Pixel Scroll 10/29/22 If Pixels Waltz, Do Scrolls Pirouette?

(1) THE GULF BETWEEN. [Item by Jim Janney.] Pat Bagley’s editorial cartoon in today’s Salt Lake Tribune references a famous cover from the October 1953 Astounding. (Note how it’s signed “With apologies to Frank Kelly Freas.”)

(2) KEEP CALM. No matter what you may have heard – like in an email from the World Fantasy Convention committee itself – the WFC 2022 Covid policy remains the same.

The convention’s website adds these details: “COVID-19 Policy”.

Our safety protocols for WFC 2022 are as follows:

– Attending members must be fully vaccinated. Proof of vaccination will be required upon check-in at the convention.

– Masks will be required in all public places. Masks must be worn properly, covering the nose and mouth. If a member appears at any WFC 2022 event without a mask, they will be asked to put one on. If they refuse, their membership will be revoked, their badge confiscated, and they will be required to leave the convention.

– Safe social distances will be observed at all times.

– We will have hand sanitizer easily accessible throughout the convention.

If you are not fully vaccinated for any reason, please do not purchase an attending membership. We invite you to purchase a virtual membership and participate in the convention remotely.

James Van Pelt addressed on Facebook that a similar policy at the recent MileHiCon was not always followed by panelists, with the attendant social pressure on those who would rather it be followed.

(3) YOU DON’T NEED A WEATHERMAN TO KNOW WHICH WAY THE WINDROSE. Can it be that John C. Wright thieved a diagram created by Camestros Felapton without giving credit? Survey says – “Bow wow!” However, according to Camestros, “It’s nice to be appreciated”.

In 2016 I was going to write a post about John C. Wright’s near incomprehensible scheme for categorising ideologies on two axes (original Wright post archived here). However, vanity and vainglorious aspiration required me to furnish the post with a better graphic. Having laboured on the graphic I realised I had very little to say, leaving the post as little more than my drawing of Wright’s windrose: https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2016/01/30/john-c-wrights-windrose-of-political-heresy/

Now Mr Wright recently reposted his essay on his scheme, and as with his previous essay, there was a graphic to accompany it…which looks more than a little familiar…

(4) THE HOUSE OF COMMONS NEEDS YOU. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.]  AI is sort of SFnal.  Do any Filers have knowledge of AI and wish to contribute to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee’s inquiry into the “Governance of Artificial Intelligence (AI)”? The call for evidence is here. The deadline is November 25. HAL lives! (but does not give 42 as the answer.)

MPs to examine regulating AI in new inquiry

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee launches an inquiry into the governance of artificial intelligence (AI). In July, the UK Government set out its emerging thinking on how it would regulate the use of AI. It is expected to publish proposals in a White Paper later this year, which the Committee would examine in its inquiry.

Used to spot patterns in large datasets, make predictions, and automate processes, AI’s role in the UK economy and society is growing. However, there are concerns around its use. MPs will examine the potential impacts of biased algorithms in the public and private sectors. A lack of transparency on how AI is applied and how automated decisions can be challenged will also be investigated.

In the inquiry, MPs will explore how risks posed to the public by the improper use of AI should be addressed, and how the Government can ensure AI is used in an ethical and responsible way. The Committee seeks evidence on the current governance of AI, whether the Government’s proposed approach is the right one, and how their plans compare with other countries.

(5) NOT FOREVER STAMPS. The UK’s Royal Mail, which added barcodes to its stamps this year, soon will no longer honor previous issues. The Guardian’s Dale Berning Sawa asks “My stash of old stamps is beautiful. Why make them unnecessarily obsolete?”

After introducing barcodes to our regular sticker stamps in February, Royal Mail has now given us 100 days to use up our old stamps. Come February 2023, only those barcoded will be valid. To swap out any remaining oldies, we will have to fill out a request form and send it, for free, to a depot in Edinburgh.

The ironic loop-the-loop of freeposting postage to receive same-value postage in the post – in order to, in the beleaguered company’s own words, “connect physical stamps to the digital world” – is not lost on me. It’s more than curmudgeonly irritation, though, I feel bewildered. Why does one stamp having the ability to play you Shaun the Sheep videos mean that all those other beauties have to go? Does the Royal Mail not realise how great, how quietly subversive, how steadfast its one defining product has been all these years?…

(6) SWEDISH SHORTS SFF COMPETITION. [Item by Ahrvid Engholm.] The Result of the 23rd Fantastiknovelltävlingen (approx “Fantastic Short Story Competition”; Fantastic as in Fantastic Literatur, often here called Fantastik.) I translate the story titles, but skip the 6 “honorary mentions”:

  • 1st prize “Fyrmästarens dotter” by Camilla Linde  (999 kr) [“Daughter of the Lighthouse Keeper”]
  • 2nd prize “En glimt av oändlighet” by Sunna Andersson (600 kr) [“A Glimpse of Eternity”]
  • 3rd prize “God Granne” by Tobias Robinson (400 kr) [“Good Neighbour”]

The prize sums are in Kr=kronor; 10 kr is around 1 USD/Eur. Winners also get a diploma.

(7) A SOLID HONOR. Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, CA will host the “Vroman’s Walk Of Fame Dedication Ceremony Honoring Author Leigh Bardugo” on Saturday, November 19, 2022 at 12:00 p.m. The location is 695 E. Colorado St., Pasadena, CA 91101.

We are very excited to announce author Leigh Bardugo as our next honoree to immortalize her handprints and signature in the Vroman’s Author Walk of Fame! We are so thrilled to honor Leigh with this dedication and to celebrate all of her wonderful books.

Join us on Saturday, November 19th at noon for the dedication. After the dedication please stay for a special conversation between Leigh Bardugo and Sarah Enni, discussing Leigh’s life and career.

We realize that not everyone will get the best view of the dedication ceremony so we will be broadcasting this morning event on Instagram Live. Keep watch for more details and follow up on Instagram! @vromansbookstore

(8) WHERE WOLF? THERE HOME DEPOT. In the Washington Post, Maura Judkis talks to buyers of the 9-1/2 foot audioanimatronic werewolf available at Home Depot for $399.  She talked to one anonymous furry who thinks the werewolf is a furry icon. “The Home Depot werewolf is getting howls of approval”.

… She saw him and she had to buy him: A beefy, sinewy wolfman with massive hands (paws?), glowing eyes and, under his shredded buffalo-check shirt, six-pack abs. Best of all, and unlike his skeletal brethren, he talks and moves: With a growl, he opens his mouth to reveal a row of sharp fangs, tilts his head back and … aroooooooooo!

Rush bought the $399 werewolf on “Orange Friday,” which is what the most dedicated of Halloween decorators call the day Home Depot makes its Halloween decorations available online for purchase. This year, that day was July 15, when normal people are, well, what’s normal anymore?…

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1951 [By Cat Eldridge.] One of the finest works that Bradbury crafted was The Illustrated Man. It was published seventy-one years ago by Doubleday & Company and consists of eighteen stories, of which ISFDB claims three are original to here.

Let’s note that the British edition, published a year later by Hart-Davis, omits “The Rocket Man”, “The Fire Balloons, “The Exiles” and “The Concrete Mixer” and adds “Usher I” from The Martian Chronicles and “The Playground”. 

The unrelated stories are weaved together by the framing story of “The Illustrated Man” involving a now wandering member of a carnival freak show with an almost completely tattooed body, save one spot, whom the unnamed narrator and a few other people meet. (My assumption there.) The man’s tattoos, supposedly created by a time-traveling woman, are individually animated, and each tells a different story.

