Pixel Scroll 12/19/23 I’m My Own Granfalloon

(1) LEARNEDLEAGUE. [Item by David Goldfarb.] “Question 4 of match day 23 of LearnedLeague season 99”:

Fourth Wing and Iron Flame are titles of the best-selling “romantasy” books released in 2023. Give either the name of the series of which these are the first two installments, or the name of the books’ American author.

Answer: the Empyrean series by Rebecca Yarros.

This had a 14% get rate, with no single wrong answer being given by as many as 5% of players.

I know for a fact that I have seen advertising for this. If only someone had poked me on the shoulder and said, “Pay attention! This will be on LL!” I’d have had a tie in my match instead of a loss. Sigh.

(2) POWELL’S BOOKS UNION CONTRACT. Publishers Weekly knows the terms. “Powell’s Books Workers Ratify New Union Contract”.

Unionized workers at Powell’s Books in Portland, Ore., have ratified a new contract, according to ILWU Local 5, the union which has represented Powell’s staff since 2000. Ninety-three percent of eligible Powell’s workers voted yes for the contract, which will last for four years.

The ratification follows 10 months of negotiations and multiple rejected contracts, including one proposed by Powell’s management in August and another in November. On Labor Day, unionized Powell’s workers staged a walkout, resulting in the daylong closure of all three Powell’s locations on September 4.

Among the new contract’s stipulations are:

  • “10-19% increases to the minimums for the lowest-paid job groups in the first year, and increases to the minimum for all job groups throughout the life of the contract”
  • “annual wage increases totalling $5.20 over the life of the contract” for every union worker, which the union says “amounts to a 28% increase for the average Powell’s worker, and is in addition to any wage increases tied to promotions”
  • “expedited promotions (an accompanying wage increases) for entry-level positions”
  • “broader access to holiday pay”
  • “stronger inclement weather language to give workers more information to make safe decisions in event of snow, ice, extreme heat, wildfire smoke, etc.” “a healthcare plan that significantly decreases the cost of the most common claims for most workers”
  • “a more clearly defined recall process in the event of layoffs, and preservation of benefits for the entire time a worker is on the recall list”…

(3) ONLINE YULE LOGS AT HBO MAX. [Item by Daniel Dern.] HBO Max has a variety of Yule Log/Fireplace videos (looks like only for subscribers) including:

(Looks like it simply glows, but doesn’t hatch)

  • Harry Potter: Fireplace

Wizarding World welcomes you into the common room of all four Hogwarts houses — cozy up around a crackling fire and say hi to some familiar friends.

  • Califer (living flame, from Studio Ghibli)
  • Adult Swim Yule Log (aka The Fireplace)

[Note, not just a fire’n’log; it’s actually a horror movie, with actors, dialog, and, well, horror stuff (based on my quick skim).] “Rated TV-MA for violence, adult language and brief nudity.”

(4) IT’S NOT IN THE CARDS. “Hasbro, owner of Wizards of the Coast, to lay off 1,100 over weak sales” says The Seattle Times.

Hasbro, the parent company of the Seattle-area game publisher Wizards of the Coast, plans to lay off approximately 1,100 employees of its global workforce over weak sales that are expected to continue into next year. 

The maker of toys like Transformers and Play-Doh declined to specify if the layoffs will hit Wizards of the Coast and Washington-based employees. The Rhode Island company also declined to break down total employee numbers by location. 

Hasbro CEO Chris Cocks said in a memo to staff on Monday that weaker-than-expected sales hit as the market is coming off “historic, pandemic-driven highs.”

The “headwinds we anticipated have proven to be stronger and more persistent than planned,” Cocks said. 

Monday’s layoffs, which will affect nearly 20% of Hasbro’s global workforce, are on top of the 800 positions eliminated earlier this year

Despite Hasbro’s struggles, Wizards of the Coast, publisher of the popular games Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering, performed well financially this year. … 

(5) GEOFF RYMAN ANNOUNCES DEATH OF PARTNER. Sending our condolences to Geoff Ryman.

(6) TCM MEMORIAL REEL. Turner Classic Movies today posted their annual tribute: “TCM Remembers”.

We say goodbye to the performers, filmmakers, and creatives we lost in 2023. Through their art and storytelling they soared to new heights and kept us grounded.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 19, 1902 Sir Ralph Richardson. (Died 1983.) So why Ralph Richardson for this Birthday write-up? Well he’d be here if only for being in Terry Gillian’s Time Bandits which was nominated for a Hugo at Chicon IV in which he played the Supreme Being. But he was actually quite active in our end of things. 

His very first genre acting was not surprisingly in the theatre with Macbeth for the first time at age nineteen when he played both Macduff and Banquo, and later on he’ll be Macbeth himself several times. Over the years he had quite extensive theatre experience, but I’ll only detail that relevant to our interest here. 

He was in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Lysander (and Bottom in several later productions) and Hamlet as Haratio twice. He’s Face in Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist, and Mr Darling and Captain Hook in Peter Pan.  

Now unto his film work. At age twenty-nine, unusually late generally to be doing so, he made his film debut. Two years later, The Ghoul, a horror film with Boris Karloff marked his genre debut as Nigel Hartley. 

Ralph Richardson, left, with Margaretta Scott, right, in Things To Come.

Next was Things to Come (also known in promotional material as H. G. Wells’ Things to Come whose script was written by Wells and based his book The Shape of Things to Come. He was Rudolf, “The Boss”. 

Q Planes (known as Clouds Over Europe in the States) I think is SF given the weapon that brought the spy planes. He played Major Charles Hammond here.

One very, very creepy role was The Crypt Keeper in Tales from The Crypt. I do hope he got paid very well for that acting performance. Then he got to be very cute as the caterpillar in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and one very determined creature as the Chief Rabbit in Watership Down.

He finished off his film work I think appropriately enough by playing Lord Greystoke in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes

Ralph Richardson, left, in Time Bandits.

(8) YOU MAY ALREADY HAVE WON. There’s a stampede to fill MCU’s Kang vacancy. Call your agent today! “5 Actors To Recast As Kang Following Jonathan Majors Guilty Verdict And Disney Firing” at Forbes.

… The plan was to move from the MCU’s Phase 5 into Phase 6 with 2026’s The Avengers: Kang Dynasty, but that plan may now be scrapped after Majors’ exit and conviction.

The question now is whether Disney will attempt to recast Kang or simply move on to a new villain….

… My criteria here also includes physical details: Chiefly, the actor should be a black man who isn’t too old or too young. Kang needs gravitas, so casting someone too young would be a mistake. But if he’s too old he won’t come across as physically intimidating enough without CGI (and we don’t need another Thanos). Denzel Washington is a fan-favorite choice here but at 68 I think he might be too old at this point. Other great actors like LaKeith Stanfield just don’t have quite the physique, though it’s possible that could be countered by physical training and costumes….

(9) LAST BITE. Variety has heard that “’What We Do In the Shadows’ Ending With Season 6 at FX”.

The sixth season of FX‘s “What We Do in the Shadows” will be its last.

The series, created by Jemaine Clement based on his and Taika Waititi’s 2014 film of the same name, premiered in 2019. In mockumentary format, it follows the nightly exploits of vampire roommates Nandor (Kayvan Novak), Laszlo (Matt Berry), Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) and Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch) as they navigate the modern world of Staten Island with the help of their human familiar, Guillermo (Harvey Guillén), and their vampire bureaucrat acquaintance, the Guide (Kristen Schaal)….

…Since its debut, the series has garnered 21 Emmy nominations, winning for Outstanding Fantasy/Sci-Fi Costumes in 2022. This year, it won Best Comedy Series at the GLAAD Media Awards….

(10) THAT THING YOU DO. At Comicbook.com “The Thing’s Kurt Russell Weighs in on Film’s Debated Ending”.

…Namely, fans wonder if either Kurt Russell‘s MacReady or Keith David’s Childs have been infected by the otherworldly creature, and while Russell isn’t outright revealing the answer, he recently addressed what his motivations were for the project and the conversations he had with Carpenter about the cryptic finale. While knowing the “answer” of the ending doesn’t change the effectiveness of the adventure, fans have remained curious about the opinions of the cast and crew regarding those final scenes.

“We talked about that, the ending of that movie, John and I, for a long, long time. We’d trade ideas for the end, write it out, and it was one of those things where John was concerned about it, doing a movie that you would see, for two hours plus, and bring you back to square one,” Russell recently shared during a conversation hosted by the Happy Sad Confused podcast. “We finally got to a point where, we’d try different things, and I just remember finally saying, ‘How about this one?’ and we’d try it, and I said, ‘John, I think this comes back to square one. I think that’s what it does.’ The only thing I could do was finish it with, ‘Why don’t we just sit here for a while and see what happens.’ It worked. It was the thing that it called for.”

He added, “It’s fun to hear people talk about that one, I must say, that’s a fun one.”…

(11) TUNES WITH A HOOK. “Spielberg’s 1991 movie ‘Hook’ was nearly a musical. Now its score has been released” reports NPR.

Steven Spielberg’s 1991 movie “Hook” was nearly a musical. Now the never-heard score with tunes by John Williams has been recorded and released.

… (SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

LESLIE BRICUSSE: And we thought we’d got the Oscar with a song called “Childhood.” And I remember Steven, when he heard it, saying, that’s a home run.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “CHILDHOOD”)

UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST #1: (Singing) Shadows, memories, lingering laughter reach out, touch me half my life after.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

[LESLIE] BRICUSSE: But it was a beautiful song, beautiful song, beautiful melody – vintage Williams.

[TIM] GREIVING: “Childhood” was written for Granny Wendy. Williams and Bricusse also wrote a seductive villain song for Captain Hook to sing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “STICK WITH ME”)

UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST #2: (As Captain Hook, singing) Looking at where we’re at sensibly, boy, if you will spend a little time with me, you can be – I guarantee – anything you want to be.

[TIM] GREIVING: None of these made it into “Hook” the movie….

(12) COLLECTOR ROYALTY. “You Need Felix the Cat? Early Popeye? Talk to the King of Silent Animation” advises the New York Times.

… Once a week, [Tommy José Stathes] heads from his small studio apartment in Queens to his enormous collection of vintage cartoons: a celluloid library of around 4,000 reels, some of the prints more than 100 years old. It is certainly one of the largest collections of early animated films anywhere in the world — and that accounts for the holdings of the Library of Congress, according to an archivist who does restoration there….

…This avocation can be traced back to an obscure Farmer Alfalfa cartoon his father showed him once. From there, he expanded to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and Felix the Cat, and he started hunting for reels in local antique shops and flea markets. He soon progressed to eBay, ultimately piling up a six-figure investment in the archive.

His devotion to silent cartoons — the very birth of the form — is unrivaled. In fact, he has helped the Library of Congress identify some of its own collection. George Willeman, who oversees the nitrate film vaults for the library, recalled being amazed when Mr. Stathes, then in his 20s, took a seat in the archive and identified reel after reel of unidentified cartoons made decades before he was even born.

“As far as I know,” Mr. Willeman said, “Tommy is the king of silent animation.”…

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

Pixel Scroll 9/24/23 The Decimated Pixel Of Doom

(0) WGA/AMPTP REACH DEAL. Shortly after the Scroll was posted, I received this news item reported by Variety: “Deal! WGA, AMPTP Agree to Deal After 146-Day Writers Strike”.

Hollywood heaves a sigh of relief. The WGA and major studios and streamers have reached a tentative agreement on a new three-year contract that promises to end the 146-day strike that has taken a heavy toll across the content industry.

Negotiators for the Writers Guild of America and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers reached the finish line Sunday after five consecutive days of negotiations. Day 4 on Saturday mostly involved lawyers for the guild and AMPTP hashing out the fine print of language around complicated and groundbreaking additions to the WGA’s Minimum Basic Agreement. The nitty-gritty details of language around the use of generative AI in content production was one of the last items that the sides worked on before closing the pact.

“We can say, with great pride, that this deal is exceptional – with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership,” the WGA Negotiating Committee wrote in an email to sent to members at 7:10 p.m. PT (Full text below).

The three-year contract will be sent to WGA members for a ratification vote. After nearly five months on strike – the work stoppage began May 2 – it’s highly likely to pass muster with the WGA’s 11,000 members, especially with the enthusiastic endorsement of WGA leaders. As momentum built this week, negotiators began to look at the approach of the Yom Kippur holiday on Sunday as a soft target deadline….

(1) HUGO VOTING DEADLINE. Voting for 2023 Hugo Award, Astounding Award and Lodestar Award closes less than a week from now on September 30 at 11:59 p.m. Hawaiian Time.  Don’t miss your chance to cast and update your ballot before the deadline.

(2) YOU STEPPED OUT OF A DREAM. I dreamed last night I was watching a stand-up comic perform. He got to part of a story where emergency vehicles were responding to a situation and he was imitating the siren/bell/electronic squawks they made — which was surprising (and possibly unlikely) he could do with his voice alone, but it was mentally up to me to decide when he had made enough different noises to be funny but without doing too many to kill the joke. Apparently I woke up at the point I decided he’d done enough.

(3) FIFTH ELEMENTS. New Scientist presents “Five of sci-fi’s best corporate villains, according to author John Scalzi”. Read fast – New Scientist lets you read for a few seconds before blocking with a request that you register for an account to continue reading.

In my latest novel Starter Villain, the book’s protagonist, Charlie Fitzer, inherits his mysterious uncle’s vast corporate empire – only to discover that underpinning it all is a supervillainy business that rivals anything that James Bond’s adversaries might have ever imagined.

While my book takes place in today’s world, there are definitely unexpected elements (wait until you meet the cats!) that make for a mash-up of wild science fiction and modern corporatised evil. But of course, Starter Villain isn’t the first work to blend the two concepts.

Submitted below, for your approval, are five cinematic (non-007) works from across several decades that have offered up the sort of villains who show up in my novel….

One of his choices is:

Aliens(1986): In the original Alien (1979), it is clear that the Weyland-Yutani corporation that has sent the crew of the Nostromo to pick up a murderous, extraterrestrial egg values its military branch’s profits more than humans. But in this excellent and rather tonally different sequel, that corporate ethos is given a face in Carter Burke (Paul Reiser), a striving middle-management type who just doesn’t understand why Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) can’t see the financial opportunity the aliens offer the company. Appropriately, it’s the aliens themselves who eventually show him the error of his ways.

(4) CHENGDU WORLDCON ROUNDUP. [Item by Ersatz Culture.]

Chengdu Science Fiction Season. I’m not sure how officially these are associated with the Worldcon, but there have been a few events under the “2023 Chengdu Science Fiction Season” branding, which include the Chengdu Worldcon name and panda logo on their photos and videos.

On September 15th, writer 泽泽 / Ze Ze gave a talk at a Chengdu primary school about the history of SF, which apparently went as far as explaining the difference between hard and soft SF.

This is another talk to schoolkids, this time by La Zi (aka Latssep), who works at SF World magazine, and co-edited one of the Best Fanzine finalists.  This line caught my eye:

First of all, [La Zi] started by talking about three “major science fiction events” that happened around us, the World Science Fiction Conference, The Wandering Earth, General Secretary Xi’s speech…

That’s the Google Translate rendering, but I also put that text through the DeepL and Vivaldi Lingvanex translators, and they all came out with similar results.

This took place on September 16 in Chengdu, and featured Best Short Story finalist Lu Ban alongside a moderator and a couple of others.

I’m not sure when exactly this took place.  The Friday post talks about an event that happened this afternoon (Sunday 24th), but has a video of the panel, so whatever happened today can’t have been that panel?  (I think that panel may have been streamed live, per the text in the top right of the video?)  The panelists include one of the Worldcon division heads, and a couple of writers who’ve had  stories published in English translation.

The people on stage, from left:

  • The lady hosting the panel is  / Chen Yao aka Sara Chen, who works at SF World magazine, and is one of the Worldcon division heads.
  • The guy in the black North Face polo shirt is 谢云宁 / Xie Yunning, who won the Xingyun Best Novel award in 2021, but doesn’t seem to have had anything published in English.
  • Third panelist (guy with glasses) is 阿缺 / A Que, who has had several stories published in Clarkesworld, and also one in the Sinopticon anthology.
  • The lady in the blue top is 程婧波 / Cheng Jingbo, who has also had a few stories translated into English, and has an SFE entry https://sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/cheng_jingbo
  • Fifth panelist (guy with glasses)  天瑞说符 / Tianrui Fu, webnovelist. He has a translation of one of his works available on Amazon ( https://www.amazon.co.uk/Die-Mars-Chinese-science-fiction-ebook/dp/B07YH2HXR7 ), but from a very quick skim, it doesn’t look like anyone who was a native speaker was involved in the translation.
  • Rightmost panelist: 张玉乐 / Zhang Yule, president of a university SF society

Early on, after giving an overview of what Worldcons are, and a bit of background about the Hugos, between 17:45 and 20:05, Chen Yao namechecks all the Hugo finalists that SF World has published, has scheduled to publish in the future, or employs (in the case of the editor finalists), all of which were on the recommendation list mentioned in the Scroll a couple of months ago. I’m sure none of that is an attempt to influence Hugo voters….

