Pixel Scroll 1/8/23 “Repent, Harlan!” Said The Pixelman

(1) COSINE COMMUNITY. COSine 2023, the Colorado Springs Science Fiction Convention, will be held January 20-22. Guests of honor include author Martha Wells, science guests Drs. Louise & James Gunderson, Experts in Robotics & Artificial Intelligence, artist Kyle Crutcher, a Retro-Futurist Potter, and special guests Connie Willis and Courtney Willis.

Their latest news letter also calls attention to the needs of their Artist Guest of Honor from 2020, Peri Charlifu, who is having some health issues. Although he (and his amazing pottery) will still be at COSine this year, it looks like he is going to be dealing with a lot in 2023. There is a GoFundMe running for those who’d like to help out: “Peri’s Medical Support Fund ~ Stage Four”.

In late December 2022, Peri shared with us that “I have been dealing with kidney failure for a while now. My last trip to the nephrologist was not a great one. She’s moved me into stage four renal failure and I’m looking at dialysis soon, maybe as soon as next year. I have some options, but in any case, it will mean a pretty big change to my life. Whatever kind of dialysis I elect to pursue, I will need some sort of surgery, and if I can get a transplant, I will also need major surgery. This will critically impact my work schedule, I will be unable to work in my studio and I will not be able to throw or do any type of kiln or glaze work. So I need to make as much inventory now as I can, so I have something to send to shows while I’m convalescing. Because of this, I will not be as active at conventions, in programming or in running the art shows. I hope you all understand. Thank you, I’m optimistic that I’ll eventually be OK.”

(2) ADVICE FROM THE STARS. The LA Review of Books says “Hurray for Inventing New Genres or Whatever: On Dr. Moiya McTier’s ‘The Milky Way’”.

LOOKING FOR a New Year’s resolution? According to Dr. Moiya McTier, the Milky Way galaxy has a few for you: “Ask questions about the world around you and find real answers to them. Decide you deserve better and fight to clean your sky of all kinds of pollution — trust me, I’m worth it. Or make beautiful art that people can talk about long after you’ve shuffled off your particular mortal coil.”

If that seems like a lot for one year, don’t worry. The Milky Way is on a tight schedule, so it has condensed a galactic lifetime of advice and insight into a compact book entitled The Milky Way: An Autobiography of Our Galaxy. “My telling you this story — my story — is a gift,” the Milky Way reminds its readers, “[i]t’s like Beyoncé taking time out of her ‘busy’ schedule to personally give you singing lessons.” But who is the Milky Way galaxy to invoke Beyoncé, tell us how to live, or, for that matter, talk at all? And why is it speaking out now?

McTier, the author behind the Milky Way’s voice, became the first Black woman to earn her PhD in astronomy at Columbia after majoring in astrophysics along with folklore and mythology at Harvard. She has since built a career in science communication and storytelling that includes collaborations with PBS and Disney. In an interview for this publication, McTier described the Milky Way as a “larger-than-life character” who “looks at us and sees a homogeneous group.” She elaborated that “the idea that there are different types of humans is absurd to the galaxies,” but to McTier, who grew up in a log cabin in rural Pennsylvania, this idea was a formative influence. The autobiography’s foreword reveals how, in a community that “had only ever seen a Black person on TV,” McTier looked to the sun and moon as her imaginary parents and emotional support system. …

(3) UPHILL ALL THE WAY. The Washington Post looks at “Why it took 43 years to bring ‘Kindred’ to TV”.

Fans and critics can’t yet decide on the success of FX’s take on Octavia E. Butler’s “Kindred,” calling it “thrilling” but “uneven,” “provocative” yet “skimpy.” But there’s one thing they do agree on.

“It’s about damn time,” said author and film historian Tananarive Due, echoing the long-bottled frustration of Butlerphiles who have been waiting patiently (and somewhat hesitantly) for one of her most popular stories to make the leap from page to screen. Nearly 43 years after the novel’s publication and 16 years after Butler’s untimely death at 58, “Kindred’s” arrival on Hulu last month was a result of political movements, box-office trends, and a bit of luck.

Since its debut in 1979, Kindred has been “optioned” — industry parlance for the nascent stage of adaptation — in one form or another. Almost 20 years later, celebrated playwright Branden Jacob Jenkins discovered the novel as a tween on a shelf at Sister Space, a D.C. indie bookstore centering Black female authors and stories. It’d be another two decades before Jacob Jenkins, the series creator, would see his interpretation of Butler’s work available to binge on Hulu. The process wasn’t just long, it was Sisyphean.

“I like to say it’s a miracle whenever a Black property makes it to the screen because Hollywood is very risk adverse,” explained Due, who has firsthand knowledge of the improbability of the book-to-TV pipeline. Back in the mid-2000s, Due pitched an adaptation of her novel “The Good House,” about family history entwined with a haunted house. During one such meeting, an executive asked if the Black characters centered in her story “had to be Black.”

“That’s what Octavia was up against,” Due said. “No matter how much her work was beloved, the gatekeepers were not looking for stories in the speculative realm featuring Black characters. No one was asking for that. Hollywood was always an uphill climb and a hard sell.”

(4) SPELL CHECKING. It’s a big trend — “Spellbound: why ‘witch lit’ is the hottest new genre on our bookshelves” — and the Guardian looks for answers.

Someone, or something, shadowy has put a strong spell on popular literature aimed at women, once cheekily labelled “chick lit”. This perky genre, packaged in bright covers, jauntily titled and so long a mainstay of the publishing industry, has been slowly transforming into something darker and rich with sorcery, with 2023 set to be a new high point in a growing “witch lit” trend.

“Witches are definitely a big thing, which is exciting and fun,” said Phoebe Morgan, a publisher at Hodder Fiction, “but it also has something to do with a sense that women’s rights are in danger of being stripped away again, with things like the overturning of Roe v Wade in America. These books are often concerned with pregnancy, abortion and abuse, as well as magic.”

Several big forthcoming titles in the adult women’s market are concerned with witches and witchcraft, with female persecution developing as a main theme. Next month, Emilia Hart’s much-heralded Weyward will hit bookshops, telling an epic story of three generations of women entangled with magic. But space around the bubbling cauldron is already crowded. Kirsty Logan’s Now She Is Witch will already have staked its place, with publication this week….

(5) FREE READ. Sunday Morning Transport offers a free story by Sarah Rees Brennan, “Tears Waiting to Be Diamonds: Part One”.

… “Make haste, my prince,” warned Hrim. “Your uncle has risen against your father and usurped the throne. Your father and brothers met axe blades in the dark, wielded by the lovers your uncle placed by their sides. Your sisters’ nurses were bribed, their defenses are breached. You’re the last hope.”…

(6) DOT’S ALL, FOLKS! Clive Thompson discusses “What I Learned About My Writing By Seeing Only The Punctuation” at Medium, and shared an online gadget where you can run your own tests — just the punctuation. (An item via Steven H Silver that dates to 2021.)

…I love this concept! And he’s right — when you look at those writers’ punctuation, you can see, in a quick glance, how different they are.

They’re also gorgeous graphics — you want to print them up, hang them on your wall, tweet them out. Calhoun himself was originally inspired by a series of posters that stripped out the punctuation of famous novels and arrayed them in a spiral. When I tweeted about Calhoun’s project last month it quickly spread far and wide — I realized that a lot of people find punctuation-analysis both revealing and beautiful….

Here’s what was distilled from a couple pages of my own fanwriting.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1907 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] L. Frank Baum’s Ozma of Oz

Today’s essay is upon an extended quote from L. Frank Baum’s Ozma of Oz: A Record of Her Adventures with Dorothy Gale of Kansas, Billina the Yellow Hen, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, the Cowardly Lion and the Hungry Tiger; Besides Other Good People Too Numerous to Mention Faithfully Recorded Herein. Yes, that is the actual title.  Forty words I believe. Somebody tell Scott Edelman.

It was published on July 30, 1907 by Reilly & Britton who published all of the Oz novels. It was officially the third book of Baum’s Oz series. It was the first in which Baum was indicated that there would be a series of Oz novels of which there would eventually be fourteen. 

The book was illustrated lavishly in color by John R. Neill. 

Did you know Reilly & Lee, the American publisher who was very desperate to keep the series going, selected Ruth Plumly Thompson to continue the series? So she wrote another nineteen, followed by three Oz books written by John R. Neill, two by Jack Snow and one each by Rachel Cosgrove Payes and by Eloise Jarvis McGraw & her daughter. Wow. 

It bears this dedication: “To all the boys and girls who read my stories – and especially to the Dorothys – this book is lovingly dedicated.”

And here’s the quote I selected which is a delightful look at lunch box trees: 

One was quite full of square paper boxes, which grew in clusters on all the limbs, and upon the biggest and ripest boxes the word “Lunch” could be read, in neat raised letters. This tree seemed to bear all the year around, for there were lunch-box blossoms on some of the branches, and on others tiny little lunch-boxes that were as yet quite green, and evidently not fit to eat until they had grown bigger.

The leaves of this tree were all paper napkins, and it presented a very pleasing appearance to the hungry little girl.

But the tree next to the lunch-box tree was even more wonderful, for it bore quantities of tin dinner-pails, which were so full and heavy that the stout branches bent underneath their weight. Some were small and dark-brown in color; those larger were of a dull tin color; but the really ripe ones were pails of bright tin that shone and glistened beautifully in the rays of sunshine that touched them.

Dorothy was delighted, and even the yellow hen acknowledged that she was surprised.

The little girl stood on tip-toe and picked one of the nicest and biggest lunch-boxes, and then she sat down upon the ground and eagerly opened it. Inside she found, nicely wrapped in white papers, a ham sandwich, a piece of sponge-cake, a pickle, a slice of new cheese and an apple. Each thing had a separate stem, and so had to be picked off the side of the box; but Dorothy found them all to be delicious, and she ate every bit of luncheon in the box before she had finished.

“A lunch isn’t zactly breakfast,” she said to Billina, who sat beside her curiously watching. “But when one is hungry one can eat even supper in the morning, and not complain.”

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 8, 1908 William Hartnell. The very first Doctor who appeared when Doctor Who originally aired on November 23rd, 1963. He would be the Doctor for three years leaving when a new Showrunner came on. He played The Doctor once more during the tenth anniversary story The Three Doctors (aired 1972–73) which was the last thing he filmed before his death. I scanned through the usual sources but didn’t find any other genre listing for him. Is that correct? (Died 1975.)
  • Born January 8, 1925 Steve Holland. Did you know there was a short lived Flash Gordon series, thirty-one episodes in 1954 – 1955 to be precise? I didn’t until I discovered the Birthday for the lead in this show today. Except for four minor roles, this was his entire TV career. Biography in “Flash Gordon: Journey to Greatness” would devote an entire show to him and this series. (Died 1997.)
  • Born January 8, 1941 Boris Vallejo, 82. Illustrator whose artwork has appeared on myriad genre publications. Subjects of his paintings were gods, hideous monsters, well-muscled male swordsmen and scantily clad females. Early illustrations of Tarzan, Conan the Barbarian and Doc Savage established him as an illustrator.
  • Born January 8, 1942 Stephen Hawking. Y’all know who he is, but did you know that Nimoy was responsible for his appearance as a holographic representation of himself in the “Descent” episode on Next Gen?  He also guest starred in Futuruma and had  a recurring role on The Big Bang Theory. Just before his death, he was the voice of The Book on the new version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio series. (Died 2018.)
  • Born January 8, 1947 David Bowie. First SF role was as Thomas Jerome Newton in The Man Who Fell to Earth. He plays The Shark in Yellowbeard, a film that Monty Python should have produced but didn’t. Next up is the superb Labyrinth where he was Jareth the Goblin King, a role perfect for him. There’s a sixty scale figure from Hot Toys that is stellar. He shows up again in The Hunger later on as The Host. From that role, he went on to being Pontius Pilate in The Last Temptation of Christ, an amazing role by the way. He was in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me as FBI Agent Phillip Jeffries, a role which was his last role when he appeared later in the Twin Peaks series.  He also played Nikola Tesla in The Prestige from Christopher Priest’s novel of the same name. (Died 2016.)
  • Born January 8, 1977 Amber Benson, 46. Best known for her role as Tara Maclay on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Her post-BtVS genre credits are scant with a bit of work on Supernatural, a Sci-fi Channel film called Gryphon, a web series called The Morganville Vampires and, I kid you not, a film called One-Eyed Monster which is about an adult film crew encountering monsters. She is by the way a rather good writer. She’s written a number of books, some with Christopher Golden such as the Ghosts of Albion series and The Seven Whistlers novel which I read when Subterranean Press sent it to Green Man for review. Her Calliope Reaper-Jones series is quite excellent too.
  • Born January 8, 1979 Sarah Polley, 44. H’h what did I first see her in? Ahhhh she was in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen! Let’s see what else she’s done… She’s been in the animated Babar: The MovieExistenzNo Such Thing (which is based very loosely on Beowulf), Dawn of the DeadBeowulf & Grendel (well sort of based on the poem but, errr, artistic license was taken) and Mr. Nobody.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • That’s Doctor to you — Eek!

(10) APES THAT PULL RUGS. “Mutant Ape Planet NFT developer charged with fraud in Brooklyn federal court”, and the Brooklyn Eagle is there.

A developer of the NFT known as Mutant Ape Planet was charged in the Eastern District of New York for allegedly defrauding investors of $2.9 million. Aurelien Michel, a 24-year-old, French national who lives in Dubai, was charged with defrauding purchasers of his non-fungible token (NFT), a type of digital asset, of more than $2.9 million. Michel was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Wednesday night and appeared before Magistrate Judge James Cho on Thursday.

… Rug pulls have become a common scheme for sellers of NFTs, but this would be one of the biggest ever as it would potentially be bigger than the Big Daddy Ape Club, that allegedly cost investors $1.3 million at the time, the Baller Ape Club, that allegedly cost investors $2.6 million….

(11) IT’S NOT PRINCE SPAGHETTI DAY. No matter how saucy it gets. Vulture is delighted to report, “’Wednesday’ Season 2 Renewed at Netflix: What We Know”.

Get ready to dance, dance, dance with your hands above your head, Wednesday fans. The Jenna Ortega–led show has officially escaped Netflix’s one-and-done cancellation curse and been renewed for a second season. “It’s been incredible to create a show that has connected with people across the world. Thrilled to continue Wednesday’s tortuous journey into season two,” showrunners and executive producers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar confirmed to Tudum.com. “We can’t wait to dive head first into another season and explore the kooky spooky world of Nevermore. Just need to make sure Wednesday hasn’t emptied the pool first.” Below, what we know about the goth girl’s next semester at Nevermore Academy, straight from Enid’s gossip blog….

(12) ON SF CONS. [Item by David Doering.] A question to muse: are the decades of cons and the resulting con-fostered SR/F community why we won the culture war?

In terms of global culture, SF cons are a rather unique expression–amateur-run, passion driven–over other fields of interest. Yes, there’s been fraternities and clubs for all kinds of interests. But none seem to have had such an impact with what you and I have seen over the last 50-60 years. 

Going from the despised and avoided, con-energized fans now are the drivers of culture worldwide.  Interesting, no? 

(13) REVEALED FIGURE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Scientific American weighs in on the true meaning of 42. “For Math Fans: A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Number 42”.

The author’s choice of the number 42 has become a fixture of geek culture. It’s at the origin of a multitude of jokes and winks exchanged between initiates. If, for example, you ask your search engine variations of the question “What is the answer to everything?” it will most likely answer “42.” Try it in French or German. You’ll often get the same answer whether you use Google, Qwant, Wolfram Alpha (which specializes in calculating mathematical problems) or the chat bot Web app Cleverbot.

Since the first such school was created in France in 2013 there has been a proliferation of private computer-training institutions in the “42 Network,” whose name is a clear allusion to Adams’s novels. Today the founding company counts more than 15 campuses in its global network. The number 42 also appears in different forms in the film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Many other references and allusions to it can be found, for example, in the Wikipedia entry for “42 (number).”

The number 42 also turns up in a whole string of curious coincidences whose significance is probably not worth the effort to figure out. For example:

In ancient Egyptian mythology, during the judgment of souls, the dead had to declare before 42 judges that they had not committed any of 42 sins.

The marathon distance of 42.195 kilometers corresponds to the legend of how far the ancient Greek messenger Pheidippides traveled between Marathon and Athens to announce victory over the Persians in 490 B.C. (The fact that the kilometer had not yet been defined at that time only makes the connection all the more astonishing.)…

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George takes us inside the “Clash of the Titans Pitch Meeting” – which begins by straightening out the boss about the fact that there are no Titans in the movie.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Todd Mason, Jennifer Hawthorne, David Doering, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Tom Becker.]

Pixel Scroll 11/17/22 Some Scroll Titles Make Me Laugh Out Loud, Some Make Me Wish I Thought Them Up, Others I Never Figure Out

(1) AUDIOBOOKS OF THE YEAR. Audible.com has named its picks for “Best of the Year: The 12 Best Sci-Fi Listens of 2022”.

This year’s sci-fi didn’t shy away from heavy, timely topics like climate change, pandemics, and social justice, but even as the subject matter hit close to home, the listening reached to new heights. Several stunning multicast productions make up this list—as well as narrators we can’t hear enough of. In a world that seems increasingly science fictional by the year, the bar is only set higher for creators in this genre—and this year’s list dares it to inch up just a little more….

Audible’s Sci-Fi Audiobook of the Year, 2022 is Upgrade Soul, an adaptation of Ezra Claytan Daniels’s graphic novel.

…Adapting a visual story to an audio medium is a feat in itself, and rather than simply match frame-for-frame, the author took the opportunity to evolve the story by pushing the boundaries of voice and sound. The production value is stunning, and the cast—Marcia Gay Harden, Wendell Pierce—puts on a masterful performance, quite literally transforming their delivery alongside their characters’ journeys. It’s a listen for sci-fi fans, horror fans, and anyone who has ever felt the fear of being left behind….

(2) THE UNADORNED TEXT. And Bookpage adds to the array of year-end roundups with “Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of 2022”.

