Pixel Scroll 6/21/22 The Upside Down

 [Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Daniel Dern, Cora Buhlert, 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 HGO.]

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers, Halo” the Screen Junkies say that Microsoft has been trying to develop Halo as a movie or TV series for 20 years (Ridley Scott and Neill Blomkamp were attached to the project so it’s a bad sign the show has landed at Paramount Plus. The show features three battle scenes in nine hours, one character who runs the only “libertarian paradise” with a churro stand, and “a girl with a backstory as tragic as her haircut.”  The narrator suggests that gamers may find more entertainment playing Halo than watching this plodding series.

(16) A HAMMER FILM. Gizmodo declares “Thor Love and Thunder Footage Is Pure Marvel Studios Excitement”.

This new featurette for Thor: Love and Thunder is more exciting than all of its trailers combined. Which is saying something: the trailers for Taika Waititi’s latest, starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, and Christian Bale, have been excellent. There’s just something about seeing all that footage cut with the actors and filmmaker gushing over it that gives a whole new level of energy….

(15) NAPTIME FOR VOYAGER. “NASA is starting to shut down the Voyager probes, which launched in 1977 and made it deeper into space than anything since”: Yahoo! has the story.

The epic interstellar journeys of NASA’s acclaimed Voyager probes are due to come to an end as the agency starts switching off their systems, Scientific American reported.

The probes launched 45 years ago, in 1977, and have pushed the boundaries of space exploration ever since. They’re farther away from Earth than any other man-made object, a record that will likely stay unbroken for decades.

The decision to reduce power on the probes is meant to extend their life span a few more years and take them to about 2030, Scientific American said….

…The instrument’s hardwired electronics have survived the test of time remarkably well, in spite of its age.

The primitive computers onboard the probes don’t require much power. All of the data collected by the instruments on Voyager is stored on an eight-track tape recorder and sent to earth using a machine that uses up about as much power as a refrigerator light bulb, Scientific American said.

They have “less memory than the key fob that opens your car door,” Spilker said.

(14) GLUE GUY. Joe Moe holds forth on “The Importance of Building Monster Models!” for Heritage Auctions.

…Amidst the deluxe monster masks, 8mm film reels, books, magazines, and other horror novelties, there lurked the coveted monster models. These cast-plastic, puzzle figures came in a cardboard box with a glorious full-color lid featuring a vivid image (painted by the brilliant James Bama) of your favorite movie monster, which we’d ultimately use as our paint master. Once newspapers were spread across the kitchen table, the tight-fitting lid would vibrate and practically hum as we pried it off the box bottom to reveal, first, the industrial perfume of fresh plastic. Next, we’d regard all the split, hollow pieces of our particular creature, suspended in a plastic spider’s web matrix of flashing that we would twist each model piece free of as carefully as you’d extract a loose, wiggling baby tooth. Once the pieces were laid out, we’d unfold the graphic instructions, which weren’t needed, but served to get you even more excited about the finished masterpiece you were about to assemble and paint. Unlike other collectibles you could buy, once you’d finished painting and detailing, your monster model would be a one-of-a-kind display piece – unique from anyone else’s…. 

(13) ONE TOKEN OVER THE LINE. Archie McPhee expects the people who like their catalog will want to play “Go Go Gargoyle! The Game”.

The Horrible Horseman has defeated the gargoyles that defended Crowning Castle and thrown everything into chaos. A new batch of baby gargoyles has been birthed from the fire demon to retake the castle and protect it from future attacks. These gargoyles have got to save the kingdom! This simple game takes you through a magical kingdom full of ghosts, cryptids and grumpy wizards. Includes a fantastic detail-filled game board, four 1-1/8″ tall gargoyle tokens and 54 standard-sized, 2-1/2″ x 3-1/2″ illustrated cards.

(12) BRITISH TV NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Gabriel Tate discusses “The Lazarus Project,” which premiered on Sky Max and NOW in Britain on June 16.

The series begins on July 1,with George (Paapa Essiedu) waking up to his partner, Sarah (Charly Clive).  Later that day, he secures funding for his start-up app.  In the months that follow, Sarah becomes pregnant and the couple marry before the escalating pandemic puts everything off-beam.  Then one day George wakes up and finds it is again that same July 1. Everyone else seems oblivious…

…The field of time-loop-based fiction is a crowded one, from Groundhog Day and Source Code to Looper, among others. Yet while its predecessors have used the premise as a technical exercise, an excuse for action-packed thrills or a vehicle for humour, an eight-episode run allows “The Lazarus Project” to delve more deeply into moral considerations.  What could be a slightly silly show with good gags and terrific stuntwork becomes something else, asking serious questions about a modern world that feels increasingly out of control.  Who wouldn’t want to take hold of the tiller?

(11)  THEY PUT THINGS IN OUR EARS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] As an sff fan you might be forgiven for thinking that NextSense was founded by a bunch of zombie Ferengis. They are, after all, obsessed with ears—but what they’re really interested in is brains. “This Startup Wants to Get in Your Ears and Watch Your Brain” at WIRED.

… For years, people have been shifting from tracking their health through sporadic visits to a doctor or lab to regularly monitoring their vitals themselves. The NextSense team is gambling that, with a gadget as familiar as an earbud, people will follow the same path with their brains. Then, with legions of folks wearing the buds for hours, days, and weeks on end, the company’s scientists hope they’ll amass an incredible data trove, in which they’ll uncover the hidden patterns of mental health.

For now, that’s the stuff of dreams. What’s real is that on one day in 2019, a patient tucked a bud into each ear, fell asleep, and proceeded to astound NextSense’s scientists—by churning out brain waves that showed exactly how this product could save a person’s life.

Jonathan Berent is the CEO of NextSense. On a recent evening, the 48-year-old was talking like a podcast at 1.5 speed while we waited for our entrées on the patio of an Italian restaurant in Mountain View, California. The subject of his filibuster was how he’d gotten into brain health. His obsession wasn’t ears or wellness; it was sleep….

(10) “EVERYTHING IS SEEN IN CHINA”. “US TikTok User Data Has Been Repeatedly Accessed From China, Leaked Audio Shows” reports BuzzFeed News.

For years, TikTok has responded to data privacy concerns by promising that information gathered about users in the United States is stored in the United States, rather than China, where ByteDance, the video platform’s parent company, is located. But according to leaked audio from more than 80 internal TikTok meetings, China-based employees of ByteDance have repeatedly accessed nonpublic data about US TikTok users — exactly the type of behavior that inspired former president Donald Trump to threaten to ban the app in the United States….

Adweek carried the corporation’s denial: “TikTok Looks to Counter Report That US User Data Was Repeatedly Accessed in China”.

…TikTok fired back, asserting that no user data was shared in China, but the Trump administration kept applying pressure. No action was taken during the remainder of his term, however.

Calamug stressed in his blog post that TikTok’s data center in Virginia “includes physical and logical safety controls such as gated entry points, firewalls and intrusion detection technologies,” adding that the Singapore data center served as a backup….

TechCrunch says the company is trying to restore confidence: “TikTok moves all US traffic to Oracle servers, amid new claims user data was accessed from China”.

TikTok said on Friday it is moving U.S. users’ data to Oracle servers stored in the United States. Overshadowing its migration announcement was a damning report that followed, claiming that TikTok staff in China had access to its U.S. users’ data as recently as this January.

The report from BuzzFeed News, which cites recordings from 80 TikTok internal meetings it obtained, claims that U.S. employees of TikTok repeatedly consulted with their colleagues in China to understand how U.S. user data flowed because they did not have the “permission or knowledge of how to access the data on their own.”

“Everything is seen in China,” the report said, quoting an unnamed member of TikTok’s Trust and Safety department as saying in a September 2021 meeting….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 21, 1969 — Christa Faust, 53. It does not appear that she’s written any original fiction save one novel with Poppy Z. Brite called Triads but she’s certainly had a lot of media tie-in work including novels set in the Final DestinationFriday the ThirteenthFringeGabriel HuntNightmare on Elm StreetSupernatural and Twilight Zone universes.  Did you know there’s an entire ecology of novels, fan fiction, a game, comics, even an encyclopedia guide, September’s Notebook — The Bishop Paradox made around Fringe? I hadn’t until I was researching her. One of the perks of doing this. 
  • Born June 21, 1965 — Steve Niles, 57. Writer best  known for works such as 30 Days of NightCriminal Macabre, Simon Dark and Batman: Gotham County Line. I’ve read his Criminal Macabre: The Complete Cal McDonald Stories and the graphic novel — great bit of horror! Sam Raimi adapted 30 Days of Night into a film. 
  • Born June 21, 1964 — David Morrissey, 58. His most well-known role is playing The Governor on The Walking Dead (which is a series that I’ve not seen and have no interest of seeing as I don’t do zombies) but I saw his brilliant performance as Jackson Lake, the man who believed he was The Doctor in “The Next Doctor”, a Tenth Doctor adventure which was an amazing story. He was also Theseus in Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Greek Myths, and played Tyador Borlú in the BBC adaption of China Mieville’s The City & The City. I’ll admit that I’m not at all ambivalent about seeing it as I’ve listened the novel at least a half dozen times and have my own mental image of what it should be. He has also shows up in Good Omens as Captain Vincent. 
  • Born June 21, 1957 — Berkeley Breathed, 65. ISFDB on the basis of a chapbook called Mars Needs Moms is willing to include him as genre but I’d argue that Bloom County which includes a talking penguin is explicitly genre as they are fantastic creatures. And he contributed three cartoons to the ConFederation program book.
  • Born June 21, 1952 — David J. Skal, 70. Vampires! He’s an academic expert on them and horror in general, so he’s got a number of items in his CV with his first being Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen. He followed that up with a more general work, The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror. And then he produced The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror which links horror films to what is going on in culture at that time, ie AIDS. His latest book was a biography of Bram Stoker, Something in the Blood.
  • Born June 21, 1947 — Michael Gross, 75. Ok I’ll admit that I’ve a fondness for the Tremors franchise in which he plays the extremely well armed and very paranoid graboid hunter Burt Gummer. Other than the Tremors franchise, he hasn’t done a lot of genre work as I see just an episode of The Outer Limits where he was Professor Stan Hurst in “Inconstant Moon” (based on the Niven story I assume) and voicing a  few Batman Beyond and Batman: The Animated Series characters.
  • Born June 21, 1940 — Mariette Hartley, 82. She’s remembered by us for the classic Trek episode “All Our Yesterdays”, though, as OGH noted in an earlier Scroll, probably best known to the public for her Polaroid commercials with James Garner. She also had a role as psychologist Dr. Carolyn Fields in “Married”, an episode of The Incredible Hulk. 
  • Born June 21, 1938 — Ron Ely, 84. Doc Savage in Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze, a film I saw a long time ago and remember little about. He was also, fittingly enough, Tarzan in that NBC late Sixties series. Somewhere Philip Jose Farmer is linking the two characters…  Other notable genre roles included being a retired Superman from an alternate reality in a two-part episode “The Road to Hell” of the Superboy series, and playing five different characters on the original Fantasy Island which may or may not be a record.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

1991 [By Cat Eldridge.] There are some films that I just like without reservation. One of these is The Rocketeer that premiered on this date thirty-one years ago. I’ve seen this one at least three or four times. It’s proof that the Disney can actually be creative unlike the Marvel films which have all the weakness of a franchise undertaking. (End of rant.) 

It was directed by Joe Johnston whose only previous genre film was Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and produced by a committee of Charles Gordon, Lawrence Gordon and Lloyd Levin. None had done anything that suggested they’d be up to this level of excellence. (Yes, my bias is showing.) The script was by Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo who did the most excellent Trancers. Bilson wrote the story along with Paul De Meo and William Dear.

Now the source material was the stellar Rocketeer graphic novel series that the late Dave Steven was responsible for. If you’ve not read it, why not? It’s a Meredith moment at the usual suspects at a mere six dollars.  

The cast of Bill Campbell, Alan Arkin, Jennifer Connelly, Paul Sorvino and Timothy Dalton was just damn perfect. And there wasn’t anything the film from the design of Rocketeer outfit itself to the creation of the Nazi Zeppelin which was a thirty-two-foot-long model that isn’t spot on. Cool, very cool. The visual effects were designed and done by George Lucas’ ILM. 

Disney being Disney never did actually release an actual production budget but Variety figured that it cost at least forty million, if not much more. It certainly didn’t make much as it only grossed forty seven million at the very best. 

So what did critics at the time think of this stellar film? Well, Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times liked it: “The movie lacks the wit and self-mocking irony of the Indiana Jones movies, and instead seems like a throwback to the simple-minded, clean-cut sensibility of a less complicated time.” And Pete Travers of the Rolling Stone was equally upbeat: “But then the film is awash in all kinds of surprises that are too juicy to reveal. The Rocketeer is more than one of the best films of the summer; it’s the kind of movie magic that we don’t see much anymore — the kind that charms us, rather than bullying us, into suspending disbelief.” 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give an excellent sixty-five rating. 

(7)  TODAY’S PHRASEOLOGY QUESTION. [Item by Daniel Dern.] From the subject line of a press release I just got: “Eleven Madison Park went vegan. Then chaos unfolded.”

This is not, I think, intended as an SFnal reference, so, not a nod to Joanna Russ (And Chaos Died), David Gerrold (The Man Who Folded Himself), etc.

A quick web search shows that, much to my surprise, “unfolding chaos,” “chaos unfolding,” etc. this is a relatively common phrase/image, everywhere from economic to political news coverage, not to mention a company name, a poetry anthology (and no doubt, although I did not check, a magic trick).

I guess my questions include:

  • “Did it start as folded chaos?”
  • “If so, who/how folded it?”
  • “Can unfolded chaos be folded back again?”
  • “Is unfolded chaos bigger than folded chaos?”
  • “What did somebody roll to get this?”

(6) THINKING DEEPER. “Robotics expert Robin Murphy explains why ‘Star Wars’ robots don’t reflect reality” at Space.com.

Space.com: What are your particular associations with “Star Wars” and early gateway into science fiction?

Murphy: For the first book I read that wasn’t like a McGuffey Reader or “See Dick and Jane” stuff, I had snuck in and got my dad’s copy of “The Green Hills of Earth” anthology, by Robert Heinlein. It was game on! I consider myself, to this day, a Heinlein babe. The first story in that book is “Delilah and the Space Rigger,” about a space station under construction. [G.] Brooks McNye, the female electrical engineer in the story, was mouthy and guys might push on her, but she just pushed right back and kept going. And that’s pretty much been my career.

I stood in line to see “Star Wars” the second week it was out back in 1977, when it became the phenomenon. Then, years later, I saw Kurosawa’s “The Hidden Fortress” and thought, “Ah-ha!” and realized all the similarities, especially with “Star Wars'” two sidekick droids….

Space.com: If you had the keys to the “Star Wars” kingdom, what would you change in its depiction of robots? Or does it not matter to audiences?

Murphy: I don’t think it matters for entertainment purposes. But there’s one thing that I think is really inconsistent that would be interesting to try and figure out. In “The Mandalorian,” the insect-looking droid, Zero, tells Mando that it decided to join a criminal gang. How did it decide that? How does that work? Because C-3PO and R2-D2 were owned, and they just decided that they’re suddenly not owned by people anymore. Then, you’ve got the whole thing with IG-11. He’s constantly threatening to self-destruct, which could potentially kill or maim innocent bystanders. 

That self-destruct sequence is hard-coded by the manufacturers to protect their intellectual property, but they’d be liable for all that collateral damage. If they looked a little more consistently about the rules of when can a droid be free, when can it be its own agent and who built it, that would help. What are the legal and ethical liabilities associated with them?

(5) STRANGER THINGS. Entertainment Weekly warns us: Stranger Things 4 trailer teases possible fatalities in two-part finale: ‘Your friends have lost'”.

Queue up the Kate Bush because things are not looking good for our pals in Hawkins.

The full-length trailer for Stranger Things season 4’s two-episode finale comes with a warning: “It might not work out for us this time.” That can’t be good.

Adding to the ominous vibe of the teaser is Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower). “It’s over. Now I just want you to watch,” he says. The psychic demo-creature then tells Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown): “Your friends have lost.”

It’s the penultimate season and Netflix split the last two episodes into their own Volume 2, releasing on July 1. Together they run nearly four hours, so basically they are two back-to-back Stranger Things movies. It’s clear the stakes are high. Might someone — or several someones — not make it out alive? (You know, for real this time.)…

(4) AMBITIOUS PROJECT. African sff writers will create “The Sauúti Fictional World: A Partnership Between Syllble and Brittle Paper “.

Once every generation, there are defining events that reshape the landscape of the speculative fiction literary realm, this time ten African science fiction and fantasy authors from five African nations have gathered over the past few months of this year to bring to life a new and intricate fictional world called Sauúti

Born out of a partnership between Syllble, a sci-fi and fantasy production house based in Los Angeles that produces fictional worlds, and Brittle Paper Magazine, The Sauúti Collective has produced a unique science-fantasy world for and by Africans and the African Diaspora. 

… It all began after Dr. Ainehi Edoro, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Brittle Paper, Wole Talabi, Nigerian author and Editor of Africanfuturism: An Anthology, and I met to discuss what this collaboration could look like and the importance of bringing African voices together. Wole, now a Syllble Brain Trust member, has been facilitating the collaborative sessions between these nine creative minds leading to the creation of the Sauúti Universe.

Sauúti is taken from the word “Sauti” which means “voice” in Swahili. This world is a five-planet system orbiting a binary star. This world is rooted deeply in a variety of African mythology, language, and culture. Sauúti weaves in an intricate magic system based on sound, oral traditions and music. It includes science-fiction elements of artificial intelligence and space flight, including both humanoid and non-humanoid creatures. Sauúti is filled with wonder, mystery and magic….

In addition to Wole Talabi, the members are Kalejaye Akintoba, Eugen Bacon, Stephen Embleton, Dare Segun Falowo, Adelehin Ijasan, Cheryl Ntumy, Ikechukwu Nwaogu, Xan van Rooyen, and Jude Umeh. Each participant does a Q&A as part of the announcement here.

(3) 1932: A VERY GOOD YEAR FOR HOWARD FANS. The Cromcast shares another recording of a Howard Days panel on REH in 1932, which was a landmark year for him (among other things, he created Conan): “Howard Days 2022 – Part 2 – Robert E. Howard in 1932!”

The panelists discuss the 90th Anniversaries of Conan, Worms of the Earth, the poem “Cimmeria” plus other notable REH events in 1932. Panelists include Rusty Burke, Patrice Louinet, Deuce Richardson, and Paul Sammon. The panel is moderated by Bobby Derie.

(2) PEN PINTER PRIZE. Malorie Blackman, author of the Noughts and Crosses dystopian YA series, has won the 2022 PEN Pinter Prize reports the Guardian.

Noughts & Crosses author Malorie Blackman has become the first children’s and YA writer to be awarded the PEN Pinter prize.

The prize is given by English PEN annually to a writer of “outstanding literary merit” who is based in the UK, Ireland or the Commonwealth. The recipient must also, in the words of Harold Pinter’s Nobel prize, cast an “unflinching, unswerving” gaze on the world and show a “fierce intellectual determination … to define the real truth of our lives and our societies”.

Blackman said she was “incredibly honoured” to get the award, and said she was sure she would not be the last children’s and YA author to win the prize, as many “fearless” authors were writing for young people and “tackling complex issues in an entertaining, informative, and understandable way”.

… Blackman will receive the Pinter prize in a ceremony in October, where she will deliver an address. The prize will be shared with an International Writer of Courage, who is active in defence of freedom of expression, often at great risk to their own safety and liberty. Blackman will choose that winner from a shortlist of international cases supported by English PEN. The author said she was grateful to be given the chance to pick the writer of courage. “Such authors who seek to write their truth in spite of often intractable opposition define the word courage,” she said….

(1) IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY, LETHEM THINKS IT’S TIME YOU MET HIM. “An Introduction to Stanislaw Lem, the Great Polish Sci-Fi Writer, by Jonathan Lethem” at Open Culture.