The stories would be adapted elsewhere. Some of the stories, including “The Veldt”, “The Fox and the Forest” (changed to “To the Future”), “Marionettes, Inc.”, and “Zero Hour” were also dramatized for the Fifties X Minus One radio series. 

The Ray Bradbury Theater series used “The Concrete Mixer”, “The Long Rain”, “Marionettes Inc.” “The Veldt”, “Zero Hour” whereas “The Fox and the Forest” was adapted for Out of the Unknown series.

Seventeen years after it was published, it would debut as a film. The screenplay was by Howard B. Kreitsek who adapted three of the stories from the collection, “The Veldt”, “The Long Rain” and “The Last Night of the World”, the last one a good choice I think to end the film.

SPOILERS NOW AS WE CONSIDER A BEGINNING AND A POSSIBLE END

The prologue tells of how The Illustrated Man came to be so after he encountered a mysterious woman named Felicia. Our film narrator encounters our The Illustrated Man and watches the three stories play out as animated stories. 

The plot comes to a terrifying conclusion when one of the people accompanying The Illustrated Man on his journey looks at the only blank patch of skin on his body and sees an image of his own murder at his hand of The Illustrated Man then attempts to kill The Illustrated Man and then flees into the night, pursued by a still-living Illustrated Man, with the audience left undetermined as to his fate of either.

NOW BACK TO OUR REGULAR PROGRAMMING 

Jack Smight, the film director, decided that the carnival sideshow freak who appeared in the collection’s prologue and epilogue made the  best primary narrative device. 

As for The Illustrated Man, he cast Rod Steiger, whom he had known since the Fifties. 

It failed horribly at the Box Office and critics hated it. 

It was nominated for a Hugo at the Heicon ’70 Worldcon held in Heidelberg, Germany but did not win. 

I will let our writer have the last word here: “Rod was very good in it, but it wasn’t a good film, the script was terrible.” 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 29, 1906 Fredric Brown. Author of Martians, Go Home which was made into a movie of the same name. He received compensation and credit from NBC as their Trek episode “Arena” had more than a passing similarity to his novelette which was nominated for a Retro Hugo at CoNZealand. (Died 1972.)
  • Born October 29, 1928 Benjamin F. Chapman, Jr. He played the Gill-man on the land takes in Creature from the Black Lagoon. (Ricou Browning did the water takes.) His only other genre appearance was in Jungle Moon Men, a Johnny Weissmuller film. (Died 2008.)
  • Born October 29, 1928 Jack Donner. He’s no doubt best known for his role of Romulan Subcommander Tal in the Trek episode “The Enterprise Incident”. He would later return as a Vulcan priest in the “Kir’Shara” and “Home” episodes on Enterprise. He’d also show up in other genre shows including The Man from U.N.C.L.E.Mission Impossible (eleven episodes which is the most by any guest star) and The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. (Died 2019.)
  • Born October 29, 1935 Sheila Finch, 87. She is best remembered for her stories about the Guild of Xenolinguists, which aptly enough are collected in The Guild of Xenolinguists. She first used the term her 1986 Triad novel, and it would later be used to describe the character Uhura in the rebooted Trek film. Her Reading the Bones novella, part of the Guild of Xenolinguists series, would win a Nebula. These books are available at the usual suspects. 
  • Born October 29, 1941 Hal W. Hall, 81. Bibliographer responsible for the Science Fiction Book Review Index (1970 – 1985) and the Science Fiction Research Index (1981 – 1922). He also did a number of reviews including three of H. Beam Piper’s Fuzzy books showing he had excellent taste in fiction.
  • Born October 29, 1954 Paul Di Filippo, 68. He is, I’d say, an acquired taste. I like him. I’d suggest as a first reading if you don’t know him The Steampunk Trilogy and go from there. His “A Year in the Linear City” novella was nominated at Torcon 3 for Best Novella, and won the 2003 World Fantasy Award and the 2003 Theodore Sturgeon Award. Oh, and he’s one of our stellar reviewers having reviewed at one time or another for Asimov’s Science FictionThe Magazine of Fantasy and Science FictionScience Fiction EyeThe New York Review of Science FictionInterzoneNova Express and Science Fiction Weekly
  • Born October 29, 1954 Kathleen O’Neal Gear, 68. Archaeologist and writer. I highly recommend the three Anasazi Mysteries that she co-wrote with W. Michael Gear. She’s a historian of note so she’s done a lot of interesting work in that area such as Viking Warrior Women: Did ‘Shieldmaidens’ like Lagertha Really Exist?  And should you decide you want to keep buffalo, she’s the expert on doing so. Really. Truly, she is. 
  • Born October 29, 1971 Winona Ryder, 51. Beetlejuice, of course, but also Edward Scissorhands and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Not to mention Alien Resurrection and Star Trek. Which brings me to Being John Malkovich which might be the coolest genre film of all time. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Junk Drawer has an amusing twist on a familiar bit of horror pedantry.
  • Non Sequitur shows the very first “trick or treat” trial run.

(12) READ SJUNNESON STORY. Arizon State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination has posted the final Us in Flux story for 2022. This is the latest in their series of short fiction and virtual events about reimagining and reorganizing communities in the face of transformative change.

The story is “The Island,” by Elsa Sjunneson, about the ability-disability continuum, journalism, and creating adaptable communities.

(13) CLIP SHOW. NPR’s “Fresh Air” “Halloween special, with horror masters Stephen King and Jordan Peele” is a compilation of past interviews.

King talks about what terrified him as a child — and what frightens him as an adult. Peele talks about the fears that inspire his filmmaking. Originally broadcast in 1992, 2013 and 2017.

(14) VISION OF THE FUTURE. “Marvel developing Vision spinoff series with Paul Bettany” – and SYFY Wire assumes readers have seen every MCU movie and freely reveal the previous fates of various characters, so beware spoilers.

Deadline reports the studio is developing a new potential series codenamed Vision Quest, which will star Paul Bettany returning to the role of Vision. The show will reportedly follow Vision as he attempts to “regain his memory and humanity.” This would focus on the White Vision character who ended the first season of WandaVision on the loose in the world after regaining enough of his memories following a face-off with Wanda’s version of Vision (yeah, it’s a bit confusing).

It’s still early, with a writers room reportedly opening for the project next week, but it’s reportedly possible that Elizabeth Olsen could also return as Wanda Maximoff. As fans know, Wanda was last seen buried under a temple in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness…. 

(15) PLAYING MARS LIKE A DRUM. [SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This week’s Science journal has “A seismic meteor strike on Mars”. “A meteor impact and its subsequent seismic waves has revealed the crustal structure of Mars.”

A large meteorite impact on Mars, as recorded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) InSight Mars lander and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and present analysis of the detected surface waves produced by the meteorite impact. Kim et al. also present an updated crustal model of Mars that provides a better understanding of the formation and composition of the martian crust and extends the current knowledge of the geodynamic evolution of Mars.

First primary research paper here. Second paper here here.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is Ryan George’s latest BUT my computer is wonky in that the sound is off so I don’t know what he says! I am sure he has a field day because I saw Black Adam and it’s a stinker. Spoiler alert!

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Jim Janney, Ahrvid Engholm, 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 Cat Eldridge.]

Pixel Scroll 11/26/21 Tinker, Tailor, Pixel, Scroll

(1) WILL YOU GIVE THANKS FOR COMIC-CON? Did you know San Diego Comic-Con Special Edition is happening this weekend? It was news to me, too. And tickets are still available. The Times of San Diego tells what this streamlined version will be like: “Virus-Safe, Stripped-Down Comic-Con Opens Friday After 2-Year COVID Hiatus”.

Superheroes won’t be the only ones wearing masks in downtown San Diego this weekend.

