Pixel Scroll 1/15/22 Pixelpunk Scrollcore

(1) SEND ME IN, COACH. Continuing yesterday’s “squeecore” discussion — John Scalzi is happy to be in the conversation anytime, but that doesn’t mean he agrees with the point he’s being used to illustrate. “Portrait of the Author As a Component of a ‘Punk-Or-Core’ Formulation” at Whatever. (Running the tweet, too, because I love the graphic.)

… My canal, as it turns out, runs across a lot of thematic ground, and does a fair amount of intersecting. Some of that is by design, since I am easily bored, as a human and a writer, and like to splash around in new places. Some of that is just following the lay of the land. At the end of the day, however, it means that depending one’s inclinations and rhetorical needs, and contingent on examples, I can be grouped in with the gun-humping dudes who write military science fiction, or the woke SJW scolds who are currently ruining the Hugos, or pretty much wherever else you need me to go to make your point.

And at least superficially you won’t be wrong. I mean, I did write that story that you’re pointing to, and it does exist in that sphere, and I’m not sorry I wrote that thing, and may write a thing like it again, if I have a mind to. But I suspect on a deeper level — the level that actually makes your point something more than a facile, half-baked thesis to burble out onto a blog post or podcast because content content content — using me as an example is not hugely useful….

(2) HER MILEAGE VARIED. Cora Buhlert also shared her thoughts about Rite Gud’s “squeecore” podcast and Camestros Felapton’s post in response: “Science Fiction Is Never Evenly Distributed”.

… The podcasters are not wrong, cause all of these trends definitely exist in current SFF, though they’re not one unifying trend, but several different trends. Uplifting and upbeat SFF is certainly a trend and it already has a name that is much less derogatory than “squeecore”, namely hopepunk. Reader-insert characters and a video-game/RPG feel is a trend as well and there is a term or rather two for it, namely LitRPG and gamelit.

I agree that there is a strong influence of YA fiction and a tendency to show younger characters gaining skills rather than being already fully developed in contemporary SFF, but that’s the result of the YA SFF boom of the past twenty-five years, which served as a gateway to the genre for countless readers….

As I explained in this postGalactic Journey is very good at showing how different trends as well as older and newer forms of SFF coexist in the same period, because we try to cover everything and not just the cherry-picked examples that later eras choose to remember.

Also, quite often works are shoehorned into a trend, because they vaguely match some characteristics thereof and came out around the same time, even though they don’t really fit. The Expanse novels by James S.A. Corey are a good example. They are often shoehorned into the 2010s space opera revival, even though The Expanse has nothing in common with the likes of the Imperial Radch trilogy, the Paradox trilogy, the Hexarchate series or A Memory Called Empire beyond being set in space. Meanwhile, The Expanse draws heavily on mundane science fiction (a movement that never really got beyond its manifesto), Cyberpunk, golden age science fiction and the 1990s “cast of thousands/everybody and the dog gets a POV” style of SFF epics that never got a name, even though it was very much a thing and still lingers on….

(3) STILL WRESTLING WITH AMAZON. Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki told Facebook followers that he heard from Amazon KDP again. And he posted more screencaps of his correspondence with them.

Some more updates on the Amazon KDP fiasco, they called me again yesterday, to explain why I can’t edit my banking details. Must have seen my tweet on it. They said it’s a security issue. And offered some more assistance in replacing it and ensuring I can get the royalties.

On another note, though related, I’m trying to use the account of a friend that was in the US because well, they don’t accept Nigerian bank accounts. I was using Payoneer, a service that mimics US bank accounts and essentially reads as if you are in the US. It’s legit btw, and accepted by Amazon. I’m pointing this out because a number of people latched on to this when I mentioned it, amongst the methods I use to get past through these restrictions. They said oh yes see, it’s your fault. One of those methods you use must have broken the rules.

This is how people enable racism even when they don’t cause it. They look for anything to justify and deny your marginalization. It either doesn’t exist, it didn’t happen, or it’s your own fault. A number of players were on every platform that carried this, saying this. You don’t even know what those methods are. But it must be one of them & this must all be my fault & deserved. The world tries to lock you out, then punishes you viciously for trying to not be locked out. Then people blame you for even trying at all to circumvent those lockouts. Every publishing-payment platform I’ve tried to use to do anything has either banned, blocked me or doesn’t work here or allow payment systems. From Draft2Digital to Smash words to Kickstarter to Paypal to Amazon KDP, to even Gofundme. But it must all be my fault. I must have violated all their rules somehow. Even GoFundMe that’s supposed to be for people in need of help. I wasn’t even qualified to beg for money. I needed an American to beg for me. If I had even tried to insert myself at any point into the arrangement, it’d have crashed….

(4) EXPANDING ON THE EXPANSE? Den of Geek contemplates what could happen to keep the series from really being over: “The Expanse: The Possibility of a Season 7 or Sequel Series”. (Beware spoilers.)

The Possibility of an Expanse Movie

While The Expanse team went into Season 6 knowing it would almost certainly be the show’s last, they chose to tell the story that included a Laconia-set subplot adapted from Expanse novella Strange Dogs. Unlike basically every other the story in Season 6, the Laconia subplot about a girl named Cara and her efforts to save brother Xan with the help some alien creatures was very forward-focused. It also properly introduced Admiral Duarte, a character who becomes incredibly important in the remaining books in the series. The decision to give so much of Season 6’s precious narrative time could have been made as a way to expand the scope of this world, and to pay homage to these future book plots, and/or it could hint that the Expanse production team have not completely ruled out the possibility of a future for this adaptation…

(5) INSIDE THE SHELL. Den of Geek points out “The Expanse Series Finale Easter Eggs: The Sci-Fi Heroes Who Helped” (Beware spoilers.)

As the coalition forces prepare to storm the ring station in The Expanse series finale, the Rocinante crew is running through its systems check, and voices are heard in the background signaling their readiness. “Thrace ready!” we hear, and our ears perk up. How unusual to share the name of one of the most badass space dogfighters ever, Kara “Starbuck” Thrace of Battlestar Galactica. When that’s followed by “Ripley ready!” all doubt is removed. Naming yet another famous spacefarer, Ellen Ripley of Alien, can’t be a coincidence.

Fortunately, fans of Easter eggs like this are provided with a quick glimpse of the roster on Naomi’s screen, and it’s filled with the great heroes of space science fiction in movies and television. It’s fitting that, as The Expanse makes its final bow, the “Great Hunt” of sci-fi culture appears to assist in the battle to end all battles. It’s easy, in fact, to spot the rest of Ripley’s team from Aliens: Hudson, Hicks, and Vasquez. So who else is among the assault team?…

(6) EXPANSIVE ACTING. Forbes’ Rob Salkowitz poses the questions: “Shohreh Aghdashloo On ‘The Expanse’ Series Finale And The Show’s Stellar Legacy”. (Beware spoilers.)

RS: Were there times when you and the cast watched the finished shows where you were surprised by how certain scenes came out, or by the work of your castmates?

SA: Absolutely. Every season, the producers would screen the first two shows for the cast all together in a theatre. There was one moment, maybe from season four or five, where Amos [Wes Chatham] was talking about his mother, and it was so powerful that I just lost it. I had to leave the theatre crying, I couldn’t help myself. The other cast members, my friends, came up to me and asked me what happened and I said I was just overcome seeing that scene. But you know, there were so many scenes and moments that felt so real like that, which made me feel like we did a good job bringing this saga to life.

(7) SPLASH-A-BOOM. An underwater volcano eruption this morning near Tonga caused a small tsunami which hit the west coast of Central, North and South America, and the east coast of Hawai’i. Hawaiian fan Dave Rowe says, “Here it was only one foot high (three feet was expected).” And he passed along a link to an impressive 2-second video compiled from real-time satellite photos of the eruption: “Shockwave By Near-Tonga Eruption Captured From Himawari Satellite” at Space Weather Gallery.

(8) THE BIG TIME. M. John Harrison is one of the 2022 Booker Prize judges.

…He sold his first story in 1965, and in 1969 joined the staff of the UK speculative fiction magazine New Worlds, where he edited the books pages until 1978.

His novels include Climbers, which won the Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature in 1989; Nova Swing, which won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2007; and The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again, which won the 2020 Goldsmiths Prize for innovation in fiction…. 

(9) I’VE SEEN THAT FACE BEFORE. Jordan D. Smith, who runs The Dark Crusade, a Karl Edward Wagner podcast, lists three examples of Karl Edward Wagner showing up as a character in other people’s fiction: “Three for the Road: Karl Edward Wagner in Fiction”.

… Below are three stories from the past ten years that have contained characters loosely based on, or inspired by, Karl Edward Wagner….

(10) TWO CATS FOR THE PRICE OF ONE. Mark Evanier eulogized voice actor “Leo DeLyon, R.I.P.” at News From ME. DeLyon died September 21 at the age of 96.

…We are especially interested in him because he occasionally did voices for cartoons. In the original Top Cat series in 1961, he did the voices of the characters Spook and Brain. That’s them above with Leo between them. He did other voices now and then for Hanna-Barbera…on The Smurfs and Paw Paws, and on a few specials when they needed voice actors who could sing. He was also the voice of Flunkey the baboon in the Disney version of The Jungle Book

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1995 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-seven years ago on this evening, the very short lived sequel to the Sixties Get Smart series aired on Fox. It too was called Get Smart. And it had Don Adams and Barbara Feldon still playing Maxwell Smart and Agent 99. Edward Platt who played The Chief had died some twenty years earlier. 

The relative success of the reunion movie Get Smart, Again! six years earlier prompted the development of a weekly revival of Get Smart but the ratings were absolutely abysmal, so it was canned after seven episodes. Thirteen years later, the Get Smart film despite critics not particularly liking it was a great success. 

The Variety review was typical of what critics thought of it: “Would you believe there is very little to laugh about in this return of Get Smart, a decidedly unfunny undertaking that could have clearly benefited from some input from Buck Henry or at the very least a phone call from Mel Brooks.” 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 15, 1879 Ernest  Thesiger. He’s here because of his performance as Doctor Septimus Pretorius in James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein. He had a major role in Hitchcock’s not completed and now lost Number 13 (or Mrs. Peabody) which is even genre adjacent. He was also in The Ghoul which was an early Boris Karloff film. And he continued to show up in SFF films such as The Ghosts of Berkeley Square where he was Dr. Cruickshank of Psychical Research Society. (Died 1961.)
  • Born January 15, 1913 Lloyd Bridges. Though I’m reasonably sure Secret Agent X-9, a 1945 serial, isn’t genre, I’m listing it anyways because I’m impressed that it was based on a comic strip by Dashiell Hammett, Leslie Charteris and others. He’s the Pilot Col. Floyd Graham in Rocketship X-M, Dr. Doug Standish In Around the World Under the Sea, Aramis in The Fifth Musketeer, Clifford Sterling in Honey, I Blew Up the Kid and Grandfather in Peter and the Wolf. His television appearances are too many to list here. (Died 1998.)
  • Born January 15, 1928 Joanne Linville. Best remembered I’d say for being the unnamed Romulan Commander Spock get involved with on “The Enterprise Incident”. (Vulcan’s Heart by Josepha Sherman and Susan Shwartz, calls her Liviana Charvanek.)  She also starred in the Twilight Zone‘s “The Passersby” episode, and she starred in “I Kiss Your Shadow” which was the final episode of the Bus Stop series. The episode was based on the short story by Robert Bloch who wrote the script for it. This story is in The Early Fears Collection. (Died 2021.)
  • Born January 15, 1935 Robert Silverberg, 87. I know the first thing I read by him was The Stochastic Man a very long time ago. After that I’ve read all of the Majipoor series which is quite enjoyable, and I know I’ve read a lot of his short fiction down the years. He has three Hugos with the first at NyCon II for Most Promising New Author, the other two being for his novella “Gilgamesh in the Outback” at Conspiracy ’87, and novella “Nightwings” at St. Louiscon. His “Hawksbill Station” novella was nominated at Baycon, and his Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg was nominated at Worldcon 75. He picked up a Retro Hugo at the Millennium Philcon for Best Fan Writer.
  • Born January 15, 1944 Christopher Stasheff. A unique blending I’d say of fantasy and SF with a large if I find sometimes excessive dollop of humor. His best known novels are his Warlock in Spite of Himself series which I’ve read some of years ago. Who here has read his Starship Troupers series? It sounds potentially interesting. (Died 2018.)
  • Born January 15, 1945 Ron Bounds, 77. A fan who was one of the founders of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society in the Sixties. He co-chaired Discon 2, was a member of both the Baltimore in ’67 and Washington in ’77 bid committees.  He chaired Loscon 2.  He published the Quinine, a one-shot APA. He was President of the Great Wall of China SF, Marching & Chop Suey Society which is both a cool name and a great undertaking as well.
  • Born January 15, 1965 James Nesbitt, 57. Best genre role was as Tom Jackman and Hyde in Jekyll which was written by  Steven Moffat. He’s also appeared in Fairy TalesThe Young Indiana Jones ChroniclesStan Lee’s Lucky Man and Outcast. Yes, I know he played Bofur in the Hobbit films. I still consider Jekyll his better by far genre role.

(13) SIGNAL BOOST. Since Hulu’s bad at promoting their films of this type, N. sent along a tweet he saw for I’m Your Man:

(14) MAKING LEMONADE WITHOUT LEMONS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I saw Dear Mr. Watterson, a 2013 documentary by Joel Allen Schroeder on YouTube, which you can watch for free, as long as you are willing to have your film interrupted with ads,  Of course Bill Watterson refuses to be interviewed or even photographed, and has refused to license his characters. How do you make a film about him?

Well, in the first half-hour Schroeder blows it with all sorts of talking heads, many of them comic strip creators, telling how special Calvin and Hobbes was as a strip.  Schroeder even goes back to his boyhood home in Appleton, Wisconsin to see his bedroom where he posted Sunday strips on the wall when he was a kid.  Who cares?

Things pick up when Schroeder goes to Chagrin Falls, Ohio, where Watterson grew up, and goes to the local library to see early illustrations Watterson drew for the local paper and hold an original strip about overdue books that is in the head librarian’s office. He then goes to the Billy Ireland Library at Ohio State, where Watterson’s archive is stored, and I thought that was interesting.  I bet a good documentary could be made about that library.

Then in the final third we get to the real subject of the film which is whether Watterson’s decision to forego all licensing deals was a good idea.  Here Berkeley Breathed, Stephen Pastis, and Jean Schultz had intelligent things to say.  As Pastis notes, there is a difference between licensing a Snoopy stuffed animal a four-year old could hold and having Snoopy sell life insurance through Met Life.  Seth Green also makes an appearance to note that he made bootleg Calvin t-shirts.

But one result of only having Calvin and Hobbes available in books is that these books are in school libraries and six- and seven-year-old kids love reading them.  That might not have happened if their first exposure to Watterson’s characters was through animated cartoons.

Dear Mr. Watterson is worth watching but you might want to fast forward through the first half hour.

(15) TWENTY THOUSAND PENNIES UNTO THE FEE. If you’re in the market for an online course about Jules Verne, The Rosenbach would like to sign you up: “Jules Verne’s Scientific Imagination with Anastasia Klimchynskaya”. Four sessions. Tuition for this course is $200, $180 Delancey Society and Members.

Verne is often cited as one of the fathers of science fiction and a lover of both literature and technology. Verne combined the earlier genres of the extraordinary voyage, travel narrative, and adventure story with unprecedented scientific rigor, creating the scientific romance genre, or roman de la science. This course will explore Verne’s unique mix of science and imagination and how it helped solidify the genre.

(16) UNDERGROUND ECONOMY. Here’s an interesting piece by DM David about just why dungeons full of monsters and treasures are a thing in Dungeons and Dragons and other RPGs: “The Movies and Stories than Inspired Dave Arneson to Invent the Dungeon Crawl”.

Around 1971 Dave Arneson and his circle of Minneapolis gamers invented games where players controlled individual characters who grew with experience and who could try anything because dice and a referee determined the outcomes. The group tried this style of play in various settings, but Dave invented one that proved irresistible: the dungeon.

Dave’s Blackmoor game—the campaign that spawned Dungeons & Dragons—began with a gaming group playing fictional versions of themselves in a fantasy world. The characters became champions in a series of miniature battles featuring armies clashing above ground. Without dungeons, the Blackmoor game might have stayed miniature wargaming rather than becoming D&D and a game nearly as well known as Monopoly. But by creating the dungeon crawl, Dave invented a new activity that transformed the campaign and ultimately made a lasting addition to popular culture…

(17) SHINY. The Daily Beast has a rundown on “The Laser SETI Projects That Might Find Intelligent Alien Civilizations”.

For 62 years, scientists have pointed instruments toward outer space in hopes of finding some sign that we’re not alone in the universe. But those instruments always scanned just a tiny swath of sky for a short span of time, limited mainly to listening for stray radio waves and leaving us largely blind to any visual evidence of extraterrestrials in the darkness of space.

Until now.

As the space age enters its seventh decade, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) is getting a lot wider and more deliberate. And that could significantly boost our chances of actually finding something for the first time.

In mid-December, scientists with the SETI Institute in California finished installing a new laser instrument: an expensive lens-camera-computer combo at Haleakala Observatory, situated on a mountaintop on Maui, Hawaii, 10,000 feet above sea level.

The east-facing instrument, when combined with an identical west-facing system at the Robert Ferguson Observatory in Sonoma, California, scans a 150-degree arc of the night sky more than a thousand times a second, filtering the light and looking for the telltale signature of laser light—a possible sign of intelligent life. “We’re trying to cover all the sky all the time,” Eliot Gillum, the principal investigator for the LaserSETI project, told The Daily Beast.