…Represented best in the pages of Astounding Stories and other sci-fi pulps, hard sci-fi “advertises consumer goods like personal robots and flying cars. It valorizes space travel that culminates in successful, if difficult, contact with the alien life assumed to be strewn throughout the galaxies.” The genre also became tied to “American exceptionalist ideology, technocratic triumphalism, manifest destiny” and “libertarian survivalist bullshit,” says Lethem.

Lem had no use for these attitudes. In his guise as a critic and reviewer he wrote, “the scientific ignorance of most American science-fiction writers was as inexplicable as the abominable literary quality of their output.” He admired the English H.G. Wells, comparing him to the inventor of chess, and American Philip K. Dick, whom he called a “visionary among charlatans.” But Lem hated most hard sci-fi, though he himself, says Lethem, was a hard sci-fi writer “with visionary gifts and inexhaustible diligence when it came to the task of extrapolation.”…

Pixel Scroll 6/1/22 The Ones Who Scroll Away From Pixelas

(1) BURKE TELLS MORE ABOUT HER BALTICON EXPERIENCE. Stephanie Burke has written a 2600-word comment on File 770’s “Balticon Chair Apologizes After Author Stephanie Burke Removed From Panels” post that goes into fuller detail about her experience. The link is here. In the last two paragraphs she says —

…It took me close to 20 years to build up my reputation there as a person who did her best to make sure everyone had representation, that willful ignorance would be avoided, to be someone who was safe for anyone to speak to, to offer info, links, and some perspective that may help them as well as learn how I can improv myself, and now it is gone here with no proof and no way to defend myself. All I got was the decision of the board still stands and I still don’t have an idea of what exactly I was supposed to have said. They told me they didn’t have the recordings in the room where ever panel was recorded so unless someone is lying about the recording, I’ll never get the chance to defend myself. Unless of course, the recording is found at the last moment but to me that sounds like looking for proof of guilt than proof of evidence of innocence.

One of the last things I told them and still remains true, was that closest feeling I could aquait with being walked out of that room like that was a time when I was a teen working at a summer camp when some woman claimed that I had stolen her wallet. I was marched out of the room like the cops knew I was guilty, the accusing eyes and twisted lips, only to be let back in a few moments later with the woman happily calling out that she just misplaced her wallet and just found it in her purse and everything was all good and okay now, right? The cops kind of shrugged at me and said okay and that was it but I went into the bathroom and threw up my lunch. This was the closest I had ever come to feeling like that and I never want to feel like that again. I know would feel it again if I walked into another Balticon event….

(2) FIRE DISPLACES SFF WORKSHOP. Taos Toolbox has moved to Albuquerque this year. Nancy Kress announced on Facebook.

Taos Toolbox is not going to be in Taos this year. The two-week intensive science-fiction writing workshop that Walter Jon Williams and I teach is usually held at the ski resort of Angel Fire, near Taos, New Mexico. However, the Calf Canyon/Hermit’s Peak wildfire is less than a dozen miles from Angel Fire and not yet close to being contained. Since it’s not good to incinerate workshop attendees, the workshop has moved to a hotel in Albuquerque….

Walter Jon Williams, the event’s founder, filled in the details on Facebook.

So quite a number of plans have gang agley in the last days, so I’ve been putting out fires— nearly literal fires.

Taos Toolbox, the master class for writers of science fiction and fantasy, starts this weekend, and has been held at the Angel Fire resort for the last decade or more. It’s a deluxe place in a beautiful mountain setting, and unless there’s a mountain bike rally or something, it’s not too crowded or noisy and we can concentrate on our work.

Except this year we have the Hermit’s Peak Fire, the largest wildfire in New Mexico history, over 300,000 acres and currently only 60% contained. It’s ten miles from Angel Fire, and when it gets a wind behind it, a fire can race along at 5 miles per day. Angel Fire has been at the “prepare to evacuate” stage for weeks now.

I mean, the pandemic wasn’t enough?

Now the fire is 60% contained, and the odds are Angel Fire would have been fine, but I couldn’t guarantee that. I couldn’t absolutely promise that Hermit’s Peak wouldn’t blaze up again, or that we wouldn’t have to evacuate 20 people to lodging unknown. So I moved the workshop to the Sonesta ES suite hotel in Albuquerque, which is quite luxe, offers free breakfast, and has a fine view of the semi trucks running past on the freeway….

(3) ROYALTY IN GENRE. The British Science Fiction Association anticipated Jubilee Weekend by launching this discussion topic:

Here are two of the many responses.

(4) THE GODFATHER. Craig Miller who created the Official Star Wars Fan Club for Lucasfilm told Facebook friends about his new nickname.

During the Star Wars Celebration panel “Fandom Through the Generations”, Dan Madsen – the founder of the Star Wars Celebration conventions and Star Wars Insider – called me “The Godfather of Star Wars Fandom”.

That actually felt a little weird. I suppose not entirely inaccurate. Part of my job was to take Star Wars to Fandom and to keep Lucasfilm of the mind that fans are important. But I’d never thought of it that way….

The post also contains a photo of the plaque and trophy Craig received this weekend when he was made an Honorary Member of the 501st Legion.

(5) SHOULD IT BE A PERMANENT HUGO? Trevor Quachri expands on a DisCon III panel discussion about the proposed Best Video Game Hugo in “The Play’s the Thing”, his editorial in the May/June Analog.

…So it seems straightforward: games, particularly of a “science fiction, fantasy, or related subject” bent (per the award description) deserve a permanent spot on the ballot, right?

Well, let’s hit the pause button for a moment.

Everyone on that games panel quickly stumbled over the same basic question: Given all of that background, what’s the primary criterion for judging the “best” game in a given year? And what makes the Hugo for Best Video Game different from any of the other already-existing game awards given out by fans, professional game designers, and the like? Is it a “writing in games” award? The Hugos may be primarily literary, but well-written games may not actually be the best games, taken on their own merits. (Chess, for example, isn’t a lesser game because the pieces don’t each have an elaborate backstory.)

And how do you explain what makes a good game to folks unfamiliar with them? Games are built from readily-understandable art to one degree or another—the graphics are art; the music is art; voice acting is acting, which is art; and yes, the stories in games are art—but the thing that makes games unique—the game part—isn’t so easily grasped….

(6) CORA BUHLERT. Camestros Felapton continues his series of why-you-should-vote-for each Best Fan Writer finalist with “Cora Buhlert: Hugo 2022 Fanwriter Finalist”.

Cora Buhlert is a prolific indie author, champion of independent publishing, blogger, pulp historian as well as a teacher and translator. Based in Germany, her sci-fi writing and reviews are primarily in English but she is also a tireless ambassador for science fiction from beyond the insular English speaking perspective on the genre.

(7) FROM THE START. Wole Talabi shared some “Preliminary Observations From An Incomplete History of African SFF” at the SFWA Blog.

When Did the History of Published African SFF Begin?

Tricky. And there is probably no right answer since publishing from early colonial Africa was problematic and it depends on what you define as SFF. I’ve arbitrarily limited my scope to works published between 1921 and 2021, even though I don’t have any entries from 1921. Why 100 years? To quote Geoff Ryman: Because it’s easy to remember. And the first entry in the database is Cameroonian Jean-Louis Njemba Medou’s Nnanga Kon, a novel published in 1932 in Bulu. I suppose that’s as good a point as any to start. However, that’s only one way to look at things. Another is to observe the rapid increase in published works that begins in 2011, peaks in 2016, and has somewhat stabilized since (although this could simply reflect my inability to keep up with documenting new works).

(8) COVID TRACKING. Balticon 56’s “Covid Reports” page lists five attendees who report they have tested positive.

This page will continue to be updated as COVID-19 positive tests are reported after the con. If you attended Balticon in person and have a positive test result before June 15th, please email covid@balticon.org.

(9) BACK FROM CONQUEST. Kij Johnson reports on a successful Ad Astra Center fundraiser in “Summer starts with a screeching sound, as of hot brakes making a hard turn.”

…Last weekend was a benefit auction for the Ad Astra Center, held at ConQuest, the KC SF convention, this was fantastic fun: we had a great team of six people, and ended up with more than 300 auction items, and made (we think) close to $3000, which is pretty extraordinary, considering this was a small con this year. (I also was on panels with Fonda Lee, Katherine Forrister, and other cool people.) Chris McKitterick and I had a chance to talk about what Ad Astra is looking forward to doing, and I am ever more excited by what’s going to be possible….

(10) SHALLOW ROOTS. Abigail Nussbaum says there’s a reason for the sense of sameness in the series’ second season in “Love, Death, Robots, but no Women” at Lawyers, Guns & Money.

…There have been thirty-five Love, Death + Robots episodes. Something like thirty of them are based on a previously-published short stories. Only one of those stories is by a woman. (Also, only one of those stories—not the same one—is by a person of color.) And frankly, that’s not only reprehensible in its own right, but it tells in the final product. There’s a certain laddishness to the stories the show chooses to tell, a disinterest in the inner life of anyone but manly, taciturn men. Bug hunt stories abound, and despite the show identifying itself as science fiction, there is no shortage of episodes that are just plain horror, whose appeal seems primarily to be watching a lot of people get torn to bits cinematically (“The Secret War” in season 1; “The Tall Grass”, season 2; “Bad Traveling”, season 3). Though some episodes have female protagonists, there are also a lot of stories where women exist to be ogled (“The Witness”, season 1) or fucked (“Beyond the Aquilla Rift”, season 1; “Snow in the Desert”, season 2).

I watched the recently-released third season over the last couple of evenings and was not impressed…. 

(11) STRANGER TV. In contrast, Nussbaum enthuses about “Stranger Things Season 4, Volume I” on her Tumblr.

Folks, I am somewhat flabbergasted to report that the fourth season of Stranger Things – a show that I would previously have described as “derivative fun, if you don’t think about it too hard” – is not only its best, but genuinely good TV. There are some caveats to this claim – the last two episodes haven’t been released yet, and the protracted episode runtimes (ranging from 63 to 98 minutes) are impossible to justify – though for the most part the show wears them pretty lightly. But even so, this sort of thing just doesn’t happen…. 

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1984 [By Cat Eldridge.] I still remember The Dune Encyclopedia fondly as it is an amazing creation. Published by Berkley thirty-eight years ago, it was written by Willis E. McNelly and forty-two other individuals not as a work of non-fiction but rather as an in-universe work. Everything in it was something that was supposed to actually be true. It was edited by Hadi Benotto, an archaeologist you’ll find in God Emperor of Dune and Heretics of Dune.

It was authorized by Herbert, who considered it canon, and went into detail such things as character biographies, looks at the worlds in that universe, a look at the spice melange, how such things as the stillsuits and the heighliners of the Spacing Guild function.

Herbert wrote the foreword to The Dune Encyclopedia and said: “Here is a rich background (and foreground) for the Dune Chronicles, including scholarly bypaths and amusing sidelights. Some of the contributions are sure to arouse controversy, based as they are on questionable sources … I must confess that I found it fascinating to re-enter here some of the sources on which the Chronicles are built. As the first ‘Dune fan’, I give this encyclopedia my delighted approval, although I hold my own counsel on some of the issues still to be explored as the Chronicles unfold.” 

Brian Herbert later, being the, well, I can’t use the word I want to use, declared everything here non-canon. That allowed him to write anything he wanted to in the novels he and Kevin J. Anderson have putting out by the armload. He even said his father never intended it to be canon.

If you’d like to purchase a copy today, it’ll cost you dearly, particularly in hardcover. A good copy is now running around two hundred and fifty dollars. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 1, 1926 Andy Griffith. His most notable SFF genre credit is as Harry Broderick on the late Seventies Salvage I which lasted for two short seasons. Actually that was it, other than a one-off on The Bionic Woman. It’s streaming for free on Crackle whatever the Frelling that is. (Died 2012.)
  • Born June 1, 1928 Janet Grahame Johnstone, and Anne Grahame Johnstone. British twin sisters who were children’s book illustrators best remembered for their prolific artwork and for illustrating Dodie Smith’s The Hundred and One Dalmatians. They were always more popular with the public than they were with the critics who consider them twee. (Janet died 1979. Anne died 1988.)
  • Born June 1, 1940 René Auberjonois. Odo on DS9. He’s shown up on a number of genre productions including Wonder WomanThe Outer LimitsNight GalleryThe Bionic WomanBatman Forever, King Kong, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered CountryEnterpriseStargate SG-1 and Warehouse 13He’s lent both his voice and likeness to gaming productions in recent years, and has done voice work for the animated Green Lantern and Justice League series. He directed eight episodes of DS9. And he wrote a lot of novels, none of which I’ve read. Has anyone here read any of them? (Died 2019.)
  • Born June 1, 1947 Jonathan Pryce, 75. I remember him best as the unnamed bureaucrat in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. He’s had a long career in genre works including Brazil, Something Wicked This Way Comes as Mr. Dark himself, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End as Governor Weatherby Swann, The Brothers Grimm, in the G.I. Joe films as the U.S. President and most recently in The Man Who Killed Don Quixote as Don Quixote. 
  • Born June 1, 1948 Powers Boothe. Though not genre, he played saloon owner Cy Tolliver on the Deadwood series, and “Curly Bill” Brocius in Tombstone, one of my favorite films. Now genre wise, he’s in the animated Superman: Brainiac Attacks voicing Lex Luthor, The Avengers as Gideon Malick, Gorilla Grodd and Red Tornado in Justice League and Justice League Unlimited and a recurring role as Gideon Malick in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series. (Died 2017.)
  • Born June 1, 1954 Michael P. Kube-McDowell, 68. A filker which gets major points in my book. And yes, I’m stalling while I try to remember what of his I’ve read. I’m reasonably sure I’ve read both of his Isaac Asimov’s Robot City novels, and now I can recall reading Alternities as well. God, it’s been at least twenty years since I read him which I thought odd, but then I noticed at ISFDB that he hasn’t published a novel in that long. 
  • Born June 1, 1966 David Dean Oberhelman. Another one who died far too young. Mike has an appreciation of him hereThe Intersection of Fantasy and Native America: From H.P. Lovecraft to Leslie Marmon Silko which he co-wrote with Amy H. Sturgis was published by The Mythopoeic Press. ISFDB lists just one genre essay by him, “From Iberian to Ibran and Catholic to Quintarian”, printed in Lois McMaster Bujold: Essays on a Modern Master of Science Fiction and Fantasy. (Died 2018.)
  • Born June 1, 1996 Tom Holland, 26. He’s known for playing Spider-Man in five films: Captain America: Civil WarSpider-Man: Homecoming, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, and the recently out Spider-Man: Far From Home

(14) IT’S GOT ISSUES. At The Verge, Alex Cranz says, “The merging of Comixology and Kindle has created a hell I’d like to escape”.

In February of this year, Amazon finally completed its consumption of the once independent app for downloading comics, Comixology. Amazon had acquired the app way back in 2013, and apart from removing the ability to buy comics directly from the app, it left it untouched for nearly a decade. But this year, Amazon changed things — incorporating Comixology’s digital marketplace directly into the Kindle ecosystem and totally redesigning the Comixology app. It has taken two distinct mediums — digital comics and digital books — and smashed them together into an unholy blob of content that is worse in every single way. Apparently, if you let one company acquire a near-monopoly in the digital books and comics spaces, it will do terrible things that make the experience worse….

…The new Comixology app is largely just… annoying. That’s the best word for it. Everything you need is still there, but the design isn’t really intuitive, and it can make a large collection of comics (I’ve been using Comixology since 2011) difficult to navigate. It feels sort of like when you go to the grocery store after they move aisles around. Everything is still there, but the change feels so dramatic after years of the familiar.

But where my local Food Bazaar will helpfully label the aisles, Comixology has not. There are no clear labels for useful built-in tools like its “Guided View,” which is designed to fluidly move you from panel to panel with a swipe instead of having each page take up the whole display. The Guided View is still there, but the clear explanation of what it is or how to use it is gone. You access it by double-tapping — which I only know because I was trying to access the menu to leave the book.

(15) CONFRONTING THE BLANK PAGE. Neil Clarke wrestles with the question of what he should be doing in his monthly Clarkesworld editorial: “Managing This Expectation”. He posits several ideas – here are two of them.

…Or perhaps, I’m filing a report of “criminal” acts? Earlier this week I was the victim of an ageist attack suggesting that I was “too old to be editing one of the leading science fiction magazines” and I should “get out of the way” so someone younger can do it. I’m only fifty-five, not the oldest editor I know, and not about to give up the magazine I started over one person’s disrespectful opinion on the matter. Their punishment is measured by the amount of time I continue to edit Clarkesworld.

Could be that it’s like being a referee, outlining how we’d like to see the game played? It’s perfectly fair to criticize or celebrate the finalists or winners of any award. Science fiction is a broad field with a variety of styles that might not appeal to everyone and the awards will reflect some of that. It’s only natural to be thrilled or disappointed when your favorite player wins, loses, or is benched. That said, we want a fair fight here. There should be no punching below the belt–criticizing or campaigning against based on anything other than the work they’ve done….

(16) FANTASY ART ON EXHIBIT. [Item by Bill.] The Hunter Museum of Art in Chattanooga, TN is holding this exhibition through September 5: “Enchanted: A History of Fantasy Illustration”.

For hundreds of years, artists have been inspired by the imaginative potential of fantasy. Unlike science fiction, which is based on fact, fantasy presents an impossible reality—a universe where dragons breathe fire, angels battle demons, and magicians weave spells. Enchanted offers a thoughtful appraisal of how artists from the early 20th century to the present have brought to life myths, fairy tales, and modern epics like Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. Featuring nearly 100 artworks, the exhibition explores Greek myths, Arthurian Legends, fairy tales, and modern superheroes.

The Hunter’s description of the event isn’t much, and a better one can be found here at the Norman Rockwell Museum, which organized the event.

There is an accompanying book available from Amazon and Bud’s Art Books.

If you can’t make it to Chattanooga, the exhibition is also travelling to Flint, MI and will be on display at the Flint Institute of Arts from September 24, 2022 – January 8, 2023.

(17) SOME CAN AND SOME CANTON. Camestros Felapton, in “Some Swiss news about far-right publisher Vox Day”, covers Vox Day’s announcement that he’s threatening to sue [Internet Archive link] the journalists who reported his purchase of a Swiss castle.

The journalists’ article includes this paragraph:

…On the internet, Vox Day summarizes the alt-right – to which he avoids being directly attached – as the defense of “the existence of the white man and the future of white children”. The blogger also confesses a certain admiration for Adolf Hitler. “National Socialism is not only human logic, it is also much more logical and true than communism, feminism or secular Zionism,” the Minnesota-born American writes on his blog. …

Vox always objects to being identified with Hitler and Nazis (see “Complaint About Term ‘Neo-Nazi’ Results in Foz Meadows Post Moving from Black Gate to Amazing Stories” from File 770 in 2016).

(18) YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE. JustWatch determined these were the “Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies and TV Shows in the US in May 2022”

Rank*MoviesTV shows
1Spider-Man: No Way HomeStar Trek: Strange New Worlds
2Sonic the Hedgehog 2Obi-Wan Kenobi
3MorbiusSeverance
4Ghostbusters: AfterlifeStranger Things
5MoonfallDoctor Who
6FirestarterMoon Knight
7Jurassic World: Fallen KingdomThe Man Who Fell to Earth
8Jurassic WorldThe Time Traveler’s Wife
9The BatmanHalo
10Sonic the HedgehogThe Twilight Zone

*Based on JustWatch popularity score. Genre data is sourced from themoviedb.org

(19) BAGEL POWER. Accented Cinema is prepared to tell you “The Hidden Meaning of Everything Everywhere All at Once”.

Here it is! My analysis of the metaphors hidden in Everything Everywhere At at Once. Did you know why Michelle Yeoh put a googly eye on herself? Let’s find out!

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodhunt,” Fandom Games says while earlier installments of this franchise “turned a bunch of nerds into enerds wearing eye shadow,” this installment is “the latest in the ‘kill people in a rapidly shrinking circle genre.”  The narrator thinks the game is boring and says, “call me when Bloodhunt has Ariana Grande and industrial dancing!”