After a two-year absence, Comic-Con International returns to San Diego on Friday to entertain, inform and tantalize pop culture fans the world over.

But this won’t be the Comic-Con you remember. This is Comic-Con Special Edition, a stripped-down, three-day event being held over a holiday weekend to limit crowds during an ongoing pandemic that has forced online-only versions of the last two conventions.

Comic-Con organizers said they wanted to hold an in-person event but do it safely. So, that meant fewer days, smaller scope and a return to the intimate gathering that longtime attendees fondly remember.

And it means attendees will be asked to show proof of vaccination or recent negative COVID-19 tests. They will also have to wear masks or face coverings regardless of vaccination status….

(2) SQUID GAME CONSEQUENCES. “North Korean sentenced to death after students caught watching Squid Game” according to Radio Free Asia, a United States government-funded private non-profit news service.

North Korea has sentenced to death a man who smuggled and sold copies of the Netflix series “Squid Game” after authorities caught seven high school students watching the Korean-language global hit show, sources in the country told RFA.

The smuggler is said to have brought a copy of Squid Game into North Korea back from China and sold USB flash drives containing the series. Sources said his sentence would be carried out by firing squad.

A student who bought a drive received a life sentence, while six others who watched the show have been sentenced to five years hard labor, and teachers and school administrators have been fired and face banishment to work in remote mines or themselves, the sources said.

RFA reported last week that copies of the violent drama had arrived in the reclusive country despite the best efforts of authorities to keep out foreign media. They began spreading among the people on flash drives and SD cards.

… “This all started last week when a high school student secretly bought a USB flash drive containing the South Korean drama Squid Game and watched it with one of his best friends in class,” a source in law enforcement in North Hamgyong province told RFA’s Korean Service Monday.

“The friend told several other students, who became interested, and they shared the flash drive with them. They were caught by the censors in 109 Sangmu, who had received a tipoff,” said the source, referring to the government strike force that specializes in catching illegal video watchers, known officially as Surveillance Bureau Group 109.

The arrest of the seven students marks the first time that the government is applying the newly passed law on the “Elimination of Reactionary Thought and Culture,” in a case involving minors, according to the source….

(3) SMOFCON PROGRAM AVAILABLE TO MEMBERS. SMOFcon Europe (December 3-5 in Lisboa, Portugal) has announced their program schedule. They say one must be a member to access program — purchase memberships here.

We are thrilled to announce our programme schedule and workshop sign ups are now available on our website at https://www.smofconeurope.com/whats-on/programme/! The programme grid shows not only time zones but whether items are in person or streaming. Also on this page are the descriptions of our Workshops and links to sign up for them. Workshop space is limited and requires advance signup so don’t delay!

You’ll need to be a member to access programme, so if you still need one you can purchase your membership here: https://www.smofconeurope.com/membership/

(4) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to pig out on Peruvian with Lawrence M. Schoen in episode 159 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Lawrence M. Schoen

Lawrence M. Schoen was a finalist for the 2007 Astounding Award for Best New Writer, and in the years since has been nominated for the Hugo Award (once), the Washington Science Fiction Association Small Press Award (twice), and the Nebula Award (six times). He’s twice won the Cóyotl award for Best Novel — for two books in his critically acclaimed Barsk series: The Elephants Graveyard (2015) and The Moons of Barsk (2018). He also was the 2016 winner of the Kevin O’Donnell Jr. Service to SFWA Award.

His most well-known creations are the space-faring stage hypnotist, the Amazing Conroy, and his alien animal traveling companion, a buffalito named Reggie who can eat anything — which he then converts into oxygen via … flatulence. For more than 10 years, he’s hosted the Eating Authors series, which has shared the most memorable meals of more than 500 writers. In addition to all that, he founded the Klingon Language Institute, plus is a hypnotherapist specializing in authors’ issues.

We discussed how he was able to release 12 books in a difficult year affected by both a pandemic and chemo, the pseudonym he was relieved he never had to use, what caused him to say “you find the answers to the problems of your life by writing a story about it,” the RPG improv which led to the creation of his Barsk universe, what he learned at the Taos Toolbox workshop which caused him to completely rewrite one of his books, the all-important power of the subconscious, how transcription software affected his style, why he doesn’t want people to read the final paragraph of his second Barsk novel, his relationships with the indie side of publishing, the many joys of mentoring, how he uses hypnotism to help other writers, and much more.

(5) JACKSON’S BEATLES DOCUMENTARY. I’m going to yank this item right out of the Scroll as soon as I confirm it has no genre connection. So far, all I’ve located in respect to genre is reporters mentioning that Peter Jackson previously directed Lord of the Rings before working on this Beatles documentary. For example, look at this San Diego Union-Tribune headline: “The Beatles meet ‘The Lord of the Rings’ in ‘Get Back’: ‘It’ll blow your mind,’ says director Peter Jackson”.

Just as The Beatles used their timeless songs in the 1960s to take millions of listeners across the universe on a magical musical mystery tour, Oscar-winning “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy director Peter Jackson has taken millions of viewers worldwide on a magical cinematic mystery tour in this century.

So what happens when these two worlds and creative forces intersect, 51 years after The Beatles acrimoniously split up in 1970?

“It’ll blow your mind!” said Jackson, a lifelong fan of the most famous and influential band in rock ‘n’ roll history.

And what happens when that unlikely intersection — which has resulted in Jackson’s engrossing new film documentary, “The Beatles: Get Back” — comprehensively chronicles the month of January 1969?

… Jackson culled “Get Back” from nearly 60 hours of previously unseen footage that was shot in January 1969 for director Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s briefly released and widely criticized “Let It Be” documentary.

Steven Colbert also had the director on The Late Show and made a point of saying this would be the only interview he ever did with Jackson that didn’t mention Lord of the Rings. Well, except to say he wasn’t mentioning it. “’We Shed Tears That Night’ – Peter Jackson And Stephen Wept Watching Footage Of The Beatles”. Yep, so this Scroll item might end up failing the Obligatory SF Reference requirement. Read fast.

In part one of this multi-part interview, Stephen welcomes Sir Peter Jackson and sets the stage for their in-depth discussion of Jackson’s work directing the incredible Disney+ documentary, “The Beatles: Get Back,” which is set to change the public’s perception of the relationship between John, Paul, George and Ringo in their final years as bandmates.

But wait! Steven H Silver says, “During the first episode of The Beatles Get Back, there is a section about 1:29 in where George is describing watching the Into the Unknown adaptation of Robert Sheckley’s Immortality, Inc on the BBC.” Okay, we’re covered!

(6) IMAGINE THAT. At Stone Soup, Sarah Gailey’s “Building Beyond” is an ongoing series of conversations about how much fun worldbuilding can be. In the latest installment — “Building Beyond: Unfathomable Depths” – Gailey is joined by Suzanne Walker, Hunter Ford, and Natalie Zina Walschots to play with the prompt  —

A deep sea diving expedition finds a long-abandoned dome.

(7) TO AFFORDABLY GO AND WATCH. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Amazon Prime Video is (currently) offering (to Amazon Prime members, in case that doesn’t go without saying) Paramount+ (Star Trek shows, etc) (and some other channels) for $0.99/month for up to two months.

(8) WILLIS AND HOPKINSON ON LOA LIVE. The Library of America’s “LOA Live” will have a video session about American Christmas Stories on December 15 featuring editor Connie Willis and novelist Nalo Hopkinson. It looks like registration to create an LOA account is required for the live Zoom event, however, afterwards the video will be posted to the Library of America’s YouTube channel.

