Fantasy StoryBundle Submissions Call Open Through 5/30

SFWA’s Independent Authors Committee is open for submissions for their next fantasy StoryBundle to be released this fall. Submissions will be accepted through May 30, 2022, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern.

The committee cites this as a chance for independent and small press authors to gain more exposure and sell more books. They welcome submissions of indie and traditionally published novels, from SFWA members and nonmembers, as well as from small press publishers, if the publishers give permission in writing. Full guidelines for this submission call can be found here

The overarching theme for the call is “What Am I Doing Here?” The SFWA Independent Authors Committee seeks fantasy stories of characters lost, stranded, abandoned, shipwrecked, or stuck on the wrong side of a portal. As always, the Committee is open to unique interpretations of the theme, such as tales of lost memories or of being lost in time. This StoryBundle will be offered in November 2022. 

The Independent Authors Committee will select participants from the entries they receive, and “the exact composition and titles of any individual SFWA StoryBundle is subject to adjustment as we accommodate the best selections. Therefore, we encourage authors not to self-reject if their novel has any fit at all with our theme.”

StoryBundles are curated collections of books offered at a discounted price. Readers select what price they’d like to pay for an initial four books and can unlock the entire collection by contributing $20. Proceeds go to the participating authors and StoryBundle, and a small cut is donated to SFWA. 

Welcome are full-length fantasy novels of over 40,000 words that are either clearly stand-alone stories or the first in a series. Authors are asked to submit only one novel, and do not submit a novel that has appeared in any previous StoryBundle (SFWA or otherwise.) Only submit novels that will be for sale by October 2022. The author must have full rights to enter their novel in the StoryBundle, and the novel must not be in Amazon’s KDP Select at the time that the StoryBundle is offered.

The full submission guidelines, including instructions on how to submit, are here. 

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 4/6/22 This Is The Hour When Moonstruck Faneds Know What Pixels Scroll In Yuggoth

(1) PRESSING ON. Apex Book Company is seeking $6,200 to publish a print compilation anthology of all the original genre short fiction that appeared in their digital publication, Apex Magazine, during the 2021 calendar year. Their Kickstarter project, “Apex Magazine 2021 Compilation Anthology by Apex Publications”, at this writing has raised $2,376. The appeal runs through April 22.

Apex Magazine had an exceptional 2021. Seven of the zine’s stories made the Locus Magazine Suggested Reading List. The zine placed a story on the Nebula finalist list and won a Stabby Award. In October 2021, we published an issue dedicated to Indigenous authors. In December 2021, we dedicated an issue to international authors.

The anthology will include 48 stories from a diverse group of new and established writers and will feature the Apex Magazine Readers’ Choice Award-winning artwork “Entropic Garden” by Marcela Bolívar on the cover.

(2) SFWA STORYBUNDLE. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) has released its newest StoryBundle, Magic Awakens, for a limited time only, from April 6 to April 28. This StoryBundle offers a large selection of ebooks from independent and small press fantasy writers, and can be purchased at https://storybundle.com/fantasy.

If a smooth sea never made a skilled mariner, then a tranquil world never forged a powerful hero: Meet fourteen budding sorceresses, wizards, and magic wielders of all ages and types as they face horrible threats that force them to confront their nascent abilities and to strengthen their powers and themselves. Then join each character on their own thrilling adventure once the Magic Awakens!

SFWA StoryBundles are curated collections of ebooks offered at a steeply discounted price. Readers who purchase Magic Awakens will gain a rich collection of fantasy fiction and can opt to donate part of their purchase price to support SFWA’s ongoing work to promote and support speculative fiction genres and writers.

Readers may choose what price they want to pay for the initial four books, starting at $5. Spending $20 unlocks ten more books that they can receive with their purchase. Once April 28 passes, this particular collection will never be available again! Further details about how StoryBundle operates are available at https://storybundle.com/faq

(3) CSI SPARKLE SALON. The second episode of the Science Fiction Sparkle Salon has been released by the Center for Science and the Imagination. It features sff authors Malka Older, Annalee Newitz, Arkady Martine, Amal El-Mohtar, and Karen Lord, and scientist Katie Mack, discussing a wide range of topics

(4) IN OUR OWN WORDS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This week’s episode of Word of Mouth on BBC Radio 4 discusses the lexicography of SF and SF fandom.  Being interviewed is not Jeff Prucher, of the stonkingly brilliant Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction, but Jesse Sheidlower of the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction. You can access the programme on BBC Sounds – “Word of Mouth – The Language of Sci-Fi”.

Jessie Sheidlower

(5) PRESENTING THE BILL. “Canada Introduces Bill Requiring Online Giants to Share Revenues With Publishers” reports the New York Times.  

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government introduced legislation on Tuesday that would require companies like the parents of Google and Facebook to pay Canadian media outlets for allowing links to news content on their platforms.

Canadian publishers, many of which are struggling financially, have long pushed the government for such a measure, arguing that the advertising revenue that previously was the foundation of their businesses has overwhelmingly migrated to global online giants.

That pressure increased after Australia passed a similar measure in 2021 and Europe revised its copyright laws to compensate publishers.

“The news sector in Canada is in crisis,” Pablo Rodriguez, the minister of Canadian heritage, said at a news conference. “This contributes to the heightened public mistrust and the rise of harmful disinformation in our society.”

Mr. Rodriguez said that 450 media outlets in Canada closed between 2008 and last year….

(6) ASHCANS TO AUCTION. Heritage Auction’s Intelligent Collector give the background as “Historic DC Comics Prototypes Soar to Auction”. (Images at the link.)

Thirty-seven years ago, Gary Colabuono saw his first ashcan. “And I did not know what they were,” he says now, decades after he began collecting, preserving and promoting these cheaply made, stapled-together black-and-white mock-ups made to secure a comic book title’s trademark and meant to be tossed into the trash.

In time, Colabuono became the expert on these lost rarities from the earliest days of the comic-book industry. Now, four of his ashcans – including one of two surviving Superman Comics ashcans from 1939 – head to market for the first time during Heritage Auctions’ history-making April 7-10 Comics & Comic Art Signature® Auction….

(7) THE MASTER’S VOICE. Alan Moore gives an introduction to a BBC writing course which seems the British equivalent of a Masterclass course. “Introducing – Alan Moore – Storytelling – BBC Maestro”.

Step into the world of Alan Moore’s incredible imagination and learn from the mastermind behind comics like From Hell, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Swamp Thing, and novels including the modern literary classic Jerusalem. Learn about Alan Moore’s writing process and how he combines character, story, language and world-building to create the tales that have won him fans the world over. Ideal for aspiring fiction writers, this online course includes downloadable course notes to guide you on your own creative journey.

(8) AT BREAK OF DON. Eleanor Morton does hilarious impressions of the two Inklings in “JRR Tolkien tells CS Lewis about his new character”.

(9) NEHEMIAH PERSOFF (1919-2022). A prolific actor with over 200 screen and TV credits, Nehemiah Persoff died April 5 at the age of 102.

His first genre role was playing Ali Baba in an episode of Shirley Temple’s Storybook (1958). He worked constantly, with many appearances in other sff TV series: The Twilight Zone (“Judgment Night”; 1959), Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Time Tunnel, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Off to See the Wizard (voice), The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible, Land of the Giants, The Magical World of Disney, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Invisible Man, Wonder Woman, Logan’s Run, The Bionic Woman, Supertrain, Battlestar Galactica, Fantasy Island, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and he voiced Papa Mousekewitz in 1986’s An American Tail and two video sequels.  

Steve Vertlieb wrote about his visit with Persoff in 2019 for File 770.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1922 [Item by Cat Eldridge.]

To John Vine Milne

My dear Father,
Like all really nice people, you have a weakness for detective
stories, and feel that there are not enough of them. So, after
all that you have done for me, the least that I can do for you
is to write you one. Here it is: with more gratitude and
affection than I can well put down here.

— A. A. Milne in his preface to The Red House Mystery

A century ago today, A.A. Milne’s The Red House Mystery was published by Methuen in the United Kingdom. This is his only mystery and it’s a most splendid Manor House mystery, one of the best ever written if I must so myself which I will.  Milne tells the story of the mysterious death of Robert Ablett inside the house of his brother, Mark Ablett, while there was a party taking place. It’s a whodunit that’s wonderfully told.

That was written prior to Winnie the Pooh and was an immediate success with the reading public and critics alike. Alexander Woollcott of the New Yorker at the time called it “one of the three best mystery stories of all time” though he himself would later be judged harshly by Raymond Chandler who also disliked British mysteries in general. (Ahhh feuds among critics. Lovely things they are.)  It has stood nicely the test of time and is still considered a splendid mystery.

It is now in the public domain so you can find it at the usual suspects for free though there are also copies being sold by publishers as well. Audible has four versions of the novel including a full cast production.  I really should listen to that version. 

If you interested in acquiring a first British edition, dig deep into your bank account as that will set you back, assuming that edition is on the market, at least thirteen thousand dollars currently.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 6, 1926 Gil Kane. Artist who created the modern look and feel of Green Lantern and the Atom for DC, and co-created Iron Fist with Roy Thomas for Marvel. I’m going to single him out for his work on the House of Mystery and the House of Secrets in the Sixties and Seventies which you can find on the revamped and stripped-down DC Universe app. (Died 2000.)
  • Born April 6, 1935 Douglas Hill. Canadian author, editor and reviewer. For a year, he was assistant editor of Michael Moorcock’s New Worlds magazine. I’m going to admit that I know more of him as a decidedly and to be admired Leftist reviewer than I do as writer, indeed he held the same post of Literary Editor at the socialist weekly Tribune as Orwell earlier did. Who here is familiar with fiction? He was quite prolific indeed. (Died 2007.)
  • Born April 6, 1937 Billy Dee Williams, 85. He is best known for his role as Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars franchise, first appearing in The Empire Strikes Back. Other genre appearances include being Harvey Dent in Batman and voicing Two Face In The Lego Batman Movie. He also co-wrote with Rob MacGregor two SF novels, PSI/Net and Just/In Time which are available from the usual suspects.
  • Born April 6, 1938 Roy Thinnes, 84. Best remembered for his role of David Vincent in The Invaders. He was also in The Horror at 37,000 FeetThe Norliss TapesSatan’s School for GirlsBattlestar GalacticaDark Shadows (recurring role as Roger Colins) and Poltergeist: The Legacy
  • Born April 6, 1942 Anita Pallenberg. It’s not a long genre resume but she was in Barbarella as, I kid you not, Black Queen, Great Tyrant of Sogo, the chief villainess. Over forty years later, she had a minor role as Diana in a Grade B film 4:44 Last Day on Earth. Now I’m going to expand this Birthday by crediting her as the muse of the Rolling Stones which is surely genre adjacent, isn’t it? She was the lover of Brian Jones, and later, from 1967 to 1980, the partner of Keith Richards, with whom she had three children. Of course she appeared in that documentary about the Rolling Stones, Sympathy for the Devil. (Died 2017.)
  • Born April 6, 1944 Judith McConnell, 78. Here for being in Star Trek’s “Wolf in the Fold” as Yeoman Tankris. Need I say what happened to her? Well you’d be wrong as she survived. (I looked it up to be sure as the body count was high.) She also during this time appeared on Get Smart in “The King Lives” as Princess Marta, and she’d much later be in Sliders for several episodes. 
  • Born April 6, 1977 Karin Tidbeck, 45. Their first work in English, Jagannath, a short story collection, made the shortlist for the Otherwise Award and was nominated for the World Fantasy Award. The short story “Augusta Prima”, originally written in Swedish, was translated by the author into English and won a Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Award in the Short Form category. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro really should be more impressed with The Mildly Surprising Spider-Man.

(13) SHINY. Could these be “The 15 Greatest Covers In All Of Comics”? Buzzfeed thinks so.

Mainly featuring heroes and villains in colorful costumes, comic book covers have succeeded in catching readers’ attention, but these covers are truly the best of the best. These are the 15 Greatest Covers in All of Comics.

(14) SKILL TREE. The latest episode of CSI Skill Tree series on video games, storytelling, worldbuiding, and futures thinking is now live, with SF author Ken Liu and video game designer Liz Fiacco discussing the 2020 game Cloud Gardens, a 2020 game about using plants to overgrow and transform abandoned post-industrial landscapes. This episode is presented in collaboration with Orion Magazine, a quarterly publication working at the convergence of ecology, art, and social justice. All nine Skill Tree episodes are available to view at this playlist.

(15) MOUNTAINTOP EXPERIENCES. NPR advocates for George O’Connor’s version of the Greek gods: “A graphic novel series for kids that doesn’t leave out gender fluidity”.

…Dionysos: The New God is the last of O’Connor’s Olympians, a series of graphic novels he’s been writing and illustrating for the last 12 years. Each book retells the ancient Greek myths through the lens of one of the gods or goddesses, from Athena, goddess of wisdom, to Hephaistos, god of the forge.

O’Connor’s illustrations are bursting with action, humor and lots of details. He researched the ancient myths in order to get as close as possible to the original stories. That means his gods and goddesses are fierce, but also voluptuous, mischievous and even snarky. To him, the Olympians are a family of distinct individuals. “There’s certain personality traits that come to the fore,” he said….

(16) WILSON HONORED AT BOOKFEST. Author and musician Shane Wilson won two book awards at The BookFest this past weekend for his novel, The Smoke in His Eyes. The book placed second in Contemporary Fiction and third in Coming-of-Age Literary Fiction.

The Bookfest Awards honors authors who create outstanding works of fiction and nonfiction. Books are judged in categories based on genre, theme, and aesthetics. Books published in the past five years are eligible. Entries will be vetted by an initial team, then the final places will be determined by an elite team of experts in the literary and entertainment world.

Here’s what The Smoke in His Eyes is about:

When TJ—a musical prodigy—witnesses a traumatic event as a child, his senses are overrun with intense hallucinations. Over the years, his visions increase in frequency and intensity, but he hides them from those he is closest to, including his best friend and musical partner, Lila, who challenges TJ to reject formulaic creation in order to create something beautiful and unique. But when Lila signs a record deal, TJ feels left behind and alone with his art and his visions.

That’s when TJ meets an artist named Muna. In his eyes and visions, Muna is made of smoke, and as this magical woman helps him learn how to manage his visions and how to translate what he sees and hears into music and lyrics, she begins to disappear. His journey into Muna’s past is a journey to discover where inspiration originates and what happens to an artist when that inspiration is gone.

Available at Amazon.com.

(17) FOR TEN YEARS WE’VE BEEN ON OUR OWN. Paul Weimer praises a sequel in “Microreview [book]: Azura Ghost by Essa Hansen” at Nerds of a Feather.

….Now, ten years later, Caiden and the Azura are legends, a one man, one ship, and one young Nophek crew doing good across the multiverse, staying ahead of the forces of Unity led by Abriss Centre, and dreading what will happen if her equally dangerous brother escapes his imprisonment. It’s getting harder for Caiden to escape Abriss’ traps, especially when Abriss has a trump card up her sleeve, one guaranteed to slow down Caiden enough to capture him and his remarkable ship…his long lost sister.

Welcome to Azura Ghost, the second Graven book from Essa Hansen….

