Pixel Scroll 2/5/23 He Said, “First!” And Exited Stage Left To A Swirl Of Scrolling Pixels

(1) TOLKIEN SOCIETY AWARDS NEWS. The Tolkien Society invites the public to submit nominations for The Tolkien Society Awards 2023 through February 26. Membership is not required to participate in the first round. Once the shortlist is compiled, however, only members will be eligible to vote on the winners, who will be announced April 1.

(2) WHAT HAS IT GOT IN ITS GARBAGE TRUCKS? “Refuse firm Lord of the Bins ordered to change its name by Tolkien franchise” reports the Guardian.

A refuse firm in Brighton called Lord of the Bins has been ordered by lawyers to change its name after being accused of breaching trademark laws.

The two-man waste collection business was contacted by Middle-earth Enterprises, which owns the worldwide rights to The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Nick Lockwood and Dan Walker run the company, which collects household, building and office waste across East Sussex and West Sussex.

The pair said they have been issued with a cease and desist notice after it was claimed they were in breach of the well-known franchise’s trademarks.

As well as changing the firm’s name and website, they have been forced to ditch their company slogan – “One ring to remove it all”.

(3) TWEET DECAY. Ursula Vernon speaks for many in a remark that went viral on Twitter.

(4) CHEESE PLEASE. In “An AI app walks into a writers room” Charles Stross passes along ChatGPT’s answer to an inventive question.

Question to ChatGPT: What is the plot of the unpublished script Charles Stross wrote for Wallace and Grommit?

(5) GUNN CSSF BOOK CLUB. The Gunn Center for the Study of SF’s (CSSF) monthly virtual book club has chosen for the month of February to read Akwaeke Emezi’s YA novel, Pet

Set in the utopian town of Lucille, Emezi’s novel portrays a society that has taught children that monsters and evil no longer exist. Jam, the protagonist, soon questions the beliefs of her society when she is faced with a real monster, who is nothing like the stories she has heard. Winner of the Stonewall Book Award for LGBTQ+ writing in 2020, Pet contemplates the classic societal conception of good versus evil. 

Readers are invited to join the virtual event on Friday, February 24 at Noon (Central). Register here.  

(6) FREE READ. Sunday Morning Transport offers Yoon Ha Lee’s “The Ethnomusicology of the Last Dreadnought” as an encouragement to subscribe.

It is not true that space is silent.

The darkness between stars is full of threnodies and threadbare laments, concertos and cantatas, the names of the dead and the wars that they’ve fed. Few people are unmoved by the strenuous harmonies and the strange hymns. Fewer people still understand their significance, the decayed etymologies and deprecated tongues….

(7) TRIBUTE TO A CRITIC. The Strange Horizons – 30 January 2023 issue is devoted to the late Maureen Kincaid Speller. (Via Ansible.)

In January 2022, the reviews department at Strange Horizons, led at the time by Maureen Kincaid Speller, published our first special issue with a focus on SF criticism. We were incredibly proud of this issue, and heartened by how many people seemed to feel, with us, that criticism of the kind we publish was important; that it was creative, transformative, worthwhile. We’d been editing the reviews section for a few years at this point, and the process of putting together this special, and the reception it got, felt like a kind of renewal—a reminder of why we cared so much. In the couple of months that followed, we made grand plans for future projects, and even started a podcast.

The criticism special was also the last major project the three of us worked on together, before Maureen’s cancer diagnosis. We lost her in September.

We’d already been toying with the idea of doing another criticism special in 2023; when the subject of a tribute issue to Maureen was broached, the only way we could envision it was through the critical work that she loved.…

(8) MEMORY LANE.

2014 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

So let’s talk about Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Spade/Paladin Conundrums which got their start in the “Stomping Mad” story.

I’m very fond of our community and equally fond of mysteries as y’all well know by now. So you will not find it at all surprising that I really love these stories. They’ve got a perfect central character as you’ll see below, a great setting as they’re all set at various Cons and the stories are all fascinating. What’s not to like? 

Rusch for a long time only did short stories set here,  really great ones, a fair number of them, mostly collected in Early Conundrums, and those exist in a stellar audio version which is narrated by Rish Outfield, but two years ago Ten Little Fen: A Spade/Paladin Conundrum came out. It’s a superb mystery and a even better look at Con culture. 

Here’s the Beginning of the series in that story. 

SHE CALLED HERSELF the Martha Stewart of Science Fiction, and she looked the part: Homecoming-queen pretty with a touch of maliciousness behind the eyes, a fakely tolerant acceptance of everyone fannish, and an ability to throw the best room party at any given Worldcon in any given year.

So when a body was found in her party suite, the case came to me. Folks in fandom call me the Sam Spade of Science Fiction, but I’m actually more like the Nero Wolfe: a man who prefers good food and good conversation, a man who is huge, both in his appetite and in his education. I don’t go out much, except to science fiction conventions (a world in and of themselves) and to dinner with the rare comrade. I surround myself with books, computers, and televisions. I do not have orchids or an Archie Goodwin, but I do possess a sharp eye for detail and a critical understanding of the dark side of human nature.

I have, in the past, solved over a dozen cases, ranging from finding the source of a doomsday virus that threatened to shut down the world’s largest fan database to discovering who had stolen “the Best Artist Hugo two hours before the award ceremony. My reputation had grown during the last British Fantasy Convention when I—an American—worked with Scotland Yard to recover a diamond worth £1,000,000 that a Big Name Fan had forgotten to put in the hotel’s safe.

But I had never faced a more convoluted criminal mind until that Friday afternoon at the First Annual Jurassic Parkathon, a media convention held in Anaheim.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 5, 1906 John Carradine. I’m going to count Murders in the Rue Morgue as his first genre appearance.  After that early Thirties film, he shows up (bad pun I know) in The Invisible ManThe Black CatBride of FrankensteinAli Baba Goes to TownThe Three Musketeers and The Hound of the Baskervilles. Look, that’s just the Thirties. Can I just state that he did a lot of genre work and leave it at that? He even had roles on The Twilight ZoneThe MunstersLost in SpaceNight Gallery and the Night Strangler. (Died 1988.)
  • Born February 5, 1919 Red Buttons. He shows up on The New Original Wonder Woman as Ashley Norman. Yes, this is the Lynda Carter version. Somewhat later he’s Hoagy in Pete’s Dragon followed by being the voice of Milton in Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July.  He also played four different characters on the original Fantasy Island. (Died 2006.)
  • Born February 5, 1922 Peter Leslie. Writer in a number of media franchises including The AvengersThe New Avengers (and yes they are different franchises), The Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and The Invaders. ISFDB also lists has writing in the Father Hayes series but I don’t recognize that series. (Died 2007.)
  • Born February 5, 1924 Basil Copper. Best remembered for Solar Pons stories continuing the character created as a tribute to Sherlock Holmes by August Derleth. I’m also fond of The Great White Space, his Lovecraftian novel that has a character called Clark Ashton Scarsdale has to be homage to Clark Ashton Smith. Though I’ve not seen them them, PS Publishing released Darkness, Mist and Shadow: The Collected Macabre Tales of Basil Copper, a two-volume set of his dark fantasy tales. (Died 2013.)
  • Born February 5, 1934 Malcolm Willits, 89. Author of The Wonderful Edison Time Machine: A Celebration of Life and Shakespeare’s Cat: A Play in Three Acts which he filmed as Shakespeare’s Cat. He also co-edited Destiny, an early Fifties fanzine with Jim Bradley.
  • Born February 5, 1940 H.R. Giger. Conceptual designer in whole or part for Aliens, Alien³Species and Alien: Resurrection to name a few films he’s been involved in. Did you know there are two Giger Bars designed by him, both in Switzerland? And yes they’re really weird. (Died 2014.)
  • Born February 5, 1941 Stephen J. Cannell. Creator of The Greatest American Hero. That gets him Birthday Honors. The only other genre series he was involved with was The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage thirty years ago which I never heard of. He also created the Castle series with Nathan Fillion of Firefly fame and was one of the actual players at the poker games on the series. View one of them here. (Died 2010.)
  • Born February 5, 1964 Laura  Linney, 59. She first shows up in our corner of the Universe as Meryl Burbank/Hannah Gill on The Truman Show before playing Officer Connie Mills in The Mothman Prophecies (BARF!) and then Erin Bruner in The Exorcism of Emily Rose. She plays Mrs. Munro In Mr. Holmes, a film best described as stink, stank and stunk when it comes to all things Holmesian. Her last SF was as Rebecca Vincent in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld passes along advice about what women writers need.

(11) WAKANDA WORD STUDY. Dictionary.com has a rather interesting article about “The Names Of Black Panther & Wakanda: Their Meaning & Significance”. (Spoiler warning.)

Comic book creators and filmmakers pick some superhero names just because they sound cool. Other names, though, are chosen for their deep connection with a character or setting. Many of the names from Wakanda, the home of Black Panther, are especially rich in symbolism and significance.

Join us as we answer these questions and more:

  • Is there a real Wakanda that inspired the name of the technologically advanced supercountry?
  • What is Black Panther’s real name?
  • What does Namor’s name mean?

(12) BEST DRESSED. The New York Times reviews “A Murder Mystery With Clothes to Die For”.

“The Traitors,” a new reality game show, hinges on startling revelations. In episodes of the series, which is framed as a whodunit, cast members are regularly “murdered” (kicked off). Others are “banished” (also kicked off). But some of the most astonishing reveals have nothing to do with the plot — and everything to do with what outfit the show’s host, the actor Alan Cumming, will appear in next.

There are pink plaid suits. Herringbone tweed capes. Sleek little kilts. “Perhaps, rather alarmingly,” Mr. Cumming said, “the vast majority of the clothes were mine.”…

(13) CARROLL AT NYRSF. A video of Jonathan Carroll’s NYRSF Reading has been posted.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Matt Mitchell plays all the parts in “When ‘The Balloon’ Comes South”.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/26/23 First, They Came For The Pixels, But I Was Not A Pixel, So I Scrolled Nothing

(1) REVISED 2025 WORLDCON BID DEADLINE. The Chengdu Worldcon has recalculated the deadline for 2025 Worldcon bids to file in order to appear on the printed ballot. They tweeted:

According to Section 4.6.3 of the WSFS Constitution, the new deadline for any bidding party to have its name appearing on the printed ballot for the 2025 Worldcon Site Selection is April 21, 2023. For any inquiry, please contact [email protected]

(2) TWO DC TV SERIES WHACKED. “Doom Patrol, Titans canceled at HBO Max after four seasons” reports SYFY Wire.

The DC TV slate is getting thinner by the day. Both Doom Patrol and Titans have been canceled at HBO Max, with each DC-based series set to end for good when their current seasons are done. 

Reported at the same time, news of each cancelation on Wednesday elicited a rapid followup tweet from James Gunn, the recently-hired co-CEO (alongside Peter Safran) of the rebranded DC Studios. Gunn clarified that the move to end both Doom Patrol and Titans was decided before he was elevated to the studio’s top position, while Deadline reported that each show is building toward planned ending episodes aimed at delivering series finales that won’t close things out with any cliffhangers….

(3) EKPEKI Q&A. Kristy Anne Cox, in Strange Horizon’s “Writing While Disabled” column, speaks with Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki: “Writing While Disabled By Kristy Anne Cox, By Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki”.

KAC:  So, how do you fit into the Disabled community? 

ODE:  I only started to refer to myself as Disabled after publishing my novelette “O2 Arena,” so I’m approaching the Disabled community in baby steps. Though, I’ve been Disabled all my life. Regarding speculative fiction, my current story, which was nominated for the Hugo Award, the Nebula, and the BSFA, is the first where I’ve identified as Disabled.

KAC:  Yeah. I mean, that’s common for Disabled people like us, right? Some of us use the word Neurodiverse instead. You may not even understand you are Disabled until you get your diagnosis—and depending on which disability you have, you may or may not have access to a Disabled community. 

Chovwe, do you mind if I ask you what disabilities you have? I do that so our Disabled and Neurodiverse readers can relate their experiences to yours.

ODE:  Sure. Since birth, I have had chronic sinusitis—it’s a respiratory illness. I have perforated ear drums from the sinusitis infection, which means I’m hearing impaired. It’s all connected, like a network of disabilities springing from one. 

That’s respiratory and hearing. Then, because of my chronic sinusitis, I am more susceptible to respiratory illnesses, so I had pneumonia and tuberculosis somewhere along the line. It sort of leaves your lungs a little scarred, you know? I have weaker lungs, and an entire network of respiratory problems.

From my tuberculosis, I got damage to my spine, so I have chronic back pain, too. Chronic sinusitis, hearing loss, chronic back pain, and general breathing difficulties—that’s about it for now.

KAC:  I mean, that’s enough, right? Well, I welcome you into my Disabled communities….

(4) HARPERCOLLINS STRIKE NEWS. “HarperCollins, HarperUnion Move to Solve Labor Dispute with Independent Mediator” – details at Publishers Weekly.

In a company-wide memo sent on January 25, HarperCollins announced that it has reached an agreement with its employee union to have a mutually-agreed-upon independent mediator take over labor negotiations. With more than 200 union employees on strike since November 10, the company said that it hopes a mediator will be able to clear “a path forward” for employees to return to work.

“We entered negotiations eager to find common ground, and we have remained committed to achieving a fair and reasonable contract throughout this process,” reads the memo from HC’s v-p of human resources, Zandra Magariño. “We are optimistic that a mutually agreed upon mediator can help find the solutions that have eluded us so far.”

The memo seemed to strike a different tone than the open letter from CEO Brian Murray published early last month, in which he argued that the union’s demands for livable wages “failed to account for the market dynamics of the publishing industry” and the company’s “responsibility to meet the financial demands” of its business stakeholders. In contrast, Magariño’s memo said that HarperCollins is “optimistic that a mutually agreed upon mediator can help find the solutions that have eluded us so far. HarperCollins has had a union for 80 years, with a long history of successful and fair contract negotiations. The company has the exact same goal now, and is actively working to achieve it.”

The union confirmed the mediator on Twitter, and in its own press release, this morning. “We are hopeful the company will use this opportunity to settle fairly and reset our relationship,” it wrote, adding: “This means our pressure campaign is working. The strike will continue until we reach a fair contract agreement. Please continue to hold the line.”

(5) A DUEL OF WITS WITH AN UNARMED OPPONENT. Camestros Felapton continues his explorations of Larry Correia’s In Defense of the Second Amendment.

…Larry Correia will get to the “tired proposals” that he believes can’t work in Chapter 4 but logic is not going to play a big role.

Chapter 1 “Guns and Vultures” sets out Correia’s broad argument and covers briefly several of the themes that he will discuss at greater length in later chapters. Numerous points are made but I think it is reasonable to say that the overarching theme of the chapter is about who the true victims of American gun violence are from Correia’s perspective….

Which is to say, gun owners.

Imagine a public debate on transport policy, with a focus on increased pedestrianisation of town centres. Fewer cars, fewer accidents, safer streets and a more congenial place to shop or visit a library. Not everybody will be in favour of such a plan and maybe a guy write a book about why we should actually have more cars in town. After all, you can’t get run over by a car when crossing the road if you are already in a car! We’ll call this author Lorry Career….

(6) IS THE ORVILLE MEETING A MALIGN FATE? In ScreenRant’s news about the series, never is said an encouraging word: “The Orville Season 4 Gets Bleak Update From Hulu Exec”

…Hulu Originals and ABC Entertainment president Craig Erwich gave a bleak update for The Orville season 4. The popular Star Trek-inspired science-fiction comedy follows Captain Ed Mercer (Seth MacFarlane) as he leads the crew of USS Orville on adventures across the galaxy. Although season 1 faltered, garnering middling reviews from critics and audiences alike, The Orville rebounded with season 2 and 3, both scoring 100% Fresh ratings on Rotten Tomatoes.

Erwich recently spoke to TVLine and gave a bleak update regarding The Orville season 4. The executive did not share any new details, avoiding any confirmation that The Orville will return. Instead, Erwich praised the work MacFarlane had done on the latest season. Read all of what Erwich said below:

We don’t have anything to share right now. It’s a great show and I know that the fans loved having it back in their lives. And Seth [MacFarlane] did a great job, uniquely as he can, in front of and behind the camera. But we don’t have anything to share right now.

CinemaBlend says another cast member finds waiting is hard: “The Orville’s Penny Johnson Drops Humorously Relatable Video About Waiting For Season 4 Renewal At Hulu”.

Meanwhile, Seth MacFarlane has been building up his positive karma: “Seth MacFarlane adopts the rescue cat Arthur after feline was dumped at a shelter with a broken leg” at Daily Mail Online.