(5) THE GODS THEMSELVES. “Krapopolis Review: Dan Harmon Sitcom Off to Promising Start” declares Variety.

Ever since the success, demise, rebirth and extended afterlife of the NBC-turned-Yahoo sitcom “Community,” the showrunner Dan Harmon has largely avoided the strictures of network TV. With his cynical streak and meta references, Harmon’s niche sensibility was always an awkward fit for a mass audience; even when “Community” was on the air, it was perpetually on the verge of cancellation. As television expanded rapidly in the 2010s, Harmon found a more natural home in cable and streaming. Despite the departure of “Rick and Morty” co-creator and star Justin Roiland amid allegations of sexual assault, the hit show is now entering its seventh season on Adult Swim; earlier this year, Harmon helped adapt the web comic “Strange Planet” into a series for Apple TV+.

With the animated half-hour “Krapopolis,” however, Harmon makes his official return to a broadcast network. Airing on Fox, “Krapopolis” is at least guaranteed the stability “Community” never enjoyed; ahead of its premiere on Sept. 24, the show has already been renewed through Season 3. And due to the ongoing strikes, “Krapopolis” is now, by default, one of the tentpoles of its network’s fall schedule, with new live-action series postponed until further notice.

That’s a heavy load to bear for an amusing, high-concept riff on the family sitcom set in an extremely loose rendition of ancient Greece. Physically weak and intellectually arrogant, 29-year-old Tyrannis (Richard Ayoade) is a man ahead of his time, so he’s recruited his warrior sister Stupendous (Pam Brady) and scientist half-brother Hippocampus (Duncan Trussell) to help him build a modern city-state. (“He tells powerless people they’re powerful and they like that, so they give him all their power,” one citizen says of Tyrannis’ skill set.) But first, Tyrannis must persuade the skeptical, not least among them his own parents: vain goddess Deliria (Hannah Waddingham) and Shlub (Matt Berry), a manticore-like hybrid of several different creatures….

(6) SFF THAT IS UNEXPECTEDLY PREDICTIVE. Gizmodo says this is “The Summer That Reality Caught Up to Climate Fiction”.

…What once sounded outlandish, like material for a dystopian novel, is looking more and more like reality. So what is a writer of fiction supposed to do? For decades, authors have speculated what the world might look like when the climate from hell arrives. Consider American War by Omar El Akkad, set in 2074 during the outbreak of a civil war set off by a ban on fossil fuels, when Florida is erased from the map and Louisiana is half-underwater. In the six years since the book’s publication, the United States has become the most deeply polarized democracy in recent history; the intensity of heat waves and other disasters have eclipsed expectations. Earlier this year, the magazine Writer’s Digest called American War an “all-too-realistic cautionary tale.”

But El Akkad never intended it to be realistic at all. I asked him if it felt like the novel was starting to come true. “I thought that the way I had structured it was enough of an extrapolation that I wouldn’t have to deal with precisely the question you’re asking,” El Akkad told me. “And that has been obliterated in the last few years. That, to me, is terrifying.”

Extreme weather has melted the distinction between fact and fiction. As El Akkad described it, global warming doesn’t feel slow and steady; it feels more like falling down the stairs, with big drops that shake your expectations. One moment, you’re taking a nap in your house; the next, you’re running for your life from a wildfire. This year, a naturally hotter weather pattern called El Niño started setting in, adding extra heat on top of the climate change we’ve become accustomed to. July was the planet’s hottest month on record, clocking in at 1.5 degrees C (2.4 F) warmer than the preindustrial average. The disasters this summer serve as a preview of what the world could see during a typical year in the early 2030s. We no longer need authors or scientists to imagine it; real-world experience does the trick for anyone who’s paying close attention…..

(7) HWA LATINX INTERVIEW SERIES. “Latinx Heritage in Horror: Interview with Javier Loustaunau” is the latest in the Horror Writers Association blog’s series.

What inspired you to start writing?

I grew up in a house surrounded by books so there was never a moment where I did not think I was going to write, it felt like everyone must write for there to be this many books. Really, I was just impatient to grow up a little and become a better writer, somebody who did not have to lean so hard imitating other writers. One thing that helped me as a writer was when I reached out to the Marvel editorial asking for help on becoming a comic book writer and I got a response from Stan Lee (or more likely his assistant) telling me it does not matter what I write but I need to write every single day if I want to improve. So I wrote letters, I wrote reviews, I wrote poems, I translated, I journaled… but I made sure I always wrote every single day. 

(8) SIGHTS AND SOUNDS. Rebecca F. Kuang shares literary and cultural recommendations with the Guardian in: “On my radar: Rebecca F Kuang’s cultural highlights”. The second item is —

2. Fiction

Clarice Lispector’s The Hour of the Star, translated by Benjamin Moser

A few months ago, I hosted a friend from Colombia who was touring my university. After a morning walk in the cemetery, we ended up at the campus Barnes & Noble, where we picked out favourite novels for the other to read. Rather predictably, we went for the Nobel laureates – I chose for her Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, and she chose Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera. She also included a random bonus pick – a short, translated novel by Ukrainian-born Brazilian novelist Clarice Lispector, which I enjoyed so much I have since copied out the following passage about writing in several letters to friends: “All this, yes, the story is history. But knowing beforehand so you never forget that the word is the fruit of the word, the word must resemble the word. Reaching it is my first duty to myself. And the word can’t be dressed up and artistically vain, it can only be itself. Well, it’s true that I also wanted to arrive at a sheer sensation and for it to be so sheer that it couldn’t break into a perpetual line.” The word can only be itself. Good advice for every time I sit down to write….

(9) REST IN PEACE TACO CAT. Cat Rambo shared this sad news today:

Earlier this year Taco was part of our Cats Sleep on SFF series in “Proud Pink Sky” – photo at the link.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 24, 1922 Bert Ira Gordon. He not only wrote but directed such films as Serpent IslandKing DinosaurThe Amazing Colossal ManEarth vs. the SpiderVillage of the Giants and Empire of the Ants. Aren’t those truly deliciously pulpy SF film titles?  (I need more adjectives, I truly do.) Forrest J Ackerman nicknamed him “Mr. B.I.G.” a reference to both his initials and his films’ tendency to feature super-sized creatures. (Died 2023.)
  • Born September 24, 1930 Jack Gaughan. Artist and illustrator who won the Hugo several times including once for Best Professional Artist and Best Fan Artist in the same year. Most of his work from 1970 onward was for Ace and DAW. He illustrated the covers and hand-lettered title pages for the unauthorized first paperback edition of The Lord of the Rings which Ace released in 1965. Here’s those covers he did for The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King. (Died 1985.)
  • Born September 24, 1934 John Brunner. My favorite works by him? The Shockwave RiderStand on Zanzibar which won a Hugo at St. Louiscon and The Sheep Look Up. I’m also fond of The Squares of The City which was nominated for a Hugo at Tricon. What’s your favorite works by him? (Died 1995.)
  • Born September 24, 1936 Jim Henson. As much as I love The Muppet Show, and I’ve watched every show at least twice, I think The Storyteller is his best work. That’s not to overlook Labyrinth, The Witches, (yes I know it’s now considered misogynistic) The Dark Crystal and the first two Muppets films which are also excellent. (I think they really did far too many Muppets films.) (Died 1990.)
  • Born September 24, 1945 David Drake, 78. I’d say his best-known solo work was the Hammer’s Slammers series. He has also written the Royal Cinnabar Navy series which are space operas inspired by the Aubrey–Maturin novels which i be not read. Opinions please on if I should do so. He has also drafted story ideas that were then finished off by co-authors such as Karl Edward Wagner, S.M. Stirling, and Eric Flint. He’s very, very well stocked at the usual suspects. Usual suspects for those of you are curious being Apple Books, Kindle and Kobo. 
  • Born September 24, 1945 Ian Stewart, 78. Mathematician and writer. He makes the Birthday Honors for the four volumes in The Science of Discworld series he wrote with Jack Cohen and Terry Pratchett. It was nominated for a Hugo at Chicon 2000. Each of the books alternates between the usually absurd Discworld story and serious scientific exposition. (All four volumes are available from the usual suspects.) He would write a number of genre novels, none of which I’m familiar with. Anybody here read his works? 
  • Born September 24, 1957 Brad Bird, 66. Animator, director, screenwriter, producer, and occasionally even a voice actor whom I’m going to praise for directing The Iron Giant (nominated for a Hugo at Chicon 2000), The Incredibles (winner of Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form at Interaction), Incredibles 2 and Tomorrowland. He’s the voice of Edna Mode in both the Incredibles films, a most excellent role indeed. 
  • Born September 24, 1965 Richard K. Morgan, 58. The Takeshi Kovacs novels are an awesome series that I’ve read at least twice which are why I haven’t watched the Netflix series. His fantasy series, A Land Fit For Heroes, is still on my TBR To Be Listened To pile. I read the first of the Black Man series and will admit that I was far from impressed. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro is kind of a police procedural. Sort of.
  • Brewster Rockit is a didactic strip about the OSIRIS-Rex mission, with a surprise twist at the end.
  • Tom Gauld reveals another benefit of reading.
  • And Tom Gauld knows something about co-workers’ social lives.

(12) SHRINKING COMICS SECTION. Cartoonist Dave Kellett on X reports Gannett Newspapers is cost-cutting and has limited ALL its 200 papers to just these 34 comics.

The Daily Cartoonist has a list of “The Gannett 34”.

The USA TODAY Network/Gannett group has released a list of the selected 34 comic strips and panels that local editors and publishers will* choose from to run in their newspapers – not all will run in all (any?) of the papers.

The chosen strips and panels:

Group 1: Blondie, Zits, Beetle Bailey, Family Circus, Hagar the Horrible, Dennis the Menace

Group 2: Garfield, Peanuts, For Better or Worse, Baby Blues, Pickles, FoxTrot

Group 3: Pearls Before Swine, Jump Start, Ziggy, Marmaduke, Non Sequitur, Crabgrass

Group 4 Crankshaft, Luann, Baldo, Frank & Ernest, The Born Loser   

Group 5: B.C., Wizard of Id, Close to Home, Argyle Sweater, Mother Goose, Rose is Rose

Group 6: Hi & Lois, Mutts, Curtis, Shoe, The Lockhorns

(13) DRAGONSLAYER. On the “DARK DISNEY – Part 1: Dragonslayer (1981)” episode of Erik Hanson’s Cradle to the Grave podcast the host is joined by guests Clay McLeod Chapman, Junot Diaz, and Stephen Bissette.

Have you ever wanted to see a Disney movie where the Princess gets her foot chewed off by a baby dragon? Well, look no further, Dragonslayer has you covered! Here to chat about said foot-chewing are 3 of the biggest Dragonslayer fans I could find: Author Clay McLeod Chapman, Author Junot Diaz, and comic book writer / artist Stephen Bissette. Together we dive deep into the era known as “Dark Disney” and come to the realization that Disney has ALWAYS BEEN DARK!

(14) I COULD HAVE HAD A V-2.  The National Air and Space Museum blog article “Restoring the Museum’s V-2 Missile” goes into fascinating detail about the history of the components in the museum’s V-2, and the painstaking research to explain which of the paint jobs applied over the years might be the most historically accurate.

One of the icons of the Museum’s location on the National Mall has been the black-and-white German V-2 ballistic missile. Ever since the building opened in July 1976, it stood in Space Hall, which in 1997 was revised to become Space Race. That rocket, currently off display, will return in a new guise, with green camouflage paint, when the hall reopens in a few years as RTX Living in the Space Age….

In a parallel project, Duane Decker of the Preservation and Restoration Unit redid the V-2 launch stand, which is original German mobile launch equipment transferred by NASA Marshall in 1975. Painted black, it was used to support the missile in Space Hall/Space Race. When he stripped it, he found no original paint. I consulted with Tracy Dungan, who supplied 1944 images that showed German stands painted in “dark yellow,” the late-war Wehrmacht vehicle camouflage. Duane painted ours in that color and it will once again support the rocket when it goes back on display in RTX Living in the Space Age. 

This time the stand and rocket will be on top of a pedestal in the Missile Pit, the hole in the center of the gallery floor that allows taller rockets to fit under the roof. Lifted up to floor level, visitors will be able to see the stand and the rocket much as they would have looked during the V-2 campaign of 1944-1945. I very much look forward to the day when we again assemble and mount this important and deadly icon of the missile and space age.

The Museum’s V-2 rocket in the Space Race exhibition in 2006.

(15) SUCCESSION. The Guardian says “Studio Ghibli to be acquired by Nippon TV after struggle to find a successor to Miyazaki”.

Weeks after the celebrated Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki made his long-awaited comeback, the studio he founded almost four decades ago has secured its long-term future, easing concerns over its struggle to find a successor.

Studio Ghibli said this week that the company would be acquired by the private broadcaster, Nippon TV, which promised to continue building on Ghibli’s global success.

Miyazaki – widely considered to be one of the world’s greatest animators – founded Studio Ghibli in 1985, leading it to a string of successes, including an Oscar in 2003 for Spirited Away.

The studio built a loyal following around the world with films like My Neighbor Totoro and Princess Mononoke, while Miyazaki was nominated for two further Academy Awards – for Howl’s Moving Castle in 2006 and The Wind Rises in 2014 – the same year he was chosen to receive an honorary Oscar.

The agreement with Nippon TV, which will become Ghibli’s biggest shareholder, came after Miyazaki, 82, and its president, 75-year-old Toshio Suzuki, failed to persuade Miyazaki’s son to take over the running of the studio….

(16) HONEY, I’M HOME. “In a first, NASA returns asteroid samples to Earth”NBC News has the story.

A capsule containing precious samples from an asteroid landed safely on Earth on Sunday, the culmination of a roughly 4-billion-mile journey over the past seven years.

The asteroid samples were collected by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, which flew by Earth early Sunday morning and jettisoned the capsule over a designated landing zone in the Utah desert. The unofficial touchdown time was 8:52 a.m. MT, 3 minutes ahead of the predicted landing time.

The dramatic event — which the NASA livestream narrator described as “opening a time capsule to our ancient solar system” — marked a major milestone for the United States: The collected rocks and soil were NASA’s first samples brought back to Earth from an asteroid. Experts have said the bounty could help scientists unlock secrets about the solar system and how it came to be, including how life emerged on this planet….

And — “NASA collected a sample from an asteroid for the first time — here’s why it matters”The Verge will be happy to explain.

(17) A PART OF ONE PIECE. Gizmodo thinks “Jamie Lee Curtis May Have Achieved Her Dream of Being in One Piece” based on this Instagram.

(18) ANIME EXPLORATIONS. The prospect of Jamie Lee Curtis being cast in One Piece is also one of several topics taken up in episode 12 of the Anime Explorations Podcast, “Shirobako”. Another is Anime industry figures referenced in Shirobako. And Vampire Hunter D.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/5/23 A Baby Pixel Is So Cute In Its Scroller Pushed Along By Its Nanny Filer

(1) 2025 WORLDCON SITE SELECTION UPDATE. The Seattle 2025 Worldcon Bid News for June reports theirs was the only bid filed, and the only one that will be on the official ballot. (If another one appears it could still be a write-in.)

Seattle filed its site selection paperwork in April which was acknowledged and approved! According to the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) Constitution, bid documents for opposing bids must be filed no later than 180 days before the opening of the administering convention. No other bids were filed, so Seattle will be the only bid on the printed ballot. We could not be more excited! Supporting memberships are still on sale through our website, and we hope to have strong voter turnout in October.

… Watch for announcements on how to vote in site selection remotely. Barring an unlikely loss to a write-in campaign, we also plan to sell upgrades to supporting members who do not participate in site selection which allow them to purchase attending memberships to the Seattle Worldcon for a similar cost. Stay tuned for more!

(2) DROPPED LEAVES ARE HEARD FROM. At Writer Beware, Victoria Strauss shares a group statement provided to her by 17 current and former clients of New Leaf Literary. “Call For Change: Current and Former New Leaf Literary & Media Authors Speak Out”.

…Agents parting ways with agencies is not uncommon; however, it is inexcusable for an agency of New Leaf’s caliber to lack clear internal and external protocols for such situations….

(3) SFF EVENT IN BERLIN. Cora Buhlert’s conreport is up: “Cora’s Adventures at Metropol Con in Berlin, Part 2: The Con”. Here’s an excerpt covering a panel about sf in divided postwar Germany.

…The panel was very interesting and went into what distinguished East German science fiction from West German and Western science fiction in general. One of the points made was that since East Germany has an official vision of what the future would look like, namely a Socialist utopia, the questions East German science fiction asked was not so much, “What will the future look like?”, because they already knew, but “How do we get there?” and “How do we do this?” The above-mentioned novel Andymon by Karlheinz and Angela Steinmüller is actually a good example for this, because it’s about some young people landing on a planet they’re supposed to colonise, only that the planet is not as advertised, so they have to figure out how to make it habitable anyway.