(18) NAVIGATING THE BLOAT. Meanwhile, Arturo Serrano says the sequel he read suffers from a common series-book problem: “Review: Until the Last of Me by Sylvain Neuvel” at Nerds of a Feather.

In the first novel of this series, A History of What Comes Next (which I reviewed for this blog last year), we learned that the progress of science on this planet has always been secretly guided by the Kibsu, a humanlike species of superstrong, supersmart aliens whose genetic line split at some point in antiquity, with the female line dedicated to developing mathematics and teaching it to humans, and the male line sworn to hunting down their female counterparts as punishment for some supposed treason no one remembers anymore. For centuries, these aliens have been spreading both knowledge and death as each lineage pursues their mission while hiding in plain sight among us. The title of the series is Take them to the stars, but in that first novel the full meaning is revealed as Take them to the stars before we come and kill them all.

The newly released continuation, Until the Last of Me, displays the hallmark signs of Middle Book Syndrome: the plot gets a bit repetitive in the early chapters, feels a bit directionless toward the middle, and is suddenly hijacked at the end by the need to put all the pieces in position for the upcoming final confrontation….

(19) FOCUS ON WOMEN CHARACTERS. Minnesota author J. Lynn Else told an Authority Magazine interviewer this week:

Gowing up in the 80s and 90s, while a big fan of sci fi and fantasy, there weren’t a lot of female characters to identify with. The females typically lacked depth, didn’t have a lot of agency, or simply were there as a romantic interest. As I started developing my fantasy trilogy, I wanted to create a cast of female characters who were all different. They made jokes, made mistakes, got angry, got frustrated, weren’t always the ‘bookish smart’ one. I wrote because I wanted greater depth of characters for young girls reading these genres so that they could picture themselves in these worlds without having to be ultrasmart or beautiful or aggressively assertive…

Now through Inklings Publishing, she’s authored Descendants of Avalon (2018), Lost Daughters of Avalon (2019), and Prophecy of Avalon (2021). Her short story “The Girl from the Haunted Woods,” won second place in the “Journey into the Fantastical” Anthology contest.

Here’s the précis about Lost Daughters of Avalon (Awakenings Book 2):

After not hearing anything from their knights in Avalon for weeks, the horrible Questing Beast breaks through into the world and attacks Genie, Beth, Mei, and Whit. Their magic stirs to stop the monster, but Beth’s attempts fail. Help from Avalon arrives just in time to remove the curse and reveal a woman inside the beast who claims to be Genie’s biological mother.The four friends learn their knights had gone missing, along with one of Avalon’s queens, Viviane. An ancient evil runs amok in Avalon and the people blame the four friends, claiming they released Merlin to destroy their world. To clear their name and rescue their knights, the four friends must once again risk the dangers of Avalon. Genie, Beth, Mei, and Whit must pull together and learn to combine their powers of air, water, earth, and fire to rebalance the world they might have thrown into chaos. If they fail, the worlds of Avalon and Earth could destabilize and end life as they know it.

Available at Amazon.com and  Amazon.ca.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.]  In “Honest Game Trailers: Stranger of Paradise:  Final Fantasy Origin,” Fandom Games says that in this Final Fantasy spinoff you play Jack, “a character so edgy that he makes Jared Leto’s Joker seem like a birthday clown.”  Jack’s the sort of character who responds to a demon saying, “I am” and interrupts him to say, “I don’t care who you are,” and starts punching the creature out.  In fact, this game is so edgy that “it’s like a Monster energy drink come to life.”

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

Pixel Scroll 3/24/22 If You Want A Picture Of The Future, Imagine A Hand Clicking On A Pixel Scroll – For Ever

(1) MOPOP INTRODUCES NEW ONLINE COLLECTION VAULT. [Item by Frank Catalano.] Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture is finally putting part of its collection online. This is a very cool development for fans of science fiction as popular culture.

The announcement this week only covers a small part of the MoPOP permanent collection, but it’s far more than has been available before. I originally visited and covered the physical MoPOP vault in 2014 for GeekWire (“Preserving the future: A rare glimpse inside the EMP Museum vault”) and interviewed its curators for a podcast about preservation a few years later (“Preserving the future: How MoPOP protects and presents our ever-changing popular culture”).

How do I know it’s only a small subset of everything MoPOP has to offer? Back in 2014, I donated more than 50 lobby cards for science fiction and fantasy films to the permanent collection, and only one has appeared in the online vault so far, for Futureworld. (WHY that crappy movie and not ones for 2001, Planet of the Apes, or others? No idea.)

Direct link: MoPOP Online Collection Vault.

(2) GAIMAN’S ANSWERS. “Neil Gaiman Q&A: ‘As long as there’s a Tardis, all’s right with the world’” in New Statesman.

What’s your earliest memory?

My grandmother taking me to a bridge in my pushchair to watch the steam trains go by. I was 23 months old. I also remember her venting, months later, about the Beatles song “She Loves You” and how their use of the word “yeah” instead of “yes” meant we were now all living in the end times.

Who are your heroes?

As a boy I loved urbane and unflappable literary characters, such as PG Wodehouse’s Rupert Psmith, and indomitable heroes on television – Adam West’s Batman, Adam Adamant, Doctor Who, and the Monkees. When I was a teenager the Stranglers released “No More Heroes” around the same time that David Bowie sang “Heroes”. I listened to them both and thought we are meant to be our own heroes…

(3) KIJ JOHNSON’S NEW JOB. The Ad Astra Center for Science Fiction & the Speculative Imagination at the University of Kansas has announced that sff author Kij Johnson will join the Center as Associate Director. Johnson previously held the same title at KU’s Gunn Center for the Study of SF.

“Kij is a fantastic writer and educator. I’m very excited that she is on board to help shape the vision and impact of Ad Astra,” said center Director Chris McKitterick. “She has been a valued colleague for many years and someone I admire for their tenacity of thought, dedication to students, and excellence in craft.”

Johnson is a writer of speculative and experimental short fiction and novels. She has won the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards, as well as the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire and others.

In 2013, she gave the inaugural Tolkien Lecture at Oxford University; since then, she has been a guest of honor at conferences and conventions in Sweden, France, and the United States. Johnson has also been a professor in the Department of English at the University of Kansas, starting in 2012.

“Science fiction—speculative fiction—offers a unique way of engaging with big ideas. In some ways, it is the dominant storytelling mode of our era,” Johnson said. “To continue my work exploring speculative fiction as a practitioner and educator through the efforts of the Ad Astra Center is particularly gratifying.”

These efforts will include many of the center’s public outreach projects, including conferences, classes, presentations, masterclasses, events, and workshops. Kij will be on hand to offer her expertise and experience in driving these projects.

“Right now, Kij and I are planning some wonderful things,” said McKitterick. “For fans, scholars, and writers of spec fic, there will be a lot to enjoy.”

(4) SEE SLF PANEL. The Speculative Literature Foundation has posted their panel “Creating a Shared World” on YouTube.

Writers from George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards and Ellen Kushner’s Tremontaine come together to talk about the challenges and delights of working in a shared universe. Panelists: Ellen Kushner, author of Swordspoint and other fantasy novels, Delia Sherman author of The Porcelain Dove, Walter Jon Williams author of the Privateers and Gentlemen series, and David D. Levine author of Arabella of Mars. Moderated by Mary Anne Mohanraj, SLF Director.

(5) LE GUIN BIO. Publishers Marketplace, behind a paywall, notes that Julie Phillips, author of the Hugo Award-winning James Tiptree Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon, is at work on an untitled biography of Ursula K. Le Guin (first revealed in 2016) “which will intimately examine Le Guin’s intellectual and emotional development as a person and writer, her struggles with depression, her visionary politics, and her commitment to literary freedom.”

(6) A WORKING WRITER. Cat Rambo shares some words of wisdom from “Jane Yolen on Creativity, Productivity, and Returning to Scotland” on Medium.

I had the great pleasure of interviewing Jane Yolen, author of literally hundreds, perhaps thousands, of books, poems, and stories. This was such a joy of an interview that I wanted to pull out some of my favorite quotes….

(7) OPEN THE POD BAY DOOR HAL. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] … And for God’s sake hold onto that rope!

An article in Vanity Fair (partial paywall) tells stories of the making of 2001: A Space Odyssey. These include the critical scene where astronaut Dave Bowman (played by Kier Dullea) is attempting to re-enter Discovery One and has to try a hazardous jump through vacuum without a helmet.

Dullea did the stunt himself because his face would be to the camera. In fact, his face could have ended up in the camera. The stunt was performed by the expedient of having the actor drop down a vertical shaft toward a camera mounted at the bottom. To control his fall, a rope was tied to him and belayed by a crewmember who had to stop Dullea when a knot tied in the rope reached the crewman’s hands.

I’m sure Dullea was never happier to get a scene right on the first take. And I’d make a bet he took more than one deep breath after doing so. “Behind the Scenes of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Strangest Blockbuster in Hollywood History”.

… By March the production had moved onto its most elaborate set of all: the Discovery’s work and living area, a centrifuge that rotated to simulate gravity. Kubrick’s production team had taken six months to build an actual centrifuge, with a diameter of 40 feet and a weight of 40 tons. Dressed for its entire 360 degrees, the set could turn forward or backward, at a top rate of three miles an hour, creaking and groaning as it got up to speed. For some scenes the actors had to be strapped in place by hidden harnesses as they spun upside down, with props such as meal trays and video pads glued or bolted in place. Depending on the shot, the set’s entire circumference might be aglow with lights, the actors locked inside and forced to turn on the camera themselves before hitting their marks. In production photos the set resembles a demented and unlikely torture device, a hybrid of jewelry tumbler and blistering heat lamp. With God knows how many megawatts surging through the entire setup, lights frequently exploded while unsecured props and overlooked pieces of equipment plummeted as they reached the top of the arc, narrowly missing actors and crew members. “A portentous spectacle, accompanied by terrifying noises and popping light bulbs,” as Clarke described it….

(8) TIME BENDER. Brian James Gage discusses how he places real people in his supernatural historical novels at CrimeReads: “How (and Why) I Write Supernatural Historical Fiction”.

…Each day started with a brief meditation session where I would clear my mind and say to myself, “All that matters is the characters. Follow their lead, their needs and desires, and everything else about the narrative will unfold naturally.” As after all, in fiction, it truly is the characters who guide the story.

Let them lead and the story-arc will follow.

During my brief meditation, I would ask my characters what they were doing that day, how they were feeling, what they needed, and even if there was anywhere specific they wanted to go. Then I would kindly ask them to show up to set, so I could guide them on a wild and horrific adventure. And during this new ritual, I found something of vast importance—my authentic voice. In August 2020, I had the first draft of The Sommelier complete and for the first time in my life, the entire process felt like a wellspring of creativity and command as I purged my characters’ truth onto the page….

(9) TEXAS SCHOOL DISTRICT SCREENS LIBRARY HOLDINGS. In the wake of actions by Texas governor Greg Abbott, “Texas superintendent tells librarians to pull books on sexuality, transgender people” reports NBC News.

…“I don’t want a kid picking up a book, whether it’s about homosexuality or heterosexuality, and reading about how to hook up sexually in our libraries,” Glenn said.

He also made it clear that his concerns specifically included books with LGBTQ themes, even if they do not describe sex. Those comments, according to legal experts, raise concerns about possible violations of the First Amendment and federal civil rights laws that protect students from discrimination based on their gender and sexuality.

“And I’m going to take it a step further with you,” he said, according to the recording. “There are two genders. There’s male, and there’s female. And I acknowledge that there are men that think they’re women. And there are women that think they’re men. And again, I don’t have any issues with what people want to believe, but there’s no place for it in our libraries.”

Minutes later, after someone asked whether titles on racism were acceptable, Glenn said books on different cultures “are great.” 

“Specifically, what we’re getting at, let’s call it what it is, and I’m cutting to the chase on a lot of this,” Glenn said. “It’s the transgender, LGBTQ and the sex — sexuality — in books. That’s what the governor has said that he will prosecute people for, and that’s what we’re pulling out.”

Over the next two weeks, the school district embarked on one of the largest book removals in the country, pulling about 130 titles from library shelves for review. Nearly three-quarters of the removed books featured LGBTQ characters or themes, according to a ProPublica and Texas Tribune analysis. Others dealt with racism, sex ed, abortion and women’s rights. 

Two months later, a volunteer review committee voted to permanently ban three of the books and return the others to shelves. But that may not be the end of the process…. 

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1999 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-three years ago this month, Rainbow Mars was published by Tor. It is my absolutely favorite work by Larry Niven, with Ringworld being my second. It contains six stories, five previously published and the longest, “Rainbow Mars”, written for this collection, plus some other material. It is about Svetz, the cross-reality traveler who keeps encountering beings who really should not exist including those Martians. 

The first story, “Get A Horse!” was first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in October 1969. That was followed by “Bird in the Hand” in the same magazine, October of the next year. Surprisingly the third story, “Leviathan!” was published in Playboy in August of that year. 

(Yes I know Playboy did a lot of SF, it’s just that I wouldn’t have expected this story to show up there. It fits F&SF better in my opinion. Your opinion on that matter of course may differ.)

Then “There’s a Wolf in My Time Machine” was published in October of that year in the fine zine that printed the first two. Finally the last story that got printed at that time, “Death in a Cage” was published in Niven’s The Flight of the Horse collection in September of 1973 which collected these stories as well. (The Flight of the Horse also had “Flash Crowd” which I like a lot and “What Good is a Glass Dagger?” which is fantastic.) 

Now we get Rainbow Mars, the novel that finishes out the work this delightfully silly work. Some of Pratchett idea’s from a conversation he had with Niven remain in the final version of Rainbow Mars, mainly the use of Yggdrasil, the world tree. Though there’s Norsemen as well…

There’s two other two short pieces, “The Reference Director Speaks”, in which Niven speaks about his fictional sources for the Mars he creates, and “Svetz’s Time Line” which is self-explanatory. 

An afterword, “Svetz and the Beanstalk”, rounds out the work in which Niven talks about the fictional sources for Rainbow Mars as a whole.

