Pixel Scroll 9/17/21 I Want To Scroll What The Pixel On The Table Number 5 Is Scrolling

(1) STATUES OF LIMITATIONS. After much consideration, Constance Grady says overthinking the book was a mistake: “The meditative empathy of Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi” at Vox.

…The first time I read Piranesi, I scribbled notes about each statue. The minotaurs by the entrance to the House evoke the myth of the labyrinth, which is what the wicked Laurence Arne-Sayles calls the House. An elephant carrying a castle puns on the famous Elephant and Castle inn in London. A woman carrying a beehive — well, certainly that could be a reference to any number of classical myths, which tend to feature bees as a chthonic symbol for life, death, and the soul.

But early on, Clarke makes a point of aiming her readers away from such mechanical, goal-oriented reading.

Piranesi knows of only one other living human, a man he calls the Other who visits the House every so often. The Other believes that the House contains the key to some secret Knowledge that mankind used to possess but has now lost. Once he gets it back, the Other believes, he’ll have the power of flight, immortality, and control over weaker souls.

Piranesi dutifully searches the House for the Knowledge the Other is seeking, but without all that much interest. Eventually, he is struck by an epiphany: The Knowledge, he realizes, is not the point of the House….

(2) LET’S HEAR FROM A PICKER OF LOW-HANGING FRUIT. The Atlantic’s Ian Bogost demands to know “Why Are Ebooks So Terrible?”

…If you hate ebooks like I do, that loathing might attach to their dim screens, their wonky typography, their weird pagination, their unnerving ephemerality, or the prison house of a proprietary ecosystem. If you love ebooks, it might be because they are portable, and legible enough, and capable of delivering streams of words, fiction and nonfiction, into your eyes and brain with relative ease. Perhaps you like being able to carry a never-ending stack of books with you wherever you go, without having to actually lug them around. Whether you love or hate ebooks is probably a function of what books mean to you, and why…

(3) FOUNDATION BUILDERS. ComingSoon introduces a short video with quotes from the showrunner David Goyer:“Foundation Featurette: Apple Brings the Sci-Fi Masterpiece to the Screen”

…The Foundation featurette highlights the massive influence it had on other popular sci-fi stories including Dune and Star Wars. They also talked about the process of finally adapting the novel to the screen after several decades since it was first published. They also went on to tease the series’ epic scale in terms of storytelling, ambitious story, characters, and world-building….

(4) HEADLEY’S BEOWULF TRANSLATION WINS AWARD. The Academy of American Poets announced that Maria Dahvana Headley’s Beowulf: A New Translation has won the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award, a $1,000 prize recognizing a published translation of poetry from any language into English that shows literary excellence. Indran Amirthanayagam judged.

(5) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman posted a bonus episode of Eating the Fantastic podcast to let you listen to four comic book cognoscenti celebrate Steve Ditko.

Javier Hernandez, Zack Kruse, Carl Potts, and Arlen Schumer 

Last Saturday, something magical happened at the Bottle Works Ethnic Arts Center in Johnstown Pennsylvania — a one-day mini-convention was held to honor a hometown hero, the legendary Steve Ditko. And because the event was organized with the cooperation of his family, I was not only able to spend time with other comic fans and creators, but was privileged with the presence of Ditko’s nephews and brother as well.

Since you couldn’t be there with me, I decided to get some of the mini-con’s special guests to share their stories here about Steve Ditko’s life and legacy. Because this is a podcast which uses food to loosen the tongues of its guests, and since there was no time during the short one-day event to head out for lunch or dinner, I brought along a Spider-Man PEZ dispenser so I could offer my guests candy. Plus I ran over to Coney Island Johnstown — in business for more than a century — and picked up some gobs — think of them as a regional variation of whoopee pies — which I handed out to some of my guests before we began chatting.

As I wandered the exhibitors area, I was able to grab time with four guests — Javier Hernandez, Zack Kruse, Carl Potts, and Arlen Schumer — all of whom had taken part earlier that day on a panel about Steve Ditko.

(6) BOOK REVIEW OF VERY OLD RIDDLES. Paywalled at the New York Times, “What Has One Eye and 1,200 Heads? An Old English Riddle, That’s What!”, reviewing) The Old English And Anglo-Latin Riddle Tradition (Harvard University, $35), a comprehensive new collection beautifully edited by the Oxford professor Andy Orchard, demonstrates, everything you need to know about crosswords you can learn from Anglo-Saxon riddles: Riddles are the ür-crossword puzzles.

Daniel Dern sent the link with these notes:

While probably most anybody these days, fan or otherwise, is familiar with the Bilbo/Gollum “Riddle” chapter in THE HOBBIT, ditto more generally with Batman’s riddlemanic foe “The Riddler,” how many fans instantly flash on (or more to the point, what’s the rough age threshhold below which fans don’t) the (sf) book citation for “What city has two names twice?”), or simply “Do you like riddles? Raetseln?” [Dutch, spelling here from memory, but that I could look up in my copy of the book if need be ]

Answer (rot13’d)

“Rneguzna, Pbzr Ubzr” — Ibyhzr 3 bs Wnzrf Oyvfu’f PVGVRF VA SYVTUG grgenybtl

That said, the essay/review itself is somewhat dry — it doesn’t even offer a sample riddle until at least halfway through. Probably worth at least library-borrowing, though.

(7) FIYAHCON 2021. The online con is in full swing and the committee is making available videos of some of its panels here.

(8) BASEDCON. Rob Kroese’s BasedCon starts today.

Well, the cons I’m familiar with, if they hadn’t stayed in the black the first year there’d have been no second year. Surprising to hear there’s another kind.

(9) EARLY TREKZINES. The Internet Archive includes a “Media Fanzine Collection”. Skipping past the intro, I was intrigued to see some of the well-known early Trek fanzines displayed, such as Spockanalia. The cover on the example here boasts “Third Printing.” Holy cow – a fanzine with a demand that took multiple editions to satisfy! I blush to admit I still haven’t unloaded all the copies of the early mimeo issues of File 770.

The practice of making media print zines began in the late 1960s via science fiction fandom where fanzines had been a popular fan activity since the 1930s. However, the content of science fiction zines is very different, consisting mostly of non-fiction and discussion about a variety of fannish topics, whereas media fanzines include, or consist solely of, fanfiction, art, poetry, as well as discussion, usually about television shows, films, and books. 

(10) EMMY BRACKETS. JustWatch.com, the streaming guide, sent along this set of Emmy nominee brackets, based on the audience approval scores their users have given them. Unfortunately, the only genre show that doesn’t get its ass kicked is The Underground Railroad. Even a phenomenonally popular show like The Mandalorian can’t get out of the first round. It is to weep. [Click for larger image.]

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1964– Fifty-seven years ago this evening on ABC, a certain witch charmed her way into American homes as Bewitched first aired. It was created by Sol Saks who had done nothing notable before this and departed the show after the pilot was shot. It starred Elizabeth Montgomery as the good witch Samantha Stephens and two different men as her husband, Dick York for the first five before he became very ill, and Dick Sargent for the final three seasons. It did phenomenally well in the ratings early on but sagged later and eventually was cancelled. Hanna-Barbera produced the opening animation credits which you can see here.

It got remade as a film with Nicole Kidman which was not at all beloved by the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes who currently give it a twenty five percent rating and it faired quite poorly at the box office, not breaking even. Oh, and there was a Seventies spin-off involving her daughter called Tabitha that had two pilots (the first tested quite badly) and lasted just eleven episodes.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 17, 1885 — George Cleveland. Actor who filmed scenes as Professor Hensley in a pair of Thirties Flash Gordon serials, Flash Gordon and Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars (the latter saw his scenes get deleted). He later shows up as in the Drums of Fu Manchu serial as Dr. James Parker. (Died 1957.)
  • Born September 17, 1908 — John Creasey. English crime and SF writer who wrote well over than six hundred novels using twenty-eight different names. His SF writings were mostly in the Dr. Palfrey series, a British secret service agent named Dr. Stanislaus Alexander Palfrey, who forms Z5, which definitely has elements of SF. (Died 1973.)
  • Born September 17, 1917 — Art Widner. Editor of three well-known fanzines (Fanfare, Bonfire and YHOS). He’d eventually publish some one hundred sixty zines. He was one of the founding members of The Stranger Club, the pioneers of Boston fandom. He chaired Boskone I and Boskone II, the first two Boston SF conventions. He would be nominated for four Retro Hugos, and become a First Fandom Hall of Fame member. (Died 2015.)
  • Born September 17, 1920 — Dinah Sheridan. She was Chancellor Flavia in “The Five Doctors”, a Doctor Who story that brought together the First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Doctors. Richard Hurndall portrayed the First Doctor, as the character’s original actor, William Hartnell, had died. If we accept Gilbert & Sullivan as genre adjacent, she was Grace Marston in The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan. (Died 2012.)
  • Born September 17, 1928 — Roddy McDowall. He is best known for portraying Cornelius and Caesar in the original Planet of the Apes film franchise, as well as Galen in the television series. He’s Sam Conrad in The Twilight Zone episode “People Are Alike All Over” and he superbly voices Jervis Tetch / The Mad Hatter in Batman: The Animated Series. And for your viewing interest, a clip from the Carol Burnett Show with Roddy McDowall wearing Planet of the Apes makeup here. (Died 1998.)
  • Born September 17, 1939 — Sandra Lee Gimpel, 82. In Trek’s “The Cage”, she played a Talosian. That led her to being cast as the M-113 creature in “The Man Trap”, another first season episode. She actually had a much larger work history as stunt double, though uncredited, showing up in sixty-eight episodes of Lost in Space and fifty-seven of The Bionic Woman plus myriad genre work elsewhere including They Come from Outer Space where she was the stunt coordinator.  
  • Born September 17, 1951 — Cassandra Peterson, 70. Yes, she’s Elvira, Mistress of The Dark, a character she’s played on TV and in movies before becoming the host of  Elvira’s Movie Macabre, a weekly horror movie presentation show in LA forty years ago. She’s a showgirl in Diamonds Are Forever which was her debut film, and is Sorais in Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold. 
  • Born September 17, 1996 — Ella Purnell, 25. An English actress best remembered  as Emma in the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children film. She’s also in Kick-Ass 2 as Dolce, she’s Natalie the UFO film that stars Gillian Anderson, and she was the body double for the young Jane Porter in The Legend of Tarzan. In a genre adjacent role, she was Hester Argyll in Agatha Christie’s Ordeal by Innocence.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) WARP DRIVER. Laughing Squid draws attention to “A Campy Mercedes-Benz Ad That Inserts Their New 2021 Electric Vehicle Into a 1979 Science Fiction Film”. And remember – you can never have too many tentacles.

“Mercedes-Benz “Future 2021” is a wonderfully campy ad by Nina Holmgren that inserts their new Mercedes-Benz electric G-Wagen vehicle for 2021 into a very over-the-top science fiction film of the late 1970s. This future, which could ever only be dreamed of back in 1979, has finally come true today.

(15) MAYBE HE WAS ASKING THE WRONG QUESTION? In The Hollywood Reporter “LeVar Burton Says He’s Over ‘Jeopardy!’ Debacle”. Now, he told the host of The Daily Show, he’s thinking of developing his own game.

…Through the host replacement mess, Burton admitted to [Trevor] Noah he discovered he was not that interested in the gig after all.

“The crazy thing is that when you set your sights on something, you know, they say be careful of what you wish for, because what I found out is that it wasn’t the thing that I wanted after all,” said Burton. “What I wanted was to compete. I mean, I wanted the job, but then when I didn’t get it, it was like, ‘Well, OK, what’s next?’ And so, the opportunities that have come my way as a result of not getting that gig, I couldn’t have dreamt it up. If you had given me a pen and paper and said, ‘Well, so what do you want this to really look like?’ If it doesn’t include Jeopardy! I wouldn’t have been this generous to myself.”

Not going into too much detail, Burton said he had something in the works he was sure his fans were going to enjoy, saying, “I never thought about hosting any other game show outside of Jeopardy! But now, they went in a different direction with their show, which is their right, and now I’m thinking, ‘Well, it does kind of make sense, let me see what I can do.’ So we’re trying to figure out what the right game show for LeVar Burton would be.”…

(16) CORRECTED EDITION. The NESFA Press is letting everyone know they put out a new edition of their ebook Ingathering by Zenna Henderson that fixes the problems mentioned in a Tony Lewis quote run in a recent Scroll.

We have updated the contents of the NESFA Press eBook of Ingathering by Zenna Henderson. This second edition was necessary due to several OCR issues. NESFA Press is committed to the highest quality in the content of our books and will aggressively address any typos or other problems with the text of our eBooks.

To purchase the new version of Ingathering, go to the NESFA Press online store: http://nesfapress.org/, and search for “Ingathering”. People who have purchase the previous version of Ingathering, can download the new version using the link they received. Please direct any problems or questions to the email address below.

(17) UNDER THE NAME OF SANDERS. Inside the Magic tells how “YOU Can Stay at Winnie the Pooh’s House in the Hundred Acre Wood”. Photo gallery at the link.

