Pixel Scroll 12/19/22 Pixels Gleaming Bright As They Scroll Off Into The Twilight, Never To Be Seen Again

(1) SOMTOW’S PLAN. It’s nothing like Selden’s. Somtow Sucharitkul will be the composer when “Ed Wood’s cult film ‘Plan 9 From Outer Space’ Gets Opera Adaptation”. He gave The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Roxborough the exclusive story.

Flying saucers over Bayreuth! Unspeakable horrors descend on the Philharmonic! Ten words I never thought I’d write. But Plan 9 From Outer Space is being turned into an opera. 

The legendary, and legendarily bad, cult film from 1957 — which Tim Burton paid tribute to in his Oscar-winning 1994 feature Ed Wood starring Johnny Depp as the Plan 9 director — will get the classical music treatment courtesy of Thai composer, and B-movie fanatic, Somtow Sucharitkul

Plan 9 From Outer Space: A Really Grand Opera by Somtow Sucharitkul is currently in the libretto stage. Rehearsals will begin in earnest next year. Sucharitkul plans to release a teaser “suite from the opera” next fall and to premiere the full opera in 2024. Torsten Neumann, director of the Oldenburg Film Festival, Germany’s leading indie film fest, is producing. 

Plan 9 is, of course, celebrated as the worst picture ever made and a cultural icon,” Somtow said. “Movie buffs have all the lines memorized. I intend to compose the score in the spirit of Ed Wood — with utter seriousness and high moral intent, as befits the exalted subject matter about aliens saving humanity from itself — so timely in these, ah, times.”

“Of course, we’re not intending to produce the ‘worst opera’ in history,” says Neumann, “quite the opposite. …”

The interview with Somtow also brought out this fact:

…Sucharitkul’s students can also be seen in this year’s awards season contender Tár. The Siam Sinfonietta is the orchestra performing in the film’s final scene. Sucharitkul was a musical consultant on the movie. …

Somtow says Roxborough’s doing a story on that now, interviewing some of the kids in his youth orchestra about what it was like being conducted by Cate Blanchett.

(2) F&SF COVER REVEAL. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s Jan/Feb 2023 cover art is by Kent Bash.

(3) A LOOK UNDER THE HOOD. John Scalzi’s “Process Notes on Starter Villain” at Whatever talks about the novel he just finished in a deadline-pushing whirlwind of writing. While I’m always interested in that kind of background, what I appreciated most was his discussion of post-COVID brain. I had wondered if the funk I’ve been in since I caught it on Halloween was a hangover from Covid, or mourning for Martin Morse Wooster, or if I just needed to buck up, since I was still producing material here everyday (and yet never getting around to certain things that seemed to require more “brainality”.)  Covid is a definite contender as the explanation.

(4) NYC LIBRARY BOOK STATS. The Gothamist can tell you “These were the most borrowed books from NYC’s public libraries in 2022” but it can’t tell you why so few of them are genre. However, on the systemwide list the most-borrowed book of the year is listed as a fantasy, The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. The plot as described in the Wikipediabeware spoilers:

The book’s protagonist is a young woman named Nora Seed who is unhappy with her choices in life. During the night, she tries to kill herself but ends up in a library managed by her school librarian, Mrs. Elm. The library is situated between life and death with millions of books filled with stories of her life had she made some different decisions. In this library, she then tries to find the life in which she’s the most content.[3] For example, in one possible life she tries to reunite with her boyfriend and finds herself married to him, but it isn’t the way as she expected. She also sees herself as a glaciologist doing research in the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic – a very different life from the one she tries to escape, but not necessarily a better choice.

Gothamist also has separate lists for each borough. Brooklyn had three books of genre interest in the top 10 (the Haig book was one of them).

(5) PHONING A NEW HOME. The original mechanical model from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial has snagged a staggering sum: “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial Model from 1982 Spielberg Classic Sells for $2.5 Million at Auction”.

…The highly desirable film item (for those with very deep pockets) was part of the recent Julien’s Auctions and TCM Presents: Icons and Idols Hollywood auction, going for a final bid of $2,560,000, according to the auction house.

The no. 1 “hero” used with the actors, the aluminum alloy skeletal model of E.T. was originally estimated by the auction house to fetch between $2 million and $4 million. Bidding opened at $500,000. The winner was not identified….

(6) MEMORY LANE.

1999 [By Cat Eldridge.] Mary Poppins Statue in Maryborough, Australia

She stands but five feet tall and weighing only two hundred twenty of bronze statue , this particular Mary Poppins, the world’s most famous nanny, keeps an eye on the comings and goings in Kent Street and Richmond Lane, in Maryborough,Queensland, Australia.

So how did she come to be here, and why this street corner? Well Mary Poppins’ creator, author P.L. Travers, was born Helen Lyndon Goff, in one of the rooms on the second floor of the building adjacent to the statue, and she lived in this Australian city for the first eighteen months of her life. Not long I’ll frankly admit but a City will claim an author based on the most tenuous of connections, won’t they?

Formerly the Union Bank, Travers’ first home provided lodgings to the family of the Union Bank manager – a position that was occupied by her father, Travers Goff, and immortalised in the character, Mr Banks. Although she later went to some lengths to hide her Australian origins, the writer’s home town has gone to quite some effort to commemorate her life and work. She would, after moving to England, vist Australia.

Maryborough residents and the Proud Marys Association, the group that was founded in 1999 and was aimed at celebrating all things Maryborough and Mary Poppins,  raised more than $40,000, with an additional $5500 each from its city council and the state government for the statue.

Dr Rhyl Hinwood, who did the model in clay in part because she broke one of her wrists and could not work in harder material choose a local lass, Imogen Marnane from Atherton, as the model for Poppins. That story and the process of her working on the statue is well worth reading here.

Now do keep in mind it is not based the Disney character but on the one from Helen’s books, so it, as you’ll see in the image below, is rather different from that Poppins. 

And then there’s the Poppins traffic lights there….

(7) GABRIELLE BEAUMONT (1942-2022). Television director Gabrielle Beaumont died October 8 at the age of 80 reports the Guardian. She was best known for her work on Dynasty, however, she also had many genre credits.

…In 1989, she directed Star Trek: The Next Generation, the first live-action sequel to the 1960s sci-fi series. Later, she worked on episodes of the Star Trek series Deep Space Nine (in 1997) and Voyager (in 2000).

At the beginning of the 80s, Beaumont was among fewer than 100 professional female directors in the US, whereas by the end of the decade there were about 500….

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 19, 1902 Sir Ralph Richardson. God in Time Bandits but also Earl of Greystoke in Greystoke:The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes and Chief Rabbit In Watership Down. Also the Head Librarian in Rollerball. And a caterpillar in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. And Satan in the Tales from the Crypt film. Oh my, he had an interesting genre film career. (Died 1983.)
  • Born December 19, 1922 Harry Warner Jr.. Fan historian and legendary letterhack. Dubbed The Hermit of Hagerstown, as he was rather reclusive, he did nearly all his fanac on paper. He’s known now for the many LOCs he wrote and his two books on fanhistory, All Our Yesterdays, (1969), and A Wealth of Fable which won a Hugo in 1993 for Best Related Book. Rich Lynch has a full essay, “Remembering Harry”, here today. (Died 2003.)
  • Born December 19, 1952 Linda Woolverton, 70. She’s the first woman to have written a Disney animated feature, Beauty and the Beast, which was the first animated film ever to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. She also co-wrote The Lion King screenplay (along with Irene Mecchi and Jonathan Roberts).
  • Born December 19, 1960 Dave Hutchinson, 62. Best known for his absolutely fascinating Fractured Europe series which consists of Europe in AutumnEurope at MidnightEurope in Winter and Europe at Dawn. Stellar reading! He’s got a lot of other genre fiction as well but I’ve not delved into that yet.
  • Born December 19, 1961 Matthew Waterhouse, 61. He’s best known as Adric, companion to the Fourth and Fifth Doctors. He was the youngest actor in that role at the time. And yes, he too shows up in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot
  • Born December 19, 1972 Alyssa Milano50. Phoebe Halliwell in the long running original and need I say only great Charmed series. Other genre appearances include on Outer LimitsFantasy Island, Embrace of the VampireDouble Dragon, the Young Justice animated series as the voice of Poison Ivy and more voice work in DC’s The Spectre, an excellent animated short.
  • Born December 19, 1979 Robin Sloan, 43. Author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore which definitely has fantasy elements in it is a damn fine read. His second novel which he sent me for reviewing and I need to write up soon, is Sourdough or, Lois and Her Adventures in the Underground Market, and it is improbably genre but is also weirdly about food as well. Quite tasty it is. Am I rambling? So I am.  And he’s a really nice person as well. 

(9) HEARING FROM HISTORY. Another birthday is being celebrated today by the BBC World Service. Hear a tribute in “The World Service is 90” at BBC Sounds.

For 90 years the BBC World Service has been broadcasting in dozens of languages to audiences so huge they are counted in the tens of millions all over the globe. World Service began transmitting on 19 December 1932. It was called the BBC Empire Service, speaking in slow English via crackly short-wave radio to a now-vanished Empire which then ruled a fifth of the globe. The Second World War saw radio services expand massively, broadcasting in more than 40 languages to listeners hungry for truth and facts they could trust. In every crisis and conflict since, individual voices out of the air have offered news, but also drama, music, education and sometimes hope to their audiences. In a special 90th anniversary programme, the broadcaster Nick Rankin, who worked for more than 20 years at the BBC, digs into a treasure trove of sound archive and talks to journalists who made and still make the BBC World Service such a remarkable network. With Peter Pallai of Hungarian Section; Seva Novgorodsev MBE, star of BBC Russian Service; Najiba Kasraee, broadcasting to Afghanistan and Elizabeth Ohene from Focus on Africa.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side has a grotesque idea about the fate of a beloved Peter Pan character.  
  • The Far Side also introduces us to three silly scientists with an insurmountable problem.
  • Popeye takes an unexpectedly Lovecraftian turn.

(11) OPPENHEIMER SECURITY DECISION REVERSED. “J. Robert Oppenheimer Cleared of ‘Black Mark’ After 68 Years” reports the New York Times.

The Secretary of Energy on Friday nullified a 1954 decision to revoke the security clearance of J. Robert Oppenheimer, a top government scientist who led the making of the atomic bomb in World War II but fell under suspicion of being a Soviet spy at the height of the McCarthy era.

In a statement, the Energy Secretary, Jennifer M. Granholm, said the decision of her predecessor agency, the Atomic Energy Commission, to bar Oppenheimer’s clearance was the result of a “flawed process” that violated its own regulations.

As time has passed, she added, “more evidence has come to light of the bias and unfairness of the process that Dr. Oppenheimer was subjected to while the evidence of his loyalty and love of country have only been further affirmed.”

Historians, who have long lobbied for the reversal of the clearance revocation, praised the vacating order as a milestone….

“I’m overwhelmed with emotion,” said Kai Bird, co-author with Martin J. Sherwin of “American Prometheus,” a 2005 biography of Oppenheimer that won the Pulitzer Prize.

“History matters and what was done to Oppenheimer in 1954 was a travesty, a black mark on the honor of the nation,” Mr. Bird said. “Students of American history will now be able to read the last chapter and see that what was done to Oppenheimer in that kangaroo court proceeding was not the last word.”…

(12) THE YEAR’S FANCIEST PHYSICS TRICKS. Scientific American’s year-end roundup lists “6 Times Quantum Physics Blew Our Minds in 2022”. “Quantum telepathy, laser-based time crystals, a glow from empty space and an “unreal” universe—these are the most awesome (and awfully hard to understand) results from the subatomic realm we encountered in 2022…”

Here’s the first example:

THE UNIVERSE IS KINDA, SORTA UNREAL

This year’s Nobel Prize in Physics went to researchers who spent decades proving the universe is not locally real—a feat that, to quote humorist Douglas Adams, “has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.” “Local” here means any object—an apple, for instance—can be influenced only by its immediate surroundings, not by happenings on the other side of the universe. “Real” means every object has definite properties regardless of how it is observed—no amount of squinting will change an apple from red to green. Except careful, repeated experimentation with entangled particles has conclusively shown such seemingly sensible restrictions do not always apply to the quantum realm, the most fundamental level of reality we can measure. If you’re uncertain as to what exactly the demise of local realism means for life, the universe and, well, everything, don’t worry: you’re not alone—physicists are befuddled, too.

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George brings us into the meeting between “The Guys Who Wrote Frosty The Snowman”.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Rob Thornton, Cathy Green, Somtow Sucharitkul, Gordon Van Gelder, Daniel Dern, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cat Eldridge.]

Pixel Scroll 10/8/22 To Say Nothing Of The Balrog

(0) HAPPY 96TH BIRTHDAY. To my mother today – amazing.

(1) F&SF COVER REVEAL. Publisher Gordon Van Gelder revealed the cover of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s Nov/Dec 2022 issue. The cover art is by Mondolithic Studios.

(2) RICKY DID LOSE THESE NUMBERS. Public Books asks why book sales figures remain such a deep dark secret. “Where Is All the Book Data?”

After the first lockdown in March 2020, I went looking for book sales data. I’m a data scientist and a literary scholar, and I wanted to know what books people were turning to in the early days of the pandemic for comfort, distraction, hope, guidance. How many copies of Emily St. John Mandel’s pandemic novel Station Eleven were being sold in COVID-19 times compared to when the novel debuted in 2014? And what about Giovanni Boccaccio’s much older—14th-century—plague stories, The Decameron? Were people clinging to or fleeing from pandemic tales during peak coronavirus panic? You might think, as I naively did, that a researcher would be able to find out exactly how many copies of a book were sold in certain months or years. But you, like me, would be wrong.

I went looking for book sales data, only to find that most of it is proprietary and purposefully locked away. What I learned was that the single most influential data in the publishing industry—which, every day, determines book contracts and authors’ lives—is basically inaccessible to anyone beyond the industry. And I learned that this is a big problem.

The problem with book sales data may not, at first, be apparent. Every week, the New York Times of course releases its famous list of “bestselling” books, but this list does not include individual sales numbers. Moreover, select book sales figures are often reported to journalists—like the fact that Station Eleven has sold more than 1.5 million copies overall—and also shared through outlets like Publishers Weekly. However, the underlying source for all these sales figures is typically an exclusive subscription service called BookScan: the most granular, comprehensive, and influential book sales data in the industry (though it still has significant holes—more on that to come)….

(3) SOME AMAZING STORIES. Cora Buhlert has posted another “Non-Fiction Spotlight.” This one is for Cents of Wonder: Science Fiction’s First Award Winners, edited by Steve Davidson and Kermit Woodall”. Buhlert notes that it’s a mix of fiction and non-fiction, but there have been similar works on the Best Related longlist before.

 Tell us about your book.

Kermit Woodall (KW) Cents of Wonder is a unique collection of the first science-fiction stories to win an award.

Steve Davidson (SD) It’s an anthology of all of the stories to win, place or receive honorable mention from the very first two writing contests ever held in the field of science fiction.

The stories represent the first attempts by new, previously unpublished authors to understand the requirements of the new genre of “scientifiction” and try their hands at delivering on concepts that had not yet been articulated – creating the suspension of disbelief and rewarding that with a sense of wonder.

As such, we regard it not just as an anthology, but as a tool, useful for SF historians, academics in the field and a no-pressure way to introduce new readers in the field to some of its important developmental history. These are the stories that would inspire following generations of famous SF writers, who would themselves go on to write works that excited, inspired and informed the authors we read today….

(4) LOOKING OVER HIS SHOULDER. Bobby Derie discusses H.P. Lovecraft’s adventures in various Chinatowns in “Lovecraft in Chinatown” at Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein.

…For his first thirty years, H. P. Lovecraft seldom left his native Providence, Rhode Island. All of his travels, his visits with friends, and to ethnic enclaves in different cities—as well as his marriage and all of his professionally-published fiction—happened in the last seventeen years of his life. The vast majority of character growth, exposure to different cultures, and challenges to Lovecraft’s prejudices happened in the final third of his existence. Which is why it is interesting to see what Lovecraft writes about various ethnic neighborhoods and enclaves he visited, including the few Chinatowns he visited on his travels….

(5) FELLOWSHIP AVAILABLE FOR LOVECRAFT RESEARCH. The John Hay Library at Brown University invites applications for its 2023 S. T. Joshi Endowed Research Fellowship in H. P. Lovecraft for research relating to H.P. Lovecraft, his associates, and literary heirs. The application deadline is November 1, 2022.

…The Hay Library is home to the largest collection of H. P. Lovecraft materials in the world, and also holds the archives of Clark Ashton Smith, Karl Edward Wagner, Manly Wade Wellman, Analog magazine, Caitlín Kiernan, and others. The Joshi Fellowship, established by The Aeroflex Foundation and Hippocampus Press, is intended to promote scholarly research using the world-renowned resources on H. P. Lovecraft, science fiction, and horror at the John Hay Library (projects do not need to relate to Lovecraft directly). The Fellowship provides a monthly stipend of $2,500 for up to two months of research at the library during the 2023 calendar year. The fellowship is open to students, faculty, librarians, artists, and independent scholars.

For more information and to apply, please visit https://library.brown.edu/joshi/.

Please direct questions to Heather Cole, Curator, Literary & Popular Culture Collections, [email protected].

(6) EXTRA MOONS. The Guardian interviews Sri Lankan author and Booker Prize finalist Shehan Karunatilaka. His Booker nominated novel The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida is about a war photographer trying to solve his own murder after death and therefore genre: “Shehan Karunatilaka: ‘There’s a Sri Lankan gallows humour… we’ve been through a lot of catastrophes’”.

Was it important for you that such a violent story should also be funny?
I don’t know if that was intentional. There’s a Sri Lankan gallows humour, because we’ve been through a hell of a lot of catastrophes. The place isn’t as volatile as it was even a month or two ago; there’s still uncertainty, but there’s a lot of people cracking jokes. I think I could never write a straight-out-horror ghost story, maybe it’s just my sensibility. Even in the 1989 situation, there was a lot of farce and it was quite ridiculous.

(7) FOREIGN AGENT MAN. Science fiction author Dmitry Glukhovsky has been declared a ‘foreign agent’ by the Russian government because of his opposition to the invasion of Ukraine: “Russia declares popular rapper and writer ‘foreign agents’” reports the Guardian.

…The author of a 2002 post-apocalyptic fiction novel, “Metro 2033”, was put on the list after a Russian court ordered his arrest in absentia for his criticism of the offensive….

(8) MEMORY LANE.  

1955 [By Cat Eldridge.] On this date in 1955, Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe came to an end after just twelve episodes. You know there are certain series, be they video or written that you just know lasted much longer than they actually did. For me, this is one of them. 

This black-and-white movie serial from Republic Pictures originally began life as a proposed syndicated television series. I’ve no idea why that never came to be, but it didn’t, mores the pity. 