(18) HIBERNATING ALIENS. Why can’t we find them? Isaac Arthur says it might be because they’re taking a kip… (Just like the Norwegian blue.)

One explanation for the Fermi Paradox is that aliens may be undetected because they slumber, quietly hidden away in the galaxy. But how and why might such Extraterrestrial Empires hibernate?

(19) QUITE A STRETCH. Nature says a “Giant hydrogen filament is one of the longest features of its type in the Galaxy and it could give birth to stars” in “A cloud named Maggie”.

A long filament-like cloud of hydrogen atoms lurking on the far side of the Milky Way is among the largest such structures in the Galaxy — and offers a rare glimpse into one of the earliest stages of star formation.

Scientists first reported evidence of the filament, which they nicknamed Maggie, in 2020. Now, some of those scientists, including Jonas Syed at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, along with more astronomers, have conducted a detailed follow-up investigation. It shows that the filament stretches some 1,200 parsecs, roughly 1,000 times the distance from the Sun to its nearest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centauri.

Theory predicts that, over time, the neutral hydrogen atoms in the filament will pair up, forming dense clouds of hydrogen molecules. Such clouds ultimately give birth to stars.

(20) COMING CATTRACTIONS. Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite internet may be hated by astronomers, but credentials love it: Gizmodo explains: “If I Fits, I Sits: Starlink’s Self-Heating Internet Satellite Dishes Are Attracting Cats”.

SpaceX’s Starlink has been making steady gains with its fledgling satellite internet service, surpassing 100,000 terminals shipped in 2021 and showing promising improvements in performance after initial speed tests produced lackluster results. However, the company’s run into an unforeseen hiccup with its dishes: Cats love them….

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: The Matrix Resurrections,” the Screen Junkies say that the fourth film asks, “Do you take the blue pill and reboot this with Tom Holland as Neo or do you take the red pill and see how far up its own ass the story will go?” Also, since the film has musical theatre greats Neil Patrick Harris and Jonathan Groff (who was King George in Hamilton, and has also been in Frozen, Frozen II, and “Glee’) when is The Matrix musical coming?

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

The Tapas Bar At The End Of The Expanse: Non-Spoilery Remarks After Finishing Book 9: Leviathan’s Fall

By Daniel Dern: A decade ago, Leviathan Wakes, the first book of the Expanse series by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, writing together as James S. A. Corey, launched us into a (at the time) solar-system-wide adventure.

And now, a decade and three trilogies later, the tale/saga comes to an end, and, thankfully, impressively but not surprisingly, “sticks the landing” or whatever sports or other metaphor you want to use. Book 9 is a good read, and left me sad that the journey was over, but satisfied with how it went and ended. Leviathan Falls wraps up the major and minor plot lines and arcs, some going all the way back to Book 1, and gives closure to the various personal and interpersonal journeys of the main characters. Including a brief, touching epilogue, which, not unreasonably, does not involve shawarma.

(I had the same feeling of satisfactory wrap-up and closure with the third-and-final season of Netflix’s Lost In Space; ditto Andy Weir’s recent Project Hail Mary, to name a few.)

I had approached Leviathan Falls with the unfounded trepidation and baseless concern as to whether the book would do right by plot and characters. Again, it did, leaving me (ditto the friend who first got me reading these books, who I was chatting with at various stages of my reading) that combination of sadness that we’re done and the happy feeling for the journey and that the ending met our emotional (and critical) expectations.

My one suggestion, depending on how much you do/don’t remember of Book 8: Tiamat’s Wrath — consider going back and reading it. I was maybe 30-50 pages into Leviathan Falls when I read one too many references to [REDACTED] and said to myself, “Wait, what?”, got Book 8 from my library and read that before resuming Falls.

(I had debated backing up to Book 7: Persepolis Rising, because “Wait, Holden is what/where why?” but did some quick web browsing and decided that refresher was good enough.)

For those who haven’t yet read any of the Expanse books (or watched the SyFy/Amazon series, on the home stretch of its currently-final season (there apparently are legit ways to finesse contractual constraints to give us more), here’s a few quick notes:

  • Our story is PoV’d primarily by what becomes the close-knit plucky, adventury crew of the good spaceship Rocinante (and kudos to Abraham and Franck for consistently following one character’s PoV per chapter, and putting said PoV-er’s name as part of each chapter’s title).
  • Already-politically-jousting Belters, Martian colonists, Earthers and others encounter an alien technology, the protomolecule. (Somewhat like Babylon V in having the parallel and often intertwining people/political and big-ominous-alien-mystery-threat plotlines.)
  • Part of what’s gratified me about the Expanse has been that it feels like the author(s) live there, in near-future low- and zero-G, in spacecraft large and small, and that — with exceptions due to alien technologies — the laws of physics etc are explicit and respected, so, no FTL space drives or communication, for example.

No, I’m not going to say anything about what’s actually in Leviathan Falls, other than yes, James Holden, Naomi Nagata, Amos and Alex are still with us, plus other characters, good, bad and could-go-either-way from more recent volumes.

So again, all I’m going to say is, the book is available, and if you’ve enjoyed the ride so far, I don’t feel you’ll be let down by the finale. You will, I predict, be happy with [REDACTED], sad by accepting of [REDACTED], amused by [ALSO REDACTED], be expecting [REDACTED] but probably OK with [REDACTED]… and smiling at [REDACTED].

(Yes, there’s room for more stories in the Expansiverse, before, during or after, and I’ll at least try them such if they happen, but if that’s the end of it, I’m OK with that.)

And that’s all I think needs saying. Enjoy!

Or, as they say in Belter Creole, (according to Memverse) —

Dédawang ta xélixup! (That was excellent!)

Pixel Scroll 12/26/21 Recycled Like A Deposit Glass Goblin

(1) EXTRA EXPANSE. The Verge warns, “PSA: You’ll miss 25 minutes of The Expanse’s final season if you don’t pause it”, and tells you where to find it.

If you’re a fan of The Expanse, like me, you’re probably wondering whether its final six episodes — currently airing each Friday through January 14th — are enough to wrap up its epic story. What you’re probably not wondering: whether Amazon has buried nearly one-tenth of the show’s final season in a place you might not think to look, and can’t even find on your TV.

But it’s true. The Expanse’s production company filmed an additional 25 minutes of story across five vignettes, which you can only access through Amazon’s X-Ray service by pausing the show and scrolling through otherwise hidden menus. (They’re under Bonus Content.) But I couldn’t find them on Apple TV or Google TV, and the showrunners have confirmed that’s because Amazon hasn’t made them available there yet. They’re only on phones, tablets, and computers for now….

(2) WEBB TELESCOPE ON ITS WAY. The James Webb Space Telescope was successfully launched on December 25.

Before the JWST left the pad, the New York Times looked back on “How NASA’s Biggest Telescope Beat Loose Screws, Loose Budgets and Loose Clamps”.

… The Webb telescope is the biggest observatory built for launch into space. Its 18 gold-plated mirrors make for a system that is far more sensitive than the Hubble Space Telescope, which it will succeed as humanity’s most powerful scientific instrument for studying the formation of our universe and distant worlds in our galaxy.

But the Webb, with a price tag of some $10 billion, has trudged through one of the most fraught development timelines of any space program, lasting over two decades and costing billions more than its original estimate.

“The stuff they faced was what a lot of space programs face, because everything has to be perfect on a spacecraft like that — you can’t go fix it after launch,” said Cristina Chaplain, who for roughly a decade led audits of the James Webb Space Telescope at the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ watchdog agency….

(3) JRR AND JK GO TO THE MOVIES. The Guardian’s Guy Lodge doesn’t really long for the old days, but it would never do to be too pleased with the present: “Fellowship of the Ring at 20: the film that revitalised and ruined Hollywood”.

…It might be unfair to draw a straight causal line between Jackson’s project and the glumly corporatised franchise culture that overwhelms Hollywood cinema culture today. For one thing, it shares either the credit or the blame with Christmas 2001’s other colossal fantasy-film event: Chris Columbus’ pedestrian but immediately obsession-inspiring Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first move in a more conservative strategy – only one film made at a time, at least to begin with – that nonetheless worked like gangbusters. Columbus’ film might not have had its follow-ups ready to go the way Jackson’s did, but its scene-setting narrative and ellipsis of an ending as good as promised them, pending the audience’s thumbs-up….

(4) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to nibble Neapolitan pizza with José Pablo Iriarte in Episode 161 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

José Pablo Iriarte

My dinner companion the first night of the D.C. Worldcon was José Pablo Iriarte, a Cuban American author of science fiction, fantasy, and children’s fiction. Their novelette, “The Substance of My Lives, the Accidents of Our Births,” was a finalist for the Nebula Award and was long-listed for the James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award. Their short fiction has appeared in LightspeedStrange Horizons, Fireside FictionDaily Science FictionEscape Pod, and many other venues, stories which have then been spotlighted on best-of lists assembled by Tangent OnlineiO9, and others.

When Jose told me one of his favorite foods was pizza, I knew I had to feed them D.C.’s best, leading me to 2Amys, which Thrillist says prepares “near-perfect, delicate pies with bubbly crusts, fresh mozzarella, and fragrant basil. The Margherita is the baseline against which all Neapolitan pies in DC are judged.”

We discussed their go-to karaoke song, why being a math teacher makes it even harder to write about math, what they learned from Speaker for the Dead, how their feelings about Orson Scott Card help them empathize with those struggling over J.K. Rowling today, why they trunked their favorite story until a friend convinced them to send it out, their method for writing successful flash fiction, why they had no problem keeping their Nebula nomination a secret, how to create a good elevator pitch, and much more.

(5) DORIS PISERCHIA (1928-2021.) Author of thirteen science fiction novels and multiple short stories, Doris Piserchia died September 15 at the age of 92. The family obituary is here.

She published her first short story, the humorous “Rocket to Gehenna,” in 1966. In Orbit 12, in which her story “Half the Kingdom” was reprinted, she wrote, “I live in a madhouse and my nerves are shot. Perhaps this is the reason why I rarely attempt a serious story. Such an attempt would be very easy for me, but I’m afraid to tap the vein right now.” An unpublished story of hers was acquired for Last Dangerous Visions.

(6) MARK TAYLOR OBIT. Toy designer Mark Taylor died December 24 reports Bleeding Cool: “Legendary Toy Designer Mark Taylor Passes Away at Age 80”.

…Mark Taylor was one of the biggest reasons that Masters of the Universe has become what it is, with his incredible designs that came to life right off the paper. Even in 2021, Mattel is still dishing out some absolutely fantastic Masters of the Universe collectibles, including their highly recommended Origins line. He-Man has only expanded his reach outside of Eternia, and it was Mark who helped him get there, and we will continue to admire all the work he has done. Be sure to keep your eyes out for the Lord of Power lines coming from Formo Toys that will give us some original MOTU designs that Mark Taylor has created….

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2001 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty years ago, Gosford Park premiered. It was directed by Robert Altman from the script by Julian Fellowes, who went on to be the driving force behind the Downton Abbey series. It came together when Director Balaban suggested an Agatha Christie-style whodunit to Altman and introduced him to Julian Fellowes, with whom Balaban had been working on a different project. It is a country manor house mystery in the style that Hercule Poirot’s Christmas was, and in keeping with that kind of mystery had a very large ensemble case: Eileen Atkins, Bob Balaban, Alan Bates, Charles Dance, Stephen Fry, Michael Gambon, Richard E. Grant, Derek Jacobi, Kelly Macdonald, Helen Mirren, Jeremy Northam, Clive Owen, Ryan Phillippe, Maggie Smith, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Emily Watson. 

It was filmed mostly on location using three different manor houses, though sound stages were built to film the scenes of the manor’s downstairs area. Apparently it was also filmed in three different countries — the United Kingdom, the United States and Italy with production costs of nearly twenty million in total. It did very well at the box office with it bringing in nearly ninety million. It was Altman’s second most successful film after M*A*S*H

Critics truly loved it with Roger Ebert wringing for the Chicago Sun-Times said it was “such a joyous and audacious achievement it deserves comparison with his very best movies.” And Nell Murray at the Verge summed it up perfectly noting that “For a film about homicide and class conflict, Gosford Park is surprisingly congenial.” Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a most excellent rating of eighty-eight percent.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 26, 1903 Elisha Cook Jr. On the Trek side, he shows up as playing lawyer Samuel T. Cogley in the “Court Martial” episode. Elsewhere he had long association with the genre starting with Voodoo Island and including House on a Haunted HillRosemary’s BabyWild Wild West, The Night Stalker and Twilight Zone. (Died 1995.) 
  • Born December 26, 1911 Milton Luros. Illustrator during the Golden Age of pulp magazines from 1942 to 1954 (yes I’m expansive on what I consider to be to the Golden Age). His work graced Science Fiction QuarterlyAstounding StoriesFuture Combined with Science Fiction StoriesFuture Science Fiction StoriesDynamic Science Fiction and Science Fiction Quarterly. He had an amazing ability to illustrate women in outfits in hostile environments that simply were impractical such as one for Science Fiction Quarterly (UK), October 1952 cover had a cut out in her spacesuit so her décolletage was bare.  (Died 1999.)
  • Born December 26, 1951 Priscilla Olson, 70. She and her husband have been involved with NESFA Press’s efforts to put neglected SF writers back into print and has edited myriad writers such by Chad Oliver and Charles Harness, plus better known ones like Jane Yolen.  She’s chaired a number of Boskones, and created the term “prosucker” which I must admit is both elegant and really ugly at the same time.
  • Born December 26, 1953 Clayton Emery, 68. Somewhere there’s a bookstore that exist of nothing but the franchise novels and collections that exist within a given franchise. No original fiction whatsoever. This author has novels in the Forgotten Realms, Shadow WorldThe Burning GoddessCity of Assassins, The Secret World of Alex MackMagic: The Gathering and Runesworld franchises, plus several genre works including surprisingly Tales of Robin Hood on Baen Books. Must not be your granddaddy’s Hood
  • Born December 26, 1960 Temuera Morrison, 61. Ahhhh clones.  In Attack of the Clones, he plays Jango Fett and a whole bunch of his clone troopers, and in Revenge of the Sith, he came back in the guise of Commander Cody. He goes on to play him in the second season of The Mandalorian.  Crossing over, he plays Arthur Curry’s father Thomas in Aquaman.
  • Born December 26, 1961 Tahnee Welch, 60. Yes, the daughter of that actress. She’s in both Cocoon films, as well in Sleeping Beauty which was filmed at the same time. Black Light and Johnny 2.0 in which she’s in might qualify as genre in the way some horror does. She stopped acting twenty years ago. 
  • Born December 26, 1970 Danielle Cormack, 51. If it’s fantasy and it was produced in New Zealand, she’s might have been in it. She was in Xena and Hercules as Ephiny on a recurring role, Hercules again as Lady Marie DeValle, in Jack of All Trades, one of Kage Baker’s favorite series because, well, Bruce Campbell was the lead. She was Raina in a recurring role, and Samsara on Xena in another one-off and Margaret Sparrow in Perfect Creature, an alternate universe horror film. 

(9) LEGO BEATS INFLATION. “Those Legos under the tree might be worth more than gold one day” – so long as you don’t take them out and play with them. NPR tells why.

Researchers from the Higher School of Economics in Moscow found that select unopened Lego sets on the secondary market saw an average annual return of 11% — that’s higher than gold and shares of some large companies….

(10) HAPPY BOXING DAY. This gift was under somebody’s tree in the Sixties.

(11) NOW YOU KNOW. There are some interesting background stories to seasonal music: “How a French Atheist and an American Abolitionist Ended Up Creating a Christmas Classic” at Yahoo!

…For example, did you know the guy who wrote 1857’s “Jingle Bells,” James Pierpont, despite being from a well-known family of Boston-based Unitarian abolitionists, grew up to become an ardent secessionist and Confederate soldier—and that the first live performance of “Jingle Bells” may have been by a white performer in blackface? (Also, Pierpont’s nephew was J.P. Morgan, so he’s also kinda-sorta to blame for your checking late fees.) Contrast that guy with Ohio’s Benjamin Hanby, also the offspring of abolitionists, who was active alongside his family in the Underground Railroad, and who penned “Up on the Housetop” in 1864….

(12)  DEATH AND TAXIDERMY. Somewhere here in Los Angeles County is Bigfoot Lodge.

Bigfoot Lodge Billows With Mountainous Roadhouse Comforts That Remind You Of A Simpler Time And Place. Truly, A Retreat Chock-Full Of Fireside Pleasures Like Heavy Drinking, Bingo, Trivia, Live Music, And More. Bigfoot Lodge Has Poured For Its Community And Partied Like It’s 1999 Since 1999. It Invites City-Dwellers To Snuggle Up Next To Bigfoot, Smokey The Bear, Other Charming, Yet Sometimes Frightening Taxidermy, And Of Course, Their Favorite Bartender. Bigfoot Lodge Is Always Smiling.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Olav Rokne, Steven H Silver, Rich Lynch, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 12/18/21 It Was Anti-Agathics All Along

I’ve been hammering at the keyboard on one thing and another since this morning’s WSFS business meeting. Thanks to Cat Eldridge, who’s the reason there’s something to read in today’s Scroll!

(1) COVER YOUR EXPANSE. An Expanse-themed ugly sweater (really not a sweater, more of a jersey but anyway) is being raffled off for charity by the authors. Get a $5 ticket here: “The Expanse Ugly Sweater Charity Raffle Ticket”. Tickets will be on sale through December 22, 2021, at 10:00 p.m. US Central Time.

