Three New Digital Editions of TAFF Trip Reports Help Start 2023 Right

Three classic trip reports have been added to the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund’s library of free downloads. And if you enjoy them, a donation to TAFF is a fine way to express your appreciation. All are available in several electronic formats.


A Fake Fan in London by Bob Madle (1957 TAFF trip)

Robert A. “Bob” Madle (1920-2022) was the first North American TransAtlantic Fan Fund winner to travel to Europe at TAFF expense and the first to write a trip report on his experience. He attended the 1957 London Worldcon, the first to be held outside North America. A Fake Fan in London includes a detailed examination of the controversy (reflected in the title) resulting from the fact that many UK fans had preferred the rival candidate Dick Eney, a much newer fan whose activity was more visible across the transatlantic gulf between fandoms. All was amicably resolved. Madle died in October 2022 at the ripe age of 102, the last surviving member of the real First Fandom.

Ansible Editions ebook added to the TAFF library on 1 February 2023. Over 37,000 words. Cover drawing by Linda Miller from the first collected edition published in 1976.


The Moffatt House Abroad by Len and June Moffatt (1973 TAFF trip)

Len and June Moffatt were the 1973 US TAFF winners, travelling from California to that year’s UK Eastercon, OMPAcon ’73, held in Bristol. Their joint trip report The Moffatt House Abroad followed promptly in 1974.

Cover artwork by Bernie Zuber for APA-L, used as an interior in the 1974 edition. Ansible Editions ebook added to the TAFF site on 1 February 2023. Over 44,000 words.


The Squirrel’s Tale by Ron Ellik (1962 TAFF trip)

Ron Ellik (1938-1968), nicknamed “Squirrel”, was a popular Los Angeles fan highly active from the mid-1950s, co-editing the Hugo-winning newszine Fanac with Terry Carr. He won the 1961 TAFF race against Dick Eney and travelled from the USA to the 1962 UK Eastercon in Harrogate. The ensuing lively trip report The Squirrel’s Tale was serialized in the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society’s Shangri L’Affaires in 1962 and 1963, revised by Ellik in 1965, and published by LA friends a year after his tragic death in a January 1968 car accident.

Ansible Editions ebook added to the TAFF library on 1 February 2023. 27,000 words. Cover photo of Ron Ellik in squirrel costume from the Ethel Lindsay collection; photographer unknown.

[Thanks to David Langford for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 12/30/22 Please State The Nature Of Your Pixel Emergency

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to take a seat at the table in Little Italy with Al Milgrom in Episode 188 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Al Milgrom

Al Milgrom was the artist for my ’70s run on Captain Marvel, and therefore the co-creator of Dr. Minn-Erva, portrayed by Gemma Chan in the Captain Marvel movie. But Al’s so much more than Captain Marvel.

He edited The Incredible Hulk, drew The Avengers, and both wrote and drew Spectacular Spider-Man. During his early days in comics, he lived in the same Queens apartment building as Howard Chaykin, Walter Simonson, and Bernie Wrightson. His career at Marvel lasted far longer than mine, for he was the inker of X-Factor for eight years (1989–1997) and edited Marvel Fanfare for its full 10-year run (1982–1992). But his impact wasn’t limited to Marvel, as over at DC, he co-created Firestorm with previous guest of the podcast Gerry Conway. He also worked at nearly every existing comics company during his career, including Archie, Dark Horse, Image, Star Reach, Warren, and more.

We discussed our time working together on ’70s Captain Marvel, how he responded when Gerry Conway asked him to provide cover sketches for Jack Kirby, his memories of meeting Jim Starlin in middle school (and what Joe Orlando said about the duo when they brought their portfolios up to DC Comics), what he learned working as a backgrounder for the legendary Murphy Anderson, the day Marie Severin and Roy Thomas sent him on a wild motorcycle ride to track down Rick Buckler, how the artists on Marvel’s softball team always played better than the writers, why (and how) he works best under pressure, how he became a triple threat writer/artist/editor, the conflicting advice Joe Orlando gave him about his DC Comics covers, what not to talk about with Steve Ditko, how Jim Shooter got him to edit at Marvel, and much more.

(2) 1960 TAFF TRIP REPORT. TAFF Baedeker by Don Ford is the latest addition to the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund’s library of free downloads. And if you enjoy the book, a donation to TAFF is a fine way to express your appreciation.

Don Ford (1921-1965) was the founding US administrator of the TransAtlantic Fan Fund and also won the 1960 eastbound race held in 1959, with rival candidates Terry Carr – a later winner in 1965 – and Bjo Trimble. He attended the 1960 Eastercon in London, played tourist and visited UK fans in London, Cheltenham and Liverpool, and made a side trip to Paris. His trip report TAFF Baedeker was published promptly in two sections, 1960 and 1961. It includes sidelight contributions from several British fans who gave their own accounts of the TAFF winner’s adventures: Norman Ashfield, Ken Bulmer, Ted Carnell, Bill Gray, Roberta Gray (née Wild), Eric Jones, Ella Parker, John Roles and Norman Shorrock.

Ansible Editions ebook officially released at the TAFF site on 1 January 2023. Cover artwork by Arthur Thomson (Atom) from section two (1961) of the original report, reflecting the fact that Don Ford was not only an enthusiastic cameraman but conspicuously tall at six and a half feet. 34,000 words with introduction and notes.

(3) FUTURE TENSE. The December 2022 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series, published on December 24m is “A Lion Roars in Longyearbyen,” a story by Margrét Helgadóttir about a holiday parade, a hunter, a zoo full of lab-grown animals, and a missing lion.

Electricity was rationed at night in Longyearbyen, yet a few lights blinked stubbornly over the empty streets. Automated trash collectors alternated from side to side. One of them paused, as if sensing the tall man’s presence, then buzzed on, sucking up glittering confetti from the frozen ground….

It was published along with a response essay, “Extinction, de-extinction, and the dawn of the synthetic age” by environmental philosopher Christopher Preston.

…Environmental philosophers coined the term “biotic artifact” four decades ago. At the time, it referred to the sheep and cattle whose carefully manufactured temperaments, plump haunches, and passivity in the company of humans made them suitable objects for commodification. Upon earning the label “domestic,” they simultaneously became subjects of greater care and objects of diminished dignity compared with their wild counterparts.

Biotic artifacts were popular from the start. Wild animals suffered in the face of a hundred centuries of growth in domestic livestock. Today, 96 percent of mammalian biomass is humans and domesticated animals. This means 24 times the weight of all the lions, whales, and musk-ox combined are creatures who spend their lives in pens, fields, factories, and other manufactured spaces. The remaining 4 percent of wild, mammalian life accrues rarity value by default….

(4) SITZMARKS. Like in the game of musical chairs, some of the thrones are being removed: “George R. R. Martin Says Future ‘Game of Thrones’ Projects Have Been ‘Impacted’ by HBO Max Changes”Variety has the story.

Even future “Game of Thrones” spinoffs may not be safe from the ongoing changes at HBO Max, according to George R. R. Martin.

In a blog post on Wednesday, the author wrote that some of his planned shows in the “Game of Thrones” universe have been “shelved” at the streamer. After HBO parent company WarnerMedia merged with Discovery in April, HBO Max’s content slate has been growing thinner to cut costs, contributing to the cancellation of shows like “Love Life,” “Minx” and “FBoy Island.”

Though “Game of Thrones” prequel “House of the Dragon” had the biggest season finale HBO has seen since that of the original series and has been renewed for Season 2, Martin wrote that other projects in development aren’t as set in stone.

“Some of those are moving faster than others, as is always the case with development,” Martin wrote. “None have been greenlit yet, though we are hoping… maybe soon. A couple have been shelved, but I would not agree that they are dead. You can take something off the shelf as easily as you can put it on the shelf. All the changes at HBO Max have impacted us, certainly.”

While Martin did not specify which projects have been shelved, there are at least six projects that have been reported to be in development, including prequel series “Tales of Dunk and Egg,” the Princess Nymeria-centered “10,000 Ships” and a Jon Snow spinoff in which Kit Harington is attached to star….

(5) ZINE DIGITAL PRESERVATION. The Fanac.org Fan History project closed the year with this report on Facebook.

This is most likely our last update of the year. We have over 19,450 fanzines digitally archived and approx 23,000 publications total. Our APA Mailing view is growing as we go back and annotate our fanzine index pages, with 924 fanzines so far shown in their FAPA mailings (in context, sort of). Fancyclopedia is growing, the YouTube channel has topped 150K views, and the fannish community is continuing to provide scans and information to make the Fan History project better. Thank you all! Happy New Year.

(6) YEAR-END RECOMMENDATIONS. Fans of comics and graphic novels can make sure they caught ‘em all by consulting the New York Public Library Best New Comics of 2022 for Adults list and the American Library Association Best Graphic Novels for Adults Reading List – 2022 Nominations.

(7) READYING THE WELCOME MAT. BBC Radio 4’s nonfiction program about prospects for ”First Contact” is available for online listening or downloading.

For thousands of years we have gazed up at the stars and wondered: is anybody out there? The idea of meeting aliens has been the inspiration for countless books and films; for art and music. But today, thinking about meeting life on, or from, other planets is no longer dismissed as pure make-believe – it’s the focus of political consideration and cutting-edge space science. Farrah Jarral presents the story of the fantasy and the reality of preparing for first contact with extra-terrestrials.

(8) CHRISTOPHER TUCKER (1941-2022). Christopher Tucker, the makeup artist who created John Hurt’s prosthetics for The Elephant Man and Michael Crawford’s mask in The Phantom of the Opera, died December 14. The Guardian noted many other genre credits as well,

Tucker received official recognition from the UK film world when Bafta made its first presentation of a best makeup award in 1983. The honour went to him, along with Sarah Monzani and Michèle Burke, for their work on the 1981 Canadian-French film La Guerre du Feu (Quest for Fire), a prehistoric fantasy. It included making dentures to snap on over the actors’ own teeth. “Primitive man’s teeth were rather different to modern teeth,” Tucker observed.

…He received other Bafta nominations, for best makeup and best special visual effects, for the 1984 gothic horror film The Company of Wolves. His tasks included transforming the actor Stephen Rea into a wolf as he clutches his face and rips off his own skin – a deliberately laboured and bitingly realistic scene with muscles expanding and contracting – as well as creating wolves bursting out of the mouths of characters.

….[He] designed the face of the obese bon vivant Mr Creosote, one of the characters played by Terry Jones in the 1983 Monty Python film The Meaning of Life. He also made masks for David Niven in Old Dracula (1974), Gregory Peck and Laurence Olivier in The Boys from Brazil (1978), Angela Lansbury in The Company of Wolves, and Daryl Hannah in High Spirits (1988).

Tucker was on the team that brought to life the Mos Eisley cantina bar scene, featuring various alien races, early in the first Star Wars film (1977, later retitled Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope). The humanoid Ponda Baba and a giant praying mantis were his creations….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 30, 1865 Rudyard Kipling. Yea, Kipling. I didn’t do him last year and he’s written enough of a genre nature such as the Just So Stories for Little Children stories like “How the Camel Got Hump“ and “The Cat that Walked By Himself“ being wonderful stories with a soupçon of the fantastic in them that I should’ve of done so. Or there’s always The Jungle Book, which run to far more stories than I thought. Yes, he was an unapologetic Empire-loving writer who expressed that more than once but he was a great writer. (Died 1936.)
  • Born December 30, 1922 Jane Langton. Author of the Hall Family Chronicles series which is definitely SFF in nature having both fantasy and SF elements in these charming tales for children. The eight books herein are mostly not from the usual suspects though Kindle has the final novel but the Homer Kelly mysteries which both Fantastic Fiction and ISFDB list as genre or genre-adjacent are partially available. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 30, 1945 Concetta Tomei, 77. Was Dominique, co-proprietor of Big Time TV along with Blank Reg, on the Max Headroom series which I loved. She had guest appearances on Star Trek: Voyager as Minister Odala in the “Distant Origin” episode as well was in the Deep Impact film.
  • Born December 30, 1950 Lewis Shiner, 72. Damn, his Deserted Cities of the Heart novel was frelling brilliant! And if you’ve not read his Wild Cards fiction, do so now. He also co-wrote with Bob Wayne the eight-issue Time Masters series starring Rip Hunter which I see is on the DC Universe app. Yea! Anyone that’s read the Private Eye Action As You Like It collection of PI stories I see listed on Kindle with Joe Lansdale?  It looks interesting. 
  • Born December 30, 1951 Avedon Carol, 71. She was the 1983 winner of the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund to Albacon II in Glasgow, and she was GOH at Wiscon II along with Connie Willis and Samuel R. Delany. She has been nominated for three Hugos as Best Fan Writer. She’s been involved in thirty apas and fanzines according to Fancyclopedia 3.
  • Born December 30, 1952 Somtow Sucharitkul, 70. AKA S. P. Somtow. A Thai-American musical composer. He’s also a science fiction, fantasy, and horror author writing in English. He’s been nominated for two Hugos, first at Chicon IV for his short story, “Absent Thee from Felicity Awhile…” and second at ConStellation for his “Aquila” novellette.  He did win a World FantasyAward for “The Bird Catcher“ novella.
  • Born December 30, 1959 Douglas Anderson, 63. The Annotated Hobbit, for which he won the Mythopoeic Award, is one of my favorite popcorn readings. I’m also fond of his Tales Before Narnia: The Roots of Modern Fantasy and Science Fiction which has a lot of great short fiction it, and I recommend his blog Tolkien and Fantasy as it’s one of the better ones on fantasy literature out there. Today he’s talking about Clark Ashton Smith.
  • Born December 30, 1971 Eugie Foster. She was nominated for a Hugo at Aussiecon 4 for one of the most wonderfully titled novelettes I’ve ever heard of, “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast”. It won a Nebula and was nominated for a BSFA as well. I’ve not read it, who here has read it? She was managing editor for Tangent Online and The Fix.  She was also a director for Dragon Con and edited their onsite newsletter, the Daily Dragon. (Died 2014.)
  • Born December 30, 1976 Rhianna Pratchett, 46. Daughter of Terry who now runs the intellectual property concerns of her father. She herself is a video game writer including the recent Tomb Raider reboot. For her father, she’s overseen and been involved several years back in The Shepherd’s Crown, the last Discworld novel, to print. She was also with Simon Allen the writer of The Watch, the Beeb’s Ankh-Morpork City Watch series. She’s a co-director of Narrativia Limited, a production company which holds exclusive multimedia and merchandising rights to her father’s works following his death. They, of course, helped develop the Good Omens series on Amazon.