Wednesday, December 15
6:00 pm ET
American Christmas Stories

Acclaimed bestselling SF and fantasy writer Connie Willis, editor of the just-released American Christmas Stories, joins LOA LIVE for a merrily unconventional yuletide conversation about the uniquely American literature inspired by this most magical time of the year. With Jamaican-born speculative novelist Nalo Hopkinson, who contributes a story to the collection, and historian Penne Restad (Christmas in America: A History.)
Registration link TK

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1865 — One hundred fifty-six years ago, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (commonly referred to as Alice in Wonderland) was first published by Macmillan in London. It was the first work of Lewis Carroll, the alias of pseudonym of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. It had illustrations by John Tenniel. 

The text blocks of the first printed edition were removed from the binding and sold with Dodgson’s permission to the New York publishing house of D. Appleton & Company, after Tenniel objected to the quality of the illustrations. So this was actually the second printed edition. The entire print run sold out quickly. It has a sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. It has been continuously in-print including writer Martin Gardner’s exemplary The Annotated Alice.

I count at least fifty video riffs off of it so far including of course Star Trek‘s “Shore Leave” with the white rabbit and Alice. A number of genre works have riffed off it as well including Otherland by Tad Williams, The Looking Glass Wars, and its sequel, Seeing Redd by Frank Beddor, Automated Alice by Jeff Noon and After Alice by Gregory Maguire.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 26, 1897 Naomi Mary Margaret Mitchison, Baroness Mitchison, CBE (née Haldane). Author of many historical novels with genre trappings such as The Corn King and the Spring Queen and The Bull Calves but also new wave SF such as Memoirs of a Spacewoman, pure fantasy Graeme and the Dragon and an Arthurian novel in Chapel Perilous. (Died 1999.)
  • Born November 26, 1910 Cyril Cusack. Fireman Captain Beatty on the classic version of Fahrenheit 451. He’s Mr. Charrington, the shopkeeper in Nineteen Eighty-four, and several roles on Tales of the Unexpected rounds out his genre acting. Well, and what looks like an absolutely awful Tam-Lin… (Died 1993.)
  • Born November 26, 1919 Frederik Pohl. Writer, editor, and fan who was active for more seventy-five years from his first published work, the 1937 poem “Elegy to a Dead Satellite: Luna” to his final novel All the Lives He Led. That he was great and that he was honored for being great is beyond doubt — If I’m counting correctly, he won three Hugos and three Nebula Awards for his fiction, three Hugos as Best Professional Editor, and one as Best Fan Writer (2010). His 1979 novel Jem, Pohl won a U.S. National Book Award in the one-off category Science Fiction. SWFA made him its 12th recipient of the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award in 1993  and he was inducted by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 1998. Ok setting aside Awards which are frelling impressive, there’s the matter of him editing Astonishing StoriesGalaxy Science Fiction and Galaxy Science Fiction UKIfStar Science Fiction Magazine (which I’ve never heard of), Super Science Stories which were a companion to Astonishing Stories and well let’s just say the list goes on. I’m sure I’ve not listed something that y’all like here. As writer, he was amazing. My favorite was the Heechee series though I confess some novels were far better than others. Gateway won the Hugo Award for Best Novel, the 1978 Locus Award for Best Novel, the 1977 Nebula Award for Best Novel, and the two John W. Campbell Memorial Awards for Best Science Fiction Novel. Very impressive. Man Plus I think is phenomenal, the sequel less so. Your opinion of course will no doubt vary. The Space Merchants co-written with Cyril M. Kornbluth in 1952 is, I think, damn fun. He wrote a lot of short fiction, some I think brilliant and some not but that was true of most SF writers of the time. (Died 2013.)
  • Born November 26, 1936 Shusei Nagaoka. Artist and Illustrator from Japan who is best known for his music album cover art in the 1970s and 1980s. He designed covers for many of Earth, Wind and Fire’s albums, and many of his covers were very distinctively SFFnal; especially notable are Out of the Blue by Electric Light Orchestra, and When We Rock, We Rock, and When We Roll, We Roll by Deep Purple. His art also graced numerous genre books, including Tepper’s After Long Silence, Attanasio’s The Last Legends of Earth, and Reed’s Down the Bright Way. He helped to design the 1970 Osaka World’s Fair Expo, and had one of the first artworks launched into outer space and attained orbit, via the Russian Mir Space Station, in 1991. He won a Seiun Award for Best Artist in 1982. (Died 2015.)
  • Born November 26, 1945 Daniel Davis, 76. I’m singling him out for Birthday Honors for his two excellent appearances as Professor Moriarty on Next Gen. He has one-offs on MacGyver, Gotham and Elementary. He played The Judge in The Prestige film. He also voiced several characters on the animated Men in Black series. 
  • Born November 26, 1949 Victoria Poyser-Lisi, 72. Artist, Illustrator, Teacher, and Fan who was inspired at the 1979 World Fantasy Convention to become a genre artist. She did more than a hundred covers and interior illustrations for fanzines, magazines, and books, and won two Best Fan Artist Hugos, one at Denvention Two and the next at Chicon IV. She now works in collaborative children’s book illustration and instructional painting books, and teaches drawing and painting courses in Colorado.
  • Born November 26, 1961 Steve Macdonald, 60. A fan and longtime pro filker ever since he first went to a filk con in 1992. In 2001, he went on a “WorlDream” tour, attending every filk con in the world held that year. He’s now resident in Germany where he moved to marry fellow filker Kerstin (Katy) Droge. He was inducted into the Filk Hall of Fame in 2006.
  • Born November 26, 1988 Ben Bird Person, 33. A Filer who writes “silly” Wikipedia articles and commissions art of his cat Snow. As DoctorWho042 is in the top 2000 on the list of Wikipedians by number of edits
  • Born November 26, 1988 Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, 33. He played Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane on the Game of Thrones for five seasons. That’s it for his genre acting, but he co-founded Icelandic Mountain Vodka whose primary product is a seven-time distilled Icelandic vodka. Surely something Filers can appreciate! At the first Philadelphia Ren Faire he appeared as King Thor, the leader of a Viking raiding party.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Heathcliff – Is this Asimov’s next law of robotics?
  • xkcd confronts the challenge bookstores face in sorting fiction from nonfiction.

(12) BEWARE SPOILERS. And I mean it this time! BEWARE SPOILERS. Vanity Fair’s “Ghostbusters: Afterlife—The Day Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Ernie Hudson Reunited” is one big spoiler about the actors’ return as Venkman, Stantz, and Zeddemore, and how they handled the loss of Harold Ramis and Egon Spengler. NO EXCERPT!!

(13) OCTOTHORPE. John Coxon, Alison Scott, and guest Marguerite Smith are live from Novacon 50! We discuss DisCon III, Glasgow in 2024, and Dublin in 2029 before diving into actual science fiction and live letters of comment. Listen here: “A Fistful of Dongles”.

Below, Sue Mason illustrates guest Marguerite Smith and not-a-guest Meg MacDonald from the Glasgow in 2024 bid.

(14) OPEN SESAME. Street Gang, an HBO original documentary about the most impactful children’s program in television history, Sesame Street, premieres December 13 on HBO Max.

(15) USE YOUR IMAGINATION. “Santas are in short supply, which leads to intriguing alternatives” reports the Washington Post.

…“Across the board I’ve seen an uptick in number of requests, but once I’m full, I’m full,” says Doug Eberhardt, a Santa based in Charlotte. “I’ve got 92 gigs booked between now and Christmas.”

HireSanta, an agency for Santas and Mrs. Clauses, has been turning down requests for weeks.

“Hundreds of people a day have been reaching out to us,” founder Mitch Allen says. “We always sell out on weekends, but normally it’s after Thanksgiving.” This year, his Santas were all fully committed for every weekend by the first week of November.