During the most recent Expanse press event in Los Angeles, Wes was given this limited-edition ugly and amazing sweater. In the spirit of the season of giving, Ty and That Guy are raffling it off to give back to the community.

Supporting Families

In honor of the classic Christmas movie Die Hard and the importance it places on family during the holidays, Ty and That Guy are putting all the money raised from this raffle to sponsor a family this year.

Community Brickworks is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization staffed entirely by volunteers that operates a food pantry and library in Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia. The Ty & That Guy donation will support one or more families in the area this holiday season.

(2) 2023 WORLDCON DECIDED. Chengdu, China will host the 2023 Worldcon. Kevin Standlee’s photo of their version of Progress Report Zero is below. So is SFW’s congratulatory banner. (Click on either for a larger image.) File 770’s report of the voting and 2023 guests of honor is at the link.  

(3) GETTING READY. Cora Buhlert allowed File 770 to preview the gown she will be wearing as she participates virtually in tonight’s Hugo Awards ceremony as a finalist. Her dad took the photo.

(4) FAN SERVICE. Screen Rant is prepared to tell you “Every Sci-Fi Icon Who Guest Starred On The Big Bang Theory”.

…A good portion of Big Bang Theory‘s millions of fans likely are said geeks, considering just how many sci-fi, fantasy, and comic book icons were brought on to guest star.

This, unsurprisingly, included multiple cast members from both the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises, generally considered the two champions of mainstream sci-fi. Sadly, Harrison Ford was never among that lot, as seeing him play off his generally grumpy public persona when dealing with Sheldon being annoying would’ve been terrific. Still, the sci-fi icons Big Bang Theory did manage to enlist the services of include some of the biggest genre names ever….

…[Levar] Burton’s Star Trek: The Next Generation colleague Brent Spiner – who played Lieutenant Commander Data – also appeared on Big Bang Theory, in season 5’s “The Russian Rocket Reaction.” Spiner attends a party thrown by another former co-star in Wheaton, and notably, when Sheldon shows up, he and Wheaton finally mend fences. That’s followed by Spiner accidentally putting himself on Sheldon’s enemies list….

(5) SFF AND THE REAL WORLD. Future Tense’s Science Fiction/Real Policy Book Club has selected Infomocracy by Malka Older to discuss virtually on February 2, 2022.

Science fiction can have real policy impacts, and comes rife with real-life commentary. For the third gathering of our Science Fiction/Real Policy Book Club, we have selected Malka Older’s Infomocracy. The novel imagines a future where politics has become both simplified and infinitely more complex, thanks to the omniscient Information, which has led the transition from warring nation-states to a seemingly tidy form of corporate-ish global micro-democracy. 

Join Future Tense and Issues in Science and Technology at 6pm ET on February 2nd to discuss the novel and its real-world implications. The book club will feature breakout rooms (they’re fun and stress-free, we promise) where we can all compare notes and share reactions, even if we didn’t finish the book!

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1968 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Fifty three years ago, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang premiered. It was directed by Ken Hughes. The film was produced by Albert R. Broccoli of James Bond fame.

The screenplay was co-written by Roald Dahl and  Hughes as rather loosely based on Ian Fleming’s Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car novel. (If you want to read it, it is available at the usual suspects at a quite reasonable price.) The novel was published in 1964 after a few months after his death.The book became one of the best selling children’s books of the year. 

Broccoli was initially not enthusiastic about it but changed his mind after the success of Mary Poppins. The film had a cast of Dick Van Dyke, Sally Ann Howes, Benny Hill, James Robertson Justice, Adrian Hall, Heather Ripley, Lionel Jeffries, Robert Helpmann, Barbara Windsor and Gert Fröbe.

The film’s songs were written by the Sherman Brothers, who had previously composed the music for Mary Poppins

Critics loved with Roger Ebert saying that “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang contains about the best two-hour children’s movie you could hope for.” The box office however was an absolute disaster as it only made eight million on the budget of ten million that it cost to produce. Ouch. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a rather excellent seventy-one percent rating.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 18, 1913 Alfred Bester. He’s best remembered perhaps for The Demolished Man, which won the very first Hugo Award. I remember experiencing it as an audiobook — a very spooky affair! The Stars My Destination is equally impressive with Foyle both likeable and unlikable at the same time. Psychoshop which Zelazny finished is in my library but has escaped reading so far. I’ve run across references to Golem100 but I’ve never seen a copy anywhere. Has anyone read It?  (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 18, 1939 Michael Moorcock, 82. Summing up the career of Moorcock isn’t possible so I won’t. His Elric of Melniboné series is just plain awesome and I’m quite fond of the Dorian Hawkmoon series of novels as well.  Particular books that I’d like to note as enjoyable for me include The Metatemporal Detective collection and Mother London. Interestingly he was a nominated a number of times for a Hugo for Best Professional Magazine for New Worlds SF, his other Hugo nomination was at IguanaCon II for Gloriana, or, The Unfulfill’d Queen.
  • Born December 18, 1941 Jack C. Haldeman II. He’d get Birthday Honors if only for On the Planet of Zombie Vampires, book five of the adventures of Bill the Galactic Hero, co-written with Harry Harrison. He’d also get these honors for chairing Disclave 10 through Disclave 17, and a Worldcon as well, Discon II. He was a prolific short story writer, penning at least seventy-five such tales, but alas none of these, nor his novels, are available in digital form. His only Award is a Phoenix Award which is a lifetime achievement award for a SF professional who has done a great deal for Southern Fandom, quite a honor indeed.  (Died 2002.)
  • Born December 18, 1946 Steven Spielberg, 75. Are we counting Jaws as genre? I believe we are per an earlier discussion here. If so, that’s his first such genre work followed immediately by Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Between 1981 and 1984, he put out Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Twilight Zone: The Movie and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. He’d repeate that amazing feat between ‘89 and ‘93 when he put out Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Hook (YEA!) which I both love followed by Jurassic Park which I don’t. The Lost World: Jurassic Park followed starting a string of so-so films,  A.I. Artificial IntelligenceMinority ReportWar of the Worlds and one decided stinker, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.   The BFG is simply wonderful. And I want one of the better Iron Giant figures on the market! 
  • Born December 18, 1953 Jeff Kober, 68. Actor who’s been in myriad genre series and films including VThe Twilight ZoneAlien Nation, the Poltergeist series,The X-Files series, Tank Girl as one of the kangaroos naturally, SupernaturalStar Trek: VoyagerStar Trek: Enterprise, Kindred: The Embraced and The Walking Dead. 
  • Born December 18, 1954 Ray Liotta, 67. We could just stop at him being Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams, don’t you think of it as being an exemplary genre cred? Well I do. On a much sillier note, he’s in two Muppet films, Muppets from Space and Muppets Most Wanted. On a very not silly note, he was Joey in Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.
  • Born December 18, 1968 Casper Van Dien, 53. Yes, Johnny Rico in that Starship Troopers. Not learning his lesson, he’d go on to film Starship Troopers 3: Marauder and the animated Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars. Do not go read the descriptions of these films!  (Hint: the former has a nineteen percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.) He’d also star as Tarzan in Tarzan and the Lost City, show up as Brom Van Brunt In Sleepy Hollow, be Captain Abraham Van Helsing In Dracula 3000, James K. Polk in, oh really CasperAbraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter sequels, Rumpelstiltskin in Avengers Grimm and Saber Raine In Star Raiders: The Adventures of Saber Raine.

(8) SIGNING ON. Paul Weimer admired the good taste of people in line for Martha Wells’ autograph.

(9) BIGGEST FAN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, David Betancourt interviews Tom Holland about Spider-Man:  No Way Home. He notes that Holland will play Fred Astaire in an upcoming film, “a role he thinks he convinced producer Amy Pascal that he was right for when he would tap-dance on the Spider-Man set to stay warm between takes,” “Tom Holland is still a Spider-Man fan at heart”.

… Back then, when the highly anticipated trailer for “Captain America: Civil War” debuted to celebrate Spider-Man’s arrival in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Holland figured nothing would surprise him. Then Spider-Man blinked.

That subtle CGI movement of the eyes on his mask looked like a camera lens zooming in and out.It was inspired by the character’s original look in the comic books — and was designed to show the film was sprinkling the character with a bit of MCU magic. Holland, a lifelong Spider-Man fan who also happened to be Spider-Man, was caught up in the hype….

(10) ANOTHER BRIDGE TO CROSS. Comicbook.com has the photo: “The Orville Season 3 First Look Released”.

Hulu has provided The Orville fans with the first look at the show’s return as The Orville: New Dawn. That new subtitle comes as The Orville becomes a streaming original on Hulu, leaving its broadcast home, FOX, behind. It’s been a long wait, but The Orville fans can finally start counting down the weeks. The new image shows several returning characters: Capt. Ed Mercer (Seth MacFarlane, series creator), Cmdr. Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki), and Lt. Gordon Malloy (Scott Grimes), and Isaac (Marc Jackson) at their posts on the ship’s bridge. Recurring guest star Admiral Halsey (Victor Garber) is also present.

(11) FUZZY MEMORY. MeTV asks if you “Ever wonder why the women on ‘Star Trek’ appear out of focus?” Learn more about Classic Trek’s cinematographer at the link.

… The soft focus was often paired with romantic, swooning music. While the crew members were shot heroically in blazing light and sharp focus, love interests, on the other hand, looked more like watercolors. To achieve the effect, thin layers of plastic, or diffusion filters, were placed before the lens for those shots. No, as far as we know, Vaseline was not smeared on the lens. The technique came to be known as “The Gaussian Girl,” named for the Gaussian blur. …

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Kevin Standlee, Sheila Addison, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern, who says the key is in this YouTube video.]

Pixel Scroll 12/9/21 They’d Rather Be Scrolled

(1) DIANA RIGG ESTATE. Bonhams is auctioning the Estate of the Late Dame Diana Rigg on December 14 starting at 10:00 GMT . You can inspect items online by using the search in this link: “Bonhams : Collections: Including: The Contents of Stanley House, The Estate of the Late John Schaeffer, The Estate of the Late Dame Diana Rigg”.

AN ITALIAN GUNNER’S STILETTO DAGGER

Early 17th century
With sharply tapering blade of triangular section graduated on one side from ‘1’ to ‘120’, hilt comprising writhen swelling iron quillons and pommel, and swelling writhen dark horn grip en-suite and set with numerous brass nails, 40cm (15 3/4in) long

(2) STOP AND SHOP. DisCon III has posted the Dealers Room Map for those who will be physically present.

(There also will be a Virtual Dealer’s Room.)

(3) CAN’T EVEN PREDICT THE PRESENT. In WIRED, Canadian sf writer Madeline Ashby denounced cyberpunk as antiquated. “It’s Time to Reimagine the Future of Cyberpunk”.

CYBERPUNK IS LIKE cyberspace: instantly recognizable, but so ubiquitous as to be intangible. An aesthetic movement and a commentary on capitalism, it can be a genre, a subjectivity, an adjective, a political approach, a time period. (Though the same could be said of the words Renaissance or Victorian.) It can tackle artificial intelligence, embodied identity, digital immortality, or simply, in the case of Pat Cadigan’s Synners, whether a marriage can survive electronic pornography addiction. Like the best fiction, cyberpunk still slips on like a pair of fingerless gloves, even if—in the 21st century, partially situated in the future it imagined—it’s hard to see where fiction ends and reality begins….

… Considering the world has caught up with, if not surpassed, the genre’s imagination, its place in fiction might be limited, or limiting, in the way that rehashing Tolkien might be limiting for a fantasy writer. This is one of the challenges of telling a future-set story: Eventually time catches up, like a rubber band snapping back into shape. And sometimes it stings. Readers often assume that authors are happy when they “predict” future events “correctly,” but rarely are we asked about the queasy feeling of watching one’s worst vision come to pass. Describing his debut novel for CrimeReads, Lincoln Michel says, “The Body Scout is an attempt to replace the ‘cyber’ in cyberpunk with flesh and look at what happens when the human body becomes the major realm of technological innovation and corporate control … These days, the greatest dystopian novel might be the evening news.”…

(4) HEX. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Sarah Hemming reviews Hex, a musical adaptation of “Sleeping Beauty” now playing at Britain’s National Theatre.

The theatre’s seasonal family show, Hex. is a new musical that flips the story (of Sleeping Beauty), reaching beyond the ‘happily ever after’ to give Princess Rose a chance to make some decisions and furnishing the prince with a back-story (his mother is an ogre with a taste for human flesh).

But most notably, Hex shifts the focus of the tale.  Here the ‘wicked fairy’ gets to tell her side of the story; it turns out that Fairy (played by Rosalie Craig) is not a mean old ratbag, but a lonely and loveable little comic oddball who longs to do good.  Rather than setting out to do mischief, she is summoned to the palace by an exhausted king and queen who are desperate to get their daughter to sleep.  What happens next depends on the subtle distinction between a blessing and a hex and is a mistake Fairy spends the next century trying to repair.

(5) CAN YOU DIG IT? [Item by Mlex.] Map a tunnel through the center of the earth in a 4D visualization. Another app you never knew you needed, and you do: SuperTunnel Simulator.

SuperTunnel is an educational tool that simulates a hole through Earth, indicating where in the world you would end up if you were to dig in a certain direction

(6) WHERE DOES THE EXPANSE GO FROM HERE? “The Expanse Season 6 Interview: Short Season, Future Plans?” at Gizmodo.

Cheryl Eddy, io9: If you had to sum up season six with a single overarching theme, what would it be?

Daniel Abraham: The necessity of normal people to do the good thing in order to get us through. I mean, so much of this is about not just one hero—not just finishing up a conflict with two guys having a fistfight on a catwalk. [It’s about] everybody just being a little bit better in order to make things better, recognizing people’s humanity, recognizing people’s place, giving room to each other, giving respect to each other—the kind of banal goodness that actually makes society better.

Naren Shankar: I think recognizing the inherent humanity in others is really part of the season in the big way. I’m trying to remember what we wrote on the board [in the writer’s room]. Remember we always would write the theme…

Ty Franck: Normally we would have had a theme looking at us every day as we worked. And this was the first year we didn’t do that. So now we’re just fumbling around like dumbasses [laughs].

(7) BURY ME NOT ON THE LONE PRAIRIE. Yahoo! reports “’Cowboy Bebop’ Canceled at Netflix After One Season”.

… The 10-episode series failed to find much love upon its debut, with both critics and audiences alike largely split on it. The show holds just a 46% critical approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 54% audience approval. In her review for Variety, Caroline Framke wrote “Netflix’s live-action remake of ‘Cowboy Bebop’ tries to be so much all at once, and appeal to so many different potential audiences, that it ends up struggling to forge an identity of its own….

(8) OCTOTHORPE. In Octothorpe episode 46, John Coxon is afraid, Alison Scott is in Portugal, and Liz Batty is an absolute unit. They discuss Smofcon, and Worldcon site selection, and picks. “And in the middle we have a worryingly serious conversation about COVID that you can skip if you want to.”

Listen here! “Is My Head Extremely Solid, Or What”.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2006 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Fifteen years ago at L.A. Con IV where Connie Willis was the Toastmaster, Serenity, the film that wrapped up the short-lived Firefly series, won the Hugo for  Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form. Other nominated works that year were Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-RabbitThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the WardrobeBatman Begins and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Most critics agreed with Hugo voters, with Roger Ebert in particular saying that it was “made of dubious but energetic special effects, breathless velocity, much imagination, some sly verbal wit and a little political satire.” Unfortunately, the box office for it was dismal as it made forty million against production costs of, ooops, forty million. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a near perfect ninety-one percent rating. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 9, 1900 Margaret Brundage. An illustrator and painter who is now remembered chiefly for having illustrated Weird Tales. Here is her first cover for them.  She’s responsible for most of the covers for between 1933 and 1938. Wiki claims without attribution that L. Sprague de Camp and Clark Ashton Smith were several of the writers not fond of her style of illustration though other writers were. She’d win the the Retro Hugo at CoNZealand for Best Professional Artist after being nominated four times before. And she’s a member of the First Fandom Hall of Fame. (Died 1976.)
  • Born December 9, 1902 Margaret Hamilton. Most likely you’ll remember her best as The Wicked Witch and her counterpart in Kansas in The Wizard of Oz. She would appear later in The Invisible Woman, along with much later being in 13 Ghosts, a horror film, and a minor role in The Night Strangler, a film sequel to The Night Stalker. (Died 1985.)
  • Born December 9, 1934 Judi Dench, 87. M in a lot of Bond films. Aereon in The Chronicles of Riddick, Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love which is at least genre adjacent, Society Lady in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Miss Avocet in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Her very first genre film in the late Sixties, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, was poorly received by critics and I recall her role being a mostly nude and sexy faerie.  No, I’m not mentioning Cats. Really I’m not.
  • Born December 9, 1944 Eric Saward, 77. Script editor and screenwriter during the Sixth Doctor’s time. He wrote “Earthshock”, “Resurrection of the Daleks” and “Revelation of the Daleks”.  He was forced to resign because he was blamed for numerous scenes of graphic violence and darker themes during the first season of the Sixth Doctor.
  • Born December 9, 1952 Michael Dorn, 69. Best remembered for his role as  the Klingon Worf in Trek franchise. Dorn has appeared on-screen in more Star Trek episodes and movies as the same character than anyone else. He also played at least one other character in the Trek universe. Though rumored to be appearing in the second season of Picard, that is not happening after all. In that, he joins a long list of actors so rumored. 
  • Born December 9, 1953 John Malkovich, 68. I was pondering if I was going to include him then decided that his performance in Being John Malkovich, which won him a New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor, was enough for me to include him. What a strange role that is! He also shows up in the dreadful Jonah Hex film and played Edward ‘Blackbeard’ Teach in the Crossbones series which is at least genre adjacent. He also appeared in Mutant Chronicles, though, and there was The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as well.
  • Born December 9, 1970 Jennifer Brozek, 51. She picked up a Hugo nomination at Sasquan for Best Editor Short Form for the Beast Within 4: Gears & Growl steampunk anthology (she also edited numbers 2 and 3 in the series). Her novel The Last Days of Salton Academy garnered a Stoker nomination.
  • Born December 9, 1970 Kevin Hearne, 51. I have really enjoyed the Iron Druid Chronicles in its audio narrative form.  Though I’ll confess that I’ve not yet read the spin-off series, Oberon’s Meaty Mysteries I’m planning to. Yeah it really, really does exist. Sausages figure prominently, a given as Oberon is a canine. 