(10) A WRITER LOOKS AT HIS PROSE IN THE MIRROR. “Outside the Human Aquarium: Clark Ashton Smith on Art and Life” at Douglas Anderson’s Tolkien and Fantasy blog includes this self-analysis from a 1932 letter by Clark Ashton Smith:

…To the best of my belief, the style in which I write is a perfectly natural mode of utterance for me, and is not affected. My approach to literature is primarily artistic, poetic, esthetic, and for this reason I like the full-hued and somewhat rhythmic type of prose. For many years, I wrote only verse (I have published three volumes of it); and I have always had a prejudice in favor of what is called “the grand manner.” I have also made many paintings and drawings, of a fantastic type; and this pictorial trend has probably influenced my story-writing too. Perhaps, in some case, it has led me to an overuse of adjectives in the effort to achieve a full and vivid vizualization, or rendering of atmosphere….

(11) OSCAR ANTICIPATION. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The Hollywood Reporter writer Scott Feinberg handicaps upcoming Oscar nominations in each category by grouping films/auteurs/actors/works into three categories: Frontrunners, Major Threats, and Possibilities. “Feinberg Forecast: Last Snapshot of the Oscar Race Before the New Year”.

One of the few categories where genre performances are running strong is —

*BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS*

Frontrunners
Angela Bassett (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever)
Dolly de Leon (Triangle of Sadness)
Jamie Lee Curtis (Everything Everywhere All at Once)
Stephanie Hsu (Everything Everywhere All at Once)
Janelle Monáe (Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery)

(12) LO, NO NOTE TO FOLLOW SO. From Variety we learned that “‘Solo 2’ Is Entirely Fan-Driven, Because a Sequel Is Not a ‘Lucasfilm Priority,’ Says Ron Howard”.

Ron Howard’s “Star Wars” prequel movie “Solo” was supposed to launch a new sector of storytelling for the long-running franchise. Young iterations of Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) and Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) were introduced and intended for sequels and spinoffs, while the 2018 film also revealed that Darth Maul was still alive. None of these plot threads have continued as “Solo” bombed at the box office with just $392 million worldwide, barely making a profit for Disney.

Speaking to NME in a recent interview, Howard said that any talks of a “Solo” sequel are coming only from fans and not Lucasfilm itself. In other words, “Solo 2” is still dead.

…Howard added, “But there’s some great characters launched, and the folks from Lucasfilm love the fans and really do listen so I would never say never — but I’m not aware of any concrete plans right now to extend the story or deal with that particular set of characters.”…

(13) NYCON 3 SITE MEETS FATE. [Item by Andrew Porter.] Building being torn down is the Hotel Pennsylvania, formerly the Statler-Hilton, site of 1967 World SF Convention, many Star Trek, SF, comics conventions, even a Nebula banquet. “Demolition Progresses for 1,200-Foot PENN15 at 15 Penn Plaza in Midtown, Manhattan” at New York YIMBY.

…Since our last update in June, the entirety of Hotel Pennsylvania has been enshrouded in scaffolding and the first floors have begun to be razed from the top of the structure. This upper section had a lighter stone façade with columns, window pediments, and a thick ornate cornice stretching across the roof parapet. The LED advertising boards on the corners of the Seventh Avenue elevation remain uncovered and operating as work progresses above. Demolition is expected to finish by July 2023, as noted on the construction board….

(14) TAKING DR WHO FOR GRANITE. NPR explains, “Zircon is the best timekeeper for understanding Earth’s past”.

The oldest known Earth stuff that remains on the surface of our planet is a mineral that’s been called the “Time Lord” because it’s so incredibly good at keeping geologic time.

The mineral is zircon, and scientists have found bits of it that formed 4.37 billion years ago, not too long after the proto-Earth’s epic collision with a Mars-sized object that spawned our moon.

Tiny crystals of zircon can look like sand, or useless crud. But don’t be fooled. With a radioactive tick-tock that marks the passing of billions of years, these small but mighty minerals offer us a peek into the Earth’s early development.

…In the Jack Hills region of western Australia, for example, there’s rock that formed from a beach 3 billion years ago. The oldest zircons ever discovered came from this rock.

Ackerson once found a zircon that’s 4.32 billion years old. Zircons that old “are extremely, extremely, extremely rare, and they’re the only windows we have into the earliest Earth,” he says.

These days, to know a zircon’s exact age, scientists can zap it with a laser like the one at a geochronology lab at Penn State University….

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Turner Movie Channel’s in memoriam reel “TCM Remembers 2022” includes many genre figures including Nichelle Nichols, Douglas Trumbull and Robbie Coltrane.

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

2023 TAFF Nominees Announced

The Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund administrators Fia Karlsson and “Orange Mike” Lowrey have announced the candidates for the 2023 TAFF trip from Europe to North America, with itineraries expected to include Pemmi-Con, the 2023 NASFIC in Winnipeg.

The candidates are:

Sandra Bond
Nominators: John D. Berry (North America), Claire Brialey (Europe), Caroline Mullan (Europe), Alison Scott (Europe), Ted White (North America).

Mikołaj Kowalewski
Nominators: Marcin Kłak (Europe), Esther MacCallum-Stewart (Europe), Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf (Europe), Kat O’Steen Jones (North America), Ian Stockdale (North America).

Bonds have been posted and platforms have been received. The date voting will begin is TBA.

Pixel Scroll 11/30/22 Mr. Balrog, I Move We Adjourn Combat Sine Die

(1) FUND FOR PETER DAVID. A GoFundMe has been started on behalf of writer Peter David, who has many health problems and faces mounting bills. “Peter David Fund”.

I’m fundraising for author Peter David and his family. He’s had some compounded health problems, and the bills are piling up! On top of kidney failure, and the steep medical bills incurred from that, he just had another series of strokes AND a mild heart attack.  

As we wish him a swift recovery, and send our love and support to his wife Kathleen and his family, let’s also pitch in and help with their medical bills and living expenses. 

Please give what you can to relieve some of the immense stress that this family is going through right now.  

On behalf of Peter, Kathleen, and the whole family, thank you!

The appeal had brought in $51,725 from 1100+ donors at the time this was written.

(2) ARISIA NAMES NEW CHAIR. Melissa Kaplan is the new acting con chair of Arisia 2023. She has written a statement about her conrunning background and why she volunteers to do this.

The past few months have been among the most tumultuous in Arisia’s long history. After the loss of our conchair Jodie Lawhorne, two people stepped up to complete his work. In late October we learned about a serious incident involving one of our volunteers that was reported but never written down many years ago. The individual was put through our current more robust incident response protocol and was subsequently banned from all future participation in Arisia. We also learned that the acting con chairs had had knowledge of this and despite that, had consulted with this individual about volunteering for Arisia 2023. Between that information, and increasing levels of unrelated personal stress on those acting con chairs, it was determined that it was best for all parties for them to step down. Where that left us was 7 weeks out from a convention with no one in charge. I reached out to the e-board and offered to fill in the gap.

So hi, my name is Melissa Kaplan and I’ll be your acting con chair for the next 6.5 weeks….

(3) WILLIS X 2. Dave Langford and Rob Hansen have assembled TAWF Times Two: The 1962 Trip Reports by Walt and Madeleine Willis into a book and made it available in multiple formats at the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund’s website, where they hope you’ll make a little donation to the fund if you please.

The Tenth Anniversary Willis Fund (TAWF) was organized to bring Walt Willis – this time with his wife Madeleine – to the 1962 Chicago Worldcon, ten years after the fan initiative that brought Walt alone to the 1952 Worldcon also held in Chicago. Both wrote trip reports: Walt’s was serialized in various fanzines and eventually collected as Twice Upon a Time in the monumental Warhoon #28 (1980) edited by Richard Bergeron. Madeleine’s instalments of The DisTAWF Side appeared in The SpeleoBem edited by Bruce Pelz, and have never until now been collected.

For this ebook, Rob Hansen has digitized Madeleine’s chapters, expanded them with comments and corrections from others (plus an unpublished letter from Walt and another from Madeleine) and written a new Foreword covering both reports. David Langford had the easier task of extracting Twice Upon a Time from Warhoon #28, unscrambling dates, correcting typos and restoring a fragment of lost text. Scans of all the original fanzine appearances at Fanac.org were a great help to both of us.

Released as an Ansible Editions ebook for the TAFF site on 1 December 2022. Cover photo of the Willises in 1957 from the collection of Norman Shorrock, probably taken by Peter West. Over 87,000 words.

(4) ANOTHER OPENING OF ANOTHER SHOW. “The Museum of Broadway Is Open. Here Are 10 Highlights.” The New York Times gives reasons to visit when you’re in town.

When a Broadway show closes, the next stop for the hundreds of costumes, setpieces and props is often … the dumpster.

“The producers often stop paying rent in a storage unit somewhere, which is heartbreaking,” said Julie Boardman, one of the founders of the Museum of Broadway, which opened in Times Square this month.

Boardman, 40, a Broadway producer whose shows include “Funny Girl” and “Company,” and Diane Nicoletti, the founder of a marketing agency, are looking to reroute those items to their museum, a dream five years in the making.

“We see it as an experiential, interactive museum that tells the story of Broadway through costumes, props and artifacts,” Nicoletti, 40, said of the four-floor, 26,000-square-foot space on West 45th Street, next to the Lyceum Theater….

‘Phantom of the Opera’ Chandelier Installation

Each of the 13,917 glistening crystals in this piece, which were fashioned by the German artist Ulli Böhmelmann into hanging strands, is meant to represent one performance the Broadway production of “The Phantom of the Opera” will have played from its opening on Jan. 26, 1988, through its closing night performance. Though the final show was originally set for Feb. 18, 2023, the production announced Tuesday that it had been pushed to April 16 amid strong ticket sales (Böhmelmann plans to add the necessary crystals).

‘Avenue Q’ Puppets

In the early days of the 2003 Broadway production of the puppet-filled musical comedy “Avenue Q,” the show’s low budget meant the puppeteers had to put their charges through quick changes. The show initially had only three Princeton puppets — but he had eight costumes — meaning the puppets took a beating from changing clothes multiple times eight shows a week. “Eventually, they had a puppet for every costume,” McDonald said.

Gershwin Theater Set Model

This scale model, which is just over five feet wide, was designed by Edward Pierce, the associate scenic designer of the original Broadway production of “Wicked,” and took four people seven weeks to build. It includes more than 300 individual characters — and another 300 seated audience members in the auditorium. (See if you can find the Easter egg: a small model of the set model, with the designers — who look like the actual designers — showing the director a future design for “Wicked.”)

Wicked set model

(5) THE BEGINNING. In “Back to Back and Belly to Belly and Other Epiphanies on Speculative Poetry”, Akua Lezli Hope shows where it all comes from.

The world’s first literature is speculative poetry.

We told each other stories and encoded them in the form of verse. The earliest written literature is poetry – The Story of Gilgamesh, The Iliad and Odyssey, The Ramayana and Mahabharata, Beowulf and other npoem myths, verse histories and tellings in cultures across and around the world.

I had an epiphany about speculative poetry.

It was there from the start, in my womb and my heart….

(6) PROBABLY AN ANNIVERSARY. “Hitchhiker’s at 42” and 3 Quarks Daily is celebrating. Because something to do with Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy happened forty-two years ago. Didn’t it?

… To document the broader cultural impact of Hitchhiker’s, we’ve asked a number of public figures in science, the arts, the humanities, and government to reflect on how the book changed their own understanding of life, the universe, and everything.

