Pixel Scroll 2/22/22 Credentials On Your Knee, Pixel, Scroll And Ray

(1) EASTERCON WANTS YOUR DRABBLES. The UK’s national science fiction convention, Eastercon, aka Reclamation 2022, is running April 15-18 at the Radisson Hotel & Conference Centre London Heathrow. Guests of Honor are Mary Robinette Kowal, Phillip Reeve, Tasha Suri and Nicholas Whyte. Here’s how you can join in the fun, wherever you may be.

We wanted to do something a little different with Reclamation and so are resurrecting an age-old fannish tradition of drabbling. Depending on how many we receive, we may make posters to display round the convention, and publish them in the convention readme booklet. We’re looking for tiny, standalone speculative fiction tales, of exactly 100-words each.

What is a drabble?

A drabble is a piece of fiction that is exactly 100 words long, excluding its title. If you imagine a novel to be a full three-course meal, a drabble is more of an amuse-bouche: a single, bite-sized delight that gets your taste buds primed for the next course.

For more information, go to: https://reclamation2022.co.uk/drabbles/

(2) YOUR NEXT TBR. Amal El-Mohtar is back with a batch of reviews in “Otherworldly” at the New York Times.

…Delilah S. Dawson’s THE VIOLENCE (Del Rey, 498 pp., $28) takes place in a post-Covid Florida, on the cusp of a very different pandemic. It’s 2025, and Chelsea Martin lives an apparently idyllic life in a gated community with her wealthy husband, two daughters and small fashionable dog. In reality, Chelsea’s husband is physically and emotionally abusive, and has systematically cut her off from any friends or support systems apart from her cruel and self-absorbed mother. But as a new disease called the Violence spreads — causing brief, individual episodes of amnesiac rage during which the infected beat the nearest living thing to death — Chelsea sees an opportunity to free herself and her daughters….

(3) ROLL ‘EM, ROLL ‘EM, ROLL ‘EM. Head ‘em up and move ‘em out! The Hollywood Reporter says Paramount is determined to have a Star Trek movie for Christmas 2023 but they don’t have a script and no stars are attached to the project. “Why Paramount’s ‘Star Trek’ Sequel Reveal Surprised Its Own Stars”.

On Feb. 15, Paramount (nee ViacomCBS) announced that it would boldly go where it hasn’t managed to go before — a fourth iteration in a stalled 21st century feature strategy for the Star Trek franchise. During the Paramount investor day, producer J.J. Abrams — who rebooted the sci-fi franchise for the big screen in 2009 — revealed that the USS Enterprise was being readied for a new flight. “We are thrilled to say that we are hard at work on a new Star Trek film that will be shooting by the end of the year that will be featuring our original cast,” Abrams said.

The proclamation came as a surprise, not just to observers who have been watching the movie studio haltingly try to revive Trek on the big screen for years but to the actors and their representatives as well.

Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that most, if not all, teams for the franchise’s primary players — who include Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldaña and John Cho — were not aware that an announcement for another film was coming, much less that their clients would be touted as a part of the deal, and certainly not that their clients would be shooting a movie by year’s end. Insiders say that Pine, who plays Captain Kirk, is the first to enter into early negotiations as he is the lynchpin to the project.

The hope is to begin filming in the fall in order to make the Dec. 22, 2023, theatrical release. The script is still being worked on, according to sources, and there is no green light or budget in place. In fact, the budget will now likely have to account for talent deals that may be supersized. Industry insiders say that Paramount let go of negotiating leverage in order to have a key chess piece as it courts Wall Street investors.

(4) CLOSE, BUT NO CIGAR. On the Jeopardy! National College Championship, Friday, Andrew Porter witnessed a contestant miss this one:

Category: Science Fiction

In this “colorful” author’s “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing,” alien sculptures called the Carls pop up all over the Earth.

Wrong question: Who is John Green?

Correct question: Who is Hank Green?

(5) THE INVENTOR OF BOOKS ON TAPE. The Los Angeles Times paid tribute to the late Duvall Hecht, whose daily grind to L.A. led to Books on Tape – he died February 10 at the age of 91.

Duvall Hecht was somewhere between his banking job in Los Angeles and his home in Newport Beach when he realized he’d heard the same song for the third or fourth time. On the news stations, the daily report had grown stale and repetitive. The commercials were numbing and endless.

It was, he told The Times years later, the most “deadly two hours” in his day, a grinding commute devoid of any intellectual stimulation.

In a flurry of entrepreneurial magic, he sold his 1965 Porsche, hired a college drama coach and created what would become volume No. 1 in the soon-to-be-massive Books on Tape catalog, a recording of George’s Plimpton’s football tale, “Paper Lion.”