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

Pixel Scroll 5/27/22 I’ll File You, My Pretty, And Your Pixel Scroll Too

(1) NEED TO RELOAD. There will be no TitanCon in Belfast this year announced co-chair Samuel Poots.

We’re very sorry to have to announce that Titan Con is cancelled this year.

I don’t need to tell you that the past few years have been enormously challenging for everyone and many of us are still processing our experiences. While finances are good, the humans and human resources needed to make Titan Con viable have been impacted.

In recent weeks, a number of committee members, including my co-chair, have had to step away due to personal reasons. I’m sorry to lose them, and am extremely grateful for their hard work, but understand it’s the best decision.

After taking stock of the situation with the committee and advisers, it’s clear we do not have the resources for this year’s already smaller con, and unfortunately have to cancel it. This was a very difficult decision and one the committee wished could be avoided, but there was simply no alternative.

A fresh start is called for.

We need to cancel, regroup, and consider our way forward carefully.

We’ll be recruiting some people to help us look at delivering a Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror convention with the best elements of our legacy events, while considering how to become sustainable going forward.

All current members will receive a full refund.

Thank you for your support and patience, and we hope to see you in the future to celebrate the wonderful media we are all fans of.

(2) MALIK Q&A. The Horror Writers Association Blog continues its “Asian Heritage in Horror” theme in an “Interview with Usman T. Malik”.

What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?

Don’t worry about pandering to western stereotypes or the market. Write your own darkness. Spill your own fears onto the page and the audience will follow.

(3) ABOUT THE BROKEN TRUST. Jake and Ron chat with author Juliette Wade about her projected five-book series, The Broken Trust on The Wrath of the iOtians podcast. (Also available on Spotify.)

Juliette Wade is a novelist … and after listening to this interview, you’ll understand why it’s a hard-earned and well-deserved title for this masterclass worldbuilder.

Her background is impressive. She is fluent in French and Japanese, has degrees in linguistics and anthropology, and also boasts a Ph.D. in education.

Juliette started writing fiction in 1999, and her short stories have been featured in Analog, Clarkesworld, and Fantasy & Science Fiction magazines. But she is perhaps best known for her projected five-volume Broken Trust series, whose latest volume, Inheritors of Power, was published earlier this year by DAW. Juliette’s specialty is sociological science-fiction, of which Broken Trust is one of our finest contemporary examples. Each stratum of Broken Trust’s complex caste system has its own vocation, ideals, manners, and culture, and naturally, they come into a devastating conflict. There’s a lot to discuss, so let’s dive in!

(4) JO FLETCHER NEWS. Publishers Lunch reports, “Publisher Jo Fletcher will leave the Quercus sci-fi, fantasy and horror imprint she founded 11 years ago on September 30. She will continue to edit some of her long-standing authors for the line.”

(5) WARNING LABEL. “’Stranger Things 4′ Warning Card Added Following School Shooting” reports Variety.

Netflix is adding a warning card to the “Stranger Things 4” premiere in light of the shooting on Tuesday at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, which left 21 people dead — including 19 children and two teachers.

The warning card, which will show up for viewers in the U.S. when the episodes launch on Friday, reads: “We filmed this season of ‘Stranger Things’ a year ago. But given the recent tragic shooting at a school in Texas, viewers may find the opening scene of episode 1 distressing. We are deeply saddened by this unspeakable violence, and our hearts go out to every family mourning a loved one.”

This warning will appear before the prior season recap that auto-plays at the beginning of “Stranger Things 4” Episode 1 for viewers in the U.S. only. Additionally, Netflix has also edited the description for the premiere to include the note, “Warning: Contains graphic violence involving children,” and added “disturbing images” to the show rating advisories….

(6) LIFT OFF. The New Yorker’s Neima Jahromi analyzes Disney World’s Starcruiser experience in “LARPing Goes to Disney World”.

In February, when it was cold and wet in New York, I rode a jitney under blue skies from the Orlando airport into Disney World. Before reaching the Magic Kingdom, the bus passed a range of gray crags perched on scaffolding—a sliver of Black Spire Outpost, which, in the “Star Wars” universe, is a settlement on a planet called Batuu. Nearby, the Millennium Falcon rested below a control tower built into the rock; Stormtrooper helmets were for sale at a sun-bleached military-surplus garage. Black Spire is also the destination of the Galactic Starcruiser, a spaceship that carries hundreds of interstellar tourists to and from the outpost, on what Disney calls an “immersive adventure.” The Starcruiser begins its journey floating in space, light-years from Batuu and Black Spire. In reality, the spacecraft is a massive brutalist building that sits beside a highway….

In one of the games —

In Calculations, written by Caro Murphy, a veteran larper with a side-swept cyberpunk haircut, Sinking Ship customers play a spaceship pilot delivering medicine to Mars, where colonists have been dying from an illness that causes “shortness of breath.” Murphy adapted the game from a nineteen-fifties sci-fi story by Tom Godwin.

(7) DIAL ‘M’ FOR MILKY WAY. No, E.T. should not be allowed to phone home. Vice looks at a scientific paper: “There Are 4 ‘Malicious Extraterrestrial Civilizations’ in Milky Way, Researcher Estimates”. The author, PhD student Alberto Caballero of Spain’s University of Vigo, readily admits he had to make a number of assumptions. Thus, it’s hard to put error boundaries on his conclusions. 

Stephen Hawking famously said sending messages from Earth into deep space could get human civilization destroyed: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”

Hawking’s words have often been used to discourage the practice of METI, which is Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence. But how many “malicious” alien civilizations are there? And what are the chances any message we sent into our own galaxy would be received by an evil alien civilization? There is precious little research on this topic, and very few scientists have even posited a guess.

new thought experiment attempts to at least venture a guess in hopes that other scientists will begin to take METI more seriously, and will try to determine how dangerous it actually is to try to contact alien civilizations.

According to this paper, which the author admits has “some limitations,” there are roughly four “malicious extraterrestrial civilizations” in the Milky Way, and we could likely send out 18,000 interstellar messages to different exoplanets in our galaxy and the probability of ensuring our own destruction would still be about the same as Earth being hit by a “global catastrophe asteroid.” 

(8) TWO SF ARTISTS REMEMBERED. “A Vision In Many Voices: The Art of Leo and Diane Dillon” at Unquiet Things.

It must have been fate. Born eleven days apart on opposite coasts, Leo and Diane met, competed artistically, and eventually fell in love while attending Parsons School of Design, each aspiring to a life of art. After their marriage in 1957, the artists initially pursued separate careers in illustration before recognizing their strengths were collaborative in nature. In an effort to work in a particular style that they both could master, they symbiotically and seamlessly melded their personalities and styles, employing pastels, colored pencil, watercolor, acrylic, stencils, typography, woodcut, pochoir, found-object assemblage, collage, and sculpture into an entity/partnership that they came to refer to as “the artist.”

Noted Leo on the gorgeously striking complexity of their distinctive decorative realism and unconventional techniques: “People often comment on the ‘Dillon style.’ I think that someplace, the two of us made a pact with each other. We both decided that we would give up the essence of ourselves, that part that made the art each of us did our own. And I think that in doing that we opened the door to everything.”…

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1998 [By Cat Eldridge.] Warning: there are lots of SPOILERS here. Go away now if you’ve not watched Babylon 5. Really I do mean it! 

Twenty-four years ago in the last season of Babylon 5, the “Meditations on the Abyss” episode aired. It has three story lines: a mission to the edge of Centauri space, Lennier both teaches and learns; John Sheridan struggles to keep the Interstellar Alliance together; a Drazi agents plant a bug in Londo Mollari’s quarters and faces the wrath of Vir Cotto which happens after Londo Mollari tells Vir Cotto he will have to be more careful if he wishes to be worthy of his new job as Centauri Ambassador to Babylon 5. 

Vir fascinates me. This episode, like so many involving him, upends the apparent light hearted nature of the character and show him to be something much more complex, more dangerous but good for the Empire in fact than Londo is as Londo has no sense of community and Vir does. Vir cares about the Centauri people in a way Londo doesn’t.

“I’d like to live just long enough to be there when they cut off your head and stick it on a pike, as a warning to the next ten generations that some favors come with too high a price. I want to look up into your lifeless eyes and wave like this.” – Vir telling Mr Morden what he wants.

And he gets to do just that. Wasn’t that absolutely thrilling to see Vir looking up at the head of Mr Morden on a stake in the capital city of a devastated Centauri Prime and waving at it? 

And he will become the Emperor of an Empire almost completely shattered after Londo is strangled by the blind G’Kar.  It not known how the Empire fares under him but it has to be better than it did under under previous Emperors. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 27, 1894 Dashiell Hammett. Yes, I know he’s written some genre fiction but I’m interested this time in his mysteries. He wrote The Maltese Falcon which was turned into the film you remember and another film a decade earlier. And of course there are Nick and Nora Charles in The Thin Man series that got turned in a six film series. Now my favorite character by him is the Continental Op in Red Harvest and The Dain Curse. And let’s not forget the Secret Agent X-9 comic strip which I think is genre, which artist Alex Raymond of Flash Gordon fame illustrated. (Died 1961.)
  • Born May 27, 1911 Vincent Price. Ok, what’s popping into my head is him on The Muppets in “House of Horrors” sketch they did in which he and Kermit sport impressive fangs. If I had to single out his best work, it’d be in such films as House on Haunted HillHouse of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum. Yes, I know the latter two are Roger Corman productions.  He also did a lot of series work including being Egghead on Batman, appearing in the Fifties Science Fiction Theater, having a recurring role as Jason Winters on the Time Express and so forth. (Died 1993.)
  • Born May 27, 1922 Christopher Lee. He first became famous for his role as Count Dracula in a series of Hammer Horror films.  His other film roles include The Creature in The Curse of Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, Kharis the Mummy in The Mummy, Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun, Lord Summerisle In The Wicker Man, Saruman in The Lord of the Rings films and The Hobbit film trilogy, and Count Dooku in the second and third films of the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Now interestingly enough, ISFDB lists him as being the co-editor in the Seventies with Michael Parry with a number of horror anthologies such as Christopher Lee’s ‘X’ Certificate No. 1From the Archives of Evil and The Great Villains. (Died 2015.)
  • Born May 27, 1929 Burnett Toskey, 93. A Seattle fan who was a member of the Nameless Ones and served them in various offices from the early Fifties to the mid Sixties. He was also the official editor of Spectator Amateur Press Society. His work on Cry of the Nameless won the Best Fanzine Hugo at Pitcon, a honor he shared with  F. M. Busby, Elinor Busby and Wally Weber. 
  • Born May 27, 1934 Harlan Ellison. Setting aside the “The City on the Edge of Forever” episode”, I think I best remember him for the two Dangerous Vision anthologies which were amazing reading.  His awards are far, far too numerous to recount here so I’ll need to do an essay on them. His Hugos alone are legion and that’s hardly all of the awards that he was honored with.  (Died 2018.)
  • Born May 27, 1935 Lee Meriwether, 87. Catwoman on Batman. (And if you have to ask which Batman, you’re in the wrong conversation.) Also she had a turn as a rather sexy Lily Munster on The Munsters Today. And of course she had a co-starring role as Dr. Ann MacGregor on The Time Tunnel as well. And yes, I know I’m not touching upon her many other genre roles including her Trek appearance as I know you will. 
  • Born May 27, 1951 Stepan Chapman. He wrote but one novel, The Trioka, a most excellent steampunk affair that won that the Philip K. Dick Award. He’s written a lot of short fiction, some of it collected in Danger Music and DossierThe Trioka is available for a reasonable price at the usual suspects. (Died 2014.)
  • Born May 27, 1967 Eddie McClintock, 55. Best known no doubt as Secret Service agent Pete Lattimer on Warehouse 13, a series I loved. He’s also in Warehouse 13: Of Monsters and Men which is listed separately and has the plot of ‘the Warehouse 13 operatives uncover a mysterious comic book artifact and must work together to free themselves from its power.’ He’s had one-off appearances in Witches of East EndAgents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Supergirl, but no other major genre roles to date.  

(11) HORSING AROUND WITH SHATNER. Tomorrow, May 28, the Hollywood Charity Horse Show is offering “An Evening with William Shatner”. One ticket is $400. Or buy a table for 10 and only pay – eh, $4,000.

6:00pm – 7:00pm Dinner.  During Dinner, Mr. Shatner will go around to each table and take a group shot  (Due to Covid restrictions individual photos are not possible.)

7:00pm – 8:00pm Mr. Shatner will  tell stories and answer your questions

(12) SCENES OF HORROR. Cora Buhlert has a new article up at Galactic Journey about a forgotten tragedy: “[May 26, 1967] Flames over Brussels: The À l’Innovation Department Store Fire”.

…The last time I was in Brussel in April, I stopped at the Standaard Boekhandel book shop directly across the street from À l’Innovation to pick up the latest comics. The venerable weekly comics magazine Tintin has launched a slew of new strips to keep up with the competition of Spirou and particularly the French comics magazine Pilote….

(13) BOOK REVIEW. Cora Buhlert also appears in The Dark Man: Journal of Robert E. Howard and Pulp Studies (12.2) with a review of The Weird Tales Story: Enhanced and Expanded by Robert Weinberg et al. The publication is a peer-reviewed scholarly journal devoted to the academic study of Howard’s literary works as well as the literary historical and print culture contexts associated with it. 

(14) DOZOIS AND ADLER TRANSCRIPT. The Eaton Collection shares a bit of history.

(15) AT THE HELM. Gizmodo asks the show creator about those odious comparisons: “Seth MacFarlane Interview: The Orville Versus Star Trek”.

…“I think it’s safe to say that we’re still occupying our own space this year,” MacFarlane told io9 over video chat at a recent Orville press event. “Certainly, the more that’s out there, you do start to become a little concerned that, you know, is it oversaturation? Is there a pocket where our show and only our show exists? And I think that is still very much the case.”

Not wanting to spoil what’s in store, MacFarlane didn’t get too into detail about what specifically sets The Orville apart from Star Trek this season. In more general terms, “It’s this genre that emerged in the 1930s of a ship in space, captained and crewed very much the same way that a sailing ship was,” he said. “It’s something that dates back a lot of decades. Star Trek was really the first to take it and turn it into something that really mattered and was a serious form of storytelling. You know, for us… sci-fi right now is very dark. It’s very dystopian. It’s very grim in a lot of ways. It’s very cautionary. And the optimistic, uplifting part of that genre is something we haven’t really seen in a while. So there was a pretty obvious open pocket for us to kind of slip into when we started. How we fit in now is—it’s really up to the audience, I think—what we’re bringing to the table in tone, in structure, in scope is in a class of its own. But that remains [to be seen], because the verdict [on season three] has not come in yet.”…

(16) GIVE A DOG A BAD NAME. James Davis Nicoll is happy to help.

(17) WE ARE NASA. People sent me links to this 3-year-old NASA video which has been the subject of several posts this week. Take a look.

We’ve taken giant leaps and left our mark in the heavens. Now we’re building the next chapter, returning to the Moon to stay, and preparing to go beyond. We are NASA – and after 60 years, we’re just getting started. Special thanks to Mike Rowe for the voiceover work.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers:  Evil Dead:  The Game,” Fandom Games says this move tie-in “fulfills a need you never knew you had: fighting with four Bruce Campbells.” The narrator suggests that someone convince Lucy Lawless to appear in a game with her Xena armor, “a move that would cause a majority of gamers to regress into puberty.”

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

Pixel Scroll 5/24/22 Gonna Scroll Them Pixels

(1) FAHRENHEIT – NEVER MIND. The Associated Press reports: “Burn-proof edition of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ up for auction”.

Margaret Atwood has imagined apocalyptic disaster, Dystopian government and an author faking her own death. But until recently she had spared herself the nightmare of trying to burn one of her own books.

With a flamethrower, no less.

She failed, and that was the point.

On Monday night, timed for PEN America’s annual gala, Atwood and Penguin Random House announced that a one-off, unburnable edition of “The Handmaid’s Tale” would be auctioned through Sotheby’s New York. They launched the initiative with a brief video that shows Atwood attempting in vain to incinerate her classic novel about a totalitarian patriarchy, the Republic of Gilead. Proceeds will be donated to PEN, which advocates for free expression around the world…

…The Gas Company’s principal owner, Doug Laxdal, told the AP that instead of paper, he and his colleagues used Cinefoil, a specially treated aluminum product. The 384-page text, which can be read like an ordinary novel, took more than two months to complete. The Gas Company needed days just to print out the manuscript; the Cinefoil sheets were so thin that some would fall through cracks in the printer and become damaged beyond repair. The manuscript was then sewed together by hand, using nickel copper wire….

(2) THE NEXT UNICORN. “Peter S. Beagle Returns to the World of The Last Unicorn With The Way Home reports Molly Templeton at Tor.com.

…The Way Home, according to a press release, “continues the story of beloved characters unicorn, Molly Grue, and Schmendrick the Magician from the point of view of a young girl named Sooz.” The two works included in the collection are Two Hearts, which won the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novelette in 2006, and Sooz, which has not been previously published. It’s described as “a lyrical story of childhood left behind, dedicated to the love of Beagle’s life, who passed away before it could be published.”

The new edition of The Last Unicorn will be available in July; The Way Home publishes in spring 2023.

(3) THE LONG AND WINDING FILM. “‘Stranger Things’ Is Back, and the Duffer Brothers Made It Big” – and the New York Times knows just how big.

…During the two days I observed them, the Duffers, who continue to direct, write and oversee “Stranger Things,” had enough on their plates just getting things manageable. The pandemic had already caused significant delays, and the new season is five hours longer than any previous one. That was the main reason they had decided to release it in two chunks, Ross said. There was just so much material to get through. Demogorgons needed animating. Run times needed tightening.

“How long is the episode right now?” Ross asked their editor Dean Zimmerman about the episode on the screen. Zimmerman glanced my way.

“You want me to say it out loud?” he asked.

“Yeah.”

“Two and a half hours.”

With episodes like short movies (three of the first four are 75 minutes or more), one might worry that the Duffers have succumbed to excess. For now, they seem content to let the fans decide; Netflix has proved willing to support their expanding vision. Meanwhile, the tone is decidedly shifting this season (think “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Hellraiser”), and its young cast has been shaving for at least a few years. (Want to feel old? Caleb McLaughlin and Sadie Sink are 20.) Plenty can change in three years, including viewer attention. Will fans still flock to “Stranger Things”?

(4) TOMORROW THROUGH THE PAST. Jeff VanderMeer needs no predictive powers to speak about “The Annihilation of Florida: An Overlooked National Tragedy” in Current Affairs.

…In his 1944 book That Vanishing Eden: A Naturalist’s Florida, Thomas Barbour bemoaned the environmental damage caused by development to the Miami area and wrote, “Florida … must cease to be purely a region to be exploited and flung aside, having been sucked dry, or a recreation area visited by people who …  feel no sense of responsibility and have no desire to aid and improve the land.”

Even then, a dark vision of Florida’s future was clear.

Most of this harm has been inflicted in the service of unlimited and poorly planned growth, sparked by greed and short-term profit. This murder of the natural world has accelerated in the last decade to depths unheard of. The process has been deliberate, often systemic, and conducted from on-high to down-low, with special interests flooding the state with dark money, given to both state and local politicians in support of projects that bear no relationship to best management of natural resources. These projects typically reinforce income inequality and divert attention and money away from traditionally disadvantaged communities.1

Consider this: several football fields-worth of forest and other valuable habitat is cleared per day2 in Florida, with 26 percent of our canopy cut down in the past twenty years.  According to one study, an average of 25 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation worldwide.

The ecocide happening here is comparable for our size to the destruction of the Amazon, but much less remarked upon. Few of the perpetrators understand how they hurt the quality of life for people living in Florida and hamstring any possibility of climate crisis resiliency. Prodevelopment flacks like to pull out the estimates of the millions who will continue to flock to Florida by 2030 or 2040 to justify rampant development. Even some Florida economists ignore the effects of the climate crisis in their projects for 2049, expecting continued economic growth. but these estimates are just a grim joke, and some of those regurgitating them know that. By 2050, the world likely will be grappling with the fallout from 1.5- to 2-degree temperature rise and it’s unlikely people will be flocking to a state quickly dissolving around all of its edges….