The fantastic cover art, which was nominated for a Chelsey Award, is by Bob Eggleton who has won, if my counting skills are right tonight, an impressive nine Hugos, mostly for Best Professional Artist though there was one for Best Related Work for his most excellent Greetings from Earth: The Art of Bob Eggleton

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 24, 1834 William Morris. Credited with creating the modern fantasy literature genre which may or may not be true, he certainly wrote some of its earlier works, to note his epic poem The Earthly ParadiseThe Wood Beyond the World and The Well at the World’s End, plus his entire artistic motif fits nearly within a fantasy literature and artistic design that looks as if it was created by the Fey Themselves. All of his works can be found at the usual digital suspects, often at no cost. (Died 1896.)
  • Born March 24, 1874 Harry Houdini. His literary career intersects the genre world in interesting ways. Though it’s not known which ones, many of his works were apparently written by his close friend Walter B. Gibson who as you know is the creator of The Shadow. And one famous story of his, “Imprisoned with the Pharaohs”, was actually ghost written by Lovecraft! ISFDB lists another piece of genre fiction for him, “The Spirit Fakers of Hermannstad”. And IMDB notes that he appeared in The Master Mystery which decidedly genre with robots and death rays. (Died 1926.)
  • Born March 24, 1930 Steve McQueen. Another one who died far too young. He got his big break by being the lead, Steve Andrews, in The Blob. Setting aside the two different roles on Alfred Hitchcock Presents which are at least genre adjacent, The Blob is his only genre appearance in his brief life. He died of a damn heart attack. (Died 1980.)
  • Born March 24, 1946 Gary K. Wolfe, 76. Monthly reviewer for Locus for twenty-seven years now and yes I enjoy his column a lot. His brief marriage to Ellen R. Weil ended with her tragic early death. They co-wrote Harlan Ellison: The Edge of Forever. Old Earth Books has reprinted many of his reviews done between 1992 and 2006 in  Soundings: Reviews 1992-1996. He’s also written several critical looks at the genre, Critical Terms for Science Fiction and Fantasy and The Known and the Unknown: The Iconography of Science Fiction. The Coode Street Podcast was nominated seven times before winning a Hugo at DicCon III; his Bearings: Reviews 1997-2001 was nominated for Best Related Work at Renovation; and Soundings: Reviews 1992-1996 was nominated for the same at L.A. Con IV. Very impressive indeed.
  • Born March 24, 1946 — Andrew I. Porter, 76. Editor, publisher, fan. He discovered fandom in 1960 and before the end of the year his first news-related column about upcoming paperbacks was appearing in James V. Taurasi’s Science Fiction Times. Porter has been nominated for the Hugo 26 times in the fanzine and semiprozine categories. His fanzine Algol: The Magazine About Science Fiction, later renamed Starship, won a Hugo for Best Fanzine in 1974, in a tie with Richard E. Geis, who was then doing The Alien Critic. (OGH accepted that Hugo on behalf of Geis. Sorry!Porter won two more Hugos with Science Fiction Chronicle, the newzine he began publishing monthly in May 1980, and twenty years later sold to DNA Publications.  He has won the Big Heart Award, and was Fan Guest of Honor at the 1990 Worldcon. And with John Bangsund, he was responsible for Australia hosting its first Worldcon. (OGH)
  • Born March 24, 1949 Tabitha King, 73. Wife of Stephen, mother of that writing brood. I met her but once on the lot of the original Pet Sematary a very long time ago. ISFDB to my surprise lists only two novels she’s written solely by herself, Small World and Wolves at the Door, and one with Michael McDowell, Candles Burning. None of her books are with her husband which surprises me. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • From Idiot of the East:

(13) STORYBUNDLES. Learn how the sausage is made: “THE INDIE FILES: A Guide to SFWA StoryBundles” at the SFWA Blog.

… We seek a well-rounded collection that includes a variety of subgenres and a diversity of authors, settings, and characters. We also look for unique takes on our theme, which means you should never self-reject if you think your book only kind-of fits! 

Conversely, because readers do not select each book individually in a bundle, we avoid books that preach a strong message or contain content that many readers may find disturbing. Those books have a place! But we prefer not to roll them into our bundles….

(14) EVEN-MORE-COLOSSAL CAVE, COMING SOON(ISH). [Item by Daniel Dern.] “Sierra Founders Ken And Roberta Williams Are Remaking 1976’s Colossal Cave Adventure” reports HotHardware. Alternate item title, perhaps: “I’d Love To Play A New Version Of That Game,” said Dern adventurously.

“Roberta and Ken Williams were retired for 25 years, mostly living in Mexico, playing golf, and exploring the world on their boat. In 2020 when the Covid pandemic struck, Ken and Roberta were locked down like everyone. Ken was bored and Roberta suggested he write a book about Sierra. The process of writing the book brought back long forgotten memories resulting in Ken deciding to learn Unity and deciding to make a game,” a related FAQ explains.

They didn’t have any interesting in starting another company, and instead were “just looking for something fun to build.” Roberta had the idea to pay homage to the game that inspired Sierra and “changed our lives.”

And so here we are. Colossal Cave 3D Adventure is being built with Unity. It promises a fully immersive 3D experience with over 143 locations to explore, and will release to the Quest 2, PC, and Mac. And true to old school form, there will be a boxed version (with a USB stick in the box), though those details are still being hammered out.

You will be in a 3D maze of twisty passages! A hollow voice is unlikely to cry out, “God stalk!” 🙂 (quips Dern).

(15) INITIAL THOUGHTS. On a different subject, Daniel Dern suggested a too-long Scroll title that is too entertaining to actually discard, so here it is.

If Hans Solo and Chewie started shipping while doing the Kessel Run, we could have T-shirts that were NSFW NFT of a WTF FTL WFH? Nah, NFW.

(16) TAKING THE HYDE OFF ‘EM. “Jekyll & Hyde files for bankruptcy with $1.5M owed in rent” while Crain’s New York Business is watching the courthouse.

Actors put on shows during dinner and each floor of the restaurant focuses on a different aspect of a fictional, 1930s British explorers club, from science fiction to the Gothic horror of its namesake characters, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Andrew Porter says, “They used to have a branch in the 50s on 6th Avenue, where I went during a Nebula or Stoker weekend, with Stephen Jones and others, A Long Time Ago…”

(17) ERASURE. “Hit Arnold Schwarzenegger Movie Reboot Debuts First Trailer” and Comicbook.com walks us through it.

… This new chapter of the Eraser series trades Schwarzenegger’s John Kruger character for a different U.S. Marshal named Mason Pollard who “specializes in engineering the fake deaths of witnesses that need to leave no trace of their existence.” As you can see in the trailer, this film once again goes with the premise of the Eraser’s mission being compromised in a serious way, forcing him to go on the run with a key witness that’s in his care….

(18) SPACE-TIME. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The cover on this week’s edition of Nature has an SFnal riff. The cover image shows a view of the Milky Way captured at Nambung National Park in Western Australia. To understand how the Galaxy formed requires precision age dating of the stars that it contains. In this week’s issue, Maosheng Xiang and Hans-Walter Rix of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, present an analysis of the birth dates for nearly 250,000 stars in their subgiant evolutionary phase, when they can serve as precise stellar clocks. The researchers found that the individual ages of the stars ranged from about 1.5 billion to more than 13 billion years old. Tripling the age-dating precision for such a large stellar sample allowed the researchers to infer the sequence of events that initiated our Galaxy’s formation. Using this information, Xiang and Rix were able to determine that the oldest part of our Galaxy’s disk had already begun to form about 13 billion years ago, just 800 million years after the Big Bang, and that the formation of the inner Galactic halo was completed some 2 billion years later.

(19) HE’S BACK. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Ryan Reynolds and Mark Ruffalo team up with a Valued Senior Actor about daylight savings time as they plug The Adam Project.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Batman Returns Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George explains that in this movie Oswald Cobblepot became The Penguin because his parents threw him out the window into a river but penguins saved him,  Villain Max Schreck thre Selina Kyle out of a window but cats licked her a lot so she became Catwoman.  The producer explains he was personally saved by pigeons but since this si a family blog we won’t discuss what happened to him!

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

SFWA’s Scoundrels in Space StoryBundle Available Til 2/24

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) has released their newest science fiction StoryBundle, Scoundrels in Space, which will be available until February 24. This collection of novels curated by the SFWA Independent Authors Committee can be purchased here: https://storybundle.com/scifi. 

The con artists, thieves, and space pirates of tomorrow fascinate us, all the more because these motley ne’er-do-wells so often end up saving the universe despite their incorrigibility. Pick up the SFWA Scoundrels in Space StoryBundle and get to know twelve such spacefarers who live on the fringes of a dozen wildly different worlds, until circumstances force each of them into hard choices and more adventure than they expected.

SFWA StoryBundles are curated collections of DRM-free ebooks from independent and small press science fiction writers offered at a steeply discounted price. Purchasers can name their price for the core bundle of ebooks. Any purchase of $20 or more unlocks all 12 in the bundle, and buyers can choose to donate a portion of the proceeds to SFWA.

The included titles are as follows:

Core Bundle

  • Flotsam by R J Theodore 
  • Severance by Chris Bucholz 
  • Toccata System by Kate Sheeran Swed 
  • Tyche’s Flight by Richard Parry 

Bonus Books

  • Lex Talionis by R. S. A. Garcia
  • Wreckers by George Ellis
  • The Quantum Magician by Derek Künsken
  • The Blackwing War by K.B. Spangler
  • House of Shards by Walter Jon Williams 
  • Barbarians of the Beyond by Matthew Hughes
  • Border Crosser by Tom Doyle
  • Romance on Four Worlds: a Casanova Quartet by Tom Purdom

The Scoundrels in Space StoryBundle is the result of an open submission call made by SFWA in October 2021.

[Based on a press release.]

SFWA’s “Magic and Mayhem” Fantasy StoryBundle Available ’til November 4

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) has released their newest fantasy StoryBundle. The “Magic and Mayhem” Bundle is only available from October 13 to November 4, 2021 and can be purchased here: https://storybundle.com/fantasy.

StoryBundles are curated collections of books offered at a steeply discounted price. This collection features fourteen books from independent and small press fantasy writers that span the sub-genres of fantasy while showcasing magic-induced mayhem, from the hilarious to the horrible and everything in between.

J. Scott Coatsworth, chair of the SFWA Self-Publishing Committee, said, “We’ve significantly expanded our StoryBundle efforts this past year, and we’re delighted that the books in ‘Magic and Mayhem’ reflect so well the wide variety and the high quality of self-published, indie, and small press speculative fiction available today.”

The “Magic and Mayhem” StoryBundle is the result of an open submission call made by SFWA in the late spring of 2021, with books selected by the SFWA Self-Publishing Committee. The list of books is as follows:

Core Bundle

  • By the Pact by Joanna Maciejewska
  • Sekhmet’s Desire by Nova Blake
  • Tales of the Thief-City by Gareth Lewis
  • The Last God of Earth by A.J. Vanderpoel

Bonus Books

  • Darkmage by ML Spencer
  • Playing with Fire: a Magical Romantic Comedy by R.J. Blain
  • Ragnarok Unwound by Kristin Jacques
  • Cutie and the Beast by E.J. Russell
  • Phaethon by Rachel Sharp
  • Quincy Harker, Year One by John G. Hartness
  • Once Stolen by D. N. Bryn
  • Last Sword in the West by Ryan Kirk
  • Lady Changeling by Ken Altabef
  • 9 Tales of Raffalon by Matthew Hughes

Questions about the StoryBundle can be directed to the Self-Publishing Committee at storybundle@SFWA.org.

[Based on a press release.]

SFWA Call for Submissions: “Rogues of the Future” StoryBundles

The Self-Publishing Committee of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. (SFWA) has announced an open call for submissions for two science fiction StoryBundles releasing in 2022. The submission window is open until October 17, 2021. 

The overarching theme of the bundles will be “Rogues of the Future.” SFWA seeks all types of stories involving ne’er-do-wells in a science fiction setting. The “Con Artists of Tomorrow” Bundle will be available in February 2022. “Space Pirates and Thieves of the Future” will follow in August 2022. 

J. Scott Coatsworth, chair of the SFWA Self-Publishing Committee, said, “Under the guidance of Sherrie Cronin this year, who organizes the SFWA StoryBundles, we’ve expanded from two bundles a year to four. We’re excited to offer twice as many chances for our indie and small press authors to participate in these bundles, and we welcome nonmembers to apply as well.” 

StoryBundles are curated collections of books offered at a discounted price. Readers select what price they’d like to pay for an initial five books. They can unlock up to fifteen total by contributing more. Proceeds go to the participating authors and StoryBundle, and a small portion of the proceeds are donated to SFWA. 

The SFWA Self-Publishing Committee will accept submissions through October 17, 2021, at 11:59 PM, US Eastern. For more details, including the full submission guidelines, visit the SFWA Blog here. If you have any questions, please email Storybundle@SFWA.org.

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 9/30/21 We’ve Replaced Their Files With Scroller’s Pixels. Let’s See If Anyone Notices

(1) CLARION WEST OCTOBER CLASSES. Clarion West is offering three more months of classes. See the full schedule here. Below are the October offerings — click the links for tuition cost and to register.

This class will discuss the history and traditions of the genre, give tips on how to update those traditions in your writing while maintaining a timeless tone, and provide suggestions on creating a modern Southern Gothic atmosphere in your writing. Students will gain a clearer understanding of the genre and its archetypes, as well as be given tools to more readily generate ideas on how to incorporate recognizable traditions of the genre into modern work.

This class is geared toward writers of long and short speculative fiction. As this is a course focusing on genre, it can be relevant to beginning, intermediate, or advanced writers unfamiliar with Southern Gothic and/or desirous of learning how to bring this genre up to date.

The Afro-Surreal is a storytelling approach allowing creators to examine Black contemporary life much more concisely than a traditional literary narrative by permitting that which is physically impossible or defies explanation. Despite Black-centered horror going mainstream, we have yet to see Afro-Surrealism incorporated widely to amplify aspects of psychological horror, weird fiction, traditional supernatural narratives, or splatterpunk. This workshop will define what constitutes Afro-Surrealism, which horror works have successfully employed it, and how to incorporate Afro-Surrealism in your writing while maintaining your own voice. Key aspects of plot, characterization, and action will be discussed, including: the overlap between the Afro-Surreal and the supernatural, dialogue and the disconnect between how marginalized and privileged people experience an interaction, the unreality of action since facts are frequently suppressed or denied when it comes to the Black experience.

Beginning, intermediate, and advanced authors can use this workshop to refine existing drafts or craft new material for future projects. Students will come away from the workshop equipped to adapt techniques developed by surrealists of the African diaspora for communicating bizarre, unreal experiences in their own horror-centric work.

Voice, Dialogue, and Characterization

Many non-Native writers are reticent to develop Native characters, but leaving out Indigenous characters is not an option, especially when writing science fiction, because it makes assumptions about the future. In the book Writing the Other, Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward give practical advice for how to write characters whose backgrounds differ from one’s own. One of their most pertinent pieces of advice is to build relationships with people from those backgrounds. A good start to building a relationship with Indigenous folks is to study their texts.

In this three-hour class, we will discuss several Indigenous futurist texts with Indigenous characters in order to learn how to diversify our science fiction (or otherwise-genred) story in a good way.

Attendees will be provided with readings for class. Writing exercises and prompts will also be provided.

This class is geared toward beginning writers.

Creatives, writers especially, are entirely too familiar with burnout, even before 2020. Trying to get your work published, let alone make a living as an author, requires a volume of effort that can be crushing. 

In this workshop, we’ll focus on regaining a sense of joy and delight in your writing, and generating ideas, characters, and settings that keep your joy front and center as you continue your journey.

How can we make the familiar scary? The aesthetics of a contemporary urban city doesn’t quite have the spine-chilling factor of an ancient village shrouded in fog, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be plenty of scares in everyday life.

In this class, attendees explore how to design new tools to build horror written in contemporary settings that take us beyond expected traditional tropes. Five excerpts from five works of horror fiction, period and contemporary, ranging from Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita to N.K. Jemisin’s The City We Became, will be analyzed and discussed, with the ultimate goal of understanding how these examples have gone against the grain in horror to create an original approach to a classic field. Based on these examples, students will propose their own premises and approaches to a non-traditional horror story or novel. In the second session, we will workshop those ideas, flesh them out, and exchange suggestions for improvement. Then students will write excerpts of their own premises. In the third session, we all evaluate how effective each excerpt is and how it can be improved.