“It never once seemed like a wacky idea to me,” he said in 2001, shortly after selling his startup to Random House for an estimated $20 million.

Hecht, a man of varied interests, died Feb. 10 at his home in Costa Mesa, his wife, Ann Marie Rousseau, said. He was 91.

… Customers would rent book tapes for 30 days, and since Hecht didn’t charge a deposit, they were on an honor system to return them. For the most part, he said, customers held up their end of the bargain and mailed back the tapes.

(6) MEMORY LANE.

1993 [Item by Cat Eldridge]  

Babylons one, two and three were sabotaged and destroyed. Number four vanished without a trace twenty-four hours after becoming operational. To this day no one knows what happened to it. — John Sinclair to Lyta Alexander in Babylon 5: The Gathering 

Twenty-nine years ago on PTEN, Babylon 5: The Gathering aired, the first of six feature length films that would happen in the franchise. And thus J. Michael Straczynski’s vision of this SF series came to be. This was written by him and directed by Richard Compton who had minor acting roles in Trek’s “The Doomsday Machine” and “The Enterprise Incident”.  Really minor acting roles. 

It was executive produced by Douglas Netter and Straczynski. Netter would between the third and fourth seasons of Babylon 5 found Netter Digital, a CGI special effects company. Unfortunately Straczynski was his only client, so the end of the Babylon 5 related projects such as Crusade meant the end of the company. 

Actual production was by Robert Latham Brown and John Copeland. The former has worked with Mel Brooks, George Lucas, Paul Verhoeven and Steven Spielberg. The latter really hasn’t done anything interesting outside of the Straczynskian universe. 

Babylon 5 always had a sprawling cast and this was no exception — here we had Michael O’Hare, Tamlyn Tomita, Jerry Doyle, Mira Furlan, Peter Jurasik, Andreas Katsulas and Patricia Tallman as the principal performers. 

It is said that following the success of the movie, Warner Bros. Television commissioned the series for production in May of that year, as part of its Prime Time Entertainment Network. The series would go on the air the next air in January. 

The pilot was quite different from the series. For example, Patricia Tallman who played Lyta Alexander here was replaced by Andrea Thompson as Talia Winters but would return later in the series, first as a recurring character and then as a regular. And the First Officer who was Laurel Takashima as played here by Tamlyn Tomita was replaced for the series by Claudia Christian who played Susan Ivanova. 

Straczynski later rejiggered it into a different version which is longer and adds footage that was obviously not seen in the original version including Kosh briefly speaking to Sinclair.

Reception by critics at the time was not overwhelming. The Boston Globe reviewer who saw it said that “Great special effects do not make for great science fiction. Writing is what makes TV series cook. Unfortunately, writing is the single biggest problem haunting Babylon 5.” And Variety said “It’s going to be a close call whether to make “Babylon 5” a series or just leave it as this one-shot telefilm. As a stand-alone, “Babylon 5” falls short of the mark, but it’s a serviceable first episode.”

It currently holds a sixty-eight percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 22, 1917 Reed Crandall. Illustrator and penciller best known for the Forties Quality Comics‘ Blackhawk (a DC property later) and for stories in myriad EC Comics during the 1950s.  In the late Sixties, he did the illustration work on King Features Syndicate’s King Comics comic-book version of the syndicate’s Flash Gordon strip. He’s been inducted into Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. (Died 1982.)
  • Born February 22, 1925 Edward Gorey. I’m reasonably sure that his animated introduction to the PBS series Mystery! was my first encounter with him. I will recommend Gorey CatsThe Haunted Tea-Cosy: A Dispirited and Distasteful Diversion for Christmas and The Doubtful Guest. Ok if he’s not genre but if he’s still fun and delightfully weird. Oh, and do go read Elephant House: Or, the Home of Edward Gorey, with superb photographs and text by Kevin McDermott. (Died 2000.)
  • Born February 22, 1929 James Hong, 93. Though not quite genre, he became known to audiences through starring in The New Adventures of Charlie Chan in the late Fifties. Genre wise, his first role was in Godzilla, King of the Monsters! voicing Ogata/Serizawa. He then pops up in The Satan Bug as Dr. Yang and next is seen playing Ho Lee in Destination Inner Space. You’ll no doubt recognize Colossus: The Forbin Project where he’s Dr. Chin but I’ll bet you’ve never heard of, oh wait you have, Blade Runner in which he’s Hannibal Chew and Big Trouble In Little China which I love in which he’s wizard David Lo Pan. It’s back to obscure films after that with next up being Shadowzone where he’s Dr. Van Fleet and Dragonfight where he’s Asawa. He’s next in The Shadow as Li Peng and he’s Che’tsai in Tank Girl.  He’s Mr. Wu in the very loose adaption of the classic The Day the Earth Stood Still
  • Born February 22, 1930 Edward Hoch, The lines between detective fiction and genre fiction can be awfully blurry at times. ISFDB listed him but I was damned if I could figure out why considering he’s known as a writer of deceive fiction who wrote several novels and close to a thousand short stories. It was his Simon Ark character who was the protagonist of Hoch’s first published story and who was ultimately featured in thirty-nine  of his stories that made him a genre writer as Ark is the cursed by God immortal doomed to wander forevermore and solved crimes. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 22, 1937 Joanna Russ. Is it fair to say she’s known as much for her feminist literary criticism as her SF writings? That The Female Man is her best known work suggest my question really isn’t  relevant as there may be no difference between the two. She was for a long time an influential reviewer for Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction where I think it would fair to say that you knew clearly what she thought of a given work. (Died 2011.)
  • Born February 22, 1953 Genny Dazzo, 69. She attended the first Star Trek Convention in New York. She was later involved in the local SF con, Lunacon. Moving out to LA, she was on the committee for all of the LA Worldcons as well as many Westercons, Loscons, and AnimeLA. Fan Guest of Honor at DeepSouthCon 31 and Loscon 27 (with husband Craig Miller).
  • Born February 22, 1972 Duane Swierczynski, 50. Though a mystery writer by trade, he’s also worked as a writer at both DC and Marvel on some very impressive projects. He did writing duties on the second volume of time traveling soldier Cable, penned the Birds of Prey as part of The New 52 relaunch and wrote an excellent Punisher one-off, “Force of Nature”.

