Stephen Dedman, 63. Australian author who’s the author of The Art of Arrow-Cutting, a most excellent novel. I really should read Shadows Bite, the sequel to it. He’s the story editor of Borderlands, the tri-annual Australian science fiction, fantasy and horror magazine published in Perth. Kindle has The Art of Arrow-Cutting and a few other titles.
  • Born June 27, 1966 — J.J. Abrams, 56. Executive Producer of AliasLost: Missing PiecesStar Trek, Lost, FringeStar Trek Into DarknessAlmost Human… Well you get the idea. Most fans really like, a few very vocal ones really hate his guts mostly for his Star Trek work. I love Fringe unreservedly and therefore will forgive any transgressions he committed elsewhere. 
  • Born June 27, 1972 — Christian Kane, 50. You’ll certainly recognize him as he’s been around genre video fiction for a while first playing Lindsey McDonald on Angel before becoming Jacob Stone on The Librarians. And though Leverage ain’t genre, his role as Eliot Spencer there is definitely worth seeing. 
  • Born June 27, 1975 — Tobey Maguire, 47. Spider-man in the Sam Raimi trilogy of the Spidey films. His first genre appearance was actually in The Revenge of the Red Baron which is one seriously weird film. Much more interesting is his role as David in Pleasantville, a film I love dearly. He produced The 5th Wave, a recent alien invasion film. 
  • Born June 27, 1987 — Ed Westwick, 35. British actor who has roles in the dystopian Children of MenS. Darko (a film I couldn’t begin to summarize), Freaks of Nature (a popcorn film if ever there was one), the “Roadside Bouquets” episode of the British series Afterlife (which I want to see) and The Crash (which may or may not be SF).

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Nancy shows a writer with ambitious goals.

(11) TRALFAMADORIAN TOOLKIT. Emily Temple has collected “Kurt Vonnegut’s Greatest Writing Advice” for Literary Hub.

5. Sound like yourself
The writing style which is most natural for you is bound to echo the speech you heard when a child. English was Conrad’s third language, and much that seems piquant in his use of English was no doubt colored by his first language, which was Polish. And lucky indeed is the writer who has grown up in Ireland, for the English spoken there is so amusing and musical. I myself grew up in Indianapolis, where common speech sounds like a band saw cutting galvanized tin, and employs a vocabulary as unornamental as a monkey wrench.

In some of the more remote hollows of Appalachia, children still grow up hearing songs and locutions of Elizabethan times. Yes, and many Americans grow up hearing a language other than English, or an English dialect a majority of Americans cannot understand.

All these varieties of speech are beautiful, just as the varieties of butterflies are beautiful. No matter what your first language, you should treasure it all your life. If it happens to not be standard English, and if it shows itself when your write standard English, the result is usually delightful, like a very pretty girl with one eye that is green and one that is blue.

I myself find that I trust my own writing most, and others seem to trust it most, too, when I sound most like a person from Indianapolis, which is what I am. What alternatives do I have? The one most vehemently recommended by teachers has no doubt been pressed on you, as well: to write like cultivated Englishmen of a century or more ago.

(12) HISTORY JUMPS THE TRACKS. Annalee Newitz joins Margaret Atwood on the list of sff writers who didn’t set out to predict the present in “Science fiction, abortion, and predicting the future” at Slate.

A few months before COVID shut the world down in 2020, I published a book called The Future of Another Timeline. Set in 2022, it’s about a group of time travelers who live in an alternate United States where abortion was never legalized. Working in secret, they travel 130 years back to the 19th century to foment protests against the anti-abortion crusader Anthony Comstock. Their goal is to change the course of history. Spoilers: They succeed—sort of. When they return to 2022, abortion is legal in a few states, though it remains illegal in the majority of them.

It is not a good feeling to live through a version of the dark timeline I imagined in my fiction….

(13) A LONG TIME AGO. Craig Miller posted the letter he sent to winner of a contest he ran for The Star Wars Corporation in the Seventies.

In issue two of the Newsletter of the Official Star Wars Fan Club, I announced a contest to come up with an actual name for the newsletter. Fans could send up to three suggestions. We received a huge number of entries. I don’t remember how many but, apparently, there were thousands.