It was written by Ronald Davidson and Barry Shipman, and was directed by Harry Keller,  Franklin Adreon and Fred C. Brannon. A year later Davidson would script the The Adventures of Dr. Fu Manchu series, and Shipman scripted more Westerns than is really healthy to think about including, and I kid you not, Hi-Yo Silver. It was created by condensing the fifteen chapters of the 1938 Lone Ranger film serial.

The cast was Judd Holdren as Commando Cody, Aline Towne as Joan Gilbert, William Schallert as Ted Richards and Richard Crane as Dick Preston. There are as I said above but twelve episodes. You can see the first episode, ‘Enemies of the Universe” here. Before you ask, yes it is out of copyright.

The Commando Cody character was actually first introduced three years earlier in Republic’s Radar Men from the Moon serial (1952) with actor George Wallace in the title role. In the sequel, Zombies of the Stratosphere (1952) Judd Holdren also played the rocket man, but his character was renamed Larry Martin for reasons.

Do I like it? Oh very much so. It’s SF pulp at its very, very finest. I just wish it was really as long as my mind’s eye remembers it being. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 8, 1920 Frank HerbertDune, of course, which won a Hugo at Tricon. (I’ve read it myriad times.) I’ll admit I only like the series through Dune Messiah. And no, I’ve not see the new Dune. The BBC full cast audio version of Dune is quite amazing. I’m also fond of Under Pressure. Beyond that, there’s not much that I’m fond of. (Died 1986.)
  • Born October 8, 1949 Sigourney Weaver, 73. I’m picking her greatest genre role as being the dual roles of Gwen DeMarco and Lieutenant Tawny Madison in Galaxy Quest. Chicon 2000 did give the film Best Dramatic Presentation Award after all and it is a loving homage to all that is good in the genre. And yes, I know Conspiracy ‘87 gave Aliens a Best Dramatic Presentation Award as well but I’m really not a fan of that franchise. 
  • Born October 8, 1949 Richard Hescox, 73. Though he does a lot of comics work , you most likely to know him for his film poster work. He did this poster for Swamp Thing, over here you can this stellar work he did for The Dark Crystal, and his movie poster concept art for Escape From New York.
  • Born October 8, 1974 Lynne M. Thomas, 48. Librarian, podcaster and award-winning editor. She has won ten Hugo Awards for, among other things, her work on the SF Squeecast fancast and editing Uncanny magazine with and husband Michael Damian Thomas. She and her husband are fanatical Whovians, so it’s no surprise that with Tara O’Shea, she edited the superb Chicks Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the Women Who Love It
  • Born October 8, 1993 Molly C. Quinn, 29. Fey / Intern Molly / Melony on the Welcome to Night Vale podcast and Pemily Stallwark on the sort of related Thrilling Adventure Hour podcast. She’s Jenny in the Arthurian Avalon High series, and showed up in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as Howard’s date.

(10) SHORT AND FREE. Space Cowboy Books will host “Online Flash Science Fiction Night” on October 13 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. The evening of short science fiction readings will feature authors Jenna Hanchey, Taylor Rae, and Tara Campbell. Flash Science Fiction Nights run 30 minutes or less. Register for free here: here.

This event is in collaboration with If There’s Anyone Left series of flash fiction anthologies
Get Vol.1 here & Vol.2 here

(11) STRANGE VIBRATIONS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Not remotely science fiction, but something in my brain forced me to send this item from Gizmodo. On behalf of my brain, I am truly truly sorry. “Build Your Own Undetectable Chess Cheating Vibrator”.

The professional chess world is in chaos after accusations that master Hans Niemann has been cheating in official play, including some wild theories about how he might be getting outside help. But are vibrating anal beads that wirelessly communicate with the outside world even possible? It turns out the technology can work, and Adafruit will teach you how to build your own….

The DIY project starts with a plastic soda bottle preform (these are heated and expanded through a molding process to create the larger soda bottles you’ll find on store shelves), which is waterproof and nearly indestructible: an important feature depending on where you plan to use your Cheekmate (yes, that’s really what it’s called) device. From there, it’s stuffed with a small assortment of various electronics, including a haptic buzzer, a battery, an ESP32-S2 board with built-in wifi, and some wires and soldering.

The tutorial also includes all the code needed for the device to receive wireless text messages through the Adafruit IO cloud service and then translate them into Morse Code, which is transmitted to the user by pulses of its haptic buzzer. To successfully learn to cheat at chess, if that’s how you intend to use your Cheekmate, you’ll need to learn Morse Code first, but that’s probably a lot easier than the actual game….

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Alasdair Beckett-King dropped this video parody of films like The Wicker Man and Midsommar.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Michael “Orange Mike” Lowrey, Lloyd Penney, Steven French, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 8/19/22 One Sturgeon, One Spock, One Bierce

(1) F&SF COVER REVEAL. Bob Eggleton created the art on the cover of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction’s Sept/Oct 2022 issue.

(2) B&N. Barnes & Noble seems to be shifting away from hardcovers and promoting paperbacks, and Middle-Grade / YA authors are particularly worried. At Book Riot, Jenn Northington tries to explain “What Is Going On With Barnes & Noble?”

…Let’s take the newest news first: While much of this is anecdotal, it’s not likely that Barnes & Noble would go on the record about this kind of policy and there are enough supporting responses on Bethany Baptiste’s tweet on August 17th to make it clear that many authors with hardcover releases, particularly in Kids and Middle-Grade, are not being stocked even in their local B&N stores. This isn’t limited to debut authors, either; Kelly Yang, the award-winning author of the Front Desk series, posted a video in which she announced she had been specifically told that B&N would not be stocking the newest book in the series. Scroll through the responses to Baptiste’s tweet, and you’ll see many others with the same story. Independent publisher Disruption Books weighed in to note that this holds true with their own experience.

B&N is a key piece of the in-person bookselling world. Despite Amazon controlling the lion’s share of book sales in the US, everyone in publishing (including indie bookstores) seems united in agreeing that without B&N as even a small counterweight to the e-commerce behemoth, bookselling as we know it would be doomed. As Ellen Adler, publisher of New Press, told the New York Times, “It’s funny how the industry has evolved so that they are now a good guy… I would say their rehabilitation has been total.”… 

So let’s add that together for B&N: Central ordering has been down-sized, publishers can no longer pay for placement, stores have less display room, and hardcover sales are down. Add to that the anecdata about B&N buyers being even warier of bringing in newer authors, and you’ve got a recipe for panic.

Which brings us to impact. Discovery is the perennial Holy Grail of publishing: how do you get someone to see or hear about (and then hopefully buy) your new book? There’s no one right answer (and anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something) but physical discovery, i.e. walking into a bookstore and seeing that book on a display table, has long been one of the key elements – which is why publishers have historically been willing to pay for those display spots….

… All of which adds up to, any shift by B&N to carry fewer hardcovers is a blow to discovery, and therefore to authors. If the only hardcovers you can find at your local branch are also the ones that are on the bestseller list, which are also the ones getting marketing dollars, which are also the ones that the algorithms are suggesting to you online, then the chances of, say, a debut author from a marginalized community getting their book in front of your face long enough for you to see it and consider buying it are lower than ever. And let’s be real here: decreases in discovery disproportionately affect authors from marginalized communities.

Laura Anne Gilman posted her response to the B&N news on Facebook.

There is panic once again rumbling through the publishing industry because Barnes & Noble has announced a new hardcover policy that basically fucks over anyone who isn’t already a number one best seller.

This is not good, on very many levels.

However, and I cannot emphasize this enough, this policy appears to apply only to hardcovers, and it’s unclear to my reading if it will apply to all imprints. It’s still not good, but it’s not going to destroy genre publishing. Not until they decide that they’re only gonna take the top book in mass market and or trade, too.

ETA: I would not be entirely surprised if the chains were to do this. They’ve tried it before, it has not worked out well for them.

(Hardcovers have become increasingly expensive, so I’ve been expecting trouble to surface, but I honestly thought it would come from publishers, not booksellers)

And even then, depending on how much autonomy they actually are giving their local stores… well, personally I’m waiting to see how this decision plays out, and how long they keep it in place. If it’s a sales disaster, they will pretend it never happened.

Meanwhile, continue supporting your local and non-local Indies

(3) THEY’RE OFF. The second Self-Published Science Fiction Competition has left the starting line. The SPSFC blog has details: “Let the Games Begin! SPSFC2 is Go!”

Books have been allocated, checked. Covers have been dispersed. The judges are prepped and ready!

WHAT’S NEW THIS YEAR?

This year we’ve made a few adjustments and wanted to highlight them for those following along.

Re-submissions

Firstly, this year we struggled to get to the cap of 300 submissions, so we decided that we would open up the competition to re-submissions for those books who didn’t make it through the slush pile last year. This really helped us hit the cap as we received 112 re-submissions!

With plenty of new judges (currently at 59, with only about 15 returning from last year) we hope to get a fresh set of eyes on these contestants.

… This year we’re going to try our hardest to keep the team progress and communication centralized. We’ll be playing with some ways to keep that going and please tag us on Twitter (@thespsfc) or in the Facebook Group with feedback.

(4) SFF COMMUNITY CALLS FOR VISA TO BE GRANTED TO NIGERIAN AUTHOR. Mimi Mondal is one of many using social media to call for justice in granting a visa so Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki can attend Chicon 8. However, they homed in on the U.S. Consul General in Lagos. Consul General Will Stevens, to make this appeal.

Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki says, “Apparently that’s the guy in charge. The main man. That could make it all go away with a wave of his hand.”

(5) INTERNATIONAL BARRIERS. Jason Sanford adds some big-picture comments in ”The Barriers Faced By Authors and Creatives Around the World Limit the Future of the SF/F Genre” on Patreon.

Last year I wrote about the financial barriers faced by authors and creatives around the world, barriers that limited their participation in the science fiction and fantasy genre even as the genre grows increasingly global. These barriers are frequently not seen by many people in the United States, Europe, and Australia, even as people in these countries extol the increasing world-wide reach of the SF/F genre.

Sadly, financial barriers aren’t the only walls keeping people in many parts of the world from fully taking part in the SF/F genre. The latest example of such a barrier is Nigerian author Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki being denied a visa by the U.S. government to attend the World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago, where he is a Hugo Award finalist in two categories.

Ekpeki describes what happened in a must-read thread….

(6) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to share brunch on Eggs Benedict with Michael Jan Friedman in Episode 178 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Michael Jan Friedman

Michael Jan Friedman [has] written more than 70 books — around half of them set in the Star Trek universe. In 1992, he wrote Reunion, the first Star Trek: The Next Generation hardcover, which introduced the crew of the Stargazer, Captain Jean-Luc Picard’s first command. Friedman has also written for the AliensPredatorWolf ManLois and Clark, DC Super Hero, Marvel Super Hero, and Wishbone licensed book universes. Eleven of his books, including Hollywood Hulk Hogan and Ghost Hunting (written with Syfy’s Ghost Hunters), have appeared on the New York Times bestseller list. He’s also produced more than 200 comic book stories, including the Darkstars series from DC Comics, which he created with artist Larry Stroman, and the Outlaws limited series, which he created with artist Luke McDonnell. He also co-wrote the story for the second-season Star Trek: Voyager episode “Resistance,” which guest-starred Joel Grey.

We discussed the comic book he refused to trade for Fantastic Four #1 as a kid, how the X-Men might actually be a deconstructed Superman, whether it mattered the Marvel Universe was set in New York rather than DC’s series of fictional cities, why his two favorite superheroes are Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter, the lesson he took from an early encounter with Issac Asimov, how he easily solved a stardate conflict which allowed him to keep Chekov in one of his Star Trek novels, what it was like helping Hulk Hogan write his autobiography, and much more.

(7) TOLKIEN RIGHTS SALE. [Item by David Doering.] Not sure if I should be scared or not. (The Swedes being neutral and all, maybe they are as good a custodian as any.) But it would be like Britain selling the Crown Jewels or Windsor Castle. “Swedish gaming giant buys Lord of the Rings and Hobbit rights” in the Guardian.

The company that owns the rights to JRR Tolkien’s works, including The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, has been bought by the Swedish gaming firm Embracer Group, which has hinted it could make spin-off films based on popular characters such as Gandalf, Aragorn and Gollum.

Embracer has acquired Middle-earth Enterprises, the holding company that controls the intellectual property rights to films, video games, board games, merchandise, theme parks and stage productions relating to Tolkien’s two most famous literary franchises.

The deal also includes “matching rights” in other Middle-earth-related literary works authorised by the Tolkien Estate and HarperCollins – primarily The Silmarillion and The Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-earth – which were published after Tolkien’s death in 1973….

(8) IT’S ALL ON THE TABLE. Meanwhile, the Embracer Group shows up in another news report, about the board game market: “The Great Nerdification” at Publishers Weekly.

Once upon a time not so very long ago, any board games beyond the household staples like Monopoly and Scrabble were the exclusive property of, well, nerds. And during this not so very long time ago nerds dwelled on the sidelines, wallflower-like: by near definition they were the opposite of popular.

Today, however, we’re living in what Marc Gascoigne, publisher at Aconyte Books (the fiction imprint of the games publisher and distributor Asmodee Entertainment), calls “the great nerdification.” Thanks to hit TV shows like Stranger Things, which reintroduced the public to the seminal role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons, all types of tabletop games have become more mainstream—and they’re exploding in growth, and raking in big bucks.

According to the research report “Board Games Market by Product, Distribution Channel, and Geography-Forecast and Analysis 2021–2025” by Technavio Research, the market (which spans tabletop, card and dice, and RPGs) will see a year-over-year growth of 7.1% in 2021 alone, and grow at a compound annual growth rate of roughly 13% between 2020 and 2026. Additionally, the research firm Arizton Advisory & Intelligence estimates that tabletop games will rake in more than $4 billion in incremental revenues during this time frame.

This growth spurt in the board game category is partly due to the pandemic, which forced the world indoors and impelled people to find new (or old) ways to entertain themselves and socialize at home.

“The pandemic has only strengthened people’s fun and enjoyment playing board games,” Gascoigne says. “And you can now play many of them online if you can’t play in person.”

Though the board games industry is still small (if not miniature) potatoes in comparison to the video games market, which is forecast to be $300 billion by 2025, according to the Unity Gaming Report 2022, it’s expanding enough to catch the eye of video game companies, such as Swedish gaming developer the Embracer Group…. 

(9) AND IN THIS CORNER. The Guardian wonders “Who should Predator fight next? Yoda, Children of the Corn, or Sid from Toy Story?”

…It’s perhaps no coincidence that at a time when nobody really wanted another Predator movie, the straight-to-streaming prequel Prey has reinvigorated interest in the long-running saga. Set in North America in 1719, its less-is-more strategy pays off by pitching the alien against a young Native American woman who must use guile and her understanding of the warrior code to fend off an attack from the mandible-sporting alien.

The premise is much more intriguing than the execrable Alien vs Predator movies, and of course the Twittersphere has gone into a predictable loop-the-loop with suggestions for future episodes. Top of the pile is Stephen King’s idea that the extra-terrestrial hunter take on the Children of the Corn, the murderous kids who featured in his 1977 short story (and subsequent torrent of inexplicably bad movies).

Is King joking? Who cares! It’s another sideways option that would keep the Predator franchise searingly alive. Maybe the alien comes down to Earth in search of “He Who Walks Behind the Rows”, the horrible green demon worshipped by the juvenile citizens of Gatlin in King’s novel, and finds he has bitten off more than he can chew. (Can you chew with mandibles?)…

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1998 [By Cat Eldridge.] The first film of the Blade trilogy had its premiere in New York City on this date. Based off the Blade series by writer Marv Wolfman and artist Gene Colan, the screenplay was written by David S. Goyer who would also write Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. 

Wesley Snipes who plays the very special human-vampire hybrid Blade here would be one of the three producers. And I thought the cast was interesting: Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson, N’Bushe Wright and Donal Logue. 

A. Asbjørn Jøn raised the question whether Kris Kristofferson’s Whistler character was based off a character named Whistler in A Dozen Black Roses by Nancy A. Collins which came out two years earlier. Given that filming for this film started at least eighteen months before it got released and that means the screenplay was written at least a year before that, I think not. 

To save having to do SPOILERS, I will skip talking about the story which frankly is far less interesting than the sheer physical action here. It’s really watching fun Blade kill vampires in new and frankly gory manners. Snipes is fascinating to watch as he has a dancer’s physical grace as brutally stabs a vampire. Cool. Way cool.

The Blade here is not the Blade of the comics. Goyer replaced the daggers Blade used in the comics with a sword and gave him a more samurai-like aesthetic which explains the dance-like grace I saw in him. 

It cost forty million to produce and made a rather excellent one hundred and thirty million. 

Critics generally liked it. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Tribune made a good point when he noted that, “Blade is a movie that relishes high visual style.” And Peter Bradshaw writing for the Guardian said, “Blade is an entertainingly macabre and excitingly staged action horror, with a propulsive energy..” 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a quite stellar seventy eight percent rating. 

And yes, I like it rather a lot having seen it at the cinema and then watched it several times on video. I’m not at all fond of the two sequels though. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 19, 1921 Gene Roddenberry. Oh, you know who he is. But did you know he wrote a lot of scripts for Have Gun – Will Travel? Indeed his script for the show, “Helen of Abajinian” would win the Writer’s Guild of America award for Best Teleplay in 1958. And yes, he would share a Hugo for Star Trek’s “The City on the Edge of Forever” episode which was awarded at Baycon. (Died 1991.)
  • Born August 19, 1928 Richard N. Farmer. Author of Islandia Revisited: A Sequel By Other Hands which he claims to be a sequel to Austin Tappan Wright’s Islandia. No, it wasn’t at all authorized. There are authorized sequels to Islandia, three of them, all written by Mark Saxton, the man who edited the original Islandia manuscript. They are, in this order, The Islar, Islandia Today – A Narrative of Lang IIIThe Two Kingdoms and Havoc in Islandia. Sylvia Wright, Wright’s daughter and the executrix of the estate, died shortly before the third Saxton book was completed. Mark Saxton himself died in 1988, so it’s not really likely that we will see any additional Islandia novels.(Died 1987.)
  • Born August 19, 1930 D.G. Compton, 92. SWFA Author Emeritus whose The Steel Crocodile was nominated for the Nebula Award. The Unsleeping EyeThe Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe in the U.K., was filmed as Death Watch which the Audience Reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes actually like giving it a 60% rating. His two Alec Jordan near-future police stories are superb. He selected for the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award.
  • Born August 19, 1938 Diana Muldaur, 84. She appeared in the original series in two episodes, first in “Return to Tomorrow” as Dr. Ann Mulhall / Thalassa and then in “Is There in Truth No Beauty?”  as Dr. Miranda Jones. She, of course, is up again in Next Gen as Dr. Katherine Pulaski.  She voiced Dr. Leslie Thompkins in that animated Batman series as well. 
  • Born August 19, 1940 Jill St. John, 82. She’s best remembered as Tiffany Case, the Bond girl in Diamonds Are Forever. She was the first American to play a Bond girl. She shows in The Batman in “Smack in the Middle” and “Hi Diddle Riddle” as Molly. And she played Jennifer Holmes in the 1960 film version of The Lost World. Even more fascinatingly she’s one of the uncredited dancers on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In
  • Born August 19, 1950 Mary Doria Russell, 72. The Sparrow series, The Sparrow and its sequel Children of God, are awesome. The Sparrow won the Clarke, BSFA, and Tiptree Awards, and it was the reason she won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. Though not genre, Doc and its sequel Epitaph are mysteries using the historic character of Doc Holliday. 
  • Born August 19, 1952 Jonathan Frakes, 70. Best known for his portrayal of Commander William T. Riker in Next Gen and I’m fond of his voicing David Xanatos on the Gargoyles series which had at least five Trek actors doing voice work. Interesting bit of trivia: For a time in the Seventies, he worked for Marvel Comics at Cons as Captain America. He has directed more than seventy television episodes, including episodes of myriad Trek series, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.LeverageThe Librarians and The Orville.