(5) WALDEN WITH AN ELECTRIC SOCKET. And if you need cheering up after that last excerpt – surprisingly, Kim Stanley Robinson is the one about to help you out. “Q&A with Sci-Fi Author Kim Stanley Robinson” in Sactown Magzine.

I hear birds singing in the background. Where are you right now?

I’m outside. My office is my front courtyard on the north side of the house. I’ve got a tarp slung up so that I can be in the shade all the time and see my laptop screen. I also work outside in the rain. I’ve got a waterproof power cord and it powers the laptop and sometimes a little heating pad like you use for your lower back that I throw over my feet. I work all the days of the year out here. In the cold, I wear my winter backpacking gear, including a down hood and [fingerless] wool gloves. I feel like I’m on a little backpacking trip.

My work life has turned into an outdoor adventure. I did this about 15-20 years ago, and it was a great move. I thought I was burning out on writing, but what I was really burning out on was staying indoors all day. When I moved out to this courtyard, the first day that it rained and I slung a tarp up, that was it for me. I have never written a single word of my novels indoors since. I’m looking at white-crowned sparrows now. That’s probably what you’re hearing. And the scrub jays, these are my office mates. I’ve got a couple bird feeders around in this courtyard, and because I’m just sitting here for hours every day, I’m just part of the landscape as far as they’re concerned. I’ve had a scrub jay land on my boot at the end of my footstool and just stare at me like, “Are you alive or dead?”

(6) ACTIVISM. “Workers at an Activision studio vote to unionize, a first for the gaming industry.” The New York Times has the details.

A group of workers at a video game studio that is part of Activision Blizzard has voted to form a union, a first for a major North American video game company.

The vote, which passed 19 to 3, affects 28 quality-assurance employees at Raven Software, the Wisconsin studio that helps to develop the popular Call of Duty game. The workers voted over the past several weeks, and the results were tallied by the National Labor Relations Board on Monday. Activision has one week to formally object if it finds grounds for complaint.

The new union, the Game Workers Alliance, is the culmination of months of labor organizing at Activision, which has faced increasing pressure from employees to improve working conditions after a lawsuit accused the company of having a sexist culture in which women were routinely harassed.

Organizing at Raven in particular increased in intensity in December, when quality-assurance, or Q.A., workers walked out to protest the ending of about a dozen workers’ contracts. The Communications Workers of America, a prominent tech, media and communications union, helped lead the unionization effort….

(7) BRING THE HAMMER.  The trailer for Marvel Studios’ Thor: Love and Thunder dropped today.

“Let me tell you the story of the space viking, Thor Odinson…”

(8) HE MORPHED THOSE CHECKS. The New York Times tells why “A former ‘Power Rangers’ actor is charged with helping steal millions in Covid relief funds.”

The actor who led a team of teenage superheroes on “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” has been accused of helping steal millions of dollars from the government’s Paycheck Protection Program pandemic relief fund.

Jason Lawrence Geiger, 47, who played the Red Ranger under the stage name Austin St. John, and 17 others were charged with fraud this week in a Texas federal court over what prosecutors described as a conspiracy to illicitly obtain $3.5 million in P.P.P. loans.

Mr. Geiger and the others he is said to have worked in coordination with used a mix of genuine and sham businesses to obtain loans from the relief program, prosecutors said. According to court filings, they fabricated documents and made false claims about sales and payroll to obtain inflated loans, then spent the cash on jewelry, precious metals and cars.

Mr. Geiger received a loan of $225,754 in June 2020 for his company St. John Enterprises, which sells Power Rangers memorabilia, such as $60 autographed photos and $100 personalized video messages. Instead of using the money to pay workers — the relief program’s intended purpose — Mr. Geiger funneled most of the money to two of his co-defendants, prosecutors said in court filings….

(9) DENIS MEIKLE (1947-2022). In the Guardian, Jasper Sharp pays tribute to his late friend, film historian Denis Meikle.

…In 1996 Denis’s first book, A History of Horrors: The Rise and Fall of the House of Hammer, was published, after almost six years of writing and intensive research during which time he developed a close friendship with Michael Carreras, the head of the studio in its later years. It is considered the definitive history of Hammer Films.

This was followed by Jack the Ripper: The Murders and the Movies (2001), Vincent Price: The Art of Fear (2003), Johnny Depp: A Kind of Illusion (2004), The Ring Companion (2005) and Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out (2006).

With Jane, in 2007 he founded Hemlock Books, specialising in non-fiction publications on film, horror, mystery and the macabre and actor and director biographies, through which he edited and published the journals The Fantastic Fifties, The Sensational Sixties and The Age of Thrills (1930s and 40s), and published his final work, Mr Murder: The Life and Times of Tod Slaughter (2019), jointly researched with Kip Xool and Doug Young.

This recent Tod Slaughter biography encapsulates Denis’s approach to film writing perfectly: scholarly, fact-driven and intensively researched without being dry, and writerly and critical without thrusting his role as the writer to the fore….

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1964 [By Cat Eldridge.] This is the month that saw the publication of John D. MacDonald’s The Deep Blue Good-by, the first of the Travis McGee novels. (Warning: there’s nothing genre or genre adjacent here. So go away if that’s what you were expecting.) In my opinion, the Travis McGee novels are among the finest mystery series ever done.

I’m listening to them now because Audible dropped the price way, way down on each work. And it’s been at least twenty years since I read them all. So it’s an excellent time to re-experience them. The narrator, Robert Perkoff, is quite excellent, capturing the first person voice of Travis as well as I expect him to. 

This novel was only accepted by in 1964 by Fawcett Publications editor Knox Burger after MacDonald says in a later interview with Ed Gorman: “At the request of Knox Burger, then at Fawcett, I attempted a series character. I took three shots at it to get one book with a character I could stay with. That was in 1964. Once I had the first McGee book, The Deep Blue Good-by, they held it up until I had finished two more, Nightmare in Pink and A Purple Place for Dying, then released one a month for three months. That launched the series.” 

McGee is of an uncertain background, he’s ex-military, but that may be the Korean War or it might be just out of the very early Vietnam War, as MacDonald hints at both. He is a big man and knows how to fight, has a temper, but controls it.  He won the Busted Flush, his house boat, in a card game. Was it a honest game? Who knows? 

The novels really should be read in the order written as both McGee and the America that he’s part of change in a very chronological fashion. Travis has definite strong political opinions and I won’t say I always agree with them, but that’s the character. And no, I won’t say that this character is altogether pleasant as he isn’t as in this novel and in every novel in the series, he will do things that make me cringe. 

If you haven’t read The Deep Blue Good-by, go ahead and read it — if you like it, you’ll like the whole series. The Deep Blue Good-by is reasonably price at the usual suspects for six dollars.

A film version of The Deep Blue Good-by, directed by Oliver Stone, was optioned a decade ago. Christian Bale who is six feet tall to Travis McGee’s stated six feet four was going to the lead. The film was never developed. There’s one film based off a later novel in this series, Darker Than Amber starring Rod Taylor, and one, Travis McGee: The Empty Copper Sea that starred Sam Elliott but which moved McGee to sunny California. McDonald vetoed a television series in the Sixties on the grounds that if it was popular no one would read his novels. 

See? Not a single spoiler! 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 24, 1925 Carmine Infantino. Comics artist and editor, mostly for DC Comics, during the late 1950s known as the Silver Age of Comics. He created the Silver Age version of the Flash (with writer Robert Kanigher), Deadman with writer Arnold Drake and the Elongated Man (with John Broome). He also introduced Barbara Gordon as a new version of Batgirl. Infantino wrote or contributed to two books about his life and career: The Amazing World of Carmine Infantino (Vanguard Productions and Carmine Infantino: Penciler, Publisher, Provocateur. (Died 2013.)
  • Born May 24, 1945 Graham Williams. He produced three seasons of Doctor Who during Tom Baker’s era as the Fourth Doctor. He’d write a novelization of his story, The Nightmare Fair, developed as a Sixth Doctor story but never filmed when Colin Baker’s contract was terminated. He would die at home of an accidental gunshot wound. (Died 1990.)
  • Born May 24, 1952 Sybil Danning, 70. Her rise to fame began with her role in Roger Corman’s space opera cult classic, Battle Beyond the Stars which he billed as his Star Wars. (No kidding.) She went on to star in HerculesHowling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf (which bears the charming alternative title of Howling II: Stirba – Werewolf Bitch), a faux trailer directed by Rob Zombie titled Werewolf Women of the SS for Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse (I couldn’t make this stuff up!), the Halloween remake and finally she as in a horror film called Virus X. Series. She appeared in recurring roles of the The Lair as a vampire out for revenge.
  • Born May 24, 1953 Alfred Molina, 69. His film debut was on Raiders of The Lost Ark as Satipo. He was an amazing Doctor Octopus on Spider-Man 2 and inSpider-Man: No Way Home, and he also provided the voice of the villain Ares on the outstanding 2009 animated  Wonder Woman. Oh, and he was a most excellent Hercule Poirot in the modern day version of Murder on the Orient Express. I know, not genre, but one of my favorite films no matter who’s playing the character. 
  • Born May 24, 1960 Doug Jones, 62. I first saw him as Abe Sapien on Hellboy, an amazing role indeed. To pick a few of my favorite roles by him, he’s in Pan’s Labyrinth as The Faun and The Pale Man (creepy film), a clown in Batman Returns, the Lead Gentleman in the “Hush” episode of Buffy and Commander Saru on Discovery
  • Born May 24, 1963 Michael Chabon, 59. Author of what I consider the single best fantasy novel about baseball, Summerland, which won a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. His other two genre novels, Gentlemen of the Road and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, winner of Best Novel at Denvention 3, are stellar works in themselves. He was Showrunner for the first season of Picard but was Executive Producer for the just concluded season.
  • Born May 24, 1965 John C. Reilly, 57. I honor him for just his performance as Amos Hart in Chicago but as that film is hardly genre I’d better go on and list genre appearances, shouldn’t I? (Chicago is streaming on Paramount +.) He’s Lefty in A Prairie Home Companion which we’ve established is genre followed by being Crepsley in Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant and he shows up in the Guardians of the Galaxy as Corpsman Dey. He’s Hank Marlow in Kong: Skull Island. He was Dr. Watson in the film everyone wants to forget, Holmes & Watson. His last genre role that I’m aware of was playing Cap in the Moonbase 8 comedy series. 

(12) KAMALA KHAN. Marvel Studios’ Ms. Marvel starts streaming June 8 on Disney+.

Good is not a thing you are, it’s a thing you do.

(13) MADE (UP) MAN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to this podcast that Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Ron Perlman.  Perlman is of interest to us because nearly all of his work has been genre-related, beginning with his debut in Quest For Fire.  Perlman says he got his job in the first Beauty and the Beast because makeup artist Rick Baker said Perlman worked well with prosthetics.  Perlman also discusses his long-running collaboration with Guillermo del Toro; Perlman worked on del Toro’s first film, Cronos, and has collaborated with Del Toro on seven other projects, including the forthcoming Pinocchio.  Perlman also discusses what actors do during a daily four-hour stint in the makeup chair and his extensive voice work, including playing Optimus Prime in two Transformers movies. “Maltin on Movies: Ron Perlman”.

In his earliest screen appearances (remember Quest for Fire?) Ron Perlman was buried under a ton of makeup and prosthetics. That’s also how he became the Emmy-winning star of television’s Beauty and the Beast. Since then he’s shown his versatility, especially in his collaborations with the gifted filmmaker Guillermo del Toro like Hellboy and the forthcoming Pinocchio. His new film The Last Victim, casts him as a weary sheriff in the modern-day West. As Leonard and Jessie quickly discovered, Ron has the soul of a poet and the heart of a movie buff. Wait till you hear him singing the praises of Gary Cooper!

(14) I GUESS WE DO TALK ABOUT HIM. Tonight Andrew Porter witnessed another item that stumped Jeopardy! contestants.

Category: Bruno

Answer: “Sylvie and Bruno” was a dreamy 1889 children’s book by this Brit who was comfortable with fantasy worlds.

Wrong questions: “Who was Barrie?” and “Who was Tolkien?”

Right question: “Who was Lewis Carroll?”

(15) GENUINE TRIVIA. It doesn’t get much more obscure than this: “10 actors from The Andy Griffith Show who voiced major cartoon characters” at MeTV.

The Andy Griffith Show hired a sprawling cast to play all the quirky citizens of Mayberry. Many of those actors were skilled at performing in amusing voices. No wonder they tended to have careers in cartoons, too.

Many of the faces from Mayberry were notable animation voice-over artists. Here are some of our favorite that might surprise you.

1. Arlene Gorlonka

Speed Buggy was one of several successful Hanna-Barbera clones of its hit Scooby-Doo. Substitute the Great Dane with a talking anthropomorphic dune buggy and it’s essentially the same show. “Tinker” looked and acted a whole lot like Shaggy. And then there was Debbie, the Daphne, if you will. The mystery-solving teen was voiced by none other than Howard Sprague’s girlfriend, Millie!

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Morbius,” the Screen Junkies say that “Michael Morbius is a doctor living a serious challenge: being Jared Leto.”  Dr. Morbius chugs enough blood at blood banks that the narrator says it reminds him “of the time at camp when we found the Capri Suns.” Also Matt Smith (speaking of doctors) “acts with the freedom of someone who knows he’s in a train wreck.”

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

Pixel Scroll 5/21/22 The Appertainment of Item-Fifth

(1) MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE. Cora Buhlert rocked Twitter with another #MastersOfTheUniverse action figure photo story. Thread starts here. Don’t miss it!

(2) GENRE BOOKS TARGETED FOR BAN. The Washington Post’s Hannah Natanson says two Virginia Republican state legislators have asked courts to ban Maia Kobabe’s graphic novel Gender Queer and Sarah J. Maas’s fantasy A Court Of Mist And Fury from Virginia Beach libraries and prohibit Barnes and Noble from selling the book to children under 18.  A Court Of Mist And Fury has also been placed on book-banning lists in Florida, Idaho, and Texas. “Virginia Republicans seek to prevent Barnes & Noble from selling ‘Gender Queer’ and ‘A Court of Mist and Fury’”.

… The request for restraining orders comes two days after retired judge Pamela Baskervill issued a ruling in the suit finding “probable cause” that both books qualify as obscene. Per a little-known and little-used section of Virginia law, the judge’s formal declaration of obscenity opened the pathway for Anderson to request the restraining orders. A retired judge is ruling because the other judges in Virginia Beach recused themselves, according to Anderson….

(3) WANT LIST. Walker Martin has posted his “Windy City Pulp Convention 2022 Report” at Mystery*File.

…I’ve been collecting now for over 65 years and I don’t need much anymore, but I always find something. This year I’m rebuilding some of my sets such as All Western and Dime Detective. I found several copies of each that I need plus an Ace High from 1926 that I’ve been looking for.

   One of the problems of collecting for a long time is that you start to run out of things to collect. Most of my wants are very odd and hard to find, such as the five Sea Stories I lack. There were 118 and I have 113, so it’s not too likely that I’ll find issues I need. Same thing with Western Story and Detective Story. I only need a few issues of each for complete sets, but I’ll probably never find them. But you never know. I never thought I’d find all 444 All Story either but I did….

(4) DO NOT PASS GO. “Stranger Things Season 4 Spoiled by Monopoly Game; Creators Angry at Netflix” says The Hollywood Reporter. The game images are not linked at the article. Nevertheless, BEWARE SPOILERS.

Images have leaked online from an official Monopoly board game tie-in pegged to the long-awaited new season of the retro sci-fi hit….

…Netflix wasn’t happy about the mishap. But they weren’t nearly as displeased as the show’s creators, the Duffer brothers, who sources say weren’t consulted about the game. Matt and Ross Duffer have long valued maintaining story secrecy and were said to have had a “total meltdown” about the mishap.

A Reddit thread devoted to the leak claimed the game was bought at “a nationally recognized retailer and purchased fair and square by a consumer. Nobody stole it; nobody leaked a sample.” Those purchase details are unconfirmed, however. Retailers are currently advertising Stranger Things Monopoly games pegged to past seasons, though a couple purported copies of the season four version are being advertised on eBay….

(5) THE FIRST EIGHT MINUTES. Now that we’ve said all those bad things about spoiling the next season of Stranger Things, we’ll hypocritically link to SYFY Wire’s invitation to watch the “Stranger Things 4 season premiere sneak peek” – an eight-minute clip.

The fourth season of Stranger Things is still a week away, but you can whet your appetite for ’80s nostalgia with the first eight minutes from the premiere, which opens in September 1979 and brings back Matthew Modine as Dr. Brenner (one of the lead scientists at Hawkins Laboratories who helped Elven hone her abilities). A de-aged Millie Bobby Brown also makes an appearance, but we won’t be spoiling any of the specifics beyond that because it’s pretty chilling stuff.

(6) NOT JUST ANY CRANK. Anyone who cherishes the days of mimeographed fanzines will appreciate Rob Hansen’s photos documenting his visit to “The Roneo Sculpture”.

For over a year now I’ve been visiting Roneo Corner in East London, so named because it was the site of the former duplicator factory. Though it’s not why I travel to the area I usually also shop in the Tesco supermarket there which is considerably larger than my local one with a consequently more varied range of foodstuffs. Where the entrance to the car park branches off from the main road is a triangle on which they planted a tiny wood. I’d never paid much attention to this, but today for some reason I did – and discovered a sculpture of a duplicator!

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1985 [By Cat Eldridge.] The Ray Bradbury Theatre which first aired thirty-seven years ago on this night had a complicated broadcast history.  It had first ran for two seasons on First Choice Superchannel in Canada and then HBO in the United States from 1985 to 1986, and then on the USA Network for four more seasons from 1988 to 1992 with those episodes also being broadcast on the Global Television Network in Canada from 1991 to 1994.

It was created by Bradbury and starred him with whatever guest stars there were that week. I’ve written up an essay on one such episode, “Gotcha”, and that gives a good look on the feel of these stories. I’d say they’re much lighter, much gentler that The Twilight Zone ever was.

All sixty-five episodes of the Ray Bradbury Theatre were written by Ray Bradbury, based on short stories or novels he had previously written. Obviously they were not exact adaptations of the stories or novels as they had to fit into twenty-three minute long story format. 

Name your favorite actor and it’s likely that he or she appeared here. Why even Captain Kirk did! Well William Shatner did in “The Playground” as Charles Underhill. The short story first appeared in Esquire, October 1953 before making its first book appearance in Dark Carnival and then appearing in The Illustrated Man.

So what do critics think of it? Most liked it, a few though it, well, hokey. A few hated it which suggested they needed a serious attitude adjustment. 

I think personally think that Orrin Grey of The Portalist summed it up best so I’m going to use just his comment here: “If you’re a fan of the legendary science fiction writer and you’ve never seen the show, it’s an opportunity like no other to see the master’s work adapted to the screen by his own hand. If you’re new to Bradbury, it’s a perfect primer for what you can expect from his inimitable short stories.” 