The Hitchhiker series taught me to laugh at the absurd, to mock self-proclaimed genius, to put off searching for the meaning of life in favor of play, and to oppose time travel on the ground that proper tense usage would become too difficult. It also prepared me to understand that some Albany politicians are like Vogons, insofar as neither are above corruption in the same way that the ocean is not above the sky. And it made 42 my favorite number.” –Preet Bharara, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and host of Stay Tuned and Doing Justice…

(7) FREE READ. Congratulations to Cora Buhlert, who has a new short story “Legacy of Steel” in the November 2022 issue of Swords and Sorcery Magazine. The other stories in the issue are “Sun in Shadow” by Sandra Unerman and “You Stand Before the Black Tower” by Nathaniel Webb.

(8)  MORE FROM THE MASTERS. Cora Buhlert also has posted a new Masters of the Universe photo story on her blog: “Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre: ‘Family’”.

…I have had some new arrivals recently, including at long last King Randor, which opens up a lot of possibilities for stories involving the royal family of Eternia.

One thing that is remarkably consistent over all versions of Masters of the Universe from the early mini-comics via the Filmation cartoon of the 1980s, the 2002 cartoon, the various comics, Masters of the Universe: Revelation all the way to the Netflix CGI show is that Prince Adam has a strained relationship with his father King Randor. Cause Randor always finds something to criticise about his son and heir. Adam is too lazy, too irresponsible, not princely enough, not interested enough in affairs of state, not heroic enough, too foolhardy and he also missed dinner or an official reception, because he was off saving Eternia….

(9) NO MERE METAPHOR. Douglas Kearney holds forth “On the Similarities Between Writing and Turning Oneself Into a Werewolf” at Literary Hub.

…While stretching my hands into claws, I hunt my memory. Have I ever felt talons grow from my fingertips? Do I know the twinge of lupine hair breaking my burning, blossoming skin? How does the paradigm of meaning-making shift when I find I can smell more keenly than I can see? In all these years, have I come closer to knowing?

You might suggest I use writing to account for these questions. Documenting my thoughts about them in a field journal—“May 26: I think I smelled a pig at one mile today.” Nope. I’ve no werewolf archive. There are a few poems, sure; yet they skin the lycanthrope to cover and do some other thing. Those poems, they are not telling you what I am telling you: that I have meant to be a werewolf, and that this has been, I’m afraid, a quiet, lifelong ambition, a discipline I’ve maintained longer and to less purpose, it would seem, than nearly all else….

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1998 [By Cat Eldridge.] Hobbit holes (New Zealand)

Stop me before this gets novella length!

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort. — The Hobbit

Only one of the movie sets in New Zealand survives and charmingly enough it’s the village where the hobbits resided. It was used for both trilogies and quite unsurprisingly is now a place with guided tours being offered every day. 

Jackson spotted it during a search by air for suitable locations using one of his airplanes, or so the story is now told, and thought it looked like a slice of England. Furthermore Alan Lee commented to him that the location’s terrain “looked as though Hobbits had already begun excavations” there. 

It became Hobbiton and the Shire with the facades of quite a few hobbit holes and associated gardens, a double arch bridge, hedges, and a mill. They erected an immense oak above Bag End that had been growing nearby and which was cut down and recreated in fibreglass on site complete with artificial leaves.

When I mean facades, I really mean just that. It’s not possible to go inside the as there is nothing inside them, just retaining walls and beyond that dirt. I’m guessing that the site is going to need expensive ongoing maintenance if it is going to survive long term. 

Bag End is the exception as they designed it so a little bit of interior has been designed to seen and the door will open so you can peek in. 

About those hobbit holes. No, the interior scenes for Bag End weren’t not shot here. (Of course they’d make lousy film sets, wouldn’t they? You can’t get cameras in there.) The interior of Bag End was shot in a studio in Wellington.  Ok, there are actually two Bag Ends as Ian McKelllen explains on his charming look at these:

Hobbits must appear smaller than the other characters in the film. When I, as Gandalf, meet Bilbo or Frodo at home, I bump my head on the rafters. (Tolkien didn’t think to mention it!) So there is a small Bag End set with small props to match. 

As Ian Holm and Elijah Wood would be too big within it, they have “scale doubles” who are of a matching size with the scenery and its miniature furniture. In the small set Bilbo and Frodo are played by Kiran Shah (Legend) who is in hobbit proportion to my Gandalf.

And of course there has to be a big Bag End, where the scale is human-sized and all the objects of the small set are duplicated but bigger. There the “hero actors” can play the hobbits but the camera expects a gigantic Gandalf and gets him in Paul Webster (a 7’4″ Wellingtonian) who substitutes for me.

So we’ve got a village full of hobbit hole facades that all look very charming as you can see here and you’ve got the rather amazing effect of creating the illusion of a hobbit hole interior that we can all think is real. I certainly did when I watched the first Hobbit film. I may not have cared for the film itself, but oh my the scenery and the depiction of Bag End was stellar! 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 30, 1835 Mark Twain. It’s been decades since I read it but I still know I loved A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. His other genre work is The Mysterious Stranger in which Satan might be visiting us went unpublished in his lifetime and it’s only relatively recently published with the University of California Press editions of all his completed and uncompleted versions in one volume that a reader can see what he intended. (Died 1910.)
  • Born November 30, 1893 E. Everett Evans. Writer, Editor, Conrunner, and Member of First Fandom who started out with fan writing, but eventually became a published genre author as well. He helped to found the National Fantasy Fan Federation (N3F) and served as its president and editor of its publication. Food for Demons was a chapbook compilation of his fantasy tales, though he was generally not considered to be a good fiction writer. Fandom’s Big Heart Award, which was founded by Forrest J Ackerman in 1959, was named for him for its first 40 years. In 2018, Bob Tucker’s fanzine Le Zombie, of which he had co-edited two issues, won a Retro Hugo Award. (Died 1958.) (JJ)
  • Born November 30, 1906 John Dickson Carr. Author of the Gideon Fell detective stories, some of which were decidedly genre adjacent and The Lost Gallows is apparently genre. The Burning Court with Fell is on this list as are his vampire mythos backstoried novels, Three Coffins and He Who Whispers. And I really should note his Sir Henry Merrivale character has at one genre outing in Reader is Warned. The usual suspects have a more than decent stock of his offerings. (Died 1977.)
  • Born November 30, 1950 Chris Claremont, 72. Writer in the comic realm. Best known for his astounding twenty year run on the Uncanny X-Men starting in 1976. During his tenure at Marvel, he co-created at least forty characters. Looking at his bibliography, I see that he did Sovereign Seven as a creator own series with DC publishing it.  And then there’s the matter of Lucas providing the notes for The Chronicles of the Shadow War trilogy to follow the Willow film and then contracting our writer to make them exist.  Anyone ever encountered these?
  • Born November 30, 1952 Debra Doyle. Writer, Filker, and Fan. Her novel Knight’s Wyrd, co-written with her husband and collaborator James D. Macdonald, won a Mythopoeic Award for Children’s Literature. Most of their co-written works are fantasy, but their Mageworlds series also crosses into space opera territory. As filker Malkin Grey, she and Pergyn Wyndryder won a Pegasus Award for Best Historical Song. She was an instructor at the Viable Paradise Writer’s Workshop, and has been Guest of Honor at several conventions. (Died 2020.) (JJ)
  • Born November 30, 1955 Kevin Conroy. Frell, another great one lost too soon. Without doubt, best known for voicing Batman on Batman: The Animated Series and many other DCU series.  On Justice League Action, the other characters often noting his stoic personality.  I’ve not seen it, but on Batwoman, he plays Bruce Wayne in the “Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part Two” episode.  (Died 2022.)
  • Born November 30, 1952 Jill Eastlake, 70. IT Manager, Costumer, Conrunner, and Fan who is known for her elaborate and fantastical costume designs; her costume group won “Best in Show” at the 2004 Worldcon.  A member of fandom for more than 50 years, she belonged to her high school’s SF club, then became an early member of NESFA, the Boston-area fan club, and served as its president for 4 years. She has served on the committees for numerous Worldcons and regional conventions, co-chaired a Costume-Con, and chaired two Boskones. She was the Hugo Award ceremony coordinator for the 1992 Worldcon, and has run the Masquerade for numerous conventions. Her extensive contributions were honored when she was named a Fellow of NESFA in 1976, and in 2011 the International Costumer’s Guild presented her with their Lifetime Achievement Award. She and her fan husband Don (who is irrationally fond of running WSFS Business Meetings) were Fan Guests of Honor at Rivercon.
  • Born November 30, 1957 Martin Morse Wooster. He discovered fandom in 1974 when he heard about “a big sci-fi con” in downtown Washington where admission was $10 at the door.  He had ten bucks, and so attended Discon II at 16.  A year later, he discovered fanzines through Don Miller, and discovered he liked writing book reviews.  He started contributing to File 770 in 1978 and continued for the rest of his life. He was one of twelve founders of the Potomac River Science Fiction Society, which split from the Washington Science Fiction Association in 1975, and regularly attends PRSFS meetings to discuss books. Lost his life to a hit-and-run driver on November 12. (Died 2022.) (JJ)

(12) THERE’S SOMETHING YOU DON’T SEE EVERY DAY, EDGAR. “Passenger Jet Flies Over Launchpad Right as SpaceX Rocket Takes Off” reports Futurism.

Passengers on board a United Airlines commercial jet flying over Florida’s Cape Canaveral were able to spot an amazingly rare sight in the distance: a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifting off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, far below….

(13) HITCHCOCKIAN HORROR. “’Lost in Space’ star Bill Mumy shares ‘scary’ moment with Hitchcock, claims ‘he’s the monster of the story’” at Yahoo!  I don’t want to spoil the anecdote with an excerpt, however, you film history buffs will be interested.

Bill Mumy has worked with some of the most celebrated filmmakers in Hollywood history – but not all of his experiences were out of this world.

The former child star, who made his mark in the ‘60s series “Lost in Space,” has recently written a memoir titled “Danger, Will Robinson: The Full Mumy.” In it, he details his rise to stardom and the numerous encounters he had with TV and film icons along the way – including Alfred Hitchcock.

Mumy worked with the filmmaker in the TV series “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” for the episode “Bang! You’re Dead!”. It was filmed in the summer of 1961 when Mumy was 7 years old….

(14) LEADER OF THE PACK. “Toxoplasma-Infected Wolves More Likely to Lead Packs, Study Finds”The Scientist has details.

Wolves infected with the parasite Toxoplasma gondii are far more likely to become pack leaders than uninfected wolves and are also more likely to disperse from the pack they’re born into, a study published November 24 in Communications Biology reports. The finding points to a possible connection between the infamous parasite and wolf population health.

Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) is a “mind control” parasite that can infect any warm-blooded animal, the paper states. The protozoan can only reproduce sexually in the guts of cats, and often spreads through contact with infected feline feces. Infection with T. gondii causes hosts to accrue permanent brain cysts and also induces toxoplasmosis, a disease that can embolden some host species, causing infected animals to seek out more situations in which they can transmit the parasite. Mice infected with T. gondii lose their fear of cat urine, for example, making them more likely to be killed and eaten by a cat, enabling the parasite to reproduce once again…

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Snopes has a surprising answer to the question “Was a Harrison Ford Cameo Cut from ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’?” Well, you’re not surprised now – it wouldn’t be worth linking to if the answer was “No”, would it?

…The film, which was released in 1982, was written by Melissa Matheson, whom Ford was dating at the time. During a 2012 reunion for the film, actor Henry Thomas, who played the main character, Elliott, told Entertainment Weekly that he was just excited at the prospect of meeting Ford.

“When I met Steven, the first thing out of my mouth was I think, ‘I love Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ and my hero was Harrison Ford,” Thomas said. “I basically was just excited to meet Steven in hopes that I would meet Harrison.”

Ford eventually agreed to shoot a cameo scene with Thomas, playing an uptight school principal who would scold Elliott after the famous frog escape scene, in which Elliott would also kiss a girl in his class. Spielberg also spoke about the cameo in an interview with EW: “He did the scene where E.T. is home levitating all of the stuff for his communicator up the stairs. Elliott is in the principal’s office after the frog incident. We don’t ever see Harrison’s face. We just hear his voice, see his body.”…

(16) VIDEO OF A PREVIOUS DAY. A short clip from Futurama illustrates why, “In the end, it was not guns or bombs that defeated the aliens, but that humblest of all God’s creatures, the Tyrannosaurus Rex.”

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Standback, Rich Lynch, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rick Moen.]

Pixel Scroll 10/15/22 Scrolls Are The Lycantropic Form Of Pixels

(1) AND YOU ARE THERE. Eleven years ago today at Capclave this happened – “Terry Pratchett Capclave Interview”.

(2) GET OUT OF YOUR OWN HEAD. Lincoln Michel advises writers how to balance “Understanding the Reader Without Pandering to the Reader” at Counter Craft. A brief excerpt:

…Here are some specific areas that often stand out to me along these lines:

Repetition:

Unless your book becomes part of some rabid geek fanbase or a English lit staple, few if any readers are going to read your stories with the Talmudic scrutiny you write and revise them. Readers are distracted. We read a story on a loud, crowded subway. We put a novel down midchapter and don’t get back to it for weeks. We read a chapter sleepily late at night. We miss things. What writers fear is beating their reader over the head is often doing the bare minimum to tap them on the shoulder.