(12) A NICE TURN OF PHRASE. Says Icona:

(13) DEAD RECKONING. Book Riot’s K. W. Colyard spotlights “Murder Mysteries In Space: 10 Thrillers Set Where No One Can Hear You Scream”. First on the list:

THE TEA MASTER AND THE DETECTIVE BY ALIETTE DE BODARD

Aliette de Bodard’s Hugo- and Nebula-nominated novella centers on The Shadow’s Child: a sentient spaceship who has settled into her new life as a wounded veteran. Her latest client is Long Chau: a researcher who needs The Shadow’s Child‘s help acquiring a dead body. But when they realize the body they’ve found is that of a murder victim, this newly acquainted dynamic duo have no choice but to investigate in The Tea Master and the Detective.

(14) IT’S ABOUT TIME. Another SFnal-ish Isaac Arthur here: “Time Wars & Alternate Timelines” on YouTube.

Temporal Paradox and Time Travel delight us in science fiction, but what would a war across time really look like?

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Day Shift Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George explains the new Jamie Foxx vampire hunter movie begins with Jamie Foxx fighting a valued senior citizen, killing her, and stealing her fangs because in this world, the older the vampire, the more valuable their fangs.  We learn about the vampires because Foxx and another character “have an exposition battle where they quiz each other on how much they know.”  Also, many characters pee their pants and this is a plot point because “vampires don’t pee.”

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

Pixel Scroll 6/28/22 The Mirror Grok’d

(1) F&SF COVER REVEAL. Gordon Van Gelder has shared the July/August 2022 cover for the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.  The cover art by Mondolithic Studios illustrates “Starblind, Booklost, and Hearing the Songs of True Birds” by Rudi Dornemann.

(2) MACMILLAN REMAINS SHUTTERED. “Macmillan Closed Tuesday As Well As They Address Security Incident” reports Shelf Awareness.

Macmillan, which closed yesterday because of “a security incident” on Saturday that involved its servers and internal system, is remaining closed “virtually and physically” today, Tuesday, June 28. The company said it is “making progress,” but it is still unable to process, receive, place or ship orders.

Details of the incident have not been publicized. Publisher’s Lunch (behind a paywall) commented:

…Network “security incidents” — generally some kind of hacking and/or ransomware — have become all too commonplace in recent years, and each one serves as a cautionary tale to all of us. Some are handled quietly and never acknowledged, but among the known incidents with publishing-related companies in recent years, the Barnes & Noble ransomware hack was the most prominent and had the biggest effect on customers, ultimately taking weeks to fully resolve….

(3) 69 IS NOT DIVINE? Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson recommends some changes in “The Hugo Awards At 69”.

… At the time of its establishment and for the first few years of its existence, the award categories clearly reflected the interests and aspects of SF Fandom that were considered important to its future existence:  fiction, the “raison d’etre” of the culture, the magazines that published the fiction and/or the editor’s who managed them, the artists who realized its visions and the people who made and reinforced that culture, the Fans.

Seven categories were initially offered.  That’s now expanded to 17 and I’ll submit that the reason(s) some categories may be under-represented and might be eliminated is not because they’ve lost importance over the years, but because the awards themselves have focused on becoming more commercially appealing, rather than on focusing on serving their original purpose, that of self-congratulation and recognition within a fan community.

The Hugo Awards need to reduce the number of categories it covers and refocus its efforts on the writing and Fan categories.  (Why Fan categories?  Two primary reasons:  The body of critical analysis offered by Fans through reviews and essays, commentary and yes, even ridicule and sarcasm, is what continuously redefines and elucidates the field.  These efforts sustain the genre and the community that engages with it and should therefore be supported….

(4) ANYTHING YOU CAN DO I CAN DO BETTER. “Aldous Huxley to George Orwell: My Hellish Vision of the Future is Better Than Yours (1949)” at Open Culture.

In 1949, George Orwell received a curious letter from his former high school French teacher.

Orwell had just published his groundbreaking book Nineteen Eighty-Four, which received glowing reviews from just about every corner of the English-speaking world. His French teacher, as it happens, was none other than Aldous Huxley who taught at Eton for a spell before writing Brave New World (1931), the other great 20th century dystopian novel.

Huxley starts off the letter praising the book, describing it as “profoundly important.” He continues, “The philosophy of the ruling minority in Nineteen Eighty-Four is a sadism which has been carried to its logical conclusion by going beyond sex and denying it.”

Then Huxley switches gears and criticizes the book, writing, “Whether in actual fact the policy of the boot-on-the-face can go on indefinitely seems doubtful. My own belief is that the ruling oligarchy will find less arduous and wasteful ways of governing and of satisfying its lust for power, and these ways will resemble those which I described in Brave New World.”… 

(5) PRIDE Q&A’S. The Horror Writers Association blog continues their “Point of Pride” theme in these interviews with Crystal Romero and Damian Serbu.

Do you make a conscious effort to include LGBTQ material in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?

Yes, inclusion or lack of it, is what encouraged me to begin writing. I’ve always wanted to see more people who were like me. So when I began to write original work, I made a conscious effort to include characters of all orientations, but especially lesbians. Not only do I make an effort to include LGBTQ characters in my work, but I also include people of color. In an upcoming short story, I’m including a female bi-racial lesbian and Filipino gay male character. In the story that will follow this one, I’ll be introducing a transgender female character.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?

I love the creative expression of horror writing. I find horror liberating in a way other genres don’t allow. With horror, there are no rules about what can or cannot happen! The notion of generating a unique monster, plague, demon, or source of evil fascinates me. I wonder what caused the horror to exist. And I ponder how people can over come it. I also think horror writing prompts a writer to get into the raw emotion of being human and in community. Fear is such a base human emotion and at the center of so much of what we think and do. Horror digs into that feeling to reveal the soul of a person.

(6) MIXING HIS INKS. Eddie Robson explains that he loves noir and paranoid Phil Dickian sf so much he decided to combine them! “On Nightmare Noir, Science Fiction, and the Lure of the Gothic” at CrimeReads.

…Meanwhile in SF we can look to the work of Philip K Dick, so often marked by ambiguity and uncertainty, calling into question the nature of reality. Technology’s increasing ability to create artificial things not only returns us to the territory of Frankenstein, it also brings back the essential Gothic quality of the uncanny. This became a familiar mode of SF in the wake of works like Neuromancer and Blade Runner—both of which, incidentally, also draw heavily on crime tropes. (Perhaps the most obvious, and successful, combination of all three is The X Files, which itself draws on key Gothic crime texts like The Silence of the Lambs and Twin Peaks.)…

(7) SQUARING THE CIRCLE. In the Washington Post, Dave Eggers discusses how the Rapid City, South Dakota school system had removed his sf novel The Circle and four other books, including Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home from the high school curriculum and were threatening to destroy the books.  He talks about how he worked with an independent bookstore in that city to make the books available and to have the school system do something with the books rather than pulp them. “South Dakota schools banned Dave Eggers’s novel. He investigated why.”

… When the book ban made national news, I talked with Amanda Uhle, my colleague at the publishing company McSweeney’s, about making the banned books available to Rapid City high school seniors.We called Mitzi’s Books, an independent bookseller in Rapid City, and we made an arrangement whereby we would buy books for any seniors who had been deprived access to them. So far more than 400 copies of the five banned books have been provided free to these students….

(8) FROM BABIES TO THE BEATLES. Kay Dee tells what it was like to witness the first worldwide live TV linkup at Galactic Journey. “[June 28, 1967] Around the World in Two Seconds (Our World Global Satellite Broadcast)”

I love how our world is drawing closer every day to some of the amazing futures that science fiction has spread before us. I’ve written before about the importance of satellite communications in connecting this divided planet. Just two days ago, 24 countries around the globe were linked together in the first world-spanning live satellite broadcast, titled – appropriately enough – Our World….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

2015 [By Cat Eldridge.] In the usual manner that such things happen, the Humans series debuted here two weeks after it first aired seven years ago on BBC. It was based on the Swedish SF series Real Humans which involved the creation of synths. (Yes, Picard would later use that term.) Channel 4 and Kudos in the United Kingdom, and AMC in the United States were the companies that underwrote it.

It was created by Sam Vincent, largely a voice actor, and Jonathan Brackley who had nothing to his name previous to this. I suspect a ghost writing staff was definitely involved but I cannot prove it. It was produced by Chris Fry who has executive produced a lot of Spooks so it had an experienced hand there. 

It had a huge cast including Carrie-Anne Moss and William Hurt. Seriously it did. 

It had three seasons of eight episodes each. It did not get a proper conclusion as it was simply cancelled. Ahhh welll.

Too bad, as the British critics really liked it. Mind you the ratings kept slip sliding away. 

The Guardian said, “Humans itself won’t compete with Westworld on wild ambition or imagination, and certainly not on budget. But I like it better; it’s more pressingly relevant. And more human.” 

And the London Evening Standard said that it provides “a smart and stylish exploration of the joys and perils of putting your very existence into the hands of artificial intelligence… If episode one delivers on its promise, then the journey into the unknown will be a profoundly interesting one.”

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a brainy eighty-five percent rating. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 28, 1926 — Mel Brooks, 96. Young Frankenstein (1974) (Hugo and Nebula winner) and Spaceballs (1987) would get him listed even without The 2000 Year Old ManGet Smart and others. Here is an appreciation of Mel on YouTube.  (Alan Baumler)
  • Born June 28, 1946 — Robert Lynn Asprin. I first encountered him as one of the co-editors along with Lynn Abbey of the most stellar Thieves’ World Series for which he wrote the superb “The Price of Doing Business” for the first volume. I’m also very fond of The Cold Cash War novel. His Griffen McCandles (Dragons) series is quite excellent. I’m please to say that he’s well stocked on both at the usual suspects. (Died 2008.)
  • Born June 28, 1947 — Mark Helprin, 75. Author of three works of significance to the genre, Winter’s TaleA City in Winter which won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novella and The Veil of Snows. The latter two are tastefully illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg. I know Winter’s Tale was turned into a film but color me very disinterested in seeing it as I love the novel. 
  • Born June 28, 1951 — Lalla Ward, 71. She is known for her role as the second actress to play Romana (or Romanadvoratrelundar in full) on Doctor Who during the time of the Fourth Doctor. She has reprised the character in Dimensions in Time, the webcast version of Shada, and in several Doctor Who Big Finish productions. In addition, she played Ophelia to Derek Jacobi’s Hamlet in the BBC television production.  And she was Helga in an early horror film called Vampire Circus
  • Born June 28, 1954 — Deborah Grabien, 68. She makes the Birthday list for her most excellent Haunted Ballads series in which a folk musician and his lover tackle the matter of actual haunted spaces. It’s coming out in trade paper and ebook editions soon. It leads off with The Weaver and the Factory Maid. You can read the first chapter here. Oh, and she makes truly great dark chocolate fudge. And she sent me miniature palm tree seeds which are growing here now. 
  • Born June 28, 1954 — Alice Krige, 68. I think her first genre role was in the full dual of Eva Galli and Alma Mobley in Ghost Story. From there, she plays Mary Shelley (née Godwin) in Haunted Summer before going onto being Mary Brady in Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers. Now it’s in Star Trek: First Contact in which she first plays the Borg Queen, a role she’ll repeat in the finale of Star Trek: Voyager, “Endgame”. She’s had a number of other genre roles but I will only note that she was Eir in Thor: The Dark World
  • Born June 28, 1979 — Felicia Day, 43. She was Vi in  Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a rather fascinating Dr. Holly Marten in Eureka, and had a recurring role as Charles Bradbury on Supernatural. She also appears  as Kinga Forrester in Mystery Science Theater 3000.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Baldo might be considered a biography instead of a punchline by the average Filer!

(12) AHMED’S NEW PROJECT. “Saladin Ahmed, Shaka King & Travon Free Team On Webcomic ‘Drac: Son of Dante’”Deadline has the details.

Saladin Ahmed (Miles Morales: Spider-Man) has partnered with filmmakers Shaka King (Judas and the Black Messiah) and Travon Free (Two Distant Strangers) to create Drac: Son of Dante—a new, 15-part webcomic series for Tapas Media and Endeavor Content, which is now free to read exclusively via the former company’s website and mobile app. The series’ first two episodes have already launched, with more to come weekly on Fridays.

Drac is said to introduce a new and contemporary mythology around the origins of the iconic goth villain Dracula that will resonate with multicultural and youth audiences alike. The narrative follows Dante, an eerie, flute-playing immortal who finds himself drawn to the human condition against the natural order and better judgment of his species. Dante follows this obsession no matter how much trouble it gets him into — but a conflict for the ages erupts when his monstrous son Drac chooses a human bride….

(13) THE WITCHING HOUR. Hocus Pocus 2 comes to Disney+ on September 30.

Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy reunite for the highly anticipated Disney+ Original Movie “Hocus Pocus 2.” The live-action, long awaited sequel to the perennial Halloween classic, which brings back the delightfully wicked Sanderson sisters for more comedic mayhem, will debut on Disney+ on September 30. It’s been 29 years since someone lit the Black Flame Candle and resurrected the 17th-century sisters, and they are looking for revenge. Now it is up to three high-school students to stop the ravenous witches from wreaking a new kind of havoc on Salem before dawn on All Hallow’s Eve.

(14) TRADING OLD TROUBLES FOR NEW. Fantasy author and podcaster Richard H. Stephens continues his work within the Soul Forge Universe with Dragon Sect: Highcliff Guardians Series Book Two.

The Dragon Witch Wraith has returned.

With the Grim Duke in his place, and a tentative pact with the wizard’s guild, the Queen of the Elves’ only real concern is for her rebellious daughter. Or so she is led to believe.

Buoyed by the news of unrest in the land’s largest city of Urdanya, Duke Orlythe’s new wizard attempts to convince him that a path to the coveted Willow Throne lies within reach of someone bold enough to seize the opportunity.

The return of the Dragon Witch Wraith prompts the ailing high wizard to find a way to thwart his arch nemesis before everything South March has fought for is lost.

Oblivious to the dangers of the world, Princess Ouderling sets out on a quest to locate an ancient dragon, in a desperate attempt to save her mother from an inevitable fate.

Should she fail, the Grim Duke will ascend the throne.

Available from Amazon and Amazon.ca.

At age 17 author Richard H. Stephens left high school and for the next twenty-two years worked as a shipper at a local bakery. At the age of 36, he went back to high school and graduated with honors. He became a member of the local Police Service, and worked for 12 years in a Canadian provincial court system. In early 2017, he left the Police Service to write full-time. Learn more about Richard H. Stephens at his website.

(15) WHAT IS YOUR QUEST? Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy enthusiastically recommends “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On”.

How can a film as disarmingly simple as this inspire deep feelings about loss, connection, and the meaning of family? I’m not sure I have the answer; all I know is that I was fighting back tears at the end of Marcel the Shell with Shoes On. My daughter Jessie got to see the movie at the Telluride Film Festival last year and has been a proud proselytizer ever since.

I wouldn’t want to burden this charming film with descriptors like “existential” but it’s not misapplied here. At a time when so many of us are feeling disoriented—or disconnected—a movie like this is especially welcome….

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Obi-Wan Kenobi,” the Screen Junkies say that Disney, having brought back Han Solo as a “broke, divorced dad,” and Luke Skywalker as a “gross recluse,” they brought back Obi-Wan Kenobi as a “sad fishmonger whose new mission is to stare at a ten-year-old boy all day.” While they liked Vivian Blair’s work as a young Princess Leia, the series becomes “another round of ‘grumpy man brings a cute, sassy kid to safety’: just like The Mandalorian, Terminator 2, and Aliens.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Daniel Dern, 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 3/9/22 And A Scroll Will Never Need More Than 640K Pixels

(1) F&SF COVER REVEAL. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s March/April 2022 cover art is by Mondolithic Studios, illustrating “Dancing Litle Marionettes” by Megan Beadle.

(2) LUCKY SEVEN. Martha Wells discusses “The Nebula Nomination Decline” at My Flying Lizard Circus. By dropping out she actually pulled two extra finalists onto the ballot.

So Fugitive Telemetry did have a Nebula finalist spot for Best Novella, which after a phone conversation and email with Jeffe Kennedy, the president of SFWA, I decided to decline. Basically because The Murderbot Diaries has had three Nebula finalist spots and two Nebula wins (for Best Novella and Best Novel) in the past four years. (Plus the four Hugos.) So it just seemed like someone else could use this nomination better than I could.

Jeffe had to check and see what would happen if I declined (it’s not like the Hugo longlist where if someone drops out everybody just moves up one). If it just meant there was going to be four novellas on the ballot instead of five, I would have kept the nomination. So when she told me there was a three way tie for sixth place so if I dropped out, three more novellas would be on the ballot, that seemed like a really good deal. 🙂

(3) BY GEORGE! [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, John Kelly reports on predictions British writer W.L. George made in 1922 about life a century in his future.  Kelly finds George was accurate in predicting improvements in transportation and communications, but he also thought people in 2022 would live on pills and homes would have papier-mache walls which would be peeled off it they got dirty. “W.L. George’s 1922 predictions of the future have stood the test of time”.

… George felt the world wouldn’t change as much between 1922 and 2022 as it had between 1822 and 1922. “[The] world today would surprise President Jefferson much more, I suspect, than the world of 2022 would surprise the little girl who sells candies at Grand Central Station. For Jefferson knew nothing of railroads, telephones, automobiles, aeroplanes, gramophones, movies, radium, etc.”

He began with technology. Planes would replace both steamships and long-distance trains. Trucks would probably replace freight trains. Communications technologies such as the telephone would go “wireless.” Wrote George: “the people of the year 2022 will probably never see a wire outlined against the sky.”…

(4) FRANKE STILL WITH US. Austrian scientist, artist, and SF writer Herbert W. Franke, age 95, suddenly appeared on Twitter yesterday. A major science fiction writer in the German language, he was a guest of honor at the 1970 Worldcon. He also is a computer graphics pioneer.