There is probably no better way to sum up 2022 than to say it was a year dominated by both horror and hopepunk—sometimes even in the same book….

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to eavesdrop on Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki in Episode 185 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki

Ekpeki — who won the Best Novelette Nebula Award earlier this year for “O2 Arena” — was up for two Hugo Awards that weekend. Not only as a writer for “O2 Arena” again — but also in the category of Best Editor, Short Form. Plus earlier this month, he won a World Fantasy Award in the category of Best Anthology for The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction. He has also won the Otherwise, Nommo and British Fantasy Awards, plus has been a finalist for the Locus, British Science Fiction Association, Theodore Sturgeon Memorial, and This Is Horror awards.

His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in or are forthcoming in TordotcomApex MagazineStrange HorizonsAsimov’sGalaxy’s EdgeCosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, and more. In addition to editing that first ever — and now award-winning — Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction anthology, he also co-edited the award-winning Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction From Africa and the African Diaspora, as well as — most recently — the Africa Risen anthology from Tordotcom, co-edited with Sheree Renée Thomas and Zelda Knight.

We discussed the reason “shocked” seemed an inadequate word to describe his feelings about winning a Nebula Award earlier this year, what he considered the true prize he won over his Worldcon weekend, how growing up next to a library changed his life, how writing fan fiction helped him get where he is today, the way reading the struggles of a certain character in a Patrick Rothfuss novel helped him deal with his own struggles, what caused him to say “the law cannot help you change the law,” when he decided his novella “Ife-Iyoku, Tale of Imadeyunuagbon” deserved to be a trilogy, the way he does his best work when backed into a corner, how it’s possible for three editors to edit an anthology, and much more.

(4) UNPACKING AFTER THE WORLDCON. Read Morgan Hazelwood’s notes about the Chicon 8 panel “Reaching Past Riordan” or view the video commentary at Morgan Hazelwood: Writer in Progress. The panelists are Beth Mitcham, Kathryn Sullivan, Samantha Lane, Marines Alvarez, and Donna JW Munro.

Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series has led to an explosion of YA speculative fiction that explores mythology and folktales through the adventures of modern-day characters. What’s made this subgenre so popular? And who are some authors to pick up after Percy Jackson? And how has the genre expanded to feature non-Western mythologies?

(5) DAW BOOKS ACQUIRES FIVE NEW FANTASY NOVELS FROM MERCEDES LACKEY. Betsy Wollheim, Publisher at DAW Books, has acquired North American rights to five new books by Mercedes Lackey, represented by Russell Galen at Scovil Galen Ghosh Agency, Inc. 

Mercedes Lackey. Photo by Hudson Stryker

Two books will be set in Lackey’s beloved fantasy world of Valdemar, while the other three will continue her long-running Elemental Masters novels. Lackey is a New York Times-bestselling author and was named a Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association in 2022. 

The first of the new Valdemar novels, written in collaboration with her partner Larry Dixon, is scheduled for Spring 2024. Lackey’s expansive fantasy world of Valdemar includes over thirty novels that span the history of the kingdom. Her most recent books explore the long-awaited story of the founding of the nation by the legendary Baron Kordas Valdemar.

Elemental Masters #17 is scheduled for Fall 2024, with books #18 and #19 to follow in 2025 and 2026. Set in the Regency era, these novels combine historical fantasy and fairytale retellings with powers of elemental magic.

(6) NATIONAL BOOK AWARDS. The National Book Awards 2022 were announced this week. None of the winners is of genre interest, except that one of the stories in Samantha Schweblin’s collection Seven Empty Houses (Best Translated Literature) involves a ghost. The complete list of winners is at the link.

(7) REALLY MAD. Mad Genius Club’s Karen Myers is irate about “Authors misusing tools they don’t understand”. In particular she’s offended by the misuse of sentence fragments, and says she finds Lee Child’s Reacher series delivers endless bad examples. While I like the Reacher books, I have noticed this tendency myself…

…Men’s Adventure Stories™ have certain conventions. When you read the genre, you expect explosive action, mortal peril, expertise, heroes & villains, suffering, triumph (contingent). One of the methods used to convey some of this (action, peril, expertise, suffering) is the use of short sentences, or even sentence fragments. The reason this works is that it mimics, in rhetorical form, the experience of hyper-focus or shock — the ability or need to concentrate, in whole or in part, on single things that absorb all attention in a moment of importance. It therefore puts the reader into the head of the person telling the story, a head which can only look at things that way in that moment. It is vivid.

At least, when it’s done right….

(8) TODAY’S DAY. Craig Miller reminds Facebook readers that today is “Life Day” in the Star Wars universe, and explains its origins with an excerpt from his book Star Wars Memories:

The holiday around which “The Star Wars Holiday Special” was centered. The celebration date was chosen because it’s the anniversary of when the show aired its one and only time on television.

To mark the occasion, here’s an excerpt from “Star Wars Memories”, talking about the special’s creation.

The Star Wars Holiday Special

I had no real involvement with “The Star Wars Holiday Special”. It wasn’t a project I was assigned. I didn’t work on it. But I was at Lucasfilm while it was happening, received copies of each draft of the script as they came in, and heard about what was going on from some of the people working on it. So I have a few insights about it….

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1963 [By Cat Eldridge.] The Pink Panther

Fifty-nine years ago — though I’ll admit not even close to this evening — the first of The Pink Panther films came out. I was thinking about Blake Edwards earlier because of Victor/Victoria, hence this essay. Don’t think about that too much.

The first quite naturally was called The Pink Panther

WARNING SPOILERS THAT WOULD ATTRACT THE ATTENTION OF A CERTAIN PINK PANTHER FOLLOW.

The Pink Panther first shows up in the opening credits which you can see here.

Its story follows inspector Jacques Clouseau as he travels from Rome to Cortina d’Ampezzo to catch a notorious jewel thief known as “The Phantom” before he is able to steal a priceless diamond known as The Pink Panther, so called because one can see a leaping pink panther within it supposedly.

It is held by the heiress to a country now ruled by a military junta. She and the Phantom are at the same resort as is the Inspector. Somehow against all logic the Inspector, played throughout the series by Peter Sellers, is accused of being The Phantom, arrested, and jailed. More amusingly for me, a woman at the resort falls in love with him. 

The film ends after the police car carrying the Inspector to prison runs over a traffic warden which again is the Pink Panther. He gets back up as we hear the crash sound that was coming from the police car, holding a card that reads “THEND” and swipes the letters to somehow read “THE END.”

(A lot of comic mayhem happens that I’ve not covered of course.) 

THE PINK PANTHER SAYS IN SIGN LANGUAGE THAT YOU CAN COME BACK. 

Blake Edwards directed from a screenplay by him and Maurice Richlin. It had a steller cast of David Niven, the aforementioned Peter Sellers, Robert Wagner and Claudia Cardinale. 

Niven who played The Phantom here portrayed had previously played Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman, a character closely resembling the Phantom, in the Raffles film of 1939. Apparently this was presented to him as the beginning of a new series of Raffles-style movies. However Peter Sellers stole every scene, and it became a Sellers vehicle instead.

Peter Ustinov was to play Clouseau, with Ava Gardner as his wife.  After Gardner backed out because The Mirisch Company would not meet her demands for a personal staff, Ustinov left as well. 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a most excellent seventy-eight percent rating. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 17, 1915 Raymond F. Jones. Writer who is best remembered for his novel This Island Earth, which was made into a movie which was then skewered in Mystery Science Theatre 3000: The Movie. However, he produced a significant number of science fiction novels and short stories which were published in magazines such as Thrilling Wonder Stories, Astounding Stories, and Galaxy, including “Rat Race” and “Correspondence Course”, which respectively earned Hugo and Retro Hugo nominations. (Died 1994.)
  • Born November 17, 1925 Rock Hudson. Best known genre role was as Col. John Wilder in The Martian Chronicles series. He also played President Thomas McKenna in the World War III miniseries which you may or may not consider SF. That’s it. (Died 1985.)
  • Born November 17, 1932 Dennis McHaney. Writer and Critic. Pulp writers in particular seem to attract scholars, both amateur and professional. Robert E. Howard was not an exception. So I give you this individual who, between 1974 and 2008, published The Howard Review and The Robert E. Howard Newsletter. Oh, but that was hardly all he did, as he created reference works such as The Fiction of Robert E. Howard – A Pocket Checklist, Robert E. Howard in Oriental Stories, Magic Carpet and The Souk, and The Fiction of Robert E. Howard: A Quick Reference Guide. A listing of his essays and other works would take an entire page. It has intriguing entries such as Frazetta Trading CardsThe Short, Sweet Life and Slow Agonizing Death of a Fan’s Magazine, and The Films of Steve Reeves. Fascinating… (Died 2011.)
  • Born November 17, 1936 John Trimble, 86. Husband of Bjo Trimble. He has assisted her in almost all of her SF work, including Project Art Show. They were GoHs at ConJose, the 2002 Worldcon. He’s a member of LASFS. He’s been involved in far too many fanzines and APAs too list here. 
  • Born November 17, 1956 Rebecca Moesta Anderson, 66. Wife of Kevin James Anderson with whom she collaborates more often than not. They’ve done dozens of Star Wars novels including the Young Jedi Knights series, and even one in the Buffyverse. 
  • Born November 17, 1966 Ed Brubaker, 56. Comic book writer and artist. Sandman Presents: Dead Boy Detectives I’d consider his first genre work. Later work for DC and Marvel included The AuthorityBatmanCaptain AmericaDaredevilCatwoman and the Uncanny X-Men. If I may single out but one series, it’d be the one he did with writer Greg Rucka which was the Gotham Central series. It’s Gotham largely without Batman but with the villains so GPD has to deal with them by themselves. Grim and well done. In 2016, he joined the writing staff for the Westworld series where he co-wrote the episode “Dissonance Theory” with Jonathan Nolan.
  • Born November 17, 1983 Christopher Paolini, 39. He is the author of the Inheritance Cycle, which consists of the books EragonEldestBrisingr, and Inheritance. A film version of the first novel came out in 2006. The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm, the first book in a series called Tales of Alagaësia, was published in 2018.

(11) MARTHA WELLS Q&A. Media Death Cult’s “Sci Fi Spotlight” interviews Martha Wells. Along the way she mentions that Ben Aaronovich’s Rivers of London is one of her favorites, which one of our reviewers will happy to hear.

Martha Wells is a Hugo and Nebula Award winning author from Texas, she won’t mind me saying that she is most well known for Murderbot.

(12) PARADOX FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] 50 years ago the first edition of the H G Wells Society clubzine Paradox came out. The Romanian writer Silviu Genescu reminded Facebook readers it had no issue number as the authorities (the communist regime) said that there would be no other issues.

In fact the regime almost did not allow the HG Wells Society to be so named as H G Wells was a western author. However the student club members of the society pointed out that Wells was a socialist in outlook and so the authorities granted permission.

This weekend the 50th anniversary edition of Paradox is coming out.

I know a number of H G Wells members as we, SF2 Concatenation, ran cultural exchange ventures with Hungarian and Romanian SF fans and authors back in the 1990s following the fall of the Iron Curtain. So I am still in touch with a few of them.

(13) YEAR’S TOP GRAPHIC NOVELS. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna declares these are “The 10 best graphic novels of 2022”.

The engine of graphic-novel publishing — fine-tuned to so many demographics and markets — has run on all cylinders in 2022.

Textured memoirs. Throwback superheroes. Chilling fictional thrills and riveting real-life horror. And retrospectives that dazzle in their devotion to the medium’s history.

Our recommendations could easily number in the hundreds, but to distill our picks, here are 10 stellarcomics that represent an array of genres and styles:

The list includes –

‘The Keeper,’ by Tananarive Due, Steven Barnes and artist Marco Finnegan

The acclaimed husband-and-wife horror authors (NAACP Image Award winners both) team with the gifted Finnegan to render a taut and thrilling tale in which an orphaned Detroit girl must come to terms with the titular spirit. The truth lurks in the omnipresent shadows, and revelations reveal themselves with expert pacing and craft.

(13) UP ABOVE THE WORLD SO HIGH. “Canada’s CBC Books Names Five Finalists for Its 2022 Poetry Prize” and one of them is at least genre adjacent — “To the Astronaut Who Hopes Life on Another Planet Will Be More Bearable” by Brad Aaron Modlin. (Read it at the link.) The winner will be announced on November 24 and will receive a cash prize of 6,000 Canadian dollars (US$4,501) from the Canada Council for the Arts. In addition, the winner gets a two-week writing residency at the Banff Center for Arts and Creativity in Alberta. Each finalist receives 1,000 Canadian dollars (US$750).

(14) HOW THEY DID IT. The New York Times’ “Dressing Wakanda” has a detailed commentary by costume designer Ruth E. Carter about five outfits created for Wakanda Forever. Photos at the link.

…Given that Ms. Carter designed “hundreds of character pieces” for the film, working with ateliers and artists in Los Angeles, Paris, India and New Zealand, not to mention brands including Adidas and Iris van Herpen, the choice was not exactly an easy one….

Carter begins with —

Queen Ramonda, in purple dress and crown

Queen Ramonda’s dress, a combination of computer-generated designs and handwork, took four to six months to make.Eli Adé/Marvel Studios

“She wears this to a U.N. meeting in Geneva, and I wanted you to recognize right away that this is the queen, but because of T’Challa’s death, she is now both the queen and the king. The purple dress represents the color of the royal family — color impacts the audience and story enormously — and she has a 3-D printed crown and collar.

The crown is the same style she wore in the first film, which was also 3-D printed to reflect the fact that Wakandans are technologically advanced enough to create wearable art, and modeled on the isicholo, a Zulu married woman’s hat. The collar has additional gemstones that were added by jeweler Douriean Fletcher. So it’s a combination of computer-generated designs by the artist Julia Koerner and handwork. The dress has a series of Wakandan hieroglyphs going down the center and sides and converge at the neckpiece, so she almost becomes a totem. That is her stature now. It probably took four to six months to make.”

(15) SPLASH LANDING. “Winchcombe meteorite bolsters Earth water theory”BBC News explains.

A meteorite that crashed on the Gloucestershire town of Winchcombe last year contained water that was a near-perfect match for that on Earth.

This bolsters the idea rocks from space brought key chemical components, including water, to the planet early in its history, billions of years ago.

The meteorite is regarded as the most important recovered in the UK.

Scientists publishing their first detailed analysis say it has yielded fascinating insights….

This is the link to the scientific paper: “The Winchcombe meteorite, a unique and pristine witness from the outer solar system”.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Dr. Matt O’Dowd takes up the question “Are there Undiscovered Elements Beyond The Periodic Table?” on PBS’ Space and Time.

Adamantium, bolognium, dilithium. Element Zero, Kryptonite. Mythril, Netherite, Orichalcum, Unobtanium. We love the idea of fictional elements with miraculous properties that science has yet to discover. But is it really possible that new elements exist beyond the periodic table?

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

Pixel Scroll 10/26/22 Did You Know That Pixel Chases Transdimensional Scrolls?

(1) SHAUN TAN Q&A. Steven Heller interviews artist Shaun Tan for Print in “The Daily Heller: One-Eyed, One-Horned, Flying Purple People Eater”.

You create nightmarish visions that have a witty or acerbic quality, like the one-eyed creature on the cover of your book. Do you lean towards high or comic graphic depictions?
I suppose I hover in between, or try to fuse, as there’s no reason a thing can’t be both. I think of Philip Guston’s paintings, for instance, or a film like Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, which was very influential for me as a teenager, or the comics of Daniel Clowes and Chris Ware—which can be simultaneously funny and painful—the stories of Kelly Link. In fact, I love anything that exists in that space between scary and funny, or serious and frivolous. I suppose I’m interested in figuring out the difference, why we react to some things as creepy and disconcerting, and to others as delightful and amusing. I think the one-eyed creature you mention is a good one for that kind of emotional litmus test. It is both disquieting and inviting, cool and warm. A lot of the work at the easel is about striking that balance, and it is a very precarious balance that can take days to get right. For me it comes down to a backlit feather, the obscured parts of a face, the movement of shadow on stems of grass.

(2) GIANCOLA EXHIBITION. The Huntsville (AL) Museum of Art will host “Donato Giancola: Adventures in Imagination” from October 30 through January 22. Giancola is the winner of three Hugo Awards, a World Fantasy Award, plus 23 Chesley Awards for his superlative work in the field.

Donato Giancola is an American artist specializing in narrative realism with science fiction and fantasy content. Considered the most successful sci-fi/fantasy illustrator working today, he creates engaging paintings that bridge the worlds of contemporary and historical figurative arts. Exclusive to the Huntsville Museum of Art, Adventures in Imagination will include a range of thematic subjects, including paintings and drawings based on the popular HBO series Game of Thrones, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and the fantasy tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. Also included are works created to illustrate the covers and stories of recent fantasy novels, as well as other surprises….

(3) CLOSE YOUR EYES. “Doctor Who: Every Companion Featured in the Centenary Special” – in case you don’t have enough spoilage already, CBR.com says they’ve named them all.

“The Power of the Doctor” was significant in Doctor Who history in more ways than one. Not only did the episode see Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor regenerate into one of her former selves for the first time in the series’ history, but the special was part of the BBC’s centenary celebration. The episode marked the occasion well with the return of some familiar faces from the sci-fi series’ long history, which spans more than half the BBC’s lifetime….

(4) A BOOK WITH A DIFFERENT KIND OF PROMOTION. Tananarive Due is named one of the “5 Female Demi-Gods of Horror” by CrimeReads.

TANANARIVE DUE: “Ghost Summer: Stories” (Sept. 2015)

From the USA, I present Ghost Summer: Stories, a collection of horror stories featuring fourteen short stories and the novella, Ghost Summer, from which the book gets its title. The work showcases Due’s undisputable skill as a master storyteller. Due also makes little intimate notes after each story which the reader will find just as engaging. The stories are creepy, and the horror subtle, yet powerful. Stories like The Knowing, (dealing with a woman who knows when everybody she meets is going to die, including her own son) and Ghost Summer, (featuring a town where the children are the only ones to see the ghosts dwelling in their midst) are my personal favourites. The themes of racial injustices, as well as historical events, come together to make this book a must-read for every horror fan this Halloween. Another hit by this fiercely unconventional American horror writer….