That photo below which is used at beginning of the episodes is the real office of Bradbury. How cool is that? 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 21, 1889 Arthur Hohl. He’s Mr. Montgomery, the man who helps Richard Arlen and Leila Hyams to make their final escape in Island of Lost Souls, the 1932 adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau which is considered the first such filming of that novel. Genre adjacent or genre depending on how generous you are, he’ll show later in The Adventures of Sherlock HolmesThe Three Musketeers and The Devil-Doll. (Died 1964.)
  • Born May 21, 1903 Manly Wade Wellman. I remember reading the John the Balladeer collection thatKarl E. Wagner did and then seeking out the rest of those stories. Absolutely amazing stuff! I also read The Complete John Thunstone a few years back — strongly recommended as it’s quite stellar. What else by him should I read? (Died 1986.)
  • Born May 21, 1917 Raymond Burr. Speaking of lawyers, we have the Birthday of the man who played Perry Mason.  It looks the 1949 film Black Magic with him playing Dumas, Jr. was his first genre performance. Bride of the Gorilla was his next with Lou Chaney Jr. co-starring and Curt Siodmak directing. He goes on to be Grand Vizier Boreg al Buzzar in The Magic Carpet before being Vargo in Tarzan and the She-Devil. And finally he’s in a Godzilla film, Godzilla, King of the Monsters! To be precise as Steve Martin. And unfortunately he played the same role in Godzilla 1985 which earned him a Golden Raspberry Award. (Died 1993.)
  • Born May 21, 1918 Jeanne Bates. She’s Diana Palmer in the Forties The Phantom serial, possibly the first one done. Her first genre was as Miss Norcutt in The Return of the Vampire, in a not authorized sequel to Lugosi’s 1931 Universal Studios film Dracula. Most of the films she’s known for are such horror films such as The Soul of a Monster and Back from the Dead. (Died 2007.)
  • Born May 21, 1940 Booker Bradshaw. A record producer, film and TV actor, and Motown executive. He’s here because he’s one of those rare secondary characters that showed up more than once on Trek. He played Dr. M’Benga in “Obsession” and “That Which Survives”. Because his background story was that he served under Captain Christopher Pike, his character has been recast on Strange New Worlds and is played by Babs Olusanmokun. (Died 2003.)
  • Born May 21, 1954 Paul Collins, 68. Australian writer who has been nominated for an astounding twenty Ditmar Awards. In the nineties, he won a William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review for The MUP Encyclopaedia of Australian Science Fiction & Fantasy published by Melbourne University Press which alas was never updated. In his twenties, he began published and edited Void Science Fiction and Fantasy, a semi-prozine.

(9) V’GER ON LINE 2. “Nasa puzzled by ‘mysterious’ signals from Voyager space probe” according to MSN.com.

Nasa engineers are trying to solve a mystery taking place on its Voyager 1 spacecraft.

The space probe is apparently sending signals that ‘don’t reflect what’s actually happening onboard’.

Nasa said that the interstellar explorer was operating normally otherwise, receiving and executing commands from Earth.

While the spacecraft continues to gather and send science data and otherwise operate as normal, the mission team is searching for the source of the issue.

The problem seems to be the Voyager 1’s attitude articulation and control system (AACS) which controls the 45-year-old spacecraft’s orientation.

It’s what keeps the probe’s antenna pointed precisely at Earth, enabling it to send data home.

‘All signs suggest the AACS is still working, but the telemetry data it’s returning is invalid,’ said Nasa in a statement.

Engineers are baffled by Voyager’s seemingly randomly generated signals that do not reflect any possible state the AACS could be in.

In spite of the issue, Voyager 1’s signal hasn’t weakened, which suggests its antenna remains in its prescribed orientation with Earth.

Mysterious signals from space might seem sinister, but Nasa’s engineers don’t think it’s out of the ordinary….

(10) CAT WITH A BLOG. Global Happenings tells us “Cat Stepan from Kharkov received a prestigious award in Cannes”.

Kharkiv cat Stepan continues to collect blogging awards for his collection. The fluffy influencer won an award the day before World Influencers and Bloggers Awards 2022 for which he was nominated in April this year.

… Also, as we reported earlier, abroad the cat Stepan and his mistress are engaged in volunteer activities – the fluffy blogger helps to raise funds to help his four-legged brothers from Ukraine.

(11) CYO ADVENTURE. Austin McConnell remembers Joe Dever, whose role-playing game/choose your own adventure books made “free reading day” exciting for him in middle school in the 1980s. He talks to Dever’s son, who is helping reprint his father’s books with a small publisher. “The Fantasy Series That Took 40 YEARS To Finish”.

(12) RETRO KERFUFFLE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Cory Doctorow and Junot Diaz are interviewed in this 2016 New York Times investigation of the 1980s-era allegation that playing D&D would introduce kids to Satanism.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Peer, Rob Hansen, 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 Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 4/22/22 All My Life’s A Pixel, Scrollrise And Scrolldown, The Roads Roll Thru The Daytime; The Moon’s Sold By Heinlein

(1) FLIEGER Q&A. Renowned Tolkien scholar Verlyn Flieger responds to questions by Cristina Casagrande and Eduardo Boheme for On Fairy-Stories: “Between darkness and the splintered lights of Tolkienian Faery: an interview with Verlyn Flieger”.

You have edited many of Tolkien’s own manuscripts, such as The Story of KullervoOn Fairy-StoriesSmith of Wootton Major, and The Lay of Aotrou & Itroun. What must an editor be ready to deal with when facing a Tolkien’s manuscript?

His handwriting first of all. Tolkien used several scripts, ranging from a beautiful, calligraphic hand (when he was making a fair copy), to an undecipherable scribble when the ideas were coming thick and fast and he was hurrying to catch up with them. There have been words and sometimes whole sentences, especially in the drafts of “On Fairy-stories” that I simply could not read.

(2) CAUGHT IN THE ROCKETS’ RED GLARE. Camestros Felapton finds one more thing needs to be said: “Rockets & Raytheon: A Debarkle Coda – 1”.

…In the last weeks of 2021 I attempted to write just one more chapter of the Debarkle series. It was poor timing and that additional chapter quickly spun out of control. So I put it aside and decided to return to it later on.

The reason for the chapter was twofold. The initiating issue was the surprise sponsorship of the 2021 Worldcon by the infamous arms manufacture/aerospace company Raytheon. There are many unanswered questions about this sponsorship including what the financial arrangement was and the timing of the decision. The program book of the convention did not list Raytheon as a sponsor and while there was (apparently) a Raytheon booth at the convention, the primary publicity given to the company (specifically the Raytheon Intelligence & Space division) was at the start of the live-streamed Hugo Award ceremony.

The subsequent controversy embroiled not just the Washington DC-based convention but the Hugo Awards and the Hugo finalists as well…

(3) A RUSSIAN WRITER YOU MIGHT READ. Yahoo! profiles Russian author Vladimir Sorokin: “He Envisioned a Nightmarish, Dystopian Russia. Now He Fears Living in One.”

Over the past 40 years, Vladimir Sorokin’s work has punctured nearly every imaginable political and social taboo in Russia.

… “A Russian writer has two options: Either you are afraid, or you write,” he said in an interview last month. “I write.”

Sorokin is widely regarded as one of Russia’s most inventive writers, an iconoclast who has chronicled the country’s slide toward authoritarianism, with subversive fables that satirize bleak chapters of Soviet history, and futuristic tales that capture the creeping repression of 21st-century Russia. But despite his reputation as both a gifted postmodern stylist and an unrepentant troublemaker, he remains relatively unknown in the West. Until recently, just a handful of his works had been published in English, in part because his writing can be so challenging to translate, and so hard to stomach. Now, four decades into his scandal-scorched career, publishers are preparing to release eight new English-language translations of his books.

… He is a master of mimicry and subverting genre tropes, veering from arch postmodern political satire (“The Queue”) to esoteric science fiction (“The Ice Trilogy”) to alternate histories and futuristic cyberpunk fantasies (“Telluria”).

(4) DON’T SAY GAY IN THE KINGDOM. “‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ Banned in Saudi Arabia”The Hollywood Reporter explains why.

Disney and the MCU have fallen foul of Gulf censors once more.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Marvel’s long-awaited follow-up to the hit 2016 superhero film starring Benedict Cumberbatch, has been banned in Saudi Arabia. Rumors began emerging online early on Friday, with The Hollywood Reporter now officially confirming the decision. THR has heard that the ban also applies to Kuwait, although this hasn’t yet been confirmed.

While the film is yet to be released and also hasn’t yet been reviewed, the decision is once again said to be related to LGBTQ issues, according to Middle East sources, with the new sequel introducing the character America Chavez (played by Xochitl Gomez) who, as per her portrayal in the comics, is gay. With homosexuality officially illegal across the Gulf, films that feature any LGBTQ references or issues often fail to get past censors….

… The film follows on the heels of Chloé Zhao’s Eternals, which was banned across much of the Gulf in November following the inclusion of a same-gender couple in the film and the MCU’s first gay superhero. At the time, THR understood that censors had requested a series of edits to be made that Disney was not willing to make. An edited version did screen in the U.A.E., however….

(5) THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING FIFTH. “Large Hadron Collider to restart and hunt for a fifth force of nature” – the Guardian has details.

…So far, everything discovered at the LHC – including the Higgs – has fallen in line with the so-called standard model. This has been the guiding theory of particle physics since the 1970s but is known to be incomplete because it fails to explain some of the deepest mysteries in physics, such as the nature of dark matter.

However, data collected in the LHCb experiment, one of four huge particle detectors at Cern in Switzerland, appeared to show particles behaving in a way that could not be explained by the standard model.

The experiment looked at the decay of particles called beauty quarks, which are predicted to decay at an equal rate into electrons and their heavier cousins, muons. However, the beauty quarks appeared to be turning into muons 15% less often, suggesting that an unknown factor – potentially a new force – was tipping the scales. Two of the top candidates include hypothetical force-carrying particles called leptoquarks or Z primes.

“The stakes are extremely high,” Patel said. “If we confirm this, it will be a revolution of the kind we’ve not seen – certainly in my lifetime. You don’t want to mess it up.”…

(6) SOME DON’T COME RUNNING. The Hollywood Reporter listens in as “Steven Spielberg Details How Harrison Ford Helped Convince Melissa Mathison to Write ‘E.T.’”

… Spielberg told [Ben] Mankiewicz that he started working on a script focused specifically on his parents’ split in 1976, around the time he was filming another alien-themed project, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. “We were shooting the scene in Mobile, Alabama, where the extraterrestrial comes down from the ship and does the hand signs with Francois Truffaut,” he detailed. “I suddenly thought, wait a second, what if that little creature never went back to the ship?”

The idea took some years to develop, eventually leading him to Mathison. Spielberg recalled that the pair worked on the script while he was editing Raiders of the Lost Ark in Marina del Rey with editor Michael Kahn. “We would spend two hours a day for five days and she would go off and write pages and come back,” Spielberg continued of their process, crediting the late scribe with coming up with memorable moments, like E.T.’s telekinesis. “There were so many details for character that Melissa brought into my world from her world.”…

(7) JUNIOR BIRDMEN. In “The High and Lowest of Infographics”, Print Magazine recalls Will Eisner’s work for the Army. The entire illustrated booklet is reproduced at the link.

Comics and cartoons often are the best teaching tools. Not just because pictures are worth a thousand complicated and confounding words, but with a combo of drawings and words you get the picture—see what I mean?! This concept is no better illustrated than in this gem of a training booklet illustrated by none other than the creator of “The Spirit” comics, Will Eisner. Produced by the U.S. Army in 1944, it’s an instruction pamphlet for young pilots to master the basics of safe flying, complete with two quizzes and two pages of “Slanguage” at the end….

(8) FANHISTORY IN NEW ENGLAND. Fanac.org has made available video of a panel from the sixth FanHistoriCon in 1997, “From MITSFS to NESFA to MCFI” with Ed Meskys, Richard Harter, Tony Lewis and Hal Clement.

FanHistoriCon 6 was held February 13-16, 1997 in conjunction with Boskone 34 in Framingham, MA. In this 35 minute excerpt of the panel “From MITSFS to NESFA to MCFI”. Ed Meskys, Richard Harter, Tony Lewis and Hal Clement tell us stories of Boston area fandom from the Stranger Club in the 1940s, through area fandom’s evolution by way of conventions, MIT and worldcon bids to NESFA and MCFI in the 90s. 

Beginning with the readers’ club of the 40s and giving way to the more active projects of MITSFS and NESFA, the panel fondly remembers the people and pastimes that were the substance of Boston area fandom. 

Anecdotes mention well known names such as L. Ron Hubbard and Hugo Gernsback, the price of an interior illo from Amazing Magazine in the 1940s, and the storybook romance of Larry Niven and Fuzzy Pink. 

You’ll learn the rules of the MITSFS game “Insanity”, the originally proposed name for NESFA, the origins of Locus and much more. You’ll even get a first hand report of why/how Hal Clement was “fired” from the Noreascon 1 committee. 

If you’re interested in 20th century Boston fandom, here’s your chance to listen to four of the folks that made it happen. 

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1992 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Razul: You are a student of Egypt, but you are not one of its sons. And until you have heard what I have heard and seen what I have seen, I would not expect you to believe that such a thing as a curse could be true, but it is. 

Sam: 3500-year-old dead men don’t just get up and walk around.

Thirty years ago this evening, Quantum Leap’s “The Curse of Ptah-Hotep” first aired on NBC. In 1957, Sam leaps into the body of Dale Conway, an American archaeologist at a dig in Egypt just as he and his partner Ginny Will discover the tomb of Ptah-Hotep. A sand storm traps them deep in the tomb’s inner chambers.

You think that they made up this particular Egypt royal person but no, he was quite real. Ptahhotep, sometimes known as Ptahhotep I or Ptahhotpe, was an ancient Egyptian vizier during the late 25th century BC and early 24th century BC Fifth Dynasty of Egypt.

The curse that forms the story here was evidently a real one that affected a number of archeological digs undertaken here.  And it is worth definitely worth noting that Sam, throughout the entire series, thoroughly disbelieves in the supernatural, except for the force has him leaping around and that could be science. He frequently tells Al not to be superstitious about anything. But here he certainly seems to take the resurrected mummies in this episode as a given.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 22, 1902 Philip Latham. Name used by astronomer Robert Shirley Richardson on his genre work. His novels were largely first published in Astounding starting in the Forties, with the exception of his children’s SF novels that were published in Space Science Fiction Magazine. He also wrote a few scripts for Captain Video, the predecessor of Captain Video and his Video Rangers. His Comeback novel starts this way: “When Parkhurst heard the announcement that climaxed the science fiction convention, he found that he’d been right, years ago when he had faith in science-fictionists’ dreams. But, in another way, he’d been wrong . . .: It’s available at the usual digital suspects for a buck. (Died 1981.)
  • Born April 22, 1934 Sheldon Jaffery. An editor and bibliographer of pulps whose non-fiction work and genre anthologies are both fascinating. Among the latter are such publications as Sensuous Science Fiction From the Weird and Spicy Pulps and The Weirds: A Facsimile Selection of Fiction From the Era of the Shudder Pulps, and from the former are Future and Fantastic Worlds: Bibliography of DAW BooksThe Arkham House Companion: Fifty Years of Arkham House and Collector’s Index to Weird Tales. (Died 2003.)
  • Born April 22, 1937 Jack Nicholson, 85. I think my favorite role for him in a genre film was as Daryl Van Horne in The Witches of Eastwick. Other genre roles include Jack Torrance in The Shining, Wilbur Force in The Little Shop of Horrors, Rexford Bedlo in The Raven, Andre Duvalier in The Terror, (the previous three films are all Roger Corman productions), Will Randall in Wolf, President James Dale / Art Land in Mars Attacks! and Jack Napier aka The Joker in Tim  Burton’s The Batman.
  • Born April 22, 1944 Damien Broderick, 78. Australian writer of over seventy genre novels. It is said that The Judas Mandala novel by him contains the first appearance of the term “virtual reality”. He’s won five Ditmar Awards, a remarkable achievement. I know I’ve read several novels by him including Godplayers and K-Machines which are quite good. The latter won an Aurealis Award for Excellence in Speculative Fiction
  • Born April 22, 1959 Catherine Mary Stewart, 63. Her first genre role was Maggie Gordon in The Last Starfighter followed by beingMiranda Dorlac in Nightflyers and she played Sukie Ridgemont in the TV version of The Witches of Eastwick. She has one-offs in Mr. MerlinKnight Rider and The Outer Limits.
  • Born April 22, 1977 Kate Baker, 45. Non-fiction editor, podcast director /narrator for Clarkesworld. She won the Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine twice, and the World Fantasy Award’s Special Award: Non Professional in 2014, all alongside the rest of the editorial staff of Clarkesworld. She’s a writer of three short genre stories, the latest of which, “No Matter Where; Of Comfort No One Speak”, you can hear it here. Warning for subject matter: abuse and suicide. 
  • Born April 22, 1978 Manu Intiraymi, 44. He played the former Borg Icheb on the television series Star Trek: Voyager. A role that he played a remarkable eleven times. And this Birthday research led me to discovering yet another video Trek fanfic, this time in guise of Star Trek: Renegades inwhich he reprised his role. Any Trekkies here watch this? 
  • Born April 22, 1984 Michelle Ryan, 38. She had the odd honor of being a Companion to the Tenth Doctor as Lady Christina de Souza for just one story, “Planet of the Dead”.  She had a somewhat longer genre run as the rebooted Bionic Woman that lasted eight episodes, and early in her career, she appeared as the sorceress Nimueh in BBC’s Merlin. Finally I’ll note she played Helena from A Midsummer Night’s Dream in BBC’s Learning project, Off By Heart Shakespeare

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Far Side makes a grotesque Peter, Paul & Mary reference.  

(12) E. E. SMITH REFERENCE IN THE NEW YORK TIMES(!) [Item by David Goldfarb.] Every two weeks the NYT puts up an acrostic puzzle put together by Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon. The one for April 24th has as clue I, 7 letters:

Kind of beam in the 1947 novel “Spacehounds of IPC”

This is a novel I would have thought little-remembered! (Alas, my first guess based on Lensman, PRIMARY, turned out to be incorrect.)

(13) SIGNS OF THE FUTURE. Michael Okuda, the graphic designer known for his work on Star Trek, told Facebook readers how he found the answer to something he wanted to know about the bridge:  

I had always wondered: If the famously-unlabeled buttons on the TOS bridge had been labeled, would those labels have been visible? In 2005, I did an experiment during the filming of “In A Mirror, Darkly” (ENT). For this experiment, I had hundreds of small clear labels printed with small numeric codes. I asked Alan Kobayashi to stick them onto most of the backlit “jellybean” buttons on the re-created TOS Enterprise bridge set, thereby labeling each button….

(14) BREAKING THE PIGGY BANK. Netflix may have stopped spending cash on original animation, but that does not mean they have stopped spending on other projects. SYFY Wire reports an eye-popping figure: “Stranger Things 4: Netflix spending $30 million per episode”.

Thanks to an ensemble celebrity cast and lavish location shoots that can take over an entire mall, Stranger Things has always had the feel of a big-budget, Steven Spielberg-inspired show. But the Hawkins arcade would need to collect more than just a truckload of quarters to cover the eye-popping cost of the series’ long-awaited fourth season.

A recent report at The Wall Street Journal reveals that Netflix is turning its wallet Upside Down and inside out to bring Stranger Things 4 to life, spending an average of $30 million on each of the smash hit series’ nine new episodes. That far eclipses the princely $13 million per-episode sum commanded by Season 4 of The Crown, the previously-reported most expensive show in the streamer’s original-series lineup….

(15) ON THE OTHER HAND. For the cost conscious among us, “House of the Dragon Budget: Under 20 Million Per Episode”. By Grabthar’s hammer, what a savings!

… If you’re wondering how HBO managed to keep the cost of “House of the Dragon” Season 1 from rising too much above what it paid for the final season of “Game of Thrones,” especially with even more CGI dragons expected to be flying around, the production insider says HBO is now so adept at these world-building series through years of not just “GoT,” but also producing “Westworld” and “His Dark Materials,” that the team can make a high-quality series as efficiently and effectively as possible….

(16) EVERYTHING AND MORE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the March 20 New York Times Magazine, Alexandra Kleeman profiles Everything Everywhere All At Once star Michelle Yeoh, who explains why doing a multiverse movie (in which she plays a hibachi chef, a laundromat store owner, and a universe where everyone has fingers that look like Twinkies) was a stretch for her in a career that has taken her from Hong Kong super action movies to James Bond to Crazy Rich Asians. “Michelle Yeoh’s Quantum Leaps”.

… Approaching a role that bounds gleefully across so many modes and genres put Yeoh to the test. She showed me a photo of her script, dutifully flagged with adhesive tabs that denoted the genre of each scene she appears in (action sequences, comedic scenes, heavy-duty drama): The stack of pages bristled with color, like a wildly blooming flower. She experimented with different kinds of sticky notes. “With the fat ones, they were overlapping so much. So, I had to get the skinny ones,” she told me. “Oh, my God, it was a whole creative process. And then when I finished, I looked at it and go, Oh, my God, I’m in serious trouble.”…

(17) ACTOR OUT. Frank Langella is definitely out of his latest film – the 84-year-old is accused of sexual harassment: “Frank Langella Fired From Netflix’s ‘The Fall Of the House Of Usher’ After Probe” reports Deadline.