How many words does it take to create true fear? There are many genres of horror that can exist in little spaces. In this workshop, attendees will learn how to create short and scary stories within the confines of micro and flash fiction (100-1,000 words). We’ll study the similarities between comedy and horror in terms of timing, expectation, and subversion. We’ll learn about wildcard characters, invented worlds, and pacing strategies to set up suspense. Throughout the workshop, we’ll stay close to character and keep an eye on how turning points and climaxes are related to the specificity of voice, desire, and fear. By the end of this workshop, participants will have the beginnings of several new horror flash pieces based on in-class writing prompts, a worksheet for outlining a short horror piece, and resources and recommendations for further reading. 

If you’ve ever wanted to include the Tarot in your novel or short story without looking like a Fool, this class will teach you how to avoid common divinatory pitfalls. Learn why an all-Majors spread is statistically unlikely (and laughably overused), the basics behind each suit’s themes, and why the Eight of Swords can be scarier than Death itself!

Alternatively, if you just want to use the Tarot to help you get unblocked in your own writing, this class can provide tips and tricks for that too. Tarot can also be used as a tool to help clarify plot arcs and themes in your writing. Iori and Vida will discuss finding (and breaking in!) the right deck, interpretation tips, and useful spreads and layouts. 

(2) INSPIRED MUSIC. And on October 9, the Bushwick Book Club Seattle presents original music inspired by Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch. This will be a hybrid in-person and livestreamed event. Get tickets here.

An evening of musicians and artists premiering new, original works inspired by the written word.

Story: For Sunny, twelve years old and albino, her arrival in Nigeria from America was shocking enough—until she discovers herself smack in the middle of a world of indescribable magic.
Themes: Self-discovery, friendship, tradition
Heads-up: Killer on the loose, racism (more at Book Trigger Warnings / Trigger Warning database)

(3) RITE GUD. Raquel S. Benedict’s Rite Gud podcast discusses “Tragedy of the Creative Commons: Superheroes and Modern Mythology” in a new installment that dropped today.

Whenever a critic complains about the ubiquity or the creative emptiness of superhero narratives in contemporary pop culture, fans argue back that mass entertainment is just the modern incarnation of our rich cultural heritage: superheroes are mythology, and fandom is folklore. Is this true, or is this a way to flatten the complexities of traditional art while giving commercial media a spiritual significance it does not deserve?

Karlo Yeager Rodríguez joins us.

(4) LEFT BANK LOGROLLING. The New York Times covers a French literary kerfuffle: “In Paris, It’s Literary Scandal Season Again”.

The sidewalks of Paris were already strewn with fallen chestnuts by the time the literary season’s first scandal finally broke.

Most Septembers, as French publishers release their most promising books and start jockeying for prizes, the world of letters is engulfed in the Left Bank’s version of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

This season had been unfolding smoothly — unnaturally, impossibly so, some literary observers quipped — until trouble hit the one big French literary prize known for its probity: the Goncourt, the 118-year-old standard-bearer of the French novel, whose laureates include Marcel Proust, Simone de Beauvoir and Marguerite Duras.

Things started when the Goncourt’s 10 jurors gathered this month, over a lunch of roast duckling with cherries and bottles of Château Maucaillou 2015, to come up with their long list of contenders. The author of one book up for consideration happened to be the romantic partner of one of the jurors, Camille Laurens, a novelist and book reviewer at Le Monde. In fact, the book was dedicated to a certain “C.L.”

Other French prizes are also known for their jurors’ conflicts of interest.

…At the Renaudot and other big prizes, jurors openly lobby for books in which they have a personal or professional stake. Some judges are also editors at big publishing houses and advocate titles by their employers — or books they have themselves edited.

Before the changes at the Goncourt, it, too, was referred to by some critics as “the Goncourt mafia,” recalled the jury’s current president, Didier Decoin, who has been a juror since 1995.

(5) WRITING PROMO COPY. At Dream Foundry, Catherine Lundoff advises about “Words that Sell: Writing Marketing Copy for Your Novel”.

…Some day, when we can have book tables at conventions again, it’s very helpful to watch people when they pick up your books and read the back. That reaction can be magical or disappointing, but either way, it tells you when your copy grabs someone’s attention. In the meantime, look at your reviews, particularly the ones from readers. If they are consistently “expecting something else,” that may be a sign to review your marketing copy and ask writer friends to help you vet it.…

(6) THEY TURNED DOWN THE VOLUMES. The Pew Research Center can tell you “Who doesn’t read books in America?”

Roughly a quarter of American adults (23%) say they haven’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year, whether in print, electronic or audio form, according to a Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults conducted Jan. 25-Feb. 8, 2021. Who are these non-book readers?

Several demographic traits are linked with not reading books, according to the survey. For instance, adults with a high school diploma or less are far more likely than those with a bachelor’s or advanced degree to report not reading books in any format in the past year (39% vs. 11%). Adults with lower levels of educational attainment are also among the least likely to own smartphones, an increasingly common way for adults to read e-books….

More statistical cross-sections at the link.

(7) TOMMY KIRK (1941-2021). Best known as a young Disney star, actor Tommy Kirk died September 28 at the age of 79. His first venture for Disney was in the Mickey Mouse Club’s genre-adjacent serial The Hardy Boys: The Mystery of the Applegate Treasure, and the studio later cast him in numerous sort-of-genre productions like The Shaggy Dog, Son of Flubber, The Absent Minded ProfessorBabes in ToylandMoon PilotThe Misadventures of Merlin Jones and The Monkey’s Uncle. He was also in several Sixties beach party movies, a couple of them sf-tinged — playing a Martian in the 1964 feature film Pajama Party, and in The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini. His other sff roles included the campy Village of the Giants, and Mars Needs Women. Late in his career he appeared in Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold (1995), Billy Frankenstein (1998) and The Education of a Vampire (2001).

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1988 – Thirty-three years ago on this date, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark premiered. It was directed by James Signorelli from a script by Sam Egan, John Paragon, and of course Cassandra Peterson who is as you know the person behind the impressive facade of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. She’s really the only cast that matters here as this is Her Vehicle.  Critics liked it with one saying that it was “Campy, witty and always eager to push the bawdy limits of a PG-13 rating”. 

Unfortunately for Elvira, Mistress of the Dark at the box office the distributor went dramatically out of business without warning the day before it came out, so it would only ever appear on five hundred screens instead of the twenty-five hundred that was intended, so it ended up losing a lot of money despite only costing seven-and-a-half million to produce. (Her costume might be the most expensive thing in the film.) Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it an excellent sixty-five percent rating.  

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 30, 1932 — Antoinette Bower, 89. I’ll start off with her being Sylvia in the classic Trek episode of “Catspaw” written by Robert Bloch. She had a previous genre appearance in a Twilight Zone story, “Probe 7, Over and Out” in which she was Eva Nord. It’s a shaggy God story as so termed by Brian Aldiss. She also had one-offs in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Wild Wild WestMission: ImpossibleGet Smart and The Six Million Dollar Man.
  • Born September 30, 1946 — Dan O’Bannon. Screenwriter, director, visual effects supervisor, and  actor. He wrote the Alien script, directed The Return of the Living Dead, provided special computer effects on Star Wars, was writer of two segments of Heavy MetalSoft Landing and B-17, co-writer with Ronald Shusett and  Gary Goldman of the first Total Recall. That’s not complete listing by any stretch! (Died 2009.)
  • Born September 30, 1950 — Laura Esquivel, 71. Mexican author of Como agua para chocolateLike Water for Chocolate in English. Magical realism and cooking with more than a small soupçon of eroticism. Seriously the film is amazing as is the book. ISFDB says she’s also written La ley del amor (The Law of Love) which I’ve not read. 
  • Born September 30, 1951 — Simon Hawke, 70. Author of the quite superb Wizard of 4th Street series as Well as the TimeWars series.He has written Battlestar GalacticaTrekFriday the 13th, Predator and Dungeons & Dragons novels as well as the genre adjacent Shakespeare & Smythe mysteries which bear titles such as Much Ado About Murder
  • Born September 30, 1959 — Debrah Farentino, 62. She’s was in the cast of Earth 2 (never saw it — how was it?) and the recurring character of Dr. Beverly Barlowe on Eureka (superb, her character and the series). She was also in Son of the Pink Panther, Baker Street: Sherlock Holmes Returns, and the “Mind Over Matter” episode of Outer Limits. 
  • Born September 30, 1960 — Nicola Griffith, 61. Editor with Stephen Pagel of the genre gender anthologies, Bending the Landscape: Science Fiction and Bending the Landscape: Fantasy (World Fantasy Award and Lambda winner) and Bending the Landscape: HorrorAmmonite won both the Lambda and Otherwise Awards. She also garnered a Lambda and a Nebula for the most excellent Slow River. All of her novels are available from the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born September 30, 1972 — Sheree Renée Thomas, 49. Writer, Shotgun Lullabies: Stories & Poems and Sleeping Under the Tree of Life; Editor, Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora which won a World Fantasy Award, and Dark Matter: Reading the Bones which also won a World Fantasy Award. She’s also written a variety of poems and essays including “Dear Octavia, Octavia E. Butler, Ms. Butler, Mother of Changes”. In 2020, Thomas was named editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Half Full proves no matter where you go there’s no escaping the spam.

(11) GUESSING WHO. Radio Times speculates about “Who will be the next Doctor Who after Jodie Whittaker?”.

At the moment there’s not much to go on, and the BBC have only said the decision will be revealed “in due course” – but, based on a few of the names swirling about, our own theories about how the next Doctor would be chosen and recommendations from RadioTimes.com staff, here are a few of our picks for the Fourteenth Doctor.

Spoiler alert: we are almost certainly wrong. But if we’re right, well, you heard (or read) it here first….

Meanwhile, “Billie Piper hints at possible Doctor Who return”.

The I Hate Suzie star, who played the Ninth and Tenth Doctor’s companion Rose Tyler from 2005 until 2008, said in a recent Cameo video that she would consider reprising the iconic role if the moment was right.

“Would I ever go back? I think if the circumstances and the story were right,” she said. “I feel like I’ve had enough time away from it to really, really want back in on it.

“I feel like my kids are are at a good age and may appreciate that too, which is often my incentive to do anything.”…

And Radio Times’ Paul Kirkley adds his own evidence-free guesses about “What to expect from Russell T Davies’ return”.

…Will it be easy, this gear shift? Not for a second. Firstly, anyone who thinks this is going to mean a return to regular Saturday night audiences of eight million (faithful) viewers is probably deluding themselves; that world no longer exists. Sure, the likes of Line of Duty and Vigil may have proved that reports of linear TV’s death continue to be exaggerated, but Doctor Who relies on continually refreshing its audience with a new generation of younger viewers. And, as Ofcom has warned, the traditional broadcasters are currently staring down the barrel of a “lost generation” who, lured away by sexy young buzz brands like Netflix, Disney Plus and YouTube, increasingly view the BBC as that funny old thing your nan watches in the afternoons. (BBC One’s average viewing age, lest we forget, is 61.)

… If, as hinted, Russell does want to expand the Doctor Who “empire”, what sort of expanded portfolio might we reasonably expect? The short answer: haven’t got a Scooby. But has that stopped you starting to build your own fantasy Doctor Who Cinematic Universe in your head? Of course it hasn’t.

So what’s on your bingo card? How about an anthology series featuring one-shot appearances from former – possibly unseen – Doctors? (Hugh Grant as a pre-Hartnell Doctor, anyone?) A stylish period spy-fi drama about the early years of UNIT? Jo Martin’s Fugitive Doctor versus The Division? A Dalek cartoon for the kids? The Humker and Tandrell Adventures…?

Will Russell be dusting off his proposal for Rose Tyler: Earth Defender? Is Torchwood coming back? (Er, probably not.) And will they please, for the love of the mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe, just give us something – anything – with Paul McGann in?

(12) PRODUCT PLACEMENT IN PRATCHETT. [Item by Meredith.] This is old (a 2011 post) but it’s so incredible I thought it might still deserve a spot in the Scroll: Terry Pratchett changes his German publisher because they inserted a soup advert into the text of one of his novels. “Terry Pratchett and the Maggi Soup Adverts” at Stuffed Crocodile.

…Fans of course got used to it, if it gave them access to the books, why not? But it became more and more grating the more genre literature was accepted into mainstream.

And then you actually had a bestseller author like Pratchett jump ship and go to the direct contender (Goldmann), just because one of these stupid stunts. I wonder how that actually was taken by the Heyne CEOs. Back then Pratchett was at the verge of becoming a star in Germany as well, so they lost him just when he was getting big….

There’s a scan of an ad in the post, too.

Diane Duane also wrote a post (with scans) on her blog in 2015: “What’s the Rihannsu for ‘soup’?” at Out of Ambit.

If the above (and below) images look a little bizarre, well, they should. They’re from long-ago German editions of My Enemy, My Ally and The Romulan Way into which the publisher inserted soup ads.

(13) NANO BUNDLE. StoryBundle is offering a 2021 NaNoWriMo Writing Tools Bundle, curated by Kevin J. Anderson.

Each year, as countless determined writers, both aspiring and professional, look at November as National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, we put together a grab back of helpful books that cover all aspects of writing, from craft, to business, to indie publishing, to marketing. This year is no exception.

Presenting a world-class StoryBundle of 16 books that will help you up your game as a writer. Plus, if you meet the bonus price, you can also get discount coupon codes for the ebook editing apps Jutoh 3 and Jutoh 3 Plus!

(14) IT’S A THEORY. Did social media clamoring for actress Lucy Lawless to be cast backfire? “Lucy Lawless Says ‘Mandalorian’ Fan Campaign to Replace Gina Carano Hurt Chances of ‘Star Wars’ Gig” at Yahoo!.

…Lawless revealed to Metro that she was actually circling a different “Star Wars”-adjacent role at the time of Carano’s firing, and she said the fans urging for her “Mandalorian” casting might’ve cost her a trip to a galaxy far, far away.

“Well to be honest with you, I was already in discussions about something on — it wasn’t ‘The Mandalorian’ — something Star Wars-affiliated,’ Lawless said. “[The fan campaign] might have hurt me in some way, because then [Lucasfilm] couldn’t hire me because it would seem to be pandering to…I’m just guessing here, I don’t know anything, but in some ways, it can be unhelpful, because if they pander to this fan group, then how are you going to pander to every other fan group, do you know what I mean?”…

(15) OCTOTHORPE. The Octothorpe podcast team, John Coxon, Alison Scott, and Liz Batty, say about episode 41: “We recorded this before Fantasycon, but that didn’t stop us talking about it a whole bunch. We also talk about Novacon’s COVID policy, discuss the Ignyte Awards and do picks.”  “Leaves the Beans In”.

(16) ICE CUBE ROOTER. The New York Times knows “Where NASA Will Send Its First Robotic Moon Rover to Search for Ice”.

NASA has been planning for years to send a robotic rover to the moon’s polar regions. Water ice trapped at the bottoms of craters there could be a boon to future visiting astronauts, providing water to drink, air to breathe and rocket fuel to propel them back to Earth or even farther out into the solar system.

Now, NASA has identified the crater that the rover — the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER — will spend about 100 days exploring when it arrives in a couple of years.