(5) IS IT A GOOD FAKE? “When a Modern Director Makes a Fake Old Movie: A Video Essay on David Fincher’s Mank. Open Culture analyzes how effective the deception is.

As of this writing, Mank is David Fincher’s newest movie — but also, in a sense, his oldest. With Netflix money behind him, he and his collaborators spared seemingly no expense in re-creating the look and feel of a nineteen-forties film using the advanced digital technologies of the twenty-twenties. The idea was not just to tell the story of Citizen Kane scriptwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, but to make the two pictures seem like contemporaries. As Fincher’s production designer Donald Graham Burt once put it, the director “wanted the movie to be like you were in a vault and came across Citizen Kane and next to it was Mank.” ….

Here’s a video about the challenge David Fincher took on.

(6) BECALMED IN WINTER. George R.R. Martin was on Stephen Colbert’s show to promote other books and projects, however, you won’t be surprised that it was only the book he doesn’t have out that made news. In The Hollywood Reporter: “George R.R. Martin Says ‘The Winds of Winter’ Is Now Three-Quarters Finished”.

George R.R. Martin is giving a specific update on his Winds of Winter progress.

The Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon author was on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Tuesday, where he was asked the mandatory, yet wearisome, question about his progress on the long-long-awaited next A Song of Ice and Fire book.

“I think it’s going to be a very big book [more than 1500 pages] and I think I’m about three-quarters of the way done,” Martin said. “The characters all interweave and I’m actually finished with a couple of the characters, but not others. I have to finish all that weaving.”

Colbert did the math. “So [it’s taken] 10 years to go 75 percent of the way through … which means about … three more years?”

“That’s depressing,” Martin replied, and also lamented that the moment he finishes, he’ll get the first tweet asking when his seventh and final ASOIAF book is coming, A Dream of Spring. The author said he hasn’t even played his hit game, Elden Ring, due to his writing commitment….

(7) THE HILLS ARE ALIVE WITH THE SOUND OF GAIMAN. “Author Neil Gaiman to Release First Album with Australian String Quartet” reports American Songwriter.

Creator of The Sandman, Stardust, American Gods, and countless graphic novels and books, Neil Gaiman is releasing his first album of original music, Signs of Life (Instrumental Recordings) in collaboration with the Australian FourPlay String Quartet, out April 28, 2023.

All words, music, and backing vocals provided by Gaiman, the album comes after the author and quartet have collaborated for more than 12 years. The quartet was first commissioned to compose a soundtrack for Gaiman’s 2010 novella, The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains, which they later performed together.

Ahead of the April 2023 release, Gaiman and the quartet shared two new singles, “Bloody Sunrise” and “Credo,” the former accompanied by an official music video, directed by James Chappell, featuring Goodridge, who sings lead vocals, lying in a coffin and rising to perform with the FourPlay String Quartet in a graveyard. Gaiman, who also sings backing vocals, also makes a cameo on a flickering television screen at the beginning of the video….

(8) PLANETARY POSTER CHILD. In time for Halloween, NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration webpage invites us into the “Galaxy of Horrors”.

Take a tour of some of the most terrifying and mind-blowing destinations in our galaxy … and beyond. After a visit to these nightmare worlds, you may never want to leave Earth again! You can also download our free posters – based on real NASA science – if you dare.

Here’s an example:

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1950s [By Cat Eldridge.] Ray Bradbury’s EC Comics 

During a particularly wonderful moment in the early 1950s, EC Comics adapted twenty-five classic Ray Bradbury stories into comics form. Al Feldstein scripted, and all of EC’s artists illustrated, his tales  — Johnny Craig, Reed Crandall, Jack Davis, Will Elder, George Evans, Frank Frazetta, Graham Ingels, Jack Kamen, Roy Krenkel, Bernard Krigstein, Joe Orlando, John Severin, Angelo Torres, Al Williamson, and Wallace Wood. 

Now the twenty-five stories themselves were done between 1951 and 1954 in oversized newspaper style design. The volume also includes ten “related” stories.

The title story apparently combines two of his stories, those being “Kaleidoscope” and “Rocket Man”, and Bradbury was very proud of the result. “Sound of Thunder”, which was later filmed, is here as well. So is a favorite story of mine, “The Million Years Picnic”. 

Bradbury had several primary sources for these stories  — the Dark Carnival tales, The Martian ChroniclesThe Golden Apples of the Sun and The Illustrated Man stories.

Now Fantographics has gathered all them including those maybe unauthorized stories in Home to Stay!: The Complete Ray Bradbury EC Stories.

Not at all surprisingly, it has a load of bonus features, including introductions and commentary by Greg Bear, Thommy Burns, Bill Mason, Dr. Benjamin Saunders, and Ted White; a nice look at the comics by Bradbury; and two full-color paintings by Frank Frazetta.

It’s the usual superbly fine work by Fantographics at, all things considered, a very reasonable price, just seventy-five dollars.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 26, 1934 Dan McCarthy. The grand old man of New Zealand fandom. He belonged to Aotearapa, New Zealand’s APA, for 25 years, and was its official editor from 1986-1987 and 2001-2003. As a member, he contributed 77 issues of his fanzine Panopticon, for which he did paintings and color graphics. His skills as a fanartist were widely appreciated: he was a Fan Guest of Honour at the New Zealand national convention, a nominee for the Sir Julius Vogel Award, and he won NZ Science Fiction Fan Awards (the predecessor of the Vogel) Best Fan Artist twice. (Died 2013.) (JJ) 
  • Born October 26, 1942 Bob Hoskins. I’ll insist his role as Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is his finest genre role although I suppose Mario Mario in Super Mario Bros. could be said… Just kidding!  He played Professor George Challenger in a film version of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, and also appeared in Snow White and The Huntsman, Hook, the Hugo-nominated Brazil, A Christmas Carol, Son of The Mask, and as the voice of The Badger in an animated version of The Wind in The Willows. (Died 2014.)
  • Born October 26, 1945 Jane Chance, 77. Scholar specializing in medieval English literature, gender studies, and J. R. R. Tolkien with a very, very impressive publication list for the latter such as Tolkien’s Art: A “Mythology for EnglandTolkien the MedievalistThe Lord of the Rings: The Mythology of Power and Tolkien, Self and Other: “This Queer Creature”
  • Born October 26, 1953 Jennifer Roberson, 69. Writer of of fantasy and historical romances. The Chronicles of the Cheysuli is her fantasy series about shapeshifters and their society, and the Sword-Dancer Saga is the desert-based adventure series of sort, but the series I’ve enjoyed most is her Sherwood duology that consists of Lady of the Forest and Lady of Sherwood that tells that tale from the perspective of Marian. Her hobby, which consumes much of her time, is breeding and showing Cardigan Welsh Corgis.
  • Born October 26, 1962 Cary Elwes, 60. He’s in the ever-so-excellent Princess Bride as Westley / Dread Pirate Roberts / The Man in Black which won a Hugo at Nolacon II. He also shows up in Dr. Lawrence Gordon in the Saw franchise, and was cast as Larry Kline, Mayor of Hawkins, for the third season of Stranger Things. And that’s hardly all his genre roles. 
  • Born October 26, 1963 Keith Topping, 59. Writer from England. It being the month of ghoulies, I’ve got another academic for you. He’s published a number of non-fiction reference works – frequently in collaboration with Martin Day and/or Paul Cornell – for various genre franchises, including The Avengers, The X-Files, Stargate SG-1Star Trek Next Generation and Deep Space NineBuffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and for horror film fans in general, A Vault of Horror: A Book of 80 Great British Horror Movies from 1956-1974. He’s also written four novels in the Doctor Who universe, and co-authored The DisContinuity Guide.
  • Born October 26, 1971 Anthony Rapp, 51. Lieutenant Commander Paul Stamets on Discovery. His first role ever was Wes Hansen in Sky High, and he showed up early in his career as Jeff Glaser in the “Detour” episode of X-Files. He was Seymour Krelbourn in a national tour of Little Shop of Horrors.
  • Born October 26, 1976 Florence Kasumba, 46. Actor of German Ugandan heritage who has done films in English, German, and Dutch languages. She is best known for her role as Ayo in the Marvel universe movies Captain America: Civil War, the Hugo nominated Black Panther, and Avengers: Infinity War, but she also had a role in the Hugo-winning Wonder Woman, played the Wicked Witch of the East in the TV series Emerald City, and voiced a character in the live-action remake of The Lion King.

(11) HO HO HO, IT’S THE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. Entertainment Weekly cues up the clip: “The Guardians of the Galaxy kidnap Kevin Bacon in their first holiday special trailer” .

Yes, the real Kevin Bacon.

The Guardians of the Galaxy are rockin’ around the Christmas tree — or is that the Christmas Groot?

Director James Gunn has shared the first trailer for the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, teasing our first look at Marvel’s most festive project yet. The upcoming special will debut on Disney+ in November, and it follows everyone’s favorite ragtag band of space weirdos as they cavort around the universe and try to spread a little Christmas cheer….

(12) MAYBE IT’S JUST SOCIAL MEDIA DOES THAT. Try not to be disappointed, however, video games may not rot your brain after all! The Verge reports “Kids who play video games score higher on brain function tests”.

Kids who play video games have better memory and better control over their motor skills than kids who don’t, according to a new study looking at adolescent brain function.

Video games might not be responsible for those differences — the study can’t say what the causes are — but the findings add to a bigger body of work showing gamers have better performance on some tests of brain function. That lends support to efforts to develop games that can treat cognitive problems.

… To study video games and cognition, the research team on this new study pulled from the first set of assessments in the ABCD study. It included data on 2,217 children who were nine and 10 years old. The ABCD study asked participants how many hours of video games they played on a typical weekday or weekend day. The research team divided the group into video gamers (kids who played at least 21 hours per week) and non-video gamers (kids who played no video games per week). Kids who only played occasionally weren’t included in the study. Then, the research team looked at the kids’ performance on tests that measure attention, impulse control, and memory.

The video gamers did better on the tests, the study found…. 

(13) HOW LONG CAN YOU HOLD YOUR BREATH? “NASA instrument detects dozens of methane super-emitters from space” at Yahoo!

An orbital NASA instrument designed mainly to advance studies of airborne dust and its effects on climate change has proven adept at another key Earth-science function – detecting large, worldwide emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

The device, called an imaging spectrometer, has identified more than 50 methane “super-emitters” in Central Asia, the Middle East and the Southwestern United States since it was installed in July aboard the International Space Station, NASA said on Tuesday.

The newly measured methane hotspots – some previously known and others just discovered – include sprawling oil and gas facilities and large landfills….

(14) WHY I OTTER… “In Prehistoric Ethiopia, Otters Were as Big as Lions” according to Atlas Obscura.

SOME THREE MILLION YEARS AGO, one of our early hominin ancestors was chowing down on some leaves along a riverbank in what is now Ethiopia. And there it was—440 pounds of fur, with teeth strong enough to crush bone. An otter the size of a large male lion ambled through the dense grasses before bending down to drink from the muddy riverbank. Our ancestor, we figure, crept back into the surrounding woodlands. It doesn’t matter how potentially adorable the giant otter may (or may not) have been, you just don’t want to cross an animal that size.

The otter, Enhydriodon omoensis, is the largest ever found. A new study in the French journal Comptes Rendus Palevol is the first to classify the species, naming it after Ethiopia’s Omo River, where its remains were uncovered. While the study calls the otter “lion-sized,” paleontologist Margaret Lewis of Stockton University in New Jersey, who first analyzed some of the fossils in 2008*, thinks “that’s kind of underselling it.” “Bear otter,” she says, is perhaps a better term to encapsulate just how massive these otters were. Okay, grizzly otter it is….

(15) TOM AND JERRY ON THEIR WAY TO THE CRUSADES. “Artist Makes Astonishing Armor for Cats & Mice”. Open Culture admires the work.

…Using steel, silver, brass, bronze, nickel, copper, leather, fiber, wood, and his delicate jewelry making tools, DeBoer became the cats’ armorer, spending anywhere from 50 to 200 hours producing each increasingly intricate suit of feline armor.  A noble pursuit, but one that inadvertently created an “imbalance in the universe”:

The only way to fix it was to do the same for the mouse.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers:  Grounded,” the Screen Junkies say this game, where you shrink to bug size and run around a back yard, is a cross between Honey, I Shrunk The Kids and “any survival game you’ve ever played.” With the game explorers’ “greatest fear:  touching grass.”  But what other game lets you paint your own sphid?

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

Pixel Scroll 10/21/22 < PanGalacticGargleBlaster-Emoji > < MTBR-Emoji > < Sleeping-Credential-Emoji >

(1) AS THE DAYS DWINDLE DOWN. Is it the end of the year so soon? Publishers Weekly has announced its selection of 150 “Best Books 2022”. Here’s what they picked in the “SF/Fantasy/Horror” category.

  • The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik (Del Rey)
  • The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas (Berkley)
  • Leech by Hiron Ennes (Tordotcom)
  • Lonely Castle in the Mirror by Mizuki Tsujimura, trans. from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel (Erewhon)
  • Moon Witch, Spider King by Marlon James (Riverhead)
  • The Mountain in the Sea by Ray Nayler (MCD)
  • Ocean’s Echo by Everina Maxwell (Tor)

(2) WHAT’S SAUCE FOR THE GOOSE? Aja Romano’s article for Vox, “Xi Jinping’s crackdown on fandom and social media, explained”, primarily discusses China’s pop music fans, especially fans of Kpop, however it’s still instructive.

…Fans, locally and abroad, are motivated by deeply personal, often byzantine motivations that no amount of outside interference — even from the Chinese government — can moderate. If anything, its attempts to do so only remind us how universal the problem of controlling uncontrollable social media has become. In a way, it’s as though the Chinese government has engaged in a game of whack-a-mole: The more it attempts to crack down on extreme fandom behavior, the more creative fans get at dodging its regulations and the more extreme that behavior becomes.

In a strange twist, the very fandom communities the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] is most concerned about may also be the ones that are unexpectedly helping to spread its political agenda. A recently published study from researchers at Concordia University and York University, conducted between January 2020 and October 2021, looked at the way danmei fans online interacted with the CCP’s restrictions. They found that in the absence of clarity around many of the restrictions, the fans themselves, through a mix of speculation and “accusatory reporting” — that is, reporting or threatening to report each other to authorities for perceived transgressions — were doing a more efficient job policing themselves than the government ever could. In essence, the fans who tried to conduct their subversive fandoms within the parameters of the regime “strengthened the political authority’s practice and narrative.”

Ultimately, the biggest irony of the Qinglang campaign is that it may have ensured the communities the government wanted to “clean and clear” are messier than ever. “In my friend circle, we often say the only people ‘cleaned’ are the normal fans,” one fan told me. “The toxics are completely unaffected.”

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to dig into dim sum with the Nebula Award-winning Eileen Gunn in episode 193 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Eileen Gunn

My guest this time around is Eileen Gunn, who received the Nebula Award in 2005 for “Coming to Terms,” a story inspired, in part, by her friendship with Avram Davidson, about whom she’s working on a biography. She also won Japan’s Sense of Gender Award, and has been nominated for the Hugo, Philip K. Dick, Locus, and Tiptree awards. Her short story collections include Stable Strategies and Others (2004), Questionable Practices (2014), and most recently Night Shift Plus … , out earlier this year as part of the PM Press Outspoken Authors Series. From 2001-2008, she was editor and publisher of the influential webzine The Infinite Matrix. She served for 22 years on the board of directors for Clarion West, and taught there and at numerous other creative writing workshops. She also had a lengthy career in technical advertising and website management in Boston, Seattle, and New York.

We discussed how it’s possible to write when you always have writers block, the Ursula K. Le Guin story which convinced her she could have a career in science fiction, the two most important things she wants aspiring writers to know, her early advertising career writing funny ads for shoes she didn’t like, the reason she believes “I don’t decide what the story is until after I’ve finished it,” which famous science fiction writer wrote the box copy for Screaming Yellow Zonkers, the question Kate Wilhelm asked her at Clarion which unlocked the unknown ending of a story in progress, the way her years in the ad business helped her become a better writer, how Carol Emshwiller made her a person of interest with a sheriff’s department, what she said on a Worldcon panel which was so outrageous the audience had to be told she was joking, how Psychology Day magazine was almost sued over Frankenstein because they didn’t listen listen to my advice, and much more.

(4) IN DYSON’S SPHERE. Jeremy Bernstein recounts his half-century friendship with the renowned scientist and visionary in “Freeman Dyson and Me” at the MIT Press Reader.

…That summer he went off to the General Atomic division of the large firm General Dynamics in La Jolla to consult, and I went to the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica to do likewise. It was not a success.

Although RAND had the superficial atmosphere of a college campus, it was devoted to the strategy of nuclear war. The Falstaffian figure of Herman Kahn was assuring everyone that a few megadeaths in an exchange with the Soviets would be quite tolerable. I recall once going into a room with the other RAND physicists where a seismograph had been set up. We watched while it registered the quavers from a hydrogen bomb test in the Pacific. I found the whole atmosphere very depressing. In the meanwhile, the secretary we had in our building at the Institute was forwarding mail along with the gossip. I learned that Dyson was designing a spaceship, that he had been to a bullfight, and had been bitten by a dog. I wrote a note to him saying that if any of these three things were true, he was having a better time than I was. Much to my surprise, a day or so later the phone rang, and it was Dyson inviting me to come down to La Jolla. I jumped at the chance.

It turned out that all three of these things were true, and the spaceship, which was supposed to be powered by the exploding atomic bombs, was called the “Orion.” It is not an accident that this was the name of a spaceship in Kubrick’s “2001.” There was more. He had been stopped by the police for walking. They had some reason: he had broken his glasses and was wearing scuba diving goggles to assist his vision. When asked for identification, he produced a card with his picture and fingerprints on it from the Department of Defense. It said that the bearer of this card was entitled to receive top-secret information. One can only wonder what went through the police officer’s mind….