… ‘POV: you are a black cat with a broken leg dumped at a vet clinic to be euthanized but you were finally rescued by the amazing team @perrys_place-la. Then you waited 7 months to find your forever home and now you live with the legend @macfarlaneseth.’  …

(7) WASH ME. RadioTimes did a roundup about “Doctor Who fans think they’ve spotted a key change to the TARDIS”.

Doctor Who fans are always searching for clues about possible developments in the Whoniverse – and it looks like some eagle-eyed viewers have spotted a change to the TARDIS during filming for the show’s 14th season.

Yesterday (Tuesday 24th January) Twitter user Darren Griffiths posted some snaps he had taken when he stumbled upon the set of the sci-fi show while “wandering along a coastal path in Welsh Wales”, and other fans were quick to point out some interesting alterations to the iconic Police Box.

One commenter noted that “the windows are dirty at the bottom”, while Griffiths himself added that “the Police Box sign at the top was also dulled down”. Meanwhile, fan page The Post Monument wrote, “I like how they’ve aged the TARDIS.”

Quite why the TARDIS has been given a new weathered look is not immediately clear – and it remains to be seen whether this will be a specific plot point or just an altogether new look for the Doctor’s trusty vehicle – but it is sure to cause all sorts of speculation amongst the fanbase as they wait for the show to return for its 6oth anniversary celebrations later this year.

(8) AFTER THE AFTERLIFE. “Bill Murray, Sigourney Weaver, Dan Aykroyd set for roles in Ghostbusters: Afterlife sequel” reports Yahoo!

…A source told The Sun newspaper’s Bizarre column: “Studio bosses are taking a classic franchise, setting it in a new location but keeping the magic of the original. It’s going to be brilliant.

“’Ghostbusters’ has always been synonymous with New York, but to mix things up this time the team was thinking of other great cities with a haunted history.

“London is perfect. It gives so much license to look back at classic landmarks and British history, but still in an urban setting.

“The plans look very cool, and getting the original stars interested wasn’t difficult. They all love the movies and look back at them very fondly.”

The news comes a month after it was announced Gil Kenan will be directing the sequel, with ‘Ghostbusters Afterlife’ filmmaker moving into a writer-producer role….

(9) SAL PIRO OBITUARY. The president of the Rocky Horror Picture Show Fan Club died January 24. Deadline paid tribute: “Sal Piro Dies: Original ‘Rocky Horror’ Role-Playing Superfan And Subject Of Upcoming Movie Was 71”.

Sal Piro, who played a pivotal role in creating the audience participation routines that turned The Rocky Horror Picture Show into a multi-decade, world-wide phenomenon, died at his home in New York City Jan 21.

His death was announced by The Rocky Horror Picture Show Fan Club, which he founded in 1977 and served as its president until his death, becoming a major figure in creating the movie’s cult classic status.

“Sal was the defacto face of Rocky Horror fandom for decades,” the fan club said in a tweeted statement. “He will be sorely missed.”

Opening to terrible reviews in 1975, The Rocky Horror Picture Show soon became a staple of the midnight movie screenings at New York City’s Waverly Theater in Greenwich Village. Surprisingly, the film quickly drew the devotion of young fans, including Piro, who shouted humorous responses to much of the film’s dialogue. As the responses became more elaborate into a sort of viewing ritual, Piro helped shape a floor show of audience members playing out the movie beneath the screen….

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1996 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] Terri Windling’s The Wood Wife

Terri Windling’s The Wood Wife which won the Mythopoeic Award for Novel of the Year is without doubt one of my favorite novels. 

It was supposed to be based off one of Brian Froud’s faerie paintings which is on the British cover of the first edition of the novel, as opposed to the Susan Sedden Boulet art for the American first edition. What you see below is Froud’s original artwork.

Of the books that wound up comprising Froud’s Faerieland series—Charles de Lint’s The Wild Wood, Patricia A. McKillip’s Something Rich and Strange, and Midori Snyder’s Hannah’s Garden, the first two, plus this in the British edition, got his artwork. 

Maggie Black is the artist who’s the central character in this novel and an amazing woman she is. She’s a poet, who comes to the Southwest desert upon learning that a friend, Cooper, has left his estate to her. I won’t say more as some of you may not have read it yet.

Here’s my extended quote from The Wood Wife as she prepares breakfast shortly after getting there. 

Maggie woke early, with a wrenching sense of dislocation. She stared at the water-stained ceiling above her and tried to recall just where she was. On a mountainside, in Davis Cooper’s house. The sky outside was a shade of violet that she’d never quite seen before.

She got up, washed, put her bathrobe on and padded into the kitchen. She’d always been an early riser; she felt cheated if she slept too late and missed the rising sun. She cherished the silver morning light, the stillness, the morning rituals: water in the kettle, bitter coffee grounds, a warm mug held between cold hands, the scent of a day unfolding before her, pungent with possibility.

As the water heated, Maggie unpacked the bag of provisions she’d brought along: dark Dutch coffee, bread, muesli, vegetables, garlic, a bottle of wine. In the small refrigerator were eggs, cheese, fresh pasta from Los Angeles, green corn tamales from downtown Tucson. The only strange thing about the unfamiliarity of this kitchen was the knowledge that it was hers now, these pans, these plates, this old dented kettle, this mug decorated with petroglyph paintings. For years she’d been travelling light and making herself at home in other people’s houses. Having an entire house of her own was going to take some getting used to.

She made the coffee, grilled some toast, and sat down at the kitchen table with yesterday’s edition of the Arizona Daily Star, too unsettled to actually read it. Davis’s kitchen was the heart of the house, with a rough wood table in the center that could have easily seated a family of twelve and not just one elderly poet. The kitchen hearth held a woodstove—the winter nights were probably cold up here. Fat wicker rockers were pulled close to it, covered by faded old serapes. The walls were a mottled tea-colored adobe with shades of some brighter tone showing through and wainscotting up to waist-height stained or aged to a woodsy green. The window frames were painted violet, the doors were a rich but weathered shade of blue. Mexican saints in beaten tin frames hung among Davis’s pots and pans; folk art and dusty tin milagros hung among strings of red chili peppers, garlic, and desert herbs. The windowsills were crowded with were crowded with stones, geodes, fossils, clumps of smoky quartz, and Indian pottery shards.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 26, 1918 Philip Jose Farmer.  I know I’ve read at least the first three Riverworld novels (To Your Scattered Bodies GoThe Fabulous Riverboat and The Dark Design which are all stellar) but I’ll be damned if I recognize the latter ones. Great novels those are. And I’ll admit that I’m not familiar at all with the World of Tiers or Dayworld series. Anyone read them? I know, silly question. I do remember his Doc Savage novel Escape from Loki as being a highly entertaining read, and I see he’s done a number of Tarzan novels as well which I admit I’ve not read. Who here has? (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 26, 1923 Anne Jeffreys. Her first role in our end of things was as a young woman on the early Forties film Tarzan’s New York Adventure. She’s Jean Le Danse (note the name) around the same time in the comedy Zombies on Broadway (film geeks here — is this the earliest zombie film?). And no, I’ve not forgotten she had the lead role as Marion Kerby in the Topper series. She also had one-offs in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.Fantasy Island and Battlestar Galactica. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 26, 1928 Roger Vadim. Director, Barbarbella. That alone gets a Birthday Honor. But he was one of three directors of Spirits of the Dead, a horror anthology film. (Louis Malle and Federico Fellini were the others.) And not to stop there, he directed another horror film, Blood and Roses (Et mourir de plaisir) and even was involved in The Hitchhiker horror anthology series. And Don Juan, or If Don Juan Were a Woman is at least genre adjacent… (Died 2000.)
  • Born January 26, 1929 Jules Feiffer, 94. On the Birthday list as he’s the illustrator of The Phantom Tollbooth. Well, and that he’s also illustrated Eisner’s Spirit which helped get him into the Comic Book Hall of Fame. Let’s not overlook that he wrote The Great Comic Book Heroes in the Sixties which made it the first history of the superheroes of the late Thirties and Forties and their creators. 
  • Born January 26, 1943 Judy-Lynn Del Rey. After first starting at Galaxy Magazine became an editor at Ballantine Books, and eventuallywas given her own imprint, Del Rey Books, Dick and Asimov were two of her clients who considered her the best editor they’d worked with. Wife of Lester del Rey. She suffered a brain hemorrhage in October 1985 and died several months later. Though she was awarded a Hugo Award for Best Professional Editor after her death, her widower turned it down on the grounds that it only been awarded because of her death. (Died 1986.)
  • Born January 26, 1949 Jonathan Carroll, 74. I think his best work by far is The Crane’s View Trilogy consisting of Kissing the Beehive, The Marriage of Sticks and The Wooden Sea. I know de Lint liked these novels though mainstream critics were less than thrilled. White Apples I thought was a well crafted novel and The Crow’s Dinner is his wide ranging look at life in general, not genre at all but fascinating.
  • Born January 26, 1966 Stephen Cox, 57. Pop culture writer who has written a number of books on genre subjects including The Munchkins Remember: The Wizard of Oz and BeyondThe Addams Chronicles: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about the Addams FamilyDreaming of Jeannie: TV’s Primetime in a Bottle and The Munsters: A Trip Down Mockingbird Lane. I’ll admit to being puzzled by his Cooking in Oz that he did with Elaine Willingham as I didn’t remember that much for food in the Oz book until I started doing the current essays on food in genre literature and discovered there indeed was! 

(12) WHO NOVELS IN 2023. “Doctor Who Target books add 5 new novelisations for 2023” noted RadioTimes.

…Each of the authors for the 2023 Target books are the original screenwriters of the TV episodes so fans can expand their Doctor Who collections with these new, iconic novelisations….

(13) ONLINE ECONOMICS DISTILLED. Cory Doctorow calls it “The ‘Enshittification’ of TikTok” at WIRED.

… This is enshittification: Surpluses are first directed to users; then, once they’re locked in, surpluses go to suppliers; then once they’re locked in, the surplus is handed to shareholders and the platform becomes a useless pile of shit. From mobile app stores to Steam, from Facebook to Twitter, this is the enshittification lifecycle.

This is why—as Cat Valente wrote in her magisterial pre-Christmas essay—platforms like Prodigy transformed themselves overnight, from a place where you went for social connection to a place where you were expected to “stop talking to each other and start buying things.”…

… By making good-faith recommendations of things it thought its users would like, TikTok built a mass audience, larger than many thought possible, given the death grip of its competitors, like YouTube and Instagram. Now that TikTok has the audience, it is consolidating its gains and seeking to lure away the media companies and creators who are still stubbornly attached to YouTube and Insta.

Yesterday, Forbes’s Emily Baker-White broke a fantastic story about how that actually works inside of ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, citing multiple internal sources, revealing the existence of a “heating tool” that TikTok employees use to push videos from select accounts into millions of viewers’ feeds.

These videos go into TikTok users’ For You feeds, which TikTok misleadingly describes as being populated by videos “ranked by an algorithm that predicts your interests based on your behavior in the app.” In reality, For You is only sometimes composed of videos that TikTok thinks will add value to your experience—the rest of the time, it’s full of videos that TikTok has inserted in order to make creators think that TikTok is a great place to reach an audience….

(14) CRIMINAL CHARGES AGAINST A ‘RICK AND MORTY’ PRODUCER. “Adult Swim Severs Ties With ‘Rick And Morty’ Co-Creator Justin Roiland After Domestic Violence Charges; Voice Roles Will Be Recast”Deadline tells about the case and his fate.

Justin Roiland, co-creator, executive producer and star of Adult Swim’s flagship animated series Rick and Mortyis no longer in business with the Warner Bros Discovery brand on the heel of serious domestic violence allegations against him coming to light earlier this month.

“Adult Swim has ended its association with Justin Roiland,” a spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday.

Following Roiland’s exit, Rick and Morty will continue, with the title roles, which had been voiced by Roiland, recast.

Co-created by Roiland and Dan Harmon, the hit series received a massive 70-episode order in 2018 when Adult Swim also signed new long-term deals with Roiland and Harmon. The show, which has been renewed through Season 10, has completed six seasons, with four more to go as part of the pickup.

Roiland is also co-creator/executive producer and voice cast member of Hulu’s animated series Solar Opposites as well as a performer on the streamer’s animated comedy Koala Man. News on his involvement in those shows would be coming shortly, I hear.

Roiland has been charged with one felony count of domestic battery with corporal injury and one felony count of false imprisonment by menace, violence, fraud and/or deceit by the Orange County District Attorney’s office. The incident in question against a Jane Doe allegedly occurred in January 2020, according to a May 2020 complaint. He pleaded not guilty to the charges in October 2020. The semi-sealed case was kept out of the public until a hearing January 12, 2023. Roiland, who was present, also is required to attend a scheduled April 27 hearing….

(15) COLLABORATIVE MEAL. Kelsea Yu, a Taiwanese Chinese American writer, posts abut food in “Huǒguō” at Sarah Gailey’s Stone Soup.

…It’s loud and chaotic. Everyone talks over one another. Spoons cross, sauces are passed around, broth occasionally splashes out, and at any given time, some people are eating while others are serving food or adding ingredients to the pot.

It’s the kind of meal that requires participation, collaboration, consideration. The kind you can’t have alone, because then it would just be soup. It’s like stone soup, except no one’s reluctant to share.

It’s the kind of meal that helped me learn the value of how we care for each other….

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. SYFY released a sneak peek of the first five minutes of its forthcoming series The Ark.

The Ark takes place 100 years into the future when humans must go on missions to colonize other planets. But what would you do if you woke up from cryogenic sleep to your spaceship suffering disaster? Watch the first five minutes of the premiere episode of The Ark. Watch the premiere of The Ark, February 1 at 10/9c on SYFY.

(17) VIDEO OF LAST WEEK. “Kenan Thompson Does an Interview as Science Fiction Writer Pernice Lafonk” on Late Night with Seth Meyers.

Kenan Thompson talks about former Saturday Night Live intern Aubrey Plaza returning to host the show before leaving the set and coming back as his alter ego, science fiction writer Pernice Lafonk.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/21/22 She Took The Midnight Train To Arcturus

(1) ANTHEM LAUNCH. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, classical music critic Michael Andor Brodeur discusses the new Space Force anthem by Jamie Teachenor and Sean Nelson, and lets his father make a dad joke that the tune was written by “Buck Rogers and Hammerstein.” “New Space Force anthem aims to land the military branch on your radar”.

On Tuesday, the United States Space Force entered its anthem era, announcing the release of its own official song at the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference at National Harbor in Maryland.

The song, “Semper Supra” (“Always Above”), joins the ranks of “The Marines’ Hymn,” “The Army Goes Rolling Along” and other staples of the American military anthem repertoire. It’s also … Wait. Why are you laughing?

I knew as soon as I said “Space Force” this would happen.

Because the Space Force is, for the foreseeable future, the New Guy among military branches. Because its sudden and ham-handed public rollout in 2019 was largely entrusted to the writers’ rooms of late-night shows. And, yes, because it’s called the Space Force, so there remains a lingering temptation not to take it seriously (and a tacit cultural authorization to proceed).

… I guess for a song that’s destined to orbit around this branch of military in perpetuity, I was hoping for something … I don’t know, spacier?

Over the past century, the cosmos has supplied us with such a rich musical mood board: Gustav Holst gave us his standard-bearing model of the solar system, “The Planets,” back in 1916. Stanley Kubrick’s use of Johann Strauss’s antigravity waltzes and the monolithic motif taken from the other Strauss’s “Also sprach Zarathustra” have informed our perception of deep space since “2001” arrived in 1968. John Williams has also memorably distilled his visions of the vastness of space into universal themes — think the “five tones” of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”…

(2) FLIP THE SCRIPT. Camestros Felapton supplies the answer to the question, “Could you rewrite the Lord of the Rings as a techno-thriller?” (Did you doubt it for a moment?)

…Part of the issue is that much of what makes LotR a compelling story, are not the things that make it genre distinctive. Attempts to make a clear distinction between science fiction and fantasy can founder when we consider how LotR would change if it had to conform to proposed rules about science fiction. If, as the thought experiment goes, Tolkein’s elves were aliens, would the story now be sci-fi? The role of magic in fantasy versus materialist explanations in science fiction has also been offered. However, LotR has an odd take on magic. Much of the overt magic we see is attached to made objects (the Ring obviously, but also the palantir, the doors of Moria, Sting, the vial of light gifted to Frodo by Galadriel, or delving deeper into the mythos, the Silmarils themselves). We don’t know how those things work (magic!) but of course we don’t know how phasers, tractor beams, replicators or warp drives work either. To quote the overused quote from Arthur C. Clarke “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. Clarke was making a point about technology rather than genre distinctions but the insight works almost symmetrically…. 