If you love Winnie the Pooh characters — and, really, who doesn’t adore A.A. Milne’s “Silly Ol’ Bear” and all of his friends? — you’re going to want to bounce like Tigger when you see Airbnb’s latest offering, designed especially for the 95th Anniversary of the Hundred Acre Wood pals….

(18) WHY AM I BACK? SYFY Wire introduces a “Robot Chicken clip with Seth MacFarlane as Palpatine”.

…Now into its 11th season, Adult Swim’s longest running series is currently airing new episodes daily at midnight ET/PT. Among all the madness, there’s a sketch that confronts that really confounding plot point in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker that finds Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) suddenly returning from The Return of the Jedi dead… just because. Ahead of its upcoming debut, SYFY WIRE has an exclusive look at the sketch, which features Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy, The Orville) voicing the mechanically challenged Palps….

(19) HARRY POTTER’S FLAGSHIP. Is it a store? A theme park? It’s whatever you need it to be to separate you from your cash! The Drum takes us on a tour: “Inside Warner Bros’ spellbinding retail experience Harry Potter New York”.

…All of these elements create a retail experience that speak to consumers’ growing demands for experience-infused shopping, says Warner Bros’s vice president and general manager of retail experiences Karl Durrant. “There is no doubt that consumer behavior has changed. Digital retail was becoming popular even before the pandemic hit. It’s more important than ever to give consumers a reason to visit a store and to make it an event.”

And to bring the immersive feeling to another level, Warner Bros, in partnership with Dreamscape Immersive, developed two unique VR experiences that bring visitors into the action. In ‘Chaos at Hogwarts’, users join Dobby in an adventure around Hogwarts to immobilize and collect pixies that the house elf accidentally released. The second VR experience, ‘Wizards Take Flight’, invites users to zoom around the skies above London via broomstick, warding off evil Death Eaters alongside Hagrid….

(20) ROBOCOP, TAKE TWO. “Singapore has patrol robots now! This should be fine” says Mashable. I like to think they will be programmed to keep making mad R2-D2 chirps at smokers til they snuff those ciggies.

Some robots were made to be your best friend. Some to unload 1600 boxes an hour. Some to do backflipspaint masterpieces. Some to inspect crime scenes. Others will tell you to quit smoking in prohibited areas and stop riding your motorbike on the footpath.

Singapore has started testing patrol robots that survey pedestrian areas in the city-state, where surveillance is a top and often controversial priority….

Named Xavier, the mall-cop robots will be autonomously rolling through the Toa Payoh Central district for three weeks from Sept. 5, scanning for “undesirable social behaviours” according to a press release (via Engadget) from the government’s Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX)….

(21) SIXTEEN SCROLLS. “Tennessee Cora” Buhlert was inspired by the title of yesterday’s Scroll to drop an instant classic in the comments.

Sixteen Scrolls
(with apologies to Merle Travis and Tennessee Ernie Ford)

Some people say a man is made outta mud.
A Filer’s made outta books, cons and blood,
Books and blood and films and cons.
We may look weak, but our minds are strong

You read 16 scrolls, what do you get?
Another day older and more books unread.
St. Leibovitz, don’t call me ’cause I can’t go,
I owe my soul to the Mount Tsundoku.

I was born one morning when the sun didn’t shine
I picked up a novel and said, “This looks fine.”
I read 16 pixels of number nine scroll
and the straw puppy said, “Well, a-bless my soul”

You read 16 scrolls, what do you get?
Another day older and more books unread.
St. Leibovitz, don’t call me ’cause I can’t go,
I owe my soul to the Series Hugo.

I was born one mornin’, it was drizzlin’ rain.
Reading and writing are my middle name.
I was raised in the library by an old mama lion
and no rabid puppy will make me walk the line

You read 16 scrolls, what do you get?
Another day older and more books unread.
St. Leibovitz, don’t call me ’cause I can’t go,
I owe my soul to the Novel Hugo.

If you see us comin’, better step aside.
A lotta dogs didn’t, a lotta dogs cried.
One fist science fiction, the other fantasy.
If the right one don’t get you
Then the left one will.

You read 16 scrolls, what do you get?
Another day older and more books unread.
St. Leibovitz, don’t call me ’cause I can’t go,
I owe my soul to the Mount Tsundoku.

(22) WEBINAR WITH BROTHER GUY. Brother Guy Consolmagno will be doing a Zoom event on October 1. “Your God Is Too Small: Vatican Observatory Director to offer a cosmic point of view in upcoming webinar”. Register to receive the link and a reminder. [Via Susan Schwartz.]

Brother Guy Consolmagno SJ is speaking on the contrast between the world and the cosmos that is becoming blurred as we begin to learn of the vastness of the cosmos in an upcoming Zoom event.

The free webinar, “Your God is Too Small,” will be hosted by the Center for Advanced Study in Religion and Science (CASIRAS) and Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC) on Friday, October 1, at 5 p.m. CDT. Those interested in attending can register here. Also the event will be livestreamed on LSTC’s Facebook page.

“We need to understand that all those other planets are real places, part of the same universe created by God and redeemed by the Incarnation,” writes Consolmagno. “And God is Creator not only of other places but other times, before and beyond the time when we exist here on Earth.”

His presentation will dive into the meaning of being redeemed by the risen Christ in light of the immensity of time and space.

Br. Guy received the 2014 Carl Sagan Medal for outstanding communication by an active planetary scientist to the general public from the American Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Sciences. He is the author or co-author of four books exploring faith and science issues, including, Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial? (with Paul Mueller), God’s Mechanics, Brother Astronomer, and The Way to the Dwelling of Light.

“It is rare to find someone so accomplished in science, theology, and philosophy, who can also communicate complex topics clearly to a general audience. Br. Guy is one of the best story-tellers I’ve ever known,” said Grace Wolf-Chase, senior scientist and senior education and communication specialist at the Planetary Science Institute.

(23) HONESTLY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Psychonauts 2” on YouTube, Fandom Games says this game features weird worlds, and characters whose heads weigh as much as their bodies.  But don’t expect any action, because ‘playing Psychonauts for the combat is like eating at Taco bell for the diarrhea.”

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

Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi Wins Women’s Prize for Fiction

Piranesi by Susannah Clarke, art by David Mann
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke, art by David Mann

British writer Susanna Clarke won the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction on September 8 for her fantasy novel Piranesi.

Clarke was awarded the 30,000-pound ($41,000) award for her second novel, which was published 16 years after her first, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, became a Hugo and World Fantasy Award winner. Piranesi likewise is nominated for both awards this year.

Novelist Bernardine Evaristo, who chaired the Women’s Prize judging panel, said Clarke had “created a world beyond our wildest imagination that also tells us something profound about what it is to be human.”

Clarke was one of two British authors among six finalists for the prize, founded in 1996 and open to female English-language writers from around the world.

This year’s other finalists were

  • The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
  • No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood
  • Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
  • How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones
  • Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller

[Thanks to David Brain for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 9/3/21 If It Doesn’t Scroll Naturally, File It

(1) MASSIVE DOCTOR WHO POLL. Herald of Creation today finished releasing the results of its poll of the best Doctor Who episodes, a Twitter marathon that began in July with number 296 “The Battle of Ranskoor av Kolos” (a Thirteenth Doctor episode, unfortunately.) Here are the top five, with apologies that WordPress won’t display single tweets. (And since Herald of Creation revealed them in last to first order, that shuffles things up, too.)

(2) ELIZABETH BEAR MEDICAL UPDATE. In an open Patreon post, Elizabeth Bear announced she’s been diagnosed with cancer: “The good news is that I’m a writer and I already own 75 pairs of pajamas.” Wishing her the best of care.

This is one of those bad news but not the worst news posts, which is to say that I’ve been diagnosed with early stage breast cancer and am in the process of scheduling surgery and radiation for it.

This means that The Folded Sky will probably be a little delayed, because at least two months of my life are going to vanish in a puff of waiting rooms and lasers. The good news on that front is that I’m working on the copy edits for The Origin of Storms right now and those should be handed back very soon. And I think I’ll get the short story I’m working on finished by deadline, too…

Don’t fret about me too much: I’ve got a great care team and a great group of local family and friends, and the odds are in my favor. The survival rate for early detected breast cancer is 99% these days.

I expect to be crushingly bored and annoyed and somewhat terrified for three months or so, and then suffer through biannual mammograms for the rest of my life, however long that is….

(3) MEMORY BOOK. A Kickstarter appeal has been launched to fund a limited edition hardcover book of art by the world famous fantasy and science fiction artist, Rowena — Paintings and Drawings by Rowena by Kim DeMulder.

The magically amazing artwork of Rowena is known to people everywhere in the world. She painted literally hundreds of book covers and illustrations for many different publications. She won many awards during her career, including the British Fantasy Award for Best Artist in 1984, and was a four-time Hugo finalist for Best Professional Artist. Her professional peers made her a 1999 Chesley Award nominee. And the World Fantasy Conventions awarded her a lifetime achievement award in 2020.

Sadly, Rowena passed away in February 2021 and the art world experienced a profound loss.

And that means, of course that there will be no more Rowena art produced…ever. However, legends never die and here is the opportunity to keep her legend alive. This new book of her artwork contains many pieces that were never published before. And will also include several pieces that were never published in Rowena’s previous art books. Over 100 pages of paintings and drawings and even some poetry are contained within this hard cover volume.

 This beautiful book is being lovingly designed and edited by Kim DeMulder, who had lived with Rowena for approximately the last 18 years.

(4) DOES YOUR CON NEED HELP? Speculative Literature Foundation is still taking applications for their Convention Support Grants.  It’s a rolling grant – the first recipients were announced last month.

This has been a difficult year for the conventions that have long been the lifeblood of our field. The SLF is pleased to announce a new Convention Support Grant for 2021-2022.

We’ll be giving out $10,000 over the course of the year, in grants of $500 – $1000 each, to science fiction and fantasy conventions. (Literary conventions that have significant speculative literature content are also welcome to apply.)

These grants are intended to support conventions both in developing their online presences (through the purchase of tech, training costs, hosting costs, etc.) and making in-person gathering safer once it’s appropriate, perhaps in the last quarter of 2021 (through purchase of cleaning supplies, masks, renting additional rooms for better spacing, etc.). Non-profit organizations preferred.

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. Open for submissions: Conventions taking place between January 1 and May 31, 2022, application period: August 15 – September 15, 2021

Please visit our website for more specific information on the application process: https://speculativeliterature.org/convention-support-grant/

(5) L’AUDACE L’AUDACE TOUJOURS L’AUDACE. “The French military’s newest weapon: science fiction writers” says Literary Hub.

…Essentially, reports Le Monde and WorldCrunch, the French Military of Defense is working with the University of Paris Sciences and Lettres to train their military on sci-fi-esque ideas. The science fiction writers, already in the business of thinking of futuristic technology and social innovations, come up with futuristic scenarios that could possibly endanger France between 2030 and 2060. Once the sci-fi writers, called the “Red Team,” fact-check with “The Purple Team,” academics working in AI and tech, and the “Blue Team,” military, the military uses those ideas as practice scenarios.

…A little surprisingly, a fraction of the scenarios are made available for public consumption on the Red Team’s website; the two scenarios currently on the site are “The Sublime Door Opens Again,” a world where hypervelocity missiles have caused armies to design shields that can cover a whole city, and “Chronicle of an Announced Cultural Death,” a world where communities have siloed themselves into “safe spheres”.

The Red Team also has a YouTube channel filled with what are essentially commercials for themselves.

(6) IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Financial Times Reader.] In the August 28 Financial Times (behind a paywall), Lorien Kite discusses a vacation she took with her family in Iceland, organized by Black Tomato “Take me on a Story” based on Jules Verne’s Journey To The Centre Of The Earth.

The action begins almost as soon as we make it through the melee of duty-free shopping and Covid-related bureaucracy at Keflavik arrivals only to be greeted by our guide for the next four days, Arnar Olafsson.  Outside, loading the vehicle, we find an envelope wedged under the windscreen wiper, which opens to reveal a letter with certain words rendered in Scandinavian runes together with part of a runic-to-roman key–though not a big enough part for us to make much headway. Later, after we are dropped off at our base for the first two days, the stylish Hotel Husafell near the Lankjokull glacier, a parcel including the missing section is delivered to our door.

The packages keep coming, all containing puzzles or messages that whet the appetite for the next day’s activities and sustain the narrative of a mysterious uncle with the initials “GH” who has discovered a way to the centre of the Earth and is now on the run:  It’s a kind of treasure hunt, borrowing from the 1959 and 2008 films as well as from the book.

(7) DHALGREN IN DEPTH. On Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren, edited by Bill Wood, and put together with a great deal of assistance from Delany himself, will be released by Fantastic Books on September 9.

This book—full of reviews, critical essays, and in-depth analyses of Dhalgren as a novel, and as commentary on life and the world—is an excellent companion to the novel itself. There are also discussions of how to read the novel, and clues to unraveling some of the mysteries hidden therein. Dhalgren is a difficult novel to read—playing with the reader’s perception through the use of circular text, interior echoes, multistable perception, and repeated imagery—but it is a worthwhile read. The book includes nine full-color illustrations (and more spot black-and-white illos), as well as an essay on “The Making of Hogg,” Delany’s infamous and nearly unpublishable novel.