…Sources confirmed to Deadline TMZ‘s report from earlier this week that the investigation was launched after the 84-year-old actor had been accused of sexual harassment, including making inappropriate comments to a female co-star on set during work.

Langella led the cast of The Fall of the House of Usher, which also stars Carla Gugino, Mary McDonnell, Carl Lumbly and Mark Hamill.

The eight-episode series is described as an epic tale of greed, horror and tragedy. Poe’s short story The Fall of the House of Usher, which serves as the basis for the show, features themes of madness, family, isolation and identity.

Roderick Usher, the role previously played by Langella that now is being recast, is the towering patriarch of the Usher dynasty….

(18) SIC TRANSIT GLORIA PHOBOS. The space agency tells how “NASA’s Perseverance Rover Captures Video of Solar Eclipse on Mars”.

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover has captured dramatic footage of Phobos, Mars’ potato-shaped moon, crossing the face of the Sun. These observations can help scientists better understand the moon’s orbit and how its gravity pulls on the Martian surface, ultimately shaping the Red Planet’s crust and mantle.

Captured with Perseverance’s next-generation Mastcam-Z camera on April 2, the 397th Martian day, or sol, of the mission, the eclipse lasted a little over 40 seconds – much shorter than a typical solar eclipse involving Earth’s Moon. (Phobos is about 157 times smaller than Earth’s Moon. Mars’ other moon, Deimos, is even smaller.)

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The How It Should Have Ended gang takes on The Batman, answering such questions as, “If he’s The Batman, why does he say his name is vengenance?” and “Why does Superman show up in inappropriate moments?”

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

Pixel Scroll 4/12/22 If I Could Godstalk To The Animals

(1) SPEAKER FOR THE REDSHIRTS. “The Big Idea: Wil Wheaton” is a discussion of Wheaton’s new book today at Whatever.  

… In Still Just A Geek, I write a lot about the child abuse, neglect, and exploitation I survived and still struggle with. It was incredibly challenging to revisit (and in the case of The Curse, relive) all of it. In the afterword, I wrote that I expected that doing that work would lead to a catharsis, but all it did was retraumatize me.

That was true, until I narrated the audiobook. Over the course of six or seven days, I said everything I wrote in the book out loud. I gave a voice to the child who was put to work against his wishes at seven years old. I gave a voice to the teenager who was abused by his father. I gave a voice to the young father and husband who was struggling to provide for his family while he also struggled to figure out what he was going to do with the rest of his life….

Click here to read an excerpt from Still Just A Geek

(2) THE LIST. While we’re talking about the struggle against things that make life hard, Tobias S. Buckell adds this question:

(3) ORIGIN OF THOUGHT SPECIES. In the LA Review of Books, Brian Attebery reviews a book that examines the question “Who Controls the Narrative?: On David M. Higgins’s ‘Reverse Colonization: Science Fiction, Imperial Fantasy, and Alt-Victimhood’”.

Both politicians and political scientists know the power of narratives: there is much talk about who controls and how to alter “the narrative.” But neither group tends to ask where these narratives are actually, you know, narrated. In his new book, Reverse Colonization: Science Fiction, Imperial Fantasy, and Alt-Victimhood, David M. Higgins offers a fascinating look into the process by which such stories are generated and transformed into cultural references and societal roadmaps.

Higgins examines a particular cluster of narratives about power and identity, a cluster that is nicely described in his title: stories that use the iconography of science fiction to express fear of the other and resentment of loss of power, thus giving a boost to a number of reactionary movements, from Brexit and the cult of Trump to anti-feminist internet trolldom. Higgins traces the origins of a set of powerful tropes in print science fiction from the 1960s and early 1970s; he then follows their spread through media and electronic culture as well as their uses in political rhetoric and advertising. His choice of decade might seem unnecessarily limiting — why not go back to the Gothic origins of science fiction or forward to survey the contemporary scene? — but it makes perfect sense as he guides us through the paranoid visions of Philip K. Dick, the heroic illusions of Frank Herbert’s Dune (1965), and the crumbling empires of J. G. Ballard, and then shows how these and their contemporaries provided the imagery, language, and narrative tropes that continue to mold behavior and set terms for debate….

(4) REPAYING IT FORWARD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber discusses why far too many gamers are trolls.

…Two-thirds of gamers have experienced toxic behaviour in online multiplayer games, according to a study from games company Unity.  Anyone who has played an online shooter will be familiar with the abuse that fills your headphones and can escalate from ‘noob’ to ‘kill yourself’ within seconds.

Online gaming forums too are hotbeds of vitriol.  ‘Hate raids’ on Twitch–where mobs of trolls target streamers from minority backgrounds with spam and hate speech–have become so prevalent that streamers boycotted the platform last September in protest.  Anti-Defamation League research shows that marginalised groups suffer worst and that online abuse can cause real world harm, with 44 per cent of players feeling emotionally affected by attacks and 11 per cent of them reporting depressive or suicidal thoughts as a result….

(5) WE INTERRUPT THIS NARRATIVE. For those who just tuned in and for whom it’s important to believe that a genre that didn’t have a name until a hundred years ago was knowingly practiced by writers since Roman times, Grunge’s Richard Milner offers, “The 1,800-Year-Old History Of Science Fiction Explained”.

… But yes, science fiction does indeed go back to the 2nd century CE. That doesn’t mean that ancient sci-fi features cell phones, rocket propulsion, and quantum tunneling. Rather, it means that the recognizably current sci-fi tropes — extraplanetary adventure, alien races, space flight, and the rest — were present even back then, albeit in a softer, more fantastical form…. 

(6) GILBERT GOTTFRIED (1955-2022). Comedian and voice actor Gilbert Gottfried died April 12 from Recurrent Ventricular Tachycardia due to Myotonic Dystrophy type II. Primarily thought of as a comedian/comic actor by (likely) most people, he did tons of voice work in genre TV and films, mostly animated.

He was the voice of the wise cracking parrot Iago in Disney’s iconic animated film Aladdin (1992), the video Aladdin 2: The Return of Jafar (1994), and many more Aladdin-themed projects over the years.

His live-action genre film and TV work included episiodes of Superboy, The Weird Al Show (as “Al’s imaginary friend Gilbert”), and the last three Sharknado films. He also did voice work in episodes of The Ren and Stimpy Show, Superman: The Animated Series as Mr. Mxyzptlk, and many other sff shows.   

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1979 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-three years ago, I was at University which is where I saw Mad Max in a lovely old theater near there. Not a packed house but a decent gathering if I remember this correctly many years on. 

It was produced by George Miller and Bryon Eric Kennedy (who’d go on to Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior with him. He died at age thirty three when the helicopter he was piloting crashed at Warragamba Dam in New South Wales, Australia). 

The screenplay was by Miller and James McCausland. It’s his only screenplay and he shows up in Mad Max as the bearded man in an apron. 

Need I say who played the lead character here? I think not.

So how was the reception? 

First, it cost virtually nothing to produce, less than a half million, and made at least a hundred million globally. It holds the Guinness World Record for the highest box office to budget ratio of any motion picture ever.

Second, critics liked it. Or despised it. Philip Adams in the Australian Bulletin said that it had “all the emotional uplift of Mein Kampf”. Ouch. Whereas David Nusair of Reel Film Reviews stated that “Gibson’s thoroughly charismatic performance, along with Miller’s treatment of the film’s few high-octane moments, goes a long way towards keeping things interesting for the majority of Mad Max‘s mercifully brief running time.” 

It get an excellent seventy percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

It was not nominated for a Hugo but its sequel, The Road Warrior (with the alternative title of Mad Max 2) was at ConStellation. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 12, 1884 Bob Olsen. He wrote twenty-seven poems and stories that were published in Amazing Stories in the late Twenties and early Thirties. He’s said to be one of the first authors to use the term “space marines”. A search of both print and digital publishers does not show any indication that any of his genre or mystery fiction is now in-print. (Died 1956.)
  • Born April 12, 1916 Beverly Cleary. One of America’s most successful authors, almost a hundred million copies of her children’s books have been sold worldwide since her first book was published over seventy years ago. Some of her best-known characters are Ramona Quimby and Beezus Quimby, Henry Huggins and his dog Ribsy, and Ralph S. Mouse. (Died 2021.)
  • Born April 12, 1915 Emil Petaja. He considered his work to be part of an older tradition of ‘weird fiction.’  He published thirteen novels and some one hundred and fifty short stories. His Otava series, published by Ace Books in the Sixties, is based on the Finnish national myth, The Kalevala. He was named the first ever Author Emeritus by the Science Fiction Writers of America. And he was chair of the Golden Gate Futurians, a club of writers and fans, hosting meetings at his home in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco. (Died 2000.)
  • Born April 12, 1921 Carol Emshwiller. I think her short stories are amazing and The Start of the End of It All and Other Stories collection won a World Fantasy Award. She’d later receive a Life Achievement honor from the World Fantasy Awards. I’ve not read her novels, so which would you recommend I read? Novel wise, she’s reasonably well stocked at the usual suspects but her collections are largely not there. (Died 2019.)
  • Born April 12, 1922 Vince Clarke. He first made acquaintance with fandom in the late Thirties, and was active as a fanwriter and editor from a decade hence including Science Fantasy News. He’d be the winner of the first TAFF in 1954 but didn’t take the trip. He worked on the 1957 Worldcon, Loncon I, and he was Fan Guest of Honor at the 1995 Worldcon, Intersection. He helped create the British Science Fiction Association. (Died 1998.)
  • Born April 12, 1936 Charles Napier. Well, let’s meet Adam on the Trek episode of “The Way to Eden”. Oh, that’s a horrible outfit he’s wearing. Let’s see if he had better genre roles… well he was on Mission: Impossible twice in a truly anonymous roles, likewise he played two minor characters on The Incredible Hulk and he did get a character with a meaningful name (General Denning) on Deep Space 9. I’m surprised to learn that he voiced General Hardcastle in the Superman and Justice League Unlimited series, and also voiced Agent Zed for the entire run of the Men in Black animated series.  (Died 2011.)
  • Born April 12, 1958 Elizabeth Klein-Lebbink, 64. A LA-resident con-running fan. She has worked on a variety of conventions, both regionals and Worldcons, frequently in the art shows. She has been a member of the Dorsai Irregulars. She is married to fellow fan Jerome Scott. Works for NASA where she’s co-authored papers such as “Measurements of Integration Gain for the Cospas-Sarsat System from Geosynchronous Satellites”.
  • Born April 12, 1968 Alicia Coppola, 54. She showed up on Voyager in the premier episode “Caretaker” as  Lieutenant Stadi. Depending on how you define genre, she was in National Treasure: Book of Secrets as FBI Agent Spellman, and had one-offs in Touched by an AngelThe Lazarus ManThe Burning ManThe SentinelProfilerThe Dead Zone and Teen Wolf. She was Dr. Ana Castillo in Blood & Treasure which surely is genre. 

(9) STRANGER THINGS. Season 4 is incoming. Variety sets the frame: “’Stranger Things 4′ Trailer Goes to War With Upside Down”.

The “Stranger Things” kids are all grown up and going to war with the monsters of the Upside Down in the official trailer for Season 4.

Set to a looping version of the pulse in Journey’s “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart),” the trailer sees Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Max (Sadie Sink) enter high school, while Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and Will (Noah Schnapp) are in California. As the friends navigate their different surroundings, a new supernatural threat surfaces, forcing them to once again confront the horrors of the Upside Down….

(10) RUN DON’T WALK TO YOUR NEAREST THEATER. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] This listicle of someone’s idea of the 15 “best” movie posters is a little over half genre. Maybe closer to 2/3 if you include all kinds of horror. YMMV. “These Are The 15 Best Film Posters Of All Time” at Buzzfeed. Images of the posters are at the link.

There have been many creative and eye-popping designs for film posters over the years, and a lot of them have become just as iconic as the films themselves. No matter how much they’ve told us about their respective movies, these posters made us want to line up and buy a ticket. These are the 15 Best Film Posters of All Time….

6. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

Behind the shot of Elliott flying on his bike in front of the moon, this poster is one of the most memorable images of Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi masterpiece. Invoking Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam,” this image is a marvelous display of a young boy’s first encounter with this magical little alien. 

(11) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Critical Role’s The Legend of Vox Machina,” the Screen Junkies say that, even though we live “in a world where the only thing more boring than someone telling you about their dreams is someone telling you about their Dungeons and Dragons campaign,” this Amazon series, which raised $1.3 million on Kickstarter, could be the first successful adaptation of a tabletop game since 1985’s CLUE.”  After noting numerous board game adaptations that were failures (remember the Tom Hanks cheesefest Mazes And Monsters) this series “has so much D & D in it you’ll feel like you’re eating lunch alone in the eighth grade again.”  But then voice actor Matthew Mercer shows up and Mercer and the narrator have an epic voice rap battle!

The link is here.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Chris Barkley, 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 Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 11/21/21 Tom Swift And His Scrolling Pixel

(1) SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME TRAILER. Initially shown this week in theaters with Ghostbusters: Afterlife – now everyone can see it.  

For the first time in the cinematic history of Spider-Man, our friendly neighborhood hero’s identity is revealed, bringing his Super Hero responsibilities into conflict with his normal life and putting those he cares about most at risk. When he enlists Doctor Strange’s help to restore his secret, the spell tears a hole in their world, releasing the most powerful villains who’ve ever fought a Spider-Man in any universe. Now, Peter will have to overcome his greatest challenge yet, which will not only forever alter his own future but the future of the Multiverse.

(2) NEEDS MORE INGREDIENTS. Lise Andreasen got a look at this headline and replied:

(3) RADICAL SCIENCE FICTION. Joachim Boaz posted the introduction to PM Press’s Dangerous Visions and New Worlds: Radical Science Fiction, 1950-1985 (2021),edited by Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre on his website Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations“The Introduction to Dangerous Visions and New Worlds: Radical Science Fiction, 1950-1985, ed. Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre (2021)”.

Boaz’ review says:

…It is a must buy for any SF fan of the era interested in exploring the larger world behind the texts. Considering the focus of my website and most of my reading adventures over the last decade, I can unabashedly proclaim myself a fan of the New Wave SF movement–and this edited volume is the perfect compliment to my collection and interests….

The first paragraph of the authors’ introduction begins –

The “long sixties,” an era which began in the late 1950s and extended into the 1970s, has become shorthand for a period of trenchant social change, most explicitly demonstrated through a host of liberatory and resistance movements focused on class, racial, gender, sexual, and other inequalities. These were as much about cultural expression and social recognition as economic redistribution and formal politics. While the degree to which often youthful insurgents achieved their goals varied greatly, the global challenge they presented was a major shock to the status quo.,,,

(4) BEAGLE ADAPTATION REMEMBERED. “Why The Last Unicorn Is the Best Animated Movie You’ve Never Seen”Paste Magazine’s Lacy Baugher Milas makes her case.

Though the animated film The Last Unicorn will turn 40 years old in 2022, it’s still largely considered a cult classic. The sort of movie that a certain kind of nerdy Gen-Xer or elder millennial will enthusiastically yell about with strangers whenever it happens to come up in casual conversation, but that most average moviegoers almost completely missed out on. Part of the reason for that is that 1980s animated films were generally more interested in making money than being art, and the Disney renaissance spearheaded by critical and commercial hit The Little Mermaid was still several years off.

But it’s also because The Last Unicorn is simply unlike anything else that existed at the time. From the stacked voice cast that included everyone from Mia Farrow and Alan Arkin to Angela Lansbury and Christopher Lee, to the earnestly twee soundtrack by the band America and its general refusal to fit into neat narrative boxes, it is a film that consistently makes surprising and unexpected choices of the deeply risky sort we still don’t often see today.

(5) ON BOARD THE BEBOP. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Christina Lee uses the example of Cowboy Bebop to explain that different races often see anime characters as being of their own race. “Netflix’s ‘Cowboy Bebop’ reignites a debate: Is Jet Black a Black anime character?”

Actor Mustafa Shakir sounds starry-eyed when he explains why he said yes to playing Jet Black, one of the central characters of Netflix’s new “Cowboy Bebop.” Shakir had become a devotee of the anime show, which originally aired in Japan in the late ’90s and then helped launch Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming block in the fall of 2001. “My thought was, this is like a gateway drug into anime,” he says, which was the case for many U.S. viewers who had yet to understand that not all anime is kiddie fare.Shakir, best known for playing Bushmaster on “Luke Cage,” was particularly intrigued by the way this anime paid loving tribute to American jazz, most explicitly through the character of Jet, an ex-cop and the paternal leader of an interstellar bounty-hunting crew, who named his spaceship — what else? — the Bebop.

But translating “Cowboy Bebop” to live action and satisfying the sky-high fan expectations around this beloved space-western was an imposing endeavor. The most persistent question on set was, “Is this Bebop-y enough?” (“That’s a real term, you know?” Shakir deadpans.) …“Cowboy Bebop” adds yet another layer to that debate: What happens when a production studio tries to assign race to a pop culture artifact where race is hinted at but not always made explicit? The race and appearance of all the main characters have been debated on TwitterReddit and TikTok, but incensed online commentators went as far as smearing Shakir’s casting as “blackwashing” — a play on “whitewashing” and an accusation often lobbed at Black anime fandom in cosplay and fan art.

The original “Cowboy Bebop” does feature explicitly dark-skinned characters the Netflix version made sure to include. And in the accompanying art book, “The Jazz Messengers,” series creator Shinichiro Watanabe said that when developing the anime, he “paid a lot of attention to skin color.” But the original anime never mentions or discusses race; it stands to reason that in a near future where Earth was all but obliterated, its ideas about race would have vanished along with it.

(6) SFF IN TRANSLATION. “How Do You Say ‘Quidditch’ in Yiddish?”Tablet Magazine has “The inside story of how ‘Harry Potter’ was translated into Yiddish.” (From 2020.)

… This tension has proved productive for Viswanath and his sisters, all of whom are involved today in various Yiddish projects—which is how Arun came to the idea of translating Harry Potter. What better way to pass on the legacy of Yiddish to another generation, he thought, than to translate one of the most popular works of children’s literature of all time? Seized with this inspiration, Viswanath began spending evenings away from his job at a tech startup translating the first book of the series, not knowing if he’d ever be permitted to publish it.

As it turned out, though, he wasn’t the only one.

When Rowling’s agent Blair connected Viswanath with Olniansky, the Swedish publisher found himself with what he described as “a pleasant problem”: He’d already been contacted by another Yiddish translator who had also begun translating the first Harry Potter novel. Given the significance of the project, Olniansky did not feel qualified to personally decide between the manuscripts, and so he submitted samples of both translations to two expert reviewers—Jean Hessel, the Swedish government’s official for Yiddish at the Swedish Institute for Language and Folklore, and Mikhoel Felsenbaum, the noted Yiddish postmodern novelist living in Israel.

“Both of them picked Arun’s translation,” Olniansky told me, “so that’s the way we went.”…

(7) LOST AND FAUN. The Lesser-Known Writers blog introduces us to “Arthur MacArthur”:

…He published very little. One short story is known, “Told in the Mid-Watch,” in Sea Stories Magazine, 20 December 1922. (He claimed he gave up short story writing because it was too restrictive.) And he published only one novel, After the Afternoon (New York: D. Appleton-Century, [October] 1941), though  it was retitled Aphrodite’s Lover and given a racy cover when it was reprinted in paperback in 1953. 

After the Afternoon tells the story of the faun Lykos in Crete, who, after a tryst with Aphrodite, becomes a human being, endowed with immortality and able to enter the human body, male or female, of his choice. He passes through various incarnations, one at the bizarre court of an Egyptian king…. 

(8) REMEMBERING THE FOUNDER. The other day members celebrated the birthday of Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association founder Suzette Haden Elgin (1936-2015) by giving a reading of her poetry.