(11) SCROLL TITLE EGOBOO. [Item by Daniel Dern.] This (substitute “your name” for YOURNAMEHERE, of course) seems to find (many) previous winners. (https://file770.com/?s=%22contributing+editor+of+the+day+YOURNAMEHERE%22&submit=Search) or, from the top of a scroll, in the search box, including the double-quotes “contributing editor of the day YOURNAMEHERE”.

Depending on your name, you might get some false positives, since OGH sometimes tweaks the fullname, e.g. “Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Streetcar-Named-Dern”, which is why I’ve just used my first name in my search string.

(12) YOUR JEOPARDY! HOSTS. It’s not forever, but they’re sticking around for now. “’Jeopardy!’: Mayim Bialik, Ken Jennings to Host Rest of Season 38”.

Mayim Bialik and Ken Jennings, who have been sharing hosting duties for season 38 following the Mike Richards debacle, will continue to serve in the same capacity into 2022. Producers Sony Pictures Television said Wednesday that the duo will remain hosts through the end of the syndicated game show’s current 38th season, which ends July 29. 

(13) BURSTING FORTH. In the Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik says that “3-D anamorphic outdoor ads” are about to become reality.  Amazon has begun advertising “The Wheel of Time” on Oceazn Outdoors’s 3-D  billboards in Picadilly Circus and  Times Square.  These ads could eventually be personalized based on “what a sensor picks up from passerrby.” “A ‘Wheel of Time’ 3D image could be the future of advertising”.

…Two weeks ago, the British agency that worked on the “Wheel of Time” spot, Amplify, brought it to Times Square. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

In that ad, actress Rosamund Pike, whose character Moiraine represents “the light,” reaches out her hand, beckoning for help. The Fade, an agent of “the darkness,” reaches out his mouth, looking for a city bus to devour. The effect can give passersby the impulse to duck and is a leap ahead of the area’s famous steaming cup of soup.

(14) NOT UNDEAD YET. Reboots: Undead Can Dance by Mercedes Lackey, just named as the 2021 SFWA Grandmaster, and Cody Martin, author of the Secret World Chronicle braided novel series, and two previous entries in the Reboots series, was released by Caezik Notables on November 30.

Say hello to Humph the Boggart, the principled, down-on-his-luck private detective, Skinny Jim the zombie, and Fred the werewolf, in this film noir style space opera.

Humans aren’t alone anymore—in fact, they share a planet with undead and near-dead beings, living in…semi-harmony, depending on who you ask!

This is the world of Reboots—where zombies, vampires, and werewolves live side-by-side with humans, taking whatever jobs they can in order to coexist peacefully. So, what better job to give almost-dead or dead beings, than one that consists of no air, cosmic radiation, and a lack of life-sustaining essentials?

In comes a cast of interesting, unique, and downright paranormal creatures as they travel through space.

(15) ADMIRATION SOCIETY. Scalzi was amused, too, and retweeted this discovery:

(16) ‘TOON BID. The facetious “Saskatoon in 2067 WorldCon Bid Progress Report 2021” begins —

Progress has been smooth, if nonexistent, on getting things in place for our filing (anticipated by the World-con Business meeting of 2062 at the latest.

We are making early preparations for a restaurant guide for the event, but have little luck identifying restaurateurs willing to commit to deals, menus, locations, or existing, in 2067.

We are currently seeking co-chair, preferably who will be under the age of 80 for the con, so born after 1987. There are a couple of candidates at the moment, but so far the youngest interested party is Jukka Halme, who will be 100 at the time of the con….

Read the whole thing at the link.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Take a virtual tour of the Toronto Library’s “Spaced Out: 50 Years of the Merril Collection” exhibit, continuing through December 31 (more info here.)

This video is a guided tour of the library’s exhibit, Spaced Out: 50 Years of the Merril Collection, in the TD Gallery at the Toronto Reference Library, an exhibit showcasing some of the exciting, strange and wonderful things held by our Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation & Fantasy.

The Merril Collection dates back to 1970, when science-fiction author and editor Judith Merril donated 5,000 books to Toronto Public Library to found what was at first called the “Spaced Out Library”.

Visit the exhibit to learn more about the collection and speculative fiction, the literature of the “what-if.” This kind of literature explores the outer reaches of human imagination — our most spectacular dreams and darkest fears.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chris Barkley, Mlex, Michael J. Walsh, Kent Pollard, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson. This is the first in his suggested series “The Hugo Pixel Scroll Winners.”]

Pixel Scroll 10/18/21 Will You Still Need Me, Will You Still Feed Me, When I Pixel Scroll

(1) WRECKS APPEAL. The Hugo Book Club Blog in “American Cleon” points out, among other things, that “Hari Seldon never suggests making something better than an Empire. He wants to make Trantor Great Again.”

….Foundation as a narrative has to be understood in this context; Isaac Asimov’s understanding of history was informed by American exceptionalism, the influence of America’s third ‘Great Awakening’ of apocalyptic religiosity, the wake of the Great Depression, and of a period of upheaval and uncertainty about the country’s future. It might be asked why, after 80 years, the books are finally being adapted to the screen; is it perhaps because we are again in a period of upheaval and uncertainty?

While we should be aware that the original novel is a product of the ideas and concerns of the time it was written, the television show is a product of today and makes arguments about the world of 2021. We would suggest that the television series version of Foundation contains hints of Gibbons’ classism, echoes of Asimov’s concerns about America on the eve of the Second World War, but also reflects our own 21st Century concerns about decline.

Margaret Atwood has said that “Prophecies are really about now. In science fiction it’s always about now.” And it’s really more about how people perceive the present, as today’s perceptions determine the actions of tomorrow. Apple TV’s Foundation series resonates because people perceive these trends to be inescapable, and determinative….

(2) BACKING UP THE TRAIN. Release dates have been pushed back, partly as a domino effect of one movie’s production delays. “Disney Delays ‘Doctor Strange,’ ‘Thor 4,’ ‘Black Panther’ Sequel and ‘Indiana Jones 5’” reports Variety.

Disney has delayed release plans for several upcoming films, including “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” from March 25 to May 6, “Thor: Love and Thunder” from May 6 to July 8 and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” from July 8 to Nov. 11. With the “Black Panther” sequel jumping to November, “The Marvels” has been postponed to early 2023 and “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” was bumped from Feb. 17 to July 28, 2023.

Along with the deluge of Marvel delays, Disney has moved the fifth “Indiana Jones” installment back nearly a year. The still-untitled film, starring Harrison Ford as the fedora-wearing, swashbuckling archaeologist, will open on June 30, 2023 instead of July 29, 2022.

…The scheduling overhaul is related to production and not box office returns, according to sources at Disney. The next “Black Panther” entry, for one, is still filming in Atlanta. Since Marvel has become an interconnected and meticulously planned universe — which spans dozens of film and several new television series — any production delay causes a domino effect on the rest of the franchise. As for “Indiana Jones,” the 79-year-old Ford sustained a shoulder injury on set in June, requiring the actor to take a break from filming while he healed. Though director James Mangold continued to shoot without Ford, there are a limited amount of scenes that don’t involve the adventurer. Ford has since recovered and returned to set…

(3) SHELF LIFE. “I got Tor to pay me for having organized my shelves,” says James Davis Nicoll. Well, and writing about the results, of course. “Fifteen Classic SFF Works By Three Extremely Prolific Authors”. (Tor.com has been hacked and is currently not safe to visit.)

It is not a coincidence that this essay was written after completing a grand personal library project that required alphabetizing and shelving a lot of books. One soon notices that which authors are best represented in one’s library. As far as vintage authors go, these are my top three by shelf-feet.

Poul Anderson (November 25, 1926 — July 31, 2001)

First published in 1947, Anderson’s career spanned seven decades. Although he slowed down towards the end of that period, in the end he was responsible for an astounding number of words and books. This was not an uncommon pattern for authors who started writing in the era of pulp magazines. Authors were paid poor per-word rates and learned to write quickly if they wanted to eat. Anderson was one of few from that era whose material was, well, often quite readable. Anderson combined quantity with range, publishing many works in multiple genres.

(4) SHAT TO THE FUTURE. Grand Valley State anthropologist Deana Weibel finds Shat’s experience of space different and profound. “Black ugliness and the covering of blue: William Shatner’s suborbital flight to ‘death’”.

… Among the astronauts I’ve interviewed as a cultural anthropologist studying religious aspects of space exploration, most have had some experience of the Overview Effect, but others were unaffected. An astronaut I’ll call “Alan,” for instance, told me, “The first time I looked out at the Earth from space… I even intentionally paused and kind of collected myself and meditated a little bit to kind of clear my head before I opened my eyes and looked out the window for the first time. And I didn’t really feel anything. It’s kind of a letdown. There was nothing. And maybe it’s because I’m not a spiritual person, that’s quite possible…It was a beautiful sight and a unique vantage point, but there was nothing about it that I felt in any way unlocked any kind of philosophical mysteries or spiritual mysteries.”

For others, the experience is life-changing, with the realization of the Earth’s delicacy inspiring environmentalism, such as in the cases of astronauts José Hernández, Scott Kelly, Mary Cleave, and many of their peers. Like them, Shatner clearly experienced the Overview Effect even during his very short suborbital flight above the Kármán line. In his now-famous post-flight conversation with Jeff Bezos, broadcast live and unfiltered, for instance, he described the fragility of the planet, saying, “This air which is keeping us alive is thinner than your skin. It’s a sliver. It’s immeasurably small when you think in terms of the universe. It’s negligible, this air… It’s so thin.”…

(5) BUTLER BOOK DISCUSSION. Join the South Pasadena Library’s in-person discussion of Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler on October 21.

The Library’s Citywide reading program, One City One Story, winds up with two librarian-led discussions of our 2021 title, Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler. Borrow the ebook, eaudiobook, or a hard copy from the Library. This Thursday, October 21 at 7PM, join us for the in-person book discussion in the Library Community Room at 1115 El Centro Street.  Masks are required.

There will also be a virtual discussion over Zoom on November 10. Register on their Eventbrite page.

(6) YOU CAN CALL ME RAY. NASA has picked the next telescope it will deploy: “NASA Selects Gamma-ray Telescope to Chart Milky Way Evolution”.

NASA has selected a new space telescope proposal that will study the recent history of star birth, star death, and the formation of chemical elements in the Milky Way. The gamma-ray telescope, called the Compton Spectrometer and Imager (COSI)is expected to launch in 2025 as NASA’s latest small astrophysics mission.

NASA’s Astrophysics Explorers Program received 18 telescope proposals in 2019 and selected four for mission concept studies. After detailed review of these studies by a panel of scientists and engineers, NASA selected COSI to continue into development.

…COSI will study gamma rays from radioactive atoms produced when massive stars exploded to map where chemical elements were formed in the Milky Way. The mission will also probe the mysterious origin of our galaxy’s positrons, also known as antielectrons – subatomic particles that have the same mass as an electron but a positive charge. 

COSI’s principal investigator is John Tomsick at the University of California, Berkeley. The mission will cost approximately $145 million, not including launch costs. NASA will select a launch provider later….

(7) PAIZO UNIONIZING UPDATE. “Paizo Freelancers Support Union” – details at Morrus’ Unofficial Tabletop RPG News.

Jason Tondro, senior developer for Pathfinder and Starfinder, has indicated that a large swathe of Paizo freelancers have stopped work in support of the recently formed union by Paizo employees.

Initially the freelance group had a range of demands, but in light of the new union, they have put forward one single new demand instead: to recognize the union.

Tondro’s message begins:

Today I want to shine a spotlight on UPW’s secret weapon: freelancers. Paizo’s freelancers are our ally in this fight and we’re helping each other. Here’s how:

Paizo’s business model is built on freelancers. Very few of the words in our publications are written in-house by full time employees on the clock. Instead, we outline projects, hire freelancers to execute those outlines, and develop and edit those manuscripts.

This allows a relatively small number of people (about 35, including art directors, editors, designers, developers, and more) to produce, well, everything. Have you seen our publication schedule lately? It’s LONG. And Paizo must publish new books to pay its bills.

Well, about a month ago, about 40 of Paizo’s most reliable, prolific, and skilled freelancers simply stopped working. In official parlance, this is called “concerted action.” In layman’s terms, it’s a strike without a union….

(8) EASY LISTENING AND OTHERWISE. Lifehacker recommends these “15 Sci-Fi Podcasts to Listen to When You Need a Break From This Reality”. (Slideshow format.)

…What follows are 15 of the best and most interesting sci-fi podcasts in this reality, representing a wide array of styles and sub-genres: from full-cast productions to stories told by a single narrator, from cyberpunk to adventures with aliens, they’re all the products of talented creators shooting their freaky, whacked-out, forward-looking ideas directly into our brains—via our ears.

Slide 6 praises Twighlight Histories

There are several neat things going on with Twilight Histories, which is a podcast of alternate history stories, or at least stories with a pseudo-historical context (though a handful involve the future and space travel). It’s not an RPG podcast in the sense of something like The Adventure Zone, but the adventures are all narrated in the second person, which can be alienating at first—though it’s a good fit with the old time radio-style narration. The show’s been going on for quite some time, so there are a wide variety of adventures in various lengths to choose from, from ice-age time travel to a 13-part epic involving a war between Rome and the Saxons. The host, Jordan Harbour, is a trained archaeologist, so expect particular passion and verisimilitude in the historical worldbuilding.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 2004 – Seventeen years on this evening, the first half of Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars as written by Rockne S. O’Bannon and David Kemper and directed by Brian Henson first aired on the Sci-Fi Channel.  It was the rare case where a series got a chance to have proper send-off as it had been cancelled two years earlier on a cliffhanger. This finale happened after a change in ownership for the Sci-Fi Channel. It has since been released on DVD with the US version having both segments edited into a single three-hour movie. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a most excellent ninety-two percent rating. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 18, 1927 George C. Scott. A number of genre roles including his first, General Buck Turgidson, in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Next up is Dr. Jake Terrell in The Day of the Dolphins followed by being The Beast in Beauty and the Beast. He was John Russell in a tasty bit of horror, The Changeling, and John Rainbird in Stephen King’s Firestarter. Of course you know he played Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.  And I’m going to include his being in The Murders in the Rue Morgue as C. Auguste Dupin as at least genre adjacent. (Died 1999.)
  • Born October 18, 1935 Peter Boyle. The monster in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein. He won an Emmy Award for a guest-starring role on The X-Files episode, “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose”. He also played Bill Church Sr. in Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.  One of his final roles was in the “Rosewell” episode of Tripping the Rift.  (Died 2006.)
  • Born October 18, 1938 Dawn Wells. Mary Ann Summers on Gilligan’s Island which y’all decided several years ago was genre. She and Tina Louise were the last surviving regular cast members from that series as of two years ago, so Tina  who is eighty-seven years old is now the last surviving member. Summers had genre one-offs on The InvadersWild Wild West, Fantasy Island  and Alf. She reprised her role on the animated Gilligan’s Planet and, I kid you not, The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island. I think I’ll shudder at the thought of the last film. (Died 2020.)
  • Born October 18, 1944 Katherine Kurtz, 77. Known for the Deryni series which started with Deryni Rising in 1970, and the most recent, The King’s Deryni, the final volume of The Childe Morgan Trilogy, was published several years back. As medieval historical fantasy goes, they’re damn great. Her only Award is a Balrog for her Camber the Heretic novel.
  • Born October 18, 1947 Joe Morton, 74. Best remembered as Henry Deacon on Eureka in which he appeared in all but one of the seventy-seven episodes. He has other genre appearances including in Curse of the Pink Panther as Charlie, The Brother from Another Planet as The Brother, Terminator 2: Judgment Day as Dr. Miles Bennett Dyson, The Walking Dead as Sergeant Barkley, and in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Zack Snyder’s Justice League as Silas Stone, head of S.T.A.R. Labs and father of Victor Stone aka Cyborg.
  • Born October 18, 1951 Jeff Schalles, 70. Minnesota area fan who’s making the Birthday Honors because he was the camera man for Cats Laughing’s A Long Time Gone: Reunion at Minicon 50 concert DVD. Cats Laughing is a band deep in genre as you can read in the Green Man review here.
  • Born October 18, 1964 Charles Stross, 57. I’ve read a lot of him down the years with I think his best being the rejiggered Merchant Princes series especially the recent trilogy ofnovels. Other favored works include the early Laundry Files novels and both of the Halting State novels though the second makes me cringe.
  • Born October 18, 1968 Lisa Irene Chappell, 53. New Zealand actress here for making a number of appearances on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys after first appearing in the a pre-series film, Hercules and the Circle of Fire. Curiously, according to IMDB, one of her roles was as Melissa Blake, Robert Tapert’s Assistant. Quite meta that.