Samuel R. Delany is the winner of two Hugos and four Nebula Awards. He has been honored with lifetime achievement awards, including SFWA’s Grand Master, the Eaton Award, the Lambda Pilgrim Award, and the Gaylactic Spectrum Award, and was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. Dhalgren, his most popular and most controversial novel, was first published in 1975. It was nominated for the Nebula Award, remains in print to this day, and has sold close to two one million copies in a variety of editions.

Contributors include Douglas Barbour, Mary Kay Bray, Rudi Dornemann, Harlan Ellison, Robert Elliot Fox, Jean Marc Gawron, Kenneth R. James, Gerald Jonas, John Nizalowski, Steven Paley, Darrell Schweitzer, Steven Shaviro, K. Leslie Steiner, Theodore Sturgeon, and Samuel R. Delany himself.

The table of contents is on the publisher’s website.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 2003 – Eighteen years on this date, Seven Seasons of Buffy: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Discuss Their Favorite Television Show was published by BenBella Books. It’s a look by Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel by genre writers who are very obviously fans of those series. I won’t list all of the authors and their essays who are here so I’ll single out just a few such as David Brin who wrote “Buffy vs. the Old-Fashioned ‘Hero'”, Laura Resnick’s “The Good, the Bad, and the Ambivalent” and Sherrilyn Kenyon “The Search for Spike’s Balls”. It’s available should you want to read it from the usual suspects for a mere four dollars and ninety nine cents. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 3, 1940 — Pauline Collins, 81. She played Queen Victoria in the Tenth Doctor story, “Tooth and Claw”, a most excellent tale, but she first showed up on Who over thirty years earlier as Samantha Briggs in “The Faceless Ones”, a Second Doctor story. She’s appears in Tales of the UnexpectedThe Three Musketeers, Julian Fellowes’ From Time to Time film and the Merlin series. 
  • Born September 3, 1943 — Valerie Perrine, 78. She has an uncredited role as Shady Tree’s sidekick in Diamonds Are Forever, her first film appearance. Her first credited film role is as Montana Wildhack in Slaughterhouse-Five. She’s Eve Teschmacher in Superman and Superman II. She showed up as Tins in “The Three Little Pigs” episode of Faerie Tale Theatre, and was April Flowers in “Who’s Who: Part 3” of Ghostwriters.
  • Born September 3, 1943 — Mick Farren. Punk musician who was the singer with the proto-punk band the Deviants. He also wrote Hawkwind lyrics who several genre writers have included in their novels.  His most well-known genre work was the The Renquist Quartet about an immortal vampire. His late Eighties novel The Armageddon Crazy was set in a post-Millennium States dominated by fundamentalists who toss the Constitution away. (Died 2013.)
  • Born September 3, 1954 — Stephen Gregg. Editor and publisher of Eternity Science Fiction which  ran 1972 to 1975 and 1979 to 1980. It had early work by Glen Cook, Ed Bryant, Barry N Malzberg, andrew j offutt and Roger Zelazny. (Died 2005.)
  • Born September 3, 1959 — Merritt Butrick. He played Kirk’s son, David, in The Wrath of Khan and again in The Search for Spock. Note the very young death. He died of toxoplasmosis, complicated by AIDS to be precise. (Died 1989.)
  • Born September 3, 1969 — John Picacio, 52. Illustrator who in 2005 won both the World Fantasy Award for Best Artist and the Chesley Award for Best Paperback Cover for James Tiptree Jr.’s Her Smoke Rose Up Forever. He won the Hugo for Best Professional Artist at LoneStarCon 3 and at CoNZealand. He’s nominated this year for the same Award. 
  • Born September 3, 1974 — Clare Kramer, 47. She had the recurring role of Glory, a god from a hell dimension, that was the main antagonist of the fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She’s been a lot of horror films including The Skulls IIIThe GravedancersThe ThirstRoad to HellRoad to Hell, Big Ass Spider! and Tales of Halloween

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) SUSANNA CLARKE Q&A. “Susanna Clarke: ‘Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman taught me to be courageous in writing’” in The Guardian.

The book I wish I’d written
The Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton. It’s an extraordinary novel, funny and clever. It is subtitled A Nightmare. But it’s an odd sort of nightmare – one where terror keeps dissolving into cheerfulness (which is the opposite way round from most nightmares, and from a lot of contemporary fiction). Chesterton describes scenes and objects and colours with an almost heraldic vividness – or, looked at another way, as if they were pages in a modern graphic novel. He makes London feel like a fairytale, which to him I think it was. I have read The Man Who Was Thursday many, many times, but I still don’t understand it. I’ll keep going.

A word of warning: it is a book of its times. There are no women characters. Well, there might be one, but she says three things and vanishes immediately….

(12) DUELING KAIJU. John Scalzi’s tweet  brings to mind something I saw during the 1986 Worldcon, possibly in the same hotel. (How many downtown Atlanta hotels have these glass-walled elevators?)  Quote follows.

…At other times, the illusion of flight and the view of other elevator cars hurtling past inspired new fannish stunts. Late Friday night the car I was riding stopped at the 38th floor, admitting Jerry Pournelle and Barbara Clifford. Seconds later, another car stopped beside us on the 38th floor. Staring from its window was a 3-foot-tall inflatable Godzilla held upright by two laughing fans. Both elevators left the 38th floor together, and raced downward on a parallel course. Like a tailgunner sighting bogies through his perspex dome, Pournelle jackhammered his arms from the recoil of imaginary twin-.50s and yelled, “Die, monster, die!” Godzilla’s bodyguards imitated Jerry and they shot each other down into the lobby….

(13) MORE NEWS. Petréa Mitchell returns to the con reporting field with the launch of her new Substack newsletter SMOF News. Issue 1 is live here.

SMOF News aims to be a newsletter covering fan conventions and related topics of interest. Please send your press releases, your news tidbits, and your outraged letters to smofnews@gmx.com.

Each issue will have 4 parts:

  1. Discussion of the big news of the week. If there is no big news, the space will be filled by editorializing, helpful tips for congoers, Q&As, or whatever else seems appropriate to the moment. Like this introduction, for instance.
  2. News in brief from around the convention world.
  3. Convention listings for the next five weekends.
  4. One interesting link that may or may not have anything at all to do with geek fandoms.

Newsletters will be published every Wednesday evening, Pacific Time.

(14) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 39 of the Octothorpe podcast is now up.  John Coxon, Alison Scott, and Liz Batty are at their computers for the first time in ages, and spend awhile catching up on locs before talking about convention COVID-19 policies. Listen here: “Bar Cookies”.

(15) HOME WEET HOME. “Meet The Women Who Live In Real-Life Disney Houses” is an aggregation of Instagrams and Tik-Tok videos with framing comments at The Refinery, if you want to satisfy your curiosity.

On TikTok, the hashtag #disneyhouse currently has over 120 million views. Here, you can see everything from handles shaped like the talking doorknob in Alice In Wonderland to princess beds to Aladdin rugs to doors decaled to look like Boo’s from Monsters, Inc. In recent years, much has been made of ‘Disney adults’ – often childless millennials with an all-consuming love of Walt’s wares. Disney adults subtly dress like Disney characters, they holiday in the parks multiple times a year and they fill their homes with Disney décor. 

(16) TEN PERCENTER. Powell’s Books has picked a list of 50 Books for 50 Years. I’ve read five. (Sometime I’m going to make my own list so for once I can have a good score.)

Which books have foretold the present, lit our paths, warned us back, egged us on? What books stand with us now, reflecting the present?

Read why we picked each of these remarkable volumes of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and comics for our anniversary list — and share your favorites with us using the hashtag #50Books50Years.

(Click for larger image.)

(17) MADE OF CHEESE. The moon, maybe, the movie for sure. Moonfall comes to theaters February 4, 2022.

In Moonfall, a mysterious force knocks the Moon from its orbit around Earth and sends it hurtling on a collision course with life as we know it. With mere weeks before impact and the world on the brink of annihilation, NASA executive and former astronaut Jo Fowler (Academy Award® winner Halle Berry) is convinced she has the key to saving us all – but only one astronaut from her past, Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson, “Midway”) and a conspiracy theorist K.C. Houseman (John Bradley, “Game of Thrones”) believes her. These unlikely heroes will mount an impossible last-ditch mission into space, leaving behind everyone they love, only to find out that our Moon is not what we think it is.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Mark Hamill talks to Star Wars Coffee about his role in The Mandalorian. This is actually quite interesting and only four minutes long.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Ian Randal Strock, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jack Lint. Or Kendall. I’m not sure.]

Pixel Scroll 8/4/21 I Think We’re A Scroll Now, There Doesn’t Seem To Be Any File Around

(1) FUTURE TENSE. The July 2021 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is Justina Ireland’s “Collateral Damage”, about how an Army platoon responds when an experimental military robot is embedded with it.

…Unit 10003 interacted with assigned platoon during physical training and assisted in small tasks. Complete recordings are now available for download. Morale of assigned unit is high and no hostility was experienced. ENTRY COMPLETE…

Writer and military historian Andrew Liptak’s response essay asks “Will members of the military ever be willing to fight alongside autonomous robots?”

…The development of the Greek phalanx helped protect soldiers from cavalry, the deployment of English longbows helped stymie large formations of enemy soldiers, new construction methods changed the shape of fortifications, line infantry helped European formations take advantage of firearms, and anti-aircraft cannons helped protect against incoming enemy aircraft. The technological revolution of warfare has not stopped, and today, robotics on the battlefield—through the use of drones, automated turrets, or the remote-controlled Flir PackBot—have made appearances in the most recent conflicts….

(2) BOUCHERCON CANCELLED. The 2021 Bouchercon, a convention for mystery fans that was scheduled to be held this month in New Orleans, has been cancelled by the organizers. Members received an email explaining the decision (which has not yet been published). Writers commenting on Facebook pointed to Louisiana’s COVID spike, The con will be held in the city in 2025, instead. The Anthony Awards are still happening and details of the online/virtual awards ceremony will be coming soon.

(3) LONGYEAR ACCEPTANCE SPEECH. Barry B. Longyear invites Facebook readers to hear his Prometheus Award acceptance speech via Zoom on August 21, followed by a panel discussion “SF, Liberty, Alternative Publishing Trends and the Prometheus Awards” hosted by LFS and sponsored by Reason Magazine. The Zoom event will take place 3:00-4:30 PM EDT on August 21 and it is open to the public. This is the Zoom event link.

(4) FLASH FICTION ROUNDUP. Space Cowboy Books in Joshua Tree, CA presents “An evening of Flash Science Fiction with stories by Christopher Ruocchio, Brent A. Harris and David Brin” on August 10 at 6:00 p.m Pacific. Register for the free Zoom event here.

(5) BLUE PLAQUE SPECIAL. Another commemorative plaque honoring Tolkien has been installed on a British building: “Blue plaque celebrates time Lord of the Rings author Tolkien spent near Withernsea a century ago” reports the Yorkshire Post.

A blue plaque has gone up in Withernsea to mark the time Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien and his wife spent there when he was a soldier during World War One.

The Lifeboat Café, where it has gone up, occupies the site of 76 Queen Street, where Tolkien’s wife Edith lodged in 1917, while he was stationed at nearby Thirtle Bridge Camp, three miles away, for a time as commander of the Humber Garrison, which was tasked with protecting the coast from invasion.

Tolkien, who was recovering from trench fever which he’d picked up in France, had not yet been published

…The plaque, funded by wellwishers, was organised by Phil Mathison, the author of Tolkien in East Yorkshire 1917-1918.

Two others have been installed at the Dennison Centre in Hull, which was Brooklands Hospital during the First World war, and in Hornsea, where his wife stayed at 1 Bank Terrace.

(6) KISWAHILI SF PRIZE. The Nyabola Prize for Science Fiction was announced earlier this year, inviting writers between the ages of 18 and 35 to submit sci-fi and speculative fiction in the Kiswahili language. Over 140 million people speak Kiswahili in Eastern and Southern Africa and it is the most widely spoken African language in the world. The deadline to enter was May 31. Read the March 24 announcement here. It offers $1,000 to the first place winner, and $500 and $250 to the second and third place winners. The top ten stories will be published in an anthology.

In a recent interview published in The Conversation, two of the prize’s principal administrators, Mukoma wa Ngugi and Lizzy Attree, commented on the impact of empowering writers to create sci-fi in African language literature. “New Kiswahili science fiction award charts a path for African languages”.

…Mokoma adds that fostering science fiction in African languages changes the narrative that African languages cannot accommodate scientific discourse:

“There is also the idea that African languages are social languages, emotive and cannot carry science. Most definitely not true. All languages can convey the most complex ideas but we have to let them. There is something beautiful about African languages carrying science, fictionalised of course, into imagined futures.”

(7) THERE WILL BE WAR. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] This was originally a thread on Twitter, but Cory Doctorow compiled and posted it to his blog. “Games Workshop declares war on its customers (again)”. It references Making Light, Warhammer 40K (extensively) and “Starship Troopers.” 

There’s a difference between a con-artist and a grifter. A con-artist is just a gabby mugger, and when they vanish with your money, you know you’ve been robbed.