(5) TROLLING. [Item by Danny Sichel.] Sakeina Syed’s article for The Walrus, “The Rings of Power Has a Troll Problem”, is about the outsize effect of online racists, and how the productions try to deal with them.

…Beneath assertions of fandom pride and purity seethes a maelstrom of abject racism. The now-deleted YouTube comment barrage is one strand in a much larger web of backlash, diligently stoked by subgroups of fans that seem hell-bent on tanking the series.

While it’s long been present, the racism in groups of pop culture fans online has rapidly gained coordination and sophistication in recent years. Behind-the-scenes planning has allowed relatively small minorities of users to flood online spaces. These campaigns go beyond seemingly trivial internet chatter and have the power to shape the future of projects, the careers of BIPOC actors, and the film and TV industry as a whole.

…FOR THE FANS who don’t subscribe to the racist and misogynistic rhetoric, those clamouring voices are a source of dismay, antithetical to the works they know and love. Anna María is a UK-based actor, community organizer, and self-described armchair Tolkien expert who was first introduced to the series at the age of seven. “Bigotry hurts more when it comes from a space you once associated only with joy,” she writes in an email.

“Seeing racist comments (and facing some myself) from fellow Tolkien fans . . . is infinitely more personal and hurtful. I know it makes me—and many of my friends—feel decidedly unwelcome in the fandom.”…

(6) CATCHING UP WITH CHICON. Read Morgan Hazelwood’s notes about the Chicon 8 panel “Fairytales & Folklore in Urban Fantasy” or view the video commentary at Morgan Hazelwood: Writer in Progress.

As humans, we look for patterns everywhere. So, when we see a new story, draped in the shape of a well-known fairytale, the vibrant mix of the familiar with the new and strange can be irresistible to many of us as readers. There’s a reason that wrapping fairytales and folklore in urban fantasies has proven so popular.

In 1987, Charles de Lint published Jack, the Giant Killer, a retelling of a fairytale set in 1980s Ottawa. This novel, along with Terri Windling’s Borderlands, became part of the foundation of the urban fantasy subgenre. How was utilizing folktales in contemporary settings revolutionary in the 1970s and 80s? How have fairy and folk tales influenced urban fantasy since then? Join us as we explore the roots of one of the most influential subgenres of the early 21st century.

The titular panel at ChiCon8/WorldCon 80 was moderated by Alma Alexander and featured Adam Stemple, Sharon Sheffield, and C.L. Polk. The insightful discussion wandered a ways from the given description but stayed on topic….

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1972 [By Cat Eldridge.] Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree

Tom Skelton shivered. Anyone could see that the wind was a special wind this night, and the darkness took on a special feel because it was All Hallows’ Eve. Everything seemed cut from soft black velvet or gold or orange velvet. Smoke panted up out of a thousand chimneys like the plumes of funeral parades. From kitchen windows drifted two pumpkin smells: gourds being cut, pies being baked. — The Halloween Tree

I love everything that he wrote unreservedly. Now I am not saying that everything was great but I go into reading something by him knowing that there’s a very good chance that I’ll enjoy it. And I really like him as, well, himself.

Now we come to this book. I’m assuming that being from the upper Midwest that he was well-versed, indeed deep in the bone, in the ways of Halloween. So it was rather appropriate that he’d write this novel fifty years ago with illustrations by Joseph Mugnaini who worked extensively with Bradbury. You can hear him here talking about working with Bradbury.

Doubleday published the first edition in June 1972 within Mugnaini doing all the art.

IF YOU’VE HAVEN’T READ OR, YES, SEEN IT, GO HIDE UNDER BED FOR NOW. [SPOILERS]

Bradbury is stellar here. Truly brilliant.

Lifelong friends do what such boys always do on this day: trick-or-treating. However, they discover that a ninth friend has been whisked away on a journey, a really fantastic journey, that could in the end say whether he lives or dies. 

Through the help of a mysterious character named Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud (and doesn’t our author have a way with names?) they pursue their friend across the universe through the old civilizations of Egypt, Greece, and Rome, learn what Celtic Druids are like, visit the Cathedral Notre Dame in Medieval Paris, and finish their journey at Mexican Day of the Dead. 

Like an overstuffed goose, they consume and hopefully digest a lot of stuff on this fantastic night. (They are young kids after all.) Bradbury speaking through Moundshroud as the narrator is rather a good guide here. 

We are made aware that the Halloween Tree itself, with its myriad branches oh so heavy with jack-o’-lanterns, is Bradbury’s metaphor for the historical confluence of all these traditions.

COME OUT NOW. MOTHER’S BAKING CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES AND MAKING COCOA IN THE KITCHEN. 

Hanna-Barbera nineteen years later would make it into an animated film. Bradbury serves as the narrator of the film, which also has Nimoy as Moundshroud. Bradbury also wrote the film’s Emmy Award winning screenplay.

Now here’s where we loop oddly enough back to the children’s book. That work originated five years before it was published as a screenplay as an unproduced collaboration with animator Chuck Jones. Now think about that being actually done!  No idea if the illustrated screenplay exists as a published work but I wanted it really badly.  

The Halloween Tree is shown on the Cartoon pretty much continuously during this month. It enjoys an eighty-eight percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes among audience reviewers.

The children’s book is available at the usual suspects for a very reasonable price.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 21, 1929 Ursula K. Le Guin. Ursula K. Le Guin: Writer, Artist, Editor, Poet, and Translator. She called herself a “Narrative American”. And she most emphatically did not consider herself to be a genre writer – instead preferring to be known as an “American novelist”. Oh, she wrote genre fiction with quite some brillance, be it the Earthsea sequence, The Left Hand of DarknessThe Dispossessed, or Always Coming Home. Her upbringing as the daughter of two academics, one who was an anthropologist and the other who had a graduate degree in psychology, with a home library full of SF, showed in her writing.  She wrote reviews and forewards for others’ books, gave academic talks, and did translations as well. Without counting reader’s choice awards, her works received more than 100 nominations for pretty much every genre award in existence, winning most of them at least once; she is one of a very small group of people who have won Hugo Awards in all four fiction length categories. She was Guest of Honor at the 1975 Worldcon; was the second woman to be named SFWA Grand Master; was given a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement; and was awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. In later years, she took up internet blogging with great delight, writing essays and poems, and posting pictures and stories of her cat Pard; these were compiled into a non-fiction collection, No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters, which won a posthumous Hugo for Best Related Work. Her last Hugo was at Dublin 2019 for The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition which was illustrated by Charles Vess. (Died 2018.)
  • Born October 21, 1937 Richard Meredith. writer, graphic designer and illustrator who’s best remembered  for the most excellent We All Died at Breakaway Station and his Timeliner Trilogy. He wasn’t prolific in his shorter works, producing only eleven total novellas, novelettes and short stories. His only Award was the Phoenix, the lifetime achievement award for a science fiction professional who has done a great deal for Southern Fandom.  He died when he was only forty-one, following a stroke. Awakening, his last novel, was published by St. Martin’s Press after his death. (Died 1979.)
  • Born October 21, 1945 Vicki Ann Heydron, 77. Wife of Randall Garrett with whom she wrote almost all of her fiction. Her first work, “Keepersmith” was published in Asimov’s in 1979. I recommend the Gandalara Cycle beginning with The Steel of Raithskar with her husband that ended seven books later with The River Wall. 
  • Born October 21, 1952 Robin McKinley, 70. Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast was her first book. It was considered a superb work and was named an American Library Association Notable Children’s Book and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. Rose Daughter is another version of that folktale, whereas Spindle’s End is the story of Sleeping Beauty, and Deerskin and two of the stories that you can find in The Door in the Hedge are based on other folktales. She does a superb telling of the Robin Hood legend in The Outlaws of Sherwood. Among her novels that are not based on folktales are SunshineChalice and Dragonhaven. Her 1984 The Hero and the Crown won the Newbery Medal as that year’s best new American children’s book. She was married to Peter Dickinson from 1991 to his death in 2015; they lived together in Hampshire, England where she still lives. They co-wrote two splendid collections, Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits and Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits. I’d be very remiss not to note her Awards, to wit a Newbery Honor for The Blue Sword, then a Newbery Medal for The Hero and the Crown, a World Fantasy Award for Anthology/Collection for Imaginary Lands, as editor, a Phoenix Award Honor Book for Beauty and a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature for Sunshine. Impressive indeed!
  • Born October 21, 1952 Candas Jane Dorsey, 70. Canadian writer who’s the winner of the Prix Aurora Award and the Otherwise Award for gender bending SF for her Black Wine novel. She’s also won a Prix Aurora Award for her short story, “Sleeping in a Box”.  She’s one of the founders of SF Canada was founded as an authors collective in the late Eighties as Canada’s National Association of Speculative Fiction Professionals. At the present time, she appears to have little available from the usual digital suspects save two mysteries about her “queer, nameless, amateur detective.”
  • Born October 21, 1976 Lavie Tidhar, 46. The first work I read by him was Central Station which won a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. It certainly deserved that accolade! The next work by him I experienced was The Bookman Histories in which Mycroft Holmes is murdered and, well, everything of a pulp nature gets tossed into alternate history England. Both absolutely brilliant and completely annoying at the same time. I’ve just read Unholy Land, his telling of the founding of a Jewish homeland long ago in Africa, and I’m now reading Neom, his sequel to Central Station. It’s quite, quite stellar.

(9) CAPE FEAR. Steve Vertlieb, seeing yesterday’s mention of the star’s birthday, invites all to read “Vertlieb’s Views: Bela Lugosi” at The Thunder Child.

Lugosi. The very name struck palpable terror into the hearts of film goers throughout the nineteen thirties. With his iconic voice, hypnotic gaze, and nightmarish persona, Lugosi became the very embodiment of vampiric decadence and mortal decay. A fallen aristocrat, the Transylvanian Count was the symbolic reflection of sexual repression and the abduction of innocence. Like the haunted character whom he most famously portrayed, Bela Lugosi has long ago passed both into memory and legend.

Born Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó on October 20th, 1882, no single individual has ever been as closely or indelibly associated with Bram stoker’s immortal “Dracula” as this aristocratic, ultimately tragic Hungarian actor.

Here, then, is my affectionate Halloween Birthday tribute to Bela Lugosi…his “horrific” career ascension, as well as its poignant decline…as we remember The Man Behind Dracula’s Cape.

(10) CELEBRATE THE SEASON. The Root recommends “15 Scary Ass Books By Black Authors That Are Perfect for Halloween”

… If you’re looking for a spooky story to sink your teeth into this Halloween, check out some of these haunting novels by Black authors. Just be sure to read them with the lights on….

First on the list:

In “The Good House” [by Tananarive Due], Angela Toussaint comes back to the house where her son committed suicide looking for the truth about his death. And what she finds is an invisible, evil force that is inciting acts of violence from the locals.

(11) TALKING ABOUT THE FIFTY WAYS. Ted Gioia continues his praise of “non-realist fiction” in “The 50 Best Works of Non-Realist Fiction of the 21st Century (Part 2 of 5)” at The Honest Broker. You’ll definitely recognize several of these titles.

Below is the second installment of my guide to the 50 best works of non-realist fiction published since 2000. For part one of the survey, click here.

I’m sharing the entire list in five installments (because of email length constraints).

To be eligible for the list, a book must be either science fiction, fantasy, horror, magical realism, alternate history, or some other genre that violates our notions of everyday reality. As I’ve written elsewhere, I believe that much of the best contemporary fiction falls into these categories—and is often unfairly neglected because of its genre origins….

(12) PALETTE CLEANSER. Meanwhile, Screen Rant is taking a count of its own. “10 Things Only Marvel Comics Fans Know About The Incredible Hulk”.

10/10 Gray Hulk

Most Marvel Comics fans know Hulk becomes gray for a period in the 1980s. They may not know he started out that way. In his comic book debut in The Incredible Hulk #1 in 1962, the Hulk appears gray. Co-creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby intended Hulk to be gray, but coloring limitations at the time left him looking more green.

(13) RECONSIDERING SOLAR ENERGY SATELLITES. Science investigates the question, “Has a new dawn arrived for space-based solar power?” “Better technology and falling launch costs revive interest in a science-fiction technology.”

…NASA first investigated the concept of space solar power during the mid-1970s fuel crisis. But a proposed space demonstration mission—with ’70s technology lofted in the Space Shuttle and assembled by astronauts—would have cost about $1 trillion. The idea was shelved and, according to Mankins, remains a taboo subject for many at the agency.

Today, both space and so-lar power technology have changed beyond recognition. The efficiency of photo-voltaic (PV) solar cells has increased 25% over the past decade, Jones says, while costs have plummeted….

(14) LAUNDRY DAY. UPI invites you to “Watch: Researchers unveil world’s fastest clothes-folding robot”.

…The robot uses a neural network called BiManual Manipulation Network to interpret input from machine vision and manipulates the clothing using a pair of industrial robot arms.

The researchers detailed the robot’s creation and capabilities in a paper submitted for presentation at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems 2022 next week in Kyoto, Japan….

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

Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due to be Guests of Honor at Chicon 8

Chicon 8, the 2022 World Science Fiction Convention, has announced Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due as additional Guests of Honor for this year’s Worldcon. They join Chicon’s roll of Guests of Honor including artist Floyd Norman, fans Joe Siclari and Edie Stern, and the late Erle Korshak (who will be honored in memoriam); and special guests: writer and sociologist Dr. Eve L. Ewing, comic artist Gene Ha, and illustration and concept artist Eric Wilkerson.

Steven Barnes is the NY Times bestselling author of over thirty novels of science fiction, horror, and suspense.  The Image, Endeavor and Cable-Ace Award winning author also writes for television, including The Twilight ZoneStargate SG-1Andromeda, and an Emmy Award winning episode of The Outer Limits. He has taught at UCLA, Seattle University, and lectured at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.  Steven was born in Los Angeles, California, and except for a decade in the Northwest, and three years in Atlanta Georgia, has lived in that area all his life.

Tananarive Due (tah-nah-nah-REEVE doo) is an award-winning author who teaches Black Horror and Afrofuturism at UCLA. She is an executive producer on Shudder’s groundbreaking documentary Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror.  A leading voice in Black speculative fiction for more than 20 years, Due has won an American Book Award, an NAACP Image Award, and a British Fantasy Award and her writing has been included in best-of-the-year anthologies. Her books include Ghost Summer: StoriesMy Soul to Keep, and The Good House. She and her late mother, civil rights activist Patricia Stephens Due, co-authored Freedom in the Family: A Mother-Daughter Memoir of the Fight for Civil Rights

Steven and Tananarive are frequent collaborators as well as married couple. Working together, they wrote “A Small Town” for Season 2 of Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone on Paramount+, and two segments of Shudder’s anthology film Horror Noire. They also co-wrote the upcoming Black Horror graphic novel The Keeper, illustrated by Marco Finnegan. 

Steven and Tananarive have also collaborated to create online courses in Afrofuturism (www.afrofuturismwebinar.com), Black Horror (www.sunkenplaceclass.com), and Screenwriting, as well as co-hosting a podcast, Lifewriting: Write for Your Life!  They live in California with their son Jason. 

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 5/7/22 Your Scroll, A Flame Of Pixel’s Desire

(1) BASFF 2022. Rebecca Roanhorse is the guest editor of Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2022.

(2) PRO TIP. What’s the best writing advice J. Michael Straczynski’s ever been given?

(3) COMPLAINT: JUSTIFIED OR UNJUSTIFIED? [Item by Anne Marble.] This review of the new alternative history novel The Peacekeeper: A Novel by B.L. Blanchard might make an interesting discussion. There’s also a three-star review showing the same confusion. (This is one of the First Reads book for this month on Amazon, so the potential reviewers probably come outside of SFF, but still… Why can’t people just Google?)

(4) VIDEO GAME NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber reviews Norco, a point-and-click adventure game with magical realist elements based on the personal experiences of lead developer Yuts, who grew up in Norco, Louisiana near “a Shell oil refinery that exploded during his childhood in 1988, damaging his house.”

Norco‘s writing nods to Southern Gothic authors such as William Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy alongside genre writers Raymond Chandler and William Gibson. Looking at a vehicle in your garden, you are told:  “This truck was your grandfather’s.  You remember hiding in his lap while he let you steer. The dead wasps that collected behind the seat. The smell of grease, whiskey and nicotine.’ This terse, stylish language is studded with sharply observed local vernacular and occasional bouts of impressionistic poetry whose adventurous metaphors only rarely stray into purple prose….

..If it all sounds sombre, the game leavens its storytelling with plenty of wackiness and wry humour.  There is a detective who wears clown make-up as a fashion choice.  A cat on a bookshop counter will, if stroked repeatedly, purr so ecstatically that it flies through the air, crashing through the ceiling.

(5) LIFEWRITING. [Item by Todd Mason.] Tananarive Due and Steve Barnes’s latest podcast features guest Patton Oswalt. All three are horror genre folks, among other things, including being screenwriters, and Harlan Ellison friends or acquaintances. “Lifewriting: Write for Your Life! Special Guest: Patton Oswalt!”

In this episode, Steve and Tananarive talk to comedian and actor Patton Oswalt about how horror helps us navigate difficult times, the horror-comedy connection, the late Harlan Ellison, and meditation as a tool for coping with stress.  

(6) GEORGE PERÉZ (1954-2022) George Pérez, the acclaimed comic book artist and writer known for his work on major DC properties, including Crisis on Infinite Earths and Wonder Woman, along with Marvel’s The Avengers, has died. The Hollywood Reporter noted his passing with a long tribute. He was 67.

Someone in touch with the family posted this emotional description about his last hours.  

To all of George’s fans and friends,

Constance here, with the update no one wants to read. George passed away yesterday, peacefully at home with his wife of 490 months and family by his side. He was not in pain and knew he was very, very loved.

We are all very much grieving but, at the same time, we are so incredibly grateful for the joy he brought to our lives. To know George was to love him; and he loved back. Fiercely and with his whole heart. The world is a lot less vibrant today without him in it.

He loved all of you. He loved hearing your posts and seeing the drawings you sent and the tributes you made. He was deeply proud to have brought so much joy to so many.