VIPER will land near the moon’s south pole, at the western edge of the 45-mile-wide Nobile crater, which formed when something hit the moon. Near the poles, the sun is low on the horizon and the bottoms of craters, lying in permanent shadows, are among the coldest places in the solar system….

(17) BEYOND GOOSEBUMPS. SYFY Wire promotes the trailer for a new series based on R.L. Stine’s YA comic: “Just Beyond on Disney+ drops first spooky trailer for R.L. Stine series”.

Just Beyond. Based on the BOOM! Studios YA comic of the same name (written by Goosebumps and Fear Street creator, R.L. Stine), the eight-episode anthology heads for Disney+ in October. 

The official press release teases a collection of “astonishing and thought-provoking stories” about witches, aliens, ghosts, parallel dimensions, and more. Each episode will feature an entirely new cast of characters “who must go on a surprising journey of self-discovery in a supernatural world.” 

Seth Grahame-Smith (author of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and one of the writers behind HBO Max’s upcoming Green Lantern series) serves as writer, executive producer, and showrunner….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: WarioWare: Get It together!” Fandom Games says this new extension of the Warioware franchise features snappy little games with characters named 5-Volt, 9-Volt, and 12-Volt and in the next edition they’ll  “eliminate the middleman,” and is a snack-size alternative to watching TikTok videos of men punching themselves over and over.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Meredith, R.S. Benedict, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 7/28/21 So Put Another File In The Jukebox, Baby

(1) MORE’S HAPPENING THAN WHAT’S ON THE PAGE. Aigner Loren Wilson is “Exploring Nnedi Okorafor’s Africanfuturist Universe” at Tor.com.

…Though not all of the stories take place in Africa, they all speak to the same African future that Okorafor is creating and envisioning. Sometimes this future is at the nexus of American industrialism and the exploitation of Africans like in The Book of Phoenix, in which Okorafor shows the rage and anger of a child used and experimented on. Sometimes her stories show the aftermath of such greed. In Who Fears Death, Okorafor writes of the strife of Sudan and the resilience of its people through the story of Onyesonwu. Readers watch her grow from an infant to a powerful being with the ability to save and heal a whole people. Though the landscapes change, the heart of an Africanfuturist universe is being carved out within these books. Eventually in Binti, Africa reaches the stars by way of the character literally running away so she can be the first of her people to attend a top intergalactic school. Binti is the future of her people, carrying the weight of all the past struggles of them and herself—the histories both told and not….

(2) BOOKER PRIZE LONGLIST. The Booker Prize 2021 longlist includes three books of genre interest, titles shown in boldface.

  • A Passage North, Anuk Arudpragasam (Granta Books, Granta Publications)
  • Second Place, Rachel Cusk, (Faber)
  • The Promise, Damon Galgut, (Chatto & Windus, Vintage, PRH)
  • The Sweetness of Water, Nathan Harris (Tinder Press, Headline, Hachette Book Group)
  • Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber)
  • An Island, Karen Jennings (Holland House Books)
  • A Town Called Solace, Mary Lawson (Chatto & Windus, Vintage, PRH)
  • No One is Talking About This, Patricia Lockwood (Bloomsbury Circus, Bloomsbury Publishing)
  • The Fortune Men, Nadifa Mohamed (Viking, Penguin General, PRH)
  • Bewilderment, Richard Powers (Hutchinson Heinemann, PRH)
  • China Room, Sunjeev Sahota (Harvill Secker, Vintage, PRH)
  • Great Circle, Maggie Shipstead (Doubleday, Transworld Publishers, PRH)
  • Light Perpetual, Francis Spufford (Faber)

The shortlist will be announced September 14, and the winner on November 3.

(3) COMPLICATED Q&A. LeVar Burton was interviewed by David Marchese in the July 4 New York Times Magazine.  It’s mostly about his Jeopardy! stint, but he also discusses his 1997 sf novel Aftermath, which has recently been reprinted. “LeVar Burton’s Quest to Succeed Alex Trebek”

…Forgive me for making the subtext of these questions the text, but I’m trying to see if we can complicate the image of you as almost a secular pop-culture saint like Alex Trebek or Fred Rogers. And one of the things that I came across that maybe does complicate things is your novel, “Aftermath.”5

[5 Published in 1997, Burton’s only novel to date is a dystopian story about a United States recovering from a series of catastrophic events, including violent racial conflicts after the assassination of the nation’s first Black president-elect by a white extremist.]

 Wow. I love talking to people who have taken the time to read my book. I’m enormously proud of it. I just recorded a digital version of it with a new author’s note. I threw out the old author’s note about how I came to be a science-fiction fan and instead addressed the time in which we find ourselves now and some of the ways in which the events at the beginning of the novel are kind of prescient.

I don’t really know how well the book sold, but I think it’s fair to say that it’s obscure. Is it possible that the public wasn’t eager to accept the side of your sensibility that it represented? I was surprised by the violence, the allusions to sexual assault — just the darkness in it. 

I would venture to say, based on some encounters that I have had on Twitter, that there is a population of people who aren’t willing to see me displaying an aspect of my character that perhaps goes against their idea of who I am. They feel like they have the right to opine on who I should be, what I should and should not say. That’s an interesting part of this dynamic of fame. However, I spent a lot of time and energy discovering, defining, divining who I am and how I want to live my life. What you do with what I put out there is your business. What I put out there is my business….

(4) AFTER ACTION REPORT. At Green Book of the White Downs, Tim Bolton’s “Thoughts on the release of the Tolkien Society Summer Seminar videos and push-back against the online small-minded backlash around the event” includes links to “an outpouring of writing focused on the reception of Tolkien’s work and finding representation to identify with in Tolkien’s words” plus “numerous blog posts about LGBT+ and Tolkien.”

…A couple of weeks ago, as we headed towards what would be a fantastic and thoughtful Tolkien Society Summer Seminar, it came apparent that a part of the Tolkien fandom were quite vocally angry that diversity should be a topic associated with Tolkien. We saw a rival conference set up (as if other conferences have ever been a bad thing), we saw podcasts and YouTube rants. Social media saw the same people posting angrily about the affront that the Tolkien Society were holding a seminar – not sure where these lot have been, the Tolkien Society have hosted seminars every year for longer than some of them were born….    

This is the Tolkien Society seminar whose announced schedule was used by some bloggers as an excuse to act out – “Seminar’s Focus on Diversity in Tolkien Draws Conservatives’ Ire” – including pitching a dubious rival event: “Purported Event Will Counter-Program the Seminar on Diversity in Tolkien”.

Bolton concludes his post with this affirmation:

…Here’s the thing. No matter how far back these cave trolls want to try and drag us, we (as a fandom and a society) are going to move forward. We are diverse, we are inclusive. Will we make mistakes? Of course, we are human. But I will stand by groups that at their core hold values such empathy, kindness and being welcoming to all.

And at the centre of it all – our love of Tolkien’s works.

(5) DOG AT LARGE. Joseph Tuttle introduces readers to “’Roverandom:’ Tolkien’s little-known children’s story” at Voyage.

Roverandom is the endearing tale of a little dog’s adventures after being turned into a toy by a wizard. Tolkien originally told this story to his children after one of them had lost a toy dog on vacation. After searching for the lost toy unsuccessfully, Tolkien devised Roverandom to help explain what happened to the toy. Years later, he put the story into the book format we now have….

(6) LUMPY LOKI. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Reader, Financial Times.] In the July 24 Financial Times, Fiona Sturges interviews Richard E Grant about his role on Loki.

Grant hams it up terrifically as Classic Loki, one of several ‘variant’ Lokis marooned in a purgatory known as ‘The Void’ (other variants include Alligator Loki and Kid Loki.)  When he first saw his costume — scoffed-grubby-with clear sagging in the crotch area — he was a little crestfallen.  ‘My first question was, ‘Where are the muscles?’  If you look at Jack Kirby’s original drawings in the comic, the guy had muscles.  But the costume designer was very insistent that I was relying on Loki magic (for strength). So I didn’t get my way.  I thought, ‘Oh well, it’s a withered and old Classic Loki that they’re going to get!’

The role also required Grant to grapple with CGI and green screen technology.  He notes that in 2019’s Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker, in which he played Allegiant General Pryde, ‘ all the doors were functional, all the lights on the consoles worked, and there were stormtroopers’  By contrast, in Loki, his alligator co-star was made of three cushions roughly sewn together. 

(7) METAVERSE MAVEN. The Verge says “Mark Zuckerberg is betting Facebook’s future on the metaverse” – so I guess I’d better start figuring out what that’s supposed to be.

As June came to an end, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told his employees about an ambitious new initiative. The future of the company would go far beyond its current project of building a set of connected social apps and some hardware to support them. Instead, he said, Facebook would strive to build a maximalist, interconnected set of experiences straight out of sci-fi — a world known as the metaverse.

The company’s divisions focused on products for communities, creators, commerce, and virtual reality would increasingly work to realize this vision, he said in a remote address to employees. “What I think is most interesting is how these themes will come together into a bigger idea,” Zuckerberg said. “Our overarching goal across all of these initiatives is to help bring the metaverse to life.”

The metaverse is having a moment. Coined in Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson’s 1992 sci-fi novel, the term refers to a convergence of physical, augmented, and virtual reality in a shared online space. Earlier this month, The New York Times explored how companies and products including Epic Games’ FortniteRoblox, and even Animal Crossing: New Horizons increasingly had metaverse-like elements. (Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has been discussing his desire to contribute to a metaverse for many months now.)…

(8) SECOND BANANAS WITH MORE APPEAL. James Davis Nicoll points out “Five Supporting Characters Who Outshine the Protagonist” at Tor.com.

Sergeant Sam Anderson from Starman Jones by Robert A. Heinlein (1953)

Had runaway Max Jones never met Sam Anderson, late of the Imperial Marines, Max’s plans to follow his late uncle Chester into space would have come to nothing. Chester may have been a member in good standing of the Astrogators’ Guild, but he never signed the necessary paperwork nominating Max for membership. As far as the Guild is concerned, that is that.

Sam, on the other hand, has the ethical flexibility, experience, and connections needed to circumvent onerous regulation. Thanks to Sam’s experienced mentorship, Max acquires all the necessary papers needed to work in space and a position on board the Asgard. Max’s odd talents will prove invaluable when the Asgard is lost in space. Those talents would never have been there to help the Asgard without genially amoral Sam’s corrupting influence.

(9) HELP SOLVE A MYSTERY. Filer Jake says at the Something Awful forums someone has posted a Polaroid picture from 1989 in which a paperback book, believed to be SF, can be seen, and asked “What is that book?”

We’re seriously stumped, to the point where I’ve been trawling a copy of the ISFDB to get titles that might be of the same length as the one in the picture, and am also considering downloading their cover DB so as to do some heavy-duty image analysis.

I’m hoping that you’d be willing to add this as an item in a Pixel Scroll, as in the words of the original asker “Why should we be the only ones to be haunted by this?”

This is the picture. You can see why they’re having so much trouble figuring out the answer. But maybe the pattern of the cover will tickle something in your memory banks?

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • July 28, 2007 – On this date fourteen years ago, Jekyll, a British series produced as a sequel to The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde novella, finishes airing on BBC One. Steven Moffat wrote all six episodes with Douglas Mackinnon and Matt Lipsey each directing three episodes. Elaine Cameron and Jeffrey Taylor were the producers. It starred James Nesbitt in the lead role with the rest of the cast being Gina Bellman, Paterson Joseph, Denis Lawson, Michelle Ryan, Meera Syal and Fenella Woolgar. Critics loved it with James Jackson of The Times saying Nesbitt’s acting as Hyde was “entertainingly over the top as a dozen Doctor Who villains, with a palpable sense of menace to boot”.  A second season was written by Moffat but the BBC never picked up the option on it. Eight years later, ITV would air Jekyll and Hyde based off the same source material and it too would cancelled after one series.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 28, 1866 Beatrix Potter. Probably best known for Tales of Peter Rabbit but I’d submit her gardening skills were second-to-none as well as can be seen in the Green Man review of Marta McDowell’s Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life. Those skills are reflected in her fiction. (Died 1943.)
  • Born July 28, 1928 Angélica Gorodischer, 93. Argentinian writer whose Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was got translated by Ursula Le Guin into English. Likewise Prodigies.has been translated by Sue Burke for Small Beer Press. She won a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. You can read Lightspeed Magazine’s interview with her here.
  • Born July 28, 1931 Jay Kay Klein. I’ll direct you to Mike’s excellent look at him here as I can’t add anything to what he says.  I will note that Jay Kay was a published author of three stories, “Century of Progress”, “Mass Communication“ and  “On Conquered Earth”.  The first two in Analog, the latter in If. None of these have been republished since.  (Died 2012.)
  • Born July 28, 1941 Bill Crider. Primarily a writer of mystery fiction, his extensive bibliography includes three stories in the Sherlock Holmes metaverse: The Adventure of the Venomous LizardThe Adventure of the St. Marylebone Ghoul and The Case of the Vanished Vampire. He also wrote a Sookie Stackhouse short story, “Don’t Be Cruel” in the Charlaine Harris Metaverse. His “Doesn’t Matter Any Matter More” short story won a Sidewise Awards for Alternate History and his “Mike Gonzo and the UFO Terror” won a Golden Duck Award. (Died 2018.)
  • Born July 28, 1955 Dey Young, 66. One of those performers who appeared in multiple Trek series. She was in Next Gen’s “The Masterpiece Society” as Hannah Bates, in Deep Space Nine’s “A Simple Investigation” as Arissa and  and in Enterprise’s “Two Days and Two Nights” as Keyla. She’s got minor roles in Running ManStrange Invaders and Spaceballs as well.
  • Born July 28, 1966 Larry Dixon, 55. Husband of Mercedes Lackey who collaborates with her on such series as SERRAted Edge and The Mage Wars Trilogy. (They were CoNZealand GoHs last year.) He contributed artwork to Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons & Dragons source books, including Oriental AdventuresEpic Level Handbook, and Fiend Folio
  • Born July 28, 1968 Rachel Blakely, 53. You’ll most likely know her as Marguerite Krux on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World as that was her longest running genre role. She was briefly Alcmene on Young Hercules, and played Gael’s Mum on The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. And showed up as Penelope in the “Ulysses” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess
  • Born July 28, 1972 Elizabeth Berkley, 49. Her best known role is Verhooven’s Showgirls which is decidedly not genre even if Kyle MacLachan is in it. She’s done some genre work including The Twilight ZonePerversions of Science which appears to be akin to the Tales from The Crypt series, the animated Armitage III: Polymatrix series, and the Threshold series which pops up regularly in these Birthday notes. 

(12) SJW CREDENTIAL BUNDLE. StoryBundle’s 2021 Cattitude Bundle, curated by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, is available for three more weeks. Get the full list of books and the rest of the deal at the link.

This bundle thrills me. Often, I curate StoryBundles filled with books I’ve read. Always, I curate with authors whose work I like. But as I curate them, I’m aware that I am a moody reader who rarely wants to read what’s prescribed. So, with the books I have only read parts of or haven’t read at all, I put them in a To-Be-Read pile to finish when the mood strikes.

With cat fiction, though, the mood always strikes me. I’ll stop whatever I’m doing to read a cat story. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ll do whatever I’m doing, unless I’m petting one of my three cats.