A grifter, on the other hand, is someone who can work the law to declare your stuff to be their stuff, which makes you a lawless cur because your pockets are stuffed full of their money and merely handing it over is the least you can do to make up for your sin.

IP trolls are grifters, not con artists, and that’s by design, a feature of the construction of copyright and trademark law.

Progressives may rail at the term “IP” for its imprecision, but truly, it has a very precise meaning: “‘IP’ is any law that lets me control the conduct of my customers, competitors and critics, such that they must arrange their affairs to my benefit.”…

(8) TALKING ABOUT PIRANESI. Susanna Clarke will discuss her Hugo-nominated and Kitschie-winning book Piranesi with Neil Gaiman in a free (or pay-what-you-can) online event September 2 at 11:30 a.m. Pacific. Get tickets here.

Step into the extraordinary and mysterious world of Sunday Times and New York Times bestselling author Susanna Clarke as she discusses her spectacular novel, Piranesi, with the one and only Neil Gaiman live and online exclusively for 5×15. Join us for what promises to be an unmissable conversation between two of our best loved, most powerfully imaginative writers.

(9) THE BOOK OF VAUGHN. Boing Boing reports there’s a “Vaughn Bode documentary in the works”. [Note: The line over the “e” in his name is not shown here because WordPress doesn’t support the character.]

Vaughn Bode was one of the coolest underground artists of the 1960s and 1970s, painting a joyous mix of sexuality, psychedelia and appropriated cartoon tropes. It would have been his 80th birthday this month, and director Nick Francis is preparing a documentary about his short life and long influence.

(10) THE FORCES OF EVIL DO NOT SLEEP. Cora Buhlert writes about the new Masters of the Universe: Revelation cartoon and the classic sword and sorcery influences on the Masters of the Universe franchise in general in “Eternia Revisited – Some Reflections on Master of the Universe: Revelation”. Includes spoilers.

…Those cartoons were basically 25-minute toy ads and I knew that even as a kid (especially since the commercial breaks helpfully ran ads for the very same toys). Nonetheless, I loved them. They also had a big influence on me – how big I wouldn’t realise until many years later. And I’m far from the only one. Look at how many reboots, reimaginationings, live action versions, etc… of 1980s kid cartoons there have been in recent years. For example, right now Snake Eyes, a pretty neat looking movie based on the ninja character from G.I. Joe, is in the theatres. They may only have been glorified toy commercials, but those cartoons influenced a whole generation and have outlasted many of the more serious and wholesome media of the same era. At any rate, I don’t see a big screen Löwenzahn reboot anywhere. As for wholesome and educational cartoons, how wholesome and educational does Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids look now, knowing what we know about Bill Cosby?…

(11) THREE COSTUMERS PASS AWAY. The International Costumers Guild has announced the deaths of three veteran masqueraders in recent days.

R.I.P. Robert “G. Bob” Moyer. He was a fixture at many East-Coast Costume-Cons, and always had good garb. He was also known for his middle-eastern dance skills and charming personality.

More sad news for our community, Leo d’Entremont passed away suddenly at home last night. [August 1] He will be missed at many events and our thoughts go out to his wife and family.

Dana MacDermott passed last night. [August 3] An inspiration and icon to many, she will be missed. Our thoughts go out to her husband, Bruce MacDermott, as well as her sons, family and many friends.

(12) J.W. RINZLER (1962-2021). Jonathan Rinzler, who wrote under the name J.W. Rinzler, died July 28 from pancreatic cancer at the age of 58.

Berkleyside has a detailed appreciation of his career: “Remembering Jonathan Rinzler, bestselling author of ‘Star Wars’ books”.

Rinzler had a prodigious career as a bestselling author of cinematic history books about Star WarsIndiana Jones, and other 20th century blockbuster films. He joined Lucasfilm in 2001 and became the executive editor of its publishing arm, Lucasbooks. Over 15 years, he authored an extensive body of Star Wars-related publications, including The Making of Star Wars (a New York Times bestseller), The Making of The Empire Strikes BackThe Making of Return of the JediStar Wars: The Blueprints, and The Sounds of Star Wars.

… In addition to his multiple books about the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, he wrote The Making of AliensThe Making of Planet of the ApesThe Making of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, and Howard Kazanjian: A Producer’s Life.

…In addition to his nonfiction works, Rinzler wrote two novels, the No. 1 best-selling graphic novel The Star Wars, which he co-authored with artist Mike Mayhew, and his recent space history novel All Up…

Mary Robinette Kowal added this note to the announcement:

(13) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1972 – Forty-nine years ago at L.A.Con 1, Poul Anderson win the Best Novella Hugo for “The Queen of Air and Darkness”. (It was his fourth Hugo. All of his Hugo wins would be in the non-Novel categories.) Other nominated works “A Meeting with Medusa” by Arthur C. Clarke, “The Fourth Profession” by Larry Niven, “Dread Empire” by John Brunner and “A Special Kind of Morning” by Gardner R. Dozois. It would also win a Locus Award for Short Fiction and a Nebula Award for a Novelette. (One work, three different categories.)  It’s available, not surprisingly, in The Queen of Air and Darkness: Volume Two of the Short Fiction of Poul Anderson which is available from the usual suspects.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 4, 1923 Paul Schneider. He wrote scripts for the original Star TrekStar Trek: The Animated SeriesThe StarlostThe Six Million Dollar Man, and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. He’s best remembered for two episodes of the original Trek series: “Balance of Terror” and “The Squire of Gothos.” “Balance of Terror,” of course, introduced the Romulans. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 4, 1937 David Bedford. Composer who worked with Ursula K. Le Guin to produce and score her Rigel 9 album which the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says is “a work that is musically pleasant although narratively underpowered.” I’ve not heard it, so cannot say how accurate this opinion is. (Died 2011.)
  • Born August 4, 1942 Don S. Davis. He’s best-known for playing General Hammond on Stargate SG-1 and Major Garland Briggs on Twin Peaks. He had a small part in Beyond the Stars as Phil Clawson, and was in Hook as Dr. Fields. Neat factoid: on MacGyver for five years, he was the stunt double for Dana Elcar. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 4, 1944 Richard Belzer, 77. In the Third Rock from The Sun series as himself, also the Species II film and an adaption of Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters, along with series work too in The X-FilesThe InvadersHuman Target, and a recurring role in the original Flash series to name a few of his genre roles.
  • Born August 4, 1950 Steve Senn, 71. Here because of his Spacebread duology, Spacebread and Born of Flame. Spacebread being a large white cat known throughout the galaxy as an adventuress and a rogue. He’s also written the comic novels, Ralph Fozbek and the Amazing Black Hole Patrol and Loonie Louie Meets the Space FungusSpacebread is available at the usual suspects for a mere ninety cents as is Born of Flame: A Space Story!
  • Born August 4, 1968 Daniel Dae Kim, 53. First genre role was in the NightMan series, other roles include the Brave New World tv film, the second Fantasy Island of three series, recurring roles on LostAngel and Crusade, the Babylon 5 spinoff Crusade series, Star Trek: VoyagerCharmed and voice work on Justice League Unlimited.
  • Born August 4, 1969 Fenella Woolgar, 52. Agatha Christie in “The Unicorn and The Wasp” episode of Doctor Who where she more than capably played off against David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor. She was series regular Min in the Jekyll series. Her only other genre work was as Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester. 
  • Born August 4, 1981 Meghan, the former Duchess of Sussex, 40, Yes she’s done a genre performance or so. To be precise, she showed up on Fringe in the first two episodes of the second season (“A New Day in the Old Town” and “Night of Desirable Objects” as Junior FBI Agent Amy Jessup. She was also in the “First Knight” episode of Knight Rider as Annie Ortiz, and Natasha in “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Lose” on Century City

(15) COMICS SECTION.

(16) FF@60. Fans will get to experience two of the Fantastic Four’s greatest adventures in a new way when Fantastic Four Anniversary Tribute #1 is published in November. In the tradition of Giant-Size X-Men: Tribute To Wein & Cockrum #1 and Captain America Anniversary Tribute #1, this giant-sized issue will present classic stories with new artwork by today’s leading artists.

 Sixty years ago, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby made history and brought about the beginning of the Marvel Age of comics with the release of FANTASTIC FOUR #1. Now a bevy of Marvel’s finest creators will pay tribute to that monumental moment by reinterpreting, page by page, the story from that inaugural release as well as FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #3, the wedding of Reed Richards and Sue Storm!

(17) HULL & POHL. Andrew Porter took these photos of Elizabeth Anne Hull and her husband Frederik Pohl in years gone by. Hull died this week, and Pohl in 2013.

(18) TRYING TO BE HELPFUL. Daniel Dern nominates these as the titles for Phillip Pullman Dark Materials sequels.

  • The Precient Wrench
  • His Uglee Mugge
  • The Ambitious Protractor
  • The Slye Pliers
  • The Open Source Aleitheometer
  • The Dust Buster
  • The Unworthy Hammer
  • The Book In The Stone
  • The Sword In The Scroll

(19) SOUL MAN. The dark year 2204, in a world that has seen 73 years of continuous war. A Shaman is sent on a mission to convert the soul of a giant battle colossus. “The Shaman” curated by DUST.

The dark year 2204, in a world that has seen 73 years of continuous war. Recently mankind re-discovered the arts of Shamanism. The Shaman’s school of thought believes that every person or object has a soul. During battle Shamans step over into the Netherworld to find and convert the souls of their enemies’ giant battle machines. This tactic enables a single man to overcome an invincibly seeming steel monster. This is the story of Joshua, a Shaman, who is sent on a mission to convert the soul of a giant battle colossus. He does not yet know that the soul is prepared for his coming and that the deadly psychological soul-to-soul confrontation in the Netherworld will be on eye level.

(20) A DIFFERENT SHIELD BEARER. “The Multiverse Blows Open With Captain Carter In New Clips From Marvel’s ‘What If…?’ Series On Disney+”SYFY Wire sets the frame:

The animated series, which arrives on Disney+ next week, takes Loki‘s introduction of the multiverse and runs with it, presenting alternate outcomes for our favorite MCU heroes and villains. Overseeing all of these parallel dimensions is Uatu the Watcher (voiced by Wright), an omnipotent celestial being whose job it is to watch over the Earth without interfering….

(21) THE DRINK OF DRAGON CON. Makes me wonder what the official beverage of the Worldcon would be named.

(22) AIR APPARENT. [Item by Daniel Dern.] What a difference a (longer) day makes: “’Totally New’ Idea Suggests Longer Days On Early Earth Set Stage For Complex Life” at Slashdot.

“A research team has proposed a novel link between how fast our planet spun on its axis, which defines the length of a day, and the ancient production of additional oxygen,” reports Science Magazine. “Their modeling of Earth’s early days, which incorporates evidence from microbial mats coating the bottom of a shallow, sunlit sinkhole in Lake Huron, produced a surprising conclusion: as Earth’s spin slowed, the resulting longer days could have triggered more photosynthesis from similar mats, allowing oxygen to build up in ancient seas and diffuse up into the atmosphere.”

(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra and Retaliation,” the Screen Junkies say the first two G.I. Joe movies are “like Team America but without the jokes” that mixes “generic military dudes and hot military babes.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Lise Andreasen, Daniel Dern, Jennifer Hawthorne, Joey Eschrich, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Piranesi Wins Audiobook of the Year at 2021 Audie Awards

Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi, read by Chiwetel Ejiofor, has been named the 2021 Audiobook of the Year. The winners of the 2021 Audie Awards in 25 competitive categories were announced by the Audio Publishers Association (APA) on March 22. The Audie Awards® recognize excellence in audiobook and spoken word entertainment.

Author judges Jennifer Egan, Tommy Orange, and David Sedaris named Piranesi the Audiobook of the Year for several notable reasons. “The reading is a triumph of tone… one of the best readings of contemporary literature that I have ever listened to,” said Egan. “I have already recommended it to several people, including my 18-year-old son and 82-year-old mother.” Sedaris noted: “I think the reading perfectly complements the author’s intent. The characterization is complex, and Chiwetel Ejiofor’s voice is appropriately naive and full of wonder. The novel is a bit confusing at first, and Ejiofor masterfully pulls us through the fog.” Orange stated: “When the book got darker and more thrilling, and as the mystery at the center of the novel was revealed, Chiwetel Ejiofor moved the story along beautifully.”

Other winners of genre interest include:

FANTASY

  • The City We Became, by N. K. Jemisin, narrated by Robin Miles, published by Hachette Audio

SCIENCE FICTION

  • The Deep, by Rivers Solomon, with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes, narrated by Daveed Diggs, published by Simon & Schuster Audio

AUDIO DRAMA

  • Doctor Who – Stranded 1, by Matt Fitton, David K Barnes, Lisa McMullin, and John Dorney, performed by Paul McGann, Nicola Walker, Hattie Morahan, Rebecca Root, Tom Price, and Tom Baker, published by Big Finish Productions

BEST FEMALE NARRATOR

  • The City We Became, by N. K. Jemisin, narrated by Robin Miles, published by Hachette Audio

SPANISH LANGUAGE

  • El Laberinto del Fauno, by Guillermo del Toro and Cornelia Funke, narrated by Luis Ávila, published by Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial México

All the other winners are listed after the jump.