(3) HOPKINSON ZOOM. The Feminist Futures Forum, organized by the Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity at the University of Kansas, presents a conversation with Brown Girl in the Ring author Nalo Hopkinson facilitated by Anthony Boynton, a Ph.D. candidate in the KU English Department in September 22 at 6:30 p.m. Central, They will explore Black speculative fiction, Afrofuturism, and Black feminisms. Register here. This year’s Forum is planned in conjunction with the Gunn Center’s Sturgeon Symposium.

(4) FIRST STURGEON SYMPOSIUM. Speaking of which, the 1st annual Sturgeon Symposium, a hybrid in-person/online event hosted by the Gunn Center for the Study of SF, takes place next Thursday and Friday, September 29-30. 

Sessions include presentations on Fan Fiction, Indigenous Speculative Fiction, Eastern European SF, Latin American Dystopias, Gender & The Black Fantastic, Pedagogical Approaches, and much, much more.

Visit their website for the full program: Sturgeon Symposium.

(5) HOW DO YOU TURN THAT OFF? Sarah A. Hoyt explains why “Words Are Our Profession” at Mad Genius Club, though it is this paragraph that has me nodding in agreement:

…I will also straight up admit that I must be very odd in my relationship with text, because I never understand why anyone highlights or clips certain excerpts from books. When I got my latest kindle, I had the “show other people’s markings” setting on and couldn’t figure out how to turn it off. This made me glare a lot, as I couldn’t figure out why people were highlighting completely mundane sentences. Of course, it’s entirely possible that all these highlights and clipping of sentences happen the way they happen to me: Kindle starts falling, grab it with my off hand, and suddenly I’ve saved a clipping of “Hi, I am looking for my cat” as though it were some kind of life altering message. (As is, I had to turn the dictionary off, otherwise, by the same process, I was continuously having the meaning of “hand” or “parasol” explained to me.)…

Hoyt’s column is mainly about when it’s a good idea to eschew surplusage, and successful tactics for so doing.

(6) STEP BY STEP TO PUBLICATION. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Amit Gupta sold a short story to Tor.com.  Here, he discusses how long it took and all the rejections he accumulated. “Short stories: How much do you make? How do you sell one? How long does it take to write?” And you can read his story “India World” at Tor.com.

What’d I learn looking back through all this?

  • Writing takes forever, even if it’s a just a few thousand words. Way longer than I thought.
  • Submitting takes even longer. This tracks with other areas of my life. Selling is always less fun for me than making things.
  • SO MANY people helped! I’m blown away by how many people took time to read drafts and offer their feedback.

(7) DEUTSCHER BOOK PREIS. The only longlisted genre work didn’t make the Deutscher Buch Preis shortlist. If you want to know what did, click here.

(8) IT BECKONS. Kelly McClymer encourages writers to ask “Is Your Book Cover Doing the Job or Does It Need to Be Fired?” in the “Indie Files” series at the SFWA Blog.

… For authors, the cover is a double-edged sword. We need one that calls to our readers and makes them pick our book out of a crowded line up.

I remember the first time I realized would have to change the cover for an indie book. I didn’t want to pay for another cover design, so I delayed making the obvious decision. I kept telling myself that the book was good, so the cover couldn’t make that much difference.

I should have known better. I’ve been a voracious reader since I learned to read and my personal book choice algorithm is simple: favorite author first, then intriguing title, then intriguing cover. That personal algorithm hasn’t changed in decades. As a reader, I am easily seduced by title or cover.

As an author, I hate spending money on new covers and agonizing over the design. What got me to stop pinching pennies in this critical area of marketing? Evidence, of course. My indie author friends weren’t afraid to change their covers. Multiple times. And it (usually) helped their sales significantly. Even better, some of them were able to do so on a budget by using pre-made covers that were on sale. …

(9) WHAT’S THE MESSAGE? Scifihistory.net seriously doubts 2001 deserves a reputation for greatness: “Stardate 09.21.2022.A: Warp Core Breach: Science Fiction’s Biggest Circle Jerk – 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)”.

Circle jerk = a situation in which a group of people engage in self-indulgent or self-gratifying behavior, especially by enforcing or reinforcing each other’s views or attitudes.
 
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (snicker snicker) I attended a small private college in Anytown, USA.  In one of my several classes talking about film, a professor (who shall be nameless) took the occasion one day to wax on eloquently about “mankind’s claim” that Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey was not only the greatest Science Fiction film ever made but very well was considered the best film ever made.
 
Now, at this juncture in my cognitive development, I was a firm supporter of Citizen Kane’s rightful claim to that title.  Not one to keep silent, I spoke up, asking where it was written that 2001 was ever considered a greater accomplishment than Kane was … to which I got an earful.  Pushing back as politely as I could, I argued that I’d never heard of anyone making such an assessment, and – while I didn’t doubt the instructor had read or perhaps thought such a ranking possible – I wanted to know which experts felt that way so that I could go out and read their analysis.  Essentially what I was told was that 2001 was, clearly, the superior film because of its central message.
 
Get ready, folks.
 
I asked, “What is 2001’s central message?”…

(10) SPELLER TRIBUTES CONTINUE. Strange Horizons’ Aishwarya Subramanian and Dan Hartland mark the loss of their colleague and friend: “In Memoriam: Maureen Kincaid Speller”.

…Maureen Kincaid Speller was capable of producing among the best criticism SFF has to offer. Now she has left us, our understandings of the genre will be poorer and less complete. We will know our favourite texts less well, and we will struggle sometimes to express a reading she would have worked into prose of wit, clarity, and pith. We will miss her because, as a critic, she helped us be better readers; because, as an editor, she made us better writers; and because, as herself, she was fearless in achieving these ends. But most of all, we will miss her because she was our friend—was the friend of all readers, and all authors, and all books. She showed us this every time she attended to a text and asked not just why she liked it, but why she—or why we—might not. Friends make us better, and they often do so via the unvarnished truth….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1969 [By Cat Eldridge.] Randall And Hopkirk Deceased (1969)

Yes, I know it had multiple premiere dating back fifty-three years ago, so I’ve picked the London Weekend Television broadcast of the pilot two days after the ATV broadcast. No reason, but that’s my choice. Well, and it’s today.

Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) is a somewhat comical British PI series that starred Mike Pratt and Kenneth Cope respectively as the private detectives Jeff Randall and the quickly quite dead and just as rapidly ghostly Marty Hopkirk. Annette Andre as Jeannie Hopkirk, secretary at the Randall and Hopkirk private investigation office, and widow of Marty, was the only other regular cast member. 

(Note: beautiful woman here as well. The trope holds true!) 

In the United States possibly because the word deceased would be offensive, it was called My Partner the Ghost. Or because the syndicators here were utterly lacking in imagination and had to be sickeningly cute. You pick. 

It was created by Dennis Spooner who did a lot of writing for Doctor Who, a spot of writing for The Avengers and quite a bit later for the New Avengers, and was the creator of Department S

It would last one run of twenty-six episodes. In the year 2000 it was remade by the BBC starring Vic Reeves as Hopkirk (once again in a white suit) and Bob Mortimer as Randall, with Emilia Fox as Jeannie. Two series were made lasting just thirteen episodes.

A decade ago, SyFy announced that it had secured the rights to Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) and were looking to develop a pilot, and in January 2011, Entertainment Weekly announced that Jane Espenson and Drew Z. Greenberg would be writing a pilot for SyFy. Given SyFy’s record for rebooting series, guess what happened to it? Well did you see a pilot? 

It does not appear to streaming anywhere for free right now.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 21, 1904 Alexander Key. American writer primarily of children’s books. His novel Escape to Witch Mountain was made into by Disney into a film three times 1975, 1995, and again in 2009. (Originality isn’t one of Disney’s stronger suits.) The sequel novel was made into another film in 1978. The Incredible Tide novel became the Seventies Future Boy Conan anime series. (Died 1979.)
  • Born September 21, 1912 Chuck Jones. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies creator (think Bugs Bunny). His work won three Oscars, and the Academy also gave him an honorary one in 1996.  I’ve essayed him more that once here, so you know that I like him. What’s your favorite one of his? Though perhaps culturally suspect these days, I’m very fond of “Hillbilly Hare”. (Died 2002.)
  • Born September 21, 1935 Henry Gibson. I’m going confess upfront that I remember best him as a cast member of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. You know what role that was. In regards to his genre work, he showed up on the My Favorite Martian series as Homer P. Gibson, he was in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as an uncredited dancer, in Bewitched twice, once as Napoleon Bonaparte, once as Tim O’ Shanter, he was the voice of Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web, in The Incredible Shrinking Woman as Dr. Eugene Nortz, and even in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the “Profit and Lace” episode to be exact in which he was Nilva, a ferengi. (Died 2009.)
  • Born September 21, 1960 Mary Mara. Best remembered as Inspector Bryn Carson on Nash Bridges but she had a number of genre appearances including Mary in K-PAX from Gene Brewer’s novel of the same name, and her best role though animated was — and don’t blame the messenger — Alice Kerchief/Geisha in Spicy City is an adult animated erotic cyberpunk television series which was created by Ralph Bkashi for HBO that ran for six episodes. It was a really fascinating role. I’d rate the series a strong R. (Died 2022.)
  • Born September 21, 1964 Andy Duncan, 58.  If I were to start anywhere with him, it’d be with his very excellent short stories which fortunately were published in two World Fantasy Award-winning collections Beluthahatchie and Other Stories, and The Pottawatomie Giant and Other Stories, and another WFA nominee, An Agent of Utopia: New & Selected Stories.  I’ve read his novels, so what you recommend?  He has garnered some very impressive Awards — not only World Fantasy Awards for the two collections, but also for the “Wakulla Springs” novelette (co-authored with Ellen Klages), and a Nebula for the novelette “Close Encounters” (2013). He has three Hugo nominations, for his “Beluthahatchie” short story (1998), the novella “The Chief Designer” (2002), and “Wakulla Springs” (2014). 
  • Born September 21, 1974 Dexter Steven, 48. He wrote interesting novels, the first being The Dream of Perpetual Motion which is based off The Tempest, with steampunk, cyborgs and airships as well; the second being Version Control, a media-saturated twenty minutes into the future America complicated by time travel that keep changing everything. He wrote these and that was it. 
  • Born September 21, 1990 Allison Scagliotti, 42. One of the primary cast of Warehouse 13, a show that I really, really loved. Her first genre role was as Jayna, one of the Wonder Twins, on the Smallville series. And she showed in a crossover episode of Eureka, “Crossing Over”.  She was in Camille Engelson on Stitchers which I must watch soon. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro  shows mythical beasts need therapy, too.

(14) WHO DAT? The Bookseller’s Joe Phelan knows there’s always an audience for anyone prepared to tell us, “What happened to Sad Puppies?”

The Sad Puppies era is arguably the bleakest passage in the history of the Hugo Awards. The Puppies’ campaigns gave rise to smears, vitriol, conspiracy and hostility; they can be regarded as an early skirmish in publishing’s now-pervasive “culture wars”, where suspicion, belligerence and an unwavering conviction in one’s own position routinely permeate discourse.

There are quotes from Kevin Standlee and Neil Gaiman which Phelan presents as recently obtained, and another from this laughably “anonymous” pro-Puppy figure:

…The anonymous Sad Puppies advocate we spoke to fully disputes suggestions that the campaigns should be branded failures. They are adamant the Hugos remain just as unrepresentative and biased as they considered them to be in 2013, and they believe Sad Puppies played an important role in raising awareness of this apparent issue.

“No, it was not unsuccessful. The campaign(s) proved to any onlookers who care to look that the modern Hugos are awarded solely for reasons of political correctness. A casual perusal of the lists of candidates and winners over the past four years is a sufficient confirmation of this. The Hugo Awards, in effect, burned themselves to the ground for the sole purpose of avoiding my work being recognised. The fans had selected an author that the insiders did not prefer – despite that I myself was a Tor author at the time. Those who hoped sobriety would prevail, and the Hugos return to the dignity they once knew, had their hopes dashed.”…

If you know any ex-Tor authors who were on the Sad Puppy slates that weren’t named John C. Wright, please do refresh my memory.

(15) PURE WROUGHT. Speaking of Mr. Wright, his recent “Note on Christian Science Fiction” contains this wonderful passage scoffing at some familiar genre works:

…People would go mad at the sight of stars, Mr. Asimov? Really? Eyewitnesses to the Crucifixion would immediately convince the world without any fuss that all religion was bunk, Mr. Clarke? Say you so? One should sleep with whores out of courtesy to one’s hosts when visiting whoreland, Mr. Heinlein? Really? Adultery is lawful for persons truly in love, Mrs. Rand? Honestly? Or, my personal favorite, if Captain Kirk is split into a good and evil pair, a la Jekyll and Hyde, the bad side is filled with passion and energy rather than filled with vice, and the good side is indecisive and weak rather than virtuous? Really, Mr. Roddenberry? Honestly, is that the way good and evil works, or have you simply been reading too much Freud, and it has warped your brain?…

(16) SEEMS MORE RELEVANT NOW. [Item by Todd Mason.] A quote from an old sff magazine:

“The Ukraine had had a number of serious attacks in the previous week, which refuted the theory that the metal locusts were a Russian weapon being used in preparation for a mobilisation of forces.”

“The Locusts” by R. Whitfield Young, Science-Fantasy, April 1958.

Apparently the only published story by Young under that byline, and one might guess why from the bulk of the story.

(17) AGAIN. CBR.com decides “Kaley Cuoco & Pete Davidson’s Meet Cute Is a Clever, Affecting Sci-Fi Rom-Com”.

When Sheila (Kaley Cuoco) approaches Gary (Pete Davidson) in a New York City bar at the beginning of Meet Cute, it seems like the moment referenced in the title — the romantic-comedy staple of the main characters first encountering each other in an adorable, amusing manner. For Gary, that’s what it is. He’s won over by Sheila’s offbeat charms, including ordering the exact same drink as him and toasting in the exact same way. For Sheila, though, this isn’t her first time meeting Gary, or even the fifth time. As she tells him almost immediately, she’s a time traveler, and she’s experienced this moment multiple times already. It’s a disarmingly direct way for the movie to introduce its sci-fi concept, which is indicative of the clever, surprising, and emotionally affecting story to come….

(18) LONGER AGO THAN YESTERDAY. Neil Gaiman, Ian Rankin, and Denise Mina are featured in this 2009 BBC piece about graphic novels that dropped today.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Adam Savage reports from the convention he holds (Silicon!) and how a fabricator he calls “evil Ted” gave him a very realistic foam space helmet.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/4/22 This Is The File Primeval, The Murmuring Scrolls And The Pixels

(1) LOOK AT A HUGO NOMINEE. Abigail Nussbaum reviews “She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan” at Strange Horizons.

The twenty-first century has seen a tremendous flowering in the subgenre of epic fantasy. What was once largely a monoculture of vaguely medieval, vaguely Western European settings has seen an influx of writers (or perhaps more accurately, of publishers willing to platform those writers) who look beyond the template set by Middle Earth. From more specific European settings (Naomi Novik, Katherine Arden) to the Middle East (S.A. Chakraborty), and Africa (Marlon James). Perhaps most especially, there have been a slew of epic fantasies set in East Asian-inspired worlds, drawing on the varied cultures of the region and its storied history.

At first glance, Shelley Parker-Chan’s debut novel, She Who Became the Sun,seems like it would sit comfortably on the shelf beside these works. It is a fantasized, fictionalized account of the rise to power of Zhu Yuanzhang, the peasant-turned-monk-turned-general who drove the descendants of Genghis Khan out of China and established the Ming dynasty. It is blatantly inspired by the Chinese historical melodramas that have populated our TV screens in recent years. And it features enough battle scenes and political scheming to fill a whole season of Game of Thrones.

On this level, the novel delivers handsomely, and is a thoroughly enjoyable fantasized adventure (though its actual fantasy elements are on the thin side, and not very central to its story). But the further one gets into this gripping, thoughtful novel, the more obvious it becomes that this is first and foremost a novel of character—and that the lens through which it interprets character is that of gender. Not for nothing was Parker-Chan awarded an Otherwise (then Tiptree) fellowship for an earlier draft of this book: at the heart of She Who Became the Sun is an analysis of how two cultures define themselves through—and are weakened by—rigid gender roles, and how specific individuals—by subverting, defying, and most of all queering those roles—can discover an unexpected path to power….