Everyone knows George’s legacy as a creator. His art, characters and stories will be revered for years to come. But, as towering as that legacy is, it pales in comparison to the legacy of the man George was. George’s true legacy is his kindness. It’s the love he had for bringing others joy – and I hope you all carry that with you always.

Today is Free Comic Book Day. A day George absolutely loved and a fitting day to remember his contributions to comics and to our lives. I hope you’ll enjoy your day today with him in mind. He would have loved that.

Please keep his wife Carol in your thoughts and again, I thank you for respecting her privacy. I remain available through the contact on the page.

George’s memorial service will take place at MEGACON Orlando at 6pm on Sunday, May 22nd. It will be open to all. Details to follow.

We will miss him always.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1997 [By Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-five years ago, The Fifth Element got its first theatrical exhibition at the Cannes Film Festival, an English-language French film directed by Luc Besson and co-written by Besson and Robert Mark Kamen from a story by Besson. 

Artists Jean “Moebius” Giraud and Jean-Claude Mézières, whose books Besson acknowledges are his inspiration for a great deal of the film, were hired for production design. The fabulous if admittedly over-the-top costume design was by Jean-Paul Gaultier who is not in the film. (I checked.) The filming took place in London and Mauritania when nothing in France was available. 

It is very much an adolescent fantasy, or fiction if you prefer, as he wrote it at sixteen though he was thirty-eight when it was actually produced. I love the cast which includes among many Bruce Willis, John Neville, Milla Jovovich, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm and, in a role for the ages, Maïwenn Le Besco. Look I love this film — the casting is great, the story works and I love the universe here. I’ve watched it least a half dozen times so far. 

The budget was close to ninety million but it made back over two hundred and sixty million. Quite impressive indeed.

So what did the critics think at the time? Let’s as usual start with Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Tribune: “’The Fifth Element,’’ which opened the Cannes Film Festival on Thursday, is one of the great goofy movies–a film so preposterous I wasn’t surprised to discover it was written by a teenage boy. That boy grew up to become Luc Besson, director of good smaller movies and bizarre big ones, and here he’s spent $90 million to create sights so remarkable they really ought to be seen.”

And let us finish with Marc Salov of the Austin Chronicle who obviously didn’t know how old Besson was he wrote the script: “The Fifth Element never takes itself too seriously. Oldman is hilarious as the effete, over-the-top Zorg; Willis plays essentially the same character he’s played in his last five films — ever the scruffy rebel; and Jovavich is gorgeous, charming, and thoroughly believable as Leeloo (thanks to some terrific post-English language skills). Even U.K. trip-hop sensation Tricky scores points as Zorg’s right-hand toadie. Although the film tends to suffer from a severe case of overt preachiness in the third reel (shades of James Cameron’s The Abyss), it’s still a wonderfully visual, exciting ride. Besson remains one of France’s great national treasures, and The Fifth Element is a surprising, delightful melange of old-school dare-deviltry and new-age sci-fi.” 

It has a very impressive eighty-six percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. It was nominated for a Hugo at BucConeer, the year Contact won. It is streaming on Amazon Prime and Paramount +.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 7, 1922 Darren McGavin. Oh, I loved him being Carl Kolchak on the original Kolchak: The Night Stalker — How many times have I seen it? I’ve lost count. Yes, it was corny, yes, the monsters were low-rent, but it was damn fun. And no, I did not watch a minute of the reboot. By the way, I’m reasonably sure that his first genre role was in the Tales of Tomorrow series as Bruce Calvin in “The Duplicates“ episode which you can watch here. (Died 2006.)
  • Born May 7, 1923 Anne Baxter. The Batman series had a way of attracting the most interesting performers and she was no exception as she ended playing two roles there, first Zelda, then she had the extended recurring role of Olga, Queen of the Cossacks. Other genre roles were limited I think to an appearance as Irene Adler in the Peter Cushing Sherlock Holmes film The Masks of Death. (Died 1985.)
  • Born May 7, 1931 Gene Wolfe. He’s best known for his Book of the New Sun series. My list of recommended novels would include Pirate FreedomThe Sorcerer’s House and the Book of the New Sun series. He’s won the BFA, Nebula, Skylark, BSFA and World Fantasy Awards but to my surprise has never won a Hugo though he has been nominated quite a few times. He has been honored as a Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 7, 1940 Angela Carter. Another one taken far too young by the damn Reaper. She’s best remembered for The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories where she took fairy tales and made them very, very adult in tone. Personally I’d recommend The Curious Room insteadas it contains her original screenplays for the BSFA-winning The Company of Wolves which starred Angela Lansbury, and The Magic Toyshop films, both of which were based on her own original stories. Though not even genre adjacent, her Wise Children is a brilliant and quite unsettling look at the theatre world. I’ve done several essays on her so far and no doubt will do more. (Died 1992.)
  • Born May 7, 1951 Gary Westfahl, 71. SF reviewer for the LA Times, the unfortunately defunct as I enjoyed it quite a bit Internet Review of Science Fiction, and Locus Online. Editor of The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Themes, Works, and Wonders; author of  Immortal Engines: Life Extension and Immortality in Science Fiction and Fantasy (with George Slusser) and A Sense-of-Wonderful Century: Explorations of Science Fiction and Fantasy Films. 
  • Born May 7, 1952 John Fleck, 70. One of those performers the Trek casting staff really like as he’s appeared in Next GenerationDeep Space Nine in three different roles,  Voyager and finally on Enterprise in the recurring role of Silik. And like so many Trek alumni, he shows up on The Orville.
  • Born May 7, 1969 Annalee Newitz, 53. They are the winner of a Hugo Award for Best Fancast at Dublin 2019 with Charlie Jane Anders for “Our Opinions Are Correct”. And their novel Autonomous was a finalist for the Nebula Award for Best Novel, John W. Campbell Memorial Award and the Locus Award for Best First Novel, while winning a Lambda Literary Award. Very impressive indeed. They are also the winner of the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for their best short science fiction, “When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis”. They are nominated again this year at Chicon 8 for a Best Fancast Hugo for their “Our Opinions Are Correct” podcast. 

(9) STRANGE HAPPENINGS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, David Betancourt interviews Benedict Cumberbatch and Elisabeth Olsen about Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, with Cumberbatch explaining that he thinks Stephen Strange is part of an ensemble and not necessarily the star. “Benedict Cumberbatch on Doctor Strange sequel: ‘It’s not all about him’”.

… Cumberbatch still gets opportunities to flex his own superhero muscles in the new film by playing multiple alternate universe versions of Doctor Strange. These include heroic, seemingly evil and zombielike versions of the superhero, who was created by the late Steve Ditko and Stan Lee and first appeared in Marvel Comics “Strange Tales” No. 110 back in 1963. Cumberbatch first dabbled with a Doctor Strange from a different world when he voiced the character in the animated series “What If…?” last year.

Ego seems to be the common denominator among the variants — he never works well with others. But Cumberbatch says Strange has to learn to rely on someone other than himself.

“These parallel existences have a similarity about them but there’s also key differences,” Cumberbatch said. “It was a challenge … to create something that’s different but at the same time recognizably Strange. There’s an element of him that’s constant. But he’s still really injured by his ego and his arrogance and his belief that he has to be the one holding the knife. This film really undoes that logic and stress-tests him in a way that means his evolution is such that he can’t operate as a solo entity. He has to collaborate.”…

(10) THESE BOOTS ARE MADE FOR HAWKING. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Starfleet boots seen on the new series will be made available to the public and will retail for about $500 Cdn. “Vancouver designer’s boots on deck as official shoes of the Enterprise in new Star Trek series” reports CBC News. And there’s no stitching in them because in space no one can see a sewing machine!

Vancouver’s John Fluevog is joining the USS Enterprise this spring as Starfleet’s official bootmaker.

Fluevog, whose shoes have been worn by the likes of Madonna, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and even B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, designed footwear for the cast of the new series Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, which premieres May 5. 

He said he feels a sense of connection to Star Trek in that both his shoes and the series offer a sense of escapism….

(11) CASTING COINCIDENCE. “West Side Story Actor Brings His Talents To He-Man” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Boston Dynamics’s Spot is a hard-working robot but he still likes showing off his latest dance moves! “No Time to Dance”.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/10/22 No Pixels Were Harmed In The Production Of This Scroll

(1) ANALYZING SANDERSON’S KICKSTARTER SUCCESS. Kristine Kathryn Rusch has an in-depth commentary about a seismic event in self-publishing, “Business Musings: Brandon’s Kickstarter”.

… If the past is any indication, however, these big Kickstarters increase the people who watch  the category and, to use the cliched phrase, they will become the rising tide that will lift all boats.

That’s the small picture.

The larger one? Smart traditionally published bestsellers should be looking closely at this. Smart unpublished writers should use this as a wake-up call.

Traditional publishing will never pay its writers tens of millions for unnamed projects. Traditional publishing can barely afford the million-dollar advances these days.

And please, remember, the Kickstarter numbers are only the beginning of the earnings on these books. These books will live for decades. Brandon will earn money on them for decades—without licensing any of the copyright to some gigantic corporate entity that does not have his best interest at heart.

Also, remember that this Kickstarter is advertising. It’s introducing millions of readers to Brandon Sanderson. These new readers are asking Who is this guy and why is he getting so much money? What are these new readers going to do? Why, they’re going to buy a backlist book and try to read it before the Kickstarter ends.

His published book sales are going to increase dramatically. So the tens of millions he’s earning on the Kickstarter does not count the other ways this Kickstarter is benefitting him financially. Nor is it counting the promotion value that he’s getting from projects that he felt inspired to write.

There’s a lot more to unpack—from some of the innovations he’s doing to the impact on the fantasy and science fiction field. But for the moment, I’m stopping here.

If you’re one of the sour grapes people, perhaps you should ask yourself why you’re being so very negative. Are you jealous? Or scared?

The rest of you should watch what happens next. This is a very big deal. For all of us.

(2) KDP WTF. Philip Beaufoy, author of the Lochwood Series, is another casualty of a sudden and unexplained Kindle Direct Publishing account closure.

(3) LOVE IS ALL AROUND. The SFWA Blog’s “Romancing Sci-Fi & Fantasy” series begins with Alex Chantel’s “I See Romance … Everywhere!”

… I see romance everywhere, on all levels, and it makes me love the books I read even more. There are books without romance, that don’t need romance, and readers that are perfectly happy without it. But borrowing from the romance genre can strengthen a story and the readers’ connection to the characters. 

We all want to craft memorable characters, and the strong ones can become more enduring with a partner—two are stronger than one, as the adage goes. Princess Leia and Han Solo from Star Wars—closely followed by Ben and Rey. Paul and Chani from Dune. Nahri and Ali from S.A. Chakraborty’s Daevabad Trilogy. K and Chloe from Terry Miles’s Rabbits. Euthalia and Conrí from Jeffe Kennedy’s Forgotten Empires series. Niko and Petalia from Cat Rambo’s You Sexy Thing. Some of those names may strike a romantic chord within you?…

(4) DISNEY RECORD ON LGBTQIA+ SET STRAIGHT. Deadline reports a “Internal Pixar Letter Disputes Disney’s Support Of LGBTQIA+ Employees & Questions Company’s Commitment to Change”. (The full text of the letter is quoted at the end of Variety’s coverage.)

Shortly after Disney CEO Bob Chapek spoke out publicly against Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill today, a very pointed response began circulating internally at the studio. A letter signed by “The LGBTQIA+ employees of Pixar, and their allies” took Chapek to task. It refuted, point by point, an internal memo Chapek sent to employees on Monday and also criticized the fact that the company “did not take a hard stance in support of the LGBTQIA+” at the shareholder meeting.

“Monday’s email, ‘Our Unwavering Commitment to the LGBTQ+ Community,’ rang hollow,” read the LGBTQIA+ letter. It said Chapek’s communication “began with the claim that Disney has a long history of supporting the LGBT community, but Disney Parks did not officially host Pride until 2019, in Paris alone. Disney has a history of shutting down fan-created Pride events in the parks, even removing same-sex couples for dancing together in the 1980’s.”

The letter goes on to say the corporation is “capitalizing on Pride” through merchandising, specifically The Rainbow Mickey Collection.

“It feels terrible to be a part of a company that makes money from Pride merch when it chooses to ‘step back’ in times of our greatest need, when our rights are at risk,” the letter asserts.

The “step back” bit is likely a reference to Chapek’s assertion at a shareholders’ annual meeting today that “we chose not to take a public position on [the bill] because we felt we could be more effective working behind the scenes, engaging directly with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.” It later came out that Chapek had only reached out to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis very recently….

… Finally, the letter damningly addresses Chapek’s repeated insistence that the best way for Disney to make change is through creating “powerful content that changes hearts and minds.”

It reads [in part]:

“We at Pixar have personally witnessed beautiful stories, full of diverse characters, come back from Disney corporate reviews shaved down to crumbs of what they once were. Nearly every moment of overtly gay affection is cut at Disney’s behest, regardless of when there is protest from both the creative teams and executive leadership at Pixar. Even if creating LGBTQIA+ content was the answer to fixing the discriminatory legislation in the world, we are being barred from creating it.”

(5) CALL TO REMOVE A 2023 WORLDCON GOH. SF² Concatenation has tweeted the link to an editorial comment ahead of its next seasonal edition (slated for April). Read it here.

Science fiction is far more than a genre, it enthuses science and warns of possible futures, among much else. More, many of its aficionados are part of a community: a community that crosses nations. Sometimes that community needs to nail its colours to the mast. Now, at this moment in time, due to circumstances up-to-now unthought-of in the early 21st century, those colours are blue and yellow….

On Wednesday, 2nd March (2022), the UN moved to condemn Russia’s war on Ukraine. 141 nations supported that call: only Belarus, Syria, North Korea and Eritrea supported Russia, while China, Cuba and Venezuela abstained. And here’s the thing, if China is abstaining then arguably the 2023 SF Worldcon should dis-invite Sergei Lukyanenko as a Guest of Honour: Lukyanenko has repeatedly and publicly proclaimed his support for his nation’s war against Ukraine…

In particular, there is one person in the west who is currently due to share the platform at the 2023 Worldcon with Lukyanenko. Is that something he really wants to do?…

(6) REVIEWING SFF. Strange Horizons hosts “The Author and the Critic I: Christopher Priest and Paul Kincaid”, featuring the two named figures discussing the present and future of sff criticism. They begin at the beginning.

Christoper Priest: Before I wrote and published my first novel I had already written several amateurish book reviews. I was young and inexperienced, unguided, learning slowly as I went along. I was writing for fanzines published by Peter Weston and Charles Platt, and others. It was a way of writing something and seeing it in print—or at least, typed out by someone else, which at the time felt almost as good because after the process of being retyped, with bits cut out or changed or just got wrong, it looked different. By looking different it made me read it again and look at it with some objectivity. Overall, it was much easier and quicker to write an opinion piece on a new book by Brian N. Ball or Ken Bulmer than write a novel of my own. None of this counted in the long run, of course, although I still think for a beginning writer it was a good way to learn.

Paul Kincaid: Personally, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t read reviews. This goes back to a time when newspapers used to publish things like book reviews and film reviews. But I never thought about writing them until I started getting involved in fandom…. 

(7) MORE FROM THE WORLDCON. Morgan Hazelwood posts her notes about another DisCon III panel: “The Nuts and Bolts of Chapters”. (She also presents the material in a YouTube video.)

The panelists for the titular panel were: Ada Palmer, Aparna Verma, Elle E. Ire, Nancy Kress, and Patricia A. Jackson, with Delia Sherman as moderator.

The panel description was as follows:

Do you even need chapters? How long should they be? Should you title your chapters or just number them? Where do you break a chapter, and how do you write a good cliffhanger? How do you write chapters with multiple character points of view? So much to discuss for such a small topic!

While the panelists didn’t address all of these, they shared some valuable tips.

(8) UNMADE HITCHCOCK PROJECT. “Alfred Hitchcock once planned a sci-fi epic, which he envisaged as ‘a projection into the life of a generation ahead’” – BFI looks back at “Hitchcock’s sci-fi movie, ‘a forecast of days to come’”.

… News of Hitchcock’s sci-fi project broke in October 1926, a month after The Lodger was first shown to the press. P.L. Mannock of the Kinematograph Weekly, who had spoken to Hitchcock about his “film laid in the future”, wrote that “If we except ‘Metropolis,’ it will be the first screen forecast of days to come,” the last words being a deliberate reference to a novella by one of Lang’s inspirations, H.G. Wells. “Television will be used dramatically, and Sir Alan Cobham will probably be consultant on big episodes of the air.”…

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1964 [Item by Cat Eldridge]

“My specialty is wisdom. Do you know what wisdom is?””- Dr. Lao

“No sir.” – Mike 

“Wise answer.” – Dr. Lao

Fifty-eight years ago, 7 Faces of Dr. Lao premiered. It was George Pal’s last directorial effort. As you well know, it’s based off of Charles G. Finney’s The Circus of Dr. Lao. (There is now a Kindle edition of The Circus of Dr. Lao though it won’t be mistaken for a Meredith Moment.) It was nominated for a Hugo at Loncon II, the year Dr. Strangelove won. 

The screenplay was by Beaumont, who wrote twenty-two Twilight Zone episodes which given he died at 38 is quite astonishing, and Ben Hecht (originally uncredited), whose most notable work was Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound and Notorious, though he did have a genre credit writing The Thing from Outer Space, an early Fifties film. He also did uncredited work on Casino Royale.

Tony Randall played myriad roles in the 7 Faces of Dr. Lao including of course Dr. Lao, the Mysterious Visitor. And if you look carefully, you spot Randall simply as himself sans any makeup as a silent audience member. He also voices the Serpent, a stop-motion animated snake which has the face of another actor. Quite a performance indeed. 

Pal originally wanted Peter Sellers for the role of Dr. Lao and Sellers very much wanted to do the role. However, MGM had Randall under contract who was far cheaper than Sellers would’ve been. 

Pal also saved quite a bit of money here by reusing footage from Atlantis, the Lost Continent and The Time Machine. The Woldercan spectacular that Dr. Lao does as his grand finale of his circus is drawn entirely from the former. 