Continue reading

Ray Bradbury Prize, Other LA Times Book Prize Finalists Announced

The Los Angeles Times today unveiled the finalists for the 41st annual Book Prizes. Winners will be announced virtually on Friday, April 16 in a prologue to the Festival of Books, Stories and Ideas. Traditionally the nation’s largest in-person literary event, the festival will be held online this year, beginning on Saturday, April 17, and continuing over the course of six days.

The finalists of genre interest follow below. The complete list of finalists is here.

The Ray Bradbury Prize for Science Fiction, Fantasy & Speculative Fiction

  • Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
  • Lakewood: A Novel by Megan Giddings
  • The City We Became: A Novel (The Great Cities Trilogy, 1)by N. K. Jemisin
  • The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
  • Where the Wild Ladies Are by Aoko Matsuda, Polly Barton (translator)

Graphic Novel/Comics

  • Umma’s Table by Yeon-sik Hong, Janet Hong (translator)
  • Blue Flag (vol. 1-4) by KAITO
  • Sports is Hell by Ben Passmore
  • Apsara Engine by Bishakh Som
  • Come Home, Indio: A Memoir by Jim Terry

[Via Locus Online.]

2020 Costa Book Awards Finalists

By Cora Buhlert: The finalists for the 2020 Costa Book Awards, a UK literary prize sponsored by a coffee company, have been announced. Two of the four finalists in the Best Novel category are of genre interest, Piranesi by Susanna Clarke and The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey. (In spite of the title, The Less Dead by Denise Mina is not a zombie novel, but a very good crime novel.) 

There are five awards categories overall, and the winner of each receives £5,000.

The Costa Book of the Year will be chosen from among them, and get £30,000 prize.

Pixel Scroll 11/15/20 There Was An Old Black Hole Who Swallowed A Jovian Gas Giant, I Don’t Know Why It Swallowed A Jovian Gas Giant, Perhaps It Will Implode

(1) TANTALIZING TITLES. Eric Flint says he and Griff Barber are closing in on finishing 1637: The Peacock Throne, the sequel to 1636: Mission To The Mughals. What next?

…1637: THE PEACOCK THRONE is a hell of a good novel, if I say so myself. All we have left to do is write a few chapters to conclude the story arc. THIS story arc, I should say.

Yes, there will be a sequel. I’m already pondering titles. Possibilities are:

1638: A PREGNANT PAUSE

1638: THE HAJJ IS TRICKIER THAN IT LOOKS

1638: WHAT TO DO, WHAT TO DO…

1638: GIRL, YOU ARE IN SOOOOOOO MUCH TROUBLE

1638: YOU DID WHAT?????

Muahahahahaha….

(2) ABOUT FACE. “Stranger Than Something That Is Already Strange: A Conversation with Namwali Serpell” at the LA Review of Books.

That leads right into one of my other questions. The central claim of the book is that, rather than being all that interested in the Ideal Face, we actually “love to play with faces, to make them into art.” Why do you think it is so important to emphasize art and play when thinking about the face?

I think that, when you have a very dominant model of something, like the face, you have to undo it not just through examples of things that contravene it — not just through counterexamples — but you have to actually build a positive model. In thinking about what playing with the face gives to us, I needed to present it not just as a kind of denigration or a sacrilegious desecration because we have this deification of the ideal face. So, I started thinking about what playing with faces actually grants us. And I thought, well, it actually starts shifting us to entirely different models of aesthetics and ethics and emotion.

(3) MEDICAL UPDATE. Heather Rose Jones tweeted today —

And later –

Hope she’s getting great care, and our wishes for a speedy return to health.

(4) LEND ME YOUR EARS. Elisabeth Moore pushes the canonical envelope at Sarah Gailey’s site — “Personal Canons: Dragon Rider”.

The idea that a personal literary canon is devised out of only literature has been disproven over and over again in this series of essays. Some people see comics as a key part of their development; others count anime and folktales. The very fact that the personal canon is multifaceted and multi-genre is key to the canon. And so, I want to add a key cornerstone of my canon: the audiobook for Cornelia Funke’s The Dragon Rider, Part 1.

Yes. Only Part 1….

(5) CRAIG MILLER WINS ANIMATION WRITING AWARD. Writers Guild of America gives an award, through its Animation Writers Caucus, that the Guild’s website calls the Animation Writing Award, informally a life-career award. Congratulations to Craig Miller, this year’s winner.

The official description says it’s “given to that member of the Animation Writers Caucus and/or the Guild who, in the opinion of the Board of Directors, has advanced the literature of animation in film and/or television through the years and who has made outstanding contributions to the profession of the animation writer”.

And this year, in an act of madness, they decided the recipient will be me.

I’m truly honored to get this award and hope I have and can continue to live up to it.

(6) TOOT TOOT. Inspired by the Star Trek train set, the O Gauge Railroad Online Forum asks “What kind of bell and horn sounds would be authentic for a Star Ship?”.

“How would you hear it in space? Do you blast the horn 4 times for warp speed? Is the bell for Impulse power?”

(7) A NOISE WITHIN. Meanwhile, “Doctor Who’s sonic pioneers to turn internet into giant musical instrument” says The Guardian. “The performance comes the day before 23 November, the anniversary of the first transmission of Doctor Who in 1963 which is also Delia Derbyshire Day, in honour of the Radiophonic Workshop’s leading light, who created the sound of the show’s famous theme tune.”

The Radiophonic Workshop has always broken new sonic ground, from the Doctor Who theme to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Now they’re at it again – this time using the internet as a musical instrument.

A performance of Latency will take place at a special online event on 22 November using a technique inspired by lockdown Zoom calls. The band includes composers from the original BBC Radiophonic Workshop, which created soundtracks for most BBC shows from the 60s to the 90s and influenced generations of musicians from Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd and Mike Oldfield to Aphex Twin, Orbital and Mary Epworth.

The idea [of playing the internet] reflected our time,” said workshop member Peter Howell. “We’re all subject to the internet now in a way that we never thought we would be. And Bob and Paddy came up with an idea that is literally using what we’re all relying on for a creative purpose, using something that we’ve all taken for granted but in an artistic way.”

(8) INSIDE STORY. Publishers Weekly, in “How ‘The Only Good Indians’ Got Made—And How It Hopes to Revive Horror”, covers the Authors Guild’s From Manuscript to Marketplace panel with Stephen Graham Jones and his team. including Saga editorial director Joe Monti, marketing and publicity manager Lauren Jackson, and his agent, B.J. Robbins.

The Only Good Indians, which received a starred review from PW and was recently named one of Time magazine’s 100 must-read books of 2020, tracks the lives of four young men who, during a hunt, commit a crime against an elk and their own Blackfeet Nation tribe. After walking away from the incident, they find themselves haunted by a mysterious entity bent on revenge, and realize that there are just some things one can’t take back.

What intrigued Monti about Jones’s novel was how it addressed reviving the horror genre. After seeing Jordan Peele’s Get Out, Monti said, he realized that “this is the way we’re gonna be able to talk about race and class and culture with a level of immediacy that other genres can’t”—and he believed Jones’s book nailed it. But Monti wasn’t the only one from Saga who saw the connection. Jackson was hooked from the prologue, going on to read the book in the course of a few days and immediately dubbing it “the Jordan Peele of Horror Literature.”

Johnson argues that Jones’s book is one of a number of recent releases to have proven that the horror genre isn’t as narrow as its reputation. Horror is a “statement about identity” in her view: “there are layers to these tropes, and if you really look deep, it’s saying a lot about who people are and what the world is like,” Johnson said, adding that “the tropes have a function [and] there’s something behind them.”…

(9) DIRECTORIAL DEBUT. Leonard Maltin reviews “Over The Moon: A Beautiful Journey”.

Over the Moon is, like any animated feature, the work of many people but everyone I interviewed took inspiration from its director, master animator Glen Keane.

Glen spent 37 years at the Disney studio and brought to life some of the modern era’s most indelible characters: Ariel in The Little Mermaid, the Beast in Beauty and the Beast, the young hero in Aladdin, the title characters in Pocahontas and Tarzan, and Rapunzel in Tangled, among others. Several years ago he won an Oscar for Best Animated Short Subject for Dear Basketball, a collaboration with the late Kobe Bryant.

This is officially his feature directing debut and as you would expect, he chose his team with care. That’s why Over the Moon looks so striking and its characters are so vivid….

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

1975 — Forty five years ago at Aussiecon One which had John Bangsund as Toastmaster, The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia by Ursula K. Le Guin wins the Best Novel Hugo. Runner-ups were Poul Anderson’s Fire Time, Philip K. Dick’s Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s The Mote in God’s Eye andChristopher Priest’s Inverted World. First published by Harper & Row the previous year with cover art by Fred Winkowski, it would also win the Locus and Nebula Awards for Best SF Novel and be nominated for the Campbell Memorial, Ditmar and multiple Prometheus Awards being eventually voted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 15, 1877 William Hope Hodgson. By far, his best known character is Thomas Carnacki, featured in several of his most famous stories and at least partly based upon Algernon Blackwood’s occult detective John Silence. (Simon R. Green will make use of him in his Ghost Finders series.)  Two of his later novels, The House on the Borderland and The Night Land would be lavishly praised by H.P. Lovecraft.  It is said that his horror writing influenced many later writers such as China Miéville, Tim Lebbon and Greg Bear but I cannot find a definitive source for that claim. (Died 1918.) (CE)
  • Born November 15, 1929 Ed Asner, 91. Genre work includes roles on Alfred Hitchcock PresentsThe Outer Limits,  Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Girl from U.N.C.L.E.The InvadersThe Wild Wild WestMission: ImpossibleShelley Duvall’s Tall Tales & LegendsBatman: The Animated Series and I’ll stop there as the list goes on for quite some while. (CE)
  • Born November 15, 1930 J. G. Ballard. I’ll frankly admit that I’ve not read enough of him to render a coherent opinion of him as writer. What I’ve read such as The Drowned World is more than a bit depressing. Well yes, but really depressing. So tell me what you think of him. (Died 2009.) (CE) 
  • Born November 15, 1939 Yaphet Kotto, 81. As we count the Bond films as genre and I do, his first genre performance was as Dr. Kananga / Mr. Big in Live and Let Die. Later performances included Parker in Alien, William Laughlin in The Running Man, Doc in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, Ressler in The Puppet Masters adapted from Heinlein’s 1951 novel of the same name and he played a character named Captain Jack Clayton on SeaQuest DSV. (CE) 
  • Born November 15, 1941 – Daniel Pinkwater, 79.  The Golux (in The Thirteen Clocks, J. Thurber 1950) wears an indescribable hat; DP is almost indescribable.  You may know he wrote The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death; seven dozen more; a dozen shorter stories.  Sometimes he draws his own covers.  He deserves fuller treatment – no – more rounded – no – expansive – anyhow, his Website is here (hint: if you want to know about the Semper admirare melongenum eggplant, find out about the talking pineapple: I can say no more).  [JH]
  • Born November 15, 1942 – Ruth Berman, 78.  Rhysling Award, Short Poem for “Potherb Gardening” (Asimov’s, Dec 02); Dwarf Stars Award for “Knowledge Of” (repr. 2008 Nebula Awards Showcase).  Minnesota Fantasy Award.  Two novels, thirty shorter stories, a hundred thirty poems.  Nonfiction Patterns of Unification in “Sylvie and Bruno” (Lewis Carroll’s last novel, 1893); Who’s Who in the Borderlands of Oz.  Guest of Honor at Minicon 6, MarsCon 2016.  More here.  Often seen in the letter column of Lofgeornost.  [JH]
  • Born November 15, 1952 – Catherine Wells, 68.  Five novels, a dozen shorter stories. “Builders of Leaf Houses” won the Analog 2015 AnLab award for Best Novella.  Outside our field a novel Stones of Destiny about Macbeth (re-issued as Macbeatha).  Plays in a jazz trio at church with her husband on drums, rides tandem bicycle with him.  Thirty in her high school (Robinson, North Dakota); she was top in a class of five; when asked “Are you in the top 20% of your class?” she answered “I am the top 20% of my class.”  Guest of Honor at TusCon 27.  [JH]
  • Born November 15, 1958 – Scott Lefton, 62.  Built the Hugo base for Noreascon 4 (62nd Worldcon).  For the Hugo presentation at Sasquan (73rd Worldcon) by Kjell Lindgren from the Int’l Space Station via videoconference, SL made the Hugo rocket.  SL’s Pitcher-Plant Lamp won Popular Choice – Best 3-Dimensional in the Arisia 2017 Art Show.  [JH]
  • Born November 15, 1972 – Vadim Panov, 48.  Aircraft radio engineer who started writing.  Losers Launch Wars began an urban-fantasy series “The Secret City”, fourteen so far; Club Moscow began a cyberpunk series “The Enclaves”, five so far.  [JH]
  • Born November 15, 1972 Jonny Lee Miller, 48. British actor and director who played Sherlock Holmes on the exemplary Elementary series, but his first genre role was as a nine year-old with the Fifth Doctor, “Kinda”. While he’s had a fairly steady stage, film, and TV career across the pond since then, it’s only in the last decade that he’s become well-known in the States – unless, like JJ, you remember that 23 years ago he appeared in a shoddy technothriller called Hackers, with another unknown young actor named Angelina Jolie (to whom he ended up married, until they separated 18 months later). Other genre appearances include a trio of vampire films, Dracula 2000Dark Shadows, and Byzantium, the live-action Æon Flux movie, and the lead in the pseudo-fantasy TV series Eli Stone. (CE) 
  • Born November 15, 1977 – Ashley Knight, 43.  Loves horses, has been a Rodeo Queen.  Thereafter she became the Mermaid Lady and properly wrote a Fins trilogy; three more novels.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) SHOW TIME. Disney Rewards challenges fans with a “Quiz: How Well Do You Know The Mandalorian?”