(11) SETTING THE VISION. In the Washington Post, Jon Paul Brammer says while he’s glad that Superman’s son is now bisexual “why can’t we have completely new LGBTQ characters” instead of being happy when old characters are revealed as being gay. “Bisexual Superman has his critics — and they get some things right”.

… This multiverse business is a convenient way for creators to have their cake and eat it in an entirely different dimension. The workaround surfaces in DC’s Superman, too. Taylor affirmed that the other Kent, the one currently on TV in the CW’s “Superman and Lois,”is still straight. “We can have Jon Kent exploring his identity in the comics as well as Jon Kent learning the secrets of his family on TV,” Taylor said. “They coexist in their own worlds and times, and our fans get to enjoy both simultaneously.” If your company is struggling with the low bar for LGBTQ representation, simply make up a parallel universe in which you clear it.

Whom does this serve? Such technicalities suck the joy out of ostensible breakthroughs for queer fans, and it’s not as though they temper backlash. The Superman news still riled conservatives, whose reaction could be summarized as “It’s Clark Kent, not Clark and Kent!” Traditionalists are invested in Superman and his Superspawn being red-blooded, American heterosexuals, and tinkering with that in any way is a capitulation to the woke mob. My God, what’s next? Will they make him Mexican? Can’t they just have their own heroes?

That last bit, lodged in among all the fearmongering over Supergays and Superbis, is actually a decent point: Why can’t we have completely new LGBTQ characters, and why should we praise DC Comics as brave for a half-measure that, frankly, is long overdue? Why should we keep celebrating the scraps?…

(12) PRIME EXHIBIT. In “Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey: What Happened to The Space Ship?”, Air Mail tells “How 2001: A Space Odyssey’s long-lost lunar lander found its way to L.A.’s new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.”

No one’s really sure how the only remaining model spaceship from 2001: A Space Odyssey ended up in an English garden shed. But its journey to the soon-to-open Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, in Los Angeles, is among Hollywood’s more bizarre lost-and-found stories.

Released 53 years ago, in 1968—a year before the Apollo 11 moon landing—2001 was the second-highest-grossing movie of that year, and its influence can be detected everywhere, from Star Wars and Alien to Gravity and Interstellar, along with myriad lesser science-fiction movies. Steven Spielberg, who donated a wing to the Academy Museum, once called 2001 “the Big Bang” of his filmmaking generation.

… Then, in 2015, appearing out of nowhere like the film’s mysterious black monoliths, one turned up at a movie-memorabilia auction: the spherical, white Aries 1B. It got several minutes of screen time floating toward the moon to Johann Strauss II’s “The Blue Danube” waltz, ferrying passengers who were treated to a liquid-meal service by flight attendants walking upside down in grip shoes and Pan Am uniforms (a company which did not make it to the titular year), and eventually touching down with a plume of exhaust….

(13) THE FINAL SECONDS. Now you know.

(14) LATE WOLFE. Paul Weimer reviews “The Land Across by Gene Wolfe” at Nerds of a Feather. It doesn’t get a high score, even from a Wolfe aficianado.

…Gene Wolfe novels, especially his late novels, have some things in common, elements you expect, tropes and motifs you are hoping for. Unreliable narrator. Check. Mis-identification or confusing identification of characters in various guises. Check. Land with customs that are strange to a stranger in a strange land. Check. A book that you probably have to re-read to really understand what is happening. Check.

There is much here for the reader, as usual. This is Wolfe’s first and only dive into Kafkaesque fiction, and there is a delight in seeing Wolfe try a new subgenre for the first time. He’s done his research, has done the reading, and Grafton’s situation at first does feel like something out of Kafka….

(15) WILL IT BE A HIT? The story of a monkey on a mission. Marvel’s Hit-Monkey premieres November 17 on Hulu. A minor character in the first episode is voiced by George Takei.

(16) EYELASHES TO DIE FOR. [Item by Daniel Dern.] “I Enjoy Being A Girl” sung by Carol Burnett, Chita Rivera, and Caterina Valente all in costume as Morticia Addams, probably from the Sixties-vintage Gary Moore Show. (And, around 4:30, they bring in an older clip of Boris Karloff not-quite-singing “Chim Chim Cheree.”) [From Steve Dooner’s FB page.]

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Nancy Sauer, Michael J. Walsh, Chris Barkley, Daniel Dern, 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 Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 10/10/21 The Lone And Level Pixels Stretch Far Away

(1) SAINT OF STEEL CONTINUES. Oor Wombat has a third Paladin book out today, written in her guise as T. Kingfisher.

Piper is a lich-doctor, a physician who works among the dead, determining causes of death for the city guard’s investigations. It’s a peaceful, if solitary profession…until the day when he’s called to the river to examine the latest in a series of mysterious bodies, mangled by some unknown force.

Galen is a paladin of a dead god, lost to holiness and no longer entirely sane. He has long since given up on any hope of love. But when the two men and a brave gnole constable are drawn into the maze of the mysterious killer, it’s Galen’s job to protect Piper from the traps that await them.

He’s just not sure if he can protect Piper from the most dangerous threat of all…

Here are some early returns from the readers on Twitter:

(2) BARRELLING OVER LEVIATHAN FALLS. In “The Expanse Saga Takes Its Final Space Flight”, Publishers Weekly interviews authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck about how they created the story arc.

…Their aspirations were extremely modest initially. “The original concept for this was we would write Leviathan Wakes and sell it for pizza money,” Abraham said.

Franck added, “We didn’t have high expectations for it being a big new title or anything. And that’s what Daniel means by pizza money—you know, you could sell it for a few thousand bucks, and high-five each other, and that’d be the end of it.”

They did have a firm idea of where their story could continue after that first novel, however. “When we sent it out, we wrote one-paragraph outlines of what the next two books would be,” Franck said. “We sent that to the publisher too. And they bought three books based on one complete book and two one-paragraph blurbs. It was when we started writing the second book that we actually sat down and said, ‘Let’s have a good plan for this. Let’s figure this out.’ And that was when we really started to plan out what the longer story would be.”

The plan, inevitably, changed a bit. While the authors once contemplated writing 12 books, they cut out three after realizing their ideas for what would have followed the sixth book, 2016’s Babylon’s Ashes, were just a “boring rehash.” Instead, the seventh book, 2017’s Persepolis Rising, featured a dramatic time jump that allowed the authors to give the solar system time to stabilize after the events of the prior book.

Not much else changed, though. Franck said he had pitched “the last scene and the last line of the last scene” of Levithan Falls to his colleague around 2012.

The Expanse has sold a total of four million copies in North American and has been translated into 21 languages, according to Orbit, its publisher. Interest in the series has continually grown and Levithan Falls has a first printing of 125,000 copies….

(3) SUPERSAVER. “How ‘Adventures of Superman’ star Jack Larson saved a piece of Charlie Chaplin history and met Seinfeld”Decades has a memory about the actor who played Jimmy Olsen.

… [In 1955] Chaplin had sent for his films and memorabilia to be shipped to Europe.

But Chaplin only kept certain costumes and props. Other props lying around Chaplin Studios were being tossed in the trash. One prop that was about to end up in the garbage can was a rubber wrench that Chaplin used to great effect in the classic film Modern Times.

While working on Superman, Larson saw this cinematic crime about to happen and couldn’t sit still. He begged them to let him have it. They thought he was nuts for asking for this piece of rubber….

(4) TRANSLATING TOLKIEN. The virtual Tolkien Society Autumn Seminar with the theme “Translating and Illustrating Tolkien will take place November 6. It is free, sign up at the link.

Tolkien’s appeal has led to his fiction and non-fiction being translated into over fifty languages. The art of translation is immensely complex and when discussing the Dutch translation of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien himself saw the task as “formidable”, offering his own supportive intervention to achieve a satisfactory result. The author’s invented names and languages prompt the question of how the translator should approach Tolkien’s immense mythology. Recent scholarship has emphasised the need for a wider range of Tolkien’s work to be translated in order for readers to gain a fuller understanding of Arda and the author’s development. But with a wealth of translated texts existing already, this seminar hopes to spark new interpretations about old texts and for unacknowledged translations to be brought to light and examined….

(5) TAFF REPORT AVAILABLE. Anna Raftery’s report of her TAFF trip to MidAmeriCon II (the 74th Worldcon) in 2016, Cuttlefish and Cake, can now be acquired for a donation of £5 at the link. Purchase will give you access to the PDF and MP3 versions of the report. All proceeds will go to TAFF.

(6) NEWS, GOOD AND OTHERWISE. David Brin has rounded up a bunch of interesting science links “Gravitational waves, Snowball Earth … and more science!” at Contrary Brin.

…A fascinating paper dives into the SFnal question of “what-if” – specifically if we had been as stupid about the Ozone Layer as we are re climate change. The paper paints a dramatic vision of a scorched planet Earth without the Montreal Protocol, what they call the “World Avoided”. This study draws a new stark link between two major environmental concerns – the hole in the ozone layer and global warming – and how the Montreal Accords seem very likely to have saved us from a ruined Earth.

Going way, way back, the Mother of Modern Gaia Thought – after whom I modeled a major character in Earth – the late Lynn Margulis, has a reprinted riff in The Edge – “Gaia is a Tough Bitch” – offering insights into the kinds of rough negotiations between individuals and between species that must have led to us. Did eukaryotes arise when a large cell tried and failed to eat a bacterium? Or when a bacterium entering a large cell to be a parasite settled down instead to tend our ancestor like a milk cow? The latter seems slightly more likely!

Not long after that, (in galactic years) some eukaryotes joined to form the first animals – sponges – and now there are signs this may have happened 250M years earlier that previously thought, about 890 Mya, before the Earth’s atmosphere was oxygenated and surviving through the Great Glaciation “Snowball Earth” events of the Kirschvink Epoch….

(7) EXPANSE REACHES ITS LIMIT. The Expanse’s sixth and final season arrives December 10 on Amazon Prime.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2008 – Thirteen years ago this October, G. Willow Wilson’s most excellent Air series would see its first issue on Vertigo, an imprint of DC comics, published. It’s illustrated by Turkish artist M. K. Perker, and it tells the story of Blythe, an acrophobic flight attendant, who gets involved with a terrorist from a country that doesn’t exist. Amelia Earhart and Quetzalcoatl are crucial characters. Reception was sharply divided with folks within our community such as Neil Gaiman and Gail Simone loving it but with mainstream critics pretty much dismissing it for both for the story and the artwork. It would last but twenty four issues before being cancelled due to low sales. It’s not available digitally but is easily had in the four trade paper collections for reasonable prices at online sellers. Oddly enough, it’s not listed on ISFDB even though it’s clearly fantasy, but then neither is her graphic novel Cairo which is also quite excellent.  Does ISFDB have a bias against graphic novels? 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 10, 1924 Ed Wood Jr. Though best remembered for Plan 9 from Outer Space which inexplicably has a sixty-eight percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes, he did a lot of terribly bad genre films including Night of the Monster and Bride of The Ghouls. (Died 1978.)
  • Born October 10, 1927 Dana Elcar. Most of you will remember him as Peter Thornton on MacGyver, but he has a long genre history including Russ in Condorman which was inspired by Robert Sheckley’s The Game of X. He also played Sheriff George Paterson in Dark Shadows, and showed up in 2010 as Dimitri Moisevitch. (Died 2005.)
  • Born October 10, 1929 Robin Hardy. Wicker Man is the film he’s known for though he followed that up with The Wicker Tree, an adaptation of his Cowboys for Christ novel. Anyone seen it? The Bulldance is at least genre adjacent. (Died 2016.)
  • Born October 10, 1931 Victor Pemberton. Writer of the script for the “Fury from the Deep”, a Second Doctor story in which he created the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. He had appeared as an actor in the series, in a non-speaking role as a scientist in “The Moonbase”, a Second Doctor story. In the Seventies, he wrote the BBC Doctor Who and the Pescatons audio drama which I remember hearing. It was quite excellent. (Died 2007.)
  • Born October 10, 1941 Peter Coyote, 70. He actually did two genre films in 1982 with the first being Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann in which he appeared as Porter Reese and the second being E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial which he’s Keys, the Agent hunting E.T. down. (Not so named in the film but in the novelization.)  Sphere in which he’s Captain Harold C. Barnes is his next SF outing followed by The 4400 and FlashForward series being his next major genre involvements.
  • Born October 10, 1966 Bai Ling, 55. She’s Miss West in that wretched Wild West West and the Mysterious Women in the exemplary Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, she has a major role as Guanyin in The Monkey King which aired on Syfy. Nope, not seen that one. Her last genre role was Zillia in Conjuring: The Book of the Dead, a horror film riffing off Alastair Crowley. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) NEVERENDING STORY. Read the first chapter of Douglas Wolk’s All of the Marvels: A Journey to the Ends of the Biggest Story Ever Told at Entertainment Weekly.

The twenty-seven thousand or so superhero comic books that Marvel Comics has published since 1961 are the longest continuous, self-contained work of fiction ever created: over half a million pages to date, and growing. Thousands of writers and artists have contributed to it. Every week, about twenty slim pamphlets of twenty or thirty pages apiece are added to the body of its single enormous story. By design, any of its episodes can build on the events of any that came before it, and they’re all (more or less) consistent with one another….

(12) BEFORE AND BEHIND THE CAMERA. A profile of Phoebe Waller-Bridge in the October 2 Financial Times notes she is involved in two franchises: she co-wrote No Time To Die and is an actor in Indiana Jones 5. (I had to take a three-question survey about underwear brands to get free access to the article – make sure your drawers are in order.) “Phoebe Waller-Bridge: the writer making James Bond ‘a little bit twisted’”.

…The marriage between quirky creativity and mega budgets can be fraught. Waller-Bridge, who stars opposite Harrison Ford in the fifth instalment of Indiana Jones, has been coy about her contributions to the latest Bond film. Those hoping to find Fleabag will be disappointed. The secret agent retains some of his old cheesiness. Yet the central speech by sinister villain Lyutsifer Safin contained a reminder of Waller-Bridge’s protagonist: “I just think I want someone to tell me how to live my life?.?.?. because so far I think I’ve been getting it wrong.”…

(13) TRIPPING. Victoria Silverwolf finds a clever lead for a review of the latest (in 1966) issue of Worlds of Tomorrow at Galactic Journey: “[October 10, 1966] Let’s Take A Trip (November 1966 Worlds of Tomorrow)”.

… Until this month, this hallucinogenic drug [LSD] was legal everywhere in the USA. On October 6, it became illegal in the state of California. In response to the new law, on the same day thousands of people showed up for a so-called Love Pageant Rally in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. They enjoyed music from local artists, and many took doses of LSD in defiance of the law….

Even if you live in California, you can enjoy a trip deep into your imagination in a perfectly legal manner, simply by opening the latest issue of Worlds of Tomorrow. Fittingly, almost all the fiction takes place in the far reaches of interstellar space….

(14) INSIDE TZ. Marc Scott Zicree is doing full episode commentaries on over 100 Twilight Zone episodes that will supplement those he did for the official disc set. To find out how to buy them, look at Twilight Zone Commentaries.

The official Twilight Zone BluRay set contained 54 full-length detailed, informative, and entertaining commentaries by Marc Scott Zicree. And now, Marc continues where that left off, with commentaries of the remaining 102 Twilight Zone episodes delivered in a convenient app on your phone, tablet, laptop, SmartTV, or other device.

(15) FOUNDATION GARMENT. You’ve read the series – now buy the shirt that looks as old as it is — Foundation unisex book t-shirt from Out of Print.

The Foundation series by Isaac Asimov received the 1966 Hugo Award for Best All-Time series, beating out the Lord of the RingsFoundation is the first book in that trilogy.

Each purchase helps to fund literacy programs and book donations to communities in need.

(16) ASTRO’S COUSINS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Also in the Financial Times, columnist John Gapper, in a column about the Amazon Astro, made a Doctor Who reference that was news to me.

There is a well-known Punch cartoon of some Daleks from Dr Who at the foot of a staircase, cursing that their plans to conquer the universe are ruined.  This machine (the Astro) suffers from similar limitations:  It can navigate apartments but would be stymied by a two-storey house.

(17) READY FOR EVERY EMERGENCY. “Star Trek: Prodigy Gives Extended Look at Captain Janeway Hologram” at CBR.com.

… At Prodigy‘s panel at New York City Comic-Con, the show debuted a minute-long clip from the show’s pilot episode. In it, the hologram introduces herself to the ragtag group of young aliens, announcing she is the Emergency Training Hologram for the USS Protostar. Little does she know that everything is far from routine on this ship.

After making her introductions, Tellurite Jankom Pog (Jason Mantzoukas) criticizes her looks, prompting a snippy response to show that Janeway’s snark made its way into the programming. The crew does no better job after that first impression to show that they have any idea what they’re doing. Shy Rok-Tahk (Rylee Alazraqui) doesn’t even know what a Federation is.….

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, John Coxon, Lise Andreasen, Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]

Pixel Scroll 7/28/21 So Put Another File In The Jukebox, Baby

(1) MORE’S HAPPENING THAN WHAT’S ON THE PAGE. Aigner Loren Wilson is “Exploring Nnedi Okorafor’s Africanfuturist Universe” at Tor.com.