Perhaps the shortage is an opportunity to rethink what makes a Santa “believable.” For most of the past century, that has meant a St. Nick who is chubby, white-bearded, old, and usually Caucasian. Maybe a gap in the marketplace will open up opportunities for Santas who don’t fit the mainstream mold: Black Santas. Deaf Santas. Spanish-speaking Santas. Connaghan is trying to develop a talent pipeline through an initiative called Santa Bootcamp, sponsored by Old Navy, which recruits Santas with diverse backgrounds. Because there are so few of these Santas — only 5 percent of Santas identify as non-White by industry estimates — they are even harder to find this year than usual, says HireSanta’s Allen….

(16) ALBUM BASED ON DARK STAR. Phenomenology is a concept album of sorts, the central protagonist Talby was the lead character of the 1974 cult sci-fi film Dark Star by John Carpenter and the album depicts a metaphorical journey into the unknown where one has no choice but to face one’s fears, a hero’s journey indeed.” — Phenomenology at Bandcamp.

(17) LOADED CHIPS. “First quantum computer to pack 100 qubits enters crowded race”Nature has the story.

But IBM’s latest quantum chip and its competitors face a long path towards making the machines useful.

IBM’s newest quantum-computing chip, revealed on 15 November, established a milestone of sorts: it packs in 127 quantum bits (qubits), making it the first such device to reach 3 digits. But the achievement is only one step in an aggressive agenda boosted by billions of dollars in investments across the industry.

The ‘Eagle’ chip is a step towards IBM’s goal of creating a 433-qubit quantum processor next year, followed by one with 1,121 qubits, named Condor, by 2023. Such targets echo those that for decades the electronics industry has set itself for miniaturizing silicon chips, says Jerry Chow, head of IBM’s experimental quantum-computing group.

(18) HOW HARD CAN IT BE? Nature discusses “How to make macroscale non-crystalline diamonds”. A diamond shatters easily, despite it being the hardest natural material. Atomically disordered forms of diamond made from buckyballs might not only overcome this problem, but also allow other properties to be optimized.

The brilliant facets of diamonds have entranced people throughout history and are a result of the ordered atomic structure of these gemstones. But this order comes at a cost: it makes diamonds fragile. In contrast to quartz and many other crystalline materials that produce atomically disordered forms, a disordered — and potentially less fragile — form of diamond has not been available. Writing in Nature, Shang et al. and Tang et al. report how to produce atomically disordered diamond-like materials with millimetre-scale dimensions, constituting a breakthrough for materials science.

(19) THREESCORE AND TEN. Phil Nichols’ talk “Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man at Seventy”, given during ArtsFest Online, can now be viewed on YouTube.

Ray Bradbury’s book The Illustrated Man – a short story collection very loosely woven together with a fantastical framing narrative – is now seventy years old, and yet it remains a greatly influential work. Dealing with ideas around virtual reality, civil rights, the end of the world, and body art, it has managed to sustain a resonance through to the twenty-first century, despite its 1950s trappings. Individual stories from the collection have been adapted for film, television, radio and stage on multiple occasions, confirming Bradbury’s position as one of the most significant writers of science fiction even as the author tried to escape from the “ghetto” of genre fiction. In this illustrated talk, Dr Phil Nichols will show how Bradbury’s short-story collection both defines and confines the author.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Steven French, Dann, Daniel Dern, Steven H Silver, John Coxon, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, 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 Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 11/2/21 Escape From the Other Pixel Scroll (A Sequel)

(1) ANTITRUST ACTION. “Justice Department sues to stop Penguin Random House’s purchase of Simon & Schuster” reports CNN.

The Justice Department is suing to block Penguin Random House’s proposed acquisition of Simon & Schuster, arguing that the combination of the two book business giants “would likely harm competition in the publishing industry.”

Tuesday’s complaint in United States District Court is one of the first major antitrust actions by the Biden administration.

The publishers said they are prepared to defend the deal in court, calling it “a pro-consumer, pro-author, and pro-book seller transaction.”

Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster are two members of the “Big Five,” the industry’s term for the five biggest publishers in the United States.

In a court filing on Tuesday, DOJ lawyers said the companies should not be allowed to combine because it “would give Penguin Random House outsized influence over who and what is published, and how much authors are paid for their work.”

The New York Times has a bit more about the government’s legal arguments: “Justice Dept. Sues Penguin Random House Over Simon & Schuster Deal”.

In a publishing landscape dominated by a handful of mega corporations, Penguin Random House towers over the others. It operates more than 300 imprints worldwide and has 15,000 new releases a year, far more than the other four major U.S. publishers. With its $2.2 billion proposed acquisition of Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House stood to become substantially larger.

The deal was challenged amid a shifting atmosphere in Washington toward consolidation, where there has been increased scrutiny on competition and the power wielded by big companies like Amazon and Facebook. The move provides a window into how the Biden administration will handle these concerns going forward.

Rather than concerns solely over harm to consumers, the Department of Justice said the acquisition could be detrimental to producers — in this case, authors — in what is called a monopsony, as opposed to a monopoly. The Biden administration filed its case against Penguin Random House in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on Tuesday.

A combined statement issued by Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster contends:

“DOJ’s lawsuit is wrong on the facts, the law, and public policy,” Daniel Petrocelli, Vice Chair of O’Melveny & Meyers and PRH’s lead trial attorney, said. “Importantly, DOJ has not found, nor does it allege, that the combination will reduce competition in the sale of books. The publishing industry is strong and vibrant and has seen strong growth at all levels. We are confident that the robust and competitive landscape that exists will ensure a decision that the acquisition will promote, not harm, competition.”

PRH and S&S’ attorneys make additional arguments in the linked statement.

(2) CLIMATE FUTURES. The “Crafting Climate Futures: From Story to Policy” webinar on Monday, November 8 is cohosted by ASU’s Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative and the Olaf Stapledon Centre for Speculative Futures at the University of Liverpool. It features three of ASU’s Climate Imagination Fellows—Xia Jia, Hannah Ongowue, and Vandana Singh—along with Kim Stanley Robinson, and the moderator is Adeline Johns-Putra, a professor of literature at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University and author of the book Climate Change and the Contemporary Novel. Begins 5:30 a.m. Pacific.

The UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow presents an opportunity for decisive global action amidst escalating climate chaos. Now, more than ever, we need narratives of positive climate futures alongside coordinated interventions in order to ameliorate the crisis. Join the University of Liverpool’s Olaf Stapledon Centre for Speculative Futures and the Climate Imagination Fellows at Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination for a session dedicated to exploring the stories that might catalyze new understandings and connect narrative interventions to transformations in policy, governance, and culture.

(3) FOR YOUR REFERENCE. Susan Guthmann Henry saw yesterday’s Scroll item about the Texas legislator who has put together a list of 850 books and is demanding that schools in the state tell him if they have these books in their libraries and how much they have spent on them, and the discussion in comments about the seeming random order of the list. “It occurred to me that there might be a way to make the 16 page Matt Krause list ‘easier’ to look through. So, I downloaded it, converted it to a spreadsheet, and made two lists, one that is alphabetical by title and one that is alphabetical by author.” Many thanks! Here are the Excel spreadsheets:

(4) AS TIME GOES BY. Cora Buhlert discusses the Jirel of Joiry stories by C.L. Moore on the Appendix N Book Club podcast: “C.L. Moore’s ‘Jirel of Joiry’ with special guest Cora Buhlert”.

Cora Buhlert joins us to discuss C.L. Moore’s “Jirel of Joiry”, used book store finds, kisses as stand-ins for sex, the appropriateness of using genre to explore our fear of sexual violence, cozy stories, writers being inspired by their peers, comparing and contrasting Conan and Jirel as characters, employing undead suckers, the influence of comics on the early pulps, her work with Henry Kuttner, fictitious France, C.L. Moore’s reemerging popularity, and much more!