Since it premiered in 2019 on Disney+, the first ever live-action Star Wars TV series, The Mandalorian, has thrilled a galaxy of fans with its action-packed adventures. But how closely did you watch, and how well do you know the bounty of details? Strap on your jetpack and launch into our trivia quiz to test your knowledge and target an expert-level score.

(14) DINO TBR. Pocket’s “The Ultimate Dinosaur Reading List” is a collection of links to articles about dinosaurs.

If you ever want to put things in perspective, consider this: Less time separates human beings in history from Tyrannosaurus rex than T. rex from Stegosaurus. That’s right. While T. rex went extinct about 66 million years ago, at the end of the Cretaceous Period, the Jurassic Period’s stegosaurus roamed the Earth 83 million years before T. rex had even evolved. All told, dinosaurs ruled the planet for some 180 million years, while homo sapiens emerged a paltry 200,000 years ago.

That’s just one of many reasons our fascination with the terrible lizards is wholly justified. We’ve curated this Brachiosaurus-sized collection of 20 great articles all about dinosaurs and the people who obsess over them, including what dinosaurs looked like, what it’s like to be a paleontologist hunting for dinosaur fossils, and whether Jurassic Park could actually happen.

(15) TIME FOR A SITDOWN. In Episode 40 of Two Chairs Talking, “Lost in the labyrinth of words”, Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg discuss their recent reading across a variety of genres and spend quite a bit of time on Piranesi by Susanna Clarke, her first book in 14 years.

(16) CHILD SIZED. Sideshow takes you “Behind the Scenes with The Child Life-Size Figure on ESPN’s Monday Night Football”. Video at the link.

Recently, football audiences, Star Wars™ fans, and Sideshow collectors alike were treated to a surprise special appearance of The Child Life-Size Figure on a themed promotional spot about The Mandalorian™ on ESPN’s Monday Night Football.

Now take a look at a few adorable behind the scenes shots featuring The Child Life-Size Figure during the filming of the promo. In the charming video narrated by actor Giancarlo Esposito, the Child Life-Size Figure featured alongside a young boy with ambitions of becoming a hero like the Mandalorian.

(17) HOW TO ASTRONAUT. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination offers “How To Astronaut, With Terry Virts”, in a virtual conversation on November 24 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Register here.

On November 24 at 6:00 PM PDT join NASA astronaut and International Space Station commander Colonel Terry Virts in conversation with Dr. Erik Viirre of UCSD Departments of Neurosciences, Surgery and Cognitive Science and the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination. How to Astronaut covers everything from training through launch, orbit, spacewalking, deep space, and re-entry. Colonel Virts and Dr. Viirre will discuss the science, emotions, and philosophies that an off-the-planet perspective can grant.

Colonel Terry Virts earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics from the United States Air Force Academy in 1989, and a master of aeronautical science degree in aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Selected by NASA in 2000, he was the pilot of STS-130 mission aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour. In March 2015, Virts assumed command of the International Space Station, and spent over 200 days on it. Virts is one of the stars (and photographers) of the IMAX film, A Beautiful Planet, released in April 2016. He is also the author of View from Above. He lives near Houston.

Dr. Viirre has done research for the National Institutes of Health, the United States Navy’s Office of Naval Research, DARPA and NASA. He is a consultant for groups such as the National Academy of Science and a variety of Virtual Reality technology companies.

(18) HONEST GAME TRAILER. In “Honest Game Trailers:  Crash Bandicoot 4:  It’s About Time,” Fandom Games says Crash Bandicoot is “gaming’s equivalent of a C-list celebrity” and dusting off this “mutated marsupial” is like having an “HD remake” of a popular ’90s franchise.  The game features a Peter Lorre joke “that was ancient in the ’90s.”

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

Pixel Scroll 10/26/20 Strange Scrolls Lying In Ponds Distributing Pixels Is No Basis For A System Of Filing

(1) TITLE BOUT. Shelf Awareness publicized the release of the six-book shortlist for the 2020 Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of the Year. “Founded by Trevor Bounford and the late Bruce Robertson in 1978 ‘as a way to stave off boredom at the Frankfurt Book Fair,’ the Diagram Prize has had a home at the Bookseller and with legendary diarist Horace Bent since 1982.” The finalists are —

  • A Dog Pissing at the Edge of a Path by Gregory Forth
  • Introducing the Medieval Ass by Kathryn L Smithies
  • Classical Antiquity in Heavy Metal Music by K.F.B. Fletcher and Osman Umurhan
  • How to Make Love to a Despot by Stephen D. Krasner
  • Lawnmowers: An Illus­trated History by Brian Radam
  • The Slaughter of Farmed Animals: Practical Ways to Enhance Animal Welfare by Temple Grandin and Michael Cockram

More details from the award hosts here: “The Bookseller announces the Diagram Prize 2020 shortlist”

The winning title will now be chosen by members of the public via an online vote. The public vote closes on Friday 20th November, with the winning entry to be announced on Friday 27th November. There is no prize for the winning author or publisher, but traditionally a passable bottle of claret is given to the nominator of the winning entry. If a title wins that was nominated by The Bookseller staff, the claret will be given at random to a member of the public who participated in the online voting. 

(2) FIYAH FOUNDER Q&A. The latest episode of The Imagination Desk, a podcast from the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University, is live now, featuring an interview with speculative fiction author Troy L. Wiggins, who is also one of the founders of FIYAH Literary Magazine. Listen in here.

The next episode will be with science fiction author and researcher Regina Kanyu Wang.

Here is the CSI newsletter on Black Speculative Fiction Month activities, which features this podcast, among other things. And here are direct links to the podcast, on the CSI website (which links out to the other services), Apple PodcastsSpotifyRadioPublic, and Libsyn

(3) ROCKY HORROR LIVE FUNDRAISER. This invitation was sent in Tim Curry’s name for a Rocky Horror Live virtual event to aid the Wisconsin Democratic party.

Right now, we can almost see blue skies through the tears… of the Trump presidency, of course. But we absolutely must keep the pressure on!

That’s why we’re doing the Rocky Horror Show — LIVE — this Halloween night — to help get out the vote in Wisconsin. RSVP and reserve your spot today!

This is a live, once-in-a-lifetime musical livestream event, featuring cast members both old and new. There will be singing, dancing, laughs and plenty of fun.

Chip in any amount to join us for the Rocky Horror Show Livestream on Halloween with Tim Curry, Wilmer Valderrama, Lance Bass, Rosario Dawson, Jason George, Nell Campbell, Seth Green, Jason Alexander, David Arquette, and more!

Featuring musical performances by The Dresden Dolls, Miss Peppermint, Eiza Gonzalez, Josh Gad, Ben Barnes, Jenna Ushkowitz, Rachel Bloom, Karen Olivo, Marissa Jaret Winkour, Madison Uphoff, Kalen Chase, and Rumer Willis.

This event is only going to be livestreamed once at 9pm CT on Saturday, October 31st.

(4) SANS CLUE. LitHub confirms, “We Have Edgar Allan Poe to Thank for the Detective Story”.

…These are the similarities between the Dupin stories and Sherlock Holmes, and there are many. One writer said that “The only difference between Dupin and Holmes is the English Channel.” Similarity number one: in both stories we have at the heart a highly intelligent but somewhat eccentric and enigmatic detective. The word detective did not actually exist when Poe was writing, which gives you a sense of how novel he was. He might have taken the idea from a series of magazine articles about a French policeman. Otherwise, he was on his own. This was all his….

(5) MAD, YOU KNOW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Our Culture’s Ongoing, Ever-Evolving Fascination With ‘The Mad Scientist’” on CrimeReads, sf novelist Jane Gilmartin explains why “mad scientists” remain popular characters in sf.

… Examples of the mad scientist/evil genius in everything from comic books to classics spring to mind without even breaking a sweat: Dr. No of James Bond fame, whose experiments with atomic energy cost him his hands as well as his conscience; Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus, whose unquenchable thirst for knowledge drove him to a deal with the devil; Dr. Henry Wu, who fooled around with genetics and opened a questionable theme park in Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, and, my personal favorite, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll, whose work brought to the surface his baser self as Mr. Hyde.

It is the last example, I think, that speaks most clearly to our fears. Scientists are people like the rest of us—multi-faceted, unpredictable and (for the most part) human. Like all of us humans, there’s always that slim chance that they’re going to turn to the proverbial dark side, especially when they get a taste of power….

(6) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 2000 — Twenty years ago at Chicon 2000, the Hugo for Best Novella went to Connie Willis for “The Winds of Marble Arch”, a precursor to her Blackout/All Clear novel which would win the Best Hugo Novel eleven years later at Renovation. Runner-ups were Harry Turtledove‘s “Forty, Counting Down”, Adam-Troy Castro and Jerry Oltion‘s “The Astronaut from Wyoming”, Mike Resnick‘s “Hunting the Snark” and Kage Baker‘s “Son, Observe the Time”. It can be found in The Winds of Marble Arch and Other Stories, the Subterranean Press collection, which is available from the usual digital suspects. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 26, 1942 —  Bob Hoskins. I’ll insist his role as Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is his finest genre role though I suppose Mario Mario in Super Mario Bros. could be said… Just kidding! He’s the Director of The Raggedy Rawney which he also had a role, a strange might-be genre film, and he’s Smee in Hook as well. (Died 2014.) (CE)
  • Born October 26, 1945 – Jane Chance, Ph.D., D.Litt., 75.  Mellon Distinguished Professor emerita at Rice; first woman appointed to tenure track in English; founder president of the Consortium for the Teaching of the Middle Ages; doctorate of letters, Purdue.  For us, six books on Tolkien; a score of others, a hundred articles.  [JH]
  • Born October 26, 1951 – Melanie Herz, 69.  Hardworking Florida fan.  Many regionals and Worldcons; chaired Traveling Fête 1996, Tropicon 21, OASIS 6. When we’ve been on the same con committee, and particularly when we were on the same DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) ballot, we tried to make sure our mail didn’t get crossed.  Still wasn’t as bad as when I had an office down the hall from a man named Heitz.  [JH]
  • Born October 26, 1954 Jennifer Roberson, 66. Writer of of fantasy and historical romances. The Chronicles of the Cheysuli is her fantasy series about shapeshifters and their society, and the Sword-Dancer Saga is the desert based adventure series of sort, but the series I’ve enjoyed is her Sherwood duo-logy that consists of Lady of the Forest and Lady of Sherwood which tells the Robin Hood tale from the perspective of Marian. Her hobby, which consumes much of her time, is breeding and showing Cardigan Welsh Corgis. (CE)
  • Born October 26, 1960 Patrick Breen, 60. He’s Redgick, a Squid,  a minor character that appeared in Men in Black. In beloved Galaxy Quest, he’s Quellek, a Thermian who forms a bond with Alexander Dane. it’s a wonderful role. And he has a recurring role as Larry Your-Waiter, a member of V.F.D. on A Series of Unfortunate Events series. (CE) 
  • Born October 26, 1960 – David LaRochelle, 60.  A score of children’s books, many with fantasy elements.  Also an amazing astounding stellar thrilling pumpkin carver; see here.  [JH]
  • Born October 26, 1962 Cary Elwes, 58. He’s in the ever-so-excellent Princess Bride as Westley / Dread Pirate Roberts / The Man in Black. He also shows up in Dr. Lawrence Gordon in the Saw franchise, and was cast as Larry Kline, Mayor of Hawkins, for the third season of Stranger Things. (CE) 
  • Born October 26, 1969 – Mary Ting, 51.  A score of novels; taught a score of years, toured with the Magic Johnson Foundation.  Makes Twilight-themed jewelry.  Besides husband, children, has two dogs Mochi and Mocha.  [JH]
  • Born October 26, 1971 Anthony Rapp, 49. Lieutenant Commander Paul Stamets on the most Discovery series . His first role ever was Wes Hansen in Sky High, and he showed up early in his career as Jeff Glaser in the “Detour” episode of X-Files. He was Seymour Krelbourn in a national tour of Little Shop of Horrors. (CE) 
  • Born October 26, 1972 – Zetta Elliott, Ph.D., 48.  Five novels, seven shorter stories for us; poetry; essays; plays; children’s illustrated books under her Rosetta Press.  “I write as much for parents as I do for their children because sometimes adults need the simple instruction a picture book can provide.” [JH]
  • Born October 26, 1973 Seth MacFarlane, 47. Ok, I confess that I tried watching the Orville which he created and is in and it just didn’t appeal to me. For those of you who are fans, why do you like it? I’ll must admit that having it described as trying to be a better Trek ain’t helping. (CE)
  • Born October 26, 1975 – David Walton, 45.  Author and engineer.  Seven novels, a dozen shorter stories.  Baen Memorial Award, Campbell Memorial Award, Philip K. Dick Award.  Plays chess and go.  “Science fiction can show us the viewpoints of people whose lives and experiences are so far away from ours that … our minds are stretched and our vision is expanded.”  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro finds law enforcement pondering why no pumpkin is safe!
  • Yesterday’s Bizarro recalls that time Sesame Street fought for its independence. (Just when was that, anyway?)
  • Jonathan Muroya’s Greek Quarantology shows how all your favorite mythical figures are dealing with life during COVID-19.
  • After you take a look at this Wulffmorgenthaler cartoon for Denmark’s Politiken you’ll want a translation for the dialog (courtesy of Lise Andreasen):

“The death star is flat.”