…The winning name: Bantha Tracks. And the winner, Preston Postle.

The letter is dated just 10 months after I started this newzine. I should have asked Craig for some of his discards – I’ll bet there were some better ideas in there than File 770, eh?

(14) THIS REMINDS ME. [Item by Chris Barkley.] When I heard this story, naturally I thought of this quote: “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.” Listen to the Here and Now report on WBUR: “Don’t worry about the robot revolution: One expert explains why AI is nowhere near sentience”.

For decades, robot revolutions have been a staple of science fiction stories. But earlier this month, the stuff of fiction came a little too close to reality when Blake Lemoine, a Google engineer, claimed that the company’s artificial intelligence had achieved sentience, the ability to experience feeling and thought.

While Lemoine’s claims made waves online, many experts are pretty skeptical. They argue that just because a program can imitate human language doesn’t mean it’s actually human.

One of those critics is Emily M. Bender, a professor at the University of Washington specializing in computational linguistics and grammar engineering. She spoke with Here & Now‘s Celeste Headlee.

(15) GOOD FORM. Walter Jon Williams told readers he recently leveled up in his martial arts training: “Achievement Unlocked”.

…I successfully tested for my 6th degree black belt in Kenpo Karate. In the days since, I’ve been judging at the tests of lower-ranking belts, and participating in a demonstration in front of a live audience.

All with a torn achilles tendon which requires me to walk with a cane much of the time.

Fortunately most of the test consisted of theory and philosophy. I was required to do some forms, but I designed most of these myself, and could alter them when I needed to. (For the demonstration, I was able to do my own kata more or less without modification, and the other form requires me to alter the steps once. It was uncomfortable and a little awkward, but I wasn’t left with the impression I’d bungled anything.)…

(16) POORFEADING. Jon Del Arroz, who styles himself a leading figure of ComicsGate, wrote an article belittling Heather Antos’ work for IDW. A true case of Muphry’s law in action, as Taylor Talks Comics pointedly reveals in a thread that starts here. A couple of excerpts —

(17) YOUTH WANTS TO KNOW. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Thanks for a friend alerting me that Dr Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness is now available on the Disney+ streaming service for free (well, no $ other than the monthly fee), I’ve got one non-spoiler question (not directly germane to the movie, but I suddenly found myself wondering):

What happens when Blackadar Boltagon (aka Black Bolt), a (Jack Kirby-created) Inhuman usually ruler of Attilan and (often but not always) spouse to (the Inhuman named) Medusa, whose slightest whisper is explosive, burps, hiccups, or sneezes. (Or, for that matter, snores — let’s hope he doesn’t have sleep apnea.)

(18) OLDER THAN LUCY AND PROBABLY DESI. “Ancient fossils in the ‘Cradle of Humankind’ are more than 1 million years older than previously thought” reports Yahoo!

In 1936, archeologists began unearthing a trove of early human fossils in a South African cave. Now, researchers say most of those ancient bones date back 3.7 million years, which makes them more than 1 million years older than previously thought….

To gauge the ages of the hominid skeletal remains, Granger and his team used a technique known as “cosmogenic nuclide dating,” or burial dating, which involves examining the rocks that encased the ancient bones. It works like this: When energetic particles from space, or cosmic rays, hit rocks, they produce elements like aluminum and beryllium that build up and decay at a known rate.

“We’re able to take a rock that was exposed to cosmic rays, and if it falls into a cave, it’s shielded from more radiation,” Granger told Insider, adding, “It’s called burial dating because, really, what we’re doing is dating when the rock was buried.”

Granger used the same method in 2015 to estimate that one set of Australopithecus remains found in the Sterkfontein Caves, nicknamed Little Foot, was about 3.4 to 3.7 million years old. The new study suggests that in addition to Little Foot, all Australopithecus remains on the site are between 3.4 and 3.7 million years old, rather than roughly 2 million years old, as scientists previously thought.

The remains’ shifting age puts the species within roughly the same time frame that the famous human ancestor “Lucy” — which belonged to the species Australopithecus afarensis — roamed what’s now Ethiopia, 3.2 million years ago. According to Granger, that refutes the theory that the Sterkfontein individuals descended from Australopithecus afarensis. “There must be an older common ancestor somewhere,” Granger added…

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