Pal has stated that it’s only film that he lost money on. It made just one million and I can’t find any mention of how much the production costs were but they were obviously higher than the very small box office was.

So how was it received? The Hollywood Reporter at the time said Randall’s performance was “a dazzling display of virtuosity, in some stunning makeup created by Bill Tuttle.” Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a very strong rating of seventy-eight percent.

I don’t believe it’s streaming anywhere but you can rent it pretty much everywhere. Or you can buy it for little more than a Meredith Moment. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 10, 1891 Sam Jaffe, His first role was in Lost Horizon as the High Lama and much later in The Day the Earth Stood Still playing Professor Jacob Barnhardt. Later on we find him in The Dunwich Horror as Old Whateley, voicing Bookman in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, playing The Old-Man in The Tell-Tale Heart, and in his last film, appearing in Battle Beyond the Stars as Dr. Hephaestus. John Sayles wrote the script for the latter surprisingly enough. (Died 1984.)
  • Born March 10, 1905 Richard Haydn. Actor who appeared in a number of genre undertakings including voicing the Caterpillar in the early Fifties Alice in Wonderland, Professor Summerlee in the early Sixties version of The Lost World and Herr Falkstein in Young Frankenstein. I’d be very remiss not to note his appearance on The Twilight Zone as Bartlett Finchley in the chilling “A Thing About Machines”. And he had one offs on BewitchedShirley Temple’s Storybook and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., in the “The Mad, Mad Tea Party Affair” an unusual episode as it takes place almost entirely within U.N.C.L.E headquarters. (Died 1985.)
  • Born March 10, 1918 Theodore Cogswell. He wrote almost forty science fiction stories, most of them humorous, and was the co-author of a Trek novel, Spock, Messiah!, with Joe Spano Jr. He’s perhaps best remembered as the editor of the Proceedings of the Institute for Twenty-First Century Studies in which writers and editors discussed theirs and each other’s works. A full collection of which was published during 1993 except, as EoSF notes “for one issue dealing with a particularly ugly controversy involving Walter M Miller.”  Having not read these, I’ve no idea, what this details, but I’m betting one of y’all know. (Died 1987.)
  • Born March 10, 1921 Cec Linder. He’s best remembered for playing Dr. Matthew Roney in the BBC produced Quatermass and the Pit series in the later Fifties, and for his role as James Bond’s friend, CIA agent Felix Leiter, in Goldfinger. He also appeared on Alfred Hitchcock PresentsVoyage to the Bottom of the Sea, the Amerika series, The Ray Bradbury Theatre and The New Avengers. (Died 1992.)
  • Born March 10, 1938 Marvin Kaye. Editor of Weird Tales, he also edited magazines such as H. P. Lovecraft’s Magazine of Horror and Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine. His Cold Blue Light novels with Parke Godwin are quite superb. The Fair Folk anthology which is most excellent and which he edited won a World Fantasy Award. He wrote the “Marvin Kaye’s Nth Dimension” for the Space and Time website. (Died 2021.)
  • Born March 10, 1938 Ken Sobol. New to our Birthday honors list. I will single him out for having personally received Astrid Lindgren’s personal blessing to write the Pippi Longstocking series which he worked on with puppeteer Noreen Young. He also contributed scripts to Batman, Curious GeorgeG.I. JoeGeorge of the JungleHardy BoysHighlander, Superman, and Wizard of Id, and that’s hardly a complete listing.  He also wrote one of the best works done on baseball, Babe Ruth and the American Dream. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 10, 1951 Christopher Hinz, 71. His Liege Killer novel, the first in his most excellent Paratwa Saga, won the Compton Crook Award, the BSFS Award for the Best First Novel. (And yes, there is a prequel, Binary Storm, which was written much later.) He was nominated for an Astounding Award for Best New Writer. 
  • Born March 10, 1956 Robert Llewellyn, 66. He plays the mechanoid Kryten in the Red Dwarf series. His It2i2 which was a television show about AI depicting fictional events but presented as a documentary. And he played a gryphon in the oh-so-superb MirrorMask

(11) AFROFUTURISM. The Schomburg Center’s 10th Annual Black Comic Book Festival in partnership with Carnegie Hall’s Afrofuturism Festival! Presents “Black Feminist Futures Series: Planting for the Future”.

The Black Feminist Futures Series features programs highlighting the powerful and long-standing relationship between Afrofuturism and Black feminism in genres ranging from literature, film, art, fashion, and community organizing. Planting for the Future, a virtual conversation on Black women’s participation in Afrofuturism through literature, film, art, fashion, and community organizing. The program features Dr. Andrea Hairston (author of Master of Poisons), Sheree Renee Thomas (author of Nine Bar Blues), Tananarive Due (author of The Between: A Novel), and Tanaya Denise Fields (founder of Black Feminist Project & Black Joy Farm, and author of “Dirty Business: The Messy Affair of Rejecting Shame” in the book You Are Your Best Thing). Moderated by Dr. Chesya Burke.

(12) GAIMAN MIRACLEMAN REPRINT. Following the herald of his return in Timeless #1 and the announcement of an all-new omnibus, Marvel Comics continues to mark the 40th anniversary of Miracleman’s modern era with a new printing of award-winning writer Neil Gaiman and artist Mark Buckingham’s redefining work on the character.

 Arriving in October, Miracleman By Gaiman & Buckingham Book 1: The Golden Age TPB will collect the first six issues of Gaiman and Buckingham’s groundwork to give a legendary super hero a fascinating future —a future that will now come to pass! Available for the first time in paperback, the Miracleman By Gaiman & Buckingham Book 1: The Golden Age TPB will give fans a chance to revisit this beloved era of Miracleman ahead of the exciting plans Marvel has in store for the iconic character later this year.

Atop Olympus, Miracleman presides over a brave new world forged from London’s destruction. It is a world free of war, of famine, of poverty. A world of countless wonders. A world where pilgrims scale Olympus’ peak to petition their living god, while miles below the dead return in fantastic android bodies. It is an Age of Miracles — but is humankind ready for it? Do we even want it? Is there a place for humanity in a world of gods? Gaiman and Buckingham delve into the lives of lonely idealists, rebellious schoolchildren and fracturing families, exploring the human constant in a changing world of gods and miracles.

(13) STAR WARS FAN NEWS. “’Star Wars’ fans are raising money for transgender youth”Yahoo! Life has the details. (The direct link to the GoFundMe is here: “Fundraiser by The Amidala Initiative (A Community Effort) : The Amidala Initiative for Equality Texas”. They have raised $8,292 of their $25,000 goal as of this writing.)

…Fans of the Star Wars franchise can relate to Padmé Amidala, a character from the Star Wars prequel trilogy played by Natalie Portman, for a multitude of reasons, from her troubled romance with Anakin Skywalker to her desire to do her best to protect her people.

It’s the latter that inspired the Amidala Initiative, a group of Star Wars fans and content creators who have joined … forces … to raise money for Texas advocacy organization Equality Texas after Texas Governor Greg Abbott directed the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate the parents of trans children who have had or are seeking elective gender-affirming procedures or treatments.

“We, the undersigned, are 77 fan content creators, podcasters, YouTubers, TikTokers, artists, writers and cosplayers who have joined together to use our limited platforms to stand in solidarity with our trans siblings and their families in Texas,” a GoFundMe site for the Amidala Initiative states. “No child should fear that their teachers will report their parents to the government for allowing them to live as their true gender. No parent should fear criminal charges for supporting their transgender child and helping them seek therapeutic and medical support to treat their gender dysphoria … this is something we refuse to stand by silently for.”…

(14) DOES NOT PLAY WELL WITH OTHERS. Radio Times listens in as “Christopher Eccleston rules out Doctor Who multi-Doctor story return”.

…However, according to the latest comments from The A Word star, there’s seemingly no chance he would return for a 60th anniversary team-up special currently rumoured for 2023.

He told crowds at Australian convention Supanova: “I’ve never been a fan of multi-Doctor stories. When I worked on the series, I had really strong ideas about what works and what doesn’t, and I always think that multi-Doctor stories are a bit of a cash-in, and a bit of exploitation.

“Creatively, they never worked for me. I looked at the script for the 50th anniversary and I felt as soon as I said I wasn’t doing it it got better because, well, if I’m not in it, it’s better. The creation of the War Doctor introduced a whole new facet to the canon.”

Interestingly though, a later comment from Eccleston suggested he would consider returning to Doctor Who in live-action for a solo storyline following the Ninth Doctor.

He added: “The Ninth Doctor, in particular, is a one-man band. Definitely. So he doesn’t work with other Doctors. If you want me back, you’d get me on my own.”

(15) HEAR FROM EDITORS. Space Cowboy Books will host an online panel discussion “Beyond the Submission Guidelines” on March 29 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Register for free here.

Join us for an online panel discussion with editors of SF/F magazines. Learn about the behind the scenes of running science fiction and fantasy magazines with editors: Arley Sorg (Locus & Fantasy Magazines), F.J. Bergmann (Mobius & Weird House), Rob Carroll (Dark Matter Magazine), and JW Stebner (Hexagon Magazine)

(16) PREDICTING THE PAST. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Inscriptions provide an invaluable insight into the ancient world. But over the centuries, many inscriptions have been damaged and exist in fragmented or semi-legible forms, making the job of reading and interpreting them extremely difficult. In this week’s issue of Nature, “Restoring and attributing ancient texts using deep neural networks”, Yannis Assael, Thea Sommerschield and their team introduce Ithaca, a deep neural network designed to help historians restore and understand ancient Greek inscriptions. Working alone, Ithaca is able to restore damaged texts with a 62% accuracy, but when historians use Ithaca, their accuracy on the same task rises to 72%. Ithaca can also determine the original geographical location of inscriptions with 71% accuracy, and can date them to within 30 years from the date ranges proposed by historians. The researchers say that such cooperation between artificial intelligence and historians could help transform studies of the ancient world. 

(17) SOUNDTRACK OF SPACE. NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory page hosts a “Sonification Collection” – maybe there is a “music of the spheres.”

…By translating the inherently digital data (in the form of ones and zeroes) captured by telescopes in space into images, astronomers create visual representations that would otherwise be invisible to us.

But what about experiencing these data with other senses like hearing? Sonification is the process that translates data into sound, and a new project brings the center of the Milky Way to listeners for the first time. The translation begins on the left side of the image and moves to the right, with the sounds representing the position and brightness of the sources. The light of objects located towards the top of the image are heard as higher pitches while the intensity of the light controls the volume. Stars and compact sources are converted to individual notes while extended clouds of gas and dust produce an evolving drone….

There’s a demonstration in this tweet:

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Arthur C. Clarke chats with Dick Cavett about 2001, life on other planets, and perpetual motion machines in this clip from a 1972 Dick Cavett Show. “Arthur C. Clarke on Why Aliens Would Be Superior To Humans”.

English science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke discusses the on-going research in astronomy into discovering new planets and how he believes there is life on other planets, although we don’t know it yet.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, rcade, Phil Nichols, mlex, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jim Janney.]

Pixel Scroll 2/15/22 The Silver Mithril Playbook

(1) OSCAR FAN VOTING OPENS. “Oscars to recognize fan favorite film at 2022 ceremony” reports Entertainment Weekly.

…AMPAS announced Monday that beginning now through March 3, audiences can vote on Twitter for their favorite movie of 2021 using the #OscarsFanFavorite hashtag or by casting a ballot on the Oscars Fan Favorite website. The winning fan-favorite film of the year will then be announced live during the 2022 Oscars ceremony….

In addition to the fan-favorite vote, the Academy is asking audiences to use Twitter to vote for an #OscarsCheerMoment spotlighting moments that made them “erupt into cheers in theaters” while watching. Five winners selected from the pool of participants will win a package, including tickets to a full year of free movies in a theater of their choice, streaming subscriptions, and exclusive items from the Academy Museum shop.

(2) TRUNK MUSIC. And in relation to the previous announcement, CBR.com says the logrolling has begun in earnest: “Snyder Cut Fans Mobilize to Win Justice League an Oscar in the Fan-Voted Category”.

… The passionate fanbase surrounding Zack Snyder’s Justice League is back at it again, this time calling for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to give an Oscar to Snyder’s film.

… Following the film’s release, Justice League formed a wide and vocal fanbase, who spent years demanding Warner Bros. to allow Snyder to complete his version of the film. Some of the film’s stars joined in on the #ReleasetheSnyderCut movement, confirming that his version was already near completion and only needed visual effects work to be completed.

(3) 2022 RHYSLING AWARD CHAIR UPDATE: The Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association today announced that due to unexpected medical reasons, Kimberly Nugent has had to step down from serving as the 2022 Rhysling Award Chair.

In her absence, SFPA President Bryan Thao Worra has appointed Webmaster F.J. Bergmann and Secretary Brian Garrison to finish out the Chair duties this year.

(4) BATTLING AMAZON KDP. Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki has written a long catch-up post for Facebook readers, published yesterday, which covers many topics, including news that Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing restored his royalties, and that The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction (2021) anthology has consequently been turned into a free download. Here is a brief excerpt:

…Amazon KDP did eventually pay my complete royalties, about $1500 which I got using Suyi Davies Okungbowa’s US account. Jason Sanford helped send the Gofundme money & I finished paying all the authors with it & donated all the Amazon royalties to the African Speculative Fiction Society as I promised. The money is being used to help set up a fund that will help African writers navigate institutional barriers to entry & participating in international SFF activities like the ones Amazon & other bodies have thrown up.

I withdrew the book from Amazon completely cuz the evil they’ve done is enough. & I just can’t trust em as a platform anymore.

…I have made the anthology, which is the first ever Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction anthology entirely free in all formats as I promised.

You can download the file at Jembefola: The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction (2021) by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki

(5) ERIC FLINT MEDICAL UPDATE. Eric Flint told his Facebook followers yesterday that he’s in the midst of a long hospital stay for a staph infection.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything and the reason is simple: I’ve been in the hospital for the past three weeks, sicker than the proverbial dog. I came down with a staph infection that caused me to collapse getting out of bed — and then I couldn’t get up, I was so weak. (Trust me, this is a a really scary experience.)

I’d always known staph infections could be rough, but I had no idea just how bad they could be. Happily, I’m over the worst of it and my recovery is coining along well. I’ll probably be released from the hospital in ten days, although I’ll still have to do home rehab for a while longer.

(6) BUTLER Q&A REVISITED. “Octavia Butler imagines a world without racism” on NPR’s Book of the Day podcast.

During Black History month, Book of the Day is bringing you some interviews from the archives, including this one with author Octavia Butler. Butler wrote many sci-fi classics, like the Parable series and Kindred, so she’s accustomed to imagining different worlds. NPR’s Scott Simon asked her back in 2001 to imagine a world without racism. Butler believed that in racism’s place we would have to have absolute empathy. But she told Simon that this would most certainly present its own challenges – and we would probably just find something else to fight about.

(7) BLACK HISTORY MONTH CONTINUES. The Horror Writers Association blog continues its “Black Heritage HWA interview series” –

What inspired you to start writing?

I’ve always been a writer. One of my earliest memories is folding white paper in half, drawing stick figures and captions, and titling the book “Baby Bobby.” On the back, I wrote “Baby Bobby is a book about a baby. The author is Tananarive Due.” I spelled a bunch of the words wrong, but BOOM. I came into this world understanding that I was a writer.

Do you make a conscious effort to include African diaspora characters and themes in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?

I do. I have several projects with my agent and every one of them has an African American protagonist. Each character has obstacles to overcome, which they do despite the deck being stacked against them. All of these are based on real life people. My intent is to put forth to the African American Community, especially the younger generation, that it is possible to overcome obstacles and not to be deterred from their final objective, goals, and dreams in life.

What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?

You know, I didn’t tend to think of a lot of it has horror going in, but certainly see how the label fits. I believe that we get through things, not over them. Sometimes the way through involves terror and tribulation—also that hope can be a twisted thing and at times you find flecks of it in the most unexpected places.

What inspired you to start writing?

Hands down, it was my father, Chris Acemandese Hall. He was a songwriter, artist, activist and author. As a songwriter, he penned the jazz classics, “So What” and “Bitches Brew” sung by vocalese great, Eddie Jefferson. As an artist, you may have seen his works from Let’s Celebrate Kwanza, Melanin and Me, the Lost Books of the Bible and Budweiser’s Great Kings of Africa promo where he did the Hannibal poster, the Ethiopian who led a Carthaginian army and a team of elephants against Rome in the Second Punic War. As an author, he was responsible for creating Little Zeng, a character I’m now developing in my new horror novel. Little Zeng was the first published African Griot superhero. He was published three years before Black Panther who Marvel introduced in July, 1966.

Dad also co-founded an activist group called AJASS (African Jazz Art Society & Studio), along with Elombe Brath and others. Among starting the Black is Beautiful ideology with the Black Arts Movement, featuring the Grandassa Models, AJASS’s influence in the African-American diaspora not only affected civil rights leaders, as well as poets, musicians, photographers, models, artists and singers, it influenced every cell in my body.

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

Bring your personal brand of weirdness to the page. I want to meet your demons. I want to be made to feel uncomfortable about how much you love vampires and werewolves. I want to see the monsters that frightened your great grandparents and the cultural superstitions that haven’t been white washed by American society. Tell me about the thing that scared you the most when you were a kid and why it still haunts you to this day. Write about race and sex and class and trauma and politics and religion and don’t pull any punches. I want to laugh, cry and clutch my pearls while you’re trying to scare me.

(8) HWA ON MAUS. The Horror Writer Association’s Officers and Board of Trustees issued a statement on a Tennessee school district’s decision about Maus.

The Horror Writers Association condemns banning books in no uncertain terms. We believe authors need to be able to tell their stories without fear of reprisal.
 
The banning of “Maus” in a Tennessee school district, which was done on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, is nothing less than censorship and anti-Semitism.
 
“Maus” is not the first text to be excluded from school libraries. Recently, LGBTQ+ texts have been banned in a Washington state school district, and many other books by authors of color have been censored in districts across America. These are chilling examples of censorship, racism, anti-Semitism, and white washing. We all need to be more vocal each and every time this happens.