“Actually, some of us believe, the death star is flat. That being round business is a conspiracy.”

(9) PIRANESI. Camestros Felapton promises substantial spoilers: “Review: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (substantial spoilers)”. See, what did I tell you?

This was a charming, thoughtful, often whimsical story full of a deep horror that at times wholly unnerved me. I’ll be discussing many key plot points and revelations….

(10) THE DOOM FROM THE SUN. [Item by Olav Rokne.] In a quirky bit of science news, astronomers recorded a large solar flare that happened to look like a prop from an old science fiction TV show… “NASA satellites capture massive ‘Doomsday machine’ solar flare”.

From the article: “The image of the explosion was described by some as the stuff of science fiction, specifically the Doomsday machine from Star Trek. Fortunately, the CME did not hit Earth.”

(11) SILENT GOLD. Leonard Maltin has a roundup of silent film releases — “Rare Silent Films On Blu-Ray And DVD”. One of them is the rediscovered 1916 version of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea.  The poster for this movie is very cool.

It’s not a typo: Universal produced a feature-length version of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in 1916, and the new DVD/Blu-ray release is a 4K transfer of the surviving material. Luckily for us, silent film historian Anthony Slide delivers a highly informative commentary track that tracks the careers of underwater-photography specialists Ernest and George Williamson. Indeed, it is their work that makes this release so intriguing, not the hackneyed mishmash of Verne’s famous story and The Mysterious Island. Alan Holubar, then a prominent actor about to turn director, and Jane Gail star. The music score is credited to Orlando Perez Rosso.

(12) SOL SEARCHING. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] A new way has been found to determine which stars are likely to host weird planetary systems and those stars likely to have planetary systems more like our own Solar system.

The following will appear in next season’s SF² Concatenation but they’ve shared it with File 770 now…

How many Solar system type planetary systems are there in our spiral arm? We may soon be finding out from new research.  Some planetary systems around stars are very unlike our Solar system. For example, they will have what are called hot Jupiters with a gas giant close to their star in an orbit similar to that of Mercury about our sun, rather than beyond the asteroid belt where Jupiter is in our system.

It had been thought that the type of planetary system that forms is determined by the star’s protoplanetary disk of gas and dust.  While this may be so, there is also another factor at play – whether the star formed in comparative isolation or along with loads of others in a stellar nursery.

Up to now it has been impossible to address this question as stars disperse (as the Galaxy rotates, spiral arms oscillate, local stellar conditions etc) from when they were born within a billion years of their formation.  However, ESA’s Gaia star mapping has helped British and German astronomers to determine that whether or not a star is born in a stellar nursery or more isolated by itself, is key to the type of planetary system it will host.

You see the Gaia probe not only maps stars positions, it does it so accurately that after a few years and the star is re-mapped, it is possible to discern its movement, velocity and direction.  What the researchers have found is that they can correlate those stars that seem to be moving more or less parallel to, and with a similar velocity, to other stars. These stars can be assumed to have a common birthplace in a stellar nursery. Other stars that have no movement correlation with others, can be assumed to have been born in comparative isolation. With this in mind, the astronomers looked at 600 stars Gaia had mapped.

What the astronomers found was that systems with hot Jupiters tend to be formed in crowded stellar nurseries, while those with gas giants further from their star almost invariably saw the star’s birth in comparative isolation: there were few such systems with hot Jupiters – a hot Jupiter system was roughly ten times more likely in a star born in a stellar nursery.

As the researchers themselves point out, their discovery has “possible implications for planetary habitability and the likelihood of life in the Universe” questions.  (See Winter, A. J., Kruijssen, J. M. D., Longmore S. N & Chevance, M. (2020) Stellar clustering shapes the architecture of planetary systemsNaturevol. 586, p528-532.)

Planetary systems around stars born in stellar nurseries less likely to have Solar System type planetary arrangement, but will be more likely to have hot Jupiters.

(13) MANDO MERCH. “This RC Baby Yoda Waddles Around Your House Like a 50-Year-Old Toddler” io9 writes that like it’s a bad thing!

…Available this fall for $60, the Star Wars: The Mandalorian the Child “Real Moves Plush” stands 11 inches tall, so it’s slightly smaller than the animatronic figure used in the series. Mattel still managed to stuff it full of electronics, including authentic sound effects and motors to bring it to life.

The Child’s head can turn from side to side, and look up and down while it’s giant ears wiggle, and all the mechanisms are hidden under a flexible outer skin, which makes sense when you say it, but out of context feels like a horrifying thing to say about a baby. His tiny, snuggly robes can also be further adorned with an included Mythosaur skull pendant, like the one gifted to him by Din Djarin at the end of the first season.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Olav Rokne, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Joey Eschrich, Lise Andreasen, Jeff Smith, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day JJ.]

Pixel Scroll 9/23/20 With Credential-Like Tread Upon Our Post We Scroll

(1) SURPRISE ENDING. [Item by PhilRM.] Here’s another very interesting piece by Nina Allan discussing the books on this year’s Clarke Award shortlist: “Clarke Award shortlist 2020 – the reckoning”.

 There’s a bit of irony in that it was written and posted prior to the announcement of the winner, and Nina clearly had no expectation that her favorite book from the shortlist, Namwali Serpell’s The Old Drift, would get the award!

…I was hoping to avoid bringing up the whole anxiety-of-American-influence thing because we’ve been there too many times before but this question of the Clarke/Hugo overlap means I cannot escape it. Part of my disappointment with this year’s shortlist lies in the lack of recognition for British talent. The Clarke is a British award, for novels published in Britain. This is one of the valuable and necessary ways it differs from the Hugos. The submissions list reveals a whole battery of British novels – M. T. Hill’s Zero Bomb, Vicki Jarrett’s Always North, Chris Beckett’s Beneath the World, A Sea, Temi Oh’s Do You Dream of Terra-Two, Jane Rogers’s Body Tourists, Ben Smith’s Doggerland, Will Wiles’s Plume, Jeanette Winterson’s Frankissstein – the presence of any one of which would have raised the overall quality of the shortlist by a substantial degree.

Which makes it all the more perplexing that the one British entry that was chosen by the judges is a journeyman work of genre fiction with no pretensions to innovation or radicalism whatsoever….

(2) WHOM THE FAIRIES NOTICE. WIRED Magazine adopts the author’s own metaphor: “The Madness of Susanna Clarke, Fairy Princess”.

…The official story was debilitating mental illness—housebound, couldn’t write—but clearly her fairy patrons had come for her, to reclaim their erstwhile princess. Or else they meant to punish Clarke for her betrayal, for spilling their precious secrets, by enfuzzing her beautiful brain. Something like that. The ways and reasons of the Fae are little known to common folk.

If this strikes you as cutesy, tidy, annoying, even a bit disturbing, a romanticization or fancification of what sounds like a period of immense torture for Clarke and her loved ones, consider their own words. “It was as though she’d been captured into the land of Faerie, as if she had been taken away from us,” Clarke’s editor told New York magazine. Clarke herself, in a rare interview, told The New Yorker, “You really shouldn’t annoy fairies, or write about them—they don’t like it very much.” Given that Clarke has now released a second dispatch from Faerie, called Piranesi, which plunges far deeper than Strange & Norrell ever did into those forbidden fortresses from which the un-mad and mortal among us are forever barred, perhaps there’s no better explanation. Clarke has indeed been there and back again….

(3) HELP MICHAEL HOGAN. Actor Michael Hogan, who appeared in the new Battlestar Galactica, The Man in the High Castle, Fargo, Teen Wolf and many others, suffered a serious brain injury due to an accident in January. He and his family need help and friends have started a GoFundMe: “Michael Hogan Fund”. To date they have raised $232,527 of the $300,000 goal.

In the words of his wife, Susan:  

“You probably know Michael as an actor.  Or maybe you know him as a friend, an acquaintance, a co-worker, a father, a grandfather, or a husband. My husband. I am Susan Hogan and I am married to this extraordinary man. We have been each other’s best friend for decades. 

On Feb. 17, 2020, everything changed drastically in our world.  Michael was in Vancouver participating in a Battlestar Galactica convention, and at dinner following his day’s work, he fell and hit his head. Hard. He went to bed that night not realizing that the impact had caused a massive brain bleed.  He was unable to be woken the next morning and was taken to Vancouver General Hospital and emergency surgery performed. It took 57 staples to close the part of his scull they had to remove in order to reach the damage.
 
The accident left him with complete paralysis on his left side, memory loss, cogntivie impairment and an inability to swallow. … 

(4) SE HABLA. Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Lavie Tidhar say “Spanish-speaking writers are producing ambitious science fiction and fantasy. Let these books be your introduction” in their latest Washington Post column.

Spanish is one of the world’s most-spoken languages, with a long, rich literary history extending all the way back to what many regard as the first modern novel, Miguel de Cervantes’s “Don Quixote.” With authors writing in Spanish from Madrid to Mexico City to Havana, what are we English speakers missing out on? And where do we start exploring?

Lavie: I recently got back from Celsius 232, a science fiction and fantasy festival in Asturias, Spain, which usually attracts hundreds of Spanish genre writers every year. This year, it felt somewhat apocalyptic, with compulsory face masks and authors signing books behind plastic screens while wearing gloves (and disinfecting them after each book). I did get to meet Sofía Rhei, a prolific novelist for both children and adults, who has one collection of stories in English, “Everything Is Made of Letters,” published by Aqueduct Press.

While Spain has a vibrant sci-fi and fantasy scene, it is only in recent years that there has been a push into the English-language market. Two fairly recent anthologies are “Terra Nova” and “Castles in Spain,” both edited by Mariano Villarreal. They showcase some of that talent, including the excellent Elia Barceló and Félix J. Palma, whose books in English translation include the internationally successful “The Map of Time.”…

(5) HE GAVE PEACE A CHANCE. [Item by Olav Rokne.]  In recent years, the DC universe has often had more success with television than with movies. Next year, that is likely to continue with a TV adaptation of Joe Gill’s Silver Age creation Peacemaker. John Cena will play the title character, who was originally written as a pacifist diplomat who uses non-lethal weapons to fight dictators, but eventually became an ultraviolent parody of tough-guy-with-a-gun comics. The Suicide Squad Spinoff Peacemaker, Starring John Cena, Ordered to Series at HBO Max; James Gunn to Write/Direct” at TVLine.

Peacemaker is an opportunity to delve into current world issues through the lens of this superhero/supervillain/and world’s biggest douchebag,” Gunn said in a statement. “I’m excited to expand The Suicide Squad and bring this character from the DC film universe to the full breadth of a series. And of course, to be able to work again with John, Peter, and my friends at Warner Bros. is the icing on the cake.”

(6) VERSUS ROWLING. “Judith Butler on the culture wars, JK Rowling and living in ‘anti-intellectual times’”, a Q&A conducted by Alona Ferber at New Statesman.

Thirty years ago, the philosopher Judith Butler*, now 64, published a book that revolutionised popular attitudes on gender. Gender Trouble, the work she is perhaps best known for, introduced ideas of gender as performance. It asked how we define “the category of women” and, as a consequence, who it is that feminism purports to fight for. Today, it is a foundational text on any gender studies reading list, and its arguments have long crossed over from the academy to popular culture. …

Alona Ferber: In Gender Trouble, you wrote that “contemporary feminist debates over the meanings of gender lead time and again to a certain sense of trouble, as if the indeterminacy of gender might eventually culminate in the failure of feminism”. How far do ideas you explored in that book 30 years ago help explain how the trans rights debate has moved into mainstream culture and politics?

Judith Butler: I want to first question whether trans-exclusionary feminists are really the same as mainstream feminists. If you are right to identify the one with the other, then a feminist position opposing transphobia is a marginal position. I think this may be wrong. My wager is that most feminists support trans rights and oppose all forms of transphobia. So I find it worrisome that suddenly the trans-exclusionary radical feminist position is understood as commonly accepted or even mainstream. I think it is actually a fringe movement that is seeking to speak in the name of the mainstream, and that our responsibility is to refuse to let that happen. 