Enthusiasts of both SF and computer art responded with well over a hundred messages of welcome.

His career on Twitter is just getting started.  Here’s his follow-up message:

Why now?

The Internet Science Fiction Database says he’s been busy over the past seven decades or so. The SF Encyclopedia can fill you in about his career here.

(5) MY ONLY HOPE. “Obi-Wan Kenobi” begins streaming on Disney+ on May 25.

The story begins 10 years after the dramatic events of “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith” where Obi-Wan Kenobi faced his greatest defeat—the downfall and corruption of his best friend and Jedi apprentice, Anakin Skywalker, who turned to the dark side as evil Sith Lord Darth Vader. The series stars Ewan McGregor, reprising his role as the iconic Jedi Master, and also marks the return of Hayden Christensen in the role of Darth Vader. Joining the cast are Moses Ingram, Joel Edgerton, Bonnie Piesse, Kumail Nanjiani, Indira Varma, Rupert Friend, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Sung Kang, Simone Kessell and Benny Safdie.

(6) WHO IS NUMBER ONE? The only show to answer that question,“Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” starts streaming on Paramount+ on May 5.

STAR TREK: STRANGE NEW WORLDS is based on the years Captain Christopher Pike manned the helm of the U.S.S. Enterprise. The series will feature fan favorites from season two of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY: Anson Mount as Captain Christopher Pike, Rebecca Romijn as Number One and Ethan Peck as Science Officer Spock.

(7) EARLY WITHDRAWAL PENALTY. “Black Panther director Ryan Coogler arrested after being mistaken for bank robber” reports the Guardian.  

Black Panther director Ryan Coogler was mistaken for a bank robber and arrested after trying to withdraw money from his bank account. Coogler confirmed the incident, which happened in January, to Variety after TMZ first reported it.

According to a police report obtained by TMZ, Coogler, who is currently filming the Black Panther sequel Black Panther: Wakanda Forever in Atlanta, Georgia, entered a bank in the city and handed the cashier a note reading: “I would like to withdraw $12,000 cash from my checking account. Please do the money count somewhere else. I’d like to be discreet.”

The transaction triggered an alarm, according to the report, and bank staff called the police. Coogler and two other people with him were arrested, and later released.

Coogler told Variety: “This situation should never have happened … However, Bank of America worked with me and addressed it to my satisfaction and we have moved on.”

(8) TRAVELER FROM AN ANTIQUE LAND. Fanac.org is doing another Fan History Zoom on March 19. To RSVP, send a note to [email protected].

Traveling Ghiants, Fan Funds from the Days of Mimeo to the Days of Zoom

with Geri Sullivan (m), Lesleigh Luttrell, Justin Ackroyd and Suzle Tompkins

Date: March 19, 2022
Time: 4pm EDT, 1pm PDT, 8pm London, 7am AEDT (Melbourne)

Fan Funds evolved to bring together in person fans from different regions who only knew each other long distance, and on paper. In these days of virtual conventions, we still long for connection. Our panel are Fan Fund winners all, representing TAFF- the Transatlantic Fan Fund, DUFF – the Down Under Fan Fund, and GUFF – the Get-Up-and-Over Fan Fund (or the Going Under Fan Fund). In addition to the travel part of being a Fan Fund winner, there’s an entire administration and fundraising side that most of us don’t even think of. Join us to hear from those in the know how Fan Funds have changed, their secret rules, and the impact of plagues and modern society on this traditional fannish charity. Expect some traveler’s tales too!

To RSVP, or find out more about the series, please send a note to [email protected].

(9) GROWING OLD IS NOT FOR SISSIES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Gizmodo’s James Whitbrook contrasts the approach that Star Wars and Star Trek movies have taken toward aging actors playing aging characters.  Does one let characters age along with the actors, or does one fire up the computer networks and plaster CGI versions of youth over various visages? “Star Trek and Star Wars’ Different Approaches to De-Aging Tech”.

There’s a moment in the climax of Star Trek: Picard’s season two premiere when Q, the omnipotent bane of Jean-Luc’s life, appears in the latter’s humble French estate. He has had, like so many returning figures of classic pop culture of late, the process of time smoothed out by CG, to give us a semblance of the Q we once knew all those years ago. But, he realizes: Jean-Luc Picard has gotten old. So why shouldn’t he?

“Oh dear, you’re a bit older than I imagined,” Q jokes. “Let me catch up.” In a trademark click of his fingers, and a bright flash of light, the CG-enhanced Q becomes just regular old contemporary John de Lancie. It’s a perfect way to bring Q and Picard together again, decades after they last crossed paths in the finale of The Next Generation—but it’s also emblematic of an approach contemporary Star Trek is taking to its aging heroes….

(10) ODDLY IT HAS NO BIKE PATH. But who needs a bike path when your bike can fly? “’E.T. Park’ in Porter Ranch could become official” – the LA Times has details.

A City Council committee on Tuesday backed a proposal to rename Porter Ridge Park as E.T. Park. The proposal now goes to the full council.

Director Steven Spielberg sought out the tract-house setting of the Valley for “E.T.” because it reminded him of the Phoenix suburb where he grew up, The Times reported in 1985 .

The Porter Ranch park is featured in a scene in which a group that includes E.T. and Elliott, the boy who befriends the alien, escapes federal agents. One of the park’s climbing structures — a caterpillar with big eyes — can be seen in the film.

Other San Fernando Valley locales featured in the movie include White Oak Avenue in Granada Hills, where Elliott, E.T. and others escape on bikes, and a Tujunga residence, where Elliott and his family live.

City Councilmen John Lee and Bob Blumenfield, who represent Valley neighborhoods, introduced the motion to change the park’s name.

“I think the whole community refers to it as E.T Park, and this is just making it official,” Lee said at Tuesday’s committee meeting. “Mr. Spielberg has given us the permission to use it, that name.”…

(11) KOURITS OBIT. Ukranian fan Leonid Kourits died of a stroke reports Marcia Kelly Illingworth on Facebook. He attended several Worldcons and UK Eastercons. Borys Sydiuk says he was the organizer of the first truly international SF convention in the USSR in the Koblevo, Nikolaev region in 1988. David Langford’s amusing encounter with Kourits at the 1997 World Fantasy Con is described in Cloud Chamber 79.

(12) STEWART BEVAN (1948-2022) Actor Stewart Bevan, who appeared on Doctor Who and Blake’s 7, has died reports the Guardian. Other genre credits include the horror films Burke & Hare and The Flesh and Blood Show (both 1972), and The Ghoul (1975)…

… He featured in the long-running series Doctor Who, in 1973’s The Green Death, remembered fondly by viewers as “the one with the giant maggots”. The departure of popular companion Jo Grant (Katy Manning) called for someone special to lure her away from third Doctor, Jon Pertwee, and to this end the charismatic Welsh eco-warrior Professor Clifford Jones was conceived.

Michael Briant, the director, was having trouble casting this part but was reluctant to interview Bevan because he was Manning’s fiance at the time. He finally relented and discovered that Bevan was exactly what he was looking for: handsome and with the requisite crusading zeal and lightness of touch.

Bevan’s obvious rapport with Manning also helped to make her departure one of the series’ most memorably tear-jerking. Bevan himself was an empathic anti-capitalist vegetarian, guitar player and writer of poetry – all of which contributed to making Jones a believable character….

(13) CONRAD JANIS (1928-2022) The actor who played Mindy’s father in Mork & Mindy, Conrad Janis, died March 1 at the age of 94. The New York Times tribute is here. He also was a KAOS agent on Get Smart and a space station resident on Quark.

(14) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1976 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Forty-four years ago this weekend, The Amazing Captain Nemo aired. It was based quite loosely off Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. It was written by way too many screenwriters which included Robert Bloch. Scripts by committee in my opinion rarely work. (Your opinion may of course differ.) Robert Bloch and his fellow writers fleshed producer Irwin Allen’s premise that after a century of being in suspended animation, Nemo is revived in modern times for new adventures. It was intended as the pilot for a new series which didn’t happen, another project by Irwin Allen widely considered as an attempt to follow-up on the success of his Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea series. 

It had a very large cast but in my opinion the only performer that you need to know about is José Ferrer as Captain Nemo. He made a rather magnificent if hammy one. Of course, a few years later he get to chew on scenery again in Dune where plays Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV.

It was aired over three nights with Bloch largely responsible for the finale. Later the miniseries would get condensed, rather choppily, into a film called The Return of Captain Nemo which generated one of the best review comments: “Best line in the film was when Hallick says Captain Nemo was a figure of fiction, and Ferrer says that Jules Verne was a biographer as well as a science fiction writer. From there get set for some ham a la mode.”

It was not particularly well received by either critics or the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes with the latter giving a very bad twenty percent rating. 

Let’s give IGN the final word: “If one comes to an Irwin Allen-produced adventure seeking a thoughtful, challenging film, they’ve come to wrong place.” 

(15) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 9, 1918 Mickey Spillane. His first job was writing stories for Funnies Inc. including Batman, Captain America, Captain Marvel and Superman. Do note these were text stories, not scripts for comics. Other than those, ISFDB lists him as writing three genre short stories: “The Veiled Woman” (co-written with Howard Browne), “The Girl Behind the Hedge” and “Grave Matter” (co-written with Max Allan Collins).  Has anyone read these? (Died 2006.)
  • Born March 9, 1939 Pat Ellington. She was married to Dick Ellington, who edited and published the FIJAGH fanzine. They met in New York as fans in the Fifties. After they moved to California, she was a contributor to Femizine, a fanzine put out by the hoax fan Joan W. Carr.  (Died 2011.)
  • Born March 9, 1940 Raul Julia. Damn, another one who died far too early. If we count Sesame Street as genre as we should, his appearance as Rafael there was his first genre role. Yeah, I’m stretching it somewhat but not that much as Muppets are genre, aren’t they?  Ok, how about as Aram Fingal in Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, a RSL production off the John Varley short story? That better?  He later starred in Frankenstein Unbound as Victor Frankenstein as well. His last role released while he was still living was in the superb Addams Family Values as Gomez Addams reprising the role he’d had in The Addams Family. (Died 1994.)
  • Born March 9, 1945 Robert Calvert. Lyricist for Hawkwind, a band that’s at least genre adjacent. And Simon R. Green frequently mentioned them in his Nightside series by having a diner in the Nightside called the Hawk’s Wind Bar & Grille. Calvert was a close friend of Michael Moorcock.  He wrote SF poetry which you read about here. (Died 1988.)
  • Born March 9, 1955 Pat Murphy, 67. I think that her most brilliant work is The City, Not Long After which I’ve read myriad times. If you’ve not read this novel, do so now. The Max Merriwell series is excellent and Murphy’s ‘explanation’ of the authorial attributions is fascinating. The Nebula winning Falling Woman by her is an amazing read as well. Her “Rachael in Love” story won the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award and was nominated for Best Novelette at Nolacon II. She won a World Fantasy Award for her “Bones” novella which got her a Hugo nomination at Chicon V. Her space opera version of The HobbitThere and Back Again, is I’ve been reminded, a great deal of fun. She’s reasonably well stocked at the usual suspects.
  • Born March 9, 1965 Brom, 57. Artist and writer whose best work I think is Krampus: The Yule Lord and The Child ThiefThe Art of Brom is a very good look at his art. He’s listed as having provided some of the art design used on Galaxy Quest.  His latest, Slewfoot: A Tale of Bewitchery, riffs off witchcraft in colonial New England.
  • Born March 9, 1959 Mark Carwardine, 63. In 2009, he penned Last Chance to See: In the Footsteps of Douglas Adams. This is the sequel to Last Chance to See, the 1989 BBC radio documentary series and book which he did with Douglas Adams. In 2009, he also worked with with Stephen Fry on a follow-up to the original Last Chance to See. This also called Last Chance to See
  • Born March 9, 1978 Hannu Rajaniemi, 44. Author of the Jean le Flambeur series which consists of The Quantum ThiefThe Fractal Prince and The Causal Angel. Damn if I can summarize them. They remind me a bit of Alastair Reynolds’ Prefect novels, somewhat of Ian Mcdonald’s Mars novels as well. Layers of weirdness upon fascinating weirdness. Quite fascinating as I said. And well worth the reading time. 

(16) COMICS SECTION.

(17) LEAPBUSTER. SYFY Wire reveals that “NBC Quantum Leap reboot casts Ernie Hudson”.

An OG member of the Ghostbusters crew is making his way into the world of Quantum LeapPer Deadline, NBC’s upcoming reboot of the classic sci-fi series has tapped Ernie Hudson, best known for portraying Winston Zeddemore in the Ghostbusters film franchise (he recently reprised the spirit-fighting hero in Jason Reitman’s Afterlife), for a key role in the pilot episode.

This is the second bit of major casting news in the last few days after Raymond Lee was cast to lead the revival as Dr. Ben Seong last Friday. Hudson is set to play Herbert “Magic” Williams, a Vietnam War vet and seasoned leader of the Quantum Leap time travel project. “Using a bit of politicking and his military know-how to keep the Pentagon at bay, Magic buys the team some time to rescue Ben, but expects answers once he’s back,” reads the synopsis of the character provided by Deadline….

(18) MORE HAPPIER TIMES. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Another pic from a time long ago in a place far, far away… During the 2006 Eurocon in Kyiv some local members of the SF community provided domestic hospitality.

Seen here (from left) a Romanian fan, Imants Belogrivs (of the Eurocon Award-winning Hekate publisher in Riga, Latvia), a Latvian fan(?), Martin Untals (Latvia), Jean-Pierre Laigle (France), Jonathan Cowie (SF2 Concatenation), Sergei Lussarenko (former Ukrainian SF author now living in Minsk and apparently a Putin supporter.) Photo by Roberto Quaglia (Italian fan and occasional author).

(19) WISDOM FROM MY INTERNET. Declann Finn will be blessing Upstream Reviews with his recommendations for “The Dragon Awards, 2022”. In his first post there is one and only one science fiction novel on his radar screen.

…To begin with, we’re not not nominating anyone who already has an award. Most of those who have won already have the attitude of “Oh, I don’t need more dust collectors.” We’re leaving out Big Name Authors. Frankly, if you’re Jim Butcher or a Baen author, you don’t need our help. If we don’t have any other viable alternative, then yes, then BNAs are applicable….

Best Science Fiction Novel

White Ops— to my knowledge, this is the only eligible science fiction work that Upstream Reviews has covered. More will be added to the nominations as we go along….

And who is the author of White Ops? It’s Declann Finn!

(20) VISIT TO A SMALL PLANET. Bloody Disgusting has learned that the “Predator Prequel Movie ‘Prey’ Will Be Set in the Great Plains in 1719”.

… From 20th Century Studios, the return of the Predator franchise is directed by Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane), and it’s positioned as a prequel to the original that will tell the tale of the Predator’s first journey to our planet. Amber Midthunder (“Legion”) stars as a Comanche woman who goes against gender norms and traditions to become a warrior….

“It goes back to what made the original Predator movie work,” producer John Davis previously told Collider. “It’s the ingenuity of a human being who won’t give up, who’s able to observe and interpret, basically being able to beat a stronger, more powerful, well-armed force.”

As for tone, Davis reveals that “[Prey] has more akin to The Revenant than it does any film in the Predator canon,” further adding: “You’ll know what I mean once you see it.”…

(21) COOL DISCOVERY. “At the Bottom of an Icy Sea, One of History’s Great Wrecks Is Found”: the New York Times tells how Endurance, Ernest Shackleton’s ship, lost in 1915, was found in the waters off Antarctica.

The wreck of Endurance has been found in the Antarctic, 106 years after the historic ship was crushed in pack ice and sank during an expedition by the explorer Ernest Shackleton.

A team of adventurers, marine archaeologists and technicians located the wreck at the bottom of the Weddell Sea, east of the Antarctic Peninsula, using undersea drones. Battling sea ice and freezing temperatures, the team had been searching for more than two weeks in a 150-square-mile area around where the ship went down in 1915.

Endurance, a 144-foot, three-masted wooden ship, holds a revered place in polar history because it spawned one of the greatest survival stories in the annals of exploration. Its location, nearly 10,000 feet down in waters that are among the iciest on Earth, placed it among the most celebrated shipwrecks that had not been found.

…Shackleton never made it to the pole or beyond, but his leadership in rescuing all his crew and his exploits, which included an 800-mile open-boat journey across the treacherous Southern Ocean to the island of South Georgia, made him a hero in Britain.

Shackleton was tripped up by the Weddell’s notoriously thick, long-lasting sea ice, which results from a circular current that keeps much ice within it. In early January 1915 Endurance became stuck less than 100 miles from its destination and drifted with the ice for more than 10 months as the ice slowly crushed it….

(22) IN BLOOM AGAIN. Deadline reveals “’Bloom County’ Animated Series From Berkeley Breathed In Works At Fox”.

…Bloom County first appeared in student newspaper The Daily Texan before becoming nationally syndicated in the Washington Post. It ran between 1980-1989, and Breathed brought it back on Facebook in 2015.

Breathed said, “At the end of Alien, we watched cuddly Sigourney Weaver go down for a long peaceful snooze in cryogenic hyper-sleep after getting chased around by a saliva-spewing maniac, only to be wakened decades later into a world stuffed with far worse. Fox and I have done the identical thing to Opus and the rest of the Bloom County gang, may they forgive us.”

The Hollywood Reporter’s story adds:

…In 2015, Breathed started posting new Bloom County strips on Facebook, a move that was at least somewhat inspired by the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, who Breathed regularly mocked in the strip during its original run. “He is the reverse canary in America’s gilded gold mine: When Donald Trump gets up from the dead and starts singing, you know you’ve reached toxic air,” Breathed said at Comic-Con in 2016. “He signifies something that I didn’t want to be left out of.

(23) WHEN MONTANA HAD AN OCEAN. Yahoo! declares “Octopus ancestors lived before era of dinosaurs, study shows”.

Scientists have found the oldest known ancestor of octopuses – an approximately 330 million-year-old fossil unearthed in Montana.

The researchers concluded the ancient creature lived millions of years earlier than previously believed, meaning that octopuses originated before the era of dinosaurs….

The creature, a vampyropod, was likely the ancestor of both modern octopuses and vampire squid, a confusingly named marine critter that’s much closer to an octopus than a squid. Previously, the “oldest known definitive” vampyropod was from around 240 million years ago, the authors said.

The scientists named the fossil Syllipsimopodi bideni, after President Joe Biden.