These actions set a dangerous precedent in a free society. They cannot and should not be tolerated. The HWA condemns all attempts at censorship, particularly these obvious attempts of the establishment to silence marginalized voices. We urge you to speak out in your local communities against such autocratic tactics that not only threaten our creative community but also make our world less safe.

(9) CALL ME UNRELIABLE. A guest feature by S. A. Barnes – “The Curse of Being an Unreliable Narrator” at Sarah Gailey’s Stone Soup.

I remember clearly the first time someone else referred to Claire Kovalik, the main character in Dead Silence, as an unreliable narrator. My emotional response took me aback—first, surprise and then a sudden surge of defensiveness.

She’s doing the best she can, I wanted to say. I mean, come on, she’s locked up in what amounts to a mental institution at the start of the story, after a head injury and a traumatic incident that she doesn’t quite remember involving her crew and a mysterious ghost ship. What do you want from her???

The funny thing is, the statement wasn’t meant as a critique, not at all. It was simply a fact—Claire Kovalik is an unreliable narrator. Of course she is. She must be, for all the reasons listed above and more. And I’d done those things very intentionally, so why the strange and powerful reaction?

It took me a bit to step back from that moment and deconstruct what was going on in my mind….

(10) SF AUTHORS ANTICIPATE GENE EDITING. Fanac.org has posted video of the Tropicon 6 (1987) panel “Future Evolution” with Joe Green, Jack Haldeman II, Vincent Miranda and Tom Maddox.

Tropicon 6 was a small local convention, held in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida in 1987. This panel discussion about gene editing and the Future of Future Evolution is worth watching for several reasons. Thanks to author Joe Green, the panel focuses in very quickly on gene editing, and the issues it brings to confront humanity, both technically and ethically. The insightful comments by the panelists, and the issues and choices discussed are still very much with us, despite the panel having been recorded in 1987. One warning – there is loud background air conditioning noise for the first 15 minutes or so, but the sound is perfect for the remainder of the recording. The recording also provides a view into the dynamics of small, local conventions, where the writers are part of the community, know each other, and are not adverse to arguing with the audience. Everyone knows everyone, and no one is shy about asking questions. This panel was held at 10PM on Friday night, and there is silliness in the beginning. Some of the audience questions have been cut due to sound issues. Joe Siclari, now Chairman of the Fan History project, introduces the panel and the panel ending is signalled by me, Edie Stern, now FANAC.org webmaster.

(11) EASTERCON MEMBERSHIPS. Reclamation 2022 is this year’s Eastercon, the annual British national science fiction convention, being held April 15-18 at Radisson London Heathrow.

Membership is £70 until the end of February, after which it will £80. (And it will cost more on the door). Book here.

(12) HORROR WORKSHOPS. HWA’s Horror University Online is offering a series of workshops. Registration is $65 for non-HWA-members, $55 for HWA members, and four- and ten-course bundles are available. Here are the next few —

Jason Henderson, host of the Castle of Horror Podcast, publisher at Castle Bridge Media and best-selling writer of Night of the Book Man and the Alex Van Helsing and Young Captain Nemo series gives you a two-hour course in getting from idea to launchable manuscript in six weeks, covering: Choosing your sub-genre; Making Your Familiar Monsters Different; Outlining your novel; Forcing Yourself to Draft; Editing; and The Basics of Publishing- Traditional and Non-Traditional.

  • March 7: A Writer Prepares: Techniques for Character Development for Fiction Writing with John Palisano.

How does one develop compelling characters? What happens when you hit a wall in a scene and you’re not sure what to do or where to go? What if you just can’t hear the character’s voice? How do you create several characters within a story that all seem to be distinct and memorable?

In my class A Writer Prepares: Character development for fiction writing attendees will gain several useful tools as well as handouts they can use into the future for developing characters for their stories.

Using experience I gained while in Acting and Drama school, as well as real world experience in putting on plays, working on big Hollywood feature films with A-level talent, as well as in multi-award winning fiction of my own, this class A Writer Prepares: Character development for fiction writing is a riff on the famous Konstantin Stanislavsky book and method … but taken into the here and now! Get ready to have some fun!

What makes an agent, editor, or publisher interested in a pitch and how do you prepare to give one? What are the things a pitch should cover and how can you avoid basic mistakes in the process? This workshop is all about the pitches (two verbal, two written) you will need as a writer and the different times when you will use them. This workshop will include hands-on verbal and written pitching of stories with immediate feedback in a safe environment.

(13) FORBES OBIT. Author Lani Forbes died February 3 at the age of 35 reports Rediscovered Books, which invites fans to join them for Lani’s Book Birthday and a Celebration of Life and Literature on February 17. Full details and registration here.

 Young adult author Lani Forbes, whose critically acclaimed Age of the Seventh Sun series won multiple Realm Awards, died on February 3, 2022, in Boise, Idaho, after a nine-month battle with neuroendocrine cancer. She was 35….  

Lani Forbes was the daughter of a librarian and a surfer, which explained her passionate love of the ocean and books. Forbes was born May 6, 1987, in Huntington Beach, California. She grew up in California, and attended high school at Huntington Beach High School. In 2009, Forbes received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Hope International University. She then received her teaching credentials from Cal State University. After 10 years of teaching, Forbes went on to become a trauma counselor, serving women who had been abused by their spouses through addiction.

Her young adult book series, the Age of the Seventh Sun, premiered in 2020 with the release of The Seventh Sun, followed by The Jade Bones in 2021 and The Obsidian Butterfly in 2022. The Seventh Sun was a finalist for the Realm Awards Book of the Year and won Best Debut, Best Young Adult, and Best Epic Fantasy. Forbes’s passion was showing readers the transformative and encouraging power of story on the human experience….

(14) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1988 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Thirty-four years ago, the Red Dwarf series first aired on BBC Two. It was created by Doug Grant and Rob Naylor who based it off their Dave Hollins: Space Cadet that aired in the BBC Radio 4 series Son of Cliché show also produced by them.

As of two years ago, seventy-four  episodes of the series have aired, including one special, concluding the twelfth series. The cost has had myriad changes with only Chris Barrie as Rimmer, Craig Charles as Lister, Danny John-Julesas as Cat and Robert Llewellyn as Kryten being there for the entire series. 

Because Grant and Naylor not only directed the series but wrote the material and frequently changed everything as the series went along, critics came to be sharply divided on the series. The changes often caused them to loathe Grant and Naylor. Or love them. No middle ground at all. Grant and Naylor didn’t care one fuck. That’s a direct quote. 

BBC gave them two hundred fifty thousand pounds per episode, about three hundred thirty thousand dollars currently. Not a big budget but enough. It’s now broadcasting on Dave which is a British free-to-air television channel owned by UKTV, a joint venture of the BBC and Thames TV.

(15) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 15, 1883 Sax Rohmer. Though doubtless best remembered for his series of novels featuring the arch-fiend Fu Manchu, I’ll also single out The Romance of Sorcery, as he based his mystery-solving magician character Bazarada on Houdini who he was friends with. The Fourth Doctor story, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang” had a lead villain who looked a lot like most depictions of Fu Manchu. (Died 1959.)
  • Born February 15, 1907 Cesar Romero. Joker in the classic Sixties Batman TV series and film. I think that Lost Continent as Major Joe Nolan was his first SF film, with Around the World in 80 Days as Abdullah’s henchman being his other one. He had assorted genre series appearances on series such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Get SmartFantasy Island and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. (Died 1994.)
  • Born February 15, 1939 Jo Clayton. Best remembered for the Diadem universe saga which I’m reasonably sure spanned twenty novels before it wrapped up. Damned good reading there. Actually all of her fiction in my opinion is well worth reading. Her only award is the Phoenix Award given annually to a Lifetime achievement award for a science fiction professional who has done a great deal for Southern Fandom. (Died 1998.)
  • Born February 15, 1945 Douglas  Hofstadter, 77. Author of Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. Though it’s not genre, ISFDB notes he wrote “The Tale of Happiton “, a short story included in the Rudy Rucker-edited Mathenauts: Tales of Mathematical Wonder
  • Born February 15, 1945 Jack Dann, 77. Dreaming Down-Under which he co-edited with Janeen Webb is an amazing anthology of Australian genre fiction. It won a Ditmar Award and was the first Australian fiction book ever to win the World Fantasy Award. If you’ve not read it, go do so. As for his novels, I’m fond of High Steel written with Jack C. Haldeman II, and The Man Who Melted. He’s not that well-stocked digitally speaking though Dreaming Down-Under is available at the usual suspects.
  • Born February 15, 1948 Art Spiegelman, 74. Author and illustrator of Maus which if you’ve not read, you really should. He also wrote MetaMaus which goes into great detail how he created that work. (Discussed here at Green Man Review.) And yes, I know he had a long and interesting career in underground comics but I’ll be damned if I can find any that are either genre or genre adjacent. I know if I’m wrong that you’ll correct me. 
  • Born February 15, 1958 Cat Eldridge, 64. He’s the publisher of Green Man Review. He’s retconned into Jane Yolen’s The One-Armed Queen as an enthomusicologist in exchange for finding her a rare volume of fairy tales.
  • Born February 15, 1971 Renee O’Connor, 51. Gabrielle on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess. I’m reasonably sure that I watched every damn episode of both series when they aired originally. Quite fun stuff. Her first genre role was first as a waitress in Tales from the Crypt and she’s had some genre film work such as Monster Ark and Alien Apocalypse. She’s also played Lady Macbeth in the Shakespeare by the Sea’s production of Macbeth

(16) FROM DEEP POCKETS TO DEEP SPACE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport interviews billionaire Jared Isaacman, who went into space last year on the first private spaceflight.  Isaacman says he is launching another four-person private spacelight later this year, and the Polaris Dawn mission will have the first private astronaut performing a spacewalk. “Jared Isaacman to fund 3 SpaceX flights, including first crewed launch of Starship”.

…In addition to the first commercial spacewalk, Isaacman said the first Polaris mission would endeavor “to go farther than anyone’s gone since we last walked on the moon — in the highest Earth orbit that anyone’s ever flown.” The record was set in 1966 by the Gemini 11 crew, which flew to 853 miles, the highest altitude for any non-lunar crewed mission, according to NASA.

The flight, which would take off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, would require a license from the Federal Aviation Administration. But the FAA considers only the safety of people and property on the ground in granting such approval and not the risks their activities in space might pose to the crew.

The crew would also test SpaceX’s Starlink laser-based satellite communications technology in space. While Starlink satellites now beam Internet signals to rural areas on Earth, SpaceX is hoping to use the system for human spaceflight missions to the moon and Mars. 

(17) ENTERPRISE: SKELETON WAR. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Fan artist Marieke (@Spacelizart) did this piece based on Star Trek: Enterprise (2001-2005) and the 2013 meme Skeleton War:

(18) HASBRO MAKES THE RUN TO MARKET IN 13 PARSECS. That Hashtag Show turns thumbs down on this action figure: “Hasbro Fails Miserably With Star Wars Black Series Krrsantan”.

Well folks, The Book of Boba Fett Season 1 is in the books. One of its unquestionable highlights was Black Krrsantan leaping from the comic book page to live-action. Carey Jones perfectly brought the gladiator-turned-bounty-hunter to life, ably joining the late Peter Mayhew and Joonas Suotamo as Star Wars Wookiee mainstays. Hasbro, of course, is now looking to seize on Krrsantan’s popularity. The toy maker just announced a Black Series figure for the character, and frankly, it couldn’t be a bigger fail.

… Sorry, Hasbro, but the “new” Black Series Krrsantan is, in a word, awful. As many across social media have pointed out, the figure is nothing more than a repainted retread of an old Chewbacca figure from almost a decade ago. The only difference is the head sculpt. That, at least, features the Wookiee’s braids and scars. Unfortunately, the differences pretty much end there. Even the bowcaster weapon is the same. You can’t look at the Black Series figure and not think “black Chewbacca.” Plus, the monochrome accessories (while true to the comics) just look, well, cheap….

(19) GAME TO MOVIE. “’BioShock’ Movie in the Works at Netflix” says The Hollywood Reporter.

…The streaming giant [Netflix] has partnered with Take-Two Interactive, the game’s parent company, to develop a potential cinematic universe. Vertigo Entertainment and Take-Two will serve as producers.

No writer or filmmaker is on board at this time. The partnership deal has been in the works for almost a year.

Released in 2007 from 2K Games, a subsidiary of Take-Two, the first-person shooter game featured a crumbling underwater city named Rapture, its society fragmented in a civil war with many inhabitants addicted or using a genetically enhancing serum that gives people powers while also living in fear of Big Daddies, mutated humans who have been merged with diving suits. Into this world is dropped the game’s protagonist, Jack, a survivor of a mysterious plane crash in the Atlantic Ocean….

(20) FOR THOSE OF YOU KEEPING SCORE AT HOME. The New York Times has an update: “China, Not SpaceX, May Be Source of Rocket Part Crashing Into Moon”.

The developer of astronomy software who said that Elon Musk’s company would cause a new crater on the moon says that he “had really gotten it wrong.”

…Part of a rocket is expected to crash into the far side of the moon on March 4. Initially thought to be a SpaceX rocket stage, the object may actually be part of a Long March 3C rocket that launched in 2014….

(21) SITH OF ONE, HALF A DOZEN OF THE OTHER. Lucasfilm Games dropped this trailer today: “Star Wars: The Old Republic’s Legacy of the Sith”.

Legacy of the Sith will send players to the darkest depths and farthest reaches of the galaxy and unlock the ability to choose your personal combat style.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” the Screen Junkies say that the newest Ghostbusters movie “invites you to remember how great the original was and — that’s it. That’s the whole movie.”  The film “gives the loudest people what they want…Easter eggs the size of Denver omelets.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Ed Fortune, Rob Thornton, Chris Barkley, Ben Bird Person, 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 Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 10/22/21 I Must Not Scroll, Scroll Is The Pixel-Killer

(1) MCINTYRE FILM ADAPTATION COMING TO THEATERS. Moviegoers at last will be able to see the film based on the late Vonda McIntyre’s 1997 Nebula-winning novel The Moon and the Sun: “A Fantasy Blockbuster Shot In 2014 Is Finally Being Released” reports Looper. It arrives in theaters in January.

The Moon and The Sun actors Kaya Scodelario and Pierce Brosnan.

… However, one fantasy blockbuster’s release problems predate the worldwide pandemic by over half a decade. It’s a film that has been mysteriously missing ever since its production finished in 2014. That film was originally known as “The Moon and the Sun,” before it dropped off the radar ahead of its planned 2015 release date. The vanishing movie is based on the 1997 Nebula Award-winning novel of the same name by Vonda N. McIntyre (via Deadline). The family-friendly fantasy epic features Pierce Bronson in a lead role, and — had the film arrived on schedule — it would have been the realization of nearly two decades worth of effort to get the story to the big screen.

Obviously, “The Moon and the Sun” didn’t make its release date and lost the attention of both the media and moviegoers as it went into a lengthy post-production limbo. However, it seems that the film, which has been rebranded and renamed, is finally ready for a wide release and will be headed to theaters in early 2022. Here is everything fans need to know about “The King’s Daughter,” and why they’ve had to wait nearly six years to finally see it….

McIntyre got to see production shooting in France (“Vonda Visits Versailles”). A print reportedly was shown during her GoH slot at Sasquan in 2015.

(2) SAND THROUGH THE HOURGLASS. Alissa Wilkinson dissects “Dune’s expansive, enduring appeal” at Vox.

Harkonnens. Messiahs. Deadly, insect-like hunter-seekers. A secretive all-women order of spies, nuns, scientists, and theologians that’s bending history to its will. A spice harvested from an arid desert that enables space travel. ’Thopters. Interstellar war. Giant sand worms.

The world of Dune is a wild one, a tale spun by Frank Herbert in the tumultuous 1960s that mixes fear of authoritarian rule and environmental collapse with fascism, racism, and hallucinatory imagery. The 1965 novel, which eventually garnered widespread acclaim, was followed by a universe of sequels for its rabidly devoted fans. The trappings of its imagined, distant-future world feel wondrous, unfamiliar, and strange.

Or they would, if we hadn’t been steeped in Dune fever for so many years, even prior to the recent arrival of Denis Villeneuve’s extraordinary and resolutely abstruse film adaptation. Even the most Dune-averse person can hardly avoid the long tail of Herbert’s saga, whether they realize it or not.

The story has been referenced by pop stars like Lady Gaga, who made a sly nod to Dune in the “Telephone” music video, and Grimes, whose debut studio album, Geidi Primes, is a concept album based on Dune. Fatboy Slim’s song “Weapon of Choice,” the one with the music video starring Christopher Walken, is one big reference to the book (“Walk without rhythm / It won’t attract the worm”). Video games like Fallout and World of Warcraft contain references to Dune, as do plenty of TV shows from Scooby-Doo to Rick & Morty to SpongeBob SquarePants. There’s a crater on the moon officially named Dune, and some of the features on Saturn’s moon Titan have been named for planets from the series….

(3) A HOUSE DIVIDED. In the Washington Post, Michael Dirda offers his assessment of the book and film of DUNE and recalls his meeting with Frank Herbert in 1984. “’Dune’ has long divided the science fiction world. The new film won’t change that.”

… Unlike “Star Wars,” though, Villeneuve’s “Dune” isn’t a sparky, upbeat space opera. It’s more like a Wagnerian music-drama, a somber story built around intimations of doom and orchestrated with a soundtrack of pounding drums and high-pitched wailings and ululations. It is, however, packed with eye-popping visual spectacle, notably speedy little aircraft that resemble mechanical dragonflies and enormous space cruisers as sleek as any on the cover of an old issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories. Like Herbert’s book, the film is also deliberately majestic in its pacing and virtually without humor. Life is real, life is earnest and nobody has much fun. Instead, characters nobly pontificate or murmur gnomically about whether the young hero, Paul Atreides, is or isn’t the Kwisatz Haderach, the promised warrior prophet who will lead the tough and fiercely independent Fremen to victory over their brutal oppressors. Their cruelest enemy, the consummately evil Baron Harkonnen, symbolically dwells in darkness, surrounding himself with swirling smoke and completely hairless attendants. He is a grotesque vision of rampant, unbridled capitalism….