Poems by Suzette Haden Elgin read by SFPA board members Rocky Road to Hoe – read by Richard Magahiz No Contact – Read by Diane Severson Mori As for the Universal Translator – read by Jean-Paul L. Garnier

(9) RYAN OBIT. Voice actor and past ASIFA president Will Ryan died November 19 at the age of 72 reports Deadline. Ryan had a vast resume of genre credits, beginning with the pteranodon Petrie from Universal’s animated classic, The Land Before Time.

He’d go on to amass more than 100 screen credits in his nearly four-decade career…

Ryan voiced Willie the Giant for The Walt Disney Company in numerous projects over a 35-year period, last doing so in 2020. He voiced Peg-Leg Pete in the Oscar-nominated animated short Mickey’s Christmas Carol, reprising the role 30 years later in the Mickey Mouse short, Get a Horse!, which was also nominated for an Oscar. He also voiced the latter character, among others, in the beloved Disney Afternoon series DuckTales, and portrayed several, including a herd of Ogres, in Adventure of the Gummi Bears, which was the first animated series from Walt Disney Television. Ryan also had the opportunity to portray Tigger and Rabbit, and to provide the singing voice of Eeyore, for the long-running Disney Channel series Welcome to Pooh Corner, which aired twice a day for 17 years.

Throughout his career, Ryan also lent his voice to such classic animated films as The Little Mermaid, An American TailThumbelina and A Troll in Central Park, along with multiple G.I. Joe series, the 1986 animated series Teen Wolf, The Adventures of Teddy RuxpinCourage the Cowardly DogFamily Guy and many more projects.

He also “wrote over 100 songs for Disney and the Jim Henson Company, seeing his songs get recorded by Mickey, Donald, Goofy and the gang; Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet and the gang; The Cat-In-The-Hat, Horton the Elephant, the Grinch and the gang; the Pointer Sisters, the Saguaro Sisters, Patti LaBelle, and more.”

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1973 — Forty-eight years ago, the film that launched the Westworld franchise premiered. Westworld was created by Michael Crichton wrote the screenplay and directed the film. It was produced by Paul N. Lazarus III. It starred Yul Brynner, Richard Benjamin and James Brolin in the three primary roles. You may have noticed Majel Barrett as Miss Carrie, The Madame of the Westworld bordello. 

Reception by critics was generally superb with Variety saying it had “superbly intelligent serio-comic story values.”  And the Los Angeles Times called it “a clever sci-fi fantasy.” The New York Times which I swear doesn’t like SF films was the lone dissenting major newspaper as regards this film.  Box office was great making almost eight million against a budget of just a million and a quarter. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it an excellent rating of seventy percent. It was nominated for a Hugo at DisCon II, the year Sleeper won.

It was followed by a sequel, Futureworld which got nominated for a Hugo at Suncon, and a really short-lived CBS series, Beyond Westworld (five episodes). The HBO Westworld TV series is now in its third season with a fourth in production. The present series has not been nominated for a Hugo yet. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 21, 1851 T. O’Conor Sloane. Editor of the first science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, from 1929 to 1938. And earlier on, Scientific American, from 1886 to 1896. (Died 1940.)
  • Born November 21, 1924 Christopher Tolkien. He drew the original maps for the LoTR. He provided much of the feedback on both the Hobbit and LoTR and his father invited him  to join the Inklings when he was just twenty-one years old, making him the youngest member of that group. Suffice it to say that the list is long of his father’s unfinished works that he has edited and brought to published form. I’ll leave to this august group to discuss their merit as I’ve got mixed feelings on them. (Died 2020.) 
  • Born November 21, 1942 Al Matthews. Performer, best known for his appearance as Gunnery Sergeant Apone in Aliens. Other genre films were Omen III: The Final ConflictThe SenderSuperman IIIThe Fifth Element and Tomorrow Never Dies.  He stated on his website that he was the first black Marine in the 1st Marine Division in Vietnam to be meritoriously promoted to the rank of sergeant, quite an honor indeed. (Died 2018.)
  • Born November 21, 1944 Harold Ramis. Actor, Writer, and Producer, best-known to genre fans for his role as Egon Spengler in the Saturn-winning, Oscar- and Hugo-nominated Ghostbusters and its lesser sibling Ghostbusters II (the scripts for both of which he co-wrote with Dan Aykroyd). He had voice roles in Heavy Metal and Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, and a cameo in Groundhog Day, for which he received Saturn nominations for writing and directing. He was also director and producer of Multiplicity. (Died 2014.)
  • Born November 21, 1945 Vincent Di Fate, 76. Artist and Illustrator who has done many SFF book covers and interior illustrations since his work first appeared in the pages of Analog in 1965. He was one of the founders of the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists (ASFA), and is a past president. In addition to his Chesley Award trophy and 7 nominations, he has been a finalist for the Professional Artist Hugo 11 times, winning once at Seacon ‘79; two collections of his artwork, Infinite Worlds: The Fantastic Visions of Science Fiction Art and Di Fate’s Catalog of Science Fiction Hardware, have been Hugo finalists as well. He was Artist Guest of Honor at the 1992 Worldcon, for which he organized their Art Retrospective exhibit. He was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2011. You can see galleries of his works at his website.
  • Born November 21, 1953 Lisa Goldstein, 68. Writer, Fan, and Filer whose debut novel, The Red Magician, was so strong that she was a finalist for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer two years in a row. Her short fiction has garnered an array of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award nominations, as well as a Sidewise Award. The short story “Cassandra’s Photographs” was a Hugo nominee at Nolacon II and Nebula finalist as well, and “Alfred” was a World Fantasy and Nebula finalist; both can be found in her collection Travellers in Magic. The quite excellent Uncertain Places won a Mythopoeic Award. You can read about her work in progress, her reviews of others’ stories, and other thoughts at her blog which is one of the better ones I’ve read: https://lisa-goldstein.dreamwidth.org/
  • Born November 21, 1965 Björk, 56. Who bears the lovely full name of Björk Guðmundsdóttir. I like Icelandic things. And I’ve got boots of her band somewhere around here I’m sure. She’s here for The Juniper Tree which is a 1990 Icelandic film directed and written by Nietzchka Keene which is based on “The Juniper Tree” tale that was collected by the Brothers Grimm. She’s one of five performers in it. Oh, and because her last album Utopia explored that concept even using cryptocurrency as part of the purchase process.
  • Born November 21, 1982 Ryan Carnes, 39. He was in two Tenth Doctor stories, “Daleks in Manhattan” and “Evolution of the Daleks” in which he played Laszlo. He played Kit Walker / The Phantom in the miniseries of the same name which I’ve never even heard of until now, and has the lead as Chris Norton in Beyond the Sky, an alien abductee film. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • In the Bleachers shows some golfers who don’t seem to have their priorities in order.
  • Tom Gauld on supply chain problems faced by the magical realism industry.

(13) BABY YODA ON SNL. Last night on Saturday Night Live Baby Yoda showed off his new tattoos and talked about all the fun he was going to have in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

(14) ATTENTION MAMMOTH ENTHUSIASTS. Beth Shapiro, evolutionary biologist, will do a live presentation: “Nat Geo Live: How to Clone a Mammoth” on The Broad Stage in Los Angeles on January 27-28, 2022. Tickets are available at the link.

Could extinct species, like mammoths and passenger pigeons, be brought back to life? National Geographic Emerging Explorer Beth Shapiro is one of the scientists investigating this intriguing possibility. From deciding which species should be restored to anticipating how revived populations might be overseen in the wild,the technical challenges and ethical considerations of de-extinction are substantial. Join Shapiro for a vivid exploration into the extraordinary cutting-edge—and controversial—science that is being used today to resurrect the past.

(15) HOWDY STRANGER. In the Washington Post, Ashley Spencer profiles Finn Wolfhard, who is interviewed because of his performance in Ghostbusters:  Afterlife but became “one of the most recognizable young actors in the world: for his work on “Stranger Things.” “Finn Wolfhard, star of ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife,’ doesn’t really want to be famous”.

… Talking to Wolfhard now, the candidness remains. His answers, even the ones that hint of rehearsed, PR-approved sound bites, lack the disquietingly poised delivery that many young stars learn to perfect. Instead, Wolfhard uses “like” with reckless teenage abandon and meanders off course with details and anecdotes that excite him. There’s a lengthy tale about a tipsy Rami Malek imparting advice at a 2016 Critics Choice Awards after-party — “Did you really have fun tonight?” the older star implored of Wolfhard. “Because if you’re doing any of this stuff and you’re not having fun, you need to stop it immediately” — and an apologetic f-bomb as Wolfhard marveled at how “crazy” it is that he will potentially be the same age in “Stranger Things 5” as his older co-stars Natalia Dyer and Charlie Heaton were when they started the show.

Wolfhard shares “a lot” of scenes with Heaton in “Stranger Things 4,” which was delayed by covid and is finally due to arrive next summer, and said they became “incredibly close” during filming. In fact, he found a new appreciation for most of his castmates over the chaotic past two years. “When you start a show that young, there’s drama and there’s rivalries because it’s like school. And then you become older, and you stop caring,” he said. “I think it’s actually such an incredible thing to come back to each other and be like, ‘Wow, I really understand you. We’re all going through this thing together. I love you.’?”…

(16) BEST CAPTURE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This video from the Royal Ocean Film Society argues that Spielberg’s 2011 The Adventures of Tintin was the best of the motion capture animated films of 2005-10 and the only one still worth watching today.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Tex Avery predicts the Internet in his 1949 cartoon “The Home of Tomorrow.”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Ben Bird Person, Lise Andreasen, Joel Zakem, 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 Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 11/7/21 Sufficiently Advanced Robot Sheep Might Not Obey You

(1) THE UNANTICIPATED METAVERSE. “Neal Stephenson talks about his climate thriller — and why the metaverse didn’t match his vision”GeekWire has a Q&A.

Who’ll lead the effort to address climate change? “In my book, it’s a billionaire, because it makes for a good story. I don’t know how realistic that is. It’s more likely to be governments that are less democratic, frankly. If you look at the way the United States and the U.K. both responded to coronavirus, we weren’t even able to get a large part of the population to agree that it was a real thing, even though people were dying by the hundreds of thousands. … I’m pessimistic about our ability to get people to agree that human-caused climate change is a real thing, much less to agree on taking expensive and difficult steps to deal with that problem.”

On the future of democracy: “To be clear, I’m not a big fan of non-democratic countries. I’m a democracy guy all the way. But if the question we’re talking about is, ‘Can the big democracies like the U.S. and the U.K. get behind expensive and difficult action to address climate change?’ … Right now I have to be realistic and say that doesn’t look that likely.”…

(2) STRANGER THINGS TEASER. Variety breaks it down: “’Stranger Things’ Season 4 Teaser Shows Life Beyond Hawkins”.

…In it, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and Will are living new lives in California, where Eleven seems to be having a hard time adjusting, although she doesn’t admit that when writing to Mike (Finn Wolfhard). Her letter serves as narration for the teaser, which you can watch below.

“I even like school now. I have made lots of friends,” she says, as she’s ignored by peers in the school hallway. “Even so, I am ready for spring break, mostly because I get to see you. We will have the best spring break ever.”

The teaser ends in a montage of classic “Stranger Things” chaos: explosions, car chases, a creepy doll, a military arrest and more. The song “A Place In California” by Jeremiah Burnham plays in the background as the teaser comes to a close….

(3) CORFLU 38. At Corflu Concorde in Bristol, England this weekend, Sandra Bond was named Past President of the Fan Writers of America for 2020. Bond also was Corflu’s GoH – always determined by drawing an attendee’s name from a hat.

(4) RETURN OF MASSIVE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber discusses “massively multiplayer online role-playing games” or MMORPGs.

In recent years there has been a marked absence of exciting new projects.  While other games have evolved, MMORPGs have stagnated.  They got bigger, but not better.  One of the more popular recent releases is World of Warcraft Classic, which restores the game back to its unadorned first iteration:  many players would rather go backwards than forwards. Sometimes I wonder: did the games change?  Or did we?

Just because there hasn’t been another blockbuster doesn’t mean the genre is dead.  If one game can claim to have assumed World of Warcraft‘s mantle, it is 2013’s Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, a game that was rebuilt after a failed 2010 relaunch and has since cultivated a dedicated community of 24m players. Meanwhile New World, with its 17th century setting and focus on crafting, drummed up healthy viewing numbers on Twitch — though it has recently been shedding players.  We are also beginning to address the first MMORPGs born through crowdfunding, including the new release Crowfall and the upcoming Pantheon and Ashes of Creation.

(5) DOWNLOAD ELLIS’ ART SALE CATALOG. Doug Ellis has issued his new art sale catalog, devoted entirely to the art of Virgil Finlay, with over 300 originals, as well as ephemera such as cover proofs.  

Please note that only one of the pieces is a published illustration; the others are a mixture of science fiction/fantasy and astrology preliminaries, sketches, personal pieces, abstract art and paintings.  If you saw the Finlay material I had at the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention two months ago, you’ll still want to take a look, as over half the art in this catalog wasn’t at the show.  This material all comes from Finlay’s estate, and I’m selling it on behalf of his granddaughter.

You can download the catalog (325 pages, about 90 MB) from Wetransfer or Dropbox.

(6) REVIVAL HOUR. If you thought it had been awhile since you last saw an issue of Penumbric Speculative Fiction Magazine, you were right.  

After 15 years, a new dawn for Penumbric

For a few years in the early 2000s, there was an edgy little speculative fiction magazine called Penumbric Speculative Fiction Magazine. It published fiction, art, poetry, graphic narratives … and online, yet! But then it got a little too hubristic, and it tried to be a print magazine, too (I mean, you couldn’t just be online, could you?) … and the magazine sank.

It’s time to rise again. Reincarnate.

When submissions open, this is what they’ll be looking for:

I would love to see submissions representing not only multiple cultures but subcultures, exploring issues of race, ethnicity, gender, orientation, and many things I haven’t thought of. Does this mean you have to represent everybody and everything in 1000 words? Of course not. But be aware that we are creating a magazine that overall reaches and represents the true diversity of the world we live in.

In terms of genre, I am looking for work that constitutes the ever-moving edge of its kind, as a place between light and dark, consciousness and un, today and tomorrow; work exhibiting the strange, the bizarre, that which is not of the world we know, but more of a twilight realm or even altogether alien place. Not necessarily science fiction, not necessarily fantasy, not necessarily horror, and not necessarily not these things. In short, ideally edgy. Maybe even idealistically edgy. I am NOT looking for porn.

(7) IT’S NICE AND EASY ON THE OTHER SIDE. Auralee Wallace makes the case for cozy paranormal romances: “The Charm of the Paranormal Cozy: An Appreciation” at CrimeReads.

Oh, we live in troubled times, don’t we? I could list all the things wrong with the world, but why bother? All you have to do is turn on the TV, or scroll through social media, or simply walk down the street and you’ll likely be inundated with the many terrible crises we’re all facing. Who needs more of that? No, instead of reminding you of what’s wrong with the world, I’d like to offer you an escape. An escape to a world that seems much like our own but with a few key differences. It’s a world where you can expect to be handled gently. Where you can snap your fingers or wiggle your nose and life becomes miraculously easier. Here you can rest safely in the knowledge that there are forces of good working behind the scenes, and, if you’re lucky, you might just catch a peek through the veil to other side. It’s not only a world where comfort is savored and valued; it’s one where justice always prevails, killers are always caught, and the murders are at least a little bit cozy….

(8) TEXAS-SIZED SFF COLLECTION. A video introduction to the Cushing Memorial Library and Archives at Texas A&M University, housing one of the largest science fiction and fantasy collections in the country. Featuring a sneak peek at Kristen Britain’s archive.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1997 — Twenty-four years ago, Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers premiered. It’s based rather loosely off Robert Heinlein’s Hugo Award winning novel.  It had a cast of Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, Denise Richards Jake Busey,  Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Muldoon and Michael Ironside, and it received a mixed reception by critics ranging from utterly loathing it to really, really loving it and a generally negative one by most SF fans; it currently garners a rather excellent seventy percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes among the quarter million audience reviewers who’ve given an opinion, and never earned backed its hundred million budget taking in just a hundred and twenty million. It would spawn a number of sequels, universally bad, and one superb animated series that was unfortunately not completed. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 7, 1910 Pearl Argyle. Catherine CabalI in the 1936 Things to Come as written by H.G. Wells based off his “The Shape of Things to Come” story. Being a dancer, she also appeared in 1926 The Fairy Queen opera by Henry Purcell, with dances by Marie Rambert and Frederick Ashton. Her roles were Dance of the Followers of Night, an attendant on Summer, and Chaconne. (Died 1947.)
  • Born November 7, 1914 R. A. Lafferty. Writer known for somewhat eccentric usage of language.  His first novel Past Master would set a lifelong pattern of seeing his works nominated for Hugo and Nebula Awards but not winning either though he won a Hugo short story at Torcon II for “Eurema’s Dam”.  He did receive a World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award, and he also received the Cordwainer Smith Foundation’s Rediscovery award. (Died 2002.)
  • Born November 7, 1934 Wendy Williams. You know I’ll work in a Doctor Who reference if I can.  She was in a Fourth Doctor story, “The Ark in Space” as Vira. Other genre appearances include Danger Man,  Leap in the DarkJack the Ripper and The Further Adventures of the Musketeers. (Died 2019.)
  • Born November 7, 1950 Lindsay Duncan, 71. Adelaide Brooke in the Tenth Doctor‘s “The Waters of Mars” story and the recurring role Lady Smallwood on Sherlock in “His Last Vow,” “The Six Thatchers,” and “The Lying Detective”. She’s also been in Black MirrorA Discovery of WitchesFrankensteinThe Storyteller: Greek MythsMission: 2110 and one of my favorite series, The New Avengers.
  • Born November 7, 1960 Linda Nagata, 61. Her novella “Goddesses” was the first online publication to win the Nebula Award. She writes largely in the Nanopunk genre which is not be confused with the Biopunk genre. To date, she has three series out, to wit The Nanotech SuccessionStories of the Puzzle Lands (as Trey Shiels) and The Red. She has won a Locus Award for Best First Novel for The Bohr Maker which the first novel in The Nanotech Succession. Her 2013 story “Nahiku West” was runner-up for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, and The Red: First Light was nominated for both the Nebula Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Her site is here.
  • Born November 7, 1954 Guy Gavriel Kay, 67. The story goes that when Christopher Tolkien needed an assistant to edit his father J. R. R. Tolkien’s unpublished work, he chose Kay who was being a student of philosophy at the University of Manitoba. And Kay moved to Oxford in 1974 to assist Tolkien in editing The Silmarillion. Cool, eh? The Finovar trilogy which I love is the retelling of the legends of King Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere which is why much of his fiction is considered historical fantasy. Tigana likewise which is wonderful somewhat resembles renaissance Italy. My favorite work by him is Ysabel which strangely enough is called an urban fantasy when it isn’t. It won a World Fantasy Award. Let’s not forget that he was the Toastmaster at ConFrancisco.
  • Born November 7, 1974 Carl Steven. He appeared in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock as a young Spock, thereby becoming the first actor other than Leonard Nimoy to play the role in a live action setting. Genre one-offs included Weird ScienceTeen Wolf and Superman.  He provided the voice of a young Fred Jones for four seasons worth of A Pup Named Scooby-Doo which can be construed as genre. His life didn’t end well. (Died 2011.)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) ICONIC MODEL. Robert K. Jones chronicles “Jeffrey Catherine Jones’ Unknown Muse” in The Comics Journal.

You’ve seen her, but few people know her name.

She appears in some of Jeffrey Catherine Jones’ most famous paintings, notably The Wall (1977), Seated (1983), and the covers for fantasy books such as The Undying Wizard (1975). She was also the most prominent model for the idiosyncratic strip Idyl published by National Lampoon during the years 1972-1976. 

Yet, outside the artists’ circle of friends, almost no one knows anything about Jones’ most referenced, most enigmatic model: Sandi Zinaman (1952-2015), a librarian, artist and caterer who lived most of her life in New York state’s Hudson Valley…. 

(13) BUG OR FEATURE? “Why Doctor Who’s TARDIS Make its Iconic Sound?” CBR.com summons clicks with the question, “But is it actually supposed to, or is it user error?”