…Though not all of the stories take place in Africa, they all speak to the same African future that Okorafor is creating and envisioning. Sometimes this future is at the nexus of American industrialism and the exploitation of Africans like in The Book of Phoenix, in which Okorafor shows the rage and anger of a child used and experimented on. Sometimes her stories show the aftermath of such greed. In Who Fears Death, Okorafor writes of the strife of Sudan and the resilience of its people through the story of Onyesonwu. Readers watch her grow from an infant to a powerful being with the ability to save and heal a whole people. Though the landscapes change, the heart of an Africanfuturist universe is being carved out within these books. Eventually in Binti, Africa reaches the stars by way of the character literally running away so she can be the first of her people to attend a top intergalactic school. Binti is the future of her people, carrying the weight of all the past struggles of them and herself—the histories both told and not….

(2) BOOKER PRIZE LONGLIST. The Booker Prize 2021 longlist includes three books of genre interest, titles shown in boldface.

  • A Passage North, Anuk Arudpragasam (Granta Books, Granta Publications)
  • Second Place, Rachel Cusk, (Faber)
  • The Promise, Damon Galgut, (Chatto & Windus, Vintage, PRH)
  • The Sweetness of Water, Nathan Harris (Tinder Press, Headline, Hachette Book Group)
  • Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber)
  • An Island, Karen Jennings (Holland House Books)
  • A Town Called Solace, Mary Lawson (Chatto & Windus, Vintage, PRH)
  • No One is Talking About This, Patricia Lockwood (Bloomsbury Circus, Bloomsbury Publishing)
  • The Fortune Men, Nadifa Mohamed (Viking, Penguin General, PRH)
  • Bewilderment, Richard Powers (Hutchinson Heinemann, PRH)
  • China Room, Sunjeev Sahota (Harvill Secker, Vintage, PRH)
  • Great Circle, Maggie Shipstead (Doubleday, Transworld Publishers, PRH)
  • Light Perpetual, Francis Spufford (Faber)

The shortlist will be announced September 14, and the winner on November 3.

(3) COMPLICATED Q&A. LeVar Burton was interviewed by David Marchese in the July 4 New York Times Magazine.  It’s mostly about his Jeopardy! stint, but he also discusses his 1997 sf novel Aftermath, which has recently been reprinted. “LeVar Burton’s Quest to Succeed Alex Trebek”

…Forgive me for making the subtext of these questions the text, but I’m trying to see if we can complicate the image of you as almost a secular pop-culture saint like Alex Trebek or Fred Rogers. And one of the things that I came across that maybe does complicate things is your novel, “Aftermath.”5

[5 Published in 1997, Burton’s only novel to date is a dystopian story about a United States recovering from a series of catastrophic events, including violent racial conflicts after the assassination of the nation’s first Black president-elect by a white extremist.]

 Wow. I love talking to people who have taken the time to read my book. I’m enormously proud of it. I just recorded a digital version of it with a new author’s note. I threw out the old author’s note about how I came to be a science-fiction fan and instead addressed the time in which we find ourselves now and some of the ways in which the events at the beginning of the novel are kind of prescient.

I don’t really know how well the book sold, but I think it’s fair to say that it’s obscure. Is it possible that the public wasn’t eager to accept the side of your sensibility that it represented? I was surprised by the violence, the allusions to sexual assault — just the darkness in it. 

I would venture to say, based on some encounters that I have had on Twitter, that there is a population of people who aren’t willing to see me displaying an aspect of my character that perhaps goes against their idea of who I am. They feel like they have the right to opine on who I should be, what I should and should not say. That’s an interesting part of this dynamic of fame. However, I spent a lot of time and energy discovering, defining, divining who I am and how I want to live my life. What you do with what I put out there is your business. What I put out there is my business….

(4) AFTER ACTION REPORT. At Green Book of the White Downs, Tim Bolton’s “Thoughts on the release of the Tolkien Society Summer Seminar videos and push-back against the online small-minded backlash around the event” includes links to “an outpouring of writing focused on the reception of Tolkien’s work and finding representation to identify with in Tolkien’s words” plus “numerous blog posts about LGBT+ and Tolkien.”

…A couple of weeks ago, as we headed towards what would be a fantastic and thoughtful Tolkien Society Summer Seminar, it came apparent that a part of the Tolkien fandom were quite vocally angry that diversity should be a topic associated with Tolkien. We saw a rival conference set up (as if other conferences have ever been a bad thing), we saw podcasts and YouTube rants. Social media saw the same people posting angrily about the affront that the Tolkien Society were holding a seminar – not sure where these lot have been, the Tolkien Society have hosted seminars every year for longer than some of them were born….    

This is the Tolkien Society seminar whose announced schedule was used by some bloggers as an excuse to act out – “Seminar’s Focus on Diversity in Tolkien Draws Conservatives’ Ire” – including pitching a dubious rival event: “Purported Event Will Counter-Program the Seminar on Diversity in Tolkien”.

Bolton concludes his post with this affirmation:

…Here’s the thing. No matter how far back these cave trolls want to try and drag us, we (as a fandom and a society) are going to move forward. We are diverse, we are inclusive. Will we make mistakes? Of course, we are human. But I will stand by groups that at their core hold values such empathy, kindness and being welcoming to all.

And at the centre of it all – our love of Tolkien’s works.

(5) DOG AT LARGE. Joseph Tuttle introduces readers to “’Roverandom:’ Tolkien’s little-known children’s story” at Voyage.

Roverandom is the endearing tale of a little dog’s adventures after being turned into a toy by a wizard. Tolkien originally told this story to his children after one of them had lost a toy dog on vacation. After searching for the lost toy unsuccessfully, Tolkien devised Roverandom to help explain what happened to the toy. Years later, he put the story into the book format we now have….

(6) LUMPY LOKI. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Reader, Financial Times.] In the July 24 Financial Times, Fiona Sturges interviews Richard E Grant about his role on Loki.

Grant hams it up terrifically as Classic Loki, one of several ‘variant’ Lokis marooned in a purgatory known as ‘The Void’ (other variants include Alligator Loki and Kid Loki.)  When he first saw his costume — scoffed-grubby-with clear sagging in the crotch area — he was a little crestfallen.  ‘My first question was, ‘Where are the muscles?’  If you look at Jack Kirby’s original drawings in the comic, the guy had muscles.  But the costume designer was very insistent that I was relying on Loki magic (for strength). So I didn’t get my way.  I thought, ‘Oh well, it’s a withered and old Classic Loki that they’re going to get!’

The role also required Grant to grapple with CGI and green screen technology.  He notes that in 2019’s Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker, in which he played Allegiant General Pryde, ‘ all the doors were functional, all the lights on the consoles worked, and there were stormtroopers’  By contrast, in Loki, his alligator co-star was made of three cushions roughly sewn together. 

(7) METAVERSE MAVEN. The Verge says “Mark Zuckerberg is betting Facebook’s future on the metaverse” – so I guess I’d better start figuring out what that’s supposed to be.

As June came to an end, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told his employees about an ambitious new initiative. The future of the company would go far beyond its current project of building a set of connected social apps and some hardware to support them. Instead, he said, Facebook would strive to build a maximalist, interconnected set of experiences straight out of sci-fi — a world known as the metaverse.

The company’s divisions focused on products for communities, creators, commerce, and virtual reality would increasingly work to realize this vision, he said in a remote address to employees. “What I think is most interesting is how these themes will come together into a bigger idea,” Zuckerberg said. “Our overarching goal across all of these initiatives is to help bring the metaverse to life.”

The metaverse is having a moment. Coined in Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson’s 1992 sci-fi novel, the term refers to a convergence of physical, augmented, and virtual reality in a shared online space. Earlier this month, The New York Times explored how companies and products including Epic Games’ FortniteRoblox, and even Animal Crossing: New Horizons increasingly had metaverse-like elements. (Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has been discussing his desire to contribute to a metaverse for many months now.)…

(8) SECOND BANANAS WITH MORE APPEAL. James Davis Nicoll points out “Five Supporting Characters Who Outshine the Protagonist” at Tor.com.

Sergeant Sam Anderson from Starman Jones by Robert A. Heinlein (1953)

Had runaway Max Jones never met Sam Anderson, late of the Imperial Marines, Max’s plans to follow his late uncle Chester into space would have come to nothing. Chester may have been a member in good standing of the Astrogators’ Guild, but he never signed the necessary paperwork nominating Max for membership. As far as the Guild is concerned, that is that.

Sam, on the other hand, has the ethical flexibility, experience, and connections needed to circumvent onerous regulation. Thanks to Sam’s experienced mentorship, Max acquires all the necessary papers needed to work in space and a position on board the Asgard. Max’s odd talents will prove invaluable when the Asgard is lost in space. Those talents would never have been there to help the Asgard without genially amoral Sam’s corrupting influence.

(9) HELP SOLVE A MYSTERY. Filer Jake says at the Something Awful forums someone has posted a Polaroid picture from 1989 in which a paperback book, believed to be SF, can be seen, and asked “What is that book?”

We’re seriously stumped, to the point where I’ve been trawling a copy of the ISFDB to get titles that might be of the same length as the one in the picture, and am also considering downloading their cover DB so as to do some heavy-duty image analysis.

I’m hoping that you’d be willing to add this as an item in a Pixel Scroll, as in the words of the original asker “Why should we be the only ones to be haunted by this?”

This is the picture. You can see why they’re having so much trouble figuring out the answer. But maybe the pattern of the cover will tickle something in your memory banks?

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • July 28, 2007 – On this date fourteen years ago, Jekyll, a British series produced as a sequel to The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde novella, finishes airing on BBC One. Steven Moffat wrote all six episodes with Douglas Mackinnon and Matt Lipsey each directing three episodes. Elaine Cameron and Jeffrey Taylor were the producers. It starred James Nesbitt in the lead role with the rest of the cast being Gina Bellman, Paterson Joseph, Denis Lawson, Michelle Ryan, Meera Syal and Fenella Woolgar. Critics loved it with James Jackson of The Times saying Nesbitt’s acting as Hyde was “entertainingly over the top as a dozen Doctor Who villains, with a palpable sense of menace to boot”.  A second season was written by Moffat but the BBC never picked up the option on it. Eight years later, ITV would air Jekyll and Hyde based off the same source material and it too would cancelled after one series.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 28, 1866 Beatrix Potter. Probably best known for Tales of Peter Rabbit but I’d submit her gardening skills were second-to-none as well as can be seen in the Green Man review of Marta McDowell’s Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life. Those skills are reflected in her fiction. (Died 1943.)
  • Born July 28, 1928 Angélica Gorodischer, 93. Argentinian writer whose Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was got translated by Ursula Le Guin into English. Likewise Prodigies.has been translated by Sue Burke for Small Beer Press. She won a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. You can read Lightspeed Magazine’s interview with her here.
  • Born July 28, 1931 Jay Kay Klein. I’ll direct you to Mike’s excellent look at him here as I can’t add anything to what he says.  I will note that Jay Kay was a published author of three stories, “Century of Progress”, “Mass Communication“ and  “On Conquered Earth”.  The first two in Analog, the latter in If. None of these have been republished since.  (Died 2012.)
  • Born July 28, 1941 Bill Crider. Primarily a writer of mystery fiction, his extensive bibliography includes three stories in the Sherlock Holmes metaverse: The Adventure of the Venomous LizardThe Adventure of the St. Marylebone Ghoul and The Case of the Vanished Vampire. He also wrote a Sookie Stackhouse short story, “Don’t Be Cruel” in the Charlaine Harris Metaverse. His “Doesn’t Matter Any Matter More” short story won a Sidewise Awards for Alternate History and his “Mike Gonzo and the UFO Terror” won a Golden Duck Award. (Died 2018.)
  • Born July 28, 1955 Dey Young, 66. One of those performers who appeared in multiple Trek series. She was in Next Gen’s “The Masterpiece Society” as Hannah Bates, in Deep Space Nine’s “A Simple Investigation” as Arissa and  and in Enterprise’s “Two Days and Two Nights” as Keyla. She’s got minor roles in Running ManStrange Invaders and Spaceballs as well.
  • Born July 28, 1966 Larry Dixon, 55. Husband of Mercedes Lackey who collaborates with her on such series as SERRAted Edge and The Mage Wars Trilogy. (They were CoNZealand GoHs last year.) He contributed artwork to Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons & Dragons source books, including Oriental AdventuresEpic Level Handbook, and Fiend Folio
  • Born July 28, 1968 Rachel Blakely, 53. You’ll most likely know her as Marguerite Krux on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World as that was her longest running genre role. She was briefly Alcmene on Young Hercules, and played Gael’s Mum on The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. And showed up as Penelope in the “Ulysses” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess
  • Born July 28, 1972 Elizabeth Berkley, 49. Her best known role is Verhooven’s Showgirls which is decidedly not genre even if Kyle MacLachan is in it. She’s done some genre work including The Twilight ZonePerversions of Science which appears to be akin to the Tales from The Crypt series, the animated Armitage III: Polymatrix series, and the Threshold series which pops up regularly in these Birthday notes. 

(12) SJW CREDENTIAL BUNDLE. StoryBundle’s 2021 Cattitude Bundle, curated by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, is available for three more weeks. Get the full list of books and the rest of the deal at the link.

This bundle thrills me. Often, I curate StoryBundles filled with books I’ve read. Always, I curate with authors whose work I like. But as I curate them, I’m aware that I am a moody reader who rarely wants to read what’s prescribed. So, with the books I have only read parts of or haven’t read at all, I put them in a To-Be-Read pile to finish when the mood strikes.

With cat fiction, though, the mood always strikes me. I’ll stop whatever I’m doing to read a cat story. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ll do whatever I’m doing, unless I’m petting one of my three cats.

Many of the books in this bundle combine cats and magic. It seems a proper combination. Cats can twist themselves into the strangest positions. They have an uncanny way of loving us or torturing us (depending on how they feel about us). They have a mysterious edge, even if they’re the friendliest cat on the planet.

(13) LOCKDOWN WAS GOOD BUSINESS FOR THEM. Game makers are getting an unexpected slice of the pie. The Guardian has the story: “Warhammer maker Games Workshop hands staff £5,000 bonus after lockdown sales surge”.

Warhammer retailer Games Workshop is handing its shop workers, model makers, designers and support staff a £5,000 bonus each after sales and profits benefited from tabletop gamers escaping lockdown by fighting bloodthirsty battles with orcs, elves and alien hordes.

The Nottingham-based company behind the popular fantasygaming equipment and Lord of the Rings figurines said its 2,600 ordinary workers would split a £10.6m special bonus on top of a £2.6m profit share.

Senior managers will share an extra £1.1m bonus pot, up from £300,000 the year before, after sales rose by just over a third to £361m and pretax profits soared almost 70% to £151m….

(14) WITCHER SPINOFF. This trailer for a Witcher anime spinoff dropped on Wednesday. The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf premieres August 23 on Netflix.

The world of The Witcher expands in this anime origin story: Before Geralt, there was his mentor Vesemir — a swashbuckling young witcher who escaped a life of poverty to slay monsters for coin. But when a strange new monster begins terrorizing a politically-fraught kingdom, Vesemir finds himself on a frightening adventure that forces him to confront the demons of his past.

(15) KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES. Dr. Brian Keating, Co-Director of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, who also is a member of the Galileo Project’s Advisory Board, is joined by Harvard University Professor Avi Loeb to chat about the Galileo Project in “Extraterrestrial Technology: The Situation Has Changed!” on YouTube.

Huge news out of Harvard: In 2017, the world for the first time observed an interstellar object, called ‘Oumuamua, that was briefly visiting our Solar system. Based on astronomical observations, ‘Oumuamua turned out to have highly anomalous properties that defy well-understood natural explanations. We can only speculate whether ‘Oumuamua may be explained by never seen before natural explanations, or by stretching our imagination to ‘Oumuamua perhaps being an extraterrestrial technological object, similar to a very thin light-sail or communication dish, which fits the astronomical data rather well.

After the release of the ODNI (Office of the Director of National Intelligence) report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP), the scientific community now needs the determination to systematically, scientifically & transparently look for potential evidence of extraterrestrial technological equipment. The impact of any discovery of extraterrestrial technology on science & on our entire worldview would be enormous.

Given the recently discovered abundance of Earth-Sun systems, the Galileo Project is dedicated to the proposition that humans can no longer ignore the possible existence of Extraterrestrial Technological Civilizations (ETCs), and that science should not dogmatically reject potential extraterrestrial explanations because of social stigma or cultural preferences, factors which are not conducive to the scientific method of unbiased, empirical inquiry. We now must look through new telescopes, both literally and figuratively. The Galileo Project aims to identify the nature of UAP and ‘Oumuamua-like interstellar objects using the standard scientific method based on a transparent analysis of open scientific data to be collected using optimized instruments.

The Galileo Project follows three major avenues of research:

1. Obtain High-resolution, Multi-detector UAP Images, Discover their Nature: This goal will be accomplished by searching for UAP with a network of mid-sized, high-resolution telescopes and detector arrays with suitable cameras and computer systems, distributed in select locations. The data will be open to the public and the scientific analysis will be transparent.

We anticipate extensive Artificial Intelligence/Deep Learning (AI/DL) and algorithmic approaches to differentiate atmospheric phenomena from birds, balloons, commercial or consumer drones, and from potential technological objects of terrestrial or other origin surveying our planet, such as satellites. For the purpose of high contrast imaging, each telescope will be part of a detector array of orthogonal and complementary capabilities from radar, Doppler radar, and high-resolution synthetic aperture radar to high-resolution, large camera visible range and infrared band telescopes. If an ETC is discovered to be surveying Earth using UAP, then we have to assume that the ETC has mastered passive radar, optical and infrared technologies. In such a case, our systematic study of such detected UAP will be enhanced by means of high-performance, integrated and multi-wavelength detector arrays.