Emma Braslavsky pointed out that by the 1980s, when East Germany was visibly declining and falling apart (which tracks with what Aunt Metel told me, namely that East Germany continued improve and progress, albeit slowly, into the 1970s, then it stagnated and gradually fell apart), the Socialist Utopia was more of a promise, much like Christmas. Just sleep one more night and Christmas – Socialism is here and everything will be wonderful. Emma Braslavsky also noted that when she watched things like Star Trek on West German TV (a large part of East Germany could and did watch West German TV), someone muttered some complete nonsense like “Reverse the polarity” and it actually worked.

Even though the panelists grew up in two very different countries and systems, there were some things that united all of them. For example, it was never easy to be a budding SF fan in a small rural village or town, whether in East or West Germany, because library selections were limited and books or comics not always easily available in local shops….

(4) CATHERINE LUNDOFF Q&A. Oliver Brackenbury’s So I’m Writing a Novel… podcast devotes episode 66 to the “Queen of Swords Press”.

When most of us think about publishing we tend to think of one of the Big Five (Four? How many are we down to now?), but there is a whole world of smaller, independent publishers to explore!

Wanting to learn more about that world, Oliver spoke with Catherine Lundoff about her own experiences launching and running Queen of Swords Press.

(5) AUTHORS GUILD RECOMMENDS NEW AI CONTRACT CLAUSES. The Authors Guild is introducing four new model clauses concerning AI to its Model Trade Book Contract and Model Literary Translation Contract. “AG Introduces New Publishing Agreement Clauses Concerning AI”.

…In addition to the recent clause preventing the use of books in training generative AI without an author’s express permission, the new clauses require an author’s written consent for their publisher to use AI-generated book translations, audiobook narration, or cover art. These clauses can benefit publishers and the publishing industry at large by maintaining the high quality craftsmanship that consumers are used to.

The Authors Guild also urges publishers to identify any books that contain a significant amount of AI-generated text. This summer, the Guild will be publishing AI guidelines for authors and publishers containing each of these conditions.

The purpose of these demands is to prevent the use of AI to replace human creators. The Authors Guild strongly believes that human writing, narration, and translation are vastly superior to their AI mimics. Moreover, as an ethical matter, the Authors Guild opposes relying on these tools to replace human creators, in part because current AI content generators have largely been trained on pre-existing works without consent. The Guild stands in solidarity with human creators in other industries, who like authors, face professional threats from AI-generated content flooding the markets for their work….

We encourage publishers to adopt these clauses and authors and agents to request that they be added to their contracts.

Clause Relating to Authors’ Use of AI
Author shall not be required to use generative AI or to work from AI-generated text. Authors shall disclose to Publisher if any AI-generated text is included in the submitted manuscript, and may not include more than [5%] AI-generated text. 

Audio Book Clause (For Use With Audiobook Grants)
With respect to any audiobook created or distributed under this Agreement, Publisher shall not permit or cause the Work to be narrated by artificial intelligence technologies or other non-human narrator, without Author’s prior and express written consent.

Translation Clause (For Use With Grants of Translation Rights)
With respect to any translations created or distributed under this Agreement, Publisher shall not translate or permit or cause the Work to be translated into another language with artificial intelligence technologies or other non-human translator, without Author’s prior and express written consent. For purposes of clarification, a human translator may use artificial intelligence technologies as a tool to assist in the translation, provided that the translation substantially comprises human creation and the human translator has control over, and reviews and approves, each word in the translation.

Cover Design Clause (For Book Contracts)
Publisher agrees not to use AI-generated images, artwork, design, and other visual elements for the book cover or interior artwork without Author’s prior express approval. For purposes of clarification, a human designer may use artificial intelligence technologies as a tool to assist in the creation of artwork for the Work, provided that the human artist has control over the final artwork and the artwork substantially comprises human creation.

(6) GAMES KIDS PLAYED. Cora Buhlert’s new “Non-Fiction Spotlight today” is for a book called D20 or Die!: Memories of Old School Role-Playing Games from Today’s Grown-Up Kids, edited by Jim Beard.

Why should SFF fans in general and Hugo voters in particular read this book?

Because no matter what the theme is, they will see themselves in the personal essays. That’s the beauty of these books, I think, that we all have these shared experiences and we like to see echoes of our own lives in what we read. Beyond that, if you love RPGs and began playing as a kid, you’re going to love this book.

(7) CLARKE CONTENDERS. The list of 97 books submitted for this year’s Arthur C. Clarke Award has been posted: “5 judges, 988,172,368 possible shortlist combinations”.

As is now traditional, we’re publishing below the full list of eligible titles received by the Clarke Award from which our official shortlist selection is decided.

This is released as an open-source resource to showcase the breadth and diversity of UK science fiction literature as part of its ongoing commitment to self-accountability and supporting equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) across the publishing industry and science fiction community.

This year’s judging panel received 97 eligible titles submitted by 40 UK publishing imprints and independent authors.

The judging panel for the Arthur C. Clarke Award 2023 are:

(8) SPOCK FAMILY TREE. All I can say is that I’m glad this isn’t a trivia quiz. “Star Trek: Every Spock Family Member, Explained” at ScreenRant.

The Vulcan known as Spock was one of the most important characters in Star Trek, and many of his family members also played key roles in the franchise. Ever since his debut in Star Trek: The Original Series, Spock has been an integral part of Star Trek lore, and so has his kin. As the series progressed, more and more of Spock’s family tree began to be fleshed out, and it was clear that Spock was one of the most connected individuals in the Alpha Quadrant. From villains to ambassadors, Spock’s family was just as important as he was in shaping the franchise….

Here’s one member you might have overlooked.

Perrin

When Sarek returned in The Next Generation, he was accompanied by a new wife who filled much the same role that Amanda did. Because of the large gap in the Star Trek timeline between TOS and TNG, it could be assumed that Amanda died of old age, and Perrin, a human woman, eventually married Sarek. Because of Sarek’s advanced age, she was a companion and caretaker to him, and she was very protective of his important image as he began to succumb to Bendii syndrome in TNG season 3, episode 23, “Sarek”. Unlike Amanda though, Perrin did not get personally involved in Sarek and Spock’s affairs.

(9) WHO NEEDS MARKETING? There’s a whole book blaming insufficient marketing for the failure of John Carter to become a blockbuster, which might make you wonder if this plan will work. “Studio Ghibli to Release Miyazaki’s Final Film With No Trailer, No Marketing”The Hollywood Reporter explains why.

… The forthcoming film, which opens in Japan on July 14, is easily the most anticipated movie coming to Japanese theaters in years — and exceedingly little is known about it. (U.S. and international release dates for the film have not yet been set.)

Ghibli previously described the film as “a grand fantasy” loosely inspired by Japanese author Genzaburo Yoshino’s 1937 novel How Do You Live?, a coming-of-age story about the emotional and philosophical development of a young boy after the death of his father….

In the interview, [lead producer Toshio] Suzuki also contrasted Ghibli’s approach for How Do You Live? with the usual marketing methods of Hollywood.

“There’s an American movie — ah, I almost said the title out loud! — coming out this summer around the same time [as How Do You Live?],” he said. “They’ve made three trailers for it, and released them one at a time. If you watch all three, you know everything that’s going to happen in that movie. So how do moviegoers feel about that? There must be people, who, after watching all the trailers, don’t want to actually go see the movie. So, I wanted to do the opposite of that.”…

(10) MEMORY LANE.

2007[Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

Elizabeth Bear’s “Tideline” reminds me how great the short stories are by a writer whose novels I usually am reading, such as the ever so excellent White Space series.

This story was first published in Asimov’s Science Fiction in their June 2007 issue. It’s been reprinted a number of times and Primes Books published it in the Shoggoths in Bloom collection they released which is available from the usual suspects at a very nice price. 

It’s also in The Best of Elizabeth Bear from Subterranean Press which I need not say will set you back many a penny.

The audio series StarShipSofa in their number thirty-nine production has it as the lead piece here.

And now the Beginning to this story…

Chalcedony wasn’t built for crying. She didn’t have it in her, not unless her tears were cold tapered glass droplets annealed by the inferno heat that had crippled her. 

Such tears as that might slide down her skin over melted sensors to plink unfeeling on the sand. And if they had, she would have scooped them up, with all the other battered pretties, and added them to the wealth of trash jewels that swung from the nets reinforcing her battered carapace. 

They would have called her salvage, if there were anyone left to salvage her. But she was the last of the war machines, a three-legged oblate teardrop as big as a main battle tank, two big grabs and one fine manipulator folded like a spider’s palps beneath the turreted head that finished her pointed end, her polyceramic armor spiderwebbed like shatterproof glass. Unhelmed by her remote masters, she limped along the beach, dragging one fused limb. She was nearly derelict. 

The beach was where she met Belvedere.

Butterfly coquinas unearthed by retreating breakers squirmed into wet grit under Chalcedony’s trailing limb. One of the rear pair, it was less of a nuisance on packed sand. It worked all right as a pivot, and as long as she stayed off rocks, there were no obstacles to drag it over. 

As she struggled along the tideline, she became aware of someone watching. She didn’t raise her head. Her chassis was equipped with targeting sensors which locked automatically on the ragged figure crouched by a weathered rock. Her optical input was needed to scan the tangle of seaweed and driftwood, Styrofoam and sea glass that marked high tide. 

He watched her all down the beach, but he was unarmed, and her algorithms didn’t deem him a threat. Just as well. She liked the weird flat-topped sandstone boulder he crouched beside. 

The next day, he watched again. It was a good day; she found a moonstone, some rock crystal, a bit of red-orange pottery, and some sea glass worn opalescent by the tide.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 5, 1908 John Russell Fearn. British author and one of the first British writers to appear in American pulp magazines. A prolific author, he also published novels as Vargo Statten and with various pseudonyms such as Thornton Ayre, Polton Cross, Geoffrey Armstrong and others. As himself, I see his first story as being The Intelligence Gigantic published in Amazing Stories in 1933. His Golden Amazon series of novels ran to over to two dozen titles, and the Clayton Drew Mars Adventure series that only ran to four novels. (Died 1960.)
  • Born June 5, 1928 Robert Lansing. He was secret agent Gary Seven in the “Assignment: Earth” on Star Trek. The episode was a backdoor pilot for a series that would have starred Lansing and Teri Garr, but the series never happened.  He of course appeared on other genre series such as The Twilight ZoneJourney to the UnknownThriller and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. (Died 1994.)
  • Born June 5, 1931 Barbara Paul. Writer of mysteries, some twenty or so, and a handful of genre novels. Her novels feature in-jokes such as her Full Frontal Murder mystery novel which uses names from Blake’s 7. Genre wise, she’s written five SF novels including a Original Series Trek novel, The Three-Minute Universe, which is available at the usual suspects. (Died 2022.)
  • Born June 5, 1946 John Bach, 77. Einstein on Farscape, the Gondorian Ranger Madril in the second and third movies of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Also a British body guard on The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. And he was the body double for shooting of Saruman in place of Christopher Lee, who was unable to fly to New Zealand for principal photography on The Hobbit film series.
  • Born June 5, 1953 Kathleen Kennedy, 70. Film producer responsible for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, her first film, and later produced the Jurassic Park franchise.  She’s been involved in over sixty films, I’d say of which at least half are genre, starting with Raiders of the Lost Ark as an associate to Steven Spielberg. Amblin Films with her husband and Spielberg has produced many of the genre’s best loved films.
  • Born June 5, 1960 Margo Lanagan, 63. Tender Morsels won a World Fantasy Award for best novel, and Sea-Hearts won the same for Best Novella. She’s an alumna of the Clarion West Writers Workshop In 1999 and returned as a teacher in 2011 and 2013.
  • Born June 5, 1976 Lauren Beukes, 47. South African writer and scriptwriter. Moxyland, her first novel, is a cyberpunk novel set in a future Cape Town.  Zoo City, a hardboiled thriller with fantasy elements is set in a re-imagined Johannesburg. It won both the Arthur C. Clarke Award and a Kitschies Red Tentacle Award for best novel. (I love the name of the latter award!) And The Shining Girls would win her an August Derleth Award for Best Horror Novel. Afterland was on the long list for a NOMMO. Much of her short fiction is collected in Slipping: Stories, Essays, & Other Writing

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Sheldon witnesses an Uber reservation being placed for “Mister Gandalf”.

(13) IT’S CRACKERS. Although visiting Space Cowboy Books might be a better reason for driving to Joshua Tree, while you are in town you could pick up a snack: “Cheez-It Gas Station Pops Up in California Desert” at Food & Wine.

…From Monday, June 5 through Sunday, June 11, anyone who needs a road trip snack-break can visit the Cheez-It Stop to pick up several bags of orange crackers. The Cheez-It Stop has been equipped with the world’s first (and so far, its only) Cheez-It Pump which will spray bags of Cheez-Its through your open car window. And best of all, it’s completely free to take advantage of the pump and feed your Cheez-It cravings. 

Regardless, you just have seven days to visit the Cheez-It Stop before it disappears into the desert’s memory. It can be found at 61943 Twentynine Palms Highway, Joshua Tree, California and will be open between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. PT every day between now and Sunday.

(14) HITS THE SPOT. Food & Wine also tells how “Wes Anderson and Dogfish Head Collaborate on ‘Asteroid City’ Beer”

…The Delaware-based beermaker has brewed up its own homage to the film called Asteroid City Lager, and it collaborated with the director himself to design the label. According to Dogfish Head, Asteroid City Lager was brewed with a combination of regeneratively grown pilsner malt, Tuxpeno corn malt, and Michigan-grown Zuper Saazer hops. The beer was then finished with a Pennsylvania lager yeast, which the brewery says is “a nod to the 1950s era during which Asteroid City takes place.” 

… The beer’s eye-catching label pays tribute to the film’s desert landscapes and to the Asteroid City billboard that shows the fictional town’s biggest tourist attraction, a giant crater left by a meteor….

(15) CHOCOLATE ORTHODOXY. I can confirm this will be a controversial opinion in our neck of the woods.

(16) WOOLLY BULLY. [Item by Michael Toman.} Should we fear the “footfall” of a “Mega Bo Peep?” “Asteroid the size of 28 sheep to ram past the Earth” reports The Jerusalem Post.

Baaaad news? How big is the asteroid coming toward Earth in 2023?

Asteroid 2023 HO18 is estimated by NASA to have a diameter of as much as 50 meters. In imperial measurements for American readers, that would be 164 feet or just under 55 yards.

But to use a more creative metric, consider the humble domesticated sheep (Ovis aries). These animals are widespread throughout the world and while there are a wide number of breeds, they are all still part of the same species.

(17) HELLO, COUSIN. Smithsonian Magazine wonders whether “A 146,000-Year-Old Fossil Dubbed ‘Dragon Man’ Might Be One of Our Closest Relatives”.

Three years ago, a Chinese farmer made an unusual donation to a university museum—a giant, nearly intact human skull with strange proportions and an unusual backstory. The man’s family had been hiding the fossil since it was unearthed at a construction site in Harbin nearly 90 years ago.

After geochemical detective work to locate where the fossil was likely found, and painstaking comparison of its distinctive features with those of other early humans, some of the scientists investigating the find believe the cranium from Harbin could represent an entirely new human species—Homo longi or “Dragon Man.” If so, they further suggest it might even be the human lineage most closely related to ourselves.

The discovery of the Harbin cranium and our analyses suggest that there is a third lineage of archaic human [that] once lived in Asia, and this lineage has [a] closer relationship with H. sapiens than the Neanderthals,” says Xijun Ni, a paleoanthropologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Hebei GEO University. If so, that would make the strange skull a close relative indeed since most humans today still have significant amounts of Neanderthal DNA from repeated interbreeding between our species….

(18) ANOTHER EARLY HOMININ BREAKTHROUGH. “Homo naledi had a brain one-third the size of humans but displayed intelligence far beyond, according to new discovery”ABC News has the story.

Bigger brains may not equate to higher intelligence after all, according to a remarkable discovery about an early hominin.

Homo naledi, a hominin discovered in the Rising Star cave system in Africa’s Cradle of Humankind in 2013, had human-like hands and feet but a brain a third of the size of humans — a characteristic researchers previously attributed to a marker of far less intelligence than its Homo sapien relatives.

But the assertion that bigger brains make for a smarter species may have been disestablished now that scientists have made a harrowing journey into the Rising Star cave and discovered that the species — which lived about 335,000 to 236,000 years ago — buried its dead and marked the graves. It is the first non-human species in history known to do so, paleoanthropologist and National Geographic Explorer in Residence Lee Berger told ABC News.

…The researchers began to hypothesize that Homo naledi buried its dead during continued excavations in 2018 and in July 2022, those hunches were not only proven but amplified once Berger and his team found skeletal remains of Homo naledi and then carvings on the wall above them to mark those laid to rest there.

The symbols included triangles, squares and a sort-of “hashtag” sign, as in two cross-hatching equal signs, Berger said. However, it is unclear what these carvings meant, and researchers will be delving into whether there is a “random chance” that Homo naledi used the same symbols as humans or if they were obtained from some sort of shared ancestry.