Any Doctor Who fan will instantly recognize the distinctive wheezing sound the TARDIS makes whenever it materializes or dematerializes. Variously dubbed the “vworp-vworp,” “vwoorp” or “vwoorpy” by fans of the franchise as well as several characters in-universe, the noise is as iconic as the time machine’s blue police box exterior.

For most of the show’s long run, fans and creators alike assumed the noise was simply part of the TARDIS, as intrinsic as its bigger-than-the-outside interior and temperamental, semi-sentient nature. It wasn’t until New Who and the Eleventh Doctor’s run that showrunner Steven Moffat invented an explanation for the sound effect — though some feel it is a rather dicey one. As with many factoids in the long-running, ever-changing universe of Doctor Who, there are plenty of canon occurrences that directly contradict this explanation, as well. So what is the truth behind the vwoorpy?…

(14) THEY PUT THINGS IN OUR EARS TO CONTROL OUR MINDS. WYNC’s On the Media did a segment on “The Science Fiction Origins of the Metaverse”.

When Facebook changed its name to Meta, after the Metaverse, many were quick to identify the term’s origin: Neal Stephenson’s 1992 cyberpunk classic Snow CrashBut the novel hardly paints an optimistic future—runway inflation, collapsed governments, and a maniacal media magnate who uses the Metaverse to, get this, destroy people’s minds. It begs the question: did Zuckerberg misread it?

This week, Brooke speaks with Jill Lepore, Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer, Annalee Newitz, former Editor-in-Chief of Gizmodo and science fiction author, and Gene Seymour, longtime cultural critic, to unpack the literary world behind the social media giant’s new name. They discuss why the tech moguls love science fiction so much, the perils of reading these “world-building” novels too literally, and how new forms of the genre today are already making the Metaverse look obsolete.

(15) PLOT HATCHED. My Retro Computer is in the business of selling PC’s in shells that look like early days home computers.

Do you remember your first home computer?

Was it a Commodore 64, Vic 20 or an Amiga? Wouldn’t it be fantastic to have a modern day PC in a retro computer shell?

Here at My Retro Computer we aim to do just that. We believe the PC market is boring and stagnated, it needs a new fresh approach – retro is the new modern.

Starting with the famous C-64 we aim to expand the range to include the Vic20, A-500 and possibly the spectrum ranges.

(16) VACUUM WRAPPED. The Late Show With Stephen Colbert didn’t waste any time in mocking SpaceX’s little problem: “Launch Pads Are The New NASA-Approved Diapers”.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, John A Arkansawyer, Chris Barkley, Daniel Dern, 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 Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 11/5/21 If You Wish To Scroll, Turn To Page 18. If You Wish To Pixel, Turn To Page 45

(1) IMAGINARY WORLD INSIDE A GAME. [Item by Soon Lee.]  Ursula Vernon’s been playing Townscaper, an open-ended game/thingy where you build towns on water, and has taken to it so much that, well, would you just look at this gorgeous fan comic that’s come out of Ursula’s wonderful creativity? Thread starts here.

(2) LOCAL STAR. Transforming Edmonton’s series “The Writers’ Block” begins with “Chapter 1: Scientist and rising Edmonton author Premee Mohamed explores dichotomies”.

…Edmonton is a frequent backdrop in Mohamed’s science fiction, which often deals with calamities—whether caused by ancient monsters or climate disasters. 

 “I don’t think it’s realistic to write anything set in the future on Earth and NOT mention climate change,” says the Clareview resident.

Mohamed used to take classes in “BioSci”—she’s a scientist with degrees in molecular genetics and environmental science. She currently works for the Alberta government, devising guidelines for the clean-up of industrial activities such as factories, oil and gas wells, gravel pits and fertilizer plants. 

Science was an early passion for Mohamed. While many four-year-olds are obsessed with cars or dolls, she was fascinated with microbes—tiny organisms that you can’t see without a microscope, let alone dress up or play with in a sandbox…. 

(3) DIAGRAM PRIZE SHORTLIST. The Guardian calls “Is Superman Circumcised? favourite to win Oddest book title of the year”.

An examination of the Jewish origins of the Man of Steel, Is Superman Circumcised?, is vying with an up-to-date look at camel milk and related camel goods, Handbook of Research on Health and Environmental Benefits of Camel Products, for the dubious honour of the oddest book title of the year….

These six books are in the running for the 43rd Diagram Prize, nominated by members of the book trade:

  • Curves for the Mathematically Curious
  • Handbook of Research on Health and Environmental Benefits of Camel Products
  • Hats: A Very Unnatural History
  • Is Superman Circumcised?
  • The Life Cycle of Russian Things: From Fish Guts to Fabergé
  • Miss, I Don’t Give a Shit: Engaging with Challenging Behaviour in Schools

(4) ETERNALS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the November 2 Financial Times behind a paywall, Danny Leigh interviews Kumail Nanjiani about his role in Eternals.

Nanjiani begins at a pitch of red-carpet enthusiasm.  ‘Honestly,’ he says, ‘it’s easy to talk about the movie because I’m so excited.  I genuinely, genuinely love it.’  He says he is a life-long fan of comic books and Marvel films  His character, Kimgo, is a Bollywood leading man who is also an immortal superhero.  An action figure is available.  At home in Los Angeles, Nanjiani says, he has shelves already filled with models of Batman, Hellboy, and more  His own tiny likeness now stands among them.. ‘They minimised my eyebrows to be sensitive to my feelings, but I’m like, ‘No!  Use more black paint!’…

…’What helped’ him make Eternals ‘was a lifetime watching superheroes.’  But other influences are in play, too.  We meet Kingo in the vivid middle of a Bollywood dance number.  Growing up in Karachi, Nanjiani saw as much Bollywood as Hollywood.  Getting the details and spirit right in Eternals mattered to him.  ‘American audiences might see a Bollywood movie as ironic.  But it’s hyper sincere. That’s the beauty of it.’

Then, in the Washington Post, Ann Hornaday interviews director Chloe Zhao about Eternals and the continuity Zhao sees between her Marvel project and Nomadland. “Chloe Zhao’s ‘Eternals’ is a Marvel movie made her own way”.

… Zhao’s fans will surely recognize some of her signatures in “Eternals,” including a hat-tip to South Dakota, where she filmed her first two films, as well as portions of “Nomadland.” (The state is played by England in “Eternals,” with the help of some subtle visual effects.) Zhao insisted on practical locations when at all possible, giving “Eternals” a more organic, natural feel than most Marvel movies. When she pitched Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige on her concept for the film, she referred to the poem “Auguries of Innocence,” by William Blake.

“?‘To see a World in a Grain of Sand/And Heaven in a Wild Flower/Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand/and Eternity in an hour.’ .?.?. I think of that with ‘Nomadland’ quite a bit,” Zhao said. “And that’s Fern’s journey, in a way — going into nature and a community to be part of something bigger, and therefore heal from that process. With ‘Eternals’ it’s very much a bigger call to that — to humanity, in a way, understanding our place in the universe, our relationship with our planet, and therefore with ourselves. These are the bigger themes Jack Kirby had explored in his comics, and we were fortunate enough to [explore] in this film.”…

The New York Times gives the film a positive review: “‘Eternals’ Review: When Super Franchises Walk the Earth!”

Throughout “Eternals,” the latest — though certainly not the last! — from Marvel Studios, you can see the director Chloé Zhao fighting to cut this industrial-strength spectacle down to human size. Her efforts are mostly evident in the sincerity of the performances, and in the heartfelt moments that punctuate the movie, creating pinpricks of warming light. But it’s a titanic struggle. And as Zhao keeps lubricating the machinery with feeling and tears, her efforts seem to mirror the battle that her likable superheroes are waging against a force seeking to thoroughly control their destinies….

(5) STRANGER THINGS POP UPS. New York and Los Angeles will be the sites of two temporary pop-ups, the Stranger Things: The Official Store. They open tomorrow, for a limited time. It’s a 30-minute experience. Reservations available at the link.

…Embark on an interactive journey filled with photo moments and fun easter eggs, as you explore Hawkins and settings like Joyce’s House, Palace Arcade and Starcourt Mall. You will be able to interact with friends and foes from Hawkins. Get up close to the Russian Guards, hang out with Scoops Ahoy employees, and much more!

(6) LOST BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. Angela Cartwright and Bill Mumy (Penny and Will Robinson from the original Lost in Space) have issued a revised version of their book about the show: “Lost (and Found) in Space 2: Blast Off into the Expanded Edition”.  

And Heritage Auctions Hollywood & Entertainment Signature® Auction now in progress includes some of the costumes. Amid all this activity, another cast member gave an interview to Fox: “’Lost in Space’ star Marta Kristen recalls moment she heard ‘60s series was ending: ‘No one really knew why’”.

Fox News: How did you cope when the show ended?
Kristen: Oh, I remember that moment vividly. I was at my house and I received a phone call. I learned it was canceled. I was speechless. No one really knew why. Later on, we found out that it was possibly Irwin’s battle with CBS at the time. He wasn’t giving the scripts that CBS demanded. And they wanted six of them, apparently, or something like that.

I think everyone has a different version of the story. But at that time, Irwin just had so many projects. And I guess he just thought it wasn’t worth the fight. So it was canceled. And it was unusual because we were doing very well in the ratings. We had a very large fan base even then. But it was an expensive show.

(7) CAMILE SAVIOLA OBIT. Actress Camille Saviola, who had over 40 film and TV roles and is remembered by fans for a short run on Deep Space Nine, died October 28 at the age of 71. The full New York Times obituary is here.

…She endeared herself to a different group of fans when she was cast in “Deep Space Nine” as Kai Opaka, a spiritual leader on the planet Bajor. Though she appeared in only four episodes, from 1993 to 1996, Ms. Saviola was well known to followers of the franchise, many of whom posted about her death on social media.

In a 1995 interview with a “Deep Space Nine” fan magazine that is quoted on the website Memory Alpha, Ms. Saviola talked about how she got the part.

“I went in — every character actress was there — and did a little reading, the real thing,” she said, referring not to a script reading but to a tarot card reading. “My grandmother read cards and tea leaves down in Greenwich Village — she never charged people money — and I have a little bit of that gift.”

(8) BOB BAKER 1939-2021. Bob Baker, who co-wrote several Third and Fourth Doctor Who serials with his writing partner Dave Martin, has died reports Gizmodo. Bob Baker was also known for being a co-writer of the Wallace and Gromit films The Wrong TrousersA Close Shave and Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and A Matter of Loaf and Death. 

…But perhaps most famous of all is “The Invisible Enemy,” which introduced the robot dog K-9. Originally intended to be a one-off appearance, K-9 was instead entrusted to the Fourth Doctor at the end of the story and became a regular companion alongside Leela and Romana. After exiting the show four years later, Baker’s legacy in K-9 would continue with K-9 and Company, a planned spinoff with Sladen that didn’t make it past the original pilot, and of course, K-9’s brief return to Doctor Who’s post-2005 era with the episode “School Reunion.” The character also had regular appearances in Sladen’s children-focused BBC spinoff The Sarah Jane Adventures, until her passing in 2011…. 

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1993 – Twenty-eight years ago, Robocop 3 premiered. It was the first in the franchise in which Peter Weller did not play the lead role but instead Robert Burke assumed that role. It was directed by Fred Dekker, the third director in the franchise.  The screenplay was written by him and Frank Miller from a story by the latter. Its primary cast was Robert Burke, Nancy Allen, Rip Torn, Jill Hennessy, Remy Ryan and Mako. So what did critics think of it? Well they didn’t like it. Roger Ebert said, “Why do they persist in making these retreads?” And the absence of Peter Weller in the title role really, really annoyed most of the critics. (I didn’t think the change in performers was that noticeable with that costume.) Box office wise it barely broke even doing forty-seven million dollars on a budget of twenty-two million. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes really don’t like it currently giving a pathetic fifteen percent rating after Robocop 2 scored a thirty-six percent rating and the original had a most excellent eighty-four percent rating. Ouch. Needless to say there was not a Robocop 4.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 5, 1903 H. Warner Munn. Writer and Poet known in genre for his early stories in Weird Tales in the 20s and 30s, his Atlantean/Arthurian fantasy saga, and his later stories about The Werewolf Clan. After making two mistakes in his first published genre story, he compensated by becoming a meticulous researcher and intricate plotter. His work became popular again in the 70s after Donald Wollheim and Lin Carter sought him out to write sequels to the first novel in his Merlin’s Godson series, which had been serialized in Weird Tales in 1939, and they published those novels as part of their Ballantine and Del Rey adult fantasy lines. The third novel in the series received World Fantasy and Mythopoeic Award nominations, he himself was nominated three times for the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and he was Guest of Honor at the 1978 World Fantasy Convention. He won the Balrog Award for Poet twice in the 80s, and received the Clark Ashton Smith Award for Poetry. (Died 1981.)
  • Born November 5, 1938 James Steranko, 83. Artist, Illustrator, Writer, Publisher, and Magician who is noted for his work in the comic book and graphic novel industry. His breakthough was the Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. feature in Marvel Comics’ Strange Tales, and the subsequent series, in the 60s. His design sensibility would become widespread within and without the comics industry, affecting even Raiders of the Lost Ark and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, for which he created conceptual art and character designs. He also produced several dozen covers and illustrations for genre novels and anthologies in the 60s and 70s. His two-volume history of the birth and early years of comic books established him as a historian of the field. He received and Inkpot Award and Dragon Con’s Julie Award, and was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2006.
  • Born November 5, 1940 Butch Honeck, 81. Sculptor and Fan who learned mechanics, welding, machining, and metal finishing as a teenager, then went on to build a foundry and teach himself to cast bronze so he could create shapes that were too complex for welding. His bronze fantasy sculptures, which depict dragons, mythical creatures, wizards, and other fantasy-oriented themes, use the lost wax method with ceramic shell molds and are characterized by intricate details, mechanical components, humor, and surprise. He has been Artist Guest of Honor at several conventions, was named to Archon’s Hall of Fame, and won a Chesley Award for Best Three-Dimensional Art.
  • Born November 5, 1942 Frank Gasperik. The inspiration for characters in several novels including Lucifer’s Hammer as Mark Czescu, and into Footfall as Harry Reddington aka Hairy Red,  and in Fallen Angels, all by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. He was a close friend of both and assisted Pournelle on his Byte column. To my knowledge, he has but two writing credits which are he co-wrote a story, “Janesfort War”, with Leslie Fish that was published in Pournelle’s War World collection, CoDominium: Revolt on War World, and “To Win the Peace” co-written with Leslie Fish which was published in John F. Carr’s War World: Takeover. He was a filk singer including here doing “The Green Hills of Earth”. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 5, 1944 Carole Nelson Douglas. Although she has two inarguably genre series In the Delilah Street, Paranormal Investigator and the Sword and Circlet novels, I’m here to pitch to you her Social Justice Warrior credential series instead (and dissenters can now go elsewhere) in the form of her Midnight Louie series.  Each novel is told in part from the point of view of Midnight Louie, the cat himself in a style some say is like that of a Damon Runyon character. Great characters, lovely premise. (Died 2021.)
  • Born November 5, 1960 Tilda Swinton, 61. Her take as Rosetta/Ruby/Marinne/Olive in Teknolust might be the most weird genre role she’s done but I think her take as The White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is her best role to date. Mind you her Gabriel in Constantine was just frelling strange…
  • Born November 5, 1968 Sam Rockwell, 53. First in our area of interest, he’s the Head Thug in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I’ve got him next being Francis Flute in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, not a role I knew. And Guy Fleegman on Galaxy Quest which of course won a Hugo at Chicon 2000. And lastly he was Zaphod Beeblebroxin The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I’ve not seen it yet. Worth seeing? The radio series is so damn good.
  • Born November 5, 1971 Rana Dasgupta, 50. British Indian novelist and essayist. Tokyo Cancelled is definitely genre and is most excellent. He’s written a lot on Dehli including “Capital: A Portrait of Twenty-First Century Delhi” which reads like science fiction.

(11) NEXT BIG THING. League of Comic Geeks previews a bestselling author’s work on The Thing #1.

Renowned storyteller Walter Mosley brings his signature style to a sweeping saga of Yancy Street’s favorite son that will range from the urban sprawl of the back alleys of Manhattan to the farthest reaches of the cosmos itself! A lonely evening and a chance encounter (or is it?) sends Ben Grimm embarking on a sojourn that will have him encountering—and battling—figures both old and new. Featuring guest appearances from figures drawn from throughout the Marvel Universe as well as precision artwork by Tom Reilly…

(12) THE CHILLS ARE ALIVE. Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s musical episode “Once More, With Feeling,” a 2002 Hugo nominee, is remembered fondly by the participants in an LA Times roundtable, “’Buffy’s’ musical episode keeps slaying”.

Ashley Lee: I can’t believe it’s been 20 years since this episode first aired! I must confess that, in those 20 years, I had never seen it, or any other episode of “Buffy.” Watching it for the first time the other day — the series is available to stream on Hulu and Amazon Prime Video — I was floored. This episode f— slaps. I am low-key pissed that I wasn’t allowed to watch this show as a kid because this would have radicalized me. What was it like for a devout “Buffy” fan to see this back then?

Jevon Phillips: Fans knew that Whedon had wanted to do a musical episode for a while. We knew Anthony Stewart Head, who plays Giles, and James Marsters, who plays Spike, could sing. We had heard glowing reviews of Amber Benson’s voice, so Tara was set too. But what about the rest of the cast?

Dawn Burkes: It really was a capital-E Event for “Buffy” fans. And it came during a time when people were still reeling from the show changing networks and well-loved characters changing too. “Where Do We Go From Here,” indeed. (And now I’m singing the entire soundtrack, of which I own a hard copy.)

Tracy Brown: It’s not hyperbole to say that I’ve probably seen “Once More, With Feeling” more times than any single episode — a tally mostly racked up when DVD boxed sets were the only way to revisit your favorite TV. This was before “Glee” or “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” so the only real frame of reference for “musical episode” I had at the time was, like, “Xena: Warrior Princess.” (“Bitter Suite” remains a favorite.) And itwent on to be shown in theaters for fan-driven, interactive sing-along events, at least for a while….

(13) DICTIONARY DEFINITION. In case you didn’t already know the meaning of this word, Lise Andreasen explains it in a tweet:

(14) USE THE CARD, LUKE. CNET’s Bridget Carey previews the Disney World LARP/”indoor cruise” Galactic Starcruiser, opening in March 2022, and “only” costing $6,000 for a family of four. Disney, says Carey, “puts the hype in hyperspace.”

(15) GOLDEN ARCHES AND A GREEN ALIEN. This place has been around a long time – but it’s news to me. “The World’s Only UFO-Themed McDonald’s is In Roswell”NewMexi.co has the story.

…The space-themed McDonald’s in Roswell was built in the 90’s. The design makes it look like a shiny metal saucer during the day and glow like a red and yellow spaceship in the dark. Dominated by a massive indoor galactic Play Place and fascinating works of art, the Roswell McDonald’s is the only space-themed McDonald’s in the world….

(16) ANTICIPATION. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] A week or two ago File 770 provided news of a preprint of Martian research from the latest lander.

File 770 is clearly ahead of the game as only now, this week, has the research been formally published in Science where it made the front cover.

(17) BRICK BY BRICK. A new Lego commercial has lots of genre callbacks: “Rebuild the world! Anything is possible with LEGO® sets”.

LEGO® sets take kids to a creative world where no rules apply. A fire-fighting dragon; a car on a carousel; clothes on a cactus; giant bees chasing Star Wars™ Stormtroopers… Anything is possible in the vast and diverse LEGO universe. And, because kids can continuously build, rebuild, reconfigure and combine, the developmental play never stops!

(18) TIME PASSAGES. Another commercial’s extrapolation from today to the Christmases of the future is also a trip from cliché to absurdity. “Lidl GB I Big on a Christmas you can ALWAYS believe in”.

If you’re watching this in 2021, or 2041, then you’ll know that we’re always be BIG on a Christmas you can believe in, to help keep your favourite festive traditions going on and on (and on!)

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