Whether or not having an ancient octopus — or vampire squid — bearing your name is actually a compliment, the scientists say they intended admiration for the president’s science and research priorities.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Gordon Van Gelder, Bill Higgins, Cora Buhlert, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel “Hard drivin’” Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 10/11/21 The Pixel Went Down To Georgia, He Was Looking For A Scroll To Steal, He Was Way Behind, He Was Fifth

(1) INDIGENOUS HERITAGE IN HORROR. The Horror Writers Association blog features Owl Goingback, a three-time Bram Stoker Award Winner, receiving the award for Lifetime Achievement, Novel, and First Novel. “Interview with Owl Goingback”.

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

Yes. I’ve used indigenous characters in most of my books and stories, because I wanted to share a culture rich in history, folklore, and ceremony, and often very misunderstood. I also wanted to show that native people of this country have a different way of looking at things than people whose ancestors came from other parts of the world. Like the traditional oral storytellers of my people, I wanted to create stories that were enjoyable while weaving a bit of teaching into the narrative. That way I’m educating in addition to entertaining.

I guess I’ve done a good job of weaving teaching elements into my stories, because my books are being used in an eight-week educational program for youthful offenders at the Orange County Corrections Facility in Orlando, Florida. The young inmates get to read a novel featuring monsters and mayhem, and scenes of bloody carnage, while subconsciously being reminded to listen to their elders and respect Mother Earth.

(2) BECKY CHAMBERS Q&A. Vox’s Emily VanDerWerff hears from “Becky Chambers on why the best aliens are just a little bit human”.

You’re really good at designing non-human species. They’re just recognizable enough for us to be like, “Oh, I understand the emotions and the intellect going on here,” but also just alien enough for us to be like, “That’s really different.”

One of my favorite things to do on any project is invent aliens. I always start with the caveat of: We have to have a point of entry. We have to be able to relate to them on some human level. Do the aliens in Wayfarers resemble anything like what I think actual extraterrestrial life is like? No, of course not. But you have to be able to emotionally connect with them. And I don’t know that we could [immediately do that] with other species out there in the universe that exists.But from there, we’re gonna get weird. I start with biology first. I look at the physicality. I look at how they are different from us. I always start with a particular trait. For example, the Aeluons, one of the big alien species in Wayfarers, communicate through the chromatophore patches on their cheeks. That starts with a real-world inspiration — squid and octopus.

I take that and blow it up to a civilization level. If color is your primary mode of communication, how does that affect your art? How does that affect your architecture, the way you dress, the sorts of technology you have? And how do you relate to other species, especially if they have different ideas about what color means or just use it as a decoration? There’s a million questions you can ask with just that one element. Everything else comes from there….

(3) F&SF COVER. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s Nov/Dec 2021 cover art by Maurizio Manzieri illustrates “Broad Dutty Water” by Nalo Hopkinson. Publisher Gordon Van Gelder says, “The issue has just been printed and will be distributed soon.”

(4) ORDER IN THE COURT. Every so often someone sends me a link to a stfnal t-shirt, and if I like it well enough I run it in the Scroll. Which is always promptly greeted by fan-lawyering comments to the effect “I hope they have the rights to that art” or “I looked that up and its copyright hasn’t expired OMG!” Well, there’s no stopping that, however, after yesterday’s response to Out of Print’s Foundation unisex book t-shirt I contacted the company to inquire if they had the rights. Here’s their reply:

Thank you for your interest in Out of Print. We work with the Estate of Isaac Asimov (Asimov Holding LLC) and the Estate of both respective artists for each book cover. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any other questions. 

So please step it back down to Defcon 770.

(5) T-PARTY. Boskone 59 will be returning to an in-person convention with a hybrid option. The Boston con will run from February 18-20, 2022. This weekend they announced their current Covid-related attendance requirements.

The following policies were just approved at today’s Boskone and NESFA meetings:

  1. [Boskone] Attendees must be vaccinated and show proof of vaccination or have tested negative with a PCR test taken February 15, 12:01 am or later and before the convention. There are no exceptions.
  2. All humans 2 years old or older [attending Boskone] must wear a mask in convention spaces (including open parties) at all times, except when eating or drinking in designated food and drink spaces. There are no exceptions.

(6) MORRISON Q&A. At Altered Instinct, Stephen Hunt invites fans to “Meet Diane Morrison, author of A Few Good Elves”.

Without spoilers, what was one of your favourite moments of the story to write? What was it that made you enjoy that section so much? 

The Aces High obstacle course, hands-down, was the most fun in this book! The protagonist must successfully navigate an obstacle course in an asteroid field like a slalom race to qualify for entry into an advanced Star-Pilot’s school. It’s full of raw action, but unlike many action scenes in the story, there’s no violence involved. It’s a chance for the reader to see starfaring through a Pilot’s eyes, with excitement and joy. Describing the different challenges, and how Shaundar deals with them, not only let me really buckle down into how the universe works, but it let me show you a lot of important things about Shaundar as a character. It was a glorious moment.

(7) BRIANNA WU ENGAGED IN DEVELOPING TV SERIES. Deadline reports, “Fictional Gamergate Series In The Works From Mind Riot Entertainment & Video Games Developer Brianna Wu”.

Mind Riot Entertainment will work with journalist, game developer and computer programmer Brianna Wu for Gamergate, a series about her experience as a critic and target of the notorious 2014 online harassment campaign, for which the studio has optioned life rights.

The 2014 Gamergate online campaign ignited a firestorm for its targeting of women in the gaming industry which laid the foundation for current issues of disinformation and hate. Before QAnon, Covid-19 conspiracists and the January 6th insurrection, there was Gamergate. Wu was among the targeted women, which also included Zoë Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian.

… The series will explore the origins of the widespread intimidation campaign from the perspective of multiple, fictional people in the game industry – from executives to journalists and indie developers.

Gamergate is co-created and co-written by Wu and J. Brad Wilke (Camel Spiders), and will be produced by Mind Riot Entertainment’s Jonathan Keasey (Parallel) and Jeremy J. Dodd (One Nation Under Earl).

… [Wu said:] “We’re not going to retread the same story told in thousands of news stories from outlets such as the New York Times and Washington Post, plus multiple documentaries like GTFO. Our series will focus on new, fictional people within the industry reacting to a horrific situation. By explaining how they were unable to stop the video game industry from being hijacked by the lunatic fringe – we can show how the tactics of Gamergate were the same ones that led to tragedies like Christchurch and January 6th”…

Keasey added: “Working with Brianna is a huge score for us. Based in Seattle, one of the country’s meccas for gaming, we’ve been wanting to shed light on this subject matter for a while and are honored that Brianna will be co-writing the series alongside Brad.”

(8) 007 PLUS 007 EQUALS THREE HOURS. Leonard Maltin finds that in Daniel Craig’s last outing as 007, there’s “Plenty Of Time To Die: The New James Bond Movie”.

The caretakers of the Intellectual Property known as James Bond, knowing that their newest effort would be the last one to star Daniel Craig, decided to spare no expense—or footage—to make this an “epic” entry in the long-running series. The result is a lavish piece of entertainment that ought to please any 007 fan. My only complaint is that there’s just too much of it. Any film that asks its audience to sit still and pay attention for nearly 3 hours had better have a damn good reason. This one doesn’t….

(9) NO PLACE LIKE HOME. Discovery’s lead actress gets profiled by her home state news site: “Alabama’s Sonequa Martin-Green rules Season 4 trailer for ‘Star Trek: Discovery’” at AL.com.

…In the trailer for Season 4, Martin-Green’s character and her crew are faced with a mysterious and deadly space anomaly.

“Today, we seek to understand a threat like none our galaxy has faced before,” Martin-Green says in the trailer. “With so much at stake, countless lives, futures … Once we enter the anomaly, we are going where no one has gone before.”

That’s a direct pull, of course, from the voice-over introduction to the original “Star Trek” series, an iconic TV program that first aired in the 1960s and spawned an entire universe of sci-fi content. As Burnham, Martin-Green is the first Black woman to have the lead role in a “Star Trek” series….

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1999 – Twenty-two years this Autumn, the Baen Free Library, which was founded by writer Eric Flint and Baen Books publisher Jim Baen. opened for business. (Accounts differ on the actual date. And really it doesn’t matter that much, does it?) Jim Baen considered it an experiment in the field of intellectual property and copyright whereby the giving away of free books would increase the sale of other books sold by that publisher. Currently Baen Ebooks, as it’s now called, sells individual e-books, a subscription-based e-book program and access to galleys of forthcoming publications. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 11, 1940 Caroline John. Liz Shaw, companion to the Third Doctor. Shaw was a brilliant scientist, unusual for a companion. She returned for The Five Doctors. And she would reprise her character in the Big Finish audio works. Later she played the role of Laura Lyons in the BBC adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles, opposite Tom Baker as Holmes. (Died 2012.)
  • Born October 11, 1944 Patrick Parrinder, 77. I’ve a soft spot for academics who plow our fields. This one settled upon H. G. Wells starting with H. G. Wells and H. G. Wells: The Critical Heritage nearly forty years ago all the way to H. G. Wells’s Perennial Time Machine that he recently wrote with Danièle Chatelain and George E. Slusser. 
  • Born October 11, 1960 Nicola Bryant, 61. Well known for her role as Perpugilliam “Peri” Brown, a companion to both the Fifth and Sixth Doctors. She also worked in “The Two Doctors” story so she appeared with the Second Doctor as well. Of course she’s done Big Finish Doctor Who audio dramas. Like so many, many genre performers, she shows up in the video Trek fan fiction playing Lana in Star Trek Continues.
  • Born October 11, 1964 Michael J. Nelson, 57. Best known for his work on Mystery Science Theater. He was the head writer of the series for most of the show’s original eleven-year run, and spent half of that time as the on-air host. Bad genre films were a favorite target of his and his companions. 
  • Born October 11, 1965 Sean Patrick Flanery, 56. I really do think that his best work was on The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and the films that followed. It certainly wasn’t as Bobby Dagen in Saw: The Final Chapter, a film best forgotten. (It gets a forty-one percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes, much better than I expected.) He appeared as Jake Greyman in Demon Hunter, another low budget horror film, and as John in The Evil Within. I see a pattern…
  • Born October 11, 1972 Claudia Black, 49. Best remembered for being Aeryn Sun in Farscape, Vala Mal Doran in Stargate SG-1 and Sharon “Shazza” Montgomery in Pitch Black. She also had a recurring role as Dahlia in The Originals and starred as Dr. Sabine Lommers in the Containment series. 
  • Born October 11, 1972 Nir Yaniv, 49. Author, editor, musician, and filmmaker.  He founded a webzine for the Israeli Society for Science Fiction & Fantasy.  Currently, he’s the chief editor of Chalomot Be’aspamia, Israel’s only professionally printed genre magazine. His short fiction has appeared in Weird TalesApex Magazine and The Best of World SF. He co-wrote The Tel Aviv Dossier with Lavie Tidhar. 
  • Born October 11, 1976 Emily Deschanel, 45. Temperance “Bones” Brennan in Bones which crossed over with Sleepy Hollow twice (she visited the latter once) and she had a bit part on Spider-Man 2. More notably she was Pam Asbury in Stephen King’s Rose Red series. Actually the forensic science on Bones is genre, isn’t it? 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Close to Home shows why astronauts should have been alerted by the fiddle playing cat.
  • Dork Tower, in “Foundation’s Edgy,” is skeptical that fans really want to watch an absolutely faithful adaptation of Asimov’s trilogy. (“I do not agree with the views expressed in this comic,” says Lise Andreasen.)

(13) PHOTOS FROM NY COMIC CON. Gizmodo has a slide show of the “Best Cosplay NYCC 2021”. Daniel Dern says his favorite is “Bicycleb Loki Variant”.

(14) AUTOGRAPHED FANZINE RARITY. Bidding ends October 14 on The Gary Munson Collection of Horror and Fantasy Rare Books Auction at Heritage Auctions. One fascinating item is Ray Palmer’s personal, bound copy of Cosmos – The Serial Novel, produced in the early Thirties with seventeen chapters by seventeen different authors. Installments ran in the fanzine Science Fiction Digest between July, 1933 and January, 1935. It was a round-robin novel with each chapter by a different author (one a Palmer pseudonym). Palmer got sixteen “Masters of Science Fiction” to write successive chapters of the story, “using each other’s unique characters, worlds, and conflicts to build an adventure that spans galaxies.” Each author has autographed a page in the volume.

  • Chapter 1 – Faster Than Light by Ralph Milne Farley – July, 1933
  • Chapter 2 – The Emigrants by David H. Keller, M.D. – August, 1933
  • Chapter 3 – Callisto’s Children by Arthur J. Burks – September, 1933
  • Chapter 4 – The Murderer From Mars by Bob Olsen – September, 1933
  • Chapter 5 – Tyrants of Saturn by Francis Flagg – October, 1933
  • Chapter 6 – Interference on Luna by John W. Campbell – November, 1933
  • Chapter 7 – Son of the Trident by Rae Winters [Pseudonym of Raymond A. Palmer] – December, 1933
  • Chapter 8 – Volunteers From Venus by Otis Adelbert Kline and E. Hoffman Price – January, 1934
  • Chapter 9 – Menace of the Automaton by Abner J. Gelula – February, 1934
  • Chapter 10 – Conference at Copernicus by Raymond A. Palmer – March, 1934
  • Chapter 11 – The Last Poet and the Robots by A. Merritt – April, 1934
  • Chapter 12 – At the Crater’s Core by J. Harvey Haggard – May-June 1934
  • Chapter 13 – What a Course! by Edward E. Smith, Ph.D. – July, 1934
  • Chapter 14 – The Fate of the Neptunians by P. Schuyler Miller – August, 1934
  • Chapter 15 – The Horde of Elo Hava by L. A. Eshbach – September, 1934
  • Chapter 16 – Lost in Alien Dimensions by Eando Binder – October-November, 1934
  • Chapter 17 – Armageddon in Space by Edmond Hamilton – December, 1934-January, 1935

(15) ASK THE PANEL. QI is a BBC comedy panel show with Sandi Toksvig and Alan Davies, where panelists get points for being interesting. Here’s a recently posted excerpt from a show a couple years old, BUT, there’s an equation! “When Is The Best Time For Interstellar Travel?”

(16) SWORN-IN. Paul Weimer discusses his latest read: “Microreview: When the Goddess Wakes by Howard Andrew Jones” at Nerds of a Feather.

Howard Andrew Jones Ring-Sworn Trilogy has been a recent highlight and hallmark of positivist heroic epic fantasy. In strong contrast to grimdark, morally grey epic fantasy that has long been a dominant note, the Ring-Sworn Trilogy has opted for the path of less ambiguous protagonists and antagonists, and highlighting and emphasizing the importance, and effectiveness of positive action and standing up for one’s beliefs, family, and country.  All of this takes place in a richly created multiverse….

(17) VICIOUS CYCLE. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Artist Martha Womersley did this piece based on a vinyl toy for the 1963 movie Matango or Attack of the Mushroom People

(18) ALLEY OOPS. Once again I came across an ad for the Wizard AlleyWorld Bookshelf Insert Box, which I think is a clever little thing (although the ad’s choice to put it on a shelf full of thriller novels seems tone-deaf.)

(19) AMBITIOUS HALLOWEEN DECORATIONS. Laughing Squid draws our attention to this “Halloween Light Show Featuring the Final Scene of ‘The Matrix’ and Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Wake Up’” in Tracy, CA that runs a couple hours a night during October. The schedule is available on Facebook. Or if that’s too far to drive, here’s a video of the display:

VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Death and Return of Superman/Long Live Superman on YouTube is a 2019 documentary, written by Scott McCulloch and directed by Alexander Gray, which is connected with the publication of the thousandth issue of Action Comics.  As DC publisher Dan DiDio notes, if “Batman comes into a bar, everyone wants to run and hide.  If Superman comes into a bar, you want to buy him a drink.”

This documentary is worth seeing if you want to see great comics creators such as Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, and Louise Simonson talk about what Superman means to them.  This works for me, but it might not work for you.  The existence of Zack Snyder’s evil Superman is thankfully ignored.

Best bit of trivia: superheroes in 1940 were known as “long johns characters.”

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Ben Bird Person, Gordon Van Gelder, Daniel Dern, Lise Andreasen, Brown Robin, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter  for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Miles Carter.]

Pixel Scroll 8/11/21 Only Trust Your Scrolls, Pixels Will Never Help You

(1) F&SF COVER REVEAL. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s Sept/Oct 2021 cover art, “Jupiter in Half-Phase, Seen from Io,” is by David A. Hardy.

(2) THE RACCOON AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION. Brandiose is a successful creator of logos for minor league sports teams, notably Huntsville’s Rocket City Trash Pandas.

The name Trash Pandas perfectly embodies the dichotomy of the region. A place with a contemporary, optimistic, fresh energy that retains its country flavor.

We wanted to present the Trash Panda racoon as the clever, intelligent creature that it is. It was important to show that this character was less of a “banjos on the porch” type figure and more of a “this guy engineered a rocket ship out of NASA’s trash” kind of critter. 

We loved the idea that the raccoons have their own rocket engineering facility in the woods, next door to their human engineering counterparts. In their dwelling, the raccoons use the human’s discarded rocket junk to construct their own version of NASA (or RASA – Raccoon Aeronautics and Space Administration).

See more examples of their work and read the stories behind them at the link. The New York Times also ran an article about them: “Sod Poodles, Yard Goats and Trash Pandas, Oh My”.

(3) WHAT-IF ORIGINS. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Having been reading long enough to (vaguely) remember the first what-if/imaginary tales (as in, not part of continuity and/or canon), like Superman asking his Fortress of Solitude’s superdupercomputer “what if Krypton hadn’t exploded,” etc… and, Bog knows why, taking those visualizations as, ahem, gospel, versus, “yeah, coulda gone that way”, ult(cough)imately leading to (some of) these stories becoming canonized parallelisms (I’m talking about you, Marvel Ultimate)… and (while I also fault DC in many cases) I’m not moved/interested by/in many of Marvel’s What If’s, well, there’s one particular issue that remains dear to my heart — What If #11, What If The Original Marvel Bullpen Had Become The Fantastic Four?, written and penciled by Jack Kirby!

“[What if] four members of the original Marvel Bullpen were turned into real-life versions of the Fantastic Four: Stan Lee as Mister Fantastic, Sol Brodsky as the Human Torch, Jack Kirby as the Thing, and Flo Steinberg as the Invisible Girl.”

I’ve still got my copy in one of my “do not sell” boxes.

This is (also) among my favorites of “real world people guesting/in comic stories” (I’m also fond of Don Rickles’ appearances in Kirby’s first New Gods stories/plotlines in Jimmy Olsen; ditto Saturday Night Live’s Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time-Players teaming up with Spiderman in Marvel Team-Up #74.) (No, I don’t remember/know the deets, I’m looking ’em up as I go.) (And then there was the Groucho Marx-y character in a Howard the Duck annual…)

Filers can read and enjoy this Kirby masterpiece! It’s on Marvel’s streaming comic service… also in collected-in-book form, in What If? Classic: The Complete Collection Vol. 1 available from bookstores, (free from) libraries and e-free (on HooplaDigital.com ). And perhaps from a nearby friend.