AF: One example of mainstream public discourse on this issue in the UK is the argument about allowing people to self-identify in terms of their gender. In an open letter she published in June, JK Rowling articulated the concern that this would “throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman”, potentially putting women at risk of violence.

JB: If we look closely at the example that you characterise as “mainstream” we can see that a domain of fantasy is at work, one which reflects more about the feminist who has such a fear than any actually existing situation in trans life. The feminist who holds such a view presumes that the penis does define the person, and that anyone with a penis would identify as a woman for the purposes of entering such changing rooms and posing a threat to the women inside. It assumes that the penis is the threat, or that any person who has a penis who identifies as a woman is engaging in a base, deceitful, and harmful form of disguise. This is a rich fantasy, and one that comes from powerful fears, but it does not describe a social reality. Trans women are often discriminated against in men’s bathrooms, and their modes of self-identification are ways of describing a lived reality, one that cannot be captured or regulated by the fantasies brought to bear upon them. The fact that such fantasies pass as public argument is itself cause for worry.

(7) ANTHOLOGY CROWDFUNDING. A Kickstarter appeal to raise $4,000 to fund publication of “Vital: The Future of Healthcare (2020)” launched September 22.

The anthology, a collection of short stories featuring the future of health and medicine, will include works from notable authors such as Tananarive Due, David Brin, James Patrick Kelly, Paolo Bacigalupi, Seanan McGuire, Annalee Newitz, Caroline Yoachim, Alex Shvartsman, Eric Schwitzgebel, Congyun Gu, and others.

Backers will receive exclusive rewards such as advanced copies and other perks for early support of the project.

Proceeds from the book’s sale will be donated to the United Nations Foundation’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO is a global leader coordinating the worldwide pandemic response.  

The idea for “Vital: The Future of Healthcare” was first conceived by RM Ambrose who will serve as editor of the book. He saw a need and opportunity to use fictional stories to address real life challenges during the pandemic and declarations of racism as a public health crisis. “Medical science continues to advance, but for many, healthcare has never been more broken,” says Ambrose.  “This book will use the power of storytelling to explore and inspire solutions to the problems that government and even the tech industry have struggled to fix.” 

The book will be available for purchase or download at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, and independent bookstores.  Kickstarter backers or supporters will receive advance copies of the book, as well as other rewards for supporting the project.

The Kickstarter campaign will last until October 22, 2020. (A previous attempt in 2019 did not fund.)  

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • Twenty years ago, Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Talents which was published by Seven Stories Press won SFWA’s Nebula Award for Best Novel.  (It would also be a finalist for the Clarke Award for Best Novel and would be nominated for the Otherwise Award too.) It was chosen over novels by Ken MacLeod, George R. R. Martin, Maureen F. McHugh, Sean Stewart and Vernor Vinge. It was the second in a series of two, a sequel to Parable of the Sower. She had planned to write a third Parable novel, tentatively titled Parable of the Trickster, but it never happened as instead she wrote her final novel, Fledgling

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 23, 1783 – Jane Taylor.  Wrote “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” (1806).  So near and simple can be immortality.  (Died 1824) [JH]
  • Born September 23, 1897 Walter Pidgeon. He’s mostly remembered for being in the classic Forbidden Planet as Dr. Morbius, but he’s done some other genre work being in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea  as Adm. Harriman Nelson, and in The Neptune Factor as Dr. Samuel Andrews. (Died 1984.) (CE) 
  • Born September 23, 1908 Wilmar H. Shiras. Also wrote under the name Jane Howes. Her most famous piece was “In Hiding” (1948), a novella that was included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame anthology. It is widely assumed that it is the inspiration for the Uncanny X-Men that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby would shortly release. (Died 1990.) (CE)
  • Born September 23, 1920 – Richard Wilson.  A Futurian not barred from NYCon I the first Worldcon by the “Exclusion Act”.  Fanzines, The AtomEscapeScience Fiction News Letter.  Served in the Army Signal Corps; eventually director of the Syracuse Univ. news bureau.  Two novels, a hundred shorter stories; a Nebula; reviews, essays, in AstonishingLocusSF ReviewSuper Science.  Memoir, Adventures in the Space Trade.  (Died 1987) [JH]
  • Born September 23, 1929 – Balbalis.  Forty interiors for Galaxyhere is one from Aug 53.  Illustrator for John Wiley & Sons.  Freehand sketch of the Shroud of Turin image adopted as the logograph of the Turin Shroud Center of Colorado.  American Institute of Graphic Arts award.  (Died 1991) [JH]
  • Born September 23, 1948 Leslie Kay Swigart, 72. Obsessions can be fascinating and hers was detailing the writings of Harlan Ellison. Between 1975 and 1991, she published Harlan Ellison: A Bibliographical Checklist plus wrote shorter works such as  “Harlan Ellison: An F&SF Checklist“, “Harlan Ellison: A Nonfiction Checklist“ and “Harlan Ellison: A Book and Fiction Checklist”. Her George R. R. Martin: A RRetrospective Fiction Checklist can be found in the Dreamsongs: GRRM: A RRetrospective collection. (CE) 
  • Born September 23, 1956 Peter David, 64. Did you know that his first assignment for the Philadelphia Bulletin was covering Discon II? I’m reasonably sure the first thing I read by him was Legions of Fire, Book 1: The Long Night of Centauri Prime but he’s also done a number of comics I’ve read including runs of Captain Marvel , Wolverine and Young Justice. (CE)
  • Born September 23, 1956 – Romas Kukalis, 64.  Two hundred thirty covers.  Some fine-art work.  Here is Wizenbeak.  Here is The Squares of the City.  Here is The White Dragon (Resnick’s, not McCaffrey’s).  [JH]
  • Born September 23, 1959 Elizabeth Peña. Ok, these notes can be depressing to do as I discovered she died of acute alcoholism. Damn it. She was in a number of genre production s including *batteries not includedGhost WhispererThe Outer LimitsThe Invaders and even voiced Mirage in the first Incredibles film. Intriguingly, she voiced a character I don’t recognize, Paran Dul, a Thanagarian warrior, four times in Justice League Unlimited. (Died 2014.) (CE) 
  • Born September 23, 1959 Frank Cottrell-Boyce,  61. Definitely not here for his sequels to Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang. (Horrors!) He is here for such writing endeavors as Goodbye Christopher Robin, his Who stories, “In the Forest of the Night” and “Smile”, both Twelfth Doctor affairs, and the animated Captain Star series in which he voiced Captain Jim Star. The series sounds like the absolute antithesis of classic Trek. (CE) 
  • Born September 23, 1960 – Stephanie Osborn, 60.  Retired rocket scientist.  Nat’l Weather Service certified storm spotter.  Two dozen novels for us; nonfiction, A New American Space Plan (with Travis Taylor).  Ranks Delany’s About Writing above Gone With the Wind.  [JH]
  • Born September 23, 1974 – Cindy Lynn Speer, 46.  Five novels (The Key to All Things released in July), a few shorter stories.  Practices 16th Century swordfighting. Ranks Persuasion about the same as Nineteen Eighty-four.  [JH]

(10) SIGN UP FOR HORROR PANEL. “StoryFest 2020: Final Cuts – New Tales of Hollywood Horror and Other Spectacles”

StoryFest concludes with a panel dedicated to the nightmares of the silver screen. Legendary genre editor Ellen Datlow leads the discussion on her anthology, Final Cuts: New Tales of Hollywood Horror and Other Spectacles. She is joined by an all-star lineup of authors included in the anthology.

This is a virtual event. Click here to register and view the event.

Ellen Datlow is joined by a knockout list of panelists: Laird Barron, Christopher Golden, Stephen Graham Jones, John Langan, Josh Malerman, and A.C. Wise. 

(11) WRONG OUT LOUD. Oh, my God! First they pitch canon out the window. Now James Davis Nicoll makes this confession — “On Reading Book Series in the Wrong Order”. Think of the children!

We live in a glorious age when books are a click away. It may now seem incomprehensible that one might be forced to read a series of books out of order. Yet, in a dark age not so long ago, when we (and by we, I mean me) were dependent on the vagaries of book store and library orders, it was very easy to find oneself in a place where the choice was (a) read an intermediate book or (b) read nothing new.

By way of example, here are five F&SF series I began in what most people would say is the wrong place….

(12) ATWOOD. BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week features Margaret Atwood and another poet/author: “Claudia Rankine and Margaret Atwood”.

Claudia Rankine, one of America’s leading literary figures, and the double-Booker Prize winner Margaret Atwood look at the world afresh, challenging conventions – with Kirsty Wark.

In her latest book, Just Us: An American Conversation, Claudia Rankine reflects on what it means to experience, and question, everyday racism. Her poems draw on a series of encounters with friends and strangers, as well as historical record. Her work moves beyond the silence, guilt and violence that often surround discussions about whiteness, and dares all of us to confront the world in which we live.

Margaret Atwood recently won the Booker Prize for a second time with The Testaments, her sequel to the 1985 prize-winner The Handmaid’s Tale. Her story of the fictional Gilead’s dark misogyny has retained its relevance after more than three decades. The world of Gilead was originally sparked by an earlier poem, Spelling, and Atwood explores the importance of poetry in firing the imagination.

(13) FALSE AND FALSE. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Because it is the topic of the year and relevant to us all (especially SF fans as pandemics are something of a genre trope) a little science with BBC’s statistical programme More or Less and false positives in virus testing (especially in the latter half of the show): “Covid curve queried, false positives, and the Queen’s head”.

A scary government graph this week showed what would happen if coronavirus cases doubled every seven days. But is that what’s happening? There’s much confusion about how many Covid test results are false positives – we explain all. Plus, do coffee and pregnancy mix? And the Queen, Mao, and Gandhi go head to head: who is on the most stamps and coins?

Now, I have been told that my (pre-retired) job (of communicating science to non-scientists (often politicians)) is easy.

Though a little dismissive, actually, I take this as something of a compliment as anyone vaguely professional – be they a plumber, engineer. athlete or writer – tends to make their craft seem effortless. So, having listened to the afore programme, let me expand your horizons even further in just a couple of sentences.

Having considered false positives, what of false negatives? And, having pondered that, how does one balance the two? Welcome to the world of Type I and Type II errors. (That’s the real world which makes Johnson and Trump’s pontifications seem more like bluster. Hope I’m not doing them an injustice)

(14) RING DOWN THE CURTAIN. Looper combed through the movies and books to find “The last words of every fallen Lord of the Rings hero and villain”. Gollum’s, of course, is “Oops!” (Just kidding.)

We wanted to see just how legendary each deceased character’s final moments ended up being, based on the litmus test of what they were talking about when they perished. With that in mind, we decided to round up the last words of every fallen Lord of the Rings hero and villain to do some comparing and contrasting.

(15) THEY’RE DEAD, JIM. “Scientists Determine Explosive New Mass Extinction Event 232 Million Years Ago”SYFY Wire finds another evolutionary memory hole.

Mass extinction events on our planet have only occurred a handful of times in the 540 million years since life began. Most people are familiar with the Cretaceous-tertiary Extinction that occurred some 65 million years ago that led to the demise of the dinosaurs and 50 percent of all plants and animals, as well as the Permian-triassic Extinction 250 million years ago that wiped out 95 percent of all species.

But now scientists have reconsidered the impact of The Carnian Pluvial Episode, a significant climate change event that took place approximately 234 to 232 million years ago (Late Triassic epoch) that led to the age of the dinosaurs…

…Violent volcanic eruptions in the Wrangellia Province of western Canada are the smoking gun and the most likely cause of the devastation and sudden climatic shift, when abundant volumes of hot volcanic basalt were poured out to form much of what is now the western coast of North America.

“The eruptions peaked in the Carnian,” Dr. Dal Corso said. “I was studying the geochemical signature of the eruptions a few years ago and identified some massive effects on the atmosphere worldwide. The eruptions were so huge, they pumped vast amounts of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, and there were spikes of global warming.”

These humid warming periods lasting a total of one million years were accompanied by an intense spike in global rainfall, as discovered back in the ’80s by geologists Mike Simms and Alastair Ruffell. This gradual climate alteration is reflected in the major biodiversity loss in the ocean and on land. 

However, following the extinction event, diverse new groups flourished to produce more modern-like ecosystems. These climate changes were beneficial to the sustained growth of plant life, especially the expansion of conifer forests.

“The new floras probably provided slim pickings for the surviving herbivorous reptiles,”explained Professor Benton. “We now know that dinosaurs originated some 20 million years before this event, but they remained quite rare and unimportant until the Carnian Pluvial Episode hit. It was the sudden arid conditions after the humid episode that gave dinosaurs their chance.”

(16) HEAVY ARMOR. “It’s Alive! 25-Ton Gundam Robot Moves for First Time in Yokohama”Yahoo! News is there.

A 25-ton robot, inspired by the popular 1970s anime series Mobile Suit Gundam, has made its first moves in Yokohama, Japan.

Footage tweeted on September 21 shows the giant Gundam robot moving its arms and legs before lunging into an impressive squat at Yamashita Pier.

The robot is set to become the main attraction at Gundam Factory Yokohama, and was supposed to be officially unveiled on October 1, but the event has since been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Cora Buhlert, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, SF Concatention’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]