2. Search for and In-Depth Research on ‘Oumuamua-like Interstellar Objects:  

The Galileo Project research group also will utilize existing and future astronomical surveys, such as the Rubin Observatory, to discover and monitor the properties of interstellar visitors to the Solar system. We will conceptualize and design, potentially in collaboration with interested space agencies or space ventures, a launch-ready space mission to image unusual interstellar objects such as ‘Oumuamua by intercepting their trajectories on their approach to the Sun or by using ground-based survey telescopes to discover interstellar meteors.

3. Search for Potential ETC Satellites: Discovering potential 1 meter-scale or smaller satellites that may be exploring Earth, e.g., in polar orbits a few hundred km above Earth, may become feasible with VRO in 2023 and later, but if radar, optical and infrared technologies have been mastered by an ETC, then very sophisticated large telescopes on Earth might be required. We will design advanced algorithmic and AI/DL object recognition and fast filtering methods that the Galileo Project intends to deploy, initially on non-orbiting telescopes. 

(16) PICS OR IT DIDN’T HAPPEN. The Expanse was a Jeopardy! clue. I can prove it. (Do we still call this a screenshot?)

(17) TRAILER FOR A PROMISED FAN FILM. Strap in for a fun Star Wars fan film from writer/director Anthony Ferraro, Forsaken Mandalorian and the Drunken Jedi Master. “The goal was to make a fan film driven by dramatic performances rather than winks and nods to the franchise. But not to worry, we do some winking and nodding,” Ferraro promises. The video launches August 6 on the Create Sci-Fi YouTube channel.

Hope hinges on two men with no hope.

A forsaken Mandalorian hunts down a Hutt Courier to recover an asset that unexpectedly leads him to team up with an outcast drunken Jedi Master to fulfill his sworn duty.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/16/21 All Scrollnanas Make A Pixel, And So Do Many More

(1) NEW PANEL FOR CORDWAINER SMITH REDISCOVERY AWARD. [Item by Steven H Silver.] Robert J. Sawyer and Barry Malzberg have retired as judges for the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award. A new panel has been created to select the honorees.  The new panel includes Rich Horton, Steven H Silver, and Grant Thiessen.  The new panel’s first selection will be announced at Readercon the weekend of August 13-15.

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman declares “It’s pure pandemonium — peanut butter pandemonium! — with John Wiswell” in Episode 149 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

John Wiswell

Over the past year, you joined me as I’ve baked and shared homemade scones and pizza, or ordered takeout weiner schnitzel and sushi, my guests and I doing our best to seize those moments of community COVID-19 tried to steal from us. In this case, John Wiswell and I pretended we were sitting across the table from each other during the Nebula Awards weekend.

John Wiswell won a Nebula Award earlier this month for the short story “Open House on Haunted Hill,” which had been published last year by Diabolical Plots. He’s also appeared in NatureUncannyWeird TalesFiresideDaily Science FictionFlash Fiction OnlineCast of WondersPodcastle, and Pseudopod. In an astonishing show of prolificacy, he managed to posted fiction on his blog every day for six straight years, which I find astonishing. I found his Nebula acceptance speech astonishing as well; it was one of the best I’ve ever heard.

John and I were supposed to enjoy specialty hamburgers together this time around, only … something went wrong, as you shall hear. Why did I end up eating a chuck roast, brisket, and short rib burger while John only got to nibble on ice cream and carrots? For the answer to that question, well … you’ll have to listen.

We discussed his motivation for giving one of the greatest acceptance speeches ever, how he learned to build meaning out of strangeness, the way writing novels taught him to make his short stories better, his dual story generation modes of confrontation vs. escape, why what we think we know about the Marshmallow Test is wrong, the reason we’re both open online about our rejections, how the love of wallpaper led to him becoming a writer, why we’ve each destroyed our early writing from time to time, what he learned writing a story a day for six years, and much more.

(3) GARCIA APPEARANCES. Chris Garcia will be doing presentations at two Mystical Minds convention gatherings in the coming year.

Mystical Minds is a new Pagan, Paranormal, and Metaphysical convention created to expand our minds as well as our networks! 

Witches, Pagans, Paranormal investigators, psychics, mediums, metaphysical practitioners, UFO experts, cryptozoologists, mystics, and other free-thinking spiritual seekers will come together in person this fall and spring for two conventions in the beautiful Bay area of Northern California! 

For the Fall Gathering / Mystical Minds convention this October in Dublin, CA he’ll present:

History of Paranormal Research in the Bay Area

Before Ghost HuntersMost Haunted, or even Ghostbusters, San Francisco and the Bay has been home to research into the unknown. From occultists and de-bunkers in the early 20th century, to TV personalities in the 70s and 80s, to hard core particle physicists, research into the paranormal has happened here! Join Chris Garcia as he tells their stories! 

At the Spring Gathering / Mystical Minds convention next February in San Jose, CA he’ll speak about —

The Winchester House

An architectural marvel, containing a story of American eccentricity, and a debate over the potential paranormal aspects. We will look at the history of the House, the stories surrounding its building, the recounting of what people have experienced, and how development in the area may have something to do with all the fuss… both before and after Sarah Winchester showed up!  

(4) HARD DRIVES OF IF. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Financial Times Reader.] In the July 16 Financial Times, Tom Faber discusses “interactive fiction” or IF, a genre between a video game and a novel.

After a few wilderness years (around 2000), IF re-emerged among a niche community of writers and intellectuals who organised around the annual Interactive Fiction Competition, founded in1995.  This renaissance as partially triggered by  progress in technology.  Writers developed methods for inactivity such as multiple choice as an alternative to the intimidating grammar rules of the text parser. New tools such as Twine, ChoiceScript and Inklewriter empowered those without coding skills to create their own games.  This contributed to a diversification of the creator pool, particularly encouraging queer writers who have broached provocative topics not tackled in the gaming mainstream, ranging from gender dysphoria to clinical depression to unconventional kinks…

…One of the most remarkable IF writers is Porpentine, author of the vivid story With Those We Love Alive.  On this tale of an artist enslaved by an insectoid empress, you roam an alien world of ‘glass flowers on iron stalks. Canopy of leafbone.  Statues sunk into the earth.’  Porpentine asks you to swap words out, wipe them away, and — most intimately — to draw symbols on your arm which represent emotional responses to the narrative.

(5) FREE DOWNLOAD FROM TAFF. Willis Discovers America and other fan fiction by Walt Willis is the latest addition to the selection of free ebook downloads at David Langford’s unofficial Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund site, where they hope you’ll make a little donation to the fund if you please. Here’s the download page.

An attempt to collect all Walt Willis’s short fan fiction, in the old sense of invented stories about real-life fans and fandom. This omits the long and much-reprinted The Enchanted Duplicator (1954 with Bob Shaw) and its sequel Beyond the Enchanted Duplicator… To the Enchanted Convention, both already in the TAFF ebook library.

The title piece is a wildly silly imagining of Walt’s first trip to the USA in 1952, written and serialized in multiple fanzines before he actually began the journey; the text used here is from the collected edition of 1955, which included a new preface and annotations explaining some of the more arcane in-jokes. Further items range from scripts for two recorded “taperas” or tape operas that had fans rolling in the aisles at 1950s conventions, to a 1987 recasting of The Enchanted Duplicator as a computer text-Adventure game. Most of this material has never before been collected.

Edited by David Langford, who has added a few more explanatory notes; research work by Rob Hansen and others; proofreading by Pat Charnock. Cover artwork by Bob Shaw, drawn on to stencil for the collected Willis Discovers America (1955). 45,000 words.

(6) YOU COULD LOOK IT UP. John Scalzi tweeted this response to an item screencapped here the other day:

(7) ELVISH. The On fairy-stories website interviews Elvish linguistic scholar Carl F. Hostetter, editor of The Nature of Middle-Earth, a new J.R.R. Tolkien book: “From Linguistics to Metaphysics”. The book proposal with many of the edited texts was seen and approved by Christopher Tolkien, who passed away last year.

In your opinion, why did Tolkien not develop completely the Elvish languages?

For much the same reason that he never completed The Silmarillion: at first, because things grew and changed in his imagination and their expression on paper, and then, after the intervention and completion of The Lord of the Rings, because he had to revise everything to make it consistent with the published book and the thousands of years of “new history” that the introduction of the Second and Third Ages required, a task he was never able to achieve. With the languages, this was because whenever he attempted to make “definitive” decision on some point of phonology or grammar, he would almost inevitably start revising the whole system, which makes sense since any language is a complexly intertwined system, such that a change in one feature or detail can and almost always does affect other aspects. Nor, I think, was it ever Tolkien’s intention to make the Elvish languages “complete” or “finished”: they were primarily an expression of his linguistic aesthetic, and its changes over time. Unlike, say, with Zamenhof and Esperanto, Tolkien had no utilitarian purpose in mind for his languages.

(8) THINKING ABOUT THE FUTURE. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination has published the latest issue of Imaginary Papers, their quarterly newsletter on science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and imagination. Issue 7 features a piece on The Expanse by science, technology, and society scholar Damien P. Williams, and a piece on “Sultana’s Dream,” a 1905 Bengali feminist utopian speculative fiction story, by musicologist and media scholar Nilanjana Bhattacharjya.

One of the most engrossing things about the small-screen adaptation of The Expanse is how viscerally it examines the human costs of life in space. After being exposed to a massive dose of radiation, starship captain James Holden gets a permanent anticancer implant, like a far-future successor of a Port-A-Cath. And from the first episode, we’re made to understand that the Belters—descendants of humans who have worked, lived, and started societies on asteroids or the moons of other planets in our solar system—have different physiologies than the humans who still call Earth home. Gravity weighs heavier on Belters: it constricts their blood vessels, strains their hearts, and cracks their bones….

(9) HENDRIX INTERVIEW. See Kevin Kennel’s video interview of author Grady Hendrix on Facebook.

Author Grady Hendrix (‘Horrorstör’, ‘We Sold Our Souls’ and more!) graciously took time out of his busy schedule for an interview with our very own library staff member Kevin Kennel, to discuss his new book, ‘The Final Girl Support Group’ and his experiences as a writer and author. …Please note: this video contains adult content and is an interview about an adult horror novel.

(10) VISITING UTOPIA. Kim Stanley Robinson explains the usefulness of “The Novel Solutions of Utopian Fiction” in The Nation.

… But in this world, we are never going to get the chance to start over. This was one of the reasons Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels objected to 19th-century utopias like that of Charles Fourier, the French designer of small communes living in perfect harmony: They were fantasy solutions that served only to distract people from the real work of politics and revolution. They were also in competition with Marx and Engels’s own ideas, so there was the usual left infighting. But it was a legitimate complaint: If utopia isn’t a political program, then what is it for?

The answer should be obvious. Utopias exist to remind us that there could be a better social order than the one we are in. Our present system is the result of a centuries-old power struggle, and it is devastating people and the biosphere. We must change it—and fast. But to what?

Utopias are thought experiments. Imagine if things ran like this: Wouldn’t that be good? Well, maybe…let’s live in it fictionally for a while. What problems crop up in this system? Can we solve them? What if we tweak things this way, or that? Let’s tell this story and then that story, and see how plausible they feel after we spend some imaginative time in them….

(11) STEPHEN HICKMAN (1949-2021). Famed sff artist Stephen Hickman died July 16 reported his friend and colleague Ron Miller on Facebook: “Lost one of my best friends, Steve Hickman, this morning and the world lost one of its best artists and finest human beings.” Hickman had over 350 book and magazine covers to his credit. He won the 1994 Best Original Artwork Hugo for his Space Fantasy Commemorative Stamp Booklet. He was a six-time Chesley Award winner.

(12) JUDI B CASTRO OBIT. Judi Beth Castro died July 15 of a sudden illness. She was 58. Her husband, author Adam-Troy Castro, announced her passing on Facebook.

The love of my life, Judi Beth Castro, lost her fight for life at 10:50 PM Thursday night. The illness was sudden, and she was always in critical danger, but between Tuesday night and Wednesday evening her numbers were improving at such a steady rate that we thought there was hope. Alas, the decline began on Thursday morning and by afternoon there was no doubt….

Her genre credits include Atlanta Nights (2005; a parody which she contributed to with many other co-authors), and the short fiction “Unfamiliar Gods” co-authored with Adam-Troy Castro.

(13) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1953 – Sixty-eight years ago, Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe premiered as a black-and-white movie serial from Republic Pictures. It was originally going to be a syndicated television series. It was directed by Harry Keller, Franklin Adreon and Fred C. Brannon as written by Ronald Davidson and Barry Shipman. Its cast was Judd Holdren, Aline Towne, Gregory Gaye and Craig Kelly.  It would last but one season of twelve twenty-five minute episodes. And yes, it was syndicated to television on NBC in 1955. Some sources say Dave Steven based his Rocketeer character off of Commando Cody. And there’s a clone trooper named Commander Cody who serves under Jedi general Obi-Wan Kenobi, an homage that Lucas has openly acknowledged as he watched the series as a child. 

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 16, 1928 Robert Sheckley. I knew that his  short story “Seventh Victim” was the basis of The 10th Victim film but I hadn’t known ‘til now that Freejack was sort of based of his Immortality, Inc. novel.  I’ve read a lot by him with Bring Me the Head of Prince Charming (written with Zelazny) being my favorite work by him. Sheckley is very well stocked on the usual suspects. (Died 2005.)
  • Born July 16, 1929 Sheri S. Tepper. Nominated for an Austounding Award way back when, she had a long career, so I’m going to single out BeautyThe Gate to Women’s CountrySix Moon Dance and The Companions as my favorites knowing very well that yours won’t be the same. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 16, 1951 Esther Friesner, 70. She’s won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story twice with “Death and the Librarian” and “A Birthday”.  I’m particularly fond of The Sherwood Game and E.Godz which she did with Robert Asprin. She won the 1994 Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction, for lifetime contributions to science fiction, “both through work in the field and by exemplifying the personal qualities which made the late ‘Doc’ Smith well-loved by those who knew him,” presented by the New England Science Fiction Association. She’s well stocked at the usual suspects. 
  • Born July 16, 1956 Jerry Doyle. Now this one is depressing. Dead of acute alcoholism at sixty, his character Michael Garibaldi was portrayed as an alcoholic, sometimes recovering and sometimes not on Babylon 5. Damn. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 16, 1963 Phoebe Cates, 58. Ok, so her entire genre appearance credit is as Kate Beringer in Gremlins and  Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Yes, I’ll admit that they’re two films that I have an inordinate fondness for that the Suck Fairy cannot have any effect upon them what-so-ever. Update: I’ve discovered since I last noted her Birthday that she was in Drop Dead Fred, a dark fantasy. She also stopped acting six years ago. 
  • Born July 16, 1965 Daryl “Chill” Mitchell, 56. Best remembered genre wise as Tommy Webber in the much beloved Galaxy Quest though his longest acting role was Patton Plame on the cancelled NCIS: New Orleans
  • Born July 16, 1966 Scott Derrickson, 55. Director and Writer of Doctor Strange who also had a hand in The Day the Earth Stood Still (as Director), The Exorcism of Emily Rose (Director and Writer), Urban Legends: Final Cut (Director and Producer) and the forthcoming Labyrinth sequel (Director and Writer). 
  • Born July 16, 1967 Will Ferrell, 54. His last genre film was Holmes & Watson in which he played Holmes. It won Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Screen Combo and, my absolute favourite Award,  Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off or Sequel. Wow. He was also in Land of the Lost which, errrr, also got negative reviews. Elf however got a great response from viewers and critics alike. He also was in two of the Austin Powers films as well. Oh, and he voices Ted / The Man with the Yellow Hat, a tour guide at the Bloomsberry Museum in Curious George.

(15) BANNED FROM ARGO. Larry Correia told Monster Hunter Nation readers that he’s gotten his “7th or 8th” 30-day ban from Facebook. He posted screenshots from his appeal to FB’s Oversight Board in “Fun With The Oversight Board -Or- Better Sign Up For The Newsletter Before I Get Perma-Banned” [Internet Archive link].

…Facebook is a time suck garbage site that exists as the propaganda arm of the DNC/Corpo-Uni-Party, to spy on you to sell to advertisers, and to steal everyone’s personal information. After bamboozling all the content creators to go over there to build “community” they now hold them hostage because the content creators are scared to leave because they’ll take a financial hit (The Oatmeal’s got a great cartoon about it)….

(16) WE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM. FOREVER. Hackaday memorializes the “End Of An Era: NTSC Finally Goes Dark In America”.

A significant event in the history of technology happened yesterday, and it passed so quietly that we almost missed it. The last few remaining NTSC transmitters in the USA finally came off air, marking the end of over seven decades of continuous 525-line American analogue TV broadcasts. We’ve previously reported on the output of these channels, largely the so-called “FrankenFM” stations left over after the 2009 digital switchover whose sound carrier lay at the bottom of the FM dial as radio stations, and noted their impending demise. We’ve even reported on some of the intricacies of the NTSC system, but we’ve never taken a look at what will replace these last few FrankenFM stations….

(17) SUSTAINABLE USE OF SPACE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] In this week’s Science:

Last month, at the G7 Leaders’ Summit in Cornwall, United Kingdom, the leading industrial nations addressed the sustainable and safe use of space, making space debris a priority and calling on other nations to follow suit. This is good news because space is becoming increasingly congested, and strong political will is needed for the international space community to start using space sustainably and preserve the orbital environment for the space activities of future generations.