(4) THE NEXT GREAT SFF AWARD. I commented on Camestros Felapton’s blog about the almost nonexistent window between when the Dragon Award ballot is released and the close of voting, and how many novels are finalists, making the award ultimately for the most popular book nobody has read or plans to read before they vote.

Greg Hullender found in that the seed of a great idea:

Hey, that’s a category we’re sorely lacking: most popular unread book. “Looking through your mountain of unread books, which one do you feel most guilty for not having read yet?”

It could have several categories:

Most Popular Unread Book That I Think is SF.

Most Popular Unread Book That I Think is Fantasy.

Most Popular Unread Book That I Suspect Might Not Be Genre.

Most Popular Unread Book That I Bought Mostly for the Cover.

Most Popular Unread Book That I Can’t Remember Why I Bought It.

What would be a good name for these awards? The Tsundoku Awards is too obvious a name. But obviously the prize for winning in a category should be a new book.

(5) AC/DC. “Robin, Batman’s Sidekick, Comes Out As Bisexual” – here’s a transcript of NPR’s discussion on Morning Edition.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, HOST:

After 80 years, Batman’s trusted sidekick finally had his coming-out moment. In the latest comic, Robin – his real name is Tim Drake – accepts a male friend’s offer to go on a date. Many fans of the character have been looking forward to this.

MEGHAN FITZMARTIN: Tim’s struggle with identity – he knows who he is when it comes to vigilantism. But this was a space where it felt the most correct. This was the next moment for him.

NOEL KING, HOST:

That’s Meghan Fitzmartin. She’s the writer for this series of DC Comics.

FITZMARTIN: The significance, I think, has been others seeing themselves in the character and feeling seen and cared for in a way that speaks to something that they’ve seen for a long time.

KING: Robin made his first appearance back in 1940. And he’s not the first comic book superhero to come out as queer, but he is by far the most high-profile one.

GLEN WELDON, BYLINE: People like Northstar, Batwoman, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Iceman, Apollo, Midnighter. But you notice something about all those names. They’re not necessarily household names….

(6) YOUR TAX QUATLOOS AT WORK. James Davis Nicoll probably didn’t have an easy time finding “Five Sympathetic Science Fiction Bureaucrats”.

Fictional bureaucrats often serve as convenient hate sinks, providing the author with characters whose occupation is generally considered fair game for scorn. Obstructive bureaucrats abound in fiction, perhaps because they are not infrequently encountered in real life. But not all writers settle for such easy targets. Indeed, some writers have gone so far as to make a bureaucrat or two into sympathetic figures.

Don’t believe me? Consider these five….

Aiah from Metropolitan by Walter Jon Williams (1995)

Aiah is a low-level functionary in Jaspeer’s Plasm Authority. Roughly speaking, she works for this world’s electric company, plasm being geomantic energy. Hardly a position to command respect, save when one considers that Aiah is a member of a despised ethnicity, the Barkazil. Convincing her coworkers to trust her with even minimal responsibility is a victory of sorts.

Fate hands Aiah a treasure in plasm. In another person’s hands, this would be the first step towards the sort of Simple Plan that ends with the protagonists as dead as a Coen Brothers’ criminal. Aiah, however, is not just hardworking and ambitious. She is cunning as well, which means not only will she leap on the chance to escape her circumstances, and not only can she find someone willing to assist her with her windfall—she has every chance of surviving the transaction.

(7) CONDENSED CREAM OF MFA. Lincoln Michel puts “Everything I’ve Learned about Being a ‘Professional’ Writer in One Post” at Counter Craft.

Last week there was a bizarrely contentious Twitter debate about whether MFA programs should offer professional advice to students or whether it should be a sacred space for art without the messiness of business. I won’t wade into all the threads, but I’m firmly on the side of publishing demystification. I always dedicate part of my MFA courses to answering student questions about submissions, agents, etc. Perhaps this is because I had to figure all of this out myself while so many writers around me seemed to have been passed all this knowledge in secret. I don’t mean that I’m not privileged, but just I didn’t have any family publishing connections or professional mentors or even know any authors growing up. I wish I’d gotten more of a professional education, from banal things like freelance taxes to general advice like how willing you have to be to promote your own work—did you know I have a SF novel called The Body Scout publishing on 09/21 that you can preorder today???—and so I figured I’d just write down everything I’ve learned here in the hope it helps someone else….

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2010 – Eleven years ago at Aussiecon 4 where Garth Nix was the Toastmaster, China Miéville won the Hugo for Best Novel for The City & The City. It shared this honor with The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi.  It was published by Del Rey / Ballantine in hardcover the previous year. Other nominated works that year were Cherie Priest‘s Boneshaker, Robert J. Sawyer‘s Wake, Robert Charles Wilson‘s Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America and Catherynne M. Valente‘s Palimpsest. It would win an amazing number of other awards including the Arthur C. Clarke Award, a BSFA, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, a Kitschie (Red Tentacle) Award, a Locus for Best Fantasy Novel and a National Fantasy Fan Federation Speculative Fiction Award (Neffie). It would be nominated for, but not win, a Nebula. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 11, 1902 Jack Binder. Thrilling Wonder Stories in their October 1938 issue published his article, “If Science Reached the Earth’s Core”, where the first known use of the phrase “zero gravity” is known to happen.  In the early Forties, he was an artist for Fawcett, Lev Gleason, and Timely Comics.  During these years, he created the Golden Age character Daredevil which is not the Marvel Daredevil though he did work with Stan Lee where they co-created The Destroyer at Timely Comics. (Died 1986.)
  • Born August 11, 1932 Chester Anderson. New Wave novelist and poet. He wrote The Butterfly Kid, the first part of the Greenwich Village trilogy. It was nominated for a Hugo Award at Baycon. He wrote one other genre novel, Ten Years to Doomsday, with Michael Kurland. Not even genre adjacent, but he edited a few issues Crawdaddy! in the late Sixties. (Died 1991.)
  • Born August 11, 1959 Alan Rodgers. Author of Bone Music, a truly great take off the Robert Johnson myth. His “The Boy Who Came Back From the Dead” novelette won the Bram Stoker Award for Best Long Fiction, and was nominated for a World Fantasy Award, and he was editor of Night Cry in the mid Eighties. Bone Music is the only work available from the usual suspects. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 11, 1961 Susan M. Garrett. She was a well known and much liked writer, editor and publisher in many fandoms, but especially the Forever Knight community. (She also was active in Doctor Who and The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne fandoms. And no, I had no idea that the latter had a fandom given its short longevity.) She is perhaps best known for being invited to write a Forever Knight tie-in novel, Intimations of Mortality. It, like the rest of the Forever Knight novels, is not available from the usual suspects. (Died 2010.)
  • Born August 11, 1962 Brian Azzarello, 59. Writer of the comic book 100 Bullets, published by Vertigo. Writer of DC’s relaunched Wonder Woman series several years back. One of the writers in the Before Watchmen limited series. Co-writer with Frank Miller of the sequel to The Dark Knight Returns, The Dark Knight III: The Master Race.
  • Born August 11, 1976 Will Friedle, 45. Largely known as an actor with extensive genre voice work: Terry McGinnis aka the new Batman in Batman Beyond which Warner Animation now calls Batman of the Future, Peter Quill in The Guardians Of The Galaxy, and Kid Flash in Teen Titans Go!  to name but a few of his roles.
  • Born August 11, 1964 Jim Lee, 57. Korean American comic-book artist, writer, editor, and publisher.  Co-founder of Image Comics, now senior management at DC though he started at Marvel. Known for work on Uncanny X-Men, Punisher, Batman, Superman WildC.A.T.s. and Before Watchman. Now Lee is the sole Publisher of DC Comics.
  • Born August 11, 1983 Chris Hemsworth, 38. Thor in the MCU film franchise and George Kirk in the most recent Trek film franchise. Other genre performances include Eric the Huntsman in the exemplary Snow White and the Huntsman and The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Curt Vaughan in Cabin in the Woods and Agent H in Men in Black: International. Ok who’s seen the latter? It’s on my bucket list. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) DOUBLE JEOPARDY! Deadline says this is how they’re dividing the baby: “’Jeopardy!’: Mike Richards To Host Syndicated Show, Mayim Bialik To Host Primetime Specials & Spinoffs”.

The search for new permanent host of Jeopardy! is officially over. The show’s executive producer Mike Richards has been named the new permanent host of the venerable syndicated game show, succeeding the late Alex Trebek. Additionally, Sony Pictures Television announced that The Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik will host Jeopardy!’s primetime and spinoff series, including the upcoming Jeopardy! National College Championship set to air on ABC next year. The Greatest of All Time winner Ken Jennings will return as consulting producer for the show…. 

(12) HI BROOKE! “I’m Brooke Gladstone and I Am a Trekker” from WYNC Studios – listen or read the transcript at the link.

In September 1966, Gene Roddenberry dispatched the crew of the Starship Enterprise on its maiden voyage through space and time and into the American living room. In a vintage OTM piece, Brooke explores the various television incarnations of the franchise and the infinitely powerful engine behind it all: the fan.

Brooke Gladstone: Editor’s log star date, August 11th, 2021. To mark what would have been the 100th birthday of Gene Roddenberry, the creator of one of my favorite shows, we are replaying a piece I made all the way back in 2006. I’m Brooke Gladstone. I am a Trekker.

William Shatner: Get a life, will you, people? For crying out loud, it’s just a TV show.

Brooke: When William Shatner said that on Saturday Night Live, though to be fair, he didn’t write it, it stung.

Barbara Adams: I think a lot of fans feel like they are not respected. They’re almost ashamed to admit they’re fans of Star Trek unless they hear two or three references to Star Trek in the conversation.

Brooke Gladstone: Not Barbara Adams, so moved was she by this series; optimistic, pluralistic vision of the future that when serving on the jury in the whitewater trial 10 years ago, she wore the uniform of a Starfleet officer. “If it helps to make people think a little more about what those ideals are, then I’ll keep wearing this uniform,” she said, and then was promptly dismissed for talking to the press….

(13) DJINN BUZZ. The Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron staff are joined by Patricia Jackson and Elias Eells to discuss A Master of Djinn by P. Djeli Clark on Saturday, August 14 at 3:00 p.m. US Eastern Time. The streaming show is accessible via YouTube, Facebook Live, and Twitch.

(14) HEAR VALENTE. The Glasgow in 2024 Worldcon bid presents “The Present is Purple with Catherynne M. Valente” in conversation with Ed Fortune, August 24 at 7:00 p.m. BST. Register here.

About this event

Summer is slowly fading away but Glasgow in 2024 is not taking a break in bringing you amazing bookish events! Join us on August 24th for an exciting evening with the brilliant Catherynne M. Valente to talk about her brilliant new novella The Past is Red, out now from TorDotCom… Grab a copy and an iced drink and join us!

The future is blue. Endless blue…except for a few small places that float across the hot, drowned world left behind by long-gone fossil fuel-guzzlers. One of those patches is a magical place called Garbagetown…

(15) TRAILER OF DOOM. Doom Patrol Season 3 streams September 23 on HBO Max.

Go through the looking glass with a super-powered gang of outcasts (including Matt Bomer as Negative Man, Joivan Wade as Cyborg, Brendan Fraser as Robotman, and more). Last seen at a decrepit amusement park where Chief (Timothy Dalton) witnessed his metahuman daughter, Dorothy (Abigail Shapiro) engaged in a fiery face-off with “The Candlemaker,” an ancient evil deity who will stop at nothing to fulfill his world-ending destiny, join the #DoomPatrol for an action-packed third season.

(16) ANIMATED WITCHER. Face your demons. The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf premieres August 23 on Netflix.

(17) KITTY THE FREELOADER. Science has discovered “Cats prefer to get free meals rather than work for them” reports Phys.org. No shit!

When given the choice between a free meal and performing a task for a meal, cats would prefer the meal that doesn’t require much effort. While that might not come as a surprise to some cat lovers, it does to cat behaviorists. Most animals prefer to work for their food—a behavior called contrafreeloading.

… “There is an entire body of research that shows that most species including birds, rodents, wolves, primates—even giraffes—prefer to work for their food,” said lead author Mikel Delgado, a cat behaviorist and research affiliate at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “What’s surprising is out of all these species cats seem to be the only ones that showed no strong tendency to contrafreeload.”

(18) THEORY X GETS SPACED. Jacobin’s Meagan Day investigates a lost bit of space history in “Houston, We Have a Labor Dispute”.

For decades, rumors have circulated about a strike in space. The story goes that in 1973, the three astronauts on the Skylab 4 mission took an unplanned day off to protest ground control’s management style, and the job action resulted in improved working conditions. It’s a great story.

According to Skylab 4 crew member Ed Gibson, that’s not exactly what happened. But his telling of events, though it differs from the tidy and entertaining “space strike” narrative, is still a tale of overwork, micromanagement, and perceived noncompliance bringing management to the table. And Gibson’s account still confirms that even a whiff of collective action can shift the balance of power in workers’ favor.

Earlier this year, the BBC broadcast an interview with Gibson, the last surviving Skylab 4 crew member, conducted by Witness History producer and presenter Lucy Burns. “We’ve only had one reporter other than you talk to us in the past forty-seven years,” Gibson told Burns. He set out to correct the record.

Gibson maintains that the crew didn’t mean to go on strike. But what did happen had a similar effect in terms of giving the astronauts leverage and intervening in a bad (extraterrestrial) workplace dynamic.

(19) HOME COOKING. Stephen Colbert’s monologue had more to say about that Field of Dreams Apple Pie Hot Dog beginning around 8 minutes into this YouTube video. Includes info about how to make it at home from creator Guy Fieri.

(20) READERS DIGESTION. Dark Horse Direct is taking pre-orders of these Dune: Sandworm Bookends based on how the creatures appear in the forthcoming movie. Cost  $149.99, only 2,000 will be sold.

Dark Horse Direct, in partnership with Legendary Entertainment, is proud to present the Dune: Sandworm Bookends! Based on the giant sandworms from the highly anticipated new film of the iconic science fiction epic, Dune, these bookends will have you watching your walking pattern over the sands of Arrakis.

Each half measuring 8.5” tall by 8” wide by 6.5” deep, this highly detailed bookend set is meticulously sculpted and hand painted to showcase the fearsome sandworm as it erupts out of the sands, ready to defend its territory and the most precious resource in existence.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Professional Movie Fan Tutorial:  Pro Tips” on Screen Rant, written by Ryan George, Dave Heuff plays professional super movie fan “Fredge” Buick, who explains that a professional movie fan has to be perpetually angry! (his avatar is Heath Ledger’s Joker), have questionable hygiene, and use a lot of duct tape to sneak the noisy snacks you want inside the theatre.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Richard Horton, Todd Mason, John A Arkansawyer, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jake.]

Pixel Scroll 7/14/21 Still Crazy After All These Light-Years

(1) F&SF COVER PREVIEW. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction shared an advance look at the cover of its July/August 2021 issue by artist Alan M. Clark.

(2) A PERSPECTIVE ON AFRICAN SF. Marta Mboka Tveit discusses how “The rise of African Speculative Fiction and other exciting cultural production indicates that modernity is not an exercise in ‘catching up’ with Europe, but an entirely new condition” in “Makeshift modernity” at Africa Is A Country.

…First off, let me argue how excellent the rise of ASF is for everyone, but most importantly for us, the people of African descent. “The place in which I’ll fit will not exist until I make it,” said James Baldwin. To make it, one must first imagine it; to make change, one must first imagine a different kind of future. ASF can be linked to the decolonization of the mind in many ways: we must break the molds of colonial prescriptions, education, and decisions about Africa’s place in the world, much like speculative fiction breaks the mold of what can and cannot exist.

ASF points to an insistence on partaking in the technology-steeped global future and represents a push to actively influence that future. Furthermore, publishing and sharing tales and ideas about the future shows a new kind of optimism and self-confidence. Newfound confidence also arguably comes from stronger and more frequent connections with cousins from another planet—those in African America—facilitated by modern communication technology and faster cultural exchange. Africa is looking to African America for cool self-confidence, and African America is looking to Africa for roots and authenticity. This has been going on for a long time. Increasingly, however, African American interest has given cultural expressions from the continent a boost onto the global stage. After five centuries of the rest of the globe telling Africa its cultures and inputs are useless, those cultures and inputs suddenly find themselves at the forefront of global “cool.” But this time around, we might actually gain something from it….

(3) SCORCHED EARTH. Elaborate attempts to sabotage Nicole Kornher-Stace’s Reddit “Ask Me Anything” yesterday prompted Paul Weimer to connect the dots, saying “the trolls are trying to ruin my life and the lives of those even lightly connected to me” in “A Quick Post on Trolls Again” on his Patreon. He attributes the attack to his having retweeted the author’s announcement of the AMA.

… So what they did is, just before her AMA, they set up a fake account very similar to her name (one letter changed to the number one) and set up their OWN AMA.  So, not only were they impersonating here (with plenty of comments and stuff about my supposed perfidy), Nicole could not actually do her own AMA at first.

And when THAT got sorted and she started her real AMA, the troll account started answering questions posed to her in the real AMA, until the moderators finally banned them from the AMA…. 

And the trolls also subjected Paul to a new round of harassment at work and by trying to get into some of his online accounts.

Nicole Kornher-Stace tweeted a thread of her own about the experience that starts here. A few excerpts —

And here’s a screencap of the Reddit moderator’s announcement while they were trying to manage the trollish invasion of the real AMA.

(4) ADA HOFFMANN BOOK LAUNCH. Ada Hoffmann’s The Fallen, the sequel to her debut, The Outside, was released yesterday. The author will be in conversation with Janelle Shane in a free online event on July 15 (3pm MDT/5pm EDT/10pm BST) on Facebook and YouTube

Released to immediate acclaim in 2019, The Outside was nominated for both the Philip K. Dick Award and the Compton Crook Award, so the follow-up, continuing the story of scientist Yasira Shien as she faces off against awesome AI gods and angels, is hotly anticipated to say the least!

Excitedly, to mark the next book in this eldritch-horror-meets-space-opera universe, Ada will (very appropriately) be in conversation with Janelle Shane, optics and AI researcher, host of the AI humor blog AIWeirdness.com, and author of the 2019 popular science book, You Look Like a Thing and I Love You

(5) I HAVE NO CATNIP AND I MUST SCREAM. Camestros Felapton presents “A Message From: The CattimothyTech Dept.” It was a great ride while it lasted. Which wasn’t long!