Many of the books in this bundle combine cats and magic. It seems a proper combination. Cats can twist themselves into the strangest positions. They have an uncanny way of loving us or torturing us (depending on how they feel about us). They have a mysterious edge, even if they’re the friendliest cat on the planet.

(13) LOCKDOWN WAS GOOD BUSINESS FOR THEM. Game makers are getting an unexpected slice of the pie. The Guardian has the story: “Warhammer maker Games Workshop hands staff £5,000 bonus after lockdown sales surge”.

Warhammer retailer Games Workshop is handing its shop workers, model makers, designers and support staff a £5,000 bonus each after sales and profits benefited from tabletop gamers escaping lockdown by fighting bloodthirsty battles with orcs, elves and alien hordes.

The Nottingham-based company behind the popular fantasygaming equipment and Lord of the Rings figurines said its 2,600 ordinary workers would split a £10.6m special bonus on top of a £2.6m profit share.

Senior managers will share an extra £1.1m bonus pot, up from £300,000 the year before, after sales rose by just over a third to £361m and pretax profits soared almost 70% to £151m….

(14) WITCHER SPINOFF. This trailer for a Witcher anime spinoff dropped on Wednesday. The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf premieres August 23 on Netflix.

The world of The Witcher expands in this anime origin story: Before Geralt, there was his mentor Vesemir — a swashbuckling young witcher who escaped a life of poverty to slay monsters for coin. But when a strange new monster begins terrorizing a politically-fraught kingdom, Vesemir finds himself on a frightening adventure that forces him to confront the demons of his past.

(15) KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES. Dr. Brian Keating, Co-Director of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, who also is a member of the Galileo Project’s Advisory Board, is joined by Harvard University Professor Avi Loeb to chat about the Galileo Project in “Extraterrestrial Technology: The Situation Has Changed!” on YouTube.

Huge news out of Harvard: In 2017, the world for the first time observed an interstellar object, called ‘Oumuamua, that was briefly visiting our Solar system. Based on astronomical observations, ‘Oumuamua turned out to have highly anomalous properties that defy well-understood natural explanations. We can only speculate whether ‘Oumuamua may be explained by never seen before natural explanations, or by stretching our imagination to ‘Oumuamua perhaps being an extraterrestrial technological object, similar to a very thin light-sail or communication dish, which fits the astronomical data rather well.

After the release of the ODNI (Office of the Director of National Intelligence) report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP), the scientific community now needs the determination to systematically, scientifically & transparently look for potential evidence of extraterrestrial technological equipment. The impact of any discovery of extraterrestrial technology on science & on our entire worldview would be enormous.

Given the recently discovered abundance of Earth-Sun systems, the Galileo Project is dedicated to the proposition that humans can no longer ignore the possible existence of Extraterrestrial Technological Civilizations (ETCs), and that science should not dogmatically reject potential extraterrestrial explanations because of social stigma or cultural preferences, factors which are not conducive to the scientific method of unbiased, empirical inquiry. We now must look through new telescopes, both literally and figuratively. The Galileo Project aims to identify the nature of UAP and ‘Oumuamua-like interstellar objects using the standard scientific method based on a transparent analysis of open scientific data to be collected using optimized instruments.

The Galileo Project follows three major avenues of research:

1. Obtain High-resolution, Multi-detector UAP Images, Discover their Nature: This goal will be accomplished by searching for UAP with a network of mid-sized, high-resolution telescopes and detector arrays with suitable cameras and computer systems, distributed in select locations. The data will be open to the public and the scientific analysis will be transparent.

We anticipate extensive Artificial Intelligence/Deep Learning (AI/DL) and algorithmic approaches to differentiate atmospheric phenomena from birds, balloons, commercial or consumer drones, and from potential technological objects of terrestrial or other origin surveying our planet, such as satellites. For the purpose of high contrast imaging, each telescope will be part of a detector array of orthogonal and complementary capabilities from radar, Doppler radar, and high-resolution synthetic aperture radar to high-resolution, large camera visible range and infrared band telescopes. If an ETC is discovered to be surveying Earth using UAP, then we have to assume that the ETC has mastered passive radar, optical and infrared technologies. In such a case, our systematic study of such detected UAP will be enhanced by means of high-performance, integrated and multi-wavelength detector arrays.

2. Search for and In-Depth Research on ‘Oumuamua-like Interstellar Objects:  

The Galileo Project research group also will utilize existing and future astronomical surveys, such as the Rubin Observatory, to discover and monitor the properties of interstellar visitors to the Solar system. We will conceptualize and design, potentially in collaboration with interested space agencies or space ventures, a launch-ready space mission to image unusual interstellar objects such as ‘Oumuamua by intercepting their trajectories on their approach to the Sun or by using ground-based survey telescopes to discover interstellar meteors.

3. Search for Potential ETC Satellites: Discovering potential 1 meter-scale or smaller satellites that may be exploring Earth, e.g., in polar orbits a few hundred km above Earth, may become feasible with VRO in 2023 and later, but if radar, optical and infrared technologies have been mastered by an ETC, then very sophisticated large telescopes on Earth might be required. We will design advanced algorithmic and AI/DL object recognition and fast filtering methods that the Galileo Project intends to deploy, initially on non-orbiting telescopes. 

(16) PICS OR IT DIDN’T HAPPEN. The Expanse was a Jeopardy! clue. I can prove it. (Do we still call this a screenshot?)

(17) TRAILER FOR A PROMISED FAN FILM. Strap in for a fun Star Wars fan film from writer/director Anthony Ferraro, Forsaken Mandalorian and the Drunken Jedi Master. “The goal was to make a fan film driven by dramatic performances rather than winks and nods to the franchise. But not to worry, we do some winking and nodding,” Ferraro promises. The video launches August 6 on the Create Sci-Fi YouTube channel.

Hope hinges on two men with no hope.

A forsaken Mandalorian hunts down a Hutt Courier to recover an asset that unexpectedly leads him to team up with an outcast drunken Jedi Master to fulfill his sworn duty.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/10/21 Revenge Of The Unknown Knowns

(1) SHIPPING NEWS. The New York Times tells how “’Ships of the Northern Fleet,’ a crowdsourced sci-fi project, navigated from TikTok all the way to the convention circuit,” in “The Show Is Fake. The Fandom Is Real.”

…Maybe you remember it, too — but it’s much more likely that you don’t. That’s because “Ships of the Northern Fleet” isn’t real. It’s fabricated. Fake. A nonexistent TV series.

Its fan base, however, very much exists. “Fleeters,” as they’re known, congregate on Discord and TikTok to talk about their favorite “memories” of the adventures of the ship crews of the Four Fleets. Popular discussion topics include the Cog Hogs, small clockwork hedgehogs that are cuter than the Porgs of “Star Wars” fame, and the majestic Sky Whales, giant beasts who flew in the sky next to the pirates’ soaring airships.

Fans debate the merits of the ships’ various captains, including Captain Neil Barnabus (the leader of the True Winds fleet, named after the fantasy writer Neil Gaiman) and Captain George Hellman (who is “played” by Nathan Fillion, a fixture of the sci-fi genre; he wrote in an email that though he hadn’t heard of the show, he is “all for it”).

So, how exactly did “Ships of the Northern Fleet” come into semi-existence? It started, like so many other dramatic arcs online, with a throwaway post on social media.

A Show Is Born

In early February, in a video on TikTok, the video game writer Tyler James Nicol encouraged his viewers to “participate in a hallucinatory experience” by sharing their favorite memories and moments from a show “that will and has never existed,” and that, according to the proposed imaginary construct, had been canceled before its time.

The fake “steampunk sky pirate show,” would be called “Ships of the Northern Fleet” after the name of a novel that Mr. Nicol, 36, had once planned to write.

He never got around to the manuscript, but he did have the title, a TikTok account and an idea to crowdsource its plot and fictional lore.

It took off quickly. Mr. Nicol, Mx. Osborn and four others — Patrick Loller, Erik Tait, Gary Hampton and Logan South — connected on TikTok and started streaming together on Twitch, where they performed improv in character, riffing on questions fans asked them via chat about “working” on the show.

Enthusiasts banded together to create a subreddit, a Discord server and a wiki with over 300 entries. They’ve also produced fan art, songs and a “Ships” tabletop game. There’s knockoff merchandise out there, too, though fans can buy “real” merch from Mr. Nicol; he donates all his earnings from those sales to the Trevor Project….

(2) KAFKA COLLECTION. “Max Brod’s Franz Kafka Archive Digitized”Smithsonian Magazine has the story.

During his lifetime, the celebrated Czech Jewish author Franz Kafka penned an array of strange and gripping works, including a novella about a man who turns into a bug and a story about a person wrongly charged with an unknown crime. Now, almost a century after the acclaimed author’s death, literary lovers can view a newly digitized collection of his letters, manuscripts and drawings via the National Library of Israel’s website.

As Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports, the collection contains around 120 drawings and more than 200 letters owned by Max Brod, a friend and fellow writer who served as Kafka’s literary executor. Instead of destroying the author’s papers as he had requested, Brod chose to publish and preserve them….

(3) AFROFUTURISM BUNDLE. StoryBundle is offering The Afrofuturism and the Black Fantastic Bundle curated by Tenea D. Johnson.

For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of four books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • Slay by Nicole Givens Kurtz
  • Talk Like a Man by Nisi Shawl
  • Dominion by Zelda Knight and Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki
  • The Brothers Jetstream: Leviathan by Zig Zag Claybourne

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular books, plus six more books and a fiction album! That’s a total of 11!

  • New Worlds, Old Ways edited by Karen Lord
  • Queen of Zazzau by J.S. Emuakpor
  • Baaaad Muthaz by Bill Campbell, David Brame and Damian Duffy
  • How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend by Linda D. Addison
  • Reenu-You by Michele Tracy Berger
  • Frequencies by Tenea D. Johnson
  • Afro Puffs Are the Antennae of the Universe by Zig Zag Claybourne

(4) FROM SCOTLAND TO THE BORGO PASS. At CrimeReads, Laurie R. King profiles Emily Gerard, whose travels in Transylvania provided Bram Stoker with a lot of inspiration and ideas when he was writing Dracula – “The Scottish Anthropologist Who Inspired Dracula”.

… When she was in her thirties, mother of two young sons, her husband took up a position in the far corner of Transylvania. Gerard was a writer by this time, having published stories, reviews, and a few novels in collaboration with her sister, so her imagination was roused by this fascinating and utterly unknown part of the world. Apparently fearless—“Nonsense!” she says, when her young son urges her to take her revolver on a solitary trek—and fluent in several languages, she would merrily set off on an “easy” walk (“not more than two hours off”) to a spot on a map far from any road, or to a ragged tent she’d spotted on waste-land. There she would watch, and listen, and ask all manner of questions about the work, beliefs, rituals, and lives of the residents.

From these experiences, Gerard wrote an essay on “Transylvanian Superstitions,” which was accepted for publication in one of Britain’s most widely respected journals….

(5) EREWHON AND ELSEWHERE. “Mohanraj and Rosenbaum Are Humans” Episode 14 is a visit with Liz Gorinsky.

Friend of the podcast Liz Gorinsky arrives to share her experiences as an editor, from her early days of reading comic books, to her work at Tor.com, and finally starting Erewhon Books. Mary Anne and Ben inquire about the technical and career aspects of editing, as well as the importance of grappling with their internal editor in their own writing process.

(6) DINOS RETURNING. And SYFY Wire has the new poster: “Jurassic World: Dominion prologue before IMAX F9 screenings, first teaser image”.

Jurassic World: Dominion is finally ramping up its larger-than-life marketing campaign with an extended preview that will play before IMAX screenings of F9 (out in North America Friday, June 25)….

Described as “a prologue” to the main story, the 5-minute sneak peek is set 65 million years ago in the Cretaceous period when…*clears throat*…DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH. Mr. DNA is on vacation, but Michael Giacchino’s score will be there to guide viewers through the origin story of a lone mosquito that decides to slurp up some tasty dino-blood. The release also promises (count em’) SEVEN new species never before glimpsed within the Jurassic franchise. And just before you think it’s all over, the preview excavates “some real trademark Jurassic surprises with dinosaurs later roaming an Earth that is decidedly less theirs alone,” reads the synopsis.