(5) COLD-HEARTED ORB. Jess Nevins reviews John Steinbeck’s lost werewolf murder mystery Murder at the Full Moon“Nine-10ths of a Triumph: On John Steinbeck’s ‘Murder at Full Moon’” at LA Review of Books.

… At first glance, Murder at Full Moon seems to consist primarily of the clichéd routines and tropes of detective fiction circa 1930: the whodunnit structure; the eccentric but all-knowing detective; the hapless sidekick; the events that abide by “Twenty Rules for Writing Detective Stories” laid out by S. S. Van Dine in 1928 and by the “Ten Commandments” for mystery stories conceived of by Ronald Knox in 1929; the gathering of the characters at the end to watch the detective reveal and apprehend the murderer; and so on. A superficial reading of Murder at Full Moon could indeed lead one to claim that it is “a shameless commercial satire of pulp-detective novels” or “a cynical attempt at a standard commercial mystery-thriller.” But what Steinbeck clearly attempted to do, and mostly succeeded at doing, was tell a mystery story about mysteries as they were written in 1930, and to challenge his fellow mystery authors to write more ambitious material in a more intelligent way — to step up their game….

(6) UNDER CONSTRUCTION. Cora Buhlert’s newest Fancast Spotlight interview features Hugo finalist Worldbuilding for Masochists from Marshall Ryan Maresca, Cass Morris and Rowenna Miller:  “Fancast Spotlight: Worldbuilding for Masochists”.

Tell us about your podcast or channel.

Tide charts — a stack of books on constellation mythology — an elaborately sketched map — a bulletin board covered in illustrations of obsolete technology — research on textiles, naming conventions, architecture and a dozen ways to cook lentils — what could it all mean? 

It means worldbuilding. Big worldbuilding. Elaborate worldbuilding. Obsessive worldbuilding. Dare we say… masochistic worldbuilding?…

(7) LAWRENCE PERSON ON HOWARD WALDROP’S YEAR. Howard Waldrop related the details of his very tough medical year to an audience at Armadillocon, and Lawrence Person has signal-boosted what he said.

These topics were covered at his interview at Armadillocon in October 2021, and as they’re now public knowledge, here is the concise summary of Howard Waldrop’s trials and tribulations from late 2020 through 2021:

  1. He had to deal with an infestation of bedbugs in his apartment.
  2. He was involved in a minor car wreck in a driving rainstorm that totaled his car (but inflicted no serious injury).
  3. Had to deal with the legal fallout from that (since cleared up).
  4. Suffered a series of minor falls.
  5. Found out he had kidney stones that were too large to pass.
  6. Had his kidney stones zapped with lasers via a tube up his urethra (a very science fictional future, but not the one he was hoping for). As a result of which…
  7. “I pissed blood and gravel for a week.”
  8. His power went out for several days as part of the Texas ice storm (second coldest recorded temperature in Austin history).
  9. Suffered a major fall that broke his shoulder ball and socket, and left him unable to reach his cell phone to call for help.
  10. Spent a day crawling around on the floor of his apartment.
  11. Ended up barfing on himself just before Brad Denton and Martha Grenon came to his apartment to check on him.
  12. Went to the hospital, by which time he was already suffering from diabetic ketoacidosis.
  13. Got his bone set and his blood sugar stabilized.
  14. He spent weeks recovering at two different recovery centers.
  15. By which time he was suffering gastrointestinal distress, which was traced to a perforated colon.
  16. Which required the removal of several feet of lower intestine and installing a colostomy bag.
  17. “They’ve removed my ass. I have no ass.”
  18. Moved into an assisted living facility, where he’s recovered nicely. “The food is really good.”

This summary is quite condensed but chronologically accurate and Howard-approved. And I’ve actually spared you a few bodily function details. 

Howard’s close circle of caregivers has been keeping a lid on all this until Howard was recovered enough to reveal it to the public at large.

On the bright side, he lost enough weight that he’s no longer diabetic, and several of his short stories have been optioned for film, including “Heirs of the Perisphere,” “Night of the Cooters” and “The Ugly Chickens,” all in various states of production. And won the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. 

(8) SOMEWHERE IN OUR LITERARY FAMILY TREE. You might need Mental Floss after reading this sentence repeatedly: “’A Dark and Stormy Night’: The History of Literature’s Worst Sentence”. But can it be true that Edward Bulwer-Lytton inspired a forerunner of sf fandom?

…If you want to start a novel, your options for an opening line are just this side of infinite. But if you want to start a novel badly, any cartoon beagle can tell you that there’s only one choice: “It was a dark and stormy night.”

The phrase has become so ingrained in our literary culture that we rarely give much thought to its origin—and when he put pen to paper, it’s likely that author and politician Edward Bulwer-Lytton had no idea just how infamous his dark and stormy night would become. Bulwer-Lytton was once as widely read as his friend Charles Dickens, but today he’s remembered almost exclusively for one bad sentence. It’s an ironic legacy for a prolific author who influenced some of the most popular novels in English literature, helped invent sci-fi fandom, laid the groundwork for modern crime fiction, and accidentally sparked a movement for an important social reform.

…Bulwer-Lytton’s 1862 novel A Strange Story is thought to have influenced Dracula, and his 1871 science fiction novel The Coming Race inspired the world’s first sci-fi convention (and gave rise to an exceptionally bizarre Nazi conspiracy theory)….

(9) MEMORY LANE.

2001 – Twenty years ago, Monsters, Inc. was released by Pixar. It was directed by Pete Docter in his directorial debut, and executive produced by John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton. The screenplay by Andrew Stanton and Daniel Gerson from a story by Pete Docter, Jill Culton, Jeff Pidgeon and Ralph Eggleston. An amazing voice cast consisted of John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Steve Buscemi, James Coburn, Mary Gibbs and Jennifer Tilly. 

It generated a lawsuit by a poet who said it was based on her “There’s a Boy in My Closet” poem but the Judge refused to issued an injunction stopping the film from opening and eventually said her suit had absolutely no merit. Another suit claimed the lead characters of Mike and Sulley were based on his art. That suit was settled out of Court and the details of the settlement were sealed. 