…Dear valued subscriber,

Thank you for joining us on the amazing journey into freedom. It has been a truly inspiring five thousand and forty seconds in which we came together in the spirit of unity that shaped our great nation. When our founder, CIO, CFO and CEO Timothy the Talking Cat outlined his vision for a truly free and anti-elite tech platform for all Americans, we were inspired by how many of you rallied around his cause to break free of the shackles of facebooktwittergoogle. …

(6) WHAT ABOUT. Space.com is actually complaining that the Emmys neglected genre despite the huge haul of nominations for The Mandalorian, WandaVision, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Lovecraft Country “’The Mandalorian’ receives 24 Emmy nominations, including Best Drama Series”.

…Sadly, the sci-fi genre wasn’t well represented in this year’s nominations, which were announced Tuesday  (July 13). Again. It seems only the big franchise names received any kind of attention. There was nothing for “The Expanse” on Amazon Prime Video or “For All Mankind” on Apple TV+ or HBO’s “Raised By Wolves” — and while that show gradually descended into insanity as Season 1 concluded, the actual performances were outstanding. And what about SyFy’s “Resident Alien” in the Comedy category? The eligibility period for 2021 submissions was from June 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021, so all of those shows could’ve been recognized….

(7) DON’T TAKE IT FOR GRANTED. On the other hand, WandaVision’s team is a little surprised: “How ‘WandaVision’ Went From ‘Totally Bananas’ Underdog to Emmy Juggernaut” at Vanity Fair.

…Not that the WandaVision team expected it to happen, at least like this. “Honestly, I was like, if we have one nomination, we will have won,” says series showrunner Jac Schaeffer, who also earned a writing nomination. “The cards are kind of stacked against the superhero space when it comes to recognition and awards.”

By the time nominations morning arrived, Schaeffer may have been the only one—most pundits were betting big on WandaVision, though maybe not 23 nominations big—but when it started, WandaVision really was an underdog. It became the first Marvel project on Disney+ basically by accident, when the pandemic delayed production on other shows, meaning that the bright new future of Marvel on television was being introduced by a defiantly oddball story about grief, sorcery, and classic television. “I felt very secure early on sort of occupying this little corner of the sandbox,” Schaeffer says. “The idea was that Falcon and the Winter Soldier would go first and, and that we could be weird in this little space.”

Instead, WandaVision debuted in mid-January at the peak of a world-altering pandemic, which many viewers had spent stuck at home and, like Wanda Maximoff herself, filtering their realities through television. “There was sort of an element of kismet to it,” Schaeffer says. “The content of the show itself ended up being a reflection of what so many people were doing in their own homes, you know, retreating into their favorite shows as a form of comfort.”

On Emmy nominations morning, both Olsen and Schaeffer were busy sharing the celebration with the rest of the team, though it wasn’t easy to take in the scope of the success….

(8) DOUBLE UNDERLINE. Meanwhile, Adweek declares “Streaming Has Officially Taken Over TV Awards Season”.

No matter how you look at the nomination breakdowns released Tuesday, the story is clear: If it wasn’t already a sure thing that streaming is the future of television, the 2021 Emmy nominations have officially cemented it.

Streaming services accounted for four of the five top nominated outlets, with HBO Max (paired with HBO) and Netflix overwhelmingly dominating in terms of total nominations. Disney+, less than two years old, beat out every broadcast and cable network in terms of nominations and came in third overall.

Apple TV+, which isn’t even a breakout streamer (parent company Apple has mostly given it away for free since its launch), received more nominations (34) than all the broadcast networks aside from NBC. 

(9) WHAT’S AHEAD FOR AMERICA. James Davis Nicoll curated these “Five Speculative Visions of a Future America” for Tor.com. I was pleasantly surprised to find I’m not the only fan who remembers this one —

Rosinante Trilogy by Alexis Gilliland

Crisis and political necessity led to the formation of the North American Union, encompassing the United States, Mexico, Canada, and a few other nations. The formative crisis having past, the Union is held together largely thanks to the determination of a cabal of conservatives, the Creationist Coalition. The central figures in the Administration are determined to not let their power and influence slip away. Their resolve proves the North American Union’s undoing.

The Administration is long on steadfast purpose, but short on foresight. Assassinating a Hispanic populist governor alienates Hispanic North Americans. Paranoid attempts to capture a suspected Old Regime sympathizer force the sympathizer to see the Union as his enemy. Each move undertaken to ensure the Union’s stability instead undermines it, with the inevitable result that the North American Union collapses into independent nation states.

(10) EFFECTS HISTORY. BBC Radio 4 has aired the second installment of Unreal: The VFX Revolution “Digital Realms”.

How visual effects changed and how they changed the movies. Oscar winner Paul Franklin explores how film entered the digital realm.

The 1970s saw the very first onscreen digital effects in films like Westworld. Those first pioneers of CGI already spoke of digital humans, indeed of entire films being made within the computer, but Hollywood was unconvinced. By 1979, some of those visionaries like Ed Catmull and Alvy Ray Smith, later founders of Pixar, were working for filmmaker George Lucas, who primarily wanted new digital tools for editing and compositing and to explore computer graphics. Their first all-digital sequence created life-from lifelessness with the Genesis effect for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Meanwhile Disney itself was creating TRON, a spectacular mix of state-of-the art animation and pioneering digital effects that took audiences into cyberspace for the first time. In their different ways these two films were the true harbingers of the digital revolution that would bring profound change to moviemaking within little more than a decade. And then came Terminator 2’s chrome shape shifter-the T1000. The revolution was underway.

(11) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2006 – Fifteen years ago, Catherynne M. Valente would win the Otherwise Award and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature for The Orphan’s Tale: In the Night Garden. (It would also be nominated for a World Fantasy Award.) Two years later, she won a second Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature for The Orphan’s Tale: In the Cities of Coin and Spice.  Both volumes are available from the usual suspects for just five dollars and ninety-nine cents. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 14, 1904 — Zita Johann. She’s best known for the lead performance in Karl Freund’s 1932 film, The Mummy which also featured Boris Karloff. She wouldn’t show in another horror film for another fifty-four years when she was in Raiders of the Living Dead as a Librarian as her original career only lasted three years. She quit film to work in theater where she where she was a partner of John Houseman, her husband, who she was married to from 1929 to 1933, and with Orson Welles as well. She also taught acting to people with learning disorders. (Died 1993.)
  • Born July 14, 1906 — Abner J. Gelula. One of the many authors* of Cosmos, a serialized novel that appeared first in Science Fiction Digest in July 1933 and then has a really complicated publication that I won’t detail here. It was critiqued as “the world’s most fabulous serial,” “one of the unique stunts of early science fiction,” and conversely “a failure, miserable and near-complete.” The entire text, chapter by chapter, can be read here. *To be precise,  Earl Binder, Otto Binder. Arthur J. Burks,  John W. Campbell, Jr., Lloyd Arthur Eshbach. Ralph Milne Farley, Francis Flagg, J. Harvey Haggard, Edmond Hamilton, David H. Keller, M.D., Otis Adelbert Kline, A. Merritt, P. Schuyler Miller, Bob Olsen, Raymond A. Palmer, E. Hoffmann Price and Edward E. Smith. Gulp!  (Died 1985.)
  • Born July 14, 1926 — Harry Dean Stanton. My favourite genre role for him? The video for Procul Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale”. No, I’m not kidding.  He also played Paul of Tarsus in The Last Temptation of Christ, Harold “Brain” Hellman in Escape from New York, Detective Rudolph “Rudy” Junkins in Christine, Bud in Repo Man, Carl Rod in Twin Peaks twice, Toot-Toot in The Green Mile, Harvey in Alien Autopsy and a Security Guard in The Avengers. He didn’t do a lot of genre tv, one episode of The Wild Wild West as Lucius Brand in “The Night of The Hangman” and a character named Lemon on Alfred Hitchcock Presents in the “Escape to Sonoita” episode. (Died 2017.)
  • Born July 14, 1939 — Sid Haig. Best remembered as having a lead role in Jason of Star Command as the villain Dragos. He had one-offs in BatmanMission: Impossible, Star TrekGet SmartFantasy IslandBuck Rogers in the 25th Century, and MacGyver. His Trek appearence was First Lawgiver in “The Return of the Archons”, and someone in casting at Mission: Impossible liked him as he had nine different roles there. He was Royal Apothecary twice on Batman, not a role I recognize. (Died 2019.)
  • Born July 14, 1943 — Christopher Priest, 78. This is the Birthday of the One and True Christopher Priest. If I was putting together an introductory reading list to him, I’d start with The Prestige, add in the Islanders (both of which won BSFAs)and its companion volume, The Dream Archipelago. Maybe Inverted World as well. How’s that sound?  
  • Born July 14, 1949 — Brian Sibley, 72. He co-wrote (with Michael Bakewell) BBC Radio 4’s adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. He also adapted The Chronicles of Narnia, and Titus Groan and Gormenghast for the same. Print wise, he’s responsible for such works as The Lord of the Rings Official Movie Guide and The Lord of the Rings: The Making of the Movie Trilogy. His only Award to date is a Sir Julius Vogel Award which is given by the members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand (SFFANZ) and the National Science Fiction convention for Weta Digital: 20 Years of Imagination on Screen.
  • Born July 14, 1964 — Jane Espenson, 57. She had a five-year stint as a writer and producer on Buffy the Vampire Slayer where she shared a Hugo Award at Torcon 3 for her writing on the “Conversations with Dead People” episode, and she shared another Hugo at Chicon 7 for Games of Thrones, season one. She was on the writing staff for the fourth season of Torchwood and executive produced Caprica. And yes, she had a stint on the rebooted Galactica.
  • Born July 14, 1966 — Brian Selznick, 55. Illustrator and writer best known as the writer of The Invention of Hugo Cabret which may or may not be genre. You decide. His later work, Wonderstruck, definitely is. The Marvels, a story of a travelling circus family is magical in its own right though not genre. His next work, Kaleidoscopic, due out this autumn looks to just as fantastic. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Gasoline Alley, after a week or so following a colander-hat-guy “hearing ghost voices,” solves the mystery.
  • Broom Hilda needs a proofreader just as much as I do.

(14) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Is Jason Cordova trying to suggest John Scalzi ripped off two of his novels? Here’s a screencap of Cordova’s Facebook post.

What seems clear to Cordova might not seem so clear to anyone else. Scalzi’s “Preservation Society” in his title phrase sounds like it’s about a rather different subject than Cordova’s “Urban Revitalization Project.” And Cordova’s own title resonates with a line from Godzilla 1985 (as quoted in the Wikipedia) — “That’s quite an urban renewal program they’ve got going on over there” – a coincidence that would be of no more than trivial interest but for Cordova’s complaint.  

As for Cordova’s The Corruptor – the Amazon blurb says this is what the book is about:

…The single greatest advance in computer technology since the invention of the microchip, the Warp is a virtual reality gaming system so advanced that players aren’t just in the game, they are the game. And inside the Warp lies the most cunning of all games, the de facto king of online gaming. It is the one game said to be unbeatable: Crisis.

The Warp was flawless, and the game was perfect. Until something went terribly wrong, trapping Tori Adams and her friends inside it, unable to log off and free their minds from the uploaded virus in their brains. With no other options available and time running out, they must do the one thing that has never been done before—what experts say can’t be done—they must beat Crisis in order to save their lives.

I have read Scalzi’s Lock In but not Cordova’s book, however, from the latter’s description they appear to have about the same degree of overlap as Ready Player One and The Matrix.

(15) HYPE TIME. Two members of the MCYouTube react to the upcoming film FreeGuy featuring Ryan Reynolds and Taika Waititi. “Deadpool just slipped into the MCU early, to make fun of Ryan Reynolds”.

…like so many other studios, Disney is facing the question of how to goose up active interest in a film it’s been teasing since 2019. The apparent solution: Bring in Deadpool, dump him into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and have him promote the film.

(16) GAIMAN ON SCREWTAPE. Brenton Dickieson shares “Neil Gaiman’s Introduction to The Screwtape Letters, Marvel Comics Edition” at A Pilgrim in Narnia.

… someone sent me a snapshot of the introduction to an edition that is slightly different than my own gifted copy of the Marvel Comics version of C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. This other edition does not reproduce Lewis’ own 1941 preface as mine does. Instead, it has a special introduction written by Neil Gaiman.

As readers will know, Gaiman is not simply a giant in the fantasy world–outside of the horror genre, I think American Gods is the most important work of fantasy on the continent–but one of the new generation pioneers of the graphic novel medium. He is also a lifelong Narnia fan–and, we discover here, a lover and appreciative reader of Screwtape. Leaving beside any technical matters you might normally find in an introduction, Gaiman still manages to orient the reader to the book in their hands while giving us a sense of what he loves about Screwtape as a theologically interested but not specifically religious reader.

Besides some good swipes at the American Christian culture war (the ’90s one, not the current one) and a perceptive description of Narnia, Gaiman draws the reader to Screwtape for entertainment, delight, and wisdom. Gaiman’s perspective of Screwtape‘s impact has reminded me of that larger group of readers of Lewis that keep coming back to his works….

(17) MIGHT BE ON YOUR BOOKSHELF. Fonts In Use looks back at the design of “Philip K. Dick paperback covers (Panther Science Fiction)” from the Seventies.

Roslyn Gothic arguably saw its most extensive and iconic use on the paperback covers with works by Philip K. Dick as published by Panther Books.

Designed by Harry Winters, Roslyn Gothic was released by Visual Graphics Corporation (VGC) in 1972, to be used with their Photo Typositor, a popular display typesetting machine of the phototype era. There were three styles; Medium, Bold, and Outline. The sans serif of condensed proportions is infused with some traits that seem to harken back to Art Nouveau, or Jugendstil: counters in dg, or p are tear-shaped, e has a diagonal bar while the top arm of K is vertical, some stems in mnu are slightly curved, A is asymmetrical, and G is pointed at the bottom. Several of these features can also be found in German typefaces from around 1900, like Sezessions-Grotesk or Skulptur. By giving his design a large x-height and tight letterspacing, Winters turned these influences into a quintessential 1970s display typeface. With its punchy yet slightly alien-looking shapes, Roslyn Gothic became a popular choice on book covers in the science fiction genre.

(18) SPEAKER FOR THE TREES. No, we’re not talking about the Lorax. In this video of “Trees, Chainsaws, and the Visions of Paradise in J.R.R. Tolkien” from 2002, Tom Shippey discusses Tolkien’s relationship to trees, the literary function of forests, and the under-rated sophistication of Hobbit poetry. This quote comes from the YouTube transcript —

…Perhaps the best example of this comes from a colleague of mine now a professor of Harvard who tells this anecdote which I shall rapidly pirate. He said that some it must have been at least thirty years ago when he was a student backpacking his way around Europe he found himself in Oxford and he went to the University parks and he found a bench there and took his backpack off and sat down on the bench and looks at the parks for a bit. And at this point I’m an old guy came up very well-dressed and he came along and he sat down on the bench and he started to talk about trees. Trees, how beautiful they were, trees, some particularly beautiful trees, trees, now some trees he was personally fond of, trees, the awful things people did to trees, trees, how awful people were who did these awful things to trees trees, what we ought to do to these awful people in the world. But at this point my colleague said he was beginning to get rather nervous, picks his backpack up and edged away reflecting that you know they haven’t got all the weirdos locked up yet by any means. But next morning he got the local paper and discovered a picture of the old weirdo in it and it was of course the distinguished professor talking who was in the paper because he’d been collecting an honorary doctorate… 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Gordon Van Gelder, Anna Grace Carpenter, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 5/24/21 Pixelback Scroller

(1) BOOM! STUDIOS BEGINS WORK WITH #DISNEYMUSTPAY TASK FORCE. SFWA has another update:

The #DisneyMustPay Joint Task Force is pleased to announce that BOOM! Studios have begun to work with them to achieve the Task Force’s goals to ensure that all writers who are owed royalties and/or statements for their media-tie in work are identified and that Disney and other companies honor their contractual obligations to those writers after acquiring the companies that originally hired the writers. 

BOOM! Studios strongly support all creators receiving any reporting and royalty payments they are contractually owed. When we have obligations, we honor them,” said Filip Sablik, President, Publishing & Marketing BOOM! Studios. “We are happy to work with both the Disney Task Force and our licensor Disney to resolve the situation to everyone’s satisfaction.”

Through their research, the Task Force believes that BOOM! Studios were not told about the writers who were due royalties when Disney transferred media rights to them. Though Disney is a partial owner of the studios, it is not engaged in the day-to-day operations. “BOOM! Studios are not at fault here, and the #DisneyMustPay Joint Task Force is grateful that they have taken the lead with their cooperation,” said Mary Robinette Kowal, President, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). “With their help, we’re able to speed up the process of locating writers who might have been affected by the rights transfer by Disney. I wish Disney itself was also willing to work with us.”

Fans, fellow writers, and the creative community need to continue to post on social media showing their support so the #DisneyMustPay Joint Task Force can help writers. Thanks to their support, the message is reaching Disney and related organizations, such as BOOM! Studios, to alert them to the work they need to do to honor their contractual obligations. 

(2) KRANER Q&A. Download the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction’s interview with Author Stephanie Kraner.

(3) FREE VIRTUAL BALTICON. Balticon, Maryland’s oldest science fiction convention, is holding its second virtual convention on Memorial Day Weekend (May 28-31, 2021). Balticon is being offered without charge at balticon.org.

“Last year we set a high standard that other science fiction conventions have used as their model,” said ConChair, Yakira Heistand. “Balticon 55 will be even better because we learned a lot and had an entire year to plan for this format, instead of just two months.”

Hugo-winning author Seanan McGuire, headlines the event as the Guest of Honor. Celebrated author, C.J Cherryh will accept the Robert A. Heinlein Award. Micaiah Johnson will receive the 2021 Compton Crook Award, given for the best first science fiction novel and named to honor the memory of long time Towson University professor Compton Crook. Maryland high school winners of this year’s Jack Chalker Young Writers’ Award will read from their works.

Almost 300 panels, concerts, discussions, and readings are planned during the 36-hour convention, along with open role playing and board gaming sessions Traditional Balticon events including the art show, headed by Artist Guest of Honor Alyssa Winans, and the four-hour short film festival Sunday evening are on the schedule. The very popular science program offers multiple presentations on medical advancements, space exploration, and other technological developments.

For the first time, Balticon is supported in part by the Maryland State Arts Council (msac.org) through an emergency grant.  “We are happy to have this help because hosting an online convention requires many additional resources,” said Steven Joel Zeve, the Balticon Treasurer. A GoFundMe fundraiser is being held to help make up for the revenue lost by holding a free convention.

Balticon is a presentation of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society, Inc. The BSFS building, in east Baltimore, houses a 12,000+ item library of speculative fiction books, magazines, and videos. Information on regular BSFS events can be found at bsfs.org.

(4) FAN IMPROVEMENTS. In the May 19 Financial Times, Tom Faber discusses game “modders.”  He explains that a “mod is a fan-made alteration that can range from small graphical tweaks to huge overhauls in gameplay.”