(2) MAY THE FOURTH ETC. National Public Radio celebrates the day: “On May the 4th, let’s remember the time NPR had a ‘Star Wars’ radio drama”.

On this May the 4th, we want to take you back to 1981, when NPR turned its attention to Star Wars. That’s right: Some of you may have forgotten (and some might not even know) that the network created three radio dramas based on George Lucas’ original three movies.

NPR figured it could maybe get more listeners by reviving the radio drama, which had been out of fashion for some 30 years. So the network called Richard Toscan, then-head of the theater program at the University of Southern California. He remembers asking a colleague for advice on what story to dramatize: “There’s this long pause, and he says, ‘Create a scandal.’ “

Toscan was at a loss. Then he mentioned the problem to a student. “And he said, ‘Oh, why don’t you do Star Wars?’ ” Toscan recalls. “There was the scandal.”

See, Star Wars was a commercial juggernaut. And as Toscan puts it, “Folks working at NPR thought, ‘Oh good grief, we’re selling out to Hollywood.’ “

But if this was selling out, it sure came cheap. George Lucas had graduated from USC and was a fan of the campus NPR station. So after a little prodding, he gave away the radio rights to Star Wars for $1 — a public radio budget if there ever was one….

(3) BY GRABTHAR’S HAMMER, WHAT A BARGAIN. “‘Star Wars’ Icon James Earl Jones Only Made $7,000 to Voice Darth Vader in ‘A New Hope’” recalls The Hollywood Reporter.

The actor also says when he first read the script for ‘The Empire Strikes Back,’ he thought for sure Vader was lying to Luke Skywalker about being his father.

James Earl Jones was paid only $7,000 to voice Darth Vader in Star Wars: A New Hope — but the actor says for him at the time, it was a huge score.

To celebrate Star Wars Day, The Hollywood Reporter looked back at some interviews Jones gave through the years, in which he talked about voicing the legendary sci-fi villain….

(4) FOR TEN YEARS WE’VE BEEN ON OUR OWN. Disney Plus dropped this Obi-Wan Kenobi trailer for Star Wars Day.

The story begins 10 years after the dramatic events of “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith” where Obi-Wan Kenobi faced his greatest defeat—the downfall and corruption of his best friend and Jedi apprentice, Anakin Skywalker, who turned to the dark side as evil Sith Lord Darth Vader. The series stars Ewan McGregor, reprising his role as the iconic Jedi Master, and also marks the return of Hayden Christensen in the role of Darth Vader.

(5) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Grady Hendrix and Alex Irvine on May 18.

Grady Hendrix

Grady Hendrix is a New York Times bestselling novelist and screenwriter who makes up lies and is mean to babies. He has written terrible books like My Best Friend’s ExorcismThe Final Girl Support GroupThe Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, and Paperbacks from Hell. Currently, he has an unhealthy fixation on gothic romances.

Alex Irvine

Alex Irvine would write nothing but short stories if he thought he could get away with it, but in this fallen world he has also written novels, comics, games, and various forms of interactive narrative. Recent work includes Anthropocene RagThe Comic Book Story of BaseballNew York Collapse, and stories in F&SFAsimov’s, and Tor.com. He lives in Maine.

IN-PERSON at the KGB Bar on May 18, starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.  KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003 (Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs)

(6) THE COLOSSUS OF BED BATH AND BEYOND. There’s a story that explains how it landed here: “The Captain America Statue at Brooklyn’s Bed Bath & Beyond” at Untapped New York.

Shoppers going in to grab one of the innumerable home products on sale at Bed Bath & Beyond or discount fashion garb at the Saks Off 5th outlet may be surprised to see a 13-foot-tall bronze Captain America statue upon entering Liberty View Industrial Plaza in Industry City, Brooklyn. Captain America is so tall, his shield reaches into the mezzanine level of the building’s atrium. He holds his iconic star shield aloft with his left hand, with his right hand clenched into a fist. On the top of the bronze plinth are the words “I’m just a kid from Brooklyn,” a line from the 2011 film Captain America: The First AvengerIn this modern era, it seems rare for any statue to arrive without controversy and this one was no different….

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1999 [By Cat Eldridge.] Remember that fan letter I just wrote to Heinlein’s Rocket Ship Galileo? Well certain films have the same effect upon me. Such is true of The Mummy and the first sequel, The Mummy Returns. (I shall not mention the third film in the series in pain of, well, something horrible happening to all of us. Yes, it is that bad a film.) Both are perfect popcorn films worthy of repeated viewing which I’ve certainly done in the last two decades. 

I know I saw the first one in the theater not long after it came out. It was directed by Stephen Sommers who wrote the screenplay and it claims to be a remake of a 1932 American pre-Code horror film called, errr, The Mummy. It’s out of copyright and you see it here. Boris Karloff was The Mummy.

The 1999 version stars what I think is one of the great movie pulp couples of modern times in Brendan Fraser as Rick O’Connell and Rachel Weisz as Evelyn Carnahan. A librarian? Huh?  Are they completely believable in their roles? Well no, but they look like they’re have a lot of fun in a really absurd undertaking and that counts for quite a lot. John Hannah as Jonathan Carnahan is just the right amount of comic relief. The secondary characters, good and bad, are great characters  — Arnold Vosloo as Imhotep, Oded Fehr as Ardeth Bay and even Patricia Velásquez as Anck-su-namun add a great deal to the film.

The production values are very high and the look of the film, be London or the pulpish Egypt they create is quite amazing. The original script was a Terminator-style Mummy but no one was interested in that. Clive Barker wrote a screenplay next that was so dark and violent everyone cringed. (I want to see that one!) Sommers is, well I can’t count that high, the Director who eventually found a screenplay that worked.

The studio needed a hit after a series of film failures so they gave Sommer an actual budget and turned him loose, one of eighty million dollars. The film would make four hundred and twenty million dollars in its initial showing. Not bad at all. (The first director was offered ten million dollars as his budget.) And of course it gout a Sequel (yes I capitalized that), The Mummy Returns which earned just over four hundred million against a budget of a hundred million. 

Now let’s see how it was received by critics. 

You know I really, really like the reviews of Roger Ebert who wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times so let’s start with his rather nice summation: “There is hardly a thing I can say in its favor, except that I was cheered by nearly every minute of it. I cannot argue for the script, the direction, the acting or even the mummy, but I can say that I was not bored and sometimes I was unreasonably pleased.”

Next up is David Hunter of Variety who was more ambivalent: “Far more ambitious than its predecessors but a notch or two below the unique event-movie experience it might have been, Universal’s The Mummy is undermined by weak writing. Overall, though, it should erect pyramids of moola and not sink into the quicksand when Star Wars: Episode 1 — The Phantom Menace opens 12 days into its run.”

Finally let’s end with these words from Bob Graham of the SF Gate: “This comic horror movie emphasizes the comic, and Brendan Fraser is in his element. With his exaggerated features — big eyes, big nose, big lips — Fraser already looks like a comic-book hero. More importantly, he’s got the flair and know-how to bring it off.  “The Mummy” digs up both laughs and chills from timeworn material.     From the gilded bodies of ancient priests about to die — they are going to be “mummified alive” — to the hokey subtitles in the prologue — what do they think they are speaking, anyway, old Egyptian? — this looks as if it’s going to be big-time fun. It is.”

It has an excellent rating at Rotten Tomatoes among audience reviewers of seventy five percent.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 4, 1920 Phyllis Miller. She co-wrote several children’s books with Andre Norton, House of Shadows and Seven Spells to SundayRide the Green Dragon, a mystery, is at best genre adjacent but it too was done with Norton. I’m not seeing any of them being available at the usual suspects. (Died 2001.)
  • Born May 4, 1926 Christine White. Forever known for appearing in one episode of the Twilight Zone, to wit “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” alongside William Shatner as Bob Wilson. She played Julia Wilson, his wife. She, like Shatner, had appeared on the Twilight Zone earlier, though not with him; she had the lead as Kitty Cavanaugh in “The Prime Mover”.  I’m reasonably sure that her only other genre appearance was on One Step Beyond as Nancy Lloyd Chandler in “The Haunting” episode. (Died 2013.)
  • Born May 4, 1943 Erwin Strauss, 79. I’m not sure I can do him justice. Uberfan, noted member of the MITSFS, and filk musician. He frequently is known by the nickname “Filthy Pierre” which I’m sure is a story in itself that one of you will no doubt tell me. Created the Voodoo message board system used at a number of early cons and published an APA, The Connection, that ran for at least thirty years. Still does the event calendar for Asimov’s. Do tell me about him. 
  • Born May 4, 1949 Kim Mohan, 73. Editor and author of the Cyborg Command RPG based on an outline by Gary Gygax. He was Editor of TSR’s The Dragon magazine for several years which led to his becoming editor of Amazing Stories from 1991 to 2000. 
  • Born May 4, 1974 – James Bacon, 47. He’s a 16-time Hugo nominee, as a fan writer and as co-editor of The Drink Tank and Journey Planet, and a two-time winner — one Hugo with each fanzine. James was the 2004 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate: download his trip report at the unofficial TAFF website, WorldConNomicon. In addition to working on Irish convention Octocon, he ran his own conventions: Aliens Stole My Handbag, Damn Fine Convention, and They Came and Shaved Us. Ultimately, he chaired the Dublin 2019 Worldcon. He ran Sproutlore—the Robert Rankin Fan Club. With fellow fans he established The James White Award, an annual short-story competition. And he often contributes to File 770! (OGH)
  • Born May 4, 1976 Gail Carriger, 46. Ahhhh such lovely mannerpunk she writes! I think I first noticed her with the start of the Finishing School series which she started off with Etiquette & Espionage some six years ago. Moirai Cook does a delightful job of the audiobooks so I recommend that you check them out. I also love the two novellas in her Supernatural Society series as well. And let’s not overlook Souless getting a nomination for BSFS’s Compton Crook Award’s Best First Novel. 
  • Born May 4, 1995 Shameik Moore, 27. He voices Miles Morales, the teen-ager who would become Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse which I review here. It’s by far the best film I saw while in-hospital that year for fifty days straight and I urge you to go see it now. Yes, I know it deservedly won a Hugo at Dublin 2019.  And the sequel is coming up soon! 

(10)  RETAILING SCIENCE. [Item by Bill Higgins.] Many’s the time I’ve toured a museum along with fellow SF fans, so when we get to the gift shop, we usually find ourselves exchanging views on the merchandise offered there. In “Outer Space in the Museum Shop,” Dr. Eleanor Armstrong, an expert on space science communication and museums, contemplates messaging, merchandising, and visitors’ experiences. “Outer Space in the Museum Shop” from EASST Review Volume 41(1) 2022 (that is, the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology).

…Purchasing an item from the shop at a science museum will make that object part of the visitor’s everyday science learning, both at the time of purchase and after the museum visit[…] n this instance, the item comes home from the museum with the visitor, bringing science learning into a different sphere of a visitors’ life, and arguably allowing the item to influence secondary communities, such as family members and larger school groups. Science (and by extension, everyday science learning) never happen in a vacuum, but instead reflect and magnify broader social and political issues in the society in which the museum sits….

(11) LEGENDS BUT NO TOMORROW. CBR says “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Proved Taking Risks Can Pay Off”. It’s going away anyhow.

…While many of the CW shows — and superhero shows in general — stick to that single format, Legends of Tomorrow created entirely new scenarios that existed throughtout time. Seeing the team track down an alien in the 1930s or fight with magicians in the Wild West helped to make each episode special. The show allowed fans to experience their heroes in so many different eras that the plotlines were continually refreshed.

…While fans are upset to see the end of the series — especially with the cliffhanger ending to Season 7 — they can be happy with the impact it had. Legends of Tomorrow evolved from a show featuring other series’ guest characters to one of the longest-running Arrowverse series. The actors, writers, and directors all worked tirelessly to provide a different superhero experience, and it was those risks and differences that kept the series on the air for the better part of a decade.

(12) CARTOONIST KEEPS GOING. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Nathan Fitch profiles New Yorker cartoonist George Booth, still active at 95.  This dropped about a week ago.

(13) EDGAR ALLAN POE NEWS. This 2008 adaptation of Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” starring Carrington Vilmont, is directed by Robert Eggers, whose current feature is The Northman.

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

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

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

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

That’s the small picture.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It reads [in part]:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The panel description was as follows:

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

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

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

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

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1964 [Item by Cat Eldridge]

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

“No sir.” – Mike 

“Wise answer.” – Dr. Lao

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s a demonstration in this tweet:

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 6/26/21 A Planet Must Have Sharp Elbows

(1) UNRELATED TWINS. Darryl Mott tweeted a rundown about why two gaming companies that each go by the name TSR are making the wrong kind of news recently. Thread starts here.

(2) COOL IDEA. IceCon 2021, the convention happening this November in Reykjavík, Iceland has added Ted Chiang as its third GoH. The first two are Mary Robinette Kowal and Hildur Knútsdóttir.

(3) ABOUT HUGO FINALIST STRANGE HORIZONS. Maureen Kincaid Speller, Strange Horizons’ Senior Reviews Editor speaking here as an individual, set the record straight about their interactions with DisCon III in a Facebook public post.   

… There has been a lot of pushback against this kind of thing in the last few years, especially as more groups/collectives are nominated, and rightly so. There is something very wrong with trying to reduce the work of many to one or two names, as if there is something inherently wrong in not being a lone creator. Is it not amazing that all these people pull together to produce this material in their spare time? For nothing? Apparently, it isn’t.

Last year, unforgettably, Fiyahcon showed that it is actually possible to work successfully to a different model. Strange Horizons was nominated for the inaugural Ignyte Award (which we won), and the difference in approach was unbelievable. Everything from happily listing everyone in the press releases to checking how we wanted our names pronounced to providing free access to the convention online for the entire weekend. I mean, wow? Winning was purely a grace note in some ways, but god, did I feel seen! Didn’t we all.

And so to this year’s Worldcon. SH gets nominated for Semi-Prozine again! Yay! Strange Horizons has a civil interaction with the Hugo Awards team and it is agreed that all of the collective can be individually named in the announcement, because pixels are not in short supply.

Except, apparently, they are.

Consternation.

We cannot all be listed, because we are too many. I’m not sure what went on behind the scenes but then, suddenly, we were not too many after all, and we were all listed.

I was not privy to the discussion about what would happen at the ceremony, but here are the things I do know, based on ludicrous claims I have seen on the internet this week….

(4) HWA PRIDE. Horror Writers Association’s “A Point of Pride” series features an “Interview with Nikki Woolfolk”.

What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?

Speculative fiction and horror are my go-to regarding explaining the world and reflect current events from a differing perspective. I wrote a short story that was painful and cathartic regarding a beloved cousin who was murdered. The story “L’Chaim” is my way of giving her a chance to live. My editor read the story and informed me that I had written psychological horror.

I had no idea that what I wrote could be seen as horror since I’m kinda a wimp when it comes to consistently watching or reading horror. Looking back I’ve noticed my Urban Fantasy stories have more of a horror slant and it’s surprising to me.

(5) DELANY IN ACADEMIA. Samuel R. Delany answers the question “How did I become a professor?” for Facebook readers.

…Now even then I knew enough about the history of the world to know that people who deluged older folks in a position of authority with long polemical letters are often thought of as basically nuisances whose screeds are to be glanced at and put aside to be looked at later, if not to be simply consigned to the circular file. Basically I was writing across an ocean into a world about which I had no real notion of how it worked: the American academic system.

What Leslie [Fielder]’s letter said was: Would you consider coming to the U. of Buffalo for a term, and teaching here, as Visiting Butler-Chair Professor. It’s an endowed chair. You will have a 10k fund to do with as you wish, as long as it benefits the university, as well as a salary of . . . I don’t even remember what it was. I just know that, other than a job in a rotisserie on upper Broadway (from which I’d been fired after a few weeks because I couldn’t make change) to another as a stock clerk at Barnes & Noble on 18th and 5th to still another behind the counter at a small walk-in soft-core porn and second-hand sex magazine store called Bob’s Bargain Books on West 42 St., for a couple of months each, I’d never had a salary since I was 15, working as a library page at the St. Agnes Branch Library on Amsterdam Avenue.

So Marilyn and I talked about it, and I wrote back “Yes.”

A single term as a guest professor, however, is not the same as full professorship—which did not happen until eleven years later. But it was certainly connected to it….

(6) THE TV SETS ARE BEING EXTINGUISHED ALL OVER EUROPE. Well, no – and perhaps quite the opposite will happen over the long term: “‘The thought is unbearable’: Europeans react to EU plans to cut British TV”The Guardian has the story.