This is a lesson even famous and award-winning authors can forget. I remember hearing a favorite writer give a craft talk and mention how in their first draft of a novel they had a line from chapter 1 repeated near the end of the book. “Aha, everyone will snap their fingers at the connection and realize the true identify of this character!” they thought. But then their editor, they said, quite rightly pointing out no one was going to remember that line 250 pages later. The novel needed to repeat that line four, five, or more times spaced out across the text for the reader to notice.

(3) THE HEAT DEATH OF THE INTERNET. Yeah, like that’s going to happen. But is the culture changing? “Has the Internet Reached Peak Clickability?” asks Ted Gioia.

… But it’s quite plausible that the Internet is losing its coolness and its clickbait appeal. It definitely feels stale and formulaic, more so with each passing month, and I’m not the only person who thinks so. If you dig into the numbers, you find that engagement on the largest platforms is falling—and not in a small way (as Sinatra might say).

The numbers don’t lie, and Kriss serves them up here—summarizing the bad news for clicks and swipes…

… But the metrics now tell a different story.

I shouldn’t be surprised by all this. My own experience at Substack has made me acutely aware of the longform renaissance. When I launched on this platform, I definitely planned to write those long articles that newspaper editors hate—Substack would be my moment of luxurious freedom! Even so, I assumed that my shorter articles would be more popular. I guess I’d drunk the Kool-Aid too, accepting the prevailing narrative that readers want it short and sweet, so they can read it complete in the time it takes the Piano Man to play a request.

Yet my Substack internal metrics reveal the exact opposite of what I expected. The readers here prefer in-depth articles. Who would’ve guessed? For someone like me, it’s almost too good to be true. It’s like some positive karma in the universe is reinforcing my own better instincts.

But the real reason is that the market for clickbait is saturated, and longform feels fresher, more vital, more rewarding….

(4) LOWREY COMMENCES TAFF REPORT. “Orange Mike” Lowrey reports the 2020 TAFF race status is now “Trip report in progress”. 

The first installment of A Visible Fan Abroad: A TAFF Journal of the Plague Years, “Chapter the First: The Trip That Never Was” appears on pages 22-23 of Nic Farey and Ulrika O’Brien’s Beam 17.

When they make it available online, readers will find it at eFanzines.com.

(5) SFF IN NYT. Amal El-Mohtar reviews Babel, The Anchored World, and Self-Portrait with Nothing in “The Magic of Translation” at the New York Times.

The word “translation” connotes movement: carrying meaning from one language to another, or shifting bodies from one place — or one context — to another, all while recognizing that moving entails loss and change. These books dwell in that potent space between setting out and arriving….

(6) MUSK TO THE FUTURE. NPR’s “It’s Been A Minute” contends “Elon Musk’s bid to buy Twitter and defend free speech is part of his mythmaking”.

The saga around Elon Musk’s deal to buy Twitter has been just that: a months-long soap opera involving lawsuits and subpoenas, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, even a town hall. But why does Musk — one of the world’s richest and arguably most influential men — want a social media platform?

It’s Been a Minute host Brittany Luse puts the question to Jill Lepore, political historian and host of The Evening Rocket, a podcast about Musk. Lepore says that the idea of being a savior of free speech would appeal to Musk, who has built around himself a mythology inspired by what she sees as a misinterpretation of mid-twentieth century science fiction.

Lepore discusses how Musk crafted a powerful narrative that millions around the world have bought into; how he draws from science fiction and film; and why we need to be more critical of billionaire visionaries….

(7) ONLINE CLUB MEETING. The Science Fiction/Real Policy Book Club will take up “Lock In by John Scalzi” on November 29, 2022 at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Register at the link.

Science fiction can have real policy impacts, and comes rife with real-life commentary. For the next gathering of our Science Fiction/Real Policy Book Club, we have selected Lock In by John Scalzi.

The detective novel imagines a world in which a pandemic left 5 million people in the U.S. alone with lock in syndrome: fully conscious but unable to move. Twenty-five years later, enormous scientific and technological investment has created a way for those living with “Haden’s syndrome” to take part in daily life. While they remain in their beds, robotic avatars let them take classes, interact with their families, and work—including as FBI agents. Chris is a rookie FBI agent assigned to work a case that seems to involve the world of Haden’s syndrome, and he and his partner must figure out exactly what’s going on. Lock In is a fascinating tale that raises questions about the “real” world, accessibility and disability, public-health funding, and much more.

Join Future Tense and Issues in Science and Technology at 6pm Eastern on Tuesday, Nov. 29, to discuss the novel and its real-world implications. The book club will feature breakout rooms (they’re fun and stress-free, we promise) where we can all compare notes and share reactions, even if we didn’t finish the book (though we picked a short one this time!).

(8) FRANK DRAKE (1930-2022). Radio astronomer and astrophysicist Frank Drake died September 2. He was a pioneer of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, carrying out the first search for signals from extraterrestrial civilisations, Project Ozma, in 1960. He is the inventor of the “Drake equation” used to estimate the number of extraterrestrial civilizations in our galaxy. The Guardian obituary notes:

…As a radio astronomer at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia, he made the first observations of Jupiter’s radiation belts, analogous to the Van Allen belts around the Earth, and was one of the first astronomers to measure the intense surface temperature on Venus, a consequence of the greenhouse effect of its thick atmosphere. But it is for Project Ozma, named after Princess Ozma in L Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz books and carried out with Green Bank’s 85ft radio telescope, that he will be remembered.

For three months Drake observed the sun-like stars Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani for radio signals that might be from planets with extraterrestrial civilisations. None were found, but as Drake recalled in a 2012 interview: “It was a start – and it did stimulate a lot of other people to start searching.”….

(9) MICHAEL CALLAN (1935-2022). Actor Michael Callan died October 10. Best known for his roles in Cat Ballou and West Side Story, his genre resume included the film The Mysterious Island, and television’s The Bionic Woman, Fantasy IslandKnight Rider, and Superboy.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1928 [By Cat Eldridge.] The Passing of Mr. Quin (1928)

We have a special treat for you this Scroll, a silent film first shown in the UK ninety-four years ago. The Passing of Mr. Quin was based off a short story by Agatha Christie. Though it did not feature Hercule Poirot, as that film debut wouldn’t happen for another three years.

It is a rather odd story. To wit, Professor Appleby has abused his wife, Eleanor, for years but when he is brutally murdered and her lover, Derek, goes missing under mysterious circumstances, Eleanor suspects the worst as she indeed should. 

A mysterious stranger, known mostly as “Mr Quin” appears, and begins to seduce her, but his alcoholism causes him to die quite soon. On his death bed, he confesses that he was Derek all along, and offers her to a rival, who promises to make Eleanor a happy wife.

Not cheerful at all and with just more than a soupçon of misogyny there as well but I don’t think it had any of the anti-Jewish tendencies Christie was known for early on. Need I say that the scriptwriters had their way with Christie’s original story? Well they did. 

This silent film was directed by Leslie Alibi. Three years later he directed the first ever depiction of Poirot with Austin Trevor in the lead role. That was not a silent film and Trevor once claimed he was cast as Poirot because he could speak with a French accent. The Poirot film unfortunately is now lost. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 15, 1911 James H. Schmitz. Writer of short fiction in a space opera setting, sold primarily to Galaxy Science Fiction and Astounding Science-Fiction. His “Lion Loose” was nominated for a Short Fiction Hugo at Chicon III, and The Witches of Karres was nominated for Best Novel at NyCon 3. Sources laud him for his intelligent female characters. His collections and novels are available at the usual suspects. (Died 1981.)
  • Born October 15, 1919 E.C. Tubb. A writer of at least one hundred forty novels and two hundred twenty short stories and novellas, he’s best remembered I think for the Dumarest Saga. His other long-running series was the Cap Kennedy stories. And his short story “Little Girl Lost” which was originally published in New Worlds magazine became a story on Night Gallery. He novelized a number of the Space: 1999 episodes. Somewhat surprisingly he’s never been nominated for or won any awards. (Died 2010.)
  • Born October 15, 1924 Mark Lenard. Sarek, the father of Spock in the Trek franchise, showing up in that role in “Journey to Babel”.  (The role got reprised in the animated series, as well as three films and two episodes of The Next Generation.) Surprisingly he played Romulan Commander in “Balance of Terror,” in the first season, and a Klingon Captain in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. He also had one-offs on Mission ImpossibleWild Wild WestOtherworld, The Secret EmpireThe Incredible Hulk, and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. He had a recurring role on the Planet of The Apes as Urko. (Died 1996.)
  • Born October 15, 1935 Ray “Duggie” Fisher. Editor, Conrunner and Fan, who chaired the 1969 Worldcon in St. Louis, was on the committee for several other conventions, and was a founding member of the Poplar Bluff Science Fiction Club and the Ozark Science Fiction Association. His fanzine ODD was a finalist for a Best Fanzine Hugo. His contributions to fandom were, sadly, cut short by his death at age 52 due to complications of diabetes. (Died 1988.) [JJ]
  • Born October 15, 1942 Lon Atkins. Editor, Conrunner, and Fan who chaired a DeepSouthCon and was editor of numerous fanzines and apazines, including eight years as co-editor of Rally! He was Fan Guest of Honor at a Westercon, and a recipient of Southern Fandom’s Rebel lifetime achievement award. He was also a ferocious Hearts player. (Died 2016.) [JJ]
  • Born October 15, 1953 Walter Jon Williams, 69. The last thing I read by him was his most excellent Dagmar Shaw series which I highly recommend, but Fleet Elements is on my TBR list.  I also like his Metropolitan novels, be they SF or fantasy, as well as his Hardwired series. I’m surprised how few awards that he’s won, just three with two being Nebulas, both for shorter works, “Daddy’s World” and “The Green Leopard Plaque”, plus a Sidewise Award for “Foreign Devils”.  Damn it, where is his Hugo? 
  • Born October 15, 1954 Linnea Sinclair, 68. Merging romance, SF and paranormal into, well, damned if I know. She’s here sole because I’m really tickled by the use of her SJW credentials as told here: Games of Command and the short story “Of Cats, Uh, Furzels and Kings” feature telepathic feline creatures called ‘Furzels’. Sinclair has stated that these are inspired by her two cats. 
  • Born October 15, 1968 Jack du Brul, 54. A writer of somewhat SF novels that EoSF says of “the Philip Mercer sequence featuring a geologist who – not entirely unlike Steven Spielberg’s similarly scholarly Indiana Jones – has physical gifts extending beyond the probable.” He also co-wrote, and continued after Clive Cusler passed on, The Oregon Files.

(12) THE DOUBLE-OH GENERATION. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Alexandra Petri says that she is worried that the new James Bond might be a Millennial. “What the millennial James Bond might look like”. “Do you expect me to talk?”  “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to text!” She’s got a million of them.

(13) RAMBLING MAN. John Meaney’s post “What I Did On My Holiday” shows that he kept up his impressive workout regimen even while vacationing in “places like Lindisfarne (think Vikings) and Whitby Abbey (think Dracula) and the Western Highlands of Scotland.” He also snapped a memorable photo.

…The Caledonian Canal features a long series of locks called Neptune’s Staircase, and I did take photos of the canal itself, but was struck by this piece of useful advice, which we should always bear in mind every day….

(14) DUNGEON ACOUSTICS. “’D&D’ Goes ‘DIY’ On Kill Rock Stars’ Latest Compilation” reports Bandcamp Daily.

What does Dungeons & Dragons sound like?

That’s the fundamental question at the heart of SPELLJAMS, a new compilation album curated and produced by Chris Funk. The Decemberists guitarist wasn’t tasked with soundtracking just any old D&D campaign: SPELLJAMS is a companion piece to the newly rebooted Spelljammer setting, an outer-space-set oddity that’s become a cult favorite since its introduction in 1989. Spelljammer is a bit of an outlier within the broader D&D lore, which made it ripe for the kind of freewheeling, adventurous track listing Funk assembled for the album.

(15) LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DODGING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Lucy, a spacecraft designed to visit Jupiter’s Trojan astroids, will swing past Earth for a gravity assist on Sunday. To get the proper oomph from the assist, it will have to come so close to Earth that it will be inside the orbit of many Low-Earth-Orbit satellites (including the International Space Station).

Cognizant of the possibility of a collision between Lucy and a LEO satellite, NASA has pre-prepared two orbit changes to stagger Lucy’s closest approach just a little bit. Or, if needed, a little bit more than that. They’re waiting as long as they can to calculate orbital positions for everything and make that decision, because the longer they wait the more accurate the predictions will be.

With luck, observers in parts of Australia or the western US may be able to see Lucy glinting like a diamond before it ducks into or after it comes out of Earth’s shadow, respectively. If you miss this chance you’ll get another opportunity two years hence when Lucy swings by for another orbital assist. “NASA on Collision Alert for Close Flyby of Lucy Spacecraft”. Gizmodo says the Space Force has been scrambled!