(19) REH SCHOLARSHIP. A video of the “Glenn Lord Symposium”, i.e. the academic track of the 2023 Robert E. Howard Days, is available for viewing on YouTube. 

1)Dr. Dierk Gunther, Professor of English Literature at Gakushuin Women’s College, Tokyo His presentation: “Through the Eyes of an Ophirean Woman: Thoughts Concerning the Racism of Robert E. Howard’s The Vale of Lost Women.” 2) Brian Murphy, Howard Scholar His presentation: “Far Countries of the Mind: The Frontier Fantasy of Robert E. Howard.” 3) Dr. Willard Oliver, Professor of Criminal Justice at Sam Houston State University, Huntsville His presentation: “Robert E. Howard and Oil Booms: Crime, Disorder and Reality.”

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “You Won’t Believe Who Did the LEGO Sequence in ‘Across the Spider-Verse’” says Collider. But you will.

…After Collider’s special screening, a member of the audience asked Dos Santos how hard it was to put the LEGO dimension together. Surprisingly, Dos Santos revealed the whole scene was created by the 14-year-old Youtuber LegoMe_TheOG, known for recreating movies and TV shows trailer and full scenes with LEGO pieces. A few months before Across the Universe hit theaters, LegoMe_TheOG made a viral recreation of the movie’s first teaser. After that, producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller brought him to the project….

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

Pixel Scroll 4/16/21 I Am Just A Filer, Though My Pixel’s Seldom Scrolled

(1) CONTRACT GUIDES NOW OPEN ACCESS. The Authors Guild has released its Model Book Contract to the public for the first time. They have also produced a separate Literary Translation Model Contract for U.S. translators and literary agents.

“We updated the Model Trade Book Contract last year right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. We never could have predicted just how deleterious the crisis would be on working writers, with 71.4 percent of authors reporting losing, on average, 49 percent of their regular pre-pandemic income, based on our latest member survey,” said Mary Rasenberger, CEO of the Authors Guild. “Given this situation, we have been exploring various ways to help ease the lives and careers of professional writers, which is why the Authors Guild Council recently voted to remove the Model Trade Book Contract from behind our member paywall and make it freely accessible for all writers, publishers and anyone interested in book contracts. We hope that publishers will look to its terms in creating their own or adopt it, and we want authors around the globe to have access to it so they can understand what terms and issues they should be aware of before signing any book deal.”

(2) THEY’RE BACK. “Wakandans Featurette/Marvel Studio’s The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” on YouTube is a trailer from Disney+ that announces that Wakandans have shown up in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier.

(3) SPFBO. Mark Lawrence has announced that he will be starting the next Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off on June 1st.  They need another blogger/reviewer.

(4) FINALS EXAM. Cora Buhlert has 2,000 well-chosen words to share on the subject: “Some Thoughts on the 2021 Hugo Finalists”.

… When the Best Series Hugo was proposed, the argument was that a lot of popular and long-running series are overlooked by the Hugos – or the Nebulas for that matter – because the individual novels don’t stand alone very well and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

However in practice, such series, no matter how popular, are rarely nominated. Particularly The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher is notable by its absence, even though the Best Series Hugo seems tailor-made for this series.

Instead, the Best Series ballot tends to consist of trilogies by authors Hugo voters like and where individual volumes have often made the ballot before as well as of works set in the same wold that form a series if you squint really hard. I guess most Hugo voters simply aren’t series readers.

That said, the actual Best Series ballot looks pretty good this year. The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells is a hugely popular series where prettty much every installment has either been a finalist or would have been, if Martha Wells hadn’t withdrawn two Murderbot novellas from consideration in 2019. It’s also a great series….

(5) HAVE YOU RED IT TOO? The Heinlein Society has a good reason for suggesting that you watch this trailer and note what books the kids are reading at about 28 seconds.

(6) IT’S JUST TAKING A KIP. Meanwhile, back at the Red Planet, NASA’s InSight lander is “in crisis”: “NASA’s InSight Mars Lander to Hibernate so Batteries Don’t Die” at Business Insider.

… Unlike other sites where NASA has sent rovers and landers — including the landing spot of the new Perseverance rover and its Mars helicopter — powerful gusts of wind have not been sweeping Elysium Planitia. These winds, called “cleaning events,” are needed to blow the red Martian dust off the solar panels of NASA’s robots. Without their help, a thick layer of dust has accumulated on InSight, and it’s struggling to absorb sunlight.InSight’s solar panels were producing just 27% of their energy capacity in February, when winter was arriving in Elysium Planitia. So NASA decided to start incrementally turning off different instruments on the lander. Soon the robot will go into “hibernation mode,” shutting down all functions that aren’t necessary for its survival.

By pausing its scientific operations, the lander should be able to save enough power to keep its systems warm through the frigid Martian nights, when temperatures can drop to negative-130 degrees Fahrenheit.

“The amount of power available over the next few months will really be driven by the weather,” Chuck Scott, InSight’s project manager, said in a statement.

InSight is still in good condition — it’s even using its robotic arm — but an out-of-season storm could cause a power failure. If the lander’s batteries die, it might never recover.

“We would be hopeful that we’d be able to bring it back to life, especially if it’s not asleep or dead for a long period of time,” Bruce Banerdt, InSight’s principal investigator, told Insider. “But that would be a dicey situation.”

(7) THE HOLE NINE YARDS. Let James Davis Nicoll tell you about “Five Books That Use Wormholes to Plug Plot Holes” at Tor.com. First on the list –

Starman Jones by Robert Heinlein (1953)

This novel long predates the heyday of wormholes; it doesn’t even use the phrase. But it uses spacetime anomalies, which are just like wormholes. With one exception: they don’t just have an entrance and an exit. They can take you all sorts of interesting places if you enter the anomaly with the wrong approach vector. A small error calculating the vector and a hapless ship could find itself light-millennia off-course, with no clear idea how to get home. No prizes for guessing if this happens to the Asgard, the very ship on which the eponymous Starman Jones is serving. Nor is this worst that will happen to the unfortunate castaways.

(8) MCCRORY OBIT. Actress Helen McCrory, OBE, (1968-2021) died April 16 reports GEEKchocolate.

We are hugely saddened to hear of the death of the wonderful Helen McCrory, known to us as Rosanna Calvierri’s in Doctor Who’s Vampires of Venice, but with a resume which stretched from Interview with the Vampire, Charlotte Gray, The Count of Monte Cristo, Skyfall, The Woman in Black: Angel of Death, a recurring role in Harry Potter as Narcissa Malfoy, and a long stint as Polly Grey on Peaky Blinders, as well as two appearances as Cherie Blair in The Queen and The Special Relationship.

(9) FELIX SILLIA OBIT. The actor who played Cousin Itt on The Addams Family, Felix Sillia, has died at the age of 84 reports SYFY Wire.

In addition to playing Cousin Itt, Silla’s other best-known roles include playing the robot Twiki / Odee-x on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and an evil miniature “Hitler” in 1975’s The Black Bird. He also had smaller parts in much-loved movies, such as playing an Ewok on Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and Dink in Spaceballs. He also worked as a stuntman on E.T. the Extra-TerrestrialPoltergeistIndiana Jones and the Temple of DoomHoward the Duck, and Batman Returns.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 16, 1955 –On this day in 1955, Science Fiction Theatre aired “Time Is Just A Place” as the second episode of the first season.  It’s from Jack Finey’s “Such Interesting Neighbors” (published in Collier’s, 1951) which would later form the basis of the March 20, 1987 adaptation of the story under its original title for Amazing Stories. The story is that neighbors are increasingly suspicious of the inventions of Mr. Heller, who claims to be an inventor, who uses a robotic vacuum cleaner and a flashlight that beams x-rays. It starred Don DeFore, Warren Stevens and Marie Windsor.  You can watch it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 16, 1891 – Dorothy Lathrop.  Illustrator and author.  Historically a lot of good fantasy has been written for children; folks who appreciate fantasy know to look there.  DL illustrated twoscore books, writing nine herself, also nonfiction.  Rachel Field’s Hitty, illustrated by DL, won RF a Newbery Medal; DL’s illustrations for Helen Fish’s Animals of the Bible won DL a Caldecott Medal.  Here is DL’s cover for an ed’n of The Little Mermaid.  Here is a dandelion soldier.  Here is an interior for Mopsa the Fairy.  This is from DL’s Fairy Circus.  Here is Across the Night Sky.  Here is a 2011 appreciation with another score of pictures.  (Died 1980) [JH]
  • Born April 16, 1921 Peter Ustinov. He had a number of genre appearances such as being in Blackbeard’s Ghost as Captain Blackbeard, in the animated Robin Hood by voicing both  Prince John and King Richard, as simply The Old Man In Logan’s Run, Truck Driver In The Great Muppet Caper, and in Alice in Wonderland as The Walrus. He wrote The Old Man and Mr. Smith: A Fable which is clearly genre. Genre adjacent (well sort of), he played Hercule Poirot twice. (Died 2004.) (CE) 
  • Born April 16, 1922 Kingsley Amis. So have you read The Green Man? I’m still not convinced that anything actually happened, or that rather everything including the hauntings were really in Maurice Allington’s decayed brain. I’m not seeing that he did much else for genre work other outside of The Anti-Death League and The Alteration but he did write Colonel Sun: A James Bond Adventure under the pseudonym of Robert Markham and his New Maps of Hell: A Survey of Science Fiction which was published in the late Fifties sounds fascinating as he shares his views on the genre and makes some predictions as there’ll never be a SF series on the boob tube despite there already being some. (Died 1995.) (CE) 
  • Born April 16, 1922 John Christopher. Author of The Tripods, an alien invasion series which was adapted into both an excellent radio and a superb television series. He wrote a lot of genre fiction including the Fireball series in which Rome never fell, and The Death of Grass which I mention because it was one of the many YA post-apocalyptic novels that he wrote in the Fifties and Sixties that sold extremely well in the U.K. The film version would be nominated for a Hugo finishing sixth in the balloting at Noreascon I, a year where No Award was given. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born April 16, 1953 – J. Neil Schulman.  Four novels, half a dozen shorter stories; collection Nasty, Brutish, and Short Stories (speaking of Hobbes’ Leviathan, I used to joke that the tiger should have been Calvin, and the boy Hobbes because he was nasty, brutish, and short); “Profiles in Silver” for The Twilight Zone; two Prometheus Awards.  I can’t remember ever agreeing with him, but I miss him.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born April 16, 1954 Ellen Barkin, 65. Usually I don’t do a birthday listing for just a few genre appearances but I make an exception for those performers who appeared in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. Barking played Penny Priddy in that film and that was her only genre appearance other than playing Kathleen in the Into The West film about Irish Travellers and a very special horse named Tír na nÓg. (CE)
  • Born April 16, 1962 Kathryn Cramer, 59. Writer, editor, and literary critic. She co-founded The New York Review of Science Fiction in 1988 with David G. Hartwell and others, and was its co-editor until 1991 and again since 1996. She edited with her husband David G. Hartwell Year’s Best Fantasy one through nine and Year’s Best SF seven through seventeen with him as well.  They did a number of anthologies of which I’ll single out The Hard SF Renaissance and The Space Opera Renaissance as particularly superb. She has a most excellent website — Kathryncramer.com. (CE)
  • Born April 16, 1970 – Brandon McKinney, age 51.  Here is a fine cover for John Whitman’s novelization Star Wars.  Here is a cover for JW’s Phantom Menace.  Interiors for both.  Here is Batman, here is Robin.  Here is Spider-Man.  Here is Bruce Lee in The Dragon Rises.  Also Elfquest; see here.  [JH]
  • Born April 16, 1975 Sean Maher, 46. Doctor Simon Tam In the Firefly verse. And Dick Grayson (Nightwing) in a staggering number of  animated DAC films, to wit  Son of BatmanBatman vs. Robin,,Batman: Bad Blood, Justice League vs. Teen TitansTeen Titans: The Judas Contract and Batman: Hush. He showed up on Arrow as Shrapnel in the “Blast Radius” and “Suicide Squad” episodes. (CE)
  • Born April 16, 1978 – Amy Ruttan, age 43.  Four novels for us; two dozen others.  “Half the fun of writing historicals and being swept away in a different time period is the research….  let someone else you trust have a look over your work.  You’ll be surprised what you as an author won’t pick out.”  [JH]
  • Born April 16, 1983 – Thomas Olde Heuvelt, age 38.  Too little (say I) of his work has been translated from Dutch into English.  “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” was and won a Hugo, which may be some encouragement.  Six novels, sixteen shorter stories; one novel, five shorter stories in English so far.  Three Paul Harland prizes.  [JH]
  • Born April 16, 1990 – Kusano Gengen, age 31.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Only three stories yet translated into English; one is “Last and First Idol” – yes, alluding to Olaf Stapledon – which won a Seiun, and is the lead story in a 2018 collection with the other two.  KG drew a thousand words from Jonathan Clements, of which I’ll quote a few about “Idol”: “Described by one of the Hayakawa Sci-Fi Contest [which “Idol” won – JH] panelists as ‘stupid’, and by an employee of his own publisher as ‘abysmal’, Kusano’s work of recursive SF provocatively combines the breathless, vapid prose of a teenage school story with the portentous, epic concerns of Space Opera, turning each into a wry commentary on the pomposity of the other.”  Meanwhile Kusano-san went off to Hokkaidô University for a Ph.D.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) IMAGINARY PAPERS ON YOUR DOORSTEP. The Arizona State University Center for Science and the Imagination today published the 6th issue of Imaginary Papers, their quarterly newsletter on science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and imagination.  

This issue features writing from media scholar Lisa Yin Han, experimental philosopher Jonathon Keats, and learning sciences researcher Ruth Wylie.

Here is a link for subscribing to future issues.

 (14) ZOOMING THROUGH FANHISTORY. Fanac.org has scheduled three more FanHistory Project Zoom Sessions. To attend, send an RSVP to [email protected] in order to receive a link. 

  • April 17, Saturday – 2pm EDT, 11AM PDT, 7PM London –  Early Star Trek Fandom, with Ruth Berman and Devra Langsam.  

Stories and anecdotes from Ruth and Devra about their entry into fandom, about the origins of Star Trek fandom, and how they came to publish T-Negative and  Spockanallia. For those of us that came into fandom later, here’s a chance to hear how Star Trek was received in general fandom, how Trek fandom got started, who the BNFs were and what they were they like.  How did the first Trek fanzines and Trek conventions affect fandom, and how did Trek fandom grow  and become its own thing. 

  • April 27, Tuesday – 4pm EDT, 1pm PDT,  9PM London. An Interview with Erle Korshak by Joe Siclari. 

Erle Korshak is one of our remaining FIrst Fans (inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 1996) and a Guest of Honor at Chicon 8 (2022 Worldcon). Erle was an organizer of the first Chicon,  the 1940 Worldcon, and was one of the Worldcon auctioneers for many years. He started Shasta Publishers, one of the first successful specialty SF publishers.  He was also involved with early SF movies. In this session, fan historian Joe Siclari  will interview Erle and his son Steve about early fandom, early conventions (including Worldcons), Shasta, and both Erle and Steve’s continuing interest in illustration art. Note: this is a midweek session. 

  • May 22, Saturday – 2pm EDT, 11AM PDT, 7PM London – An Interview with Bjo and John Trimble. 

Bjo and John Trimble have had an enormous impact on fandom from the 1950s onward. They’ve pubbed their ish, and some of the zines are available on FANAC.org. Bjo created the convention art show as we know it today (pre-pandemic) with Project Art Show, and published PAS-tell to share info with interested fans everywhere. In LASFS,  Bjo had a large role in reviving a flagging LASFS in the late 50s. Her most famous contribution was the successful Save Star Trek campaign which resulted in a 3rd year of the original series. Bjo was one of the organziers of Los Angeles fandom’s film making endeavors.  John is a co-founder of the LASFS clubzine, De Profundis and an editor of Shangri-L’Affaires. Bjo and John were Fan Guests of Honor at ConJose (2002), and were nominated twice for Best Fanzine Hugos. Bjo was nominated for Best Fan Artist Hugo. In this interview, expect stories and anecdotes of Los Angeles fandom, how the art show came to be, Save Star Trek and more. 

(15) BEAMING INTO YOUR HOME. Stay tuned as Galactic Journey boldly goes through 1966!

(16) BIG BUCKS. Smaug’s dead, so they can’t borrow it from him.“Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ Costs $465 Million for Just Season 1” says The Hollywood Reporter.

Amazon Studios’ The Lord of the Rings television show is going to cost all the gold in the Lonely Mountain.

The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed that Amazon will spend roughly NZ$650 million — $465 million in U.S. dollars — for just the first season of the show.

That’s far above previous reported estimates that pegged the fantasy drama as costing an already record-breaking $500 million for multiple seasons of the show.

“What I can tell you is Amazon is going to spend about $650 million in season one alone,” Stuart Nash, New Zealand minister for economic development and tourism, told Morning Report“This is fantastic, it really is … this will be the largest television series ever made.”