(8) REMEMBER THE BOSS. Last November, a Mark Twain Signed Copy of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court went for $68,750 at auction. Interestingly, bidding started at only $2,400 – there’s a video but it’s not a very visual experience.

Signed on front pastedown, “Taking the pledge will not / make bad liquor good, but it will improve it. / Mark Twain / Oct / 06.”

(9) SUBGENRES. At CrimeReads, Richard Thomas explains what “New Weird and “hopepunk” fiction are all about in “Time to Discover Your New Favorite Sub-Genre of Fiction”, which you might not have guessed are areas of expertise for an author whose forthcoming collection is titled Spontaneous Human Combustion.

As a reader, and viewer, of contemporary dark stories, I’m most drawn to work that does not sit nicely in the middle of a major genre. I’m drawn to the periphery, the edges, the shadows, and cobwebbed corners. And these three subgenres—neo-noir, new-weird, and hopepunk—all have those traits in common. They are looking to pull us in with techniques, tropes, rules, and histories that are familiar–so we’ll know how to access these works, how to set up our expectations. And then…they subvert those expectations. Not with deus ex machina twists that come out of nowhere, but with unique moments, surprises that feel fated, and endings that are earned. And I think it’s okay to be polarizing, too. As a writer, I’d rather have half my audience hate what I did and the other have love it, then have 90% think it was just okay. And I think the films coming out from A24 and Neon, television shows like Squid Game and Midnight Mass, and books being written by award-winning authors such as Stephen Graham Jones, Usman T. Malik, A. C. Wise, Brian Evenson, and Kelly Robson are doing the same thing. They are honoring the past, pouring themselves into the work, and then taking us someplace new, inspired, and unsettling. And isn’t that why we’re here?…

(10) STAPLEDON ON FILM. Chicago Reader’s Maxwell Rabb praises “Last and First Men”.

Before his untimely death, the prophetic Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhansson completed his first and final film, exploring a delicate space between the literary and the cinematic for a science fiction classic. Last and First Men is the composer’s reimagined narrative of Olaf Stapledon’s triumphant sci-fi novel by the same name. Jóhansson’s haunting adaptation facilitates a chilling link between two distinct humanities spanning across two billion years…. 

(11) HOME IMPROVEMENT. “Now Witness the Power of This Armed and Fully Operational Space Toilet” – John Scalzi explains his bathroom upgrade at Whatever. How can you not read a post that has such a perfect headline?

Last year Krissy decided that she wanted to upgrade our bathroom suite, and not in just a “new hand towels and shower curtain” way — a whole revamp. I was fine with this, I said, if I got what I wanted out of it: a supercool space age “intelligent toilet” with all the bells and whistles. It took a while, because 2021 was The Year of Supply Chain Issues, but the new bathroom is 90% completed and the Space Toilet is now installed and operational….

(12) THE STARS MY DETONATION. “A supernova could light up the Milky Way at any time. Astronomers will be watching” promises Nature.

Masayuki Nakahata has been waiting 35 years for a nearby star to explode.

He was just starting out in science the last time it happened, in February 1987, when a dot of light suddenly appeared in the southern sky. This is the closest supernova seen during modern times; and the event, known as SN 1987A, gained worldwide media attention and led to dramatic advances in astrophysics.