…The collision assessment team will send Lucy’s position to the Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron, which monitors objects in low Earth orbit. The team is prepared to perform swerving maneuvers if Lucy has more than a 1 in 10,000 chance of colliding with another object. “With such a high value mission, you really need to make sure that you have the capability, in case it’s a bad day, to get out of the way,” Highsmith said….

(16) WAITING IN A BREAD LINE. “Meet Pan Solo, a California bakery’s 6-foot bread sculpture of Han Solo frozen in carbonite”.

…The edible replica, which was painstakingly modeled out of dough to resemble Harrison Ford‘s captured character in 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back and 1983’s Return of the Jedi, has been on display outside the family bakery in Benicia, Calif., since Sunday. He is accompanied by a chalkboard that adorably proclaims, “Our hero Pan Solo has been trapped in Levainite by the evil Java the Hut.”…

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In this 2021 clip, Alasdair Beckett-King explains that even in the olden times, pepole couldn’t remember their passwords!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Michael J. Walsh, Rob Thornton, JeffWarner, Todd Mason, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Travel Back to 1957 in Hansen’s History of the First UK Worldcon

The cover photo shows the three Hugo Awards that were presented, held by E.J. (Ted) Carnell, editor of New Worlds (best British prozine), John W. Campbell Jr, editor of Astounding (best American prozine), and John Victor Peterson representing Science-Fiction Times (best fanzine, formerly Fantasy Times).

You know that phrase “putting the world in Worldcon”? The first step toward that utopian goal was the London Worldcon of 1957. You can learn all about the con and the kerfuffles in Rob Hansen’s 1957: The First UK Worldcon, the latest addition to TAFF’s library of free downloads. 

The 65,000-word book, compiled from contemporaneous participants’ own words, is available in multiple formats at the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund’s website, where they also hope you’ll make a little donation to the fund. Find it here.

From Rob Hansen’s Foreword

So why the 1957 Worldcon? Because it was a singularly significant and important event in the history of fandom. Not only was it the first Worldcon to be held outside North America, it was in many ways the first true world convention, pulling in as it did fans from more countries than had ever attended a single convention before. It was also the first time that UK and US fans met en masse. Yes, a handful of US and Canadian fans had been posted to the UK while serving in their armed forces during WW2, contacting local fans while over here, but these meetings had been individual and sporadic. And in terms of legacy, LONCON started the tradition of there being a British Worldcon once every calendar decade (1957, 1965, 1979, 1987, 1995, 2005, 2014, 2024). That’s three in London, three in Glasgow, and two in Brighton, with the longest gap between Worldcons being fourteen years, and the shortest being eight.

As well as firsts, the 1957 Worldcon is also notable as a last, being the final SF convention held before the start of the Space Age: Sputnik launched a few weeks afterwards.

And when it was over, as readers will learn, the outcome was less like utopia and more like fandom: some Americans stiffed the con hotel, the committee lost money, and the U.S. charter flight organizer sued his fannish creditors for defamation. I’m sorry, was this half-a-century ago or yesterday?

Pixel Scroll 5/5/22 I Have Pixeled The Scrolls That Were In The File, And Which You Were Probably Saving For Worldcon

(1) FREE COMIC BOOK DAY DRAWS NEAR. May 7 is Free Comic Book Day, a single day when participating comic book specialty shops across North America and around the world give away comic books to anyone who comes in. Check out the Free Comic Book Day Catalog and see what’s available. Different shops have policies on how many free comics you can receive, but you will receive at least one free comic if you enter a participating shop location. Use the Store Locator tool to find the shop near you.

(2) TAFF DELEGATE COMING HOME. Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate Michael “Orange Mike” Lowrey made it through the Covid protocol and is scheduled to return to the U.S. from the U.K. tomorrow.

(3) FLAME ON. The House of the Dragon official teaser trailer is live.

History does not remember blood. It remembers names. August 21.

HBO also released these character posters.

(4) OPERATION FANTAST LEGACY BUSINESS ENDING. [Item by Andrew Porter.] Susie Haynes, owner of Fantast Three, will close the business after importing and distributing the July/August issues of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science FictionAnalog SF, and Asimov’s SF, the US SF magazines she imports. She has already sold off her remaining stock of science fiction books.

It was originally begun as “Operation Fantast” by British SF fan Ken Slater, who played a major role in restarting British science fiction fandom after World War II. 

He created Operation Fantast to get around British post-WW II import and currency restrictions. This was turned into the bookseller Fantast (Medway) Ltd. in 1955. When Slater died in 2008 his daughter took over the business. Between them, the business had existed for 75 years.

(5) OVERCOMER HONORED. The American Library Association announces: “Martha Hickson receives the 2022 Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity”. The award was established in 2014 by the American Library Association in partnership with Snicket series author Daniel Handler. The prize, which is co-administered by ALA’s Governance Office and the Office for Intellectual Freedom, annually recognizes and honors a librarian who has faced adversity with integrity and dignity intact. The prize is $10,000, a certificate and “an odd, symbolic object.” 

Martha Hickson, media specialist at North Hunterdon High School in Annandale, New Jersey, has been selected as the recipient of the 2022 Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity. Daniel Handler, also known as Lemony Snicket, will present Hickson with the award—a cash prize and an object from Handler’s private collection—during the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference & Exhibition on Sunday, June 26, 2022 in Washington DC.

There has been no shortage of high-profile censorship challenges infesting school libraries across the United States since students returned from pandemic confinement in the Fall of 2021, but it was a fight that Hickson had already been fighting, tooth and nail. In fact, she has persevered through several book challenges since she began as a high school librarian in 2005. In 2021, however, the battle reached a new peak.

When a community group attended the Board of Education (BOE) meeting and demanded that two award-winning books with LGBTQ+ themes—Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe and Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison (and later three additional LGBTQ+ titles)—be pulled from the library shelves, their allegations not only attacked the books but Hickson herself, labeling her by name as a pornographer and pedophile for providing children with access to the titles in question. In the following weeks, she endured personal attacks from the community, hate mail, threats, nuisance vandalism, and even questions about her judgment and integrity from her administration. In fact, the open adversity became so pervasive and extreme that her blood pressure and anxiety rose to the dangerous point where her physician removed her from her workplace.

Despite this adversity, however, Hickson persisted and persevered in her unwavering defense of her students’ right to intellectual freedom and right to read, including galvanizing a group of community allies to attend the BOE meetings, gathering testimonies from LGBTQ+ students, recruiting local author David Levithan to write a statement of support, and even consulting and offering advice on censorship battles to the library community at large. At the January BOE meeting, the resolution to ban the five books in question was effectively voted down, and all challenged books remain proudly on the North Hunterdon High School library shelf….

(6) BOGUS OFFERS. The Bookseller warns “Fraudster impersonates HarperCollins editorial director and offers book contracts”.

A fraudster has been impersonating a HarperCollins editorial director and sending out messages offering book contracts.  

Phoebe Morgan, editorial director at HarperFiction, revealed on Twitter that someone has been using a fake HarperCollins account and claiming to be her. She said the impersonator has been using her photo and background information, but could be identified as a fraud by the email address, which replaced the two “l’ letters in HarperCollins with the number “1”.  

She tweeted: “If someone says they’re a crime editor wanting to offer a contract please flag as suspicious. HC would never contact you in that way”. 

The tactic is similar to the one said to be used by Filippo Bernardini, a former rights assistant at S&S UK who was arrested and charged by the FBI with allegedly stealing hundreds of book manuscripts over several years….  

(7) STREET SMARTS. “’Kimmel’ Tests People On ‘Star Wars’ vs. U.S. History And You Know What Happened”HuffPost sets the frame:

Kimmel’s crew asked random people on Hollywood Boulevard questions about the space opera franchise and U.S. history.

(8) HAVE YOU RED? [Item by Joey Eschrich.] On June 1, Future Tense is cohosting the latest in our Science Fiction/Real Policy Book Club series, discussing All Systems Red by Martha Wells. Here are the details. I should note that the author won’t be joining us—for this book club series, we want to focus on discussion and deliberation, rather than on getting the behind-the-scenes. RSVP here.

The novel explores a spacefaring future in which corporate-driven exploratory missions rely heavily on security androids. In Wells’ engaging – at times funny – tale, one such android hacks its own system to attain more autonomy from the humans he is accompanying. The result is a thought-provoking inquiry into the evolving nature of potential human-robot relations.

Join Future Tense and Issues in Science and Technology at 6pm ET on Wednesday, June 1 to discuss the novel and its real-world implications. The book club will feature breakout rooms (they’re fun and stress-free, we promise) where we can all compare notes and share reactions, even if we didn’t finish the book (though we picked a short one this time!).

(9) AND BEYOND. This promo for Lightyear dropped today.

(10) TINTIN CREATOR. Nicholas Whyte discusses “Hergé, Son of Tintin, by Benoît Peeters” at From the Heart of Europe.

…Like all good Belgian comics fans, I’m fascinated by the adventures of Tintin and by their creator. This is a really interesting biographical study, by a writer who met Hergé an interviewed him a couple of times, and has now lived long enough to absorb the mass of critical commentary on Hergé’s work that has emerged over the decades.

I learned a lot from it. In particular, I learned that it’s very difficult to navigate exactly how close Hergé came to collaboration with the occupying Germans during the war…

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1992 [By Cat Eldridge.] Forever Knight, a vampire detective series, premiered thirty years ago, and concluded with the third-season finale just over three years later. This series was filmed and set in Toronto. 

It was created by Barney Cohen who wrote Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, and James D. Parriott, who was responsible for Misfits of Science.

It starred Geraint Wyn Davies, Catherine Disher, Nigel Bennett, Ben Bass, Deborah Duchêne and Blu Mankuma. It is considered the predecessor to such series as Angel

It managed in its short span to run on CBS (the first season), first-run syndication (the second season) and the USA Network (the third and final season). 

So what was its reception? Well the Canadian TV industry loved it but I suspect that was because it was providing a lot of jobs. Seriously it wasn’t for the quality of the scripts. I watched it enough to see that it was really badly written. Forever Knight was nominated for thirteen industry Gemini Awards, and won once in 1996. 

It was as one reviewer at the time noted a soap opera: “The acting in this one is decent but there was more time than I can count where I was rolling my eyes by how much the cast was hamming it up. The characters are fun but they often slip away into the cliched void of day time soaps.” 

I don’t think it is streaming anywhere currently.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 5, 1908 Pat Frank. Author of Alas, Babylon who also wrote a 160-page non-fiction book, How To Survive the H Bomb And Why (1962). (Insert irony here if you want.) Forbidden Area, another novel, he wrote, was adapted by Rod Serling for the 1957 debut episode of Playhouse 90. (Died 1964.)
  • Born May 5, 1922 Joseph Stefano. Screenwriter who adapted Bloch’s novel as the script for Hitchcock’s Psycho. He was also a producer for the first season of Outer Limits and wrote a total of twelve episodes. He also the screenwriter for the very horrifying Eye of The Cat. He wrote Next Generation’s “Skin of Evil” episode. And he was producer on the original Swamp Thing. (Died 2006.)
  • Born May 5, 1942 Lee Killough, 80. Author of two series, the Brill and Maxwell series which I read a very long time ago and remember immensely enjoying, and the Bloodwalk series which doesn’t ring even a faint bell. I see she’s written a number of stand-alone novels as well – who’s read deeply of her? Her only Hugo nomination was at Aussiecon Two for her short story, “Symphony for a Lost Traveler”.  And in the early Eighties, she wrote an interesting essay called “Checking On Culture: A Checklist for Culture Building”. Who’s read it? 
  • Born May 5, 1943 Michael Palin, 79. Monty Python of course. I’ll single him out for writing the BFA-winning Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life and co-writing the BSFA-winning Time Bandits with Terry Gilliam. He and the rest of the troupe were Hugo finalists in 1976 for Monty Python and the Holy Grail. And it might be at least genre adjacent, so I’m going to single him out for being in A Fish Called Wanda for which he won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. 
  • Born May 5, 1944 John Rhys-Davies, 78. He’s known for his portrayal of Gimli and the voice of Treebeard in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, General Leonid Pushkin in The Living Daylights, King Richard I in Robin of Sherwood, Professor Maximillian Arturo in Sliders, a most excellent Hades in the animated Justice League Unlimted series, Hades in Justice League and Sallah in the Indiana Jones films. Oh, and voicing Macbeth in the exemplary Gargoyles animated series too. He’s getting his action figure shortly of Macbeth from NECA! 
  • Born May 5, 1957 Richard E. Grant, 64. He first shows up in our world as Giles Redferne in Warlock, begore going on to be Jack Seward in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. On a lighter note, he’s Frederick Sackville-Bagg in The Little Vampire, and the voice of Lord Barkis Bittern in Corpse Bride. He breaks into the MCU as Xander Rice in Logan, and the Star Wars universe by being Allegiant General Enric Pryde in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Now I had forgotten that he’s in the Whoverse twice, once seriously and once very not. The first appearance was the latter as he in Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death as The Conceited Doctor. And then he plays the Great Intelligence in three episodes of Doctor Who.
  • Born May 5, 1979 Catherynne Valente, 43. I personally think her best work is The Orphan’s Tales which The Night Garden got Otherwise and Mythopoeic Awards, while the second work, In The Cities of Coin and Spice, garnered the latter Award as well. Palimpsest which is one weird novel picked up, not at all surprisingly a Lambda and was nominated for a Hugo at Aussiecon 4. The first novel in the incredibly neat Fairyland series, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, picked up a coveted Norton. (Well I think it’s coveted.) Next up is “Fade to White,” novelette nominated for a Hugo at LoneStarCon 3, and a favorite of mine, the “Six-Gun Snow White” novella, was a nominee at LonCon 3. Let’s finish by noting that she was part of SF Squeecast which won two Hugos, the first at Chicon 7 then at LoneStarCon 3. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Garfield requires your imagination to fill in the horrific vision.
  • The Argyle Sweater shows a monster with dietary restrictions.
  • Tom Gauld reveals little-known-facts about a well-known fantasy series.