The figures were released as part of as part of the New Zealand government’s Official Information Act and initially reported by the New Zealand outlet Stuff. The documents also confirmed the studio’s plan to film potentially five seasons in New Zealand — as well as possible, as-yet-unannounced spinoff series.

By comparison, HBO’s Game of Thrones cost roughly $100 million to produce per season, with its per-episode cost starting at around $6 million for season one and eventually rising to around $15 million per episode in season eight….

(17) THE TRAIN TO NOWHERE. Mashable’s reviewer Belen Edwards says “’Infinity Train’ Season 4 is a strong end to a show that deserved more”.

… However, part of the beauty of Infinity Train has always been its conciseness. The animated series takes on an anthology format. Each season follows a different passenger on the titular train, where each car holds a new world. Passengers are assigned a glowing green number that goes down as they learn more lessons and work to resolve the problems in their life. When their numbers reach zero, they can exit the train. Each season is only 10 episodes long, and at 11 minutes each they pack in an astounding amount of character development and heart. …

(18) KING OF THE MOVIES. There will be an online “Dollar Baby film festival” hosted by Vancouver’s Baker Street Cinema of unreleased Stephen King movies from April 23-25. Full details at the link.  

Hosted by Canadian film production company Barker Street Cinema, the virtual festival, called STEPHEN KING RULES, will screen 25 submissions by filmmakers from all over the world, many of which have never been seen by a global audience before.

Since 1977, the Master of Horror – Stephen King – has allowed emerging filmmakers to adapt his previously unproduced short stories into films that may help launch their careers through what is called the Dollar Baby Deal. Barker Street’s STEPHEN KING RULES Dollar Baby Film Festival will showcase an exciting line-up of these independent movies, including interviews and panel discussions with the filmmakers themselves….

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Dann, John Hertz, John King Tarpinian, N., Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Cora Buhlert, James Davis Nicoll, Bill, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day MixMat and Cliff with an assist from Jack Lint and Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 1/29/21 By Glyer’s Hammer, By The Scrolls Of Trekfan, You Will Be Appertained

(1) ROBOT IS 100. The Czech Consulate of Los Angeles invites fans to the Robot is 100! Webinar on Thursday, February 4 at 12:00 PM Pacific exploring the influence of Karel Capek’s play “R.U.R.” on other forms of art, and the future of robotics. Register here.

[Note: WordPress does not support the proper character for the author’s last name, so the Latin C has been used. And a screenshot of the program description is used to work around the same problem.]

To further explore the past, present, and future of artificial intelligence, visit UCLA Library’s virtual exhibit Robot is 100! Karel Capek’s R.U.R. and the Robot in Pop Culture. You can learn more about Karel Capek’s life and R.U.R. in a complementary UCLA Library Research Guide.

Enjoy an audio created by the BBC Sounds: “The Robots are Us.” This BBC Radio Documentary features Jesse Brown O’Dell, PhD. graduate from the UCLA Department of Slavic, East European and Eurasian Languages and Cultures.

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites everyone to settle in for bagels and a schmear with comics retailer Joel Pollack in Episode 137 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Joel Pollack has been a part of comics fandom even longer than I have — he attended one of Phil Seuling’s 4th of July Comic Art Conventions two years before I did — in 1968 — and founded Big Planet Comics in Bethesda, Maryland in 1986. That flagship store has expanded to other locations in Washington, D.C., College Park, MD, and Vienna VA, and I thought it would be fun to chat about the world of comics and comics fandom of the past half century, and how comics retailing has changed over the past three and a half decades.

We discussed what the pandemic has done to the comics shop business, the comic his mother bought him which changed his life, the card game which led to him getting his first piece of original art, how his run-in with a young Howard Chaykin convinced him he wasn’t cut out to be a professional comics artist, what opening day was like at the first of his Big Planet comic book stores, the biggest sales event he’s seen during his 35-year retailing career, what inspired Bernie Wrightson to draw a freaky issue of Swamp Thing, how he fights back against the Comic Book Guy cliche to makes his shops welcoming places, our joint distaste of slabbing, why he doesn’t like doing appraisals, and much more.

(3) INTERZONE UPDATE. [Item by PhilRM.] This week’s PS Publishing newsletter provides some more information on their take-over of Interzone (first mentioned in the 1/8/2021 Pixel Scroll) from Andy Cox and TTA Press (and note that Strahan’s post referenced there didn’t make the latter clear: not only is Ian Whates taking over as editor, but Interzone will be published by PS Publishing). Interzone will now appear on a quarterly schedule, and only in digital format. The first issue will appear in August, and will be free to current subscribers.

And heh, we’re kind of jazzed up a little right now where electronic reading matter is concerned . . . and it’s all thanks to our taking on board INTERZONE, which we’ll be running in digital format only, kicking off in August. Ian has already earmarked some 60/70 thousand words for the debut, and the special festive issue in December (always assuming we have a festive season, that is). So watch out as further details emerge and IZ takes its justified place in the pantheon of Science Fiction and Fantasy in digital format only. 

All queries/comments regarding the TTA Press Interzone should be directed to either Andy Cox or Roy Gray direct at [email protected] or [email protected]. In the meantime, by way of a goodwill gesture, the first electronic PS IZ (August 2021) will be sent free of charge to all previous subscribers. Subsequent issues will be sent quarterly on receipt of an email to be found in the magazine. Watch out for more information

(4) UP PERISCOPE ON SUBSTACK. Yudhanjaya Wijeratne tweeted a list of recommended newsletters. Thread starts here. I’m only familiar with the ones by sff writers and they’re good, so I expect you’ll find more gold in the rest of his list. Here are a few examples:

(5) STOCK MARKET NEWS. Cory Doctorow makes the information comprehensible with his own comments. Read it complete at Threadreader.

(6) DIANA PHO ON DVCON. DVCon 2021 is a free convention for marginalized writers happening online January 30-31.

DVcon, a product of #DVpit, is a free, two-day virtual writers conference for self-identifying marginalized book creators. The mission of DVcon is to educate and connect authors & illustrators who have been historically underrepresented and marginalized in the book publishing industry. Featuring a diverse faculty as well as #DVpit alum, DVcon will offer informative workshops, fun micro-content, and our additional focus will be on community-building and forging connections.

Editor Diana Pho is part of the Money Talks panel from 2:00-3:00 PM Eastern on January 30.

Money Talks.
2:00pm-3:00pm

Let’s face it: publishing doesn’t always pay. Between low advances, payment installments stretched out for years, and the uncertainty of royalties, authors and illustrators might need to get creative about making ends meet. Our panel will discuss different and unexpected ways that authors and illustrators can make money and still stay on the publishing track. It will also help explain some basics about how payments occur in publishing and how to hustle with your writing. Sponsored by the Authors Guild

Featuring: Rebecca Kuss, Thao Le, Diana Pho, Holly Root, Jennifer Ung, Rebekah Weatherspoon

(7) AMBITIOUS ANIME. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the January 25 Financial Times, Leo Lewis and Kana Inagaki look at whether Japanese anime producers can compete globally against Disney and Netflix.

For many industry executives, the stage is now set for Japanese animation to truly go global.  A newly invigorated Sony is competing with Netflix and global giants to uncover the untapped trove of lucrative anime content.  ‘We were forced to accelerate efforts on all three fronts of digitalization, global expansion and streaming services.  It became now or never,’ said George Wada, senior vice-president at Production IG, the company behind the anime hits Ghost In The Shell and Attack On Titan, ‘We are on the brink of whether Japanese animation becomes big or goes minor.’…

…The list of the world’s 25 most valuable franchises are topped by two Japanese giants–Pokemon and Hello Kitty with respective all-time sales of $92bn and $80bn–and include nine other Japanese names.But behind that success, say analysts, has been a tendency to under-exploit the anime gold mine and heavily criticized labour practices that are hidden behind the most popular titles.

(8) FRAZETTA COLLECTED. Print interviews J. David Spurlock, editor of the art book Fantastic Paintings of Frazetta: “The Daily Heller: Frank Frazetta, the Sci-Fi Rockwell”.

Frank Frazetta (1928–2010) may someday hang his paintings in the Guggenheim Museum (hey, whoever thought that Norman Rockwell would have a major exhibition in Frank Lloyd Wright’s temple of Modern?). False equivalency aside, anything is possible in the current what-is-art world (what’s more, Frazetta already has his own museum). Frazetta is to fantasy what Max Ernst is to surrealism (which is fantasy on another psychic and perceptual plane)….

Frazetta transformed the fantasy genre. What can you point to as his most emblematic work?

There was a gradual building, including comic book covers in the early ’50s, which influenced George Lucas and Star Wars. Then Frank’s early 1960s illustrations for Edgar Rice Burroughs books, including Tarzan and John Carter of Mars. And Frank had a good run, painting big studio, humorous caricature-based movie posters in the mid-’60s. Most illustrators would consider movie poster work as a dream come true. But Frank walked away from them for what he felt was more uniquely his own, with his Sword & Sorcery heroic fantasy art. A shortlist of pieces that I cite as rocking the public’s collective consciousness would include “The Barbarian,” which first ran as the cover to the Conan the Adventurer paperback in 1966. Also “Death Dealer,” which first appeared on an early-’70s paperback but inspired American Artist magazine to break their own traditions to produce a special issue devoted to illustration, including coverage of Frazetta and covered with the Death Dealer. “Dark Kingdom” is another, which most people recall as running on a multi-million–selling Molly Hatchet album cover….

(9) NZ MENTORS. SFFANZ News applauds the “Recognition for Genre Authors Encouraging Young Writers” in a New Zealand magazine:

Check out this item in the forthcoming Focus Magazine. It gives hugely well deserved recognition to well known local SF/Fantasy authors Piper Mejia, Lee Murray, Jean Gilbert and the many other genre authors around NZ who have helped with their efforts in teaching and mentoring and publishing young students.

(10) SF FROM CALIFORNIA. Peter Larsen of the San Jose Mercury-News talks about Bradbury, PKD, Le Guin, and Kim Stanley Robinson in “Dive into California’s science fiction scene — from LeGuin to Philip K. Dick”. Even LASFS gets a shout-out.

…Two years ago, Nick Smith, a Pasadena library technician, curated a “Dreaming the Universe: The Intersection of Science, Fiction & Southern California” exhibit at the Pasadena Museum of History. His observation: While the creators of science fiction are rightly lauded, the history of the sci-fi fandom here is also worth acknowledgment.

“I think that’s part of why this has been home to a lot of science fiction,” says Smith, who is the former president of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society. Founded in 1934, it’s the oldest such fan group in the world, with a teenage Ray Bradbury one of its early members.

California appealed to science-fiction writers in the same way it appealed to anyone, Smith says. There were jobs to be had here, the promise of a better life and more opportunity or acceptance for people who might be discriminated against in other parts of the nation.

“Hollywood and television also contributed,” he says. “They provided a steady extra income for some of the writers.”

(11) DARROLL PARDOE OBIT. UK fanzine fan Darroll Pardoe (1943-2021) died January 28 at the age of 77 from COVID-19. Pardoe joined the Birmingham (UK) Science Fiction Group in 1965. He took over Les Spinge from Ken Cheslin and Dave Hale in 1966 and published it until 1979. He also was noted for editing the newzine Checkpoint for a year in the Seventies, and an issue of the British Science Fiction Association’s Vector.

He is survived by his wife, Rosemary Pardoe, co-founder of the British Fantasy Society.

(12) CHRISTOPHER LITTLE OBIT. The agent who handled Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Christopher Little, died January 7. The New York Times obituary is here.

Christopher Little, who as a struggling literary agent took a chance on a scrappy submission about tween-age wizards — even though he once disdained children’s fiction as a money-loser — and built it into the most successful literary empire in history on the strength of its lead character, Harry Potter, died on Jan. 7 at his home in London. He was 79.

His death, from cancer, was announced by his firm, the Christopher Little Literary Agency.

J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, was an unpublished, unemployed single mother in Edinburgh in 1995 when she sent Mr. Little the first three chapters of her first book after finding his name in a directory of literary agents. Knowing nothing about the business, she picked him because his name made him sound like a character from a children’s book.

Mr. Little submitted the manuscript for “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” to 12 publishers. He received 12 rejections in response, before selling it for £2,500, or about $3,400 (the equivalent of about $5,800 today). It was a meager amount, but his genius was in the details: He sold only the rights to publish it in Britain and the Commonwealth, and he asked for high royalties….

Mr. Little did more than launch Ms. Rowling’s career. He was the architect of the entertainment powerhouse that grew up around Harry Potter, helping line up everything from Legos to amusement parks.

Ms. Rowling was the first author to earn more than $1 billion off her work, and it’s no surprise that her agent did well too: By some estimates Mr. Little made over $60 million from the Harry Potter franchise. He never claimed credit for her success, but he was ever-present in the background, appearing alongside his client at book launches and movie premieres, enjoying those brief moments in the limelight….

(13) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

January 29, 1964 Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb premiered. Starring a stellar cast of Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, James Earl Jones and Slim Pickens, it was directed, produced, and co-written by Stanley Kubrick. 

It was not the original title as Kubrick considered Dr. Strangelove’s Secret Uses of Uranus as well as Dr. Doomsday or: How to Start World War III Without Even Trying, and the much shorter Wonderful Bomb.

The film is somewhat based on Peter George’s political thriller Red Alert novel. (Originally called Two Hours To Doom.) Curiously Dr. Strangelove did not appear in the book. This novel’s available on at usual digital suspects. And George’s novelization of the film is on all digital sources. If you purchase it, it has an expanded section on Strangelove’s early career. 

It would not surprisingly win the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at Loncon II in London in 1965 with The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao being the only other film on the final ballot.

The film was a box office success. Critics were universal in their belief that it was one of the best films ever done with Ebert saying it was “arguably the best political satire of the century”. At Rotten Tomatoes, it currently holds a ninety four percent rating with over two hundred thousand audience reviewers casting a vote. 

A sequel was planned by Kurbrick with Gilliam directing though he was never told this by Kurbrick and only discovered this after Kurbrick died and he later said “I never knew about that until after he died but I would have loved to.”

The original theatrical trailer is here.(CE)

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 29, 1835 – Susan Coolidge.  Known for What Katy Did and two sequels.  Edited Diary and Letters of Frances Burney.  Louisa May Alcott edited Coolidge’s collection New-Year’s Bargain, which is ours; three dozen books all told; short stories, poems.  Alice Dalgliesh edited a posthumous Coolidge coll’n Toinette and the Elves.  (Died 1905) [JH]
  • Born January 29, 1860 – Anton Chekhov.  (Note that kh in the usual Roman-alphabet spelling of his name represents a single consonant in Russian: the pronunciation is near to “che-hoff”).  A dozen stories have fantastic elements making them particularly for us; stories, plays, generally, for everyone.  You can see Nabokov’s discussion of “The Lady with the Little Dog” here.  (Died 1904) [JH]
  • Born January 29, 1907 – John Clymer.  Illustrator of the American West (worked in U.S. and Canada); Prix de West, Rungius Medal, Royal Canadian Acad. of Arts.  Also ArgosyMarine Corps GazetteSaturday Evening Post (eighty covers), Woman’s Day, Chrysler, White Horse whisky; some for us.  Clymer Museum in Ellensburg, Washington.  Here is the Aug-Sep 37 Romance; it and more about him here.  (Died 1989) [JH]
  • Born January 29, 1918 Robert Pastene. He played the title role in the first televised Buck Rogers series on ABC that also had Kem Dibbs and Eric Hammond in that role. 35 episodes were made, none survive. As near as I can tell, his only other SFF performance was on the Out There and Lights Out series. (Died 1991.) (CE)
  • Born January 29, 1932 Paddy Chayefsky. In our circles known as the writer of the Altered States novel that he also wrote the screenplay for. He is the only person to have won three solo Academy Awards for Best Screenplay. The other winners of three Awards shared theirs. He did not win for Altered States though he did win for Network which I adore. (Died 1981.) (CE) 
  • Born January 29, 1938 Ralph Bakshi, 83. Started as low-level worker at Terrytoons, studio of characters such as Heckle and Jeckle and Mighty Mouse. His first major break would be on CBS  as creative director of Mighty Mouse and the Mighty Heroes. Fast forwarding to Fritz the Cat, which may or may not be genre but it’s got a foul-mouthed talking cat.  Genre wise, I’d say War Wizards which features voice work by Mark Hamill and given a title with the last word Wizards so it wouldn’t be confused with you-know-what film. Next up was The Lord of the Rings, a very odd affair. That was followed by Fire and Ice, a collaboration with Frank Frazetta. Then came what I considered his finest work, the Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures series!  Then there’s Cool World… (CE) 
  • Born January 29, 1942 – Rosemary Wells, age 79.  Five novels for us, counting Voyage to the Bunny Planet and two sequels; ten dozen all told.  Illustrator too.  Daughter of a ballerina and a playwright, who “praised what I did well and didn’t care much about what I didn’t do well….  I drew uncannily for a youngster….  hunted rats with a bow and arrows….  fierce and devoted Brooklyn Dodger fan.”  [JH]
  • Born January 29, 1945 Tom Selleck, 76. Setting aside the matter of if Magnum P.I. is genre which some of you hold to be true, he was Sgt. Jack R. Ramsay in Runaway which is most definitely SF.  He recently did some voice acting by being Cornelius, Lewis’ older self, in the animated Meet the Robinsons film, and he showed up as himself in the “What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?” of the Muppet Babies nearly forty years ago. (CE)
  • Born January 29, 1958 – Nic Farey, age 63.  Irreverent and valuable (sorry, Nic, but it’s true) fanziner.  Two first-rate fanzines, Beam with Ulrika O’Brien, This Here solo (I omit the TH ellipsis mark lest you think I’m eliding, but it’s there); both have won FAAn (Fannish Activity Achievement) Awards.  Chaired fanziners’ convention Corflu (named for mimeograph correction fluid, once indispensable) 19, co-chaired Corflu 31.  Likes association football.  [JH]
  • Born January 29, 1970 Heather Graham, 51. Best known SF role was no doubt Dr. Judy Robinson on the Lost on Space film. She played also Felicity Shagwell that same year in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. And she was Annie Blackburn on Twin Peaks. (CE)
  • Born January 29, 1985 – Giovanna Fletcher, age 36.  Among writing, singing, acting, blogging and vlogging (I am not making this up), two novels for us with husband Tom Fletcher.  Sang “Moon River” with him.  Won Series 20 of I’m a Celebrity – Get Me Out of Here.  Nine other books, some nonfiction.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born January 29, 1988 Catrin Stewart, 33. Jenny Flint in five episodes of Doctor Who. She was the wife of Madame Vastra and the friend of Strax with the three known as the Paternoster Gang who appeared first during the Eleventh Doctor and last during the Twelfth Doctor. Big Finish has continued them in their audiobooks. She also played Stella in two episodes of the Misfits series, and was Julia in a performance of 1984 done at London Playhouse a few years back. (CE)

(15) HAS THERE EVER BEEN SUCH A JOB? [Item by Bill Higgins.] Friends have alerted me to the announcement that Georgia Tech has a job opening for an Assistant or Associate Professor of Science Fiction Film Studies.