(7) GRAYSKULL IS BACK. Netflix dropped a trailer forKevin Smith’s Masters Of The Universe:  Revelation.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 10, 1955 — On this day in 1955, This Island Earth premiered in New York City. It was produced by William Alland, and directed by Joseph M. Newman and Jack Arnold. It  Jeff Morrow, Faith Domergue and Rex Reason. It was based on the novel by Raymond F. Jones, which was first published in the Thrilling Wonder Stories as three novelettes: “The Alien Machine” in the June 1949 issue, “The Shroud of Secrecy” in December 1949 issue, and “The Greater Conflict” in February 1950 issue.  Critics in general loved it, it did very well at the box office but currently the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a not great forty-four percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 10, 1918 — Barry Morse. He was Prof. Victor Bergman on Space: 1999, a show I never did quite cotton to, and he also appeared on the Twilight Zone , Outer Limits, The InvadersTekWarThe Martian ChroniclesRay Bradbury TheaterSpace Island OneMemory RunThe Shape of Things to Come and The Return of Sherlock Holmes. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1918 – Frank Hamilton.  He didn’t invent the Shadow, or Doc Savage, but he illustrated them excellently.  Here is an FH Shadow on the cover of Frank Eisgruber’s Gangland’s Doomhere is the FH cover for a Doc Savage tribute; both with lots of interiors.  Here is a note from ThePulp.net with a 1982 FH self-portrait; here is a note from “The Shadow” wiki.  Find, if you can, his Amazing Pulp Heroes (with Link Hullar’s text).  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1922 – Judy Garland.  For us this star shines in the MGM Wizard of Oz (Thorpe, Fleming, Vidor dirs. 1939) – winning her only Academy Award.  I love the Oz Frank Baum wrote; in the MGM version much is right, and otherwise, as a law-school professor of mine said – of a major figure with whom he disagreed vigorously – There is a sense in which a genius can’t be wrong.  The rest of JG’s career was such a tragedy because there too she earned such glory.  (Died 1969) [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1928 — Maurice Sendak. In Seattle many years ago, I saw the painted flats he did for The Nutcracker. Truly stunning. Of course, he’s known for Where the Wild Things Are which I think is genre adapted into other media including a film by Spike Jonze. In the Night Kitchen might be genre and it is often on Banned Books lists. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born June 10, 1935 – Tatsumi Yoshiro.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  He coined gekiga for a development of manga he preferred; see here.  I can’t go along with calling it more realistic, or saying that’s better – I had this quarrel with people when Watchmen first appeared – but Tatsumi-san was a genius, and we could stand knowing more about SF and related art of Japan.  Here is the cover for his memoir of 1945-1960 A Drifting Life (English version); here is a Wikipedia article about it; here is an article about gekiga and mangahere is an article in the Lambiek Comiclopedia with panels showing his work.  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1937 — Luciana Paluzzi, 84. She is best known for playing SPECTRE assassin Fiona Volpe in Thunderball. She also appeared in Hercules as Iole’s maid, The Green Slime as Doctor Lisa Benson, Captain Nemo and the Underwater City as Mala and The Six Million Dollar Man: The Solid Gold Kidnapping as Contessa DeRojas. (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1951 — Charles Vess, 70. If you ever need a crash course in learning about his art, go find a copy of Drawing Down the Moon: The Art of Charles Vess which lavishly covers his career up to about a decade ago. I’ve got a personally signed copy here along with lots of his artwork. He’s had interesting career including the Spider-Man: Spirits of the Earth graphic novel that he wrote and illustrated. I strongly recommend the illustrated version of Stardust he did as it’s amazing. (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1952 — Kage Baker. I never met her but we had a decade-long conversation via email and once in a while via phone. We were supposed to write a Company concordance for Golden Gryphon but she got too ill for it to happen. Harry the Space Raptor is now living with her sister Katheleen. The two of them were also frequent attenders of Ren Faires were they set up a tavern (John Hertz knew her that way) and sold various ales. Kage had a deep fascination with Elizabethan English and Harry Flashman as well who she incorporated into her novels effectively. (Died 2010.)(CE)
  • Born June 10, 1953 – Don Maitz, age 68.  Two hundred thirty covers, a hundred twenty interiors from this luckily prolific artist; two Hugos, one Worldcon committee special award, eight Chesleys; World Fantasy award; Society of Illustrators Silver Medal. Two artbooks, First Maitz (he created the image of Captain Sir Henry Morgan 1635-1688 for Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum) and Dreamquests; two sets of DM Fantasy Art Trading Cards.  Guest of Honor at Boskone 18, Lunacon 28, Loscon 19, Minicon 49, Balticon 27, and Lonestarcon 2 the 55th Worldcon.  Here is his cover (with his wife Janny Wurts) for The Darkest Road.  Here is his cover for his Worldcon’s Souvenir Book.  [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1962 –  Ahmed Khaled Tawfik, M.D., Ph.D.  Author, physician, Professor of Medicine.  Two hundred books in both Egyptian and Classical Arabic; also in Web-based magazines. Refaat Ismael of his Beyond Nature series is a retired bachelor doctor with a sarcastic attitude who keeps having paranormal adventures.  In Utopia Egyptians live in a dystopian and utopian (or as I should say cacotopian and eutopian) society separated by walls.  Cheryl Morgan interviewed AKT in Locus 614.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1964 — Andrew M. Niccol, 57. Screenwriter / producer / director who wrote and produced one of my favorite genre films, The Truman Show. The film won him a Hugo at Aussiecon Three.  He also involved in GattacaThe TerminalIn TimeThe HostThe Minutes short videoand Anon. Sort of genre adjacent is that he‘s been announced as the screenwriter for a live version of the Monopoly game but it still in development.  Personally I think it’s in the games section of The Library in The Dreaming. (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1986 – Amanda Havard, age 35.  In The Survivors and two sequels Sadie Matthau searches for answers about her family who survived the Salem witch trials through supernatural abilities; on an Immersedition interactive book application are AH’s original music, and maps, photos, background, commentary; a syndication at Wattpad.com has had 5 million readers.  Independent Publisher’s Editor’s Choice award, eLit bronze medals for Fantasy – Science Fiction and Young Adult.  [JH]

(10) BONUS BIRTHDAY. A.V. Club also reminds us: “Today’s the birth date of the miracle replicant baby in Blade Runner 2049”.

It’s a happy day on both Earth and the off-world colonies alike, at least for high-level replicants who haven’t been “retired” yet. That’s because today, June 10, 2021, is the date repeatedly shown in Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 as the birth date of the miracle replicant messiah baby conceived by Nexus-7 replicant Rachael and Blade Runner Rick Deckard (who is also probably a replicant). The birth should’ve been impossible, because replicants are definitely just pieces of machinery who don’t have thoughts or feelings of their own and shouldn’t be capable of having children, because then it would be harder to argue that they’re not normal people and humans might start feeling bad for how they treat them (humans are the worst). That’s what makes this miracle messiah baby so important to the distinctly Jared Leto-like creep Niander Wallace, who wants to use the miracle baby to figure out how he can make more miracle babies and satiate his enormous god-complex…. but that hasn’t happened yet, because it’s still only 2021….

(11) BLESS THEIR HEARTS. ScreenRant pulled up a 1977 video interview where “Stan Lee Admitted Marvel Trolled DC In The Most Hilarious Way”.

…In an interview in the late ’70s, the former Marvel editor-in-chief was asked about his competition at DC Comics. Without hesitation, Lee said “bless their little innocent hearts,” before admitting that they had “fun with them” after they started selling more comics. According to Lee, DC studied Marvel’s covers in an effort to try to emulate their success. Lee said DC noticed the use of red on their comics and started doing their own red covers. He added DC did the same thing with dialogue on the covers. In response, Marvel took “all the red” and dialogue off their covers, which Lee revealed still led to their books still selling better. Lee said it drove DC “crazy.” (Lee’s answer begins around the 8-minute mark of the YouTube video below)….

(12) STORMBRINGER. Spoilerverse carries “Michael Moorcock’s Multiverse: From Melniboné to Hollywood”, a podcast with Andrew Sumner conducting the interview.

Sumner welcomes the world’s greatest living fantasy author, Michael Moorcock, to Hard Agree for the first in an ongoing series of conversations about Michael’s life and work. In this debut episode, Sumner & Moorcock discuss Michael’s parents, his Dad’s regard for Arthur C Clarke, completing the latest Elric of Melniboné novel (due for release in Fall 2022), the beginnings of Jerry Cornelius, Michael’s great friendship with feminist author Andrea Dworkin – and they begin a discussion of Michael’s wild ride through Hollywood that will roll into our next episode.

(13) MONEY SHOULD FLOW TO THE WRITER. Max Florschutz breaks down “Why You Won’t Be Seeing My Work on Serial Story Sites” at Unusual Things.

…See, story services like this are based off of similar setups that come from Asia that started with mangas. And from a business perspective, they’re designed to be explotative.

See, the idea is that the site itself exists to gather as many content creators as possible and then create a microcosm of a “free market,” where everyone is competing with everyone else. Except it’s not really that “free” since it’s controlled by a single entity who runs the service. And they can therefore manipulate how it functions to their advantage.

And oh, do they ever. These services are designed to maximize their profits … at the expense of those who flood them with content.

For instance, there’s an upper limit on how much you can release with each post. Vella, for instance, has a limit per chapter of 5000 words. You can’t release anything larger. Why? Because it maximizes the volume of content readers must click through or pay for, increasing ad and subscription revenue. What would be one chapter becomes two or even three, which means 2-3 times the revenue per reader. Tricky … but effective.

But worse, they actively design the system to produce free content the site runners earn revenue off of for free. When you start at these places, you start at “the bottom.” IE for a lot of the founding originators of this idea, you earned nothing… 

(14) ROUNDUP TIME. In Petréa Mitchell’s “Anime roundup 6/10/2021: It Gets Real” at Amazing Stories.

ODDTAXI #10 – Odokawa attempts to recruit Yamamoto into his scheme to upset the heist, only to wind up setting himself up to be conveniently murdered. It is only thanks to Shirakawa that he survives long enough to meet up with Dobu again for a sketch of Dobu’s plan and the long-awaited title drop.

It’s an excellent moment when Shirakawa finally gets to use her capoeira skills in anger, but it leads to the question: how did she happen to be hanging around in the very construction site where Yamamoto was planning to dispose of Odokawa in the middle of the night?…

(15) HE REVIEWS THOSE THEWS. In the Washington Post, Michael Dirda gives an introduction to the fiction of Robert E. Howard as well as biographical and critical works about him. “Robert E. Howard became famous for creating Conan. But that warrior was only the beginning.”

As a reviewer, I’ve always regarded myself as a generalist, lurching from a novel this week to a biography or work of history the next, occasionally interspersing an essay or rediscovering a neglected classic. But every so often, I feel the need to be much more — what’s the right word? — serious, intense, almost scholarly. I yearn to immerse myself in the works of a single author, to spend time reading as much of his or her writing as possible. During these literary sprees, I even undertake actual research, scribble notes, talk to experts.

Last month, I realized that this column would coincide with Robert E. Howard Remembrance Days in Cross Plains, Tex. There, the writer’s fans gather each June 11 — the day the 30-year-old shot himself in 1936 — for talks, barbecue and camaraderie. This year’s guest of honor is Roy Thomas, who wrote the 1970s Marvel comics which — along with Lancer paperbacks featuring brutal and sensual cover art by Frank Frazetta — created a new audience for Howard’s best-known character, the greatest warrior of the ancient Hyborian age.

We first learn his name in the soul-stirring epigraph of “The Phoenix on the Sword”: “Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandaled feet.”…

(16) COVER YOURSELF. The Retro Science Fiction Collage Hawaiian Shirt is an eye-catcher.

(17) A BEAUTY AND SOME BEASTS. Enchanted Living Magazine introduces readers to “The Magical Beasts of Anastasiya Dobrovolskaya”.

… Dobrovolskaya’s first shoot with Stepan took place in January, and she says, “it was a wonderful experience thanks to which we made amazing photos.” She describes Stepan as “the cutest bear in the world: very loving and delicate,” and says that his story “is an example of an endless love between people and an animal. When I saw him for the first time I could not hold back the tears because I saw such a huge love between this animal and his people. I wish that all people treated their pets like Stepan’s family have been treating him.”

Dobrovolskaya has always loved and cared for animals. “As a child I brought home puppies and kittens that had been thrown out,” she said. “On??, I brought a baby raven whose wing was broken. Nothing has changed. I still love animals with all my heart and am always trying to help those in trouble.” She first incorporated animals in her photography by chance in 2018. She’d been taking portraits for a few months when she received a message from a woman who organizes photo shoots in Moscow, offering Dobrovolskaya the opportunity to participate in a shoot with a chicken and a mini pig. How could she resist?

She found a model, plucked a dress from her  own closet, and went—but didn’t know what to do.  “Should the chicken be on the floor? Or should I put him on the fence? The pig suddenly fell asleep—was it okay to wake her up? The only thing I knew was that I wanted those photos to look like fashion ones.” So she told her model Margo, “Imagine that we’re making content for Vogue.” The photos turned out smashingly and even went on to be recognized in the huge international photo contest 35 AWARDS 2018.

As it turned out, the couple who owned the chicken and the mini pig took care of other animals too, including a baby fox cub and an owl. Dobrovolskaya asked if it were possible to take photos with them as well, though she was “very worried that it was stressful for the animals.” The owners assured her it was okay, and to Dobrovolskaya’s surprise, “both the fox and owl were very happy to have an additional walk in a park and didn’t even notice the paparazzi.”…

(18) GOOGLE FOR DUMBOS. Scientific American is there when “The First ‘Google Translate’ for Elephants Debuts”. [Via Slashdot.]

When a male African savanna elephant folds his ears while simultaneously waving them, he’s ready for a fight. When a female folds her ears and accompanies the action with an ear flap, that means she’s also issuing a serious threat. But when elephants come together and fold their ears while also rapidly flapping them, the animals are expressing a warm, affiliative greeting that is part of their bonding ceremonies.

Elephants possess an incredibly rich repertoire of communication techniques, including hundreds of calls and gestures that convey specific meanings and can change depending on the context. Different elephant populations also exhibit culturally learned behaviors unique to their specific group. Elephant behaviors are so complex, in fact, that even scientists may struggle to keep up with them all. Now, to get the animals and researchers on the same page, a renowned biologist who has been studying endangered savanna elephants for nearly 50 years has co-developed a digital elephant ethogram, a repository of everything known about their behavior and communication….

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

Pixel Scroll 6/3/21 An Iron Pixel In A Velvet Scroll

(1) LAFFERTY FANS. LAFFCON, the annual celebration of science fiction author R. A. Lafferty, returns June 12, 2021. LAFFCON is a free event and open to the public. This year’s conference will be held online via Zoom. Register now.

(2) STORYBUNDLE. The 2021 Pride Bundle, curated by Catherine Lundoff and Melissa Scott, Includes our Heather Rose Jones’ 3rd Alpennia book. (Available for another 28 days.)

We’re back again with another queer-themed bundle for Pride — five books in the main bundle and a generous eleven in the bonus, for a total of sixteen if you spring for the bonus. As has become usual, we were spoiled for choice: there are just so many writers out there for whom intelligent, nuanced queer writing is their default mode. There is never an easy way to winnow things down to a manageable number.

For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of five books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • No Man’s Land by A.J. Fitzwater
  • Silver Moon by Catherine Lundoff
  • Dropnauts by J. Scott Coatsworth
  • Burning Bright by Melissa Scott
  • Highfeil Grimoires by Langley Hyde

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all five of the regular books, plus eleven more books! That’s a total of 16.

  • The Four Profound Weaves by R. B. Lemberg
  • Succulents and Spells by Andi C. Buchanan
  • City of a Thousand Feelings by Anya Johanna DeNiro
  • Mother of Souls by Heather Rose Jones
  • Blood Moon by Catherine Lundoff
  • Spellbinding by Cecilia Tan
  • Glitter + Ashes edited by Dave Ring
  • Queens of Noise by Leigh Harlen
  • Stone and Steel by Eboni Dunbar
  • Skythane by J. Scott Coatsworth
  • Stories to Sing in the Dark by Matthew Bright

(3) DERN’S LATEST PROFILE ABOUT AN EE WHO WRITES SFF. [Item by Daniel Dern.] I’ve been doing a bunch of these (monthly), including Bruce Schneier (who’s directly sfnal via his crypto algorithm and appendix for Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon). My latest, just up a week or so ago, is on S. B. Divya: “S.B. Divya: How This EE Combines Engineering With Writing Some of the Best Sci-Fi Around”, IEEE Spectrum, (online) May 21, 2021 (online); page 19, June 2021 issue.

Engineers often find themselves in the role of turning ideas that used to be science fiction into reality. So it’s natural that some of them turn the flow of ideas in the other direction, and become authors of science fiction. One such engineer-turned-writer is Divya Srinivasan Breed, who writes her science fiction as S.B. Divya, and whose stories have been nominated for Hugo and Nebula awards.

“In my novella Runtime (2016), my main character was putting together exoskeletons, hacking firmware, people were embedding chips in their bodies…. And my novel Machinehood (2021) reflects my understanding of where we are today and where we are headed in terms of machine intelligence, and where some of the trouble spots are, socially, for labor, economics, humanity, and ethics,” says Divya. All the engineering aspects “were things I had studied or done at my jobs.” …

(4) WIDE WORLD OF SFF. The Best of World SF: Volume 1 is editor Lavie Tidhar’s “The Big Idea”, as he explains to Whatever readers today:

…I set out to do this book because I didn’t think anyone would do it for me. I hunted for stories far and wide—picking up horror collections in Malaysia, getting writer friends in China to send me rough translations, translating stories myself from Hebrew, begging and cajoling to find writers in Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe… And I pitched the first Apex Book of World SF to Jason Sizemore in 2008, by telling him it wasn’t going to make him any money but it was a good thing to do.

Improbably, he agreed….

(5) REVIVING CURIOSITY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] David Marchese has an interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson in the April 24 New York Times Magazine.  Topics include how to get the public interested in science, how he got his points across when being interviewed by Colbert and Jon Stewart, and, if the footnotes come through in the web version, why the proportions of Elsa in Frozen are all wrong. “Neil deGrasse Tyson Thinks Science Can Reign Supreme Again”.