…But post-Brexit, politically the will is there to challenge the dominance of British TV and film.

When the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, visited Rome this week to formally approve Italy’s spending plan for its share of the EU’s recovery fund, the Italian prime minister, Mario Draghi, hosted her at the Cinecittà film studios in Rome, where €300m (£257m) of the funds are to be invested in development.

“It’s obvious that if Britain leaves the EU, then its productions no longer fall within the community’s quotas,” the Italian culture minister, Dario Franceschini, told Corriere della Sera. “Europe will have to respond on an industrial and content level, and Cinecittà will be strategic on this front.”

Sten-Kristian Saluveer, an Estonian media policy strategist, said EU plans to reassess the amount of UK content – in particular on streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon – were inevitable.

“A big catalyst is the increased trade tensions between the UK and France, as well as the EU’s anti-trust procedures,” he said. “The question is not so much about original content produced in the UK as it is about studios in the UK connected to platforms like Apple and Netflix, which are very well positioned to utilise the good relations the UK has with the US – as well as exploiting the European capacity, including everything from work permits to subsidies,” he said.

“When Britain was in the EU there were spillover effects for the rest of the bloc. But now it’s not, the question is why should these platforms be able to exploit the same benefits?”

Saluveer said smaller EU members could stand to benefit from a reduction in UK content, as it could allow more room for their content. He cited the box office success Tangerines – an Estonian-Georgian co-production which was nominated for a Golden Globe – or the Oscar-nominated The Fencer, a Finnish-Estonian-German collaboration…

(7) THE LIGHT OF OTHER DAYS. MIT Press’ new Radium Age imprint will republish “proto-sf” from the early 20th Century.

Under the direction of Joshua Glenn, the MIT Press’s Radium Age is reissuing notable proto–science fiction stories from the underappreciated era between 1900 and 1935. In these forgotten classics, science fiction readers will discover the origins of enduring tropes like robots (berserk or benevolent), tyrannical supermen, dystopian wastelands, sinister telepaths, and eco-catastrophes. With new contributions by historians, science journalists, and science fiction authors, the Radium Age book series will recontextualize the breakthroughs and biases of these proto–science fiction classics, and chart the emergence of a burgeoning genre.

ABOUT RADIUM AGE PROTO-SF

Do we really know science fiction? There were the Scientific Romance years that stretched from the mid-19th century to circa 1900. And there was the so-called Golden Age, from circa 1935 through the early 1960s. But between those periods, and overshadowed by them, was an era that has bequeathed us such memes as the robot (berserk or benevolent), the tyrannical superman, the dystopia, the unfathomable extraterrestrial, the sinister telepath, and the eco-catastrophe. A dozen years ago, writing for the sf blog io9.com at the invitation of Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders, I became fascinated with the period during which the sf genre as we know it emerged. In honor of Marie Curie, who shared a Nobel Prize for her discovery of radium in 1903, only to die of radiation-induced leukemia in 1934, I dubbed it the “Radium Age.”

Curie’s development of the theory of radioactivity, which led to the freaky insight that the atom is, at least in part, a state of energy constantly in movement, is an apt metaphor for the 20th century’s first three decades. These years were marked by rising sociocultural strife across various fronts: the founding of the women’s suffrage movement, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, socialist currents within the labor movement, anti-colonial and revolutionary upheaval around the world… as well as the associated strengthening of reactionary movements that supported, e.g., racial segregation, immigration restriction, eugenics, and sexist policies….

In order to help surface overlooked Radium Age texts — particularly works by women, people of color, and writers from outside the USA and Western Europe — Joshua Glenn and Noah Springer have an advisory panel that presently includes Annalee NewitzAnindita BanerjeeDavid M, Higginskara lynchKen LiuSean Guynes, and Sherryl Vint.

Here are the covers of the first books in the series.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1966 – Fifty five years ago at Tricon which was held in Cleveland and had Issac Asimov as its Toastmaster, Roger Zelazny would win his first Hugo for …And Call Me Conrad which would later be called This Immortal. It was published in Fantasy & Science Fiction, October and November of 1965 and then in book form by Ace the same year. It tied with Frank Herbert’s Dune. It would be the first of six Hugos that he would win and one of two for Best Novel, the other being for Lord of Light.  His other four Hugos would be for the “Home Is the Hangman” novella, the “Unicorn Variation“ novelette, “24 Views of Mt. Fuji, by Hokusai” novella and “Permafrost” novelette. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 25, 1904 — Peter Lorre. I think his first foray into genre was in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea film as Comm. Lucius Emery though he was in Americanized version of Casino Royale which an early Fifties episode of the Climax! series as Le Chiffre. (James Bond was called Jimmy. Shudder!) Other genre roles were in Tales of Terror as Montresor in “The Black Cat” story, The Raven as Dr. Adolphus Bedlo and The Comedy of Terrors as Felix Grille. (Died 1964.)
  • Born June 25, 1910 — Elsie Wollheim. The wife of Donald A. Wollheim. She was one of the original Futurians of New York, and assisted them in their publishing efforts, and even published Highpoints, her own one-off fanzine. When he started DAW Books in 1972, she was the co-founder, and inherited the company when he died. Their daughter Elizabeth (Betsy) now runs the company along with co-publisher and Sheila E. Gilbert. (Died 1996.)
  • Born June 25, 1950 — Tom DeFalco, 71. Comic book writer and editor, mainly known for his Marvel Comics and in particular for his work with the Spider-Man line. He designed the Spider-Girl character which was his last work at Marvel as he thought he was being typecast as just a Spider-Man line writer. He’s since been working at DC and Archie Comics.
  • Born June 25, 1965 — Daryl Gregory, 56. He won a Crawford Award for his Pandemonium novel. And his novella, We Are All Completely Fine, won the World Fantasy Award and a Shirley Jackson Award as well. It was also a finalist for the Sturgeon Award. I’m also fond of his writing on the Planet of The Apes series that IDW published.
  • Born June 25, 1969 — Austin Grossman, 52. Twin brother of Lev. And no, he’s not here just because he’s Lev’s twin brother. He’s the author of Soon I Will Be Invincible which is decidedly SF as well as You: A Novel (also called YOU) which was heavily influenced for better or worse by TRON and Crooked, a novel involving the supernatural and Nixon. He’s also a video games designer, some of which such as Clive Barker’s Undying and Tomb Raider: Legend are definitely genre. 
  • Born June 25, 1969 — Lev Grossman, 52. Author most noted for The Magicians trilogy which is The MagiciansThe Magician King and The Magician’s Land. Winner of the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. His latest work was the screenplay for The Map of Tiny Perfect Things film which was based off his short story of that name. 
  • Born June 25, 1980 — Jason Schwartzman, 41. He first shows up in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as Gag Halfrunt,  Zaphod Beeblebrox’s personal brain care specialist. (Uncredited initially.) He  was Ritchie in Bewitched, and voiced Simon Lee in  Scott Pilgrim vs. the Animation. He co-wrote Isle of Dogs alongwith Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, and Kunichi Nomura. I think his best work was voicing Ash Fox in Fantastic Mr. Fox. 
  • Born June 25, 1984 — Aubrey Plaza, 37. April Ludgate on Parks and Recreation which at least one Filer has insisted is genre. She voiced Eska in recurring role on The Legend of Korra which is a sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender. She was in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World as Julie Powers. And she was Lenny Busker on Legion.  

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Alley Oop runs into a little Moon explorer name confusion.

(11) TURING PASSES TEST. “New £50 note featuring Alan Turing goes into circulation” reports The Guardian.

The new £50 note goes into circulation on Wednesday – but with consumers increasingly going cashless, for millions of people it may be months or even years before they see or touch one….

However, perhaps the new-look £50 – featuring Alan Turing, the scientist best known for his codebreaking work during the second world war – will give the note’s image a makeover.

Its arrival is notable as it means the Bank of England has now completed its switch away from paper money.

The Turing £50 will join the Churchill £5, the Austen £10 and the Turner £20, all of which are printed on polymer, a thin and flexible plastic material that is said to last longer and stay in better condition than paper.

… The new £50 note, which features Alan Turing, contains advanced security features including two windows and a two-colour foil, making it very difficult to counterfeit.

(12) THE KLEPTO CONNECTION. “Stealing Science-Fiction: Why the Heist Works So Well in Sci-Fi” – Justin Woolley explains at CrimeReads.

…There is something inherently lovable about the heist story. They have been a mainstay of cinema since the mid-twentieth century and feature prominently in novels, TV, video games and across all media. The heist story often gives us many of the things we love in story, underdogs, a sense of style, thrills, adventure and a chance to see characters who are the smartest, the fastest, the best at what they do. Heists are also perfectly set up for the structure of a story. We usually have a clear external conflict from the very beginning, our team versus whatever is protecting the ‘big score’. Then, we get to see how the crew are going to overcome the odds by being (often literally) in on the plan, blueprints and all. Throw some spanners in the works, maybe a betrayal, a few character flaws to be overcome, and you’re primed to go for a terrific caper.

There’s something else I find interesting about heist stories—they are, in many ways, genre-neutral. They appear most commonly as contemporary action stories but also in historical fiction, fantasy and, of biggest interest to me, science-fiction. I am a fan of many genres, including crime and thriller, but I am foremost an author of science-fiction…. 

(13) IN THE BEGINNING. Mental Floss’ article about “The Early Careers of 12 Famous Novelists” includes entries on Octavia Butler, Frank Herbert, Mark Twain, and George R.R. Martin.

8. FRANK HERBERT

Frank Herbert was a veteran newspaper reporter when he began circulating Dune, his 1965 novel of galactic intrigue over spice. Though it was well-received by sci-fi fans and even serialized in Analog magazine, Herbert had no takers until it was accepted by automotive publisher Chilton. By 1972, Herbert had given up his newspaper career to write novels.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: League of Legends: Wild Rift” on YouTube, Fandom Games says this is “a bite-sized version of League of Legends that lasts half as long” and “has no chat functionality, making it “one of the few games that people who haven’t had their hearts turned to coal by the Internet” can enjoy.

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

2020 Ignyte Awards

FIYAH Literary Magazine’s inaugural Ignyte Awards were presented in an online ceremony on October 17 brilliantly hosted by Jesse of Bowties & Books.

The Ignyte Awards seek to celebrate the vibrancy and diversity of the current and future landscapes of science fiction, fantasy, and horror by recognizing incredible feats in storytelling and outstanding efforts toward inclusivity of the genre. There were 1,431 valid votes cast to decide the winners. 

Best Novel – Adult – for novel-length (40k+ words) works intended for the adult audience: 

  • Gods of Jade and Shadow – Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Best Novel – YA – for novel-length (40k+ words) works intended for the young adult audience:

  • We Hunt the Flame – Hafsah Faizal

Best in MG – for works intended for the middle-grade audience:

  • Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky – Kwame Mbalia

Best Novella – for speculative works ranging from 17,500-39,999 words:

  • This is How You Lose the Time War – Max Gladstone & Amal El-Mohtar

Best Novelette – for speculative works ranging from 7,500-17,499 words:

  • Emergency Skin – N K Jemisin for the Amazon Forward Collection

Best Short Story – for speculative works ranging from 2,000-7,499 words:

  • A Brief Lesson in Native American Astronomy – Rebecca Roanhorse for Mythic Dream

Speculative Poetry – 

  • A Conversation Between the Embalmed Heads of Lampião and Maria Bonita on Public Display at the Baiano State Forensic Institute, Circa Mid-20th Century – Woody Dismukes for Strange Horizons

Critics Award – for reviews and analysis of the field of speculative literature:

  • Alex Brown – Tor.com

Best Fiction Podcast – for excellence in audio performance and production for speculative fiction:

  • LeVar Burton Reads – LeVar Burton

Best Artist – for contributions in visual speculative storytelling:

  • Grace P. Fong

Best Comics Team – for comics, graphic novels, and sequential storytelling:

  • These Savage Shores – Ram V, Sumit Kumar, Vitorio Astone, Aditya Bidikar, & Tim Daniel

Best Anthology/Collected Works – 

  • New Suns – Nisi Shawl

Best in Creative Nonfiction – for works related to the field of speculative fiction:

  • Black Horror Rising – Tananarive Due

The Ember Award – for unsung contributions to the genre:

  • LeVar Burton

Community Award – for Outstanding Efforts in Service of Inclusion and Equitable Practice in Genre:

  • Strange Horizons – Gautam Bhatia, Vajra Chandrasekera, Joyce Chng, Kate Cowan, Tahlia Day, William Ellwood, Rebecca Evans, Ciro Faienza, Lila Garrott, Dan Hartland, Amanda Jean, Lulu Kadhim, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Catherine Krahe, Anaea Lay, Dante Luiz, Heather McDougal, AJ Odasso, Vanessa Rose Phin, Clark Seanor, Romie Stott, Aishwarya Subramanian, Fred G. Yost, and the SH copyediting team and first readers

Rebecca Roanhorse

Woody Dismukes

LeVar Burton

Tananarive Due

Ram V

Alex Brown

Jesse of Bowties & Books

L.D. Lewis, Art Director of FIYAH

Pixel Scroll 10/13/20 The Credential’s Door Into Summer

(1) NUANCES ERASED IN MARKETING DUNE. “In Dune, Paul Atreides led a jihad, not a crusade” – why that matters is the focus of Ali Karjoo-Ravary’s opinion piece at Al Jazeera.

….But fans familiar with the books noticed a major omission in its promotional materials: any reference to the Islam-inspired framing of the novel. In fact, the trailer uses the words, “a crusade is coming”, using the Christian term for holy war – something that occurs a mere three times in the six books of the original series. The word they were looking for was “jihad”, a foundational term and an essential concept in the series. But jihad is bad branding, and in Hollywood, Islam does not sell unless it is being shot at.

Dune is the second film adaptation of the popular 1965 science fiction novel by Frank Herbert. Set approximately 20,000 years in the future on the desert planet Arrakis, it tells the story of a war for control of its major export: the mind-altering spice melange that allows for instantaneous space travel. The Indigenous people of this planet, the Fremen, are oppressed for access to this spice. The story begins when a new aristocratic house takes over the planet, centring the narrative on the Duke’s son Paul.

The trailer’s use of “crusade” obscures the fact that the series is full of vocabularies of Islam, drawn from Arabic, Persian, and Turkish. Words like “Mahdi”, “Shai-Hulud”, “noukker”, and “ya hya chouhada” are commonly used throughout the story. To quote Herbert himself, from an unpublished 1978 interview with Tim O’Reilly, he used this vocabulary, partly derived from “colloquial Arabic”, to signal to the reader that they are “not here and now, but that something of here and now has been carried to that faraway place and time”. Language, he remarks, “is mind-shaping as well as used by mind”, mediating our experience of place and time. And he uses the language of Dune to show how, 20,000 years in the future, when all religion and language has fundamentally changed, there are still threads of continuity with the Arabic and Islam of our world because they are inextricable from humanity’s past, present, and future….

(2) LEARNING HORROR. Sarah Gailey adds to her Personal Canons “Wayside School”, a tribute to Louis Sachar’s Wayside School series.

…In addition to tapping into the deep, gut-level instability of growing up, Sachar wrote some truly choice moments of horror into these books. It’s horror for children, in that it’s a little gross and a little ridiculous, but that doesn’t make it ineffective. …

These are all presented as genuinely frightening, and they land beautifully. When I read these books as a child, I was aware that they were funny and unrealistic — but I also felt a lingering sense of unease. The school was not a safe place, and the teachers were not safe or trustworthy people. The rules rarely made sense, but the consequences to breaking them were very real. Everything constantly seemed to be teetering on the brink of collapse.

These are the books that taught me to love being unsettled….

(3) STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES. Congratulations to the Strange Horizons’ reviews section which celebrated a milestone anniversary. Their twentieth-anniversary round table of reviewers past and present, featuring Rachel Cordasco, Erin Horáková, ML Kejera, Samira Nadkarni, Abigail Nussbaum, Charles Payseur, Nisi Shawl, Aishwarya Subramanian, and Bogi Takács, discusses “what reviewing is, why it matters—and why they bother with it.”

Abigail Nussbaum: I see my reviewing as an offshoot of fandom. In the late 90s and early 00s I was active in a few fandoms—X-Files and Harry Potter, mostly—but gravitated almost exclusively to what would now be described as “meta,” analysis and reviewing rather than fanfic. Around the mid-00s I was active on a message board called Readerville, dedicated to discussions of books, which helped me both to expand my reading and explore my impulse to talk about the things I’d read. I started a blog in 2005 basically because I had a lot to say and nowhere to say it—certainly not at the length I wanted. A few months later, Niall Harrison got in touch and asked if I’d be interested in writing for Strange Horizons, and the rest is history.