Critics all loved the film with the Salon critic saying it was “agreeable and often funny, and adults who take their kids to see it might be surprised to find themselves having a pretty good time.”  Box office wise, it made nearly six hundred million on a budget of under three hundred million, not counting streaming revenue and DVD sales. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a monstrous ninety percent rating. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 2, 1913 Burt Lancaster. Certainly being Dr. Paul Moreau on The Island of Doctor Moreau was his most genre-ish role but I like him as General James Mattoon Scott in Seven Days in May. And of course, he’s really great as Moonlight Graham in Field of Dreams. (Died 1994.)
  • Born November 2, 1924 Michi Kobi. She was Dr. Hideko Murata in Twelve to the Moon, half of a double feature with either Battle in Outer Space or 13 Ghosts. Unless you consider her doing voices on Courage the Cowardly Dog, an early Oughts animated series, to be genre, this is her only SF work. (Died 2016.)
  • Born November 2, 1927 Steve Ditko. Illustrator who began his career working in the studio of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby during which he began his long association with Charlton Comics and which led to his creating the Captain Atom character. Did I mention DC absorbed that company as it did so many others? Now he’s best known as the artist and co-creator, with Stan Lee, of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange. For Charlton and also DC itself: a complete redesign of Blue Beetle, and creating or co-creating The Question, The Creeper, Shade the Changing Man, and Hawk and Dove. He been inducted into the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame and into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. (Died 2018.)
  • Born November 2, 1941 Ed Gorman. He’d be here if only for writing the script for the  Batman: I, Werewolf series in which Batman meets a werewolf. Very cool. More straight SFF is his Star Precinct trilogy with Kevin Randle which is quite excellent, and I’m fond of his short fiction which fortunately is showing up in digital form at the usual suspects. (Died 2016.)
  • Born November 2, 1942 Carol Resnick, 79. Wife of that Resnick who credited her according to several sources with being a co-writer on many of his novels. He also credited her as being a co-author on two movie scripts that they’ve sold, based on his novels Santiago and The Widowmaker. And she’s responsible for the costumes that she and Mike wore in five Worldcon masquerades in the Seventies, winning many awards.
  • Born November 2, 1942 Stefanie Powers, 79. April Dancer, the lead in The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. which lasted just one season. (I just downloaded the pilot to watch as I’ve never seen the series.) Did you know Ian Fleming contributed concepts to this series and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well?  She would play Shalon in the crossover that started on The Six-Million Man and concluded on The Six-Million Woman called “The Return of Bigfoot”. 
  • Born November 2, 1949 Lois McMaster Bujold, 72. First let’s note she’s won the Hugo Award for best novel four times, matching Robert A. Heinlein’s record, not counting his Retro Hugo. Quite impressive that. Bujold’s works largely comprises three separate book series: the Vorkosigan Saga, the Chalion series, and the Sharing Knife series. She joined the Central Ohio Science Fiction Society, and co-published with Lillian Stewart Carl StarDate, a Trek fanzine in which a story of hers appeared under the byline Lois McMaster. 
  • Born November 2, 1980 Brittany Ishibashi, 41. Ishibashi played Karai in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, the sequel to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. She’s currently portrays Tina Minoru on Runaways, streaming on Hulu. And she was Maggie Zeddmore in the Ghostfacers webseries. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Take me to your leader is a cliché, so Garfield starts the conversation in another way.

(12) THE UNMITIGATED EIGHTIES. Ed Brubaker talks to Alex Segura of CrimeReads about his new graphic novel, Destroy All Monsters. “Ed Brubaker on 1980s Los Angeles, Private Eye Fiction, and the Changing Face of Graphic Novels”.

…But Reckless is not a nostalgia tour, or an attempt to recapture the magic of previous private detectives or locales. The series motif and past setting allowed Brubaker and Phillips to tell stories set in another time that still reflected a lot of what was going on now.

“I wanted to write about the past from today’s point of view, to show how we got from there to here, how much the decisions of the past made this place, like the ripple effects of corruption and politics through time,” Brubaker said. “This is why the newest book DESTROY ALL MONSTERS has at the heart of it, the fallout of the construction of the 105, and the corridors of vacant houses that stood for something like 12 or 15 years during the court battle over that freeway, and which became a major source of crime and devastation in South LA, predating the crack epidemic, even.”

(13) TAKING THE CARS. Gothamist shows us “The Best Halloween 2021 Costumes On The NYC Subway”. At West 4th Street station, end-point for the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade… 96 photos in the gallery!

After things were understandably subdued last year due to the pandemic, Halloween celebrations were back across the city over the weekend. New Yorkers of all ages tend to take this holiday quite seriously, and after a year of mostly avoiding human contact, everyone seemed more excited than ever to show off their brilliant, clever and often weird costumes while traversing our mass transit system.

Indefatigable photographer Sai Mokhtari, who first started this Subway Halloween project nine years ago (it has become our favorite annual tradition since), went out between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Sunday to capture all the hottest Halloween looks… in transit. Overall, Mokhtari said, “the subways were more crowded than last year but definitely a far cry from pre-pandemic days (I’d say maybe half as many people overall).”

(14) TIS THE SEASON. Delish held its breath til Halloween was past, and now has gone into full Christmas merchandising mode. To begin with: “Le Creuset Has New ‘Harry Potter’ Kitchen Items”. A $300 Dutch oven is one of them.

Le Creuset is best known for their beloved dutch ovens and baking accessories. This line has a little bit of everything and will be available exclusively on Le Creuset’s website and through Williams-Sonoma. Every piece features a subtle nod to the Harry Potter series, like a blue dutch oven with a golden snitch knob, a red dutch oven with an embossment of Harry’s glasses and a lightening bolt knob, and even a tea kettle with 9 3/4 on the handle as a shoutout to the Hogwarts express.

(15) MOVING PICTURES. Bradbury scholar Phil Nichols is giving an online talk about “Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man at Seventy” on November 16 at 7:00 p.m. UK time as part of the University of Wolverhampton’s Artsfest Online, Free registration here.

Ray Bradbury’s book The Illustrated Man – a short story collection very loosely woven together with a fantastical framing narrative – is now seventy years old, and yet it remains a greatly influential work. Dealing with ideas around virtual reality, civil rights, the end of the world, and body art, it has managed to sustain a resonance through to the twenty-first century, despite its 1950s trappings. Individual stories from the collection have been adapted for film, television, radio and stage on multiple occasions, confirming Bradbury’s position as one of the most significant writers of science fiction even as the author tried to escape from the “ghetto” of genre fiction.

In this illustrated talk, Dr Phil Nichols will show how Bradbury’s short-story collection both defines and confines the author.

(16) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter watched three of last night’s Jeopardy! contestants unable to come up with this one:

Category: Fantastical Creatures

Answer: George Langelaan wrote the Playboy short story that inspired this film in which Seth Brundle transforms.

No one could ask, “What is The Fly?”

(17) WHO WATCHED WHAT LAST MONTH. JustWatch compiled this list of the Top 10 Sci-FI Movies and TV Shows in the US in October:

Rank*MoviesTV shows
1DuneFoundation
2Free GuyCowboy Bebop
3VenomLa Brea
4GhostbustersRick and Morty
5TitaneDoctor Who
6The ThingBattlestar Galactica
7Halloween III: Season of the WitchY: The Last Man
8Black WidowThe Twilight Zone
9A Quiet Place Part IIAmerican Horror Story
10The Rocky Horror Picture ShowInvasion

*Based on JustWatch popularity score. Genre data is sourced from themoviedb.org

(18) NO IDLE PAWS HERE. [Item by JJ.] OMG, it’s a subreddit for working credentials – “Purposeful Pusses” at Reddit. Check out the video with Harpo, who works for serious book lovers.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Marvel’s What If…?” the Screen Junkies say this is based on a Marvel series that included “What if Iron Man Fought King Arthur?” and “What if Wolverine Was A Vampire?”  (These are actual comics.)  They say that all the characters sound like AIs barfing out Chandler Bing dialogue. You can also take in Chadwick Boseman’s last performance as the Black Panther.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Joey Eschrich, Jumana Aumir, Cora Buhlert, Lise Andreasen, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

A Bradbury Avalanche

Thanks to bloggers’ outpouring of interest in his work we again can celebrate “all Bradbury all the time” here at File 770.

(1) SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO. First Fandom Experience has announced a remarkable project: “Coming Soon: The Earliest Bradbury & More”.

This year (2020) marks the centenary of Bradbury’s birth, and we at First Fandom Experience hope to honor him by contributing to the extensive body of literature that surrounds him. Building on our work for The Visual History of Science Fiction Fandom, Volume One: The 1930s, we are on schedule to publish a volume titled The Earliest Bradbury, an exploration and celebration of his earliest writings as a science fiction fan, ahead of his centennial in August.

Like The Visual HistoryThe Earliest Bradbury explores history by wrapping an archive in a story. We use original artifacts from the past, such as fanzines, letters, and photographs, to tell the story of Bradbury’s journey as a young fan and author. Although we discuss his more well-known works, such as Futuria Fantasia and Hollerbochen’s Dilemma, we pay special attention to the often overlooked articles, letters, and stories Bradbury published as a teenager and young adult, and tease out the relationships that influenced the young Bradbury and launch his career as a professional author. As with The Visual History, many of the artifacts reproduced in The Earliest Bradbury are rare and difficult to find as originals or reproductions.