In your work, you often bring up wanting to inculcate in people a scientific mind-set, which is a way of thinking that would help navigate misinformation. But we don’t always recognize misinformation for what it is. So what questions should people be asking themselves when they encounter material that’s skeptical about mainstream science? 

Let me first offer a transition from your question: I’ve gotten simultaneously famous and infamous for commenting on Twitter  on films and whether they get their science correct.

If something lands awkwardly, I ask myself, Could they have done that better or differently? Then later I comment. My defense is, if you are watching a period piece that takes place in the 1950s in L.A., and there’s a 1962 Chevy Bel Air on the road, and the person you see the movie with is a car buff and says, “That car wasn’t made yet,” you say, “That’s pretty good that you noticed that.” Or if you’re watching a Jane Austen period piece: The carriage rolls up, and somebody is wearing a derby instead of a top hat. If you’re a costume designer, you would cry foul. Those people aren’t criticized for making those observations. Because I’m bringing science to that table, people reject it unfairly. Now getting back to your point: What’s behind all this? The missing link is curiosity. Without curiosity you’re no longer probing for what is true. If someone says, “I saw Bigfoot the other day,” there are people who say, “Yeah, that’s great!” And people who say, “No, you’re full of [expletive]” — both of those responses require no brain work. What is the brain work I would like to see more of? It’s: Tell me more. When did you see this? Where did you see it? Did you find other evidence? You start probing. It’s the absence of curiosity that concerns me.

(6) PAVED WITH GOOD INTENTIONS. James Davis Nicoll knows the one thing that ruins even the best-designed plans: “Would-Be Utopias: Five Books Featuring Arcologies and Domed Cities”.

Strength of Stones by Greg Bear (1981)

Rather than settle their new world willy-nilly, the hopefuls who migrated to the planet they dubbed God-Does-Battle decided to start with a clear vision made into manifest reality. They hired Robert Kahn, humanity’s greatest architect, to design perfect cities, which they then built. Utopia could only result!

To quote Sartre, “Hell is other people.” Utopias tend to fell apart as soon as humans are introduced. Kahn’s cities had a simple solution: They expelled all the humans, to survive or not, as fate decreed on, the surface of God-Does-Battle. The arcologies were now free to operate without human complications.

A thousand years later, Kahn’s creations are beginning to run down, which may give the starvelings outside a chance to reclaim their lost homes.

(7) YOU ARE THERE. Galactic Journey livetweeted today’s (in 1966) Gemini 9 mission — There’s a concept for you!

(8) LISTEN TO THIS. “APA Says Audiobook Sales Rose 12% in 2020”Publishers Weekly has the numbers.

The Audio Publishers Association’s annual review of the audiobook market found another year of double-digit sales increases as well as a profound shift in listening habits.

In 2019, 43% of listeners said they most often listened to audiobooks in their car, a percentage that fell to 30% last year when work-at-home orders kept people from commuting to the office. The percentage of people who took part in the APA survey who said home was their preferred listening spot jumped to 55% in 2020, from 43% in 2019.

Despite concerns early in the pandemic that the plunge in commuting would lead to a drop in sales, the APA found that sales from the 27 companies that report results to the APA sales survey increased 12%, to $1.3 billion. The sales gain is in keeping with data from the AAP, whose preliminary figures also show a double-digit increase in audiobook sales.

The consumer part of the survey found that 67% of audiobook consumers said that one of the reasons they enjoy listening to audiobooks is to reduce screen time….

(9) NOT JUST A BABBLING BROOK. Radio Times’ Tom Chapman declares that “Doctor Who’s River Song is the best companion of all time”.

Since the BBC relaunched Doctor Who in 2005, there’s been a colourful cast of fan-favourite companions that have joined the time-travelling Time Lord. From the early days of Rose Tyler through to Martha Jones, the Ponds, Yasmin Khan and all the rest, each has brought something different to the table.

However, all of the above pale in comparison to a certain River Song, aka the wife of the Doctor, who first debuted in the series to acclaim 13 years ago today. (Don’t get too attached though – Steven Moffat claims she’s been married 428 times.)

While naming River so definitively as the greatest companion of all time is sure to spark a debate hotter than the Satan Pit, she rightly earns her place at the top thanks to her flirty and fearsome attitude – and a few other qualities that have helped her unlock more than just the door to the TARDIS. Though before we get into all that, it’s time for a trip down memory lane…

(10) GRAB YOUR BRICKS. The first ever LEGO CON is happening online June 26.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 3, 1991 — On this date in 1991, The Guyver premiered in the United States. Directed by Screaming Mad George (really) and Steve Wang, it was produced by Brian Yuzna from the screenplay by John Woo Jr.  It starred Mark Hamill, Vivian Wu, David Gale, Linnea Quigley, Michael Berryman and many others. The critics really, really didn’t like it and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a rating of just thirty-six percent. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 3, 1809 – Margaret Gatty.  Capable marine biologist; British Sea Weeds (1872) took 14 years, described 200 species, still used in the 1950s.  Also that year The Book of Sun-Dials, with 350; there’s a 2010 paperback reprint.  For us, founded and edited Aunt Judy’s Magazine with contributions by Lewis Carroll, Hans Christian Andersen, CaldecottCruikshank; books of parables and tales – Legendary Tales was illustrated by Phiz.  (Died 1873) [JH]
  • Born June 3, 1861 – Sophie Jewett.  Poet, translator; taught at Wellesley.  Rendered The Pearl in its original meter.  (Died 1909) [JH]
  • Born June 3, 1929 – Brian Lewis.  Ninety covers for New Worlds (here’s one), Science Fantasy (here’s one), Science Fiction Adventures (here’s one), for a few books, sometimes realistic, sometimes surrealistic; fifty interiors; also comics.  (Died 1978) [JH]
  • Born June 3, 1946 — Dame Penelope Alice Wilton DBE, 75. She played the recurring role of PM Harriet Jones in Doctor Who and became one of the most popular characters in it. She also played Homily in The Borrowers and The Return of the Borrowers as Shaun of the Dead as Barbara and The BFG as The Queen. (CE)
  • Born June 3, 1948 – Dale Payson, age 73.  Here is her cover for The Silver Crown.  Here is her frontispiece for The Sleepy Time Treasury.  Here is On Reading Palms.  Here is The Pop-Up Magic Castle Fairytale Book.  Outside our field, applauded for still-life and relatively-still  life paintings.  [JH]
  • Born June 3, 1950 — Melissa Mathison. Screenwriter for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Spielberg credits the line “E.T. phone home” line to her. (She’s Eliot’s school nurse in the film.) She also wrote the screenplays for The Indian in the Cupboard and BFG with the latter being dedicated in her memory. And she wrote the “Kick the Can” segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie. (Died 2015.) (CE) 
  • Born June 3, 1958 — Suzie Plakson, 63. She played four characters on Trek series: a Vulcan, Doctor Selar, in “The Schizoid Man” (Next Gen); the half-Klingon/half-human Ambassador K’Ehleyr in “The Emissary” and “Reunion” (Next Gen); the Lady Q in “The Q and the Grey” (Voyager); and an Andorian, Tarah, in “Cease Fire” (Enterprise).  She also voiced Amazonia in the “Amazon Women in the Mood” episode of Futurama. Really. Truly. (CE)
  • Born June 3, 1960 – Daniel Horne, age 61.  Ten dozen covers, twoscore interiors.  Here is the Jan 89 Amazing.  Here is Spectrum 9.  Here is the Winter 2016 Baum Bugle (that’s King Rinkitink, about whom much in this issue).  Here is Vincent Price as Edward Lionheart in Theater of Blood.  Here is Arcadia.  Outside our field, here is President Lincoln.  [JH]
  • Born June 3, 1964 — James Purefoy, 57. His most recent genre performance was in the recurring role of Laurens Bancroft in Altered Carbon. His most impressive role was I think as Solomon Kane in the film of that name. He was also in A Knight’s Tale as Edward, the Black Prince of Wales/Sir Thomas Colville. He dropped out of being V in V for Vendetta some six weeks into shooting but some early scenes of the masked V are of him. (CE)
  • Born June 3, 1992 – William Broom, age 29.  Half a dozen short stories, two in Aurealis, two in Beneath Ceaseless Skies.  Here is a note last year at Rocket Stack Rank.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark shows why a certain Marvel superhero movie horrified this audience.
  • Rhymes with Orange shows what you might find in a used time machine.
  • Macanudo suggests a corporate symbol that might represent a particularly alluring vampire meal:

(14) SPACEDOG. “Owl! at the Library” is here to surprise us with the fact that One Hundred and One Dalmatians, the novel, has a sequel called The Starlight Barking. I haven’t read it yet and already there are tears in my eyes… Thread starts here.

(15) RED FLAGS. Here’s your opportunity to learn from a professional why he’s self-rejecting from these short fiction markets. Joe Vasicek “Navigating Woke SF, Part 2: When Is It Not Worth Submitting?”

“Woke” is a slang term describing a basket of socioeconomic and political ideologies that are incompatible with and antithetical to individual rights and liberties. Taken to their logical conclusion, they end in the sort of totalitarian horrors the world saw in the 20th century (and continues to see today in communist China)….

.. So now, with a working definition of “woke” (promoting ideologies incompatible with and antithetical to individual rights and liberties) and the determination that wokeness is toxic in any degree, how can I tell if a market has gone truly woke?

…So with that in mind, what are the red flags?

1) Has the market won any awards that have gone completely woke?

Specifically, I’m thinking here of the Hugo Awards. They were trending to the left for a very long time, but 2015 was the year that they specifically went woke by voting “no award” over several deserving authors and editors. The transformation was completed in 2017, when the new rules shut out the Sad and Rabid Puppies, and both of those movements died out.

Therefore, if a short story market has won a Hugo since 2015 or been nominated for a Hugo since 2017, I’m not going to bother submitting to them. And if a market has had stories that have won or been nominated for a Hugo in those years, I’m going to ignore the market as well, unless it appears to be a fluke or a one-off.

2) Does the market have an explicit diversity statement in their submission guidelines?

…Therefore, if a market has an explicit diversity statement that contains woke signaling language, it’s going on the blacklist. Even if the market only put out a diversity statement to keep the woke mob from descending upon them, that’s still a sure sign that they’ve bent the knee….

3) Does the market publish content that is explicitly woke?

Editors always say that the best way to know what they’re looking for is to read a couple of issues or listen to a couple of episodes or stories. That seems like a reasonable standard, so I see no reason why I shouldn’t hold them to it.

Do the editors ever go off on explicitly woke political rants, or try to explain the message of the story in woke ideological terms? Do the author bios read like a checklist of woke intersectional identities? Are the stories themselves often thinly veiled rants about woke issues? Again, it’s important to apply the benefit of the doubt here, but you can tell a lot about a market by what they choose to publish. I won’t be wasting my time with the markets that regularly publish any of those things….

Vasicek also predicts a backlash is coming “that will shock the people who are too deeply ensconced in their echo chambers.” (Before you read that you didn’t know that Joe thought echo chambers were a bad thing, did you?)

(16) VENUS IF YOU WILL. Some like it hot: “NASA picks Venus as hot spot for two new robotic missions”AP has the story.

The space agency’s new administrator, Bill Nelson, announced two new robotic missions to the solar system’s hottest planet, during his first major address to employees Wednesday.

“These two sister missions both aim to understand how Venus became an inferno-like world capable of melting lead at the surface,” Nelson said.

One mission named DaVinci Plus will analyze the thick, cloudy Venusian atmosphere in an attempt to determine whether the inferno planet ever had an ocean and was possibly habitable. A small craft will plunge through the atmosphere to measure the gases.

It will be the first U.S.-led mission to the Venusian atmosphere since 1978.

The other mission, called Veritas, will seek a geologic history by mapping the rocky planet’s surface….

(17) HOT SHIRT. You can see Venus here, too. High Seas Trading Company has a new Planets / space themed Hawaiian shirt on offer, “A beautiful illustration of planets orbiting the sun.”

(18) SUPERSONIC AIR TRAVEL RETURNING? USA Today reports United Airlines has a deal to acquire the new aircraft if they make it over all the hurdles: “United Airlines: Concorde-like supersonic jet will halve travel time”.

…Overture, which is billed as an environmentally-friendly aircraft running only on up to 100% sustainable aviation fuel, is not expected to be introduced until 2025 and won’t fly until 2026. The first passengers won’t board until 2029, the companies said. Last year, Boom rolled out XB-1, a test aircraft.

The New York Times also reports that “United Airlines Wants to Bring Back Supersonic Air Travel”.

…United and Boom would not disclose financial details, including the cost of each plane, but Mr. Leskinen said the economics should be about the same as a new Boeing 787, a wide-body plane that airlines typically use on international routes. United has committed to buying the planes if Boom manages to produce them, secure regulatory approvals and hit other targets, like meeting its sustainability requirements.

Boom also plans to make planes for Japan Airlines, an investor in the company.

What is not clear is whether Boom has solved the problems that forced British Airways and Air France to stop using the Concorde on trans-Atlantic flights — high costs, safety concerns and flagging demand.

“There was no airline interest,” Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst and consultant, said about why supersonic flights languished. “And a big part of the lack of airline interest was there were no engines that were commercially available that would allow a supersonic jet to be economically viable.”

Two decades later, some start-up companies, including Boom and Spike Aerospace, are pushing ahead with new designs and plans.

Boom, which is working with Rolls-Royce, the British jet engine maker, said its plane would be more efficient than the Concorde; United estimates it will be 75 percent more efficient. Boom’s planes will not be as noisy as the Concorde because their engines will create a sonic boom only when flying over water “when there’s no one to hear it,” said Boom’s chief executive, Blake Scholl, who previously worked at Amazon and Groupon.

(19) WATCH THE WATCH. Hypebeast thinks you should wind up with a “Sonic the Hedgehog x Seiko 30th Anniversary Watch”.

The watch dial references the Green Hill Zone from the SEGA game with an image of Sonic chasing golden ring hour markers at the four o’clock position. The inner bezel sees the game’s pixelated green grass along with other details like satin-blue finishing, a star second hand, a 1/20-second chronograph at 12 o’clock, a date function, and a commemorative box and card.

Limited to 3,000 pieces, the Sonic x Seiko 30th-anniversary quartz watch is priced at ¥49,800 JPY (approximately $450 USD) and is expected to be delivered in mid-August.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Robert Quaglia explains how this Bradbury conversation came to be.

Robert Sheckley speaks via teleconference with Ray Bradbury in the occasion of Bradbury’s 80th birthday. This happened in Bergamo in July 2000. But why actually in Bergamo? During his “genovese” period, when Robert Sheckley was living in Italy as a guest of Roberto Quaglia, suddenly Ray Bradbury became 80 years old, and people of Bergamo, Italy, had earlier invited Bradbury to Bergamo. But in the last moment Bradbury didn’t go, and knowing that Sheckley was in Italy, people of Bergamo decided to invite him so that Bradbury could speak with someone in a videoconference. This is the video of that unique – and to some extent bizarre – event. The moderator of the event is Corrado Augias.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John Owen, Lise Andreasen, James Davis Nicoll, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]