There are lots of professors of Film Studies or equivalent, and plenty of them have turned their attention to SF. But a hasty google does not reveal the exact title “Professor of Science Fiction Film Studies” at any other institutions.  Could this be the world’s first? And science fiction’s first?  Further research may be needed.

Though I myself am capable of droning on for hours and hours about SF films, the job requires “Ph.D in film studies or a related field,” which lets me out.  Also, they probably don’t want to hire someone with the “ink-and-paper SF is better” prejudice.

Thanks to Fred Scharmen and Bill Leininger for bringing this to my attention.

(16) SOUTHERN FANDOM STORIES. Fanac.org has announced another FanHistory Zoom session (in addition to the second Ted White segment already reported in the Scroll). RSVP to [email protected] for the Zoom link.

February 20, 2021, 7PM EST (4PM PST, 12:00 AM London, 11AM Sunday in Sydney) – An Anecdotal History of Southern US Fandom, with Toni Weisskopf, Janice Gelb and Guy Lillian III. Get a perspective on Southern Fandom from the inside. Topics expected to include history and impact of conventions and Worldcons, clubs and fanzines, and bigger than life individuals.

(17) CALDECOTT WINNER. Publishers Weekly’s “When They Got the Call: PW Speaks with the 2021 Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz Winners” includes this quote from an author genre interest:

Michaela Goade, illustrator of We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, reflected on the experience of winning the 2021 Caldecott Medal; she is the first BIPOC woman and the first Indigenous artist to receive the award. “I felt a bit like a deer in the headlights and did not know what to say!,” Goade told PW.

(18) BIDEN CAN SEE THE MOON (ROCK) FROM HERE. CollectSpace shares the view —“A moon rock in the Oval Office: President Joe Biden’s lunar display”. Photos at the link.

Joe Biden was three weeks from taking office as a freshman U.S. senator when the moon rock that is now newly on display in the White House was collected by astronauts on the lunar surface.

Six terms in Congress, two terms as the Vice President of the United States and one presidential inauguration later, Biden and the lunar sample 76015,143 will now share the Oval Office.

The Biden Administration requested an Apollo-recovered moon rock for display as “a symbolic recognition of earlier generations’ ambitions and accomplishments, and support for America’s current moon to Mars exploration approach,” according to NASA. The 0.7-pound (333-gram) rock, held by a metal clamp and encased in glass, sits on the bottom shelf of a recessed bookcase beside a painted portrait of Ben Franklin and adjacent to the Resolute desk.

(19) THEY LOST ON JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter’s ears perked up when they had a Star Trek-related item on tonight’s Jeopardy! A contestant missed it.

Category: Poet-Pourri

Answer: George Herbert’s poetic query “Is there there in truth no” this? became the title of the “Star Trek” episode with the Medusans.

Wrong question: “What is stone?”

Correct question: “Is there in truth no beauty?”

(20) UNEXPECTED RING. Click through to see the intriguing image A Moon Dressed Like Saturn on the NASA website, photo by Francisco Sojuel.

Explanation: Why does Saturn appear so big? It doesn’t — what is pictured are foreground clouds on Earth crossing in front of the Moon. The Moon shows a slight crescent phase with most of its surface visible by reflected Earthlight known as ashen glow. The Sun directly illuminates the brightly lit lunar crescent from the bottom, which means that the Sun must be below the horizon and so the image was taken before sunrise. This double take-inducing picture was captured on 2019 December 24, two days before the Moon slid in front of the Sun to create a solar eclipse. In the foreground, lights from small Guatemalan towns are visible behind the huge volcano Pacaya.

(21) FRINGE PRODUCER’S NEXT SERIES. “’Debris’ Sets Premiere Date As Creator Of New NBC Sci-Fi Drama Draws Parallels To ‘Fringe’” reports Deadline.

Debris will premiere on Monday, March 1 at 10 p.m. ET/PT, NBC announced during its first TCA panel on Tuesday. In addition to teasing the upcoming series and unveiling the premiere date, the Debris team also talked parallels to Fringe. 

“There’s always going to be my DNA in the show,” [J.H.] Wyman, who serves as executive producer and showrunner said. “But it’s definitely its own thing.”

Like FringeDebris follows government officials as they investigate when wreckage from a destroyed alien spacecraft has mysterious effects on humankind. Riann Steele will star as MI6’s Finola Jones and Jonathan Tucker as the CIA’s Bryan Beneventi.

While the series will feature different stories driven by the odd effects of the alien leftovers, Debris will see the relationship between the two leads develop and gain complexity as the show continues.

(22) BREAK TIME. “30 Minutes of Relaxing Visuals From Studio Ghibli” on YouTube is a compilation of short clips about nature from Studio Ghibli films prepared by HBO Max.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/12/20 If Pixels Be The Scroll Of Life, File On

(1) DRAWING A LINE IN THE SILICON.  Tor author S.L. Huang, in “Genre Labels: What Makes A Book More Thriller Than Sci-Fi?” on CrimeReads, says “I’ve been a science fiction and fantasy nerd for as long as I can remember,” and that a book is more of a thriller than sf if “the science-fiction elements feel more realistic,” the book is in a contemporary Earth setting, and the book is written at a thriller pace with many short chapters rather than a sf pace.

4. Making the science fiction a single switch flip.

Lots of science fiction books have a broad array of speculative elements—worldbuilding, culture, technology, language, and advancements in science are just a few elements science fiction writers consider when building intricate other universes. But it’s not the only way to do science fiction. And a lot of the speculative stories that feel more mainstream have that “switch flip” element—that single, isolated “what if” that sets off everything.

What if we could extract viable dinosaur DNA from amber? What if a disease like this got out? What if this person switched bodies?

Then, after that one, singular leap of faith, the rest of the book logic plays out identically to how our real-world logic would work, with only that fundamental beginning change….

(2) STREAMING PLAYGROUND. Of necessity, Escape Room L.A.’s business has gone virtual. They’ve created two Escape Room scenarios for groups to play on Zoom, at $15 per person.

These live-hosted games feature both audio and visual clues. Your host will verbally describe your surroundings while showing you a series of images and puzzles, letting you know how you can interact with everything you see. It will be up to you to work together to solve the fun clues and tricky challenges! Can you escape in one hour or less?

There’s “The Lost Pyramid” and “Escape from Planet X.” The description of the latter is –

A vacation in outer space takes a wrong turn when your spaceship crash-lands on an uncharted alien planet. You discover that all of the crew have disappeared and the aliens are getting restless! In this fun, wacky adventure, it’s up to you to find a way to get the spaceship up and running and escape from Planet X before the aliens attack.

(3) THE BOOKS THEY DECIDED TO DISCUSS. In “Positron 2020 Report: Analyses of Chicagoland Speculative Fiction Book Clubs”, Jake Casella Brookins runs the numbers on Chicago-area sff book club selections, looking at race/gender balance in selected titles, genre changes over time, most-read authors, and how the various clubs’ lists of choices compare. “Pretty niche stuff,” says Brookins, “but SF/F scholars, readers, booksellers & librarians might be interested.”

His introduction to the report begins —

In-person book clubs are necessarily tied to very real and geographic communities. As I write this, Chicago is entering its second month of lockdown due to Covid-19. While many groups and organizations are successfully shifting to online meetings, the future of our clubs, bookstores, and libraries are uncertain. Ironically, this lockdown has given me the first chance to take a deep look at Chicago’s SF book clubs since Positron’s inception.

This report focuses entirely on book club meetings. While data from book sales and library loans would paint a much larger picture of reader behavior and preferences, there are a few advantages to using book club discussions as the unit of analysis, even beyond privacy and logistic concerns. At the most basic level, selection for a book club indicates that the book was definitely read, by at least some members. Furthermore, book club members are a distinct class of readers, committing not only to read books in community, but to share their opinions, a behavior that likely spills beyond the group itself. Through their recommendations, it is likely that book club members have an outsize influence on readers generally.

For me, joining a few SF book clubs was a huge part of adjusting to life in Chicago. They led me to massively important books I might not have otherwise discovered, and introduced me to my spouse and many friends. The clubs certainly have a direct influence on many bookstores and libraries. And, at the level of SF as a culture, the importance of book clubs is easily overlooked, and could provide a window into the specifics of how books, authors, and ideas move through the reading community….

(4) FALLEN SNOW. Entertainment Weekly issues an invitation: Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes: Listen to the first 11 minutes of the Hunger Games prequel’.

Centered on the original trilogy‘s antagonist, the story follows an 18-year-old Snow as he prepares for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the 10th Hunger Games. He’s up against it, though: His family has fallen on hard times, and he’s forced to guide the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Suddenly, their fates are intertwined.

The audio clip is here at Soundcloud.

(5) BEWARE OF FALLING HOUSES. Connie Willis just read a book about the making of The Wizard of Oz movie and is eager to share what she learned about “The Ruby Slippers And The Wizard’s Coat”.

…One of the most fascinating sections was about the ruby slippers, which, in case you’ve forgotten, belonged to the Wicked Witch of the East and which Glinda the Good Witch gives Dorothy after the house falls on her (the Witch, not Glinda) and kills her. The ruby slippers protect Dorothy from the Wicked Witch of the West (sort of.) At any rate, the only way to take them off her is to kill her, which makes Dorothy quite a target. (You’d think Glinda would have thought about that.)

They also hold the secret to Dorothy’s getting home. All she has to do is click the heels together and say three times, “There’s no place like home” to be magically transported back to Kansas. That means they’re central to the plot and in many ways the heart of the movie. After Toto, of course.

Like everything else involved in the making of the movie, the ruby slippers were more complicated than they looked. In the first place, the book had specified “silver shoes”, but Louis B. Mayer wanted to show off his Technicolor so he decided they should be red–and that they should “sparkle.”…

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

May 12, 1989 The Return Of Swamp Thing premiered.  The follow-up to Swamp Thing, it was directed by Jim Wynorski, with production by Benjamin Melniker and Michael E. Uslan. The story was written by Neil Cuthbert and Grant Morris.  It starred Dick Durock and Heather Locklear who replaced Adrienne Barbeau as the female lead which Barbeau was in Swamp Thing.  Louis Jourdan also returns as a spot-on Anton Arcane. Like its predecessor, neither critics nor the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes liked it so it had a poor twenty seven rating. The original Swamp Thing series which also Durock in contrast has an eight three Percent rating among audience reviewers! [CE]

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 12, 1812 – Edward Lear.  With us in fantasyland for his nonsense poems, he was famous in his day as a painter and illustrator.  First major bird artist to draw from live birds; look at this parrot.  Here are some Albanians.  Here’s Masada.  His musical settings for Tennyson’s poems were the only ones Tennyson approved of.  It may be that a grasp of reality makes his nonsense cohere – it holds together.  We may never see an owl dancing with a pussycat, but they do in his creation – in a hundred languages.  (Died 1888) [JH]
  • Born May 12, 1828 – Dante Gabriel Rossetti.  Put his third name first in honor of The Divine Comedy.  Founded the Pre-Raphaelite school of art because he thought Raphael (1483-1520) had ruined things; see how this led him to imagine Proserpine.  His poetry too was fantastic.  He is credited with the word yesteryear.  He loved wombats.  (Died 1882) [JH]
  • Born May 12, 1902 – Philip Wylie.  His novel Gladiator was an inspiration for Superman.  When Worlds Collide (with Edwin Balmer) inspired Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon.  No doubt he was a prolific pulp writer with quite a few of his novels adapted into films such as When Worlds Collide (co-written with George Balmer) by George Pal. Columnist, editor, screenwriter, adviser to the chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee for Atomic Energy, vice-president of the International Game Fish Association.  Wrote “Anyone Can Raise Orchids” for The Saturday EveningPost.  In The Disappearance a cosmic blink forces all men to get along without women, all women without men.  (Died 1971) [JH/CE]
  • Born May 12, 1907 – Leslie Charteris.  Born with the surname Yin; his Chinese father claimed descent from the Shang Dynasty emperors.  Passenger on the maiden voyage of the Hindenburg.  A hundred books, also films, radio, television, about his character Simon Templar, the Saint; also “The Saint” Mystery Magazine; others wrote some too, Vendetta for the Saint is by Henry Harrison.  Detective fiction is our neighbor, and both ISFDB and ESF list the series with the latter noting that “Several short stories featuring Templar are sf or fantasy, typically dealing with odd Inventions or Monsters (including the Loch Ness Monster and Caribbean Zombies.” The Last Hero really is SF, with a disintegrator and a scientist who doesn’t care who gets it.  (Died 1993) [JH/CE]
  • Born May 12, 1928 – Buck Coulson.  Applauded by fanziners  – we have costumers and filksingers, don’t we? –  for Yandro, ten times a Best-Fanzine Hugo finalist, winning once, co-edited with his wife Juanita – speaking of filksingers.  Together Fan Guests of Honor at the 30th Worldcon; the Coulsons to Newcastle Fund sent them to the 37th.  With Gene DeWeese, Buck wrote Now You See It/Him/Them loaded with allusions to fans, including Bob Tucker whose doing this himself led to calling the practice “tuckerism”; Juanita is not left out.  Two Man from U.N.C.L.E. books with DeWeese, translated into Dutch, French, Hebrew, Japanese.  Book reviews for Amazing.  Active loccer (letters of comment to fanzines).  Two terms as as SFWA Secretary (first Science Fiction Writers, then Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers, of America).  Mildly described as having an acerbic writing style.(Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born May 12, 1942 Barry Longyear, 80. Best known for the Hugo- and Nebula Award–winning novella Enemy Mine, which became a film by that name as well. Gerrold would later novelize it. An expanded version of the original novella as well as two novels completing the trilogy, The Tomorrow Testament and The Last Enemy make up The Enemy Papers. I’m very fond of his Circus World series, less so of his Infinity Hold series. (CE)
  • Born May 12, 1968 Catherine Tate, 52. Donna Noble, Companion to the Eleventh Doctor. She extended the role by doing the Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Adventures on Big Finish. She also played Inquisitor Greyfax in Our Martyred Lady, aWarhammer 40,000 audio drama, something I did not know existed. [CE]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) SUPERHERO PREVIEW. “DC’s Stargirl: New Images Offer the Best Look Yet at Doctor Mid-Nite and Hourman” at ComicBook.com.

In just under a week, a new generation of justice comes to DC Universe when DC’s Stargirl premieres on the streaming service on Monday, May 18. The series, which follows high school sophomore Courtney Whitmore as she moves to Blue Valley, Nebraska following her mother’s marriage to Pat Dugan and becomes the hero Stargirl and inspires an unlikely group of young heroes to help her stop the villains of the past. Now, ComicBook.com has an exclusive look at two of those young heroes ready to fight for justice in their super suits: Doctor Mid-Nite and Hourman.

(10) HAPPY BIRTHDAY ESCAPE POD. Hugo-nominated sff fiction podcast Escape Pod has reached a major milestone — “Escape Pod Turns Fifteen!” The celebration includes creation of a book — Escape Pod: The Science Fiction Anthology.