Nakahata was a graduate student at the time, working on what was then one of the world’s foremost neutrino catchers, the Kamiokande-II detector at the Kamioka Underground Observatory near Hida, Japan. He and a fellow student, Keiko Hirata, spotted evidence of neutrinos pouring out of the supernova — the first time anyone had seen these fundamental particles originating from anywhere outside the Solar System.

Now, Nakahata, a physicist at the University of Tokyo, is ready for when a supernova goes off. He is head of the world’s largest neutrino experiment of its kind, Super-Kamiokande, where upgrades to its supernova alert system were completed late last year. The improvements will enable the observatory’s computers to recognize when it is detecting neutrinos from a supernova, almost in real time, and to send out an automated alert to conventional telescopes worldwide….

(13) THEY CAN DIG IT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] At The Space Review, John Strickland looks at the logistics of Elon Musk’s Mars plans, including Musk’s claim that he will have to take one million tons of stuff to Mars to make the mission work and how large Martian farms would have to be to supply enough food for the mission. “Building Musk’s path to Mars”.

…Partial self-sufficiency depends heavily on two issues: energy production and food production, which itself depends on energy production. In addition, both depend on the ability to build industrial facilities to make fuel and materials, and to construct pressurized habitats to house crew and provide growing areas for food plants.

Most people greatly underestimate the effort it will take to build growing areas and grow food crops on Mars or in space. On Earth, a one-square-kilometer (247-acre) farm gets a maximum of about a one gigawatt of sunlight on a clear day, at noon in midsummer. Much less than this gets to the plants due to clouds, etc., and the plants only use about 1% of what they get to make plant tissue, only part of which is actually edible food. To create one square kilometer of pressurized growing space will require a huge amount of structural materials, and most of that will need to be made locally. Even so, Elon Musk estimates that he will need to transport one million tons of cargo to Mars before a settlement is relatively self-sufficient.

It is important to realize how large the SpaceX cargo capacity to an operating Mars development base will be. Most NASA concepts envision barely enough mass—typically a few tens of tons—to support a crew for one short mission. The high SpaceX mass transport capacity will allow a large amount of industrial equipment to be sent. This would include equipment designed to smelt Mars minerals into metals, alloy them, and then to turn the structural metals into pressurized habitats, drill rigs, and other kinds of equipment. Large amounts of other artificial materials, such as plastics and polymers, will also be produced. Tunnel boring and lining equipment would also be included. Operations will be limited more by manpower than by lack of equipment and supplies.

Musk has a goal of building the large fleet of Starships needed to carry the required amount of equipment and supplies to get a settlement going. If an advanced Starship stage can carry 200 tons of cargo to the surface of Mars, 5,000 trips of such vehicles to Mars would be able to carry the one million tons. Ignoring the prior build-up phase, if he had 500 Starship stages with the tankers to support them, he would be able to transport that much during just ten Mars launch windows or in about 22 years. In actuality, the number of flights would be increasing from year to year, as the 500 stages could carry 100,000 tons during each window, and the existing crew would not be able to handle such a large volume of materials without a carefully planned ramp-up sequence….

(14) BIG BIRD. “Scottish fossil of flying reptile leaves scientists ‘gobsmacked’” says Yahoo!

A fossil jawbone peeking out from a limestone seashore on Scotland’s Isle of Skye led scientists to discover the skeleton of a pterosaur that showed that these remarkable flying reptiles got big tens of millions of years earlier than previously known.

Researchers said on Tuesday this pterosaur, named Dearc sgiathanach, lived roughly 170 million years ago during the Jurassic Period, soaring over lagoons in a subtropical landscape and catching fish and squid with crisscrossing teeth perfect for snaring slippery prey.

Its scientific name, pronounced “jark ski-an-ach,” means “winged reptile” in Gaelic.

With a wingspan of about 8 feet (2.5 meters), Dearc was the Jurassic’s largest-known pterosaur and the biggest flying creature that had inhabited Earth to that point in time. Some pterosaurs during the subsequent Cretaceous Period achieved much greater dimensions – as big as fighter jets. But Dearc shows that this scaling up had its origins much earlier….

(15) RELIEF PITCH ON THE WAY. Ryan George came out with his first Pitch Meeting in a month for a film that isn’t genre (Uncharted Pitch Meeting) and says at the end that he is leaving Screen Rant – but it’s barely an inconvenience! He’s starting his own channel on March 10.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Encanto,” the Screen Junkies say the newest Disney animated film has “so many characters that even the characters can’t keep up with the characters” and at least the fifth villain in a Disney cartoon named Bruno.  And how did it take Disney this long to find out that capybaras are adorable?

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