(4) TECH AND MORALITY. “Cory Doctorow: ‘Technologists have failed to listen to non-technologists’” – a Q&A conducted by The Guardian’s Ian Tucker about Doctorow’s new book, Attack Surface.

The protagonist in your new novel tries to offset her job at a tech company where she is working for a repressive regime by helping some of its targets evade detection. Do you think many Silicon Valley employees feel uneasy about their work?
Anyone who has ever fallen in love with technology knows the amount of control that it gives you. If you can express yourself well to a computer it will do exactly what you tell it to do perfectly, as many times as you want. Across the tech sector, there are a bunch of workers who are waking up and going: “How did I end up rationalising my love for technology and all the power it gives me to take away that power from other people?”

As a society, we have a great fallacy, the fallacy of the ledger, which is that if you do some bad things, and then you do some good things, you can talk them up. And if your balance is positive, then you’re a good person. And if the balance is negative, you’re a bad person. But no amount of goodness cancels out the badness, they coexist – the people you hurt will still be hurt, irrespective of the other things you do to make amends. We’re flawed vessels, and we need a better moral discourse. That’s one of the things this book is trying to establish.

(5) CONSEQUENCES OF IMAGINING THE WORST? Doctorow is also on tap at Future Tense in a first-person piece about “The Dangers of Cynical Sci-Fi Disaster Stories”.

When I moved to California from Toronto (by way of London), I was shocked by the prevalence of gun stores and, by their implication, that so many of my reasonable-seeming neighbors were doubtless in possession of lethal weapons. Gradually the shock wore off—until the plague struck. When the lockdown went into effect, the mysterious gun stores on the main street near my house sprouted around-the-block lines of poorly distanced people lining up to buy handguns. I used to joke that they were planning to shoot the virus and that their marksmanship was not likely to be up to the task, but I knew what it was all about. They were buying guns because they’d told themselves a story: As soon as things went wrong, order would collapse, and their neighbors would turn on them.

Somehow, I couldn’t help but feel responsible. I’m a science-fiction writer, and I write a lot of disaster stories. Made-up stories, even stories of impossible things, are ways for us to mentally rehearse our responses to different social outcomes. Philosopher Daniel Dennett’s conception of an intuition pump—“a thought experiment structured to allow the thinker to use their intuition to develop an answer to a problem”—suggests that fiction (which is, after all, an elaborate thought experiment) isn’t merely entertainment.*

That’s true. And it’s a problem….

(6) UNFORGOTTEN. Never mentioned by the actress, but Glorious Trash remembers Diana Rigg’s work in “Minikillers (1969)”.

German producers H.G. Lückel and D. Nettemann had an entrepreneurial idea: to provide entertainment for people getting their cars refilled at gas stations in Germany. The idea was to place TV sets by the pumps, so customers could watch a short film while their car was filled (this was before the days of self-service.)  They envisioned an espionage thriller to capitalize on the James Bond/Eurospy genre. Casting about for a famous lead, they eventually settled on Diana Rigg — fresh from her biggest role in the Bond film On Her Majestys Secret Service. After negotiating, Rigg agreed to appear in these films. 

Minikillers is a series of four short films, tied together into a coherent storyline: the idea was that customers would keep coming back to that particular gas station to see the conclusion. The series was shot on 8 millimeter and without dialog; sound effects and music were added later. In a way the project comes off like a silent film; all is relayed via movement, gestures, and facial expressions. 

Rigg apparently did not realize the uber-low budget of these films until the camera(s) started to roll. However true to her contract she shot each of them…and never mentioned them again. 

As they are up on YouTube: 

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 2010 — Terry Pratchett won the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement from the Mythopoeic Society. It was his second Award from them as five years earlier he’d won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature for A Hat Full of Sky, the second of the novels involving the young witch Tiffany Aching. That novel would also garner the Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book. The series as a whole would later be nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature but the Award went to Ursula Vernon’s Castle Hangnail.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 13, 1872 – Boris Zvorykin.  Designer and illustrator; illustrated books, decorated churches, worked for Tsar Nicholas II.  Left at the Revolution, eventually went to Paris, in 1930 translated & illustrated four Russian fairy tales, also did porcelain for Porzella later incorporated in Villeroy & Boch.  In 1978 Jacqueline Onassis found and produced his book, The Firebird (in English).  Here is a print illustrating Boris Godounov.  Here is one for Tsar Saltan.  Here is “The Snow Maiden”.  Here is a set of his V&B plates.  (Died 1942) [JH]
  • Born October 13, 1906 – William Morrison.  Four novels, eighty shorter stories; “The Science Stage” in F&SF; memoir in Greenberg, Olander & Pohl’s 1980 thirty-year Galaxy anthology; posthumous collection The Sly Bungerhop (2017).  Ph.D. research chemist under another name.  Comics, credited with creating J’Onn J’Onzz the Manhunter from Mars.  Wrote about archeology, ballet, opera, theater, Rome.  (Died 1980)  [JH]
  • Born October 13, 1923 – Iona Opie, C.B.E.  Folklorist, anthologist, with her husband Peter; their collection of children’s books and ephemera 16th-20th Centuries is in the Bodleian Lib’y (20,000 pieces; two-year public appeal raised the £500,000 cost); audiotapes of children’s games & songs in the British Lib’y.  Oxford Dictionary of Nursery RhymesLore & Language of Schoolchildren; two dozen stories for us in The Classic Fairy Tales; two dozen more books.  Coote Lake Medal jointly.  Iona made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born October 13, 1926 Lenny Bruce. Yes, the foul-mouthed stand-up comic. ISFDB lists him as having co-authored three essays with Harlan Ellison in Rouge magazine in 1959 all called “Bruce Here”. Rogue also printed SF stories as well from Fritz Leiber, Robert Bloch, Mack Reynolds and Harlan Ellison to name some of their writers. It lasted but six issues. (Died 1966.) (CE) 
  • Born October 13, 1956 Chris Carter, 64. Best known for the X-Files and Millennium which I think is far better than X-Files was, but also responsible for Harsh Realm which lasted three episodes before being cancelled. The Lone Gunmen managed to last thirteen episodes before poor ratings made them bite the bullet. (CE) 
  • Born October 13, 1959 Wayne Pygram, 61. His most SFish role was as Scorpius on Farscape and he has a cameo as Grand Moff Tarkin in Revenge of the Sith because he’s a close facial resemblance to Peter Cushing. He’s likely best recognized as himself for his appearance on Lost as a faith healer named Isaac of Uluru. (CE) 
  • Born October 13, 1967 Kate Walsh, 53. She has the recurring role of The Handler in The Umbrella Academy series. Walsh starred as Sandra Anderson in the biblical horror film Legion, and was a sexy waitress in the Bewitched film. She was Amal Colb in Scary Movie 5, the fifth and final installment in the Scary Movie franchise. (CE)
  • Born October 13, 1967 – Petri Hiltunen, 53.  Cartoonist and illustrator.  Puupäähattu award.  His Praedor comics led to a role-playing game of the same name.  In his comic strip The Return of Väinämöinen, the Eternal Sage of Kalevala ends his self-imposed exile to find he might have been gone too long, e.g. these newfangled “potatoes” are now considered a traditional food.  PH contributes to the SF magazine Tähtivaeltaja (“Star Wanderer”); he’s well known in Finnish fandom e.g. at Finncon.  Here is an illustration for Knight of the Cursed Land.  Here is the cover for his graphic-novel version of Macbeth.  Here is an illustration for the board-game Aegemonia.  [JH]
  • Born October 13, 1969 Aaron Rosenberg, 51. He’s written novels for Star Trek, StarCraft, Warcraft, Exalted, Stargate Atlantis, and Warhammer, as well as other franchises. He’s even written a novel set In the Eureka ‘verse, Eureka: Roads Less Traveled, under the house name of Cris Ramsay. Eureka novels sound fascinating but this is the only one that I found so far. (CE)
  • Born October 13, 1975 – Jana Bauer, 45.  Her Witch Vanisher is available in English; the publisher says she has a deviously humorous narrative style.  She edits Exchanges, short prose from different countries, and Forget-me-nots in Slovenian and English for the children of Slovene emigrants (I’ve left out the Slovenian titles because of software character trouble).  In the Land of Gingerbread was the first Forget-me-not (see p. 2 of this newsletter).  For Scary Fairy in the Fearful Forest see here.  A dozen other books.  [JH]
  • Born October 13, 1976 Jennifer Sky, 44. Lead character conveniently named Cleopatra in Sam Raimi’s Cleopatra 2525 series. (Opening theme “In the Year 2525” is performed by Gina Torres who’s also a cast member.) She’s had guest roles on Seaquest DSVXenaCharmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And she was Lola in The Helix…Loaded, a parody of The Matrix which scored 14% at Rotten Tomatoes among audience reviewers. (CE)
  • Born October 12, 1983 – Lesley Nneka Arimah, 37.  Nat’l Magazine Award, O. Henry Award, Commonwealth Short Story Prize.  “Skinned” (Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy Stories, Machado ed. 2019) and four more for us in her collection What Does It Mean When a Man Falls from the Sky?, Kirkus Prize and don’t miss its last review at her Website, where also she says she is working on a novel about you.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) CEL GROWTH. Vulture has “The 100 Sequences That Shaped Animation From Bugs Bunny to Spike Spiegel to Miles Morales, the history of an art form that continues to draw us in”, which provides a deep dive into animation history for people who want to know more about animation.

(11) GETTING INTO THE SPIRIT. Cat Rambo reads a story for Halloween.

This short urban fantasy story originally appeared in Stamps, Tramps, and Vamps, edited by Shannon Robinson. It takes place in Durham, North Carolina, and involves a tattoo artist who’s got a different purpose in mind than her latest client does. It seemed like it would be a fun Halloween story to share!

(12) STATE OF THE NATION. There’s a lot more to think about than I expected in Zippia’s “Map Of Each State’s Favorite Halloween Candy (Spoiler: Some States Have Really Bad Taste)”. Here are first three of nine bullet points.

  • Starburst is a favorite with 6 states loving the fruity squares above all else
  • The winner is in, and between chocolate and non-chocolate candy it’s a…toss-up.
  • 25 states prefer chocolates candies while 25 prefer gummies, fruit-flavored candies, and other non-chocolate candies.

(13) TUNING UP. Genre adjacent, at least. “Delia Derbyshire Documentary Gets New Trailer: Watch” at Pitchfork.

…Derbyshire, an early electronic music pioneer, worked at the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop in the 1960s, where she composed the theme for the long-running science fiction series Doctor Who. Written and directed by Caroline Catz, the film features archival materials, interviews with Derbyshire’s colleagues and collaborators, and dramatizations starring Catz herself as the composer. Derbyshire’s original compositions are featured alongside a soundtrack by Cosey Fanni Tutti, constructed from samples Derbyshire’s posthumously released “Attic Tapes.”

(14) UNCLE WALT. Defunctland is “the show about the past…of the future!” Here are two of its episodes devoted to Walt Disney’s landmarks Disneyland and EPCOT.

In this episode, Kevin finally reaches the opening of Disneyland, focusing on the development and history of Tomorrowland 1955, the first, hastily-made version of the famous theme park land, including attractions such famous attractions as Rocket to the Moon, Autopia, Space Station X-1, the Matterhorn, the Skyway, Submarine Voyage, and the Monorail.

Walt Disney made ambitious plans for a City of Tomorrow named E.P.C.O.T. just before his death in 1966, but the plans were soon abandoned. What were Walt’s ideas for his city of the future, what happened to the project, and would it have worked?

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Twilight:  Eclipse Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George says the third Twilight movie has a very strange title, because “Why would you spend two hours looking at an eclipse?”

[Thanks to Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, JJ, N., Cat Eldridge, Alan Baumler, Will R., John Hertz, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credt goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 9/14/20 Istanscroll Not Constantipixel

(1) MIYAZAKI EXHIBIT WILL KEYNOTE ACADEMY MUSEUM OPENING. The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles announced the work of Hayao Miyazaki will feature in its inaugural temporary exhibition when the museum opens to the public on April 30, 2021. It will be the first North American museum retrospective dedicated to the acclaimed artist and his work.

With more than 300 objects, the exhibition will explore each of Miyazaki’s animated feature films, including My Neighbor Totoro (1988) and the Academy Award®-winning Spirited Away (2001). Visitors will travel through the filmmaker’s six-decade career through a dynamic presentation of original imageboards, character designs, storyboards, layouts, backgrounds, posters, and cels, including pieces on public view outside of Japan for the first time, as well as large-scale projections of film clips and immersive environments.

From there, visitors move into the Creating Worlds gallery, a space that evokes Miyazaki’s fantastical worlds. The gallery will capture the contrast between beautiful, natural, and peaceful environments and the industrial settings dominated by labor and technology that are also often featured in Miyazaki’s movies. Visitors can view concept sketches and backgrounds that offer insight into Miyazaki’s imagination, including an original imageboard from his first Ghibli film Castle in the Sky (1986) and artworks from subsequent Ghibli features. Other areas explore Miyazaki’s fascination with complex vertical structures, such as the famous bathhouse in Spirited Away, and the underwater world of Ponyo (2008), as well as Miyazaki’s interest in flying, as seen in Porco Rosso (1992) and The Wind Rises (2013). As a highlight of the exhibition, visitors can enjoy a moment of quiet contemplation in the Sky View installation, addressing another frequent motif in Miyazaki’s films: the desire to slow down, reflect, and dream.

Next, the Transformations gallery affords visitors the opportunity to explore the astonishing metamorphoses often experienced by both characters and settings in Miyazaki’s films. In Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), for example, the protagonists go through physical transformations that reflect their emotional states, while in other films, such as Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Miyazaki creates mysterious and imaginative ways to visualize the changes that humans impose on the natural world.

Visitors then enter the exhibition’s final gallery Magical Forest through its Mother Tree installation. Standing at the threshold between dream and reality, colossal, mystical trees in many of Miyazaki’s films represent a connection or gateway to another world. After passing through the installation, visitors encounter the spirits of the forest, such as the playful Kodama from Princess Mononoke, through an array of storyboards and mixed media. Visitors exit through another transitional corridor, which guides them from the imaginative worlds of Hayao Miyazaki back into the museum.

(2) ATTEND A VIRTUAL ANNOUNCEMENT ABOUT THE EXPANSE. Register here for the opportunity to hear news about the ninth and final book in the Expanse series on Wednesday at 11 AM PDT/2 PM EDT. Authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck will be answering questions following the announcement.

(3) NEW HONOR FOR ATWOOD. Margaret Atwood has won the Dayton literary peace prize reports The Guardian.

Margaret Atwood, whose sweeping body of work includes The Handmaid’s Tale, a depiction of a nightmarish totalitarian future for the US, has won a lifetime achievement award that celebrates literature’s power to foster peace, social justice and global understanding.

The Canadian writer will receive the Richard C Holbrooke distinguished achievement award, officials of the Dayton literary peace prize officials announced on Monday. The award is named for the late American diplomat who brokered the 1995 Bosnian peace accords reached in the Ohio city.

Atwood, a prolific writer of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, essays and comic books , has in recent years drawn a new round of acclaim for her bestselling 1985 novel of a dystopian future in which women are subjugated after a theocratic group overthrow the US government. The television adaptation, starring Elisabeth Moss, saw the book return to bestseller lists around the world, while some readers saw similarities to the leadership of authoritarian Gilead in the rise of US president Donald Trump…

(4) SLF STILL TAKING GULLIVER GRANT APPLICATIONS. The Speculative Literature Foundation is taking submissions for the Gulliver Travel Research Grant until September 30. Full guidelines on the website.

The SLF Gulliver Travel grants are awarded annually, since 2004, to assist writers of speculative literature (in fiction, poetry, drama, or creative nonfiction) in their research. They are not currently available for academic research, though we hope to offer such funds in the future. We are currently offering one $1000 travel grant annually, to be used to cover airfare, lodging, and/or other travel expenses.

(5) HOME (DELIVERED) COOKING. “Why did it take so long?” you’ll ask. Scott Edelman invites listeners to down dumplings with the legendary Irene Vartanoff in Episode 127 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Irene Vartanoff

This episode, I was able to totally fulfill the mandate of this podcast, and lose myself in a meal as I sat across a table face to face with a creator. That’s because I’ve known this guest for 46 years plus a few months — and have been in constant conversation with her for almost all of that time. She’s been a part of comics and science fiction fandom several years longer than I have, and worked in comics longer than I did, too. When I started at Marvel Comics on June 24, 1974, she’d ready been there for a couple of months. She has many fascinating things to say about her time in comics — and her decades working in the romance field as well.