(14) IF YOU HAVE MONEY TO BURN. “Fahrenheit 451 Leads AntiquarianAuctions.com Sale” reports Fine Books & Collections. This is the fireproof edition. Place your bid at AntiquarianAuctions.com through May 11.

…The sale starts with flourish: lot 1 is the best available copy of the signed limited edition of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (NY: 1953), bound in ‘Johns-Manville Quinterra an asbestos material with exceptional resistance to pyrolysis’ it is estimated at $13000 to 18000, but has a reserve at just $10,000. This is accompanied by 14 other lots of similar works, including 2 others from Bradbury (Dark Carnival [Sauk City: Arkham, 1947], and an excellent copy of the 1st paperback edition of 451 [NY: Ballantine; 1953]).

(15) COOL ANIMATED COMPILATION. View the “Top 100 3D Renders from the Internet’s Biggest CG Challenge” at Infinite Journeys.

During February 2022, I challenged 3D artists with the Infinite Journeys 3D challenge, where I provided artists with a simple animation of a moving “vehicle” and they built out their own customs scenes. Of the 2,448 entires, the top 100 were chosen for this montage, and 5 of them walked away with insane prizes from Maxon, Rokoko, Camp Mograph, Wacom, Looking Glass Factory, and mograph.com.

(16) DOES CRIME PAY? At Nerds of a Feather, Roseanna Pendlebury’s “Microreview [Book]: Book of Night by Holly Black” includes some criticisms but overall gives strong reasons to add this book to our TBR piles.

… The story follows Charlie Hall, a reformed con artist and thief who used to work adjacent to the shady (ha) world of the gloamists, who work magic on shadows, but she’s now trying to keep on the straight and narrow. She’s working a normal job bartending at a dive bar, dating a reliable boyfriend about whom she’s having some doubts and trying to help her little sister get into college. Obviously, this doesn’t last, and she gets pulled back into the world she tried to leave behind. Much like Black’s YA books, the plotting isn’t desperately original, but that’s also not what it’s aiming for, really.

What it is aiming for, and succeeds at, is a fun, dark, enthralling bit of world building, something that the reader can immediately get sucked into and get the feel of, while still with plenty of mileage to build throughout the story. And her gloamists are absolutely that. There’s sexy crime – daring heists of secret magical books – as well as secrecy, hidden arts, a potential pedigree stretching way back into history – the secret magical tomes to be stolen have to come from somewhere, right? – and plenty of scope for there being downtrodden people who can use their wits to outfox the powerful….

(17) BE PREPARED. And Paul Weimer, in “Centireview: Inheritors of Power by Juliette Wade”, advises Nerds of a Feather readers that to really enjoy this third novel in the author’s series they ought to start at book one:

…That all said, however, as much as Wade can prepare a reader new to the world to the complexities of the Varin and their very alien human society, this is a novel that really relies on knowledge of the previous two books, both on a high worldbuilding and also on a character level to really succeed. With the basis of that two novels, though, it is clear to me here, that this is a rich and deep and complex story that I get the feeling Wade has wanted to tell from the beginning, and from this point. 

There is a theory in writing that one of the keys to writing any work of fiction is to know where the story begins and to start the story at that point,. In some ways, the rich story of this novel, of which I will speak shortly, seems to be the story that Wade has wanted to tell since the beginning of Mazes of Power. In Wade’s case, however, and for the readers, this story only really can work as a story if you have the background of the first two novels in order to get the full force and impact of what happens here….

(18) CATCH AND RELEASE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] “A helicopter caught and released a rocket this week” and Popular Science explains why. (Video here briefly shows the linkup around 52:30.)

…“At 6,500 ft, Rocket Lab’s Sikorsky S-92 helicopter rendezvoused with the returning stage and used a hook on a long line to capture the parachute line,” Rocket Lab said in a release. “After the catch, the helicopter pilot detected different load characteristics than previously experienced in testing and offloaded the stage for a successful splashdown.”

For this specific launch, the catch ended up being more of a catch-and-release, but that attempt still went an important way to demonstrating the viability of the option. Knowing that the release worked—that the helicopter crew was able to snag the rocket and then determine they needed to jettison the booster—is a key part of proving viability. A method that involves helicopters but jeopardizes them pairs reusability with risk to the human crew….

(19) FLY ME TO THE MOON. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Well, OK, not to the Moon. Not even to low Earth orbit. But almost 5 miles is still fairly high. For the first time, SpinLaunch put a camera onboard one of the projectiles for their suborbital centrifugal launch test platform. Choosing a camera for the payload was probably a good idea, since I don’t think even fruit flies would have enjoyed the ride.

Gizmodo introduces a “Dizzying Video Shows What It’s Like to Get Shot Out of a Centrifuge at 1,000 MPH”:

…Such tests are becoming routine for SpinLaunch, with the first demonstration of the kinetic launch system occurring last October. This time, however, the company did something new by strapping a camera, or “optical payload,” onto the 10-foot-long (3-meter) projectile.

Footage from the onboard camera shows the projectile hurtling upwards from the kinetic launch system at speeds in excess of 1,000 miles per hour (1,600 kilometers per hour). The flight lasted for 82 seconds, during which time the test vehicle reached an altitude of over 25,000 feet (7,620 meters), according to David Wrenn, vice president of technology at SpinLaunch….

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Harry Potter and the Goblet of fire Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George says the fourth Harry Potter film brings back many familiar plot points, including the speech from Dumbledore about the many ways Hgwarts students can die.  The producer,being told of a test where several characters nearly drown, says “wizards are not OK people.”  Trivia lovers will note this film was Robert Pattinson’s debut.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Jennifer Hawthorne, Lise Andreasen, Joey Eschrich, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian, for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Danny Sichel.]

Finish of Lowrey’s TAFF Trip Stalled by Positive Covid Test

Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate Michael J. “Orange Mike” Lowrey reported today, “I have tested positive for COVID-19. The UK advises that I self-isolate for five days, at which point I should not be contagious; which means a single room somewhere, not the hostel I’m in now.”

“One of the Danes with whom I met on the 24th has tested positive; I may have gotten it from him,” says Lowrey, who visited Swedish fans in Uppsala and Malmö last week after attending Eastercon. “I do not feel ill. I’m hoarse, but I’ve credited that to talking to people almost non-stop for four weeks.”

He had recently returned to the UK before wrapping up his trip. TAFF administrator Johan Anglemark confirmed the fund will underwrite the costs of a hotel room etc. while Orange Mike is stranded by Covid protocols.

Pixel Scroll 3/22/22 Captain Pixel Versus The Winter Solstice

(1) GORINSKY OUT AT EREWHON. Erewhon Books announced today that its founder, Liz Gorinsky, is stepping down as Publisher.

We are grateful for Liz’s incredible work and vision as our Publisher and Founder, and we wish Liz the very best in all future endeavors. 

Senior Editor Sarah Guan will continue to guide Erewhon’s editorial program while leading the expansion of the editorial team in coming months.

Cassandra Farrin, (Director of Publishing and Production) and Martin Cahill (Marketing and Publicity Manager) will continue in their roles. 

Erewhon Books would like to take this time to recognize several new additions to the team:

Viengsamai Fetters (they/them) has joined the team as our new Editorial Assistant. 

Kasie Griffitts (she/her) has joined as our new Sales Associate.

Gorinsky tweeted:

Gorinsky also tweeted today:

(2) WRITER BEWARE HAS MOVED. Victoria Strauss explains the reason there is “A New Home For the Writer Beware Blog”.

… After many years on the Blogger platform, we have finally transitioned to WordPress, which offers much greater flexibility in terms of design, control, and ease of use.

We also have a new, easy to remember web address: writerbeware.blog.

I’ve been dissatisfied with Blogger for a while now. I’m not a web developer, but I’m not helpless, either; I maintain the Writer Beware website on the SFWA site, and I built and maintain two additional websites, my own and another for an organization my husband is part of. But every time I thought about moving to a new platform, the size of the challenge just seemed too daunting. How would I transfer hundreds of posts, not to mention the thousands of comments and images that go with them? What about all the non-working inbound links the move would create? Links wouldn’t be a problem if I just started fresh on a brand-new WordPress site–but then the blog would exist on two platforms, with two different web addresses. And what about WB’s thousands of followers and subscribers?

The turning point came last summer, when the only email subscription widget supported by Blogger discontinued service. If people couldn’t subscribe to the WB blog, there was just no reason to remain on Blogger…. 

(3) RESISTANCE. Eugen Bacon discusses the process of “Finding Me: Towards Self-Actualization in Writing” at the SFWA Blog.

I read Maurice Broaddus’s “Black Joy and Afrofuturism for Young Readers,” which heartens us to be present, fully and joyfully, not just for ourselves but for our children, our new adults, and our future generations. He dares that we find unapology for being, that ours becomes an everyday commitment to a joyful resistance against carefully charted devices of oppression.

That reading nudged an inward gaze at my own writing, and I saw its trajectory:

  • Please, let me…
  • I am Black…
  • I am here.

(4) SANDERSON KICKSTARTER. Checked the ticker on the Brandon Sanderson Kickstarter today. It is still spinning like mad, and flew past $31,759,250 while I was copying the number. Still nine days to go: “Surprise! Four Secret Novels by Brandon Sanderson by Dragonsteel Entertainment”.

(5) TAFF ITINERARY TENTATIVELY JELLING. Michael J. “Orange Mike” Lowrey will finally get his Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund trip this year. This is what he’s mapped out so far:

It looks like (unlike the “lost voyage” of 2020) Spain will not be part of my 2020/2022 TAFF delegate voyage. So:

Starting at the Eurocon/Luxcon, popping over to Poland for visits in a couple of places (Warsaw and Silesia), to England for Eastercon/Reclamation, from there to visit Sverifans in Uppsala and Malmö. If I haven’t overstayed my welcome in the U.K., I could return from Sweden and spend a few days in the U.K., maybe actually SEE Scotland and Scotfen in their native habitat? I don’t HAVE to be back in the States until 6 a.m. May 2….

(6) AIDING UKRAINE. Sales of Building a Better Future, edited by David Flin, will help raise money for charity. Contributing author Alex Wallace explains: “I am proud to say that a group of online alternate history fans (myself included) came together to put together an anthology, Building a Better Futureall proceeds of which go the British charity Disaster Emergency Commission’s Ukraine Humanitarian Aid Appeal. My short story Our Lady of Guidance, is among the stories therein.” 

Following the start of the tragic events in Ukraine, a group of historical writers on an Internet forum discussed what they could do to help. The feeling of helplessness in the face of the man-made tragedy was palpable. We considered many options, each less practical than the previous one.

Then, someone had an idea. We were writers. We should write a book, an anthology, with proceeds going to help with the rebuilding of Ukraine.

From that, things flowed quickly. The theme of rebuilding became adopted: “Building a Better Future.”

That’s what you’re holding in your hands. The product of a group of historical writers trying to do something to help the people of Ukraine.

(7) WHAT WAS YOUR NEXT IDEA? James Davis Nicoll ticks off “Five SFF Stories In Which the Best-Laid Plans Are Thwarted” at Tor.com.

Who among us has not been betrayed by the failure of a simple plan that should have worked? One sets out to collect firewood, only to be suddenly concussed; one tries to kill time with a round of cards, only to crush four of one’s own phalanges; one seeks the comfort of restful sleep, only wake with a mysterious deep incision down one’s abdomen. It’s not just me—this seems to be a perverse tendency of the universe: I see it in the news and I see it in what I read. Consider these five SFF tales in which plans are thwarted, foiled, and frustrated by circumstance…

(8) STAR TREK, THE NEXT REGENERATION. Another fun read, this time about how the sausage gets made: “‘Is This a Joke?’ How a Classic ‘Star Trek’ Episode Broke the Rules of the Franchise” in The Hollywood Reporter.

… Unfortunately, Braga was largely on his own when it came to the second most difficult thing about writing the episode: The briefing room scene. Here, Geordi (LeVar Burton) explains to his shipmates that they are caught in a very Trek-ian “temporal causality loop.” Ironically, Braga found himself in a time loop of his own, rewriting the scene over and over again.