Escape Pod has been bringing the finest short fiction to millions all over the world, at the forefront of a new fiction revolution. Specializing in science fiction, the podcast gives its audience a different story each week that’s fun and engaging, with thought-provoking afterwords from its episode hosts.

The anthology, assembled by editors Mur Lafferty and S.B. Divya, gathers original fiction and audience favorites from:

  • Maurice Broaddus
  • Tobias Buckell
  • Beth Cato
  • Tina Connolly
  • Cory Doctorow
  • Greg Van Eekhout
  • Sarah Gailey
  • Kameron Hurley
  • N. K. Jemisin
  • Mary Robinette Kowal
  • Mur Lafferty
  • Ken Liu
  • Tim Pratt
  • John Scalzi
  • Ursula Vernon

Preorder now from Titan Books, Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA, and Forbidden Planet.

(11) RETRO BLAST. Cora Buhlert continues to review the best of 1944 in “Retro Review: “City” by Clifford D. Simak”.

“City” is a science fiction novelette by Clifford D. Simak, which was first published in the May 1944 issue of Astounding Science Fiction and is a finalist for the 1945 Retro Hugo. The magazine version may be found online here. “City” is part of Simak’s eponymous City cycle and has been widely reprinted….

Warning: Spoilers beyond this point! …

(12) FASHION REPORT. Aliette de Bodard understandably likes this style.

(13) NOT HOME ALONE. In “Creativity in the Time of Shutdown”, Mad Genius Club’s Amanda S. Green tells how everyday life is squeezing her writing time, and the commenters chime in about their own challenges.

…All this has made me wonder how the writers out there who have been used to having their alone time to write have coped with suddenly having their kids and spouses/partners home. With schools and businesses closed, our isolated work styles have been impacted by having people home all the time. A number of us have had to transform into teachers and tech advisors as our kids try to navigate their school classes through Zoom and similar programs. We’ve had to adjust to our spouses/partners invading our work area as they work from home.

Sooo many people in our spaces again.

And we can’t even escape to the library or the coffee shop because they’re closed too….

(14) STILL INFLUENTIAL. The Detroit News explains why “Octavia Butler’s prescient sci-fi resonates years after her death”.

…A revolutionary voice in her lifetime, Butler has only become more popular and influential since her death 14 years ago, at age 58. Her novels, including “Dawn,” “Kindred” and “Parable of the Sower,” sell more than 100,000 copies each year, according to her former literary and the manager of her estate, Merrillee Heifetz. Toshi Reagon has adapted “Parable of the Sower” into an opera, and Viola Davis and Ava DuVernay are among those working on streaming series based on her work. Grand Central Publishing is reissuing many of her novels this year and the Library of America welcomes her to the canon in 2021 with a volume of her fiction.

(15) PUTTING A GOOD FACE ON THINGS. Cheering viewers up while we’re stuck at home.“Lincolnshire make-up artists lifting lockdown spirits” – BBC video.

A group of make-up artists in Lincolnshire are painting themselves as superheroes and cartoon characters to pass the time during the lockdown.

They have been getting together online and setting each other make-up challenges to keep busy.

(16) LEARN FROM THE MASTER. “Studio Ghibli artist teaches anime fans how to draw Totoro” – video.

An anime film producer from Japan’s Studio Ghibli has given fans a quick lesson on how to draw one of its most famous characters: Totoro.

According to Toshio Suzuki – the secret lies in the eyes.

(17) FUN TO BE WITH? BBC introduces us to “The robot that helps before you ask it to” — short video.

A project led by Ocado Technology has developed a robot to work alongside people. Using advanced artificial intelligence, it can follow the motions of its human colleagues, and offer to help them before they even ask for assistance.

(18) STRIKING A PERFECT MATCH. Back in the days of black-and-white TV, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore treated their fans to puppet parody in Superthunderstingcar.

(19) THESE CHAIRS ARE MADE FOR TALKING. Past Aussie Worldcon chairs David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss talk about their favorite sff on the small screen in “TV or not TV?” at their latest Two Chairs Talking podcast. Their favorites include The Expanse, The Outsider, For All Mankind, and Star Trek: Picard.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Sea You” on Vimeo, Ben Brand finds the backstory of the fish a widow has for dinner.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/20/20 The Filers Scroll Round And Round, And They Come Out Here

(1) DREAMER’S BIOGRAPHY. “N. K. Jemisin’s Dream Worlds” in The New Yorker is Raffi Khatchadourian’s profile of the extraordinary author.

…In 2018, she released “How Long ’til Black Future Month?,” a collection of short stories. She also completed her next novel, “The City We Became,” the first installment of another trilogy, which is due out this March. Submitting the novel to her editor, a few hours before midnight on New Year’s Eve, she felt depleted; for more than a decade, she had been writing nearly a book a year. She resolved to take 2019 off, but she couldn’t stay idle. She sketched out the new trilogy’s second installment, while also navigating calls from Hollywood, speaking engagements, side gigs. Marvel Comics invited her to guest-write a series—an offer she declined, because she had already agreed with DC Comics to create a “Green Lantern” spinoff. As we sat in her office, the first issue of her comic was slated for release in a few weeks. “This is an unusual year for me,” she said. “Usually, I have only one thing to concentrate on.”

Above her desk she had hung family photos: glimpses of a truncated generational story. “Like most black Americans descended from slaves, it basically stops,” she told me. She once wrote about this loss—not merely the erasure of a backstory but also the absence of all that a person builds upon it; as she put it, the “strange emptiness to life without myths.” She had considered pursuing genealogy, “the search for the traces of myself in moldering old sale documents and scanned images on microfiche.” But ultimately she decided that she had no interest in what the records might say. “They’ll tell me where I came from, but not what I really want to know: where I’m going. To figure that out, I make shit up.”

(2) DROPPING THE PILOT. Jeremy Szal’s tenure at StarShip Sofa has run its course: “All Good Things Must End: A statement from Jeremy Szal”.

As of today, 20th of January 2020, I am stepping down from being the fiction editor-in-chief and producer of StarShipSofa.

I delayed stepping down this as long as I could. For almost two years, in fact, but it’s come to this inevitable write-up.

…See, I was never an editor at heart. I am and always will be a writer. I spent years and years handling other people’s writing and enjoyed it immensely. But it wasn’t what I ultimately wanted to do. And being an editor, particularly for audio format, is hard. It’s time-consuming. It’s exhausting. It’s draining. Not going to run through the process and all its shenanigans. Take my word for it that it’s nothing less than a part time job. And I did it because I loved it.

But I love writing more….

(3) THE ISABEL FALL STORY. Doris V. Sutherland, self-described “tubular transdudette”, weighs in with “Copter Crash: Isabel Fall and the Transgender SF Debate” at Women Write About Comics. The in-depth summary and analysis of the issues ends —

…Meanwhile, Isabel Fall has maintained her justifiably low profile. Even during the height of the controversy, she issued statements through mediators — first “Pip,” then Neil Clarke — rather than take a public platform herself. It remains to be seen what paths her creative career will take after her needlessly hostile reception this month.

Another concern is the lasting effect that the controversy will have on trans authors as a whole. The affair of “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter” makes plain a dilemma for contemporary transgender literature: fiction that is personal and boundary-pushing, that takes insults and abuse and turns them on the head to create something new, clearly runs the risk of being wildly misinterpreted and misrepresented. But the alternative — of creating only art that conforms to a narrow notion of “proper” transgender experience, that strives to avoid even the hypothetical possibility of causing offence or discomfort — is hardly appealing.

If transgender fiction is to soar, then it cannot afford for people like Isabel Fall to be bullied off the launchpad.

(4) OSHIRO RETURNS. Mark Oshiro recently announced plans to resume work. Thread starts here.

(5) LET ROVER COME OVER. Future Engineers’ student contest to Name the Rover announced the semifinalists on January 13. There are over 150 – see them all in this gallery.

The finalists will be announced January 21, and the winning name on February 18.

(6) TRAINS IN SPACE. Featured in the 2020 Lionel Train Catalog are Star Trek trains. New: Tribble Transport Car; Romulan Ale Tank Car; Capt. Kirk Boxcar; Capt. Picard Boxcar… (They also have trains from other shows and movies – Thomas the Tank Engine, Toy Story, Frozen II, and other Pixar productions, Scooby-Doo, and Harry Potter.

Batman looks pretty wild, too,

(7) MAYBE THERE’S A PONY UNDERNEATH. At Young People Read Old SFF, James Davis Nicoll unleashes the panel on “The White Pony” by Jane Rice.

Jane Rice is an author familiar to me solely though this story. Everyone gets to be one of the ten thousand sooner or later. She was a respected author of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. If this story is an example of her skill, I can see why her fans followed Rice. This meet-cute gone wrong is engaging enough for me to seek out more of Rice’s writing1. But what will my Young People think?

(8) RIDE AT GALAXY’S EDGE. When LAist made it to the head of the line, here is what they experienced: “We Traipsed Around A Star Destroyer: Your Guide To Disneyland’s ‘Star Wars: Rise Of The Resistance'”. Lots of detail and photos, without spoiling the dramatic conclusion.

…As the transport’s doors open, actual humans playing First Order villains usher you out of the ship for you to be interrogated. They’re empowered to be a little strict with you — we witnessed one of them putting their evil fascist power to use in shushing someone who dared to speak during a speech they were giving to visitors.

“I know growing up, all I wanted to do was run around the corridors of a Star Destroyer — so hey, why not do it for real?” Imagineer John Larena said.

But as Imagineer Scott Trowbridge noted, “It turns out that it’s actually hard to make those experiences that we saw on the massive screen, to bring those to life with that sense of epic scale.” The ride was notably delayed from initial plans to open it alongside the rest of Galaxy’s Edge.

But looking around the ride, it feels like they actually did it. It may not feel quite as massive as some of the scenes from the Star Wars films, but there is a real sense of scale as you walk around what feel like movie sets….

(9) ASK THE FANTASY WRITERS. Be one of today’s lucky 10,000! View this old episode of the BBC quiz show Only Connect featuring a team of fantasy writers composed of Geoff Ryman, Paul Cornell, and Liz Williams. In the series, teams compete in a tournament of finding connections between seemingly unrelated clues. The show ran from 2008 til 2014.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 20, 1936 Cosmic Voyage Is remembered as being one of the first films to depict spaceflight, including weightlessness in realistic terms. It was shot as a silent film and had only a short release window being banned by Soviet censors until the collapse of the USSR. And yes you, can indeed see it here.
  • January 20, 1972 — The first Star Trek convention took place in New York City from this day for two very full days.  Memory Alpha notes that “Although the original estimate of attendees was only a few hundred, several thousand had turned up before the end of the convention, which featured a program of events of an art show, costume contest, a display provided by NASA and a dealers room.“ Gene Roddenberry, Majel Barrett, D.C. Fontana and Isaac Asimov were among the SFF community members who showed up.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 20, 1884 A. Merritt. His first fantasy story was published in 1917, “Through the Dragon Glass” in the November 14 issue of All-Story Weekly. His SFF career would eventually consist of eight novels and fifteen (I think) short stories. I’m sure that I’ve read The Moon Pool, his novel, and much of that short fiction, but can’t recall the other novels as being read by me. In the digital release, Apple Books is clearly the better place to find his work as they’ve got everything he published whereas Kindle and Kobo are spotty. (Died 1943.)
  • Born January 20, 1934 Tom Baker, 86. The Fourth Doctor of course and the longest serving one to date with a seven-year run. My favorite story of his? “The Talons of Weng Chiang”. He wrote an autobiography, Who on Earth Is Tom Baker?, and just did his first Doctor Who novel, Scratchman, co-written with James Goss. 
  • Born January 20, 1958 Kij Johnson, 62. Writer and associate director of The Center for the Study of Science Fiction the University of Kansas English Department which is I must say a cool genre thing to be doing indeed. If you not read her Japanese mythology based The Fox Woman, do so now as it’s superb. The sequel, Fudoki, is just as interesting. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is a novella taking a classic Lovecraftian tale and giving a nice twist. Finally, I’ll recommend her short story collection, At the Mouth of the River of Bees: Stories
  • Born January 20, 1981 Izabella Miko, 39. OK, she was in The Clash of Titans as Athens. Why Goddess tell would anyone remake such a perfect film? She also had a recurring role on the very short lived The Cape series as Raia, and she had a recurring role as Carrie on Deadwood
  • Born January 20, 1983 Svetlana Viktorovna Khodchenkova, 37. I think her only SFF role was in the most excellent  Hugh Jackman led The Wolverine in which she had the dual role of Dr. Green who becomes The Viper. Marvels fans will recognise that this is a new version of the character. But most of her career involves Russian titled productions so I’m not sure…

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur finds two guys who are unprepared for a UFO to land in their bar, but not for the reason you might expect.

(13) N3F SHORT STORY CONTEST WINNERS. The winners of the National Fantasy Fan Federation’s 2019 Short Story Contest were announced in TNFF.

First Prize: “As Day Follows Night” by Karen L. Kobylarz, a tale of heroic fantasy, highly embla-zoned with both heroism and fantasy, a “quest” story following a magic student on a harrowing journey into myth and sacrifice.

Second Prize: “The Safety of Thick Walls” by Gus-tavo Bondoni, a tale of the Roman Republic…with zombies!

Third Prize: “Where You G-O-H When You Die” by Adam R. Goss, following a fallen space hero in his astonishing afterlife, more fantastic than he could possibly have imagined.

Honorable Mention: “The Captain” by Michael Simon, a three-time loser is sentenced to serve as the captain of a spaceship: does the punishment really fit the crime?

(14) INSIDE DIVERSITY. Whether Tim Waggoner’s advice proves valuable to the reader, it does surface a lot of good questions for writers to think about: “Mix it Up! Handling Diversity in Your Fiction”.

…I understand the basic idea of staying in your lane when it comes to diversity in fiction, and to a certain extent, I support it. I think writers shouldn’t try to tell a story meant to illuminate important aspects of another group’s experience. Only a person who was raised in and still is steeped in a culture/race/gender/etc. can ever know it well enough to write in-depth fiction exploring the issues that group faces. No amount of research can ever give you as authoritative an experience as someone who actually belongs a group other than your own, and you will never do as good a job as a writer from that group would at telling those stories. That said, I think if your story isn’t about the African-American experience or the gay experience, or the fill-in-the-blank experience, you can write from the point of view of a character unlike yourself if their racial/gender/cultural identity isn’t central to the story. Men in Black is a good example. Agents J and K could be people of any race, gender, or sexuality without having an appreciable impact on the film’s plot. (One does need to be older than the other, though.) Some character bits, such as J’s jokes which arise from his race would change, but the characters’ essential personalities and how they solve problems would remain the same. The story isn’t about J being black and K being white. It’s about the weird aspects of their job and saving the world. I’m perfectly comfortable writing from the point of view of someone with a different racial/ethnic/gender/sexual orientation background than myself in this circumstance. I focus on the character’s personality, and while their backgrounds will affect the expression of their character to a certain extent, I don’t attempt to delve very deep into their race, gender, sexuality, religion, etc. And if I do go a little deeper than usual, it’s because I have close relationships with people from those backgrounds, and I’m comfortable asking them if I misrepresented the group they belong to (or rather one of their groups, since we all belong to multiple ones).

(15) STREAMING GHIBLI. If you’re paying for the right streaming service, you’re in for a treat: “Studio Ghibli: Netflix buys rights to iconic animated films”.

Next month 21 films from the legendary Studio Ghibli are coming to Netflix.

It means new people will be introduced to “the ultimate escapism” of Studio Ghibli’s films – up until now they’ve only been available on DVD or illegally.

Some of its most famous films include the Oscar-winning Spirited Away, My Neighbour Totoro, and Howl’s Moving Castle.

“It will really give people the chance to enjoy a lot of classics that they may not know about but are famous in the anime world,” says Sarah Taylor, whose heart has “been with Ghibli” since she was 16 years old.

(16) WHAT GOES UP. BBC says “Barometric pressure in London ‘highest in 300 years’ at least” but no one’s head exploded.

The weather forecasters have just given us an impressive display of their skill by predicting the scale of the current high pressure zone over the UK.

Overnight, Sunday into Monday, London’s Heathrow Airport recorded a barometric pressure of 1,049.6 millibars (mbar).

It’s very likely the highest pressure ever recorded in London, with records dating back to 1692.

But the UK Met Office and the European Centre for Medium Range Forecasts had seen it coming well ahead of time.

“Computerised forecast models run by the Met Office and the ECMWF predicted this development with near pinpoint precision, forecasting the eventual position and intensity of the high pressure area several days in advance, before it had even begun to form,” said Stephen Burt, a visiting fellow at Reading University’s department of meteorology.

…”The reason for the extremely high pressure can be traced back to the rapid development of an intense low-pressure area off the eastern seaboard of the United States a few days previously (this is the storm that dumped around 75cm of snow in Newfoundland),” he explained.