I’m of course talking about my wife — Irene Vartanoff — or as she was dubbed by Stan Lee — “Impish” Irene Vartanoff. Her novel Hollywood Superheroine — the final book in her comics-inspired Temporary Superheroine trilogy — was recently published, so this is the perfect time to have a chat about it all.

We discussed how she’d never have gotten into comics if not for her father’s cigar habit, what made a comic book reader become a comic book fan become a comic book professional, the “heartbreaking” advice given to her by Julie Schwartz during her teen visit to DC Comics, why her reputation as a famed letterhack meant she didn’t face the same sexism as other women in comics, what it was like working for Roy Thomas at Marvel and Paul Levitz at DC (and why she respected them both), how critiquing romance manuscripts for 25 years was like being at Marvel all over again, the secret origins of her Temporary Superheroine character, how politics changed Hollywood Superheroine, the final novel in her trilogy, why pantsing works better for her than plotting, the reason she decided to go the indie publishing route, and much more.

(6) LE GUIN DISCOVERY. Sean Joyce-Farley finds worlds of meaning in Ursula LeGuin’s revision to a passage The Left Hand of Darkness, as explained in a post for Library of America, “Are You There Ursula? It’s Me, Sean”.

Knight Library lies tucked into the west side of the University of Oregon campus, just by the cemetery: a dark four-story brick building. Inside, sunlight falls into the Paulson Reading Room through the tall windows at my back. Rigged up in a mask, I look like a harbinger of things to come—but it’s the fall of 2019, and I just have a dust allergy.

There are no pens in the Special Collections, and no water. UO students periodically approach the desk only to learn that they need to take a different staircase to get to the other second floor, which is somehow not connected to this second floor. I take in camera, laptop, notebook, pencil. Grey boxes with my name on them—literally, stuck on in post-its—neatly line the shelf behind the librarian’s desk. The first box is number 77; inside, folders three to five house the handwritten manuscript of Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness (1969). I lift up the lid, and let the light in….

(7) GOT THAT RIGHT. “It’s Not Easy Being a BookTuber” on WIRED is an introduction to an episode of WIRED’s “Geek’s Guide To The Galaxy” podcast which has an interview with Daniel Greene, who makes his living reviewing sf and fantasy books on YouTube.  Greene discusses how he gets 20-30 requests from self-published authors to plug their books and how he has to keep reviewing bestsellers to satisfy YouTube’s algorithms.

Daniel Greene makes a full-time living off his YouTube channel, discussing fantasy authors such as Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, and Jim Butcher. Talking about your favorite books all day might sound like a dream come true, but Greene says that building a successful channel is harder than people think.

“For a few years I was doing a video every day of the week, seven days a week, which was insane, while also being a software engineer,” Greene says in Episode 431 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “I’m a workaholic.”

(8) MORE SAND. MovieWeb alerted readers to a French-langauge variant of last week’s Dune trailer with some additional shots.

While the majority of the Dune trailer is the same as the one that debuted a few days ago, this version is slightly shorter and has been restructured. The trailer is in French but, while you may not have much idea what they’re saying, there are a few new shots included, giving us a further look at the likes of Gurney Halleck, played by Josh Brolin, who is seen preparing for battle, as well as a little more of Timothée Chalamet’s Paul Atreides enduring the excruciating pain of the Gom Jabbar Test.

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • September 2000 — Twenty years ago this month, the online magazine Strange Horizons posted its first issue. It does short stories, poetry and reviews, essays, interviews, and other material as tickles its fancy. It was founded by writer and editor Mary Anne Mohanraj. Susan Marie Groppi who took over in 2004, won the World Fantasy Special Award: Non-Professional in 2010 for her work as the Editor-in-Chief. Other editors have followed; the current one is Vanessa Rose Phin. Several of the stories first published here have been nominated for Hugos, Sofia Samatar’s “Selkie Stories Are for Losers” and Benjamin Rosenbaum‘s “The House Beyond Your Sky”. It was a finalist for the Best Website Hugo Award in two years, and for the Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine every year from 2013 through 2020. You can find it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 14, 1927 – Martin Caidin.  His Cyborg was the basis for The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman.  Thirty novels for us, half a dozen nonfiction books about rockets and Space travel; eighty fiction and nonfiction books all told, a thousand magazine articles; an authority on aviation and aerospace.  Restored to full airworthiness a 1936 Junkers Ju 52, toured extensively with her.  Flew with the Thunderbirds demonstration squadron (U.S. Air Force), honorary member of the Golden Knights parachute demonstration team (Army).  Twice won Aviation/Space Writers Ass’n Award for outstanding aviation author.  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born September 14, 1931 – Ivan Klíma, 89.  Kafka Prize and Magnesia Litera award.  A Childhood in Terezin (in German, Theresienstadt; WW II holding ground for deportation to death camps e.g. Auschwitz; few survived) about his own experience.  Biography of Karel Capek (software won’t allow the diacritical mark over the showing it’s pronounced like ch in English church) translated into English, also memoir My Crazy Century.  Penguin Classics ed’n of R.U.R. has his introduction.  Three dozen other books.  [JH]
  • Born September 14, 1932 Joyce Taylor, 88. She first shows as Princess Antillia in Atlantis, the Lost Continent. Later genre appearances were The Man from U.N.C.LE., the first English language Beauty and the Beast film, the horror film Twice-Told Tales and the Men into Space SF series. (CE)
  • Born September 14, 1936 Walter Koenig, 83. Best known for his roles as Pavel Chekov in the original Trek franchise and Alfred Bester (named in homage of that author and a certain novel) on Babylon 5Moontrap, a SF film with him and Bruce Campbell, would garner a 28% rating at Rotten Tomatoes, and InAlienable which he executive produced, wrote and acts in has no rating there. (CE)
  • Born September 14, 1941 Bruce Hyde. Patterns emerge in doing these Birthdays. One of these patterns is that original Trek had a lot of secondary performers who had really short acting careers. He certainly did. He portrayed Lt. Kevin Riley in two episodes, “The Naked Time” and “The Conscience of the King” and the rest of his acting career consisted of eight appearances, four of them on as Dr. Jeff Brenner.  He acted for less than two years in ‘65 and ‘66, before returning to acting thirty-four years later to be in The Confession of Lee Harvey Oswald which is his final role. (Died 2015.) (CE)
  • Born September 14, 1948 – Elizabeth Winthrop, 72.  Five dozen books, mostly children’s fiction.  Fisher Award (after Dorothy Canfield Fisher; adults choose master list, children vote) for The Castle in the Attic; it and two more ours.  Jane Addams Peace Prize for Counting on Grace.  Sarah Lawrence alumna.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born September 14, 1961 Justin Richards, 60. Clute at ESF says “Richards is fast and competent.” Well I can certainly say he’s fast as he’s turned out thirty-five Doctor Who novels which Clute thinks are for the YA market between 1994 and 2016. There’s another nineteen novels written there.  And he had other series going as well including being one of the main scriptwriters for the Jago & Litefoot  Big Finish series, the characters being spin-offs from the Fourth Doctor story, “The Talons of Wang Chiang”.  And then there’s the Doctor Who non-fiction which runs to over a half dozen works.  (CE)
  • Born September 14, 1962 – Leigh Cunningham, 58.  Lawyer with three Master’s degrees.  Her Being Anti-Social (2013) a Best Indie Book.  Two novels for us.  Ranks Nineteen Eighty-four above The Sound and the Fury.  [JH]
  • Born September 14, 1964 – Lorie Ann Grover, 56.  Firstborn for us (Kirkus starred review); verse novels; board books; The Magic Cup with Howard Behar former president of Starbucks.  Illustrations: “I’m putting these up for fabbity publisher types to see my samples…. copyright…. Just ask me if you’d like to share them.” [JH]
  • Born September 14, 1972 Jenny T. Colgan, 48. Prolific writer of short stories in the Whovian universe with a baker’s dozen to date with several centered on River Song. She novelized “The Christmas Invasion”, the first full Tenth Doctor story. She has two genre novels, Resistance Is Futile and Spandex and the City. (CE) 
  • Born September 14, 1989 Jessica Brown Findlay, 31. She appeared as Beverly Penn in the film version of Mark Helprin‘s Winter’s Tale novel. She’s Lorelei in Victor Frankenstein, a modern take on that novel, and plays Lenina Crowne in the current Brave New World series on Peacock. Finally I’ll note she was Abi Khan on Black Mirrior’s “Fifteen Million Merits“ episode. (CE) 
  • Born September 14, 1986 – Rick Griffin, 44.  Co-authored, and illustrates, the Hayven Celestia universe, where the admirable geroo and various others suffer under the wicked krakun.  Recently Tales of Hayven Celestia (in Gre7g Luterman’s name, the is silent).  Four more covers.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) SOMETHING’S IN THE AIR. “Astronomers see possible hints of life in Venus’s clouds” reports Yahoo! News.

Astronomers have found a potential sign of life high in the atmosphere of neighboring Venus: hints there may be bizarre microbes living in the sulfuric acid-laden clouds of the hothouse planet.

Two telescopes in Hawaii and Chile spotted in the thick Venusian clouds the chemical signature of phosphine, a noxious gas that on Earth is only associated with life, according to a study in Monday’s journal Nature Astronomy.

Several outside experts — and the study authors themselves — agreed this is tantalizing but said it is far from the first proof of life on another planet. They said it doesn’t satisfy the “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” standard established by the late Carl Sagan, who speculated about the possibility of life in the clouds of Venus in 1967.

“It’s not a smoking gun,” said study co-author David Clements, an Imperial College of London astrophysicist. “It’s not even gunshot residue on the hands of your prime suspect, but there is a distinct whiff of cordite in the air which may be suggesting something.”

(13) VENUS IF YOU WILL. By an interesting coincidence, on a day when a paper has been released indicating the discovery of a biosignature in Venus’ atmosphere, James Davis Nicoll offers “Five Science Fiction Books Featuring Floating Habitats” a Tor.com.

Venus is so inconsiderate. It presents itself as a sister world, one that would seem at first glance to be very Earth-like, but… on closer examination it’s utterly hostile to life as we know it. Surface conditions would be extremely challenging for terrestrial life, what with the toxic atmosphere, crushing pressures, and blast-furnace-like temperatures.

That’s at the surface, however. Just fifty kilometers above the surface, there is a region with terrestrial pressures and temperatures, a veritable garden of Eden where an unprotected human would not be almost immediately incinerated but instead would expire painfully (in just a few minutes) due to the lack of free oxygen and the prevalence of toxic gases….

(14) STAR WARS MUSICS HELPS CELEBRATE MILESTONE. [Item by David Doering.] Nice to see the Tabernacle Choir chose Star Wars to celebrate their 110 years of recordings:

Legendary film composer John Williams wrote the music for each of the nine Star Wars saga films, spanning more than forty years from 1977 to 2019. For Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999), Williams composed “Duel of the Fates” for orchestra and chorus, accompanying a climactic lightsaber duel. The words are a fragment of an ancient Welsh poem that Williams had translated into Sanskrit—he then rearranged the syllables himself to make the text essentially meaningless, while still retaining a forceful chant-like power. He intended the choral singing itself to give the scene an explicitly religious feel, as if it were a ceremony of some kind. “Duel of the Fates” went on to become a defining musical feature of the prequel trilogy, a symbol of the saga’s broad focus on the cosmic struggle between darkness and light.

The choir music was also used to demonstrate the first stereophonic recording made back in 1940.

Oh, and BTW, while the media proudly announced that Vinyl records outsold CDs for the first time, this is on revenues, not on units. LPs are still quite a bit more expensive than CDs.

(15) GOING FOR THE JUGULAR, WITH A KICK TO THE GROIN. In a post for This Way To Texas, “Libertarians nominate Lou Antonelli for Congress”, Antonelli spotlighted the political battles he’s been waging.

…The Texas Supreme Court on Saturday, Sept. 5, rejected a Republican attempt to remove 44 Libertarians from the November ballot, according to the Texas Tribune.

Groups affiliated with both major parties have gone to court in recent weeks to remove from the ballot non-major-party candidates perceived to be a threat. In general, Libertarians are believed to peel votes away from Republicans, while the Green Party is thought to siphon votes from Democrats.

The GOP sued because the Libertarians didn’t pay their filing fees. But the state Supreme Court said Republicans missed the deadline to kick them off the ballot.

Antonelli, running in the 4th District, is one of the candidates the Republicans sought to block.

He’s trying to get Republican nominee Pat Fallon to join him in a public forum or debate, meantime trying to score off Fallon for not living in the district he wants to represent.

… Fallon lives in the Denton county portion of Prosper, an outer suburb of Dallas, which is just outside the 4th’s boundaries.

Even Wikipedia, the largest and most popular general reference work on the World Wide Web, notes Fallon’s position: “Fallon’s state senate district includes much of the eastern portion of the congressional district.”

However, regarding the 4th Congressional District, Wikipedia continues: “While candidates for the House are only required to live in the state they wish to represent, longstanding convention holds that they live either in or reasonably close to the district they wish to represent.”

The Libertarian Party candidate in the election, Antonelli said “A number of candidates who lost to Fallon in the district convention seem to feel his victory was due to arm-twisting by himself and Senator Ted Cruz, and they resent it and have told me so,”

“The residency requirement for the U.S. House is in the Constitution, so Fallon has done nothing illegal,” said Antonelli. “But Texas deserves congressional leaders who do better than just skirt the law.”

Antonelli is doing his best to leave no stone unthrown.

(16) THE UNSEEN HAND – AND EVERYTHING ELSE. The Cut introduces “The Designer Who Sent Ghost Models Down the Runway”.

While stuck inside during quarantine this past spring, designer Anifa Mvuemba began playing around with 3-D technology. Soon, an idea struck: What if she held a virtual fashion show in which her feminine, curve-friendly designs glided along on invisible models? She’d been working on her line Hanifa for eight years but had never held a runway show — maybe it was time.

On May 22, she premiered the collection, called Pink Label Congo, on Instagram Live. The digital runway show featured ghostlike 3-D figures strutting sinuously down the runway in the collection.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Using Cuts as a Visual Effect” on Vimeo, David F. Sandberg explains how cutting can be just as effective a way to produce special effects as more expensive CGI. WARNING: Many scenes from gory horror movies.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Contrarius, James Davis Nicoll, Scott Edelman, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, JJ, John Hertz, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 1/1/20 Old Pixel’s File Of Practical Scrolls

(1) AFTER QUARTER CENTURY, GOMOLL STEPS DOWN. The Otherwise Award announced yesterday: “Jeanne Gomoll Retires from Motherboard”.

Jeanne Gomoll, whose art, design, and organizing energy has propelled and sustained the Award for the last 25 years, is retiring from the Otherwise Motherboard at the end of 2019. The remaining members of the Motherboard are incredibly grateful for Jeanne’s tireless, brilliant work and look forward to celebrating her contributions at WisCon in 2020.

Jeanne writes:

Up until 1991 it felt to me as though the efforts of the Madison SF Group, Janus and Aurora fanzines, and WisCon, to encourage and celebrate feminist science fiction were largely restricted to a single place and to those who came to this place and attended WisCon. Indeed, by the late 1980s, it felt to me as if our efforts to foster feminist SF were increasingly being met with opposition and might possibly have been in danger of flickering out, as the backlash to feminism in general and feminist SF in specific gained strength. Pat Murphy’s 1991 announcement of the Tiptree Award thrilled me and gave me renewed strength. It was as if a small group of us, following a narrow, twisty path had merged with a much wider, well-traveled path. After the Tiptree Award began handing out annual awards and raising funds, and had sparked a massive juggernaut of community activism, I stopped worrying about the viability of the movement.

I will be forever grateful to the Tiptree Award and proud of my work on it. I chaired two Tiptree juries—one in 1993, which chose Nicola Griffith’s Ammonite as the winner; and the other in 2016, which presented the award to When the Moon Was Ours, by Anna-Marie McLemore. I served on the Motherboard for 25 years, 1994-2019, and worked behind-the-scenes on most of the auctions during those years, and as an artist creating logos, publications, and Tiptree merchandise. I will be forever grateful to the Motherboard for the work we did together and the friendships we created along the way. I am awed by and very proud of the community of writers and readers who supported and were nurtured by the award, even as they guided the award further along the path toward greater diversity and scope.