“It was my first big ‘technobabble’ scene, so it couldn’t just sound cool. It had to sound plausible. It had to resolve all the clues that had been accumulating,” says Braga. “In addition to all the explaining, you have to bring your own voice to it, too. You try to pepper in some cool or shocking moments, like when Picard asks how long we have been in the loop and Geordi responds with something like ‘it could be years.’ But Piller had me rewrite that scene so many times. I remember over Christmas break of that year, I was working on that scene.”…

(9) I CAN TELL BY YOUR OUTFIT. At CrimeReads Matthew Lyons recommends horror novels set in the American West: “Black Sunset: New Essential Horror Reads from the American West”.

…Stories about the American West have always been rife with scares and horrors sure to delight and repulse even the most hardened of horror fans, from pulpy matinee fare like Billy the Kid Vs. Dracula to literary classics like Blood Meridian, but by taking what works and leaving what doesn’t, writers today are riding into the sunset with some of the most breathtaking and terrifying fiction in recent memory….

(10) WILLIAM A. JOHNSON (1956-2022.) Writing as Bill Johnson, he won a Hugo Award in 1998 for his novella, “We Will Drink a Fish Together” which was also a Nebula nominee. His stories were published in The Year’s Best Science Fiction several times. The family obituary is here.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1995 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-seven years ago on FOX, the Sliders series first aired on this evening. Created by Tracy Tormé and Robert K. Weiss, it would air on that network for three years before moving to Sci Fi for another two years. As a consequence of that it was first produced in Vancouver before being finally being so done in Los Angeles. 

Befitting a cross-time series,  it had an expansive cast led by the brothers of Jerry and Charlie  O’Connell along with Cleavant Derricks, Sabrina Lloyd, John Rhys-Davies, Kari Wuhrer, Robert Floyd and Tembi Locke with Derricks being the only cast member to stay with the series throughout its entire run.

There has also been gossip among Martin fans that this series was inspired by George R.R. Martin’s 1992 ABC pilot Doorways but everyone involved said that was not true. 

So how was the reception at the time? Not good. The Los Angeles Time was typical when it said “Now comes ‘Sliders,’ a banal bore of a mishmash adventure series starring Jerry O’Connell as a genius grad student named Quinn Mallory, who discovers a way to visit parallel Earths by whooshing himself through a space portal known as a ‘wormhole.’ It beats studying.”  

It does get a rather excellent sixty-four percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 22, 1911 Raymond Z. Gallun. An early SF pulp writer who helped the genre to become popular. “Old Faithful” published in Astounding (December 1934) was his first story and led to a series of that name. “The Menace from Mercury,” a story published in the Summer 1932 issue of Wonder Stories Quarterly, was penned from a suggestion by Futurian John Michel and is considered famous among fans. His first published novel, People Minus X, didn’t appeared until 1957, followed by The Planet Strappers four years later. You can get all of his fiction at the usual suspects. (Died 1994.)
  • Born March 22, 1930 Stephen Sondheim. Several of his works were of a fantastical nature including Into The Woods which mines deeply both Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault for its source material. And there’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street which is damn fun even if it isn’t genre. (Died 2021.) 
  • Born March 22, 1931 William Shatner, 91. Happy Birthday Bill! Ok that was short. We all know he was Captain Kirk, but how many of us watched him as Jeff Cable on the rather fun Barbary Coast series? I did. It was really, really bad acting on his part though. Or that he was The Storyteller in children’s series called A Twist of The Tale? I was I surprised to discover that T.J. Hooker ran for ninety episodes! 
  • Born March 22, 1946 Rudy Rucker, 76. He’s certainly best known for the Ware Tetralogy, the first two of which, Software and Wetware, each won the Philip K. Dick Award. Though not genre, I do recommend As Above, So Below: A Novel of Peter Bruegel.
  • Born March 22, 1950 Mary Tamm. She’s remembered for her role as Romana as the Companion to the Fourth Doctor in “The Key to Time” storyline. It seemed liked she was there longer only because another actress, Lalla Ward, played her in the following season and she looked a lot like her. Ward was soon to be married to Tom Baker.  She also appears briefly in the 20th Anniversary special The Five Doctors through the reuse of footage from the uncompleted story Shada that Douglas Adams wrote. Tamm had only one other genre gig as Ginny in the “Luau” story part of the Tales That Witness Madness film. (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 22, 1969 Alex Irvine, 53. I strongly recommend One King, One Soldier, his offbeat Arthurian novel, and The Narrows, about a WW II Detroit golem factory where fantasy tropes get a severe trouncing. A Scattering of Jades, which won a International Horror Guild Award, is well worth reading.  He also wrote The Vertigo Encyclopedia which was an in-house project so, as he told me back then, DC delivered him one copy of every Vertigo title they had sitting in the warehouse which was a lot.  For research purposes, of course. It came in a very, very large crate. And he’s written a fair number of comics, major and minor houses alike.  His newest novel, Anthropocene Rag, sounds very intriguing. Has anyone read it? 

(13) HE SAYS IT’S BUNK. “Hugh Who? Grant dismisses reports he will be the next Doctor” reports the Guardian.

… Grant had played the Doctor in a Comic Relief special in 1999. He was offered the role in 2004, but turned it down.

Whittaker announced in 2021 that she would not play the Doctor again after three special episodes due to air later this year, meaning a vacancy has arisen.

However, in response to a Guardian article about his potential new role, Grant tweeted: “Nothing against Dr W but I’m not. No idea where the story came from.”…

Filers were not shocked to learn that a news item that first appeared in the Mirror was cracked.

(14) THE GIRL WHO WASN’T WEDNESDAY. Entertainment Weekly reports “Christina Ricci joins Addams Family show Wednesday as new character”.

Immortal souls (and mortal ones too), rejoice! Christina Ricci has joined the cast of Wednesday, Netflix’s upcoming live-action series based on the beloved Addams Family character.

The actress, who played Wednesday Addams in the 1991 Addams Family film and its 1993 sequel, will portray an “exciting new character” this time around — in other words, not a grown-up Wednesday. Details are being kept under wraps, though we know Ricci will be a series regular….

(15) PORTAL OPENING AT PRIME. SlashFilm’s B.J. Colangelo marks her calendar: “J.K. Simmons-Led Sci-Fi Series Night Sky Sets May Release Date On Prime Video”.

After spending the last two years mostly staring at the same four walls and continuing to carve out a perfect bottom-shaped dent in my living room couch, there are few things that sound more appealing than getting the opportunity to explore the limitless possibilities of time and space. Starring J.K. Simmons and Sissy Spacek, Prime Video’s “Night Sky” (formerly known as “Lightyears”) features the duo as Franklin and Irene York, a couple who discover a passageway in their backyard that leads to a distant planet. The Yorks have enjoyed their secret for years, but when a mysterious young man (Chai Hansen of “The Newsreader” fame) arrives out of nowhere, the Yorks realize that their unexplainable passageway may be part of an even bigger mystery than they ever thought fathomable.

The new eight-part series will hit the Prime Video streaming platform globally on Friday, May 20, 2022. All eight episodes will be available simultaneously, so we can all spend our weekend binging J.K. Simmons and Sissy Spacek’s adventures through time and space….

(16) CONTINUED NEXT UNIVERSE. Guardian reviewer Charles Bramesco shares his mixed verdict on Michelle Yeoh’s new movie: “Everything Everywhere All At Once review – ambitious, exhausting trip to the multiverse”.

… Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh, unstoppable), a Chinese American immigrant/laundromat owner/last hope for all existence, slingshots between realities with the raw kinetic energy of a boulder launched by a trebuchet. Sometimes, she need only open a door to find herself in another iteration of her life, or walk backward through bushes, or tap the Bluetooth-earpiece-looking gizmos an ally gives her. …

(17) ON STAGE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Suzi Feay reviews After The End by Dennis Kelly, a post-apocalyptic play  performed at the Stratford East Theatre (“After The End” – Stratford East) through March 26.

“Very strong language, nudity…violence and sexual violence”–since there are only two characters in Dennis Kelly’s After The End, the caveats constitute spoilers.  Louise regains consciousness after a nuclear explosion to find herself safe in an underground bunker belonging to Mark, a work colleague.  Outside, she was popular and ambitious, and he was the office dolt:  dull, friendless, and pedantic.  No one more sociable would have built a fallout shelter to begin with.  They have two weeks to ensure each other before it’s safe to emerge.

Sweary Louise (a pugnacious Amaka Okafor) has never checked her social privilege; being forced to get along with someone she has hitherto despised may prove character-building.  Mark (Nick Blood), thrilled at his unexpected access to the office princess, chivalrously takes the top bunk but his obsequiousness turns sour over a fraught game of Dungeons and Dragons.  Locked within four oppressive walls, their makeshift alliance of hobbit and elf disintegrates into a battle for control.

(18) SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST. Jeff Foust reviews “Space films at SXSW” for The Space Review.

…This year’s SXSW saw space make its way into the film festival as well. Several films screened at SXSW had links to space, from documentaries to movies that took some inspiration from spaceflight.

The most prominent of those movies was Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood, directed by Richard Linklater (Before SunriseBoyhoodDazed and Confused, among others.) The movie is a semi-autobiographical account of Linklater’s own childhood in Houston, not far from NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center (now Johnson Space Center) in the summer of 1969. The film uses rotoscope animation, like some of Linklater’s previous movies, making it appear like some hybrid of reality and imagination….

(19) C’EST OINK. ToughPigs asks “Did ‘Muppets TV’ Save The Muppets?”

…In 2005 French comedian Sébastien Cauet and French television network TF1 made a deal with The Walt Disney Company which would allow Cauet to write and produce his own version of The Muppet Show, as well as supply the voice of Kermit the Frog for the series. Rather than send the puppeteers to France, the puppets themselves were instead packed up and shipped off, and a team of French puppeteers would perform them instead, later being dubbed by voice actors.

Yeah. They made that. And not just a one episode thing, this abomination lasted TEN EPISODES! That’s way more than the three that Little Muppet Monsters got on the air!

Thanks to YouTube, we have a few clips of Muppets TV available, which I’ll admit I oddly enjoyed, even though I don’t speak the language (besides saying Bonjour and singing the theme song to ‘Madeline’)….

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers:  Horizon Forbidden West,” Fandom Games, in a spoiler-filled episode, says that gamers have to complete “the usual Excel sheet of objectives” for a game that’s ultimately “a child’s fantasy about robot dinosaurs.”  “At least they get robots in their apocalypse,” the narrator complains. “What do we get? Twitter!”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Will R., Michael J. “Orange Mike” Lowrey, Cathy Green, Steven French, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 12/15/21 A Pixel Upon The Deep

(1) CHENGDU MARATHON LIVESTREAM CONTINUES. The Chengdu Worldcon bid livestream was noted in yesterday’s Scroll. Alison Scott took a look at it and reported in a comment here —

The Chengdu bid has been running a stream each evening (11:00 – 14:00 UTC) on Chinese Youtube/Twitch style site bilibili, featuring SF authors and other celebrities encouraging Chinese SF fans (of whom there are millions of course) to join DisCon III and vote for Chengdu.

The link to the stream is here. Although i couldn’t understand the stream, I used Google Translate to read the chat; full of SF fans, mostly students, talking about their favourite books, movies and tv shows and asking how to set up a local SF club in their area.

(2) TOMORROW PRIZE DEADLINE. There’s less than one week left for Los Angeles County high school students to enter their short sci-fi stories in The Tomorrow Prize and The Green Feather Award competitions. Full details at the Omega Sci-Fi Awards website. Those feeling the pressure should read “5 Things that Inspire” by Clare Hooper.

With the deadline approaching, many find it intimidating to start writing. Writer’s block is the worst. But the best cure for writer’s block is finding a good place to start, and that may mean inspiration. Here are five things that inspired previous winners and honorable mentions of The Tomorrow Prize and The Green Feather Award to write:

1: Anime

The accessibility and popularity of anime has only gotten wider in recent years. With so many shows in dozens of genres, it’s easy to find something you may want to put your own spin on. Omega Sci-Fi Awards Student Ambassador and Tomorrow Prize Finalist, Gwendolyn Lopez found inspiration through Studio Ghibli films. These films usually have a thin line between the mundane and the fantastical, thus inspiring Gwendolyn to give a more introspective feel to her story, Star Sailor. Ethan Kim, an honorable mention for The Tomorrow Prize, took inspiration from a different anime show, Dororo, which features a young man roaming the countryside fighting demons. Dororo inspired the themes of godlike figures and a battlefield setting in his story Cold Ashes….

(3) TOP GRAPHIC NOVEL. “Bechdel’s ‘Secret to Superhuman Strength’ Wins PW’s 2021 Graphic Novel Critics Poll” announced Publishers Weekly.

The Secret to Superhuman Strength (Mariner) by Alison Bechdel lands on the top spot of PW’s annual Graphic Novel Critics Poll, garnering seven votes from a panel of 15 critics. A groundbreaking queer author and a true household name in contemporary comics, Bechdel is best known for her widely acclaimed 2006 graphic family memoir Fun Home.