(17) COULD CARRY ASTRONAUTS THIS YEAR. “SpaceX Celebrates Test Of Crew Dragon Capsule That Will Carry NASA Astronauts”, following up yesterday’s Pixel.

…With Sunday’s successful test, Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, said it is now “probable” that the first mission with astronauts on board could happen as early as the second quarter of 2020. He told reporters the test “went as well as one could possibly expect.”

(18) WHERE’S THE BEEF? Something else to do around CoNZealand:“‘Earth sandwich’ made by two men 20,000km apart”.

Two men in New Zealand and Spain have created an “Earth sandwich” – by placing slices of bread on precise points, either side of the planet.

The man behind the sandwich, Etienne Naude from Auckland, told the BBC he wanted to make one for “years”, but had struggled to find someone in Spain, on the other side of the globe.

He finally found someone after posting on the online message board, Reddit.

The men used longitude and latitude to make sure they were precisely opposite.

That meant there was around 12,724km (7,917 miles) of Earth packed between the slices – and some 20,000km between the men, for those forced to travel the conventional route.

…Mr Naude only had to travel a few hundred metres to find a suitable public spot on his side of the world. His Spanish counterpart had to travel 11 km (6.8 miles).

“It’s quite tough to find a spot which isn’t water on the New Zealand end – and where public roads or paths intersect in both sides,” Mr Naude said.

As if he hadn’t gone to enough effort, Mr Naude – a computer science student at Auckland University – made specially-decorated white bread for the occasion.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Horror Musical Instrument — The Apprehension Engine” on YouTube shows off a machine that comes up with the electronic scary music used in horror movies.

[Thanks to N., Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Danny Sichel, Giant Panda, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ann Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 6/3/19 This Is My Pixel And This Is My Scroll! One Is For Filing, The Other I LOL!

(1) RED MOON RISING. “Apple Publishes “For All Mankind” Apple TV+ Trailer” at MacStories.

What if the space race had never ended? Watch an official first look at For All Mankind, an Apple Original drama series coming this Fall to Apple TV+. Get notified when Apple TV+ premieres on the Apple TV app: http://apple.co/_AppleTVPlus For All Mankind is created by Emmy® Award winner Ronald D. Moore (Outlander, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica), Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi. Told through the lives of NASA astronauts, engineers and their families, For All Mankind presents an aspirational world where NASA and the space program remained a priority and a focal point of our hopes and dreams.

(2) TRACING THE MCU. In “+” at the Los Angeles Review of Books, University of Southern California cinema professor J.D. Connor has an exhaustive and highly quotable analysis of the MCU.

…Still, Feige has been utterly judicious about when and how to push. Over the years, fans (and others) have pushed for a less white, less male MCU, and Feige (and others) have managed to create an underdiscourse, in which the limits of the MCU’s representational efforts stem not from his convictions but rather from constraints placed on his own fandom by longtime Marvel head Ike Perlmutter and conservative forces on what was called the “Marvel Creative Committee.” Feige was able to get Perlmutter and the committee out of his way in 2015, and the next four films out of the pipeline would be developed, written, shot, and edited without their input. It’s no surprise that those four films happen to be the “boldest Marvel has ever made”: Guardians 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, and Black Panther.

Here the crucial installment is Black Panther, which seemed to prove that the whole machine could just as easily work based on African diaspora superheroes, with departments largely headed by women of color. Black Panther offers a vision of merit deferred. In place of lamentations about the empty pipeline, here was a movie that suggested, convincingly, that the representational revolution was at hand and only required Hollywood certification. The industry was clearly ready to endorse that vision of incremental revolution, giving Oscars to both Ruth E. Carter (Costume) and Hannah Beachler (Production Design). Those two, along with an award for Black Panther’s score, were the MCU’s first wins.

This story — from foundation and expansion to confidence and representation — has been emerging within the MCU. At the end of Endgame, Tony Stark is dead, Steve Rogers is old, and Thor has a new home among the more ridiculous and sentimental Guardians of the Galaxy. Replacing the foundational three white dudes are Captain Marvel, a new Captain America, and Black Panther….

(3) IRON MANTLE. The Spider-Man: Far From Home Chinese Trailer inspires a SYFY Wire writer to theorize about the MCU’s future —

…The world is definitely asking “who is going to be the next Iron Man?” Captain America has promoted Falcon. Who’s taking up Iron Man’s robotic mantle? With Spidey debuting multiple new suits in the film (and in the trailer, where fans can see the black stealth suit swing), this could be Peter Parker’s time to shine as the MCU moves into a new Phase.

(4) MONSTROSITY. Leonard Maltin really unloads on “Godzilla: King of the Monsters”.

Two hours wasted: that’s how I feel after watching Godzilla: King of the Monsters. This bloated production starts out as an enjoyably tacky monster movie but doesn’t know when to quit. Every pseudo-scientific explanation (and there are plenty) has a counter-explanation in order to keep the story going…and every apparent climax leads to another climax. There’s even a post-credits scene, as if we needed one. We don’t….

(5) THAT CAT KNOWS WHAT HE’S ABOUT. So perhaps it’s just as well that Camestros Felapton was duped into seeing the Elton John biopic instead — Rocketcat.

[Timothy the Talking Cat] You see? You see? I totally tricked you.
[Camestros Felapton] Hmmm
[Tim] You thought we were going to go and see Godzilla but we actually went to see Rocketman.
[CF] That’s OK. I enjoyed the film.
[Tim] But admit that I totally tricked you….

(6) RETRO SPECIAL EFFECTS. Lots of sff GIFs here, beginning with a load of flying saucer movie clips, at Raiders of the Lost Tumblr.

(7) MORE AURORA AWARDS NEWS. Voting for the Aurora Awards will begin on August 3, 2019. Click here to visit the public ballot page.

The Aurora Voters Package will be available for CSFFA members to download later this month.

Both the voters package and the ballot close at 11:59 pm EDT on September 14, 2018.

(8) NEW TITLE FOR GRRM. ComicsBeat has learned “George R.R. Martin Has a New World to Explore in Meow Wolf”.

Looks like George R. R. Martin is taking his epic world-building skills to Meow Wolf, the Santa Fe-based arts and entertainment collective behind the House of Eternal Return and other next-gen immersive and interactive exhibitions. The Game of Thrones creator has been named new Chief World Builder and will bring his “unparalleled storytelling skills to the multiverse” of Meow Wolf by working with key members of the collective to “advise on building narrative and mind-bending ideas” that will yield “ambitious immersive installations.”

This isn’t Martin’s first time working with Meow Wolf. The Santa Fe resident helped secure the local bowling alley that is now the House of Eternal Return attraction and entertainment complex. The attraction displays a multidimensional mystery house of secret passages and surreal tableaus featuring Meow Wolf’s artists, architects, and designers, as well as a learning center, cafe, music venue, bar, and outdoor dining scene.

(9) COME HOME. Disney dropped a new trailer for The Lion King that features Beyonce.

(10) DARROW OBIT. BBC reports “Blake’s 7 actor Paul Darrow dies at 78”.

British actor Paul Darrow, best known for his role as Kerr Avon in sci-fi BBC TV series Blake’s 7, has died at the age of 78 following a short illness.

Most recently, Darrow voiced soundbites for independent radio stations Jack FM and Union Jack, where he was known as the “Voice of Jack”.

The character of Avon was second-in-command on Blake’s 7, which ran for four series between 1978 and 1981.

Darrow shared a flat with John Hurt and Ian McShane while studying at Rada.

While best-known for his Blake’s 7 role, he appeared in more than 200 television shows, including Doctor Who, The Saint, Z Cars, Emmerdale, Hollyoaks and Little Britain.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 3, 1905 Norman A. Daniels. Writer working initially in pulp magazines, later on radio and television. He created the Black Bat pulp hero and wrote for such series as The Avengers, The Phantom Detective and The Shadow. He has three non-series novels, The Lady Is a Witch, Spy Slave and Voodoo Lady. To my surprise, iBooks and Kindle has a Black Bat Omnibus available! In addition, iBooks has the radio show. (Died 1995.)
  • Born June 3, 1931 John Norman. 86. Gor, need I say more? I could say both extremely sexist and badly written but that goes without saying. They are to this day both extremely popular being akin to earlier pulp novels, though argue the earlier pulp novels by and large were more intelligent than these are. Not content to have one such series, he wrote the Telnarian Histories which also has female slaves. No, not one of my favourite authors. 
  • Born June 3, 1946 Penelope Wilton, 73. She played the recurring role of Harriet Jones in Doctor Who, an unusual thing for the show as they developed a story for the character. She was also played Homily in The Borrowers, Barbara in Shaun of the Dead, The Queen in Roald Dahl’s The BFG, Beatrix Potter in The Tale of Beatrix Potter, The White Queen in Through the Looking-Glass and Gertrude in in Hamlet at the Menier Chocolate Factory. 
  • Born June 3, 1950 Melissa Mathison. Screenwriter who worked with Spielberg on  E.T. the Extra-TerrestrialTwilight Zone: The Movie and BFG, the latter being the last script she did before dying of cancer. She also did The Indian in the Cupboard which wasdirected by Frank Oz. (Died 2015.)
  • Born June 3, 1958 Suzie Plakson, 61. She played four characters on Trek series: a Vulcan, Doctor Selar, in “The Schizoid Man” (Next Gen); the half-Klingon/half-human Ambassador K’Ehleyr in “The Emissary” and “Reunion” (Next Gen); the Lady Q in “The Q and the Grey” (Voyager); and an Andorian, Tarah, in “Cease Fire” (Enterprise).  She also voiced Amazonia in the “Amazon Women in the Mood” episode of Futurama. Really. Truly.
  • Born June 3, 1964 James Purefoy, 55. His most recent genre performance was as Laurens Bancroft in Altered Carbon. His most impressive was as Solomon Kane in the film of that name. He was also in A Knight’s Tale as Edward, the Black Prince of Wales/Sir Thomas Colville. He dropped out of being V in V for Vendetta some six weeks into shooting but some early scenes of the masked V are of him.
  • Born June 3, 1973 Patrick Rothfuss, 46. He is best known for the Kingkiller Chronicle series, which won him several awards, including the 2007 Quill Award for his first novel, The Name of the Wind. Before The Name of the Wind was released, an excerpt from the novel was released as a short story titled “The Road to Levinshir” and it won the Writers of the Future contest in 2002.

(12) THE FUNGI THEY HAD. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Over the weekend, RadioLab rebroadcast a fascinating September 2016 podcast, From Tree To Shining Tree, discussing the various ways that trees intercommunicate, along with the discovery of an intense fungi-based underground network (hence my item title).

Related recommended reading (I don’t know if they mentioned it in the show, we tuned in after it was underway, but I’d happened upon it in my public library’s New Books, when it came out, and borrowed’n’read it then), The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate?Discoveries From A Secret World by Peter Wohlleben

(Perhaps Greg Bear could be inspired by these, and do Sap Music as a sequel to Blood Music?

(13) KEEPING THE SHIP IN STARSHIP. James Davis Nicoll rigs up a post about “Light Sails in Science and Fiction” at Tor.com.

…Possibly the reason that light sails took a while to become popular tropes is that the scientifically-clued-in authors who would have been aware of the light sail possibility would also have known just how minuscule light sail accelerations would be. They might also have realized that it would be computationally challenging to predict light sail trajectories and arrival times. One-g-forever rockets may be implausible, but at least working how long it takes them to get from Planet A to Planet B is straightforward. Doing the same for a vehicle dependent on small variable forces over a long, long time would be challenging.

Still, sailing ships in space are fun, so it’s not surprising that some authors have featured them in their fiction. Here are some of my favourites…

(14) IRONMAN ONE. The Space Review salutes the 50th anniversary of Marooned, the movie adaptation of Martin Caidin’s book, in “Saving Colonel Pruett”.

In this 50th anniversary year of the first Apollo lunar landing missions, we can reflect not only on those missions but also on movies, including the reality-based, technically-oriented space movies of that era, that can educate as well as entertain and inspire. One of those is Marooned, the story of three NASA astronauts stranded in low Earth orbit aboard their Apollo spacecraft, call-sign Ironman One—all letters, no numbers, and painted right on the command module (CM), a practice NASA had abandoned by 1965. They were the first crew of Ironman, the world’s first space station, the renovated upper stage of a Saturn rocket as planned for the Apollo Applications Program, predecessor of Skylab….

(15) GHIBLI PARK. “Studio Ghibli Park Set to Open in Japan in 2022”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

Japanese anime hit factory Studio Ghibli is to open a theme park in 2022 in cooperation with the local Aichi Prefecture government and the Chunichi Shimbun newspaper company.

Plans for the “Ghibli Park,” which will occupy 494 acres (200 hectares) in Nagakute City, Aichi, were first announced around this time in 2017, when the local government said it was looking for other commercial partners.

…According to the three companies, three areas — Youth Hill, partly based on Howl’s Moving Castle; Dondoko Forest, based on My Neighbor Totoro; and a Great Ghibli Warehouse — are set to open in fall 2022. A Mononoke Village, based on Princess Mononoke, and a Valley of the Witch area, themed on both Kiki’s Delivery Service and Howl’s Moving Castle, are set to open a year later

(16) ANOTHER YANK OF THE CHAIN. Fast Company finds that once again “The P in IHOP doesn’t stand for what you think it stands for”. (Really, at moments like this I think it’s a darned shame I don’t monetize this site.)

…The IHOB campaign got the brand more than 42 billion media impressions worldwide, and immediately quadrupled the company’s burger sales. Now a year later, with burger sales still humming along at double their pre-IHOB numbers, the brand is trying to once again to catch advertising lightning in a (butter pecan) bottle.

Last week, the diner chain announced that it would have an announcement today, relating to its name, aiming once again for the same social-media chatter that debated its burgers last time around. A lot of those people last year scolded IHOP for venturing beyond pancakes. Now the brand is having a bit of fun with that idea–and the definition of a pancake.

“This year we listened to the internet and are sticking to what we do best, which is pancakes,” says IHOP CMO Brad Haley. “We’re just now calling our steak burgers pancakes. We contacted some of the people who told us to stick to pancakes last year for this year’s campaign, so the trolls have teed up the new campaign quite nicely.”

(17) DO CHEATERS EVER PROSPER? NPR’s Caitlyn Paxson says“Cheating Death Will Cost You In ‘The Wise And The Wicked'”.

In this tale of a family with dark secrets and divinatory gifts, Lambda Literary Award winner Rebecca Podos ponders the inevitable question: If you can read the future that lies ahead, do you also have the power to change it?

When Ruby Chernyavsky hit her teen years, she had a premonition — a vision of the moments leading up to her death. Knowing her “Time” was something she always expected, since all of the women in her family forsee their own, but what none of them know is that Ruby’s days are numbered. Her Time is her 18th birthday, so in a little over a year, she’ll be dead….

(18) PLAYING FOR KEEPS. This is what happens when you trimble your kipple: “Long-lost Lewis Chessman found in Edinburgh family’s drawer”.

A medieval chess piece that was missing for almost 200 years had been unknowingly kept in a drawer by an Edinburgh family.

They had no idea that the object was one of the long-lost Lewis Chessmen – which could now fetch £1m at auction.

The chessmen were found on the Isle of Lewis in 1831 but the whereabouts of five pieces have remained a mystery.

The Edinburgh family’s grandfather, an antiques dealer, had bought the chess piece for £5 in 1964.

He had no idea of the significance of the 8.8cm piece (3.5in), made from walrus ivory, which he passed down to his family.

They have looked after it for 55 years without realising its importance, before taking it to Sotheby’s auction house in London.

The Lewis Chessmen are among the biggest draws at the British Museum and the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

They are seen as an “important symbol of European civilisation” and have also seeped into popular culture, inspiring everything from children’s show Noggin The Nog to part of the plot in Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone.

(19) TOTALLY TONOPAH. Kevin Standlee promotes the Tonopah in 2021 Westercon bid in an interview about the proposed facility:

Tonopah in 2021 chair Kevin Standlee interviews Mizpah Hotel supervisor Rae Graham and her wife (and Mizpah Club staffer) Kayla Brosius about the Mizpah Hotel, what they think about how Tonopah would welcome a Westercon, and how they think the convention would fit with the hotel.

 The bid’s webpage also has a lot of new information about hotels and restaurants in Tonopah. Standlee says, “A new hotel just opened up adding another 60 rooms to the town, including more handicapped-accessible/roll-in-shower rooms, for example.”

Standlee and Lisa Hayes took a lot of photos while they were in Tonopah, now added to their Flickr album — including pictures of the unexpected late-May snow. Kevin admits:

I’d be very surprised by snow in July, but they schedule their big annual town-wide event for Memorial Day because it should neither be snowy or hot, and they instead got four inches of snow on their rodeo. Fortunately, it mostly all melted by the next morning.

Memorial Day Snow in Tonopah
Unhappy Bear
Kuma Bear is grumpy that he’s all covered in snow after Lisa and Kevin went out for a walk in Tonopah when it was snowing.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John Hertz, Kevin Standlee, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]