There are more than 28,000 routinely tracked objects orbiting Earth. The vast majority (85%) are space debris that no longer serve a purpose. These debris objects are dominated by fragments from the approximately 560 known breakups, explosions, and collisions of satellites or rocket bodies. These have left behind an estimated 900,000 objects larger than 1 cm and a staggering 130 million objects larger than 1 mm in commercially and scientifically valuable Earth orbits.

(18) SUPERPRANKSTERS? Isaac Arthur’s video “Annoying Aliens” contends, “Fictional portrayals of alien invasion or reports of alien sightings and abductions often imply motives which on inspection make little sense… unless perhaps the true purpose was mischief.”

(19) DISCWORLD COMMENTARY. YouTuber Dominic Noble says he has finally overcome his “sense of loss and deep sadness at the tragically too early passing of the author [Terry Pratchett] due to Alzheimer’s disease” and  is planning to do videos on the Discworld books. He begins with this overview of Discworld and his appreciation for it and for Pratchett.

(20) POTTER IN PERSPECTIVE. YouTuber Eyebrow Cinema considers“Harry Potter – 10 Years Later”.

It’s been a decade since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two arrived in theaters and brought an end to JK Rowling’s saga of witches and wizards. Like most 90s kids, I too read all the books and saw all the movies as a kid and teenager but have completely left the series behind since. Ten years later, how does Harry Potter hold up? In this video essay, I try to get to the heart of Harry Potter as while as examine my own relationship to the series.

No official works cited for this video, though I imagine my criticisms of Rowling’s transphobia will draw some ire. I have no intention of arguing the ethics or legitimacy of Rowling’s claims….

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Joey Eschrich, Chris M. Barkley, Jennifer Hawthorne, Steven H Silver, StephenfromOttawa, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, N., Daniel Dern, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]

Pixel Scroll 2/5/21 The Scroll Unvanquishable, Save By Pixels

(1) IT’LL COST MORE THAN A SOCK TO FREE HARRY POTTER. Episode 75 of Our Opinions Are Correct, the podcast by Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders, asks “Has JK Rowling destroyed Harry Potter fandom?”

JK Rowling has become an anti-trans activist on social media. This news has sent Harry Potter fandom — always full of queers and trans people — into mourning. We talk to author/publisher (and longtime Slytherin) Cecilia Tan about how to ignore Rowling and take back Harry Potter.

And the shownotes at the above link are compellingly illustrated with a panel from Maia Kobabe’s work on Trans-Affirming Magical Care.

(2) RSR COMPARES NOTES WITH LOCUS. Rocket Stack Rank has posted their annual “Annotated 2020 Locus Reading List for Short Fiction”. Eric Wong explains: “Like the last two years, we’ve merged it with RSR’s Best SF/F list (highlighting stories from the Locus List in red) and grouped the stories by length and score. It includes some observations about overlooked stories, notable publications, outstanding authors, new writers, and translated stories.” Ten of RSR’s top-rated 2020 stories did not make the Locus list.

Eric adds, “The main takeaway is that non-free stories from Analog, Asimov’s, F&SF, and Interzone are under-represented in the Locus list. It’s worse than last year and appears to be a trend for several years now.”

(3) FROM CULTURE WAR TO THE THREAT OF CIVIL WAR. With “Debarkle: Introduction” Camestros Felapton launches a series about “An epic story of politics, conspiracies, fans and rocket ships in which the political chaos of 2020 was presaged by a culture war for a literary award.”

From January 6 2021 to January 7 2015

….One person I was reading [on January 6] was a writer for the right-wing media outlet PJ Media/Instapundit, wrote in a comment on her own blog about her own anger seeing major conservative news outlets condemning the protestors:

“FUCK THEM.
Seriously, I think we should do the media next. Put the fear of Americans into them.
Saint Augusto bless us.
Anyone has helicopters?”

https://accordingtohoyt.com/2021/01/06/we-will-work-until-we-cant/#comment-732567

Here “Saint Augusto” and “helicopters” being a reference to a far-right meme about the use by Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet of “death flights“, a form of extra-judicial killing by pushing victims out of aircraft.

The following day, ‘alt-right’ ethno-nationalist publisher Vox Day described Sarah Hoyt as the “only non-cuck at Instapundit” [archive link]. In this context “cuck” is derogatory term for mainstream conservatives referencing “cuckold” pornography. Day was applauding a post by Hoyt were she celebrated the actions of the protestors…

(4) THE LONG GAME. Nerds of a Feather’s Andrea Johnson has a Q&A with an author who made the leap from fanfic to tradpub: “Interview: Everina Maxwell, author of Winter’s Orbit”.

NOAF: You published an early version of Winter’s Orbit online at Archive of Our Own. What was the experience like, going from publishing it online, to then working with a traditional publisher?

EM: Pretty terrifying, honestly! Throughout editing I was nervous of what the people who read it as original fiction on AO3 would think of the new version, which has more worldbuilding and a plot with a much wider scope. Also, on AO3 people were very kind and didn’t tend to ask awkward questions like “why is this thematically inconsistent” or “why haven’t you explained how this worked” or “can you please pick one spelling of this character’s name and stick with it” – which the traditional publishing process absolutely asks and makes you fix. I think it’s a much better book now; I certainly love the new material myself. I hope both old and new readers will enjoy it!

(5) SEMIPROZINE CLOSE-UP. R. Graeme Cameron reviews Hexagon Speculative Fiction Magazine #3 for Amazing Stories’ “Clubhouse” column.

[Editor JW] Stebner is very proud of the role of semiprozines (like Hexagon) “in the literary Magazine industry.” As publisher of the semiprozine Polar Borealis and the soon to be introduced Polar Starlight (devoted to Canadian Speculative Poetry) I have to say I agree with him. I’m quite keen on enthusiasts starting up such and thus am very pleased to have discovered Hexagon. (Actually, I was led to it by Robert Runté, who told me about it, for which I am grateful.)…

(6) WEEPING ANGELS VIDEO GAME. Digital Spy has some eye-opening news: “Doctor Who confirms return date for Weeping Angels in new trailer”.

…”Merciless as ever, the Weeping Angels are back with a vengeance. Will you be able to uncover the truth and avoid their clutches? Now that the Weeping Angels have the power to infiltrate technology, no device is safe,” the synopsis teases, with The Lonely Assassins described as “blurring the line between live-action footage and gameplay”.

The dark mystery game, which is available to pre-order now ahead of its March 19 release, will build on the events of ‘Blink’ as you find a phone belonging to Lawrence, who has seemingly disappeared in mysterious circumstances.

At the other end of the phone is another returning Who character, ex-UNIT scientist Petronella Osgood (Ingrid Oliver), who thinks that you are “the right person for the job” to track down Lawrence….

(7) PARTY OF FIVE, YOUR TABLE IS READY. Publishers Weekly reports Amazon is no longer the lone defendant in this consumer class action suit: “Big Five Publishers Now Defendants in E-book Price-Fixing Suit”.

The news comes after the initial complaint, first filed in the Southern District of New York on January 14 by Seattle-based firm Hagens Berman, portrayed the Big Five publishers—Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster—as “co-conspirators” in a bid to restrain competition in the e-book market, but had named only Amazon as a defendant. The amended complaint, filed on February 4, now pulls the publishers into the suit….

(8) NEW LIFE. Charlie Jane Anders tells Esquire readers “How The Expanse Transformed the Space Opera Genre For a New Generation of Sci-Fi Stories”. It all began when Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham ignored warnings that space opera was a dying genre.

…Now, of course, Leviathan Wakes has been followed by eight sequels and a TV show, The Expanse, whose fifth season ends tonight. And the shelves at your local bookstore are crammed with kickass space operas by authors like Valerie Valdes, Becky Chambers, Ann Leckie, Yoon Ha Lee, Arkady Martine, Kameron Hurley, Nicky Drayden, Karen Lord, Tim Pratt, John Scalzi, Nnedi Okorafor, and Karen Osborne.

A lot of these new space opera books share some of the same DNA as Corey’s Expanse series: they feature underdog characters, who are just trying to get paid, or survive, or get justice—they aren’t exactly crisp-uniformed explorers like Captain Kirk, or chosen ones like Luke Skywalker. These books also feature somewhat more realistic physics, with way less hand-waving—for example, faster-than-light travel is usually impossible without some kind of wormhole. And these books often have a touch of weirdness and body horror, along the lines of The Expanse‘s alien protomolecule….

(9) PLUMMER OBIT. Actor Christopher Plummer (1929-2021) died February 5 at the age of 91.

His genre roles included The Man Who Would Be King (1975, as Rudyard Kipling), Starcrash (1978), Somewhere in Time (1980), Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991, as a Klingon, General Chang), Harrison Bergeron (1995), Twelve Monkeys (1995), Dracula 2000 (2000), and voice acting in many animated films and several video games.

“How boring it would be to be just one thing — just a movie actor, or just a stage actor — when you can just keep going from one to the other. I think one also helps the other,” he told The [LA] Times in 1998. “I’ll go on doing it until I drop.”

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • February 5, 1994 — On this day in 1994, Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “Lower Decks” aired. This episode which looked at lives of some of the junior officers is much beloved by Trek fans and is cited as the inspiration for the Below Decks animated series. If you’re interested in an in-depth discussion of this episode, Keith R.A. DeCandido did one at Tor.com.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 5, 1870 – Charles Brock, R.I.  Painter, line artist, illustrator of Austen, Defoe, Dickens, Eliot, Scott, Swift, Thackeray.  Member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colors.  Here is an illustration for Ivanhoe.  Here is one for Emma.  Here are Frey and Freya from Keary’s Heroes of Asgard.  Here are Goliath and David.  Here is Gulliver with the Lilliputians.  (Died 1938) [JH]
  • Born February 5, 1906 John Carradine. I’m going to count Murders in the Rue Morgue as his first genre appearance.  After that early Thirties films, he shows up (bad pun I know) in The Invisible ManThe Black CatBride of Frankenstein,  Ali Baba Goes to TownThe Three Musketeers and The Hound of the Baskervilles. Look that’s just the Thirties. Can I just state that he did a lot of genre work and leave it at that? He even had roles on The Twilight ZoneThe MunstersLost in SpaceNight Gallery and the Night Strangler. (Died 1988.) (CE) 
  • Born February 5, 1919 Red Buttons. He shows up on The New Original Wonder Woman as Ashley Norman. Yes, this is the Lynda Carter version. Somewhat later he’s in Hoagy in Pete’s Dragon followed by being the voice of Milton in Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July.  He also played four different characters on the original Fantasy Island. He was one of many Hollywood stars who appeared in the The Muppets Go Hollywood special. (Died 2006.) (CE) 
  • Born February 5, 1924 Basil Copper. Best remembered for Solar Pons stories continuing the character created as a tribute to Sherlock Holmes by August Derleth. I’m also fond of The Great White Space, his Lovecraftian novel that has a character called Clark Ashton Scarsdale has to be homage to Clark Ashton Smith. Though I’ve not seen them, PS Publishing released Darkness, Mist and Shadow: The Collected Macabre Tales of Basil Copper, a two volume set of his dark fantasy tales. (Died 2013.) (CE)
  • Born February 5, 1934 – Malcolm Willits, age 87.  Two novels, three shorter stories.  Co-edited Destiny; three poems, half a dozen interiors; here is his cover (with Jim Bradley) for the Spring 53 issue.  [JH]
  • Born February 5, 1942 – Dame Susan Hill, age 79.  Seven novels, as many shorter stories for us; threescore books all told.  Married a Shakespeare scholar.  The Guardian called her Woman in Black the most celebrated ghost story of modern times.  Somerset Maugham Award, Whitbread Award, Rhys Prize.  Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.  [JH]
  • Born February 5, 1957 – Margi Curtis, age 64.  Poet and musician.  She’s been in Spectral Realms, e.g. here.  [JH]
  • Born February 5, 1961 Bruce Timm, 60. He did layout at Filmation on the likes of of Flash Gordon and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Sought work at DC and Marvel without success before being hired at Warner Brothers where his first show was Tiny Toons before he and his partner on that series created Batman: The Animated Series. That in turn spawned more series by him —  Superman: The Animated SeriesBatman BeyondStatic ShockJustice League in several series, and Green Lantern: The Animated Series. Certainly not all of them but that’s the one I remember seeing and enjoying. His first love is comics. He and writer Paul Dini won the Eisner Award for Best Single Story for Batman Adventures: Mad Love in the early Nineties and he’s kept his hand in the business ever since. Harley Quinn by the way is his creation. He’s a voice actor in the DC Universe voicing many characters ranging from the leader of a Jokerz gang in a Batman Beyond episode to playing The Riddler in Batman: Under the Red Hood. (CE)
  • Born February 5, 1964 Laura  Linney, 57. She first shows up in our corner of the Universe as Meryl Burbank/Hannah Gill on The Truman Show before playing Officer Connie Mills in The Mothman Prophecies (BARF!) and then Erin Bruner in The Exorcism of Emily Rose. She plays Mrs. Munro In Mr. Holmes, a film best described as stink, stank and stunk when it comes to all things Holmesian. Her last SF was as Rebecca Vincent in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. (CE)
  • Born February 5, 1974 Rod Roddenberry, 47. Son of those parents. Currently Executive Producer on Discovery, Picard and Lower Decks. His very first job in the Trek franchise was as Production assistant on Next Gen. Interestingly his Wiki page says he was a Consulting Producer on the fanfic video Star Trek: New Voyages. (CE) 
  • Born February 5, 1974 – Pablo Castro, age 47.  Four short stories, two available in English; for “Reflections” see Words Without Borders.  [JH]
  • Born February 5, 1991 – Sharona van Herp, age 30.  Gamer and graphic designer.  Here she is at DeviantArt.  Here she is at ArtStation.  Here is a cover.  I found this at Tumblr.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bliss knows there’s more than one well-paved road to Hell.

(13) HE’S A BIG FAN. “Schitt’s Creek Cast Q & A  With Star Trek: Picard’s Patrick Stewart” on YouTube is the last part of a discussion that Sir Pat Stew had with the cast of Schitt’s Creek, a show Sir Patrick likes a lot.

(14) OUI ARE FRENCH. Heavy shares “The French Accent Patrick Stewart Almost did for TNG”. Hear it on this clip from The Graham Norton Show.

…Stewart said that the producers of the show did want Picard to have a French accent. After they’d cast Stewart, they asked him to come in and read some of his lines with the French accent. Stewart continued, saying that he did his very best, but the producers were far from impressed with his attempt. After hearing the character with Stewart’s attempted accent, the producers decided to let him perform the character in his normal voice, and they came up with the canon explanation for why a Frenchman had a British accent.

When Stewart was done explaining why the French accent was rejected, he offered to let the audience hear exactly how bad his attempt had been. After they cheered at the offer, Stewart started reciting the lines from the voiceover synonymous with the show in the accent he’d attempted years before. The audience, and everyone on stage, immediately burst out laughing at how hilariously different the lines sounded.

(15) WADE’S NEXT. Paul Weimer has read a new book I wanted to hear more about: “Microreview: Trangressions of Power by Juliette Wade” at Nerds of a Feather.

…And this brings us to Pyaras. Cousin to Nekantor and Tagaret, we got a look at him in Mazes of Power, but here he is “promoted to titles” and given a large section of the point of view. Pyaras comes off for a lot of the book as “upper class twit” in a textbook example of the form. His story is about learning better, and eventually doing better. I was dubious about him at the beginning of the book, but he does go on a journey of character that redeems and strengthens him by the end of the novel…. 

(16) OUTSIDE THE BOX. Ty Johnston revisits “Lords of Creation a tabletop RPG before its time” for Black Gate.

…Lords of Creation is very much a game of its time, but in many way it’s also a game ahead of its time. The D&D influence is obvious in the mechanics, especially concerning character and monster stats, but this game was one of the earliest to stretch beyond the boundaries of any single genre. Lords of Creation wasn’t just a fantasy tabletop rpg, but was meant to be a game for all genres, including science fiction, mythology, noir, and more. In fact, the back of the game box reads, “The ultimate role-playing game … a game of science, fantasy, science fiction and high adventure that explores the farthest reaches of your imagination! Splendid adventures take place throughout time, space and other dimensions.”…

(17) NUTRITIONAL ADVICE FROM MIDDLE-EARTH. From 2013, but it’s news to me: “The hobbit – an unexpected deficiency” from PubMed.gov:

Abstract

Objective: Vitamin D has been proposed to have beneficial effects in a wide range of contexts. We investigate the hypothesis that vitamin D deficiency, caused by both aversion to sunlight and unwholesome diet, could also be a significant contributor to the triumph of good over evil in fantasy literature….

(18) SPOT GETS AN UPGRADE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Boston Dynamics robotic dog, Spot, is now available with an integrated arm, and even has an available upgraded “Enterprise” version. The basic bot can be purchased for $74.5K direct from BD online. If you want the arm or anything from the Enterprise line, though, best be prepared for some real sticker shock—you’ll still have to contact a salesperson before they’ll divulge the price. Ars Technica has the story: “Boston Dynamics’ robot dog gets an arm attachment, self-charging capabilities”.

For the first time in the company’s 29-year history, Boston Dynamics actually started selling robots to the general public, and it’s pretty incredible that you can actually just head to the Boston Dynamics website, press the “add to cart” button, and have a robot dog shipped to your home. The company says it has sold more than 400 Spot units to date, and the robots are out there doing real work, usually monitoring hazardous work sites like “nuclear plants, offshore oil fields, construction sites, and mines.”

After a year of working with businesses and getting feedback, Boston Dynamics is launching a new Spot revision, a long-awaited arm attachment, and some new features.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Around The Block” by Jonnie Lewis on Vimeo is a brief portrait of how David Zinn draws cartoons on sidewalks and walls with chalk.

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