The Tiptree Award, and now the Otherwise Award will always have my heartfelt support. But it is time for me to step back and make space for a new generation of activists. I want to thank my fellow motherboard founding mothers and members, past and present—Karen Joy Fowler, Pat Murphy, Jeff Smith, Alexis Lothian, Sumana Harihareswara, Gretchen Treu, Debbie Notkin, Ellen Klages, Delia Sherman—for all they have done and for their friendship, which I will value forever.

(2) THIS IS HORROR. Public nominations are being accepted through January 8 for the This Is Horror Awards.

The public nominations are now open for the ninth annual This Is Horror Awards. This year we’ve retained all the categories from last year and added one more, ‘Cover Art of the year’. Here are the categories: Novel of the Year, Novella of the Year, Short Story Collection of the Year, Anthology of the Year, Fiction Magazine of the Year, Publisher of the Year, Fiction Podcast of the Year, Nonfiction Podcast of the Year, and Cover Art of the Year.

Readers can e-mail in their nominations for each category. Taking into consideration the nominations for each category This Is Horror will then draw up a shortlist.

We invite you to include one sentence as to why each nomination is award-worthy.

(3) DEEP STATE. Jason Sanford has been posting interviews he conducted with sff magazine editors in conjunction with his fantastic report #SFF2020: The State of Genre Magazines.

Jason: How much of an increase in your budget would be required to pay all editorial and publishing staff a living wage?

Scott: Estimating using a salary of $15/hour for the work our staff does, we would need a $45,000 increase in our annual budget to pay all staff a living wage.  That’s double what our annual budget is to pay for the stories we publish.  To cover that, our monthly donations through Patreon would have to increase by 7000%….

Jason: Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld has said some of the problems experienced by genre magazines come about because “we’ve devalued short fiction” through reader expectations that they shouldn’t have to pay for short stories. Do you agree with this? Any thoughts on how to change this situation?

LDL: …I think the issue is one of exhaustion on the part of volunteer staff and a strained supporter base. In my observation, the people who contribute to zine crowdfunds also contribute to crowdfunds for individuals in emergency situations. There are a lot of emergencies or people in general need, just within the SFF community and funds are finite. If you’re supporting your four favorite zines every year, donating to three medical funds, two Kickstarters, a moving fund, and also taking on costs associated with at least one fandom-related convention every year, it’s not sustainable for a lot of readers, especially the marginalized ones….

Jason: In addition to paying your writers, Asimov’s also pays all of your staff, something which is not common among many of today’s newer genre magazines. Is it possible to publish a magazine like Asimov’s without the support of a larger company, in this case Penny Publications?

Sheila: An anecdotal review of the American market doesn’t really bear that out. F&SF is published by a small company. Analog and Asimov’s are published by a larger (though not huge) publishing company. Being published by a larger company does have its advantages, though. While only one and a half people are dedicated to each of the genre magazines, we do benefit from a support staff of art, production, tech, contracts, web, advertising, circulation, and subsidiary rights departments. I’m probably leaving some people out of this list. While the support of this infrastructure cannot be underestimated, Asimov’s revenue covers our editorial salaries, and our production and editorial costs. We contribute to the company’s general overhead as well.

Jason: Strange Horizons also helped pioneer the idea that a genre magazine could be run as a nonprofit with assistance from a staff of volunteers. What are the pros and cons of this publishing model?

Vanessa: With volunteer staff, the con is simple: no pay. Generally, working for no pay privileges people who can afford to volunteer time, and devalues the work we do as editors. I’d like to think that at SH, we have partially balanced the former by making our staff so large and so international that no one need put in many hours, and folks can cover for you regardless of time zone. Despite having 50+ folks, we’re a close group. Our Slack is a social space, and we bring our worst and best days there for each other. Several members (including me) have volunteered right through periods of un- and underemployment because of the love of the zine and our community….

(4) NEBULA CONFERENCE EARLYBIRD RATE. The rate has been extended another week —

(5) MORE ON MILAN. The Guardian’s coverage of the RWA/Courtney Milan controversy, “A romance novelist spoke out about racism. An uproar ensued”, starts with the now-familiar origin story, then adds dimension with background history like this:

HelenKay Dimon, a past RWA president, previously told The Guardian that she regularly received letters from white RWA members expressing concern that “now nobody wants books by white Christian women”.

There is “a group of people who are white and who are privileged, who have always had 90% of everything available, and now all of a sudden, they have 80%. Instead of saying: ‘Ooh, look, I have 80%,’ they say: ‘Oh, I lost 10! Who do I blame for losing 10?’” Dimon said.

The tweets that sparked the ethics complaints against Milan, which were posted this August, were part of a broader conversation on romance Twitter about how individual racist beliefs held by gatekeepers within the publishing world have shaped the opportunities available to authors of color.

(6) ARRAKIS AGAIN. Just before the calendar clicked over to 1965, Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus forced himself to read the first installment of the Dune World sequel: “[December 31, 1964] Lost in the Desert (January 1965 Analog)”.  

The…next installment of Frank Herbert’s Dune World saga has been staring me in the face for weeks, ever since I bought the January 1965 issue of Analog. I found I really didn’t want to read more of it, having found the first installment dreary, though who am I to argue with all the Hugo voters?

And yet, as the days rolled on, I came up with every excuse not to read the magazine. I cleaned the house, stem to stern. I lost myself in this year’s Galactic Stars article. I did some deep research on 1964’s space probes.

But the bleak desert sands of Arrakis were unavoidable. So this week, I plunged headfirst into Campbell’s slick, hoping to make the trek to the end in fewer than two score years. Or at least before 1965. Join me; let’s see if we can make it.

(7) RINGS TWICE. Tor.com reprints “A Weapon With a Will of Its Own: How Tolkien Wrote the One Ring as a Character”, Megan N. Fontenot’s engrossing manuscript study about how Bilbo’s trinket became the key to the LOTR trilogy.

In September 1963, Tolkien drafted yet another of a number of letters responding to questions about Frodo’s “failure” at the Cracks of Doom. It’s easy to imagine that he was rather exasperated. Few, it seemed, had really understood the impossibility of Frodo’s situation in those last, crucial moments: “the pressure of the Ring would reach its maximum,” Tolkien explained; it was “impossible, I should have said, for any one to resist, certainly after long possession, months of increasing torment, and when starved and exhausted” (Letters 326). Even had someone of unmatched power, like Gandalf, claimed the Ring, there would have been no real victory, for “the Ring and all its works would have endured. It would have been the master in the end” (332).

It would have been the master.

From humble beginnings as a mere trinket bartered in a game of riddles (see the original Hobbit), the Ring grew in power and influence until it did indeed include all of Middle-earth in its simple band of gold. “One Ring to rule them all” wasn’t just meant to sound intimidating—it was hard truth. Even Sauron couldn’t escape the confines of its powers. It was his greatest weakness.

But how did the Ring become the thing around which the entirety of the Third Age revolved (Letters 157)?…

(8) JANUARY 2. Get ready – tomorrow is “National Science Fiction Day”. It must be legit – “National Science Fiction Day is recognized by the Hallmark Channel and the Scholastic Corporation.”

National Science Fiction Day promotes the celebration of science fiction as a genre, its creators, history, and various media, too. Recognized on January 2nd annually, millions of science fiction fans across the United States read and watch their favorites in science fiction. 

The date of the celebration commemorates the birth of famed science fiction writer Isaac Asimov.  An American author and Boston University professor of biochemistry, Isaac Asimov was born Isaak Yudovich Ozimov on January 2, 1920. He was best known for his works of science fiction and his popular science books.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 1, 2007 — The Sarah Jane Adventures premiered starring Elizabeth Sladen who had been in the pilot for K-9 and Company which the Beeb didn’t take to series. The program, which as you well know was a spin-off of Doctor Who, lasted five series and fifty-four episodes. It did not make the final Hugo ballot for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form in either 2007 or 2008. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 1, 1854 James George Frazer. Author of The Golden Bough, the pioneering if deeply flawed look at similarities among magical and religious beliefs globally.  He’s genre adjacent at a minimum, and his ideas have certainly been used by SFF writers a lot both affirming and (mostly) critiquing his ideas. (Died 1952.)
  • Born January 1, 1889 Seabury Quinn. Pulp writer now mostly remembered for his tales of Jules de Grandin, the occult detective, which were published in Weird Tales from the Thirties through the Fifties. (Died 1969.)
  • Born January 1, 1926 Zena Marshall. She’s Miss Taro in Dr. No, the very first Bond film. The Terrornauts in which she’s Sandy Lund would be her last film. (The Terrornauts is based off Murray Leinster‘s The Wailing Asteroid screenplay apparently by John Brunner.) She had one-offs in Danger Man, The Invisible Man and Ghost Squad. She played Giselle in Helter Skelter, a 1949 film where the Third Doctor, Jon Pertwee, played Charles the Second. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 1, 1933 Joe Orton. In his very brief writing career, there is but one SFF work, Head to Toe which the current publisher says “is a dream-vision allegory of a journey on the body of a great giant or ‘afreet’ (a figure from Arabic mythology) from head to toe and back, both on the body and in the body.” Like his other novels, it’s not available digitally.  (Died 1967.)
  • Born January 1, 1954 Midori Snyder, 66. I was most impressed with The Flight of Michael McBride, the Old West meets Irish myth novel of hers and hannah’s garden, a creepy tale of the fey and folk music. She won the Mythopoeic Award for The Innamorati which I’ve not read.  With Yolen, Snyder co-authored the novel Except the Queen which I do recommend. (Yolen is one of my dark chocolate recipients.) She’s seems to have been inactive for a decade now. Anyone know why?
  • Born January 1, 1957 Christopher Moore, 63. One early novel by him, Coyote Blue, is my favorite, but anything by him is always a weirdly entertaining read. I’m hearing good things about Noir, his newest work which I’m planning on listening to soon. Has anyone read it? 
  • Born January 1, 1971 Navin Chowdhry, 49. He’s Indra Ganesh in a Ninth Doctor story, “Aliens of London.“ I also found him playing Mr. Watson in Skellig, a film that sounds really interesting. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that he was Nodin Chavdri in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
  • Born January 1, 1976 Sean Wallace, 44. Anthologist, editor, and publisher known for his work on Prime Books and for co-editing three magazines, Clarkesworld Magazine which I love, The Dark which I’ve never encountered, and Fantasy Magazine which is another fav read  of mine. He has won a very, very impressive three Hugo Awards and two World Fantasy Awards. His People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction and Fantasy co-edited with Rachel Swirsky is highly recommended by me. He’s not well represented digitally speaking which surprised me. 
  • Born January 1, 1984 Amara Karan, 36. Though she’s Tita in an Eleventh Doctor story, “The God Complex”, she’s really here for being involved in a Stan Lee project. She was DS Suri Chohan in Stan Lee’s Lucky Man, a British crime drama series which is definitely SFF. Oh, and she shows up as Princess Shaista in “Cat Among Pigeons” episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot but even I would be hard put to call that even close to genre adjacent. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) DODGED THE BULLET. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] In an alternate universe, it seems that original director Harold Ramis would’ve made a very different Galaxy Quest. From ComicBookResources.com: Galaxy Quest: Tim Allen Equates Harold Ramis’ Version to Spaceballs”.

Before Dean Parisot signed on to direct Galaxy Quest, Harold Ramis was supposed to helm the movie, which was initially titled Captain Starshine. However, according to Tim Allen, if Ramis directed the film, it wouldn’t have just been titled differently — it would have looked quite different as well.

[…] “Katzenberg pitched me the idea of the commander character and then they started talking and it became clear that Ramis didn’t see me for the part,” Allen said. “It was pretty uncomfortable.”

[…] Interestingly, Sigourney Weaver also wouldn’t have gotten her role as Gwen DeMarco in Galaxy Quest if Ramis had directed the film, despite their relationship from Ghostbusters. “I had heard that Harold was directing a sci-fi movie but he didn’t want anyone who had done sci-fi in the film,” she said. “Frankly, it’s those of us who have done science fiction movies that know what is funny about the genre.”

(13) JUST CHUCK IT. Is this April 1 or January 1? Today Tor.com posted Leah Schnelbach’s “Excellent Writing Advice from Erotica Author Chuck Tingle”.

…I’ll start with this reddit AMA from a few years back, and an interview with Tingle on Nothing in the Rulebook. His answers reveal a consistent approach to the writing life that mirrored the habits of authors who are, possibly, even more well-known than our favorite erotica author.

Asked about a typical writing day, Tingle replies:

yes average day is getting up and having two BIG PLATES of spaghetti then washing them down with some chocolate milk then i get out of bed and meditate to be a healthy man. so when i am meditating i think ‘what kind of tingler would prove love today?’. if nothing comes then i will maybe trot around the house or go to the park or maybe walk to the coffee shop with my son jon before he goes to work. if i have a good idea i will just write and write until it is all done and then I will have son jon edit it and then post it online.

OK, so to translate this a bit out of Tingle-speak, we have a recommendation that you fuel your writing with carbs (and also an unlikely alliance with Haruki Murakami’s spaghetti-loving ways) with a bit of a boost of sugar….

(14) GREASED LIGHTNING. [Item by Daniel Dern.] From one of the CES 2020 press releases I got today…

Subject: [CES NEWS] Experience a Roomba-Like Device that Navigates the Home Charging ALL Devices

…I want to put an innovative device on your radar: RAGU, a Roomba-like robot that navigates the home charging ALL of your devices.

GuRu is the first company to crack the code on totally untethered, over-the-air charging.

Even discounting remote mal-hackers, this sounds like a recipe for either a droll TV episode, or Things Going Horribly Wrong. (Fires, fried gear, tased/defibrilated pets and sleeping people, etc.)

(15) MIXED BAG. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] I expect everybody will find something interesting or strange in the BBC’s “Alternative end-of-the-year awards”

Animal rescue of the year

Winner

Spare a thought for the poor fat rat of Bensheim, which became stuck in a German manhole in February. She was eventually freed, but not before passers-by took embarrassing photos of her plight. “She had a lot of winter flab,” one rescuer said, compounding the humiliation.

…Runner-up (2)

In this case, the animals were the rescuers rather than the rescued (sort of).

Anticipating the threat of wildfires later in the year, staff at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California hired a hungry herd of 500 goats to eat flammable scrub around the building in May.

And so, when fires did strike in October, the library was saved because of the fire break the goats had created by eating the flammable scrub. Nice one, goats.

(16) MAKING TRACKS. “SpaceX satellites spotted over Derbyshire” – BBC has photo and short video.

Stargazers across Derbyshire were startled when they saw what appeared to be a new “constellation” in the night sky.

The near-perfect line was in fact formed by the Starlink, satellites launched by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company earlier this year.

They were spotted across Derbyshire and the Peak District.

Tom Sparrow, an amateur photographer, said the satellites were “quite a spectacle”.

The Bradford University archaeology researcher caught the orbital pass by chance on a time-lapse video in the Peak District.

(17) BEYOND BINARY. The Hollywood Reporter’s Robyn Bahr, in “Critic’s Notebook: Baby Yoda, ‘The Dark Crystal’ and the Need for Puppetry in the Age of CGI “, cheers on non-digital effects.

As always, the existential wisdom of Werner Herzog prevails. “You are cowards,” the director castigated on set of The Mandalorian, upon realizing the producers intended to shoot some scenes without the Baby Yoda puppet in case they decided to go full CGI with the character. “Leave it.”

Herzog, who guest-starred on a few episodes of the Disney+ Star Wars spinoff series, was one of Baby Yoda’s earliest champions. And indeed, Baby Yoda — a colloquial epithet referring to the mysterious alien toddler merely known as “The Child” in the script — was designed for maximum neoteny. The gigantic saucer-like dilated eyes; the tiny button nose; a head that takes up nearly half his body mass; the hilariously oversized brown coat; the peach fuzzy hairs tufted around his head; and the pièce de résistance of his custardy little green face: that minuscule line of a mouth that could curve or stiffen in an instant and erupt a thousand ancient nurturing instincts in any viewer. (He’s the only thing my normally stoic husband has ever sincerely described as “cute.”) Heck, there may very well be a micro generation of Baby Yoda babies about eight months from now, thanks to this frog-nomming, lever-pulling, bone-broth-sipping little scamp.

And all because Jon Favreau and company finally recognized that rubber-and-fabric practical effects will almost always have a greater emotional impact than plasticky digital ones.

The recent success of The Mandalorian, thanks to the adorable face that launched a thousand memes, and Netflix’s fantasy-adventure epic The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, recently nominated for a WGA Award and a Critic’s Choice Award, prove that we still need puppetry and mechanical effects in the age of CGI….

(18) PERRY MASON. My fellow geezers may enjoy this quick quiz.

[Thanks to Jo Van Ekeren, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, Contrarius, Darrah Chavey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]