(4) DUNE VS. TATTOOINE. On This Day in Science Fiction delivers an assessment of this week’s cinematic history by comparing two sf epics with grit in “Stardate 10.22.2021.B: 2021’s ‘Dune’ Needed More Spice”.

… Paul means little to me.  Luke?  I get Luke.  I want to be Luke.  I’ll fly the Death Star trench with him, and I’ll gladly join him on Dagobah for secret Jedi training, or I’d even stand shoulder-to-shoulder in a blazing lightsaber battle with Emperor Palpatine if Luke asked me to.
 
But … Paul?
 
He’s Christlike … so what does he need me for?
 
Now, categorically, none of this lessens the strengths of what director Villeneuve accomplishes visually.  Clearly, he’s immersed himself in these worlds, and he’s spared no investor’s expense to bring them to life on the screen.  He’s taken the wide, open, endless desert seas of Arrakis and made them visual poetry – certainly real enough for fans of this franchise to enjoy again and again, much like Marvel fans flock to their superhero yarns for endless repeats.  He’s given breath to the political machinations of a galaxy that really only existed before in Herbert’s series of books in such a way that I’m sure folks will be reminded of Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings and HBO’s Game Of Thrones adaptations.  These ships and vehicles are unlike anything many have ever seen before, and I’m convinced these production designs will become influential in the years and decades ahead for other filmmakers who want to tackle similar challenges with the kind of scale employed here….

(5) A CHALLENGE FACED BY INTERNATIONAL WRITERS. Jason Sanford has posted a public Genre Grapevine column on his Patreon about the issues that international authors in Africa, parts of Asia and Latin America, etc… face to get paid for their work:  “Genre Grapevine Special Report: A Truly Global SF/F Genre Must Recognize the Financial Barriers Faced by Many International Authors and Creatives”.

…3. A fear that many people in the U.S.A., Canada and Europe don’t understand the financial barriers faced by those in other countries and that the hassles of arranging payments could cause some international authors and creatives to not have their works considered for publication in the first place.

That last point is a critical one to emerge from my interviews with more than a dozen authors, artists and creative people in countries such as Colombia, Australia, India, Nigeria, Brazil, South Korea, and Mexico, all of whom have experienced issues with receiving payments.

None of the people I spoke with knew of a single technical solution to the problems they’ve encountered with receiving payments. Instead, they spoke of worries about how the editors, publishers, and clients they’ve worked with in the U.S.A., Canada and Europe perceive these difficulties in receiving payments. It’s likely even their fellow authors and creatives in the U.S.A., Canada and Europe don’t generally understand these concerns.

In fact, most of the people I interviewed asked to remain anonymous because they feared harm to their career if they spoke publicly about the issue….

(6) REMEMBERING TRAGIC ACCIDENT VICTIM. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Everybody is talking about Alec Baldwin, but the Guardian has a profile/obituary of Halyna Hutchins, the cinematographer Baldwin accidentally shot. Some of the films she worked on were genre. Plus, I think she deserves to be remembered as more than just a footnote: “Halyna Hutchins profile: a talented and passionate cinematographer”.

Halyna Hutchins was a talented and passionate cinematographer who was clearly enjoying her job as director of photography on Alec Baldwin’s latest cowboy movie.

Over the past three weeks, she posted photos on her Instagram account from the film’s rugged set in the foothills of New Mexico. They included vivid sunsets and a cast and crew picture in which Hutchins is standing next to Baldwin against the backdrop a log cabin.

There is also a short video clip taken on Wednesday in which Hutchins – wearing a grey scarf and wide-brimmed hat – sets off on horseback with colleagues. “One of the perks of shooting a western is you get to ride horses on your day off,” she wrote….

(7) FRIGHTENING ADVICE. Will Maclean shares some tips in writing scary ghost stories: “How to write scary ghost stories” at Writers Online.

The first and most important thing to remember when writing a ghost story is the difference between scariness and creepiness. You will need to deploy both moods, so it’s well worth giving the matter some thought.

The part of us concerned with pure scariness is indescribably ancient, concerned only with fight or flight, with survival. As such, we are only truly, properly terrified when we’re confronted with those same primal terrors that threatened us a million years ago – being alone, being watched, being hunted or chased or otherwise pursued, with deadly intent… that small stock of evergreen human nightmares is where the pure, visceral scares will always come from….

(8) ANATOMY OF A SUBGENRE. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Bill Ward has an article about the intersection of cosmic horror and sword and sorcery at Goodman Games, who are a remarkably good source of SFF related articles: “The Cosmic Horror of Sword & Sorcery”.

… The bones of sword & sorcery lie close to the skin, and one sure blade-stroke is enough to lay them bare for all to see. There is plot-driven pulp action there, at the core, but supporting that is a foundation of swashbuckling historical adventure, and expectations of encounters of the picaresque and the exotic kind. To be sure we can also see the unsentimentality of the hardboiled, the individualism of the American experience, and a surprising dose of literary realism for a genre concerned with fantastic monsters, haunted crypts, and vampiric blades….

(9) FOUNDATION REVIEW. Camestros Felapton weighs in on “Foundation Episode 6”. As he says, spoilers follow.

The show has been taking its time by introducing the background and a broader plot about the fall of the Galactic Empire. However, if the pace was slow it was still moving. Episode 6 was a case of the show spinning its wheels without really going anywhere. There are some good bits but what momentum the story had in the previous episodes got caught up in dithering. Spoilers follow….

(10) YAKKO, WAKKO AND DOT. Hulu dropped this trailer for season 2 of Animaniacs yesterday.

“We’re so meta the shark jumped us!”

(11) SAME MOTIVE AS EVER, GETTING PAID. The Digital Antiquarian’s article about “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” begins with an expansive biography of author Harlan Ellison before turning to the game based on one of his stories.

… Ellison’s attitude toward computers in general was no more nuanced. Asked what he thought about computer entertainment in 1987, he pronounced the phrase “an oxymoron.” Thus it came as quite a surprise to everyone five years later when it was announced that Harlan Ellison had agreed to collaborate on a computer game.

The source of the announcement was a Southern California publisher and developer called Cyberdreams, which had been founded by Pat Ketchum and Rolf Klug in 1990. Ketchum was a grizzled veteran of the home-computer wars, having entered the market with the founding of his first software publisher DataSoft on June 12, 1980. After a couple of years of spinning their wheels, DataSoft found traction when they released a product called Text Wizard, for a time the most popular word processor for Atari’s 8-bit home-computer line. (Its teenage programmer had started on the path to making it when he began experimenting with ways to subtly expand margins and increase line spacings in order to make his two-page school papers look like three…)

(12) ANGEL OBIT. Legacy.com covers the career of the late “Jack Angel (1930–2021), voice actor in ‘Super Friends,’ ‘Transformers’” – who I remember listening to on KFI at the beginning of his career.

Angel got his start in the entertainment industry as a radio disc jockey in California. He worked in radio for almost 20 years before beginning his voice acting career on the popular Saturday morning cartoon “Super Friends.” Angel provided the voices of Hawkman, the Flash, and Super Samurai. He went on to perform in beloved cartoons including “The Smurfs,” “Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo,” and “Spider-Man.” In 1985, Angel began voicing a number of characters for “The Transformers,” including Ramjet, Smokescreen, and Omega Supreme. He was the voice of Wetsuit in “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero” and Dr. Zachary Darrett in “Pole Position” as well as providing a number of voices in “Voltron: Defender of the Universe.” Angel also worked in animated feature films, providing voices for many movies including “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” “A Bug’s Life,” “The Iron Giant,” “Spirited Away,” and “Monsters Inc.” Angel was a U.S. Army veteran who served in Korea.

(13) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 2006 – On this evening in 2006, Torchwood first aired on BBC Three before moving to BBC Two and finally to the level BBC One. A spin-off of Doctor Who which returned the previous year after a long hiatus, it was created by Russell T. Davies, the first Showrunner for the new Doctor Who. Its principal cast was John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Gareth David-Lloyd, Burn Gorman and Naoko Mori. Over five years, it would run for four series and forty-one episodes. I personally liked the first two series much better than the last two series. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a most excellent seventy-four percent rating. Both BBC and Big Finish have continued the series in audio dramas. 

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 22, 1919 Doris Lessing. The five novels collectively known as Canopus in Argos: Archives certainly established her genre creds. I personally would add her Cat Tales, three volumes of stories and nonfiction (Particularly Cats, Rufus the Survivor and The Old Age of El Magnifico) to your reading list.  (Died 2013.)
  • Born October 22, 1938 Derek Jacobi, 83. He played a rather nicely nasty Master in “Utopia”, a Tenth Doctor story. He’s played Metatron on Good Omens. And he was Magisterial Emissary in The Golden Compass. I’ll single out that he’s played Macbeth at Barbican Theatre in London as part of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre ensemble.
  • Born October 22, 1938 Christopher Lloyd, 83. He has starred as Commander Kruge in The Search for Spock, Emmett “Doc” Brown in the Back to the Future trilogy, Judge Doom in the most excellent Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and played a wonderful Uncle Fester in The Addams Family and the Addams Family Values. (Though I admit didn’t spot him in that makeup.) Let’s not forget that he was in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as John Bigbooté, and he played Dr. Cletus Poffenberger in a recurring role on Tremors.
  • Born October 22, 1939 Suzy McKee Charnas, 82. I’d say The Holdfast Chronicles are her best work to date. “Boobs” won the Best Story Hugo at ConFiction. Her Beauty and the Opéra or The Phantom Beast novelette was a nominee at LoneStarCon 2. She’s also won the Otherwise, Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature, Nebula, Gaylactic Spectrum, and Lambda Literary Awards. Any of you read her Sorcery Hall series? 
  • Born October 22, 1943 Jim Baen. Editor of Galaxy and If for three years. In late 1999, he started Webscriptions, now called Baen Ebooks, which is considered to be the first profitable e-book service. He also was the editor of Destinies and New Destinies which I remember fondly.  He was nominated for Best Editor Hugo five times between 1975 and 1981 but never won. At Nippon 2007, he’d be nominated for Best Editor, Long Form. (Died 2006.)
  • Born October 22, 1952 Jeff Goldblum, 69. The Wiki page gushes over him for being in Jurassic Park and Independence Day (as well as their sequels, The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Independence Day: Resurgence), but neglects my favorite film with him in it, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, not to mention the  Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake he was in. Well, I do really like Independence Day. Though not even genre adjacent, he’s got a nice run on Law and Order: Criminal Intent as Zack Nichols.
  • Born October 22, 1954 Graham Joyce. Selecting his best novel is a futile exercise as everything is fantastically good but I’ll single out Some Kind of Fairy Tale and The Tooth Fairy as the ones I found the most interesting reads. No Hugos not even a short list nomination but he’s won quite a few BFAs and one WFA for The Facts of Life novel. (Died 2014.)

(15) TANANARIVE DUE PROFILE. “Afrofuturist and horror writer Tananarive Due: ‘Invite more Black creators to the table’”. So she tells interviewer Roxane Gay at Inverse.

RG: You have this seemingly idyllic upbringing with both of your parents, loving family, surrounded by books. How do you develop an interest in writing horror?

TD: That’s also my mother. She was a huge horror fan. It’s only in recent years really since her loss, ironically, which has been the biggest trauma of my life that I’m thinking, “Ah, I wonder if her love of horror had a lot to do with the trauma she suffered, first growing up under Jim Crow then being subjected to state violence as a civil rights activist?” That monster on a screen, whether it’s Frankenstein or the Wolf Man, can represent the real-life trauma you have to stand up to. And you watch characters stand up to it even when they don’t understand it, even when they don’t know how to fight it.

(16) VONNEGUT ON FILM. Thom Dunn gets us ready to “Watch the trailer for the new Kurt Vonnegut documentary ‘Unstuck In Time’” at Boing Boing.

The upcoming documentary Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck In Time looks pretty interesting if you (like me) are a fan of the late author. Filmmaker Robert Weide first approached Vonnegut in 1988 to propose the idea of a documentary, and they filmed on and off until Vonnegut’s death in 2007. As a result, the movie not only documents Vonnegut’s life and career, but also the evolution of the relationship between the two men. 

(17) SOURCES OF DUNE. Haris Durrani analyzes Herbert’s drawing on Islam in “The Muslimness of Dune: A Close Reading of ‘Appendix II: The Religion of Dune’” at Tor.com.

… I find the books’ engagement with Islam to transcend linguistic wordplay and obscure intertextuality. After all, Herbert was fascinated by linguistics and believed words shape substantive meaning. The use of “Voice” by the Bene Gesserit, an order of imperialist superhuman female breeders, is a prime example of this, as is the saga’s running obsession with symbols and myths. As these semiotic tools wield tremendous power within the Dune universe, Herbert’s references likewise generate a profound “Muslimness” that goes beyond mere orientalist aesthetics. (This is not to say that the Dune novels are not orientalist in other ways, which I have detailed elsewhere.) Dune does not cheaply plagiarize from Muslim histories, ideas, and practices, but actively engages with them….

(18) NOT THE EXPANSE. Astronomy Picture of the Day: “Lucy Launches to Eight Asteroids.”

(19) VERSATILE AARDVARK. Cat discovered recordings of six episodes of “Cerebus: The Radio Show” at the Internet Archive.

Comic book series created by Canadian cartoonist Dave Sim, which ran from December 1977 until March 2004. The title character of the 300-issue series is an anthropomorphic aardvark who takes on a number of roles throughout the series-barbarian, prime minister and Pope among them. The series stands out for its experimentation in form and content, and for the dexterity of its artwork, especially after background artist Gerhard joined with the 65th issue. As the series progressed, it increasingly became a platform for Sim’s controversial beliefs.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.]

“A Crewneck for Pete” on Vimeo, directed by Andy Mills, is about how you know it’s fall in New England, when the leaves turn and you drink cider straight from the jug.  But where is Pete going to find a cozy crewneck sweatshirt?

[Thanks to  JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Rob Thornton, Will R., Cora Buhlert, Jason Sanford, Michael J. Walsh, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

AudioFile Magazine’s Best New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Audiobooks Spring 2021

Six suggestions from AudioFile Magazine of new and classic sff audiobooks for fans to enjoy this Spring.

KLARA AND THE SUN

  • by Kazuo Ishiguro | Read by Sura Siu
  • [Random House Audio | 10.25 hrs.] Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award

Narrator Sura Siu will be a fresh voice for many listeners, and her wonderfully subdued narration proves perfect for portraying Klara, the all-too-observant “AF” (artificial friend) purchased by a mother for her ailing child. Assigned to look after Josie, Klara slowly discovers she is being groomed to be the failing child’s replacement. Siu conveys a range of contrasting voices, and in this challenging assignment, she proves herself a performer of rare grace, subtlety, and virtuosity whose haunting portrayal of Ishiguro’s more than human main character will linger in listeners’ minds for days.

Hear from Sura Siu herself on the making of Klara And The Sun:

THE ECHO WIFE

  • by Sarah Gailey | Read by Xe Sands
  • [Macmillan Audio | 8.5 hrs.]

Xe Sands narrates with a quiet tension that suits the slow creep of this sci-fi domestic thriller. Evelyn is an accomplished scientist in the field of cloning human adults, although her victories feel bittersweet. Her husband, Nathan, is having an affair, but not with just anyone—Nathan has used Evelyn’s own research techniques to create a domestic and illegal clone of Evelyn herself. Sands delivers all the slowly building suspense with her smooth first-person narration as the author executes plot twists that make for a satisfying, if disturbing, story.

COLONYSIDE

  • by Michael Mammay | Read by R.C. Bray
  • [Harper Audio | 10 hrs.] Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award

Narrator R.C. Bray’s commanding voice perfectly suits this story of a disgraced colonel and a CEO’s missing daughter. Carl Butler hoped to live out his days on an ignored planet but agrees to take on what should be a simple case: finding a missing daughter. The story’s twists and turns build intrigue as Bray keeps the plot thundering forward. Both fans of the series and newcomers will fall under Bray’s spell as he delivers this relatively self-contained, well-plotted sci-fi adventure. 

D (A TALE OF TWO WORLDS)

  • by Michel Faber | Read by Isabel Adomakah Young
  • [Harper Audio | 6.75 hrs.] Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award

Isabel Adomakah Young shines as narrator in D, in which she portrays an orphan who journeys into a pocket universe (with a magical sphinx) to hunt down the fiend who’s absconded with the letter “d.” Young’s narration strikes a remarkable balance between a soothing lyricism and a playfulness that piques interest. She brings an earnestness that will have listeners rooting for the main character and a whimsy that brings to life a range of magical creatures. Listeners will appreciate the voice-acting chops it takes to effectively rea’ a manuscript that ‘osen’t inclu’e the letter __. 

GHOST SUMMER

  • by Tananarive Due | Read by Tananarive Due, Robin Miles, Janina Edwards
  • [Blackstone Audio | 13 hrs.]

This collection of 15 short stories by award-winning author Tananarive Due, first published in 2015 and given a fresh recording, spans several genres, including the supernatural, science fiction, fantasy, horror, and futurism. The author herself narrates several and is joined for the rest by practiced narrators Robin Miles and Janina Edwards, reading alternating stories. Three of the stories are set in the haunted fictional town of Gracetown, Florida, while three others are part of an apocalyptic trilogy featuring a raging virus.

A DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS OF MAGICIANS

  • by H.G. Parry | Read by Andrew Kingston
  • [Hachette Audio | 21 hrs.] Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award

An alternate history of the eighteenth century weaves together the story of the slave rebellion in Haiti, the French Revolution, and the abolitionist movement in England—all wrapped in an undercurrent of magic. Andrew Kingston assumes subtle accents for each setting, and shows the rapport and friendships among many of the characters, enhancing the ways that events are intertwined. Parry makes the magic seem natural and an integral part of each political climate as he sets the stage for a sequel. 


“Best New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Audiobooks Spring 2021” was curated by AudioFile.  AudioFile is an independent source of audiobook reviews and recommendations with a clear focus on the performance and listening experience.