In The Secret to Superhuman Strength, her long-anticipated third memoir, Bechdel celebrates the fads and fanaticism of fitness culture—including her own obsession with physical self-improvement—using the phenomenon as a lens through which to examine both queer and American culture writ large…. 

(4) RAISING KANE. Cora Buhlert posted a new Fancast Spotlight, featuring The Dark Crusade, a podcast focused on the works of Karl Edward Wagner: “Fancast Spotlight: The Dark Crusade”.

… Therefore, I’m happy to welcome Jordan Douglas Smith of The Dark Crusade to my blog:

Tell us about your podcast or channel.

The Dark Crusade is dedicated to the life and work of writer/editor/publisher Karl Edward Wagner. We are systematically moving through his work, discussing it from a historical and literary lens. In addition to the podcast, we have a companion blog that covers additional facts about the stories, links to scholarship, and overviews of some of the collections Wagner has edited….

(5) TAFF VOTING OPENS TODAY. Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund administrators Johan Anglemark and Geri Sullivan are now accepting ballots for the 2022 TAFF race. It will close on April 19, 2022, after Reclamation (Eastercon) in London.

You can download the fill-in form ballot here (US Letter; A4 will follow shortly). It has the candidates’ platforms, the names of their nominators, and the voting instructions. Voting is open to anyone active in fandom before April 2020 who donates at least £3 (GBP), €3 (EUR), or $4 (USD) to TAFF. Voting is also possible online here.

Competing for the honor are these four great fans: Anders Holmström (Sweden), Fia Karlsson (Sweden), Mikolaj Kowalewski (Poland), and Julie Faith McMurray (UK). One of them will make a TAFF trip to Chicon 8, the 80th World Science Fiction Convention in September, 2022.

(6) CAST A WIDE NET. [Item by Cora Buhlert] The Pulp Net has an article about Fritz Leiber, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser by Don Herron: “Three sought adventure”. What struck me about this is that Herron not only knew Leiber, but also met Harry Otto Fisher, on whom Mouser was based and the resemblance was apparently uncanny.

… “Two Sought Adventure” saw print that August in the pulp Unknown — the first professional sale for Fritz Leiber Jr., who would go on to become one of the most-awarded writers in 20th-century imaginative literature.

The characters introduced, the barbarian Fafhrd and the wily Gray Mouser — the two best thieves in Lankhmar, and the two best swordsmen — would have many more adventures with the author till the end of his life….

(7) I’VE HEARD THAT NAME BEFORE. It appears to be Fritz Leiber month, because Grimdark Magazine also has an article about him by Ryan Howse: “The works of Fritz Leiber”.

… During their adventures, they battled men, magicians, and monsters, were in the power of two bizarre wizards who obviously did not have their best interests at heart, faced down the incarnation of death, survived the poverty of lean times in Lankhmar, climbed the world’s largest mountain on a whim, and plenty more. Their quests were often them following a rumour for fun or profit, with no grander schemes in mind….

(8) RAMA LAMA. “Dune Director Denis Villeneuve to Adapt Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama”Tor.com has the story.

Filmmaker Denis Villeneuve is heading from Arrakis to Rama. After he finishes up Dune: Part Two (which was greenlit after Dune: Part One’s commercial success), the director will take on a feature adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama….

(9) OFF THE BEAM. Camestros Felapton has his own cat-themed series – Timothy the Talking Cat in the spirit of Zelig: “Missing Moments from Movie History: The Carbonite Manoeuvre”. Picture at the link.

An infamous cat-related accident on the set of the Empire Strikes Back resulted in this unfortunate outcome….

(10) ON THE DIAL. At BBC Sounds, The Exploding Library series begins with “Mother Night, by Kurt Vonnegut”.

In this new literature series, a trio of comedians explode and unravel their most cherished cult books, paying homage to the tone and style of the original text – and blurring and warping the lines between fact and fiction.

“We are what we pretend to be. So we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

So reads the warning at the beginning of the novel Mother Night, in an author’s introduction written by Kurt Vonnegut himself. Yet in this world of unreliable narrators, editor’s “corrections” and weirdly omniscient first-person testimony, nothing is really what it seems.

Purportedly the “confessions of Howard J. Campbell Jr”, an American expat-turned Nazi propagandist-turned Allied spy (allegedly), Vonnegut’s warped collection of bizarre characters and slippery narratives invite us to cast aside our black and white notions of morals and guilt and survey the gazillions of greys in between.

Comedian Daliso Chaponda considers the strange world of people playing versions of themselves in public – comedians, spies, politicians and, to an extent, all of us. How do you deal with people perceiving you differently to your “real” self? And, for that matter, how do you know who you “really” are?

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1974 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-seven years ago, Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein premieres. The screenplay was co-written by Brooks and Gene Wilder who plays the lead role. The rest of the cast was Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman, Teri Garr, Kenneth Mars and Madeline Kahn. 

The film was shot in black and white with the lab equipment there originally used as props for the 1931 film Frankenstein as created by Kenneth Strickfaden.

Brooks has often said that he considers it by far his finest although not his funniest film as a writer-director. Reception for it was generally very good with Roger Ebert saying it was his “most disciplined and visually inventive film (it also happens to be very funny).”  It won a Hugo at Aussiecon. It was a fantastic box office success earning eighty-six million on a budget of just three million. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it near perfect rating of ninety-two percent. 

Mel Brooks would later adapt this into a musical that would run both off Broadway and on Broadway.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 15, 1923 Freeman Dyson. Physicist best known in genre circles for the concept he theorized of a Dyson Sphere which would be built by a sufficiently technologically advanced species around a sun to harvest all solar energy. He credited Olaf Stapledon in Star Maker (1937), in which he described “every solar system… surrounded by a gauze of light traps, which focused the escaping solar energy for intelligent use” with first coming up with the concept. (Died 2020.)
  • Born December 15, 1937 John Sladek. Weird and ambitious would be ways to describe his work. The Complete Roderick Is quite amazing, as is Tik-Tok, which won a BSFA, and Bugs is as well. He did amazing amounts of short fiction, much of which is collected finally in the ironically named Maps: The Uncollected John Sladek. He is generously stocked at the usual suspects. (Died 2000.)
  • Born December 15, 1951 David Bischoff. His “Tin Woodman” which was written with Dennis Bailey and nominated for a Nebula would be adapted into a Next Generation story. He also wrote the Next Gen story “First Contact” (with Dennis Russell Bailey, Joe Menosky, Ronald D. Moore and Michael Piller.) And he continued the Bill the Galactic Hero story with Harry Harrison.  He’s also written a kickass excellent Farscape novel, Ship of Ghosts. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 15, 1952 Marta DuBoi. Her first genre role is on the Starman series as Dr. Ellen Dukowin the “Fever” episode though you’ll likely better recognize her as Ardra on the “Devil’s Due” episode of the Next Generation. She also had roles on The Land of The LostThe Trial of the Incredible Hulk and Tales of the Golden Monkey. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 15, 1953 Robert Charles Wilson, 68. He’s got a Hugo Award for Spin, a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for The Chronoliths, a Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for the “The Cartesian Theater” novelette and Prix Aurora Awards for the Blind Lake and Darwinia novels. He also garnered a Philip K. Dick Award for Mysterium. Very, very mpressive indeed. 
  • Born December 15, 1954 Alex Cox, 67. Ahhh, the Director who back in the early Eighties gave us Repo Man. And that he got a co-writer credit for the screenplay of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas before it was completely rewritten by Gilliam. As you know he directed a student film version of Harry Harrison’s Bill, the Galactic Hero at University of Colorado Boulder just a few years ago!
  • Born December 15, 1963 Helen Slater, 58. She was Supergirl in the film of that name, and returned to the 2015 Supergirl TV series as Supergirl’s adoptive mother. Also within the DC Universe, she voiced Talia al Ghul in in Batman: The Animated Series. Recently she also voiced Martha Kent in DC Super Hero Girls: Hero of the Year. And Lara in Smallville… And Eliza Danvers on the  Supergirl series..   Her other genre appearences include being on SupernaturalEleventh HourToothlessDrop Dead Diva and the very short-lived Agent X
  • Born December 15, 1970 Michael Shanks, 51. Best known for playing Dr. Daniel Jackson in the very long-running Stargate SG-1 franchise. His first genre appearance was in the Highlander series and he’s been in a lot of genre properties including the Outer LimitsEscape from MarsAndromeda (formally titled Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda and there’s a juicy story there), SwarmedMega Snake, Eureka, Sanctuary, Smallville, Supernatural and Elysium. Wow! 

(13) TIME TO CROW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber reviews Death’s Door, a game he feels is strongly influenced by Legend Of Zelda, Dark Souls, and Hollow Knight.

Coming from tastemaking indie publisher Devolver Digital, I should have known better than to judge the game harshly.  Its mechanics are familiar but the plot is original and compelling, told with an economy that threads through every element of the game’s design.  You play a fledgling crow who is a new employee at a supernatural bureau of avatar grim reapers.  Your job is to collect the souls of those who have passed on.  Yet when a soul you have collected is stolen, your immortality (a handsome job perk) is compromised, meaning you will age and ultimately die if you cannot recover it….

Death’s Door is a game about being a small, fragile thing in a mysterious, dangerous world.  This is deftly constructed with certain characters and safe spaces scattered across the map which are colourful and memorable: the interminable bureaucracy of the celestial reaper’s office; your companion Pothead, whose skull has been replaced with a vat of soup; the gravedigger who gives touching elegies for those enemies you slay. The spare lines of dialogue tinkle with humour and specificity, helping you empathise with the mute reaper crow on his lonely journey to understand the meaning of death.

(14) BUHLERT AT VIRTUAL WORLDCON. Best Fanwriter Hugo finalist Cora Buhlert has posted her virtual DisCon III schedule: “Cora goes virtually to DisCon III, the 2021 Worldcon”. Her first panel is Thursday.

(15) COMING DOWN A CHIMNEY NEAR YOU. The Washington Post’s Michael Dirda rescues last-minute shoppers with his list of “Gift books 2021: Mysteries, ghost stories and other treats”.

‘The Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories: Volume 5,’ edited by Christopher Philippo (Valancourt)

This latest in an annual series again demonstrates that chills and frights still linger in the browning pages of old magazines and Christmas albums. Philippo reprints two fine tales I’ve read elsewhere — Amelia B. Edwards’s “My Brother’s Ghost Story” and Barry Pain’s “The Undying Thing” — but all his other choices were unfamiliar to me. Since James Skipp Borlase is represented by two stories, I decided to read them first….

(16) YA BOOK SUGGESTIONS. Tara Goetjen on YA horror, paranormal, and ghost story novels crime fiction fans might like. “Genre-Bending YA Novels Perfect For Crime Fans” at CrimeReads.

… To me, this is the great intrigue of a genre-bending thriller. There should always be, without fail, a human face behind the mystery or the bloodshed, just like there is in No Beauties or Monsters [her new book]. But whether or not there is a shadowy, inexplicable, perhaps unbelievable force also wielding terror… well, that’s why we read on till the very end. Here are some other genre-bending young adult novels with speculative elements that kept me reading till the very end too….

(17) LET US NOW PRAISE FAMOUS HOBBITS. GameRant’s Alice Rose Dodds delves into the books to help fans of the LOTR movies answer the question  “What Exactly Is Shire Reckoning?” — “What exactly is this measurement of time, and how does It differ from others in Middle Earth?”

…It is little known that there was a vast long period of time before which any hobbits ever came to rest in The Shire. Hobbits, being of a homely nature and loving their beautiful holes beyond all else, dislike to remember this fact, for they see those days as terrible days, before the comfort of a simple life was discovered… 

(18) IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK AT LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS. But don’t be fooled.  “Christmas Movies Show How Fake Snow Evolved, From ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ To Harry Potter” at LAist.

Watching classic holiday movies is a journey through the technology used to create yuletide joy in different generations. We once used asbestos as movie snow — now the technology ranges from computer graphics to a special type of paper.

In the early days of film, Hollywood “snowmen” would take anything that could be seen as white and flaky and put it to use, author and Atlas Obscura editor April White told LAist. Those sources of flaky whiteness included bleached cornflakes, gypsum, salt, concrete dust, asbestos, and even chicken feathers….

(19) THE LATEST STRANDS. Richard Lawson sorts the cycles of Spider-Man movies for Vanity Fair readers and comments on the new trailer in “Spider-Man: No Way Home Is a Very Tangled Web”.

…Well, to be fair, Spider-Man was always a Marvel property; he just lives at Sony because of deals that long predate Kevin Feige’s Disney-backed conquest of the content cosmos. In that sense, No Way Home is mostly just a triumph of studio executives agreeing on things and actors making their schedules work. A feat unto itself, I suppose…

(20) WEB CASTER VS. SPELL CASTER. Doctor Strange and Spider-man battle it out in the mirror dimension in this clip of the Spider-Man vs Doctor Strange fight scene from Spider-Man: No Way Home.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Rob Thornton, Cora Buhlert, Jeffrey Smith, Johan Anglemark, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson, part of “The Hugo Pixel Scroll Winners” series.]