They’ll publish a deluxe, hard-bound edition of The Earliest Bradbury in July, which will be available through the FFE website. 

(2) AT NINETEEN. This month Wil Wheaton released his reading of one of Bradbury’s fanzine stories – the kind of thing we may expect to see in the FFE collection: “Radio Free Burrito Presents: Luana the Living by Ray Bradbury”.

Actor & writer Wil Wheaton (Star Trek, The Big Bang Theory, and Stand by Me) read Bradbury’s “Luana the Living” on an episode of his podcast, Radio Free Burrito. Wheaton describes this story of an explorer’s harrowing experience in the jungles of India as “*exactly* the kind of book I would have picked up from the spinning rack of fifty cent paperbacks in the drugstore.”

Published in 1940 in the fanzine Polaris when Bradbury was 19 years old, “Luana the Living,” offers a rare glimpse into the writers’ earliest works.

(3) HIT PERSON. In the tenth post of a series at BradburyMedia, Phil Nichols reviews the title story in the Bradbury’s Small Assassin collection: “Lockdown Choices – The Small Assassin”.

…It’s classic Bradburyan paranoia of the type we have seen in “The Crowd”, “The Wind”, “Skeleton” and “The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl”. And as with most of those stories, the paranoid protagonist turns out to be justified in their paranoia. Bradbury, in his classic horror period, was never one to leave the reader to decide; he nearly always set things up to make you think the hero is crazy, then make you empathise with them, and then vindicate them….

See Phil Nichols’ entire slate of Lockdown Choices in “Reading at Home”.

Phil Nichols, historian, educator, and creator of Bradburymedia, offers his series of suggestions for the best Bradbury stories to enjoy at home while the world is engaged in social distancing.

Nichols also recounts Bradbury’s avalanche of productivity in the decade of the Fifties in his post titled “The Breathless 1950s”.

If you’ve been following my posts of late, you will know that I have been working through each of Ray Bradbury’s books in order of original publication, explaining a bit about how each book came about, and selecting the best stories and adaptations from each one.

So far, I have covered all the books from the 1940s and 1950s. And what a breathless decade(-and-a-bit) it’s been.

By the end of 1959, Bradbury had published nine books: three novels (or packaged to appear like novels), five short story collections, and one children’s book.

By the end of 1959, at the age of thirty-nine, he had been publishing short stories for twenty-two years, and had totalled 249 of them. That’s an average of 11.3 per year, but with a peak of 24 stories in 1950….

(4) THE FUTURE OF RACE. Kathryn Ross’ Pasadena Now opinion piece “Why Race Still Matters in a Post-Race Universe” takes a Bradbury story as a key text to lead up to this conclusion about representation; “Will race still matter then? Will it matter after we’ve discovered extensive space travel and aliens and new worlds and parallel universes? Perhaps not. But does it matter right now for audiences like myself and Andre? and my parents to see black people belonging as integral parts of these fantastical narratives? I think it does. However far into the future we’re reaching, it matters.”

June 2003. The American south is still segregated, blacks are employed by wealthy whites and treated like the lowliest of servants in an effect reminiscent of the Mammys, Bucks, and “boys” of old Hollywood, lynching is an after-dinner pastime, and use of the n-word in casual conversation abounds.

Celebrated sci-fi literary giant Ray Bradbury paints this raw and oftentimes hard-to-read picture as the context within his short story, “Way in the Middle of the Air.” Bradbury imagines a mass exodus of all the black people in America —not back to Africa as one white character suggests, but to the planet Mars— to escape the racial tyranny of Earth. This short appears in Bradbury’s famous first novel, The Martian Chronicles, first published in 1950.

From Bradbury’s 1950s viewpoint, June 2003 is the farthest reach of the future, and in this future, racism is still alive and as virulent as ever. To be clear, Bradbury is not writing as pro-racist. Rather, he is musing on what would happen to the racists if their prey could —and did— just leave, far beyond where they could reach. 

(5) A MATCH MADE IN HELL. Christina Dalcher, in “The Dystopia At Home” on CrimeReads, looks at five dystopian novels (including Fahrenheit 451) for what they say about families.

You work hard all day, setting books on fire, waving your portable blowtorch around at anything that might be read, and when you come home, all you want is a little hug. Forget it, brother. Your wife is permanently glued to the largest boob-tube ever invented: the parlor wall, so stuck on it that she can barely remember your name. You start having second thoughts about your chosen trade, you want someone to talk to, and you turn to that one person who’s supposed to be your life partner, your sounding board in all things intimate. She tunes you out. You try reading a book, just for fun, and end up being locked out of the bathroom while your wife swallows enough pills to bring down a bull elephant.

Ah, marriage.

(6) GAIMAN AND WELLER ON BRADBURY. On May 9, as part of the Big Book Weekend programme, award-winning Bradbury biographer and writer Sam Weller joined in a spirited discussion with Neil Gaiman about Ray Bradbury’s inestimable influence and enduring popularity, and how it has inspired their own work.

The Big Book Weekend is a 3-day virtual festival, taking place on MyVLF.com (My Virtual Literary Festival), that brings together the best of the British book festivals cancelled due to coronavirus. The festival is sponsored by BBC Arts and The Arts Council, among others.

The program can still be viewed, however, free registration is required at https://myvlf.com. Other panels and discussions from various different genres are also available.

A transcript of the Weller/Gaiman discussion is accessible here. The URL seems to work if I’m not logged in, too, but no guarantees.

(7) DOING SOME WEEDING. If Bradbury hadn’t named a book after it I might never have heard of dandelion wine – now I even have a recipe for making it.

What started as a poor man’s wine in Europe slowly made its way into a tradition on the Great Plains of North America. Settlers found patches of the weed and started fermenting it into a sweet drink to enjoy after working in the fields all day.

Along with having a bit of alcohol, dandelion wine is also a medicinal drink. Dandelion flowers are packed with vitamins A, B, C, and D and are great for digestive health because they clean the kidneys and liver.

Today modern homesteaders make the wine at home and relish in its taste. Ever wanted to give winemaking a try? Now’s your chance to try homebrewing all those dandelion blossoms you have in your yard.

…While this dandelion wine recipe does take months to make, you’ll be happy you created it once you take the first sip of your very own homemade dandelion wine. In the meantime, read Ray Bradbury’s novel, Dandelion Wine, a 1957 novel that uses the flower petal wine as a metaphor for packing all of the joys of summer into a single bottle.

(8) COVERED IN ART. Anna Felicity Friedman explains how “Ray Bradbury Understood the Narrative Power of Tattoos” at LitHub.

…Tattoos and perceptions of them have transformed enormously from 1950­–51 when Esquire first published Bradbury’s short story in July of 1950, followed by the author using the character again as a frame device for the prologue and epilogue to The Illustrated Man collection. Tattooing was mired in a dark time in its history then, perhaps at its lowest point of popularity in modern times.

The heyday of the circus sideshow had passed, tattooing was mainly relegated to skid-row areas and near military bases, and, aside from macho characters like the soon-to-be-conceived Marlboro Man, tattoos were not for everyday people. By the 1950s, tattooed men held little appeal—especially compared to tattooed ladies—and Bradbury masterfully captured the pathos of being a washed-up tattoo performer, despite still being an extraordinary work of art, in his portrayals of Mr. William Philippus Phelps.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Michael O’Donnell, and Martin Morse Wooster for these stories.]