The most frightening thing in Capcom’s new horror game Resident Evil Village is not the mutilated hand of protagonist Ethan Winters, nor the 9-foot tall Lady Dmitriescu with her razor-sharp fingers:  it is Thomas The Tank Engine.  Days after the game’s official release, members of the online modder community, who hack games to alter graphics and gameplay, have already offered a raft of ludicrous additions. including swapping every monster in the game with Barney the Dinosaur.

Thomas is special for gamers, though. Since a modder first swapped the dragons of SKYRIM for the cheery blue locomotive in 2013 (prompting legal threats from IP holder Mattel), he has been incongruously shoehorned into all manner of games.  Most memorable was the mod that replaced Mr X, the mutant villain of Resident Evil 2, with a huge Thomas who stalks you with dead eyes, his theme tune jangling eerily.

(5) THE BOOKS YOU LOVE. Salman Rushdie encourages us to “Ask Yourself Which Books You Truly Love” in an opinion piece for the New York Times.

…I believe that the books and stories we fall in love with make us who we are, or, not to claim too much, the beloved tale becomes a part of the way in which we understand things and make judgments and choices in our daily lives. A book may cease to speak to us as we grow older, and our feeling for it will fade. Or we may suddenly, as our lives shape and hopefully increase our understanding, be able to appreciate a book we dismissed earlier; we may suddenly be able to hear its music, to be enraptured by its song.

When, as a college student, I first read Günter Grass’s great novel “The Tin Drum,” I was unable to finish it. It languished on a shelf for fully 10 years before I gave it a second chance, whereupon it became one of my favorite novels of all time: one of the books I would say that I love. It is an interesting question to ask oneself: Which are the books that you truly love? Try it. The answer will tell you a lot about who you presently are….

I want to return, however, to that childhood self, enchanted by tales whose express and sole purpose was enchantment. I want to move away from the grand religious epics to the great hoard of scurrilous, conniving, mysterious, exciting, comic, bizarre, surreal and very often extremely sexy narratives contained in the rest of the Eastern storehouse, because — not only because, but, yes, because — they show how much pleasure is to be gained from literature once God is removed from the picture.

One of the most remarkable characteristics of the stories now gathered in the pages of “The Thousand Nights and One Night,” to take just one example, is the almost complete absence of religion. Lots of sex, much mischief, a great deal of deviousness; monsters, jinnis, giant Rocs; at times, enormous quantities of blood and gore; but no God. This is why censorious Islamists dislike it so much.

In Egypt, in May 2010, just seven months before the revolt against President Hosni Mubarak, a group of Islamist lawyers got wind of a new edition of “Alf Laylah wa Laylah” (the book’s original Arabic title) and brought an action demanding that the edition be withdrawn and the book banned because it was “a call to vice and sin” that contained several references to sex. Fortunately, they did not succeed, and then larger matters began to preoccupy Egyptian minds. But the fact is, they had a point.

(6) ETERNALS TEASER. Marvel dropped a trailer for Eternals.

“Throughout the years we have never interfered, until now.” Watch the brand new teaser trailer for Marvel Studios’ “Eternals” and experience it in theaters this November.

(7) LIEUTENANT TOLKIEN. Atlas Obscura thinks there’s a connection between Lord of the Rings and the “Cannock Chase Military Training Grounds – Staffordshire, England”. I don’t promise the article provides much more info than the claim.

… Also present, near the village of Brocton is an accurate 40-meter by 40-meter model of the area involved in the Battle of Messines Ridge in Belgium. It was complete with accurate contours, trenches, roads, railways, and an accurate model of the village of Messines. This model was re-excavated by archaeologists in 2013 and after laser scanning was covered with a protective membrane then re-buried because it was too fragile to be left exposed. The model was constructed by German prisoners held in a nearby POW camp and was used for training purposes. An information board now marks the spot….

One of the best known WWI occupants of the Cannock Chase complex was J.R.R. Tolkien, who both trained and lived locally while recovering from injuries sustained in France. Many people believe that several parts of the chase inspired scenes in the author’s Lord of the Rings trilogy….

(8) SHAVER SPEAKS. Here’s a visit to an antique land. Jerry’s House of Everything gives a full intro to the appearance of “Ray Palmer and Richard Shaver on The Long John Nebel Show”. (The recording is at the Internet Archive.) Doesn’t say what year the show was aired, but Nebel died in 1978, so before then, anyway.

…In 1943, Shaver wrote to Amazing Stories to tell the editor Ray Palmer that he had discovered an ancient unknown language called Mantong, the source for all human languages.  Palmer, always on the lookout for ways to shill his magazine, got in touch with Shaver.  Shaver submitted a manuscript to Palmer which Palmer rewrote and published the novella, titled “I Remember Lumaria,” in the March 1945 issue.  The story introduced the evil “deros” to the science fiction reading public….

(9) CHANNELING RAY BRADBURY. Inverse declares “The most underrated sci-fi anthology show ever is streaming for free right now” – Peacock is running episodes of The Ray Bradbury Theater.

…Unlike most sci-fi anthology shows — like Twilight Zone or Outer Limits — The Ray Bradbury Theater has the most in common with Black Mirror for one simple reason: the vast majority of the episodes are written by the same person.

The Ray Bradbury Theater is literally what it sounds like: Ray Bradbury presenting TV versions of a bunch of his short stories. It’s the kind of stunt that seems almost impossible to imagine now, with the closest analog perhaps being Castle Rock insofar as Stephen King is probably the closest living version of Bradbury. It’s hard to find a short story writer more prolific and consistently good as Bradbury, especially when you go digging around in the sandbox of older science fiction. Bradbury’s stories don’t always make sense, but they’ve always got style and attitude.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born 24 May 1794 – Rev. Dr. William Whewell.  (Pronounced “hew-ell”.)  Master of Trinity College, Cambridge.  Crater on the Moon named after him.  Mathematician, Anglican priest, historian of science.  Coined the words scientist, physicist, linguistics, osmosis, ion, astigmatism.  Royal Medal for organizing thousands of volunteers internationally to study ocean tides.  Clifton Fadiman in Fantasia Mathematica anthologized this poem.  (Died 1866) [JH]
  • Born May 24, 1917 – Irving Cox.  Five dozen stories in AmazingAstoundingCosmosFantasticFutureIfImaginationOrbitRocket StoriesSaturnSF AdventuresSF QuarterlySF StoriesUniverse – to name just some of the prozines we’ve had.  You can read ten of his stories from 1953-1960 here.  (Died 2001) [JH]
  • Born May 24, 1925 — Carmine Infantino. Comics artist and editor, mostly for DC Comics, during the late 1950s know as the Silver Age of Comics. He created the Silver Age version of the Flash (with writer Robert Kanigher),  Deadman with writer Arnold Drake and the  Elongated Man (with John Broome). He also introduced Barbara Gordon as a new version of Batgirl. Infantino wrote or contributed to two books about his life and career: The Amazing World of Carmine Infantino (Vanguard Productions and Carmine Infantino: Penciler, Publisher, Provocateur. (Died 2013.) (CE)
  • Born May 24, 1928 – William Trevor.  Whitbread Prize for The Children of Dynmouth, reviewed by Elaine Cochrane in SF Commentary 60/61, p. 26 [PDF]; two more Whitbreads; Hawthornden Prize; Saoi; four O. Henry Awards (not limited to U.S. authors since 2002).  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born 24 May 1930 – Terri Pinckard.  Stories in Fantasy BookVertex; wrote the Introduction to Womanthology (F. Ackerman & P. Keesey eds. 2003).  Told the L.A. Times (3 Jun 99) that when we landed on the Moon “I cried.  Science fiction writers were the ones who dreamed it.”  With husband Tom Pinckard hosted the Pinckard Salon, which drew Ackerman, Bloch, Bradbury, Daugherty, George Clayton Johnson, C.L. Moore, Niven, Pournelle, Roddenberry, Spinrad.  Dian Girard dedicated Tetragravitron (as by J.D. Crayne) to “Members of the Pinckard Salon”.  Big Heart (our highest service award) to Terri & Tom jointly.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born May 24, 1947 — James Cosmo, 74. Genre work is fairly deep including appearances in films including HighlanderThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the WardrobeThe Seeker: The Dark Is Rising and Wonder Woman, as well as television series such as SS-GBTerry Pratchett’s The Colour of Magic and the Game of Thrones. (CE)
  • Born May 24, 1952 — Sybil Danning, 69. Her rise to fame began with her  role in Roger Corman’s space opera cult classic, Battle Beyond the Stars which he billed as his Star Wars. (No kidding.) She went on to star in HerculesHowling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf, a faux trailer directed by Rob Zombie titled Werewolf Women of the SS for Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse (I couldn’t make this stuff up!), the Halloween remake and finally she as in a horror film called Virus X. Series, She appeared in recurring roles of the The Lair as a vampire out for revenge. (CE) 
  • Born May 24, 1953 — Alfred Molina, 68. His film debut was on Raiders of The Lost Ark as Satipo. He was an amazing Doctor Octopus on Spider-Man 2, and he also provided the voice of the villain Ares on the outstanding 2009 animated  Wonder Woman. Oh, and he was a most excellent Hercule Poirot on Murder on the Orient Express. I know, not genre, but one of my favorite films no matter who’s playing the character. (CE) 
  • Born May 24, 1960 — Doug Jones, 61. I first saw him as Abe Sapien on Hellboy, an amazing role indeed. To pick a few of my favorite roles by him, he’s in Pan’s Labyrinth as The Faun and The Pale Man (creepy film), a clown in Batman Returns, the Lead Gentleman in the “Hush” episode of Buffy and currently Commander Saru on Discovery. (CE) 
  • Born May 24, 1960 — Michael Chabon, 61. Author of the single best fantasy novel about baseball, Summerland which won a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. His other two genre novels, Gentlemen of the Road and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, winner of Best Novel at Denvention 3, are stellar works in themselves. He was Showrunner for the first season of Picard but will be Executive Producer for the upcoming season. (CE) 
  • Born May 24, 1965 – Watanabe Shin’ichirô, age 56.  (Personal name last, Japanese style; apostrophe to indicate syllables “shin-ichi-rô”; circumflex to indicate is a long vowel, also written oh or ou or oo – or with a macron, which this software won’t allow.)  Co-directed Macross Plus; directed Cowboy Bebop, alternative-history Samurai ChanpurûSpace DandyCarole & Tuesday.  Blade Runner – Black Lotusis expected in 2021.  At the Yokohama (65th) Worldcon my host’s daughter was rehearsing The Magic Flute but none of my fellow gaijin are rehearsing Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees.  [JH]
  • Born May 24, 1985 – Isabelle Melançon, age 36.  Drawings in Oziana and The Baum Bugle.  Oz found its way into the Webcomic that Isa co-authors, Namesake – or vice versa.  Here’s a sketch for Quibbling and even one for Hamilton.   [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Half Full spotted this puzzle book celebrity.
  • Lio has a great name for a school.

(12) GET READY TO CELEBRATE TOWEL DAY. Save the Rhino encourages you to Stand up for Towel Day 2021, tomorrow, May 25. I’m told it’s Douglas Adams’ favorite charity. (Fanzine fan Jim Mowatt raised money for them, too, in 2016 – “Mowatt Marathons To Save The Rhino on April 24”.)

Join us for a raucous evening of fun and merriment to celebrate a day of towel-carrying and all things, ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’.

We’ve teamed up with Stand up for Towel Day to bring you the very best sketches and segments from real events between 2017 and 2020. It will feature the very best sketches and segments from Stand Up for Towel Day’s short but rich history.

Limited edition Towel Day merchandise will be available during the event. Including a towel!

…Since 2017 Stand Up for Towel Day has provided a place to gather after a day of celebratory towel carrying for stand-up comedy, slam poetry, sketches, improv and more in homage to Douglas and his work.

For the second year in a row, we’ve teamed up with Stand up for Towel Day’s curator, Rachel Wheeley, and producer, Nell Thomas, to bring you the 2021 edition of the event.

This year’s programme, a pre-recorded event, will feature live footage recorded at real events from 2017 to 2020. It will feature the very best sketches and segments from Stand Up for Towel Day’s short but rich history. Thanks to Kevin Jon Davies, Douglas Adams documentarian and author ‘42 The Probable Ideas of Douglas Adams’ for making the footage available.

(13) HOLLYWOOD SINCE COVID. Guillermo del Toro’s next movie, scheduled for a December 3 release, interrupted production because of the pandemic. “Nightmare Alley: Release Date, Cast, Details” at IndieWire. The title caught my eye, because the book it’s based on was written by Joy Davidman’s first husband.

…The movie wrapped in December of 2020, and now, a year later, it’s headed for release on December 3 from Searchlight Pictures. Del Toro spoke about the film’s production during an IndieWire Live conversation over the summer. “We stopped the shoot a week before [the industry shut down]. We reacted super fast, we proposed the studio to stop as opposed to being asked to stop,” del Toro said. “That saved us. Nobody to my knowledge in the cast or the crew got coronavirus. We were roughly 45 percent in. We were literally in the middle of a great scene. We went to lunch and talked to the studio and when we came back we said, ‘Everybody leave your tools and leave now.’”

Here are nine things to know about del Toro’s latest thriller before it opens later this year.

A Noir-Tinged Storyline

Based on the novel by William Lindsay Gresham, the film centers on an ambitious young carny (Cooper) with a talent for manipulating people with a few well-chosen words. He hooks up with a female psychiatrist (Blanchett) who, it turns out, is even more dangerous than he is. The seedy story drops us into the demimonde of 1940s American show business, and introduces us to the sleazy denizens of a carnival filled with grifters, charlatans, and noir-like femme fatales. 

(14) UNDER PRESSURE. John Scalzi wonders if we expect too much:

(15) RELIC OF THE INTERNET. The New York Times says “Welcome to the Space Jam, Again”. State-of-the-art-1996!

The 1996 “Space Jam” website is important in the way antique maps are important — not because they are necessarily useful tools for present-day navigation, but because they reveal the boundaries around which people’s lives were once oriented, and invite us to remember, or imagine, a world differently arranged.

Many years past its original relevance (of which there was never terribly much, this being the official website of the 1996 live-action/animated sports comedy “Space Jam”), the “Space Jam” website now serves as a virtual portal to the 1990s. The home page — a low resolution star-speckled black galaxy whose flat cartoon planets are slapped, like stickers, around the “Space Jam” logo — is not a nostalgic recreation. It is the real thing, beautifully preserved in the resin of digital time — a visual artifact from a less connected World Wide Web.

Today the internet is dominated by overlapping social platforms. But the “Space Jam” website, which existed before Google, harkens to an era when the web felt more like an infinite archipelago of islands to which one might surf in pursuit of one’s passions — or by accident….

(16) IT’S ABOUT TIME. Mind Matters sets the frame for The Bargain, a DUST sci-fi short film: “Sci-fi Saturday: In a Future Market, Time To Live Is Bought, Sold”.

Cora is indentured in the service of Hue, the creator and owner of time-exchanging technology. She is alive thanks to Hue’s monthly “payments”: on her own, she’d have only a few weeks left. She works as his bodyguard and assistant, extracting or injecting time from his clients. She is horrified by Hue’s predatory deals, but complaining means breaching her contract. However, when a single mother of two falls victim to his extortion, Cora’s leash finally snaps. She now has to choose between her future or the life of a stranger.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In the SPOILER-FILLED “Army of The Dead Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George explains that the movie asks “What if zombies did everything?” and has “strong zombies, fat zombies, dumb zombies, and robot zombies.”  Also, we learn that a group of mercenaries can carry hundreds of millions in $100 bills out of Vegas because they have backpacks!

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

Pixel Scroll 5/18/21 Manic Pixel Dreamsnake And The Scrollers Of Doom

(1) RIDLEY TO WRITE NEXT BLACK PANTHER SERIES. The New York Times announced today in an exclusive interview that Academy Award-winning writer John Ridley (12 Years a Slave) will helm Marvel’s next Black Panther comic book series alongside Marvel’s Stormbreaker artist Juann Cabal (Guardians of the Galaxy). Their series will begin this August.

Building from the epic last chapter of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ groundbreaking multi-year Black Panther run in BLACK PANTHER #25 next week, Ridley will kick off an action-packed espionage story that will impact everything in T’Challa’s life and have ramifications for the entire Marvel Universe!

In this new ongoing series, secrets from T’Challa’s past have come back to haunt him. Fresh from returning from his adventures in space, Black Panther receives an unexpected and urgent message from a Wakandan secret agent. T’Challa must race the clock not only to save his agent, but also to keep his true agenda under wraps. Because if the truth comes out, it could cost T’Challa everything…

“It’s a hybrid espionage-superhero thriller, but at its core, it’s a love story,” Ridley told The New York Times. “And I don’t mean just romantic love, although there’s some of that as well. It’s love between friends.

“We’re coming out of a summer where we saw Black people fighting for our rights, standing up, fighting in ways that we haven’t had to do in years,” Ridley added. “And it was really important to me after the year we had where we can have these conversations with Black people and we can use words like love and caring and hope and regret and all these really fundamental emotions that everybody has.”

(2) AMAZON PUBLISHING’S LIBRARY AGREEMENT. The Digital Public Library of America has signed an agreement with Amazon Publishing to make their ebooks available to U.S. libraries:

Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) is pleased to announce that we have signed an agreement with Amazon Publishing to make all of the approximately 10,000 Amazon Publishing ebooks and audiobooks available to libraries and their patrons through the DPLA Exchange, the only not-for-profit, library-centered content marketplace. This marks the first time that ebooks from Amazon Publishing have been made available to libraries. Like our previous publisher arrangements, this agreement furthers our mission to expand equitable access to ebooks and audiobooks while protecting library patron privacy.

Amazon Publishing titles will begin to be available in the DPLA Exchange via four licensing models this summer; we expect that libraries will be able to access all of the Amazon Publishing titles by the end of the year:

  • Unlimited, one user at a time access, two-year license
  • Bundles of 40 lends, available with a maximum of 10 simultaneously, with no time limit to use the lends
  • Bundles of five lends, available simultaneously, with no time limit to use the lends
  • 26 lends, one user at a time access, the lesser of two years or 26 lends license

Library patrons will be able to access Amazon Publishing titles through SimplyE, the library-developed and managed e-reader app founded by New York Public Library. 

Publishers Weekly’s analysis says the deal will reduce pressure for a legislative solution:

…The deal will also serve to blunt a major criticism of Amazon, which until now had not made its digital content available to libraries under any terms—an exclusion that librarians have loudly criticized for years, and which was brought to the attention of lawmakers in an ALA report last year. In fact, an Amazon spokesperson revealed news of the potential deal with DPLA last year after reporters from The Hill contacted the company regarding a petition urging Congress to pursue “an antitrust investigation and legislative action to preserve and expand library services.”

(3) LIVING INSIDE THE STORY. F&SF invites readers to find out just how far Eugen Bacon, author of “When the Water Stops” in F&SF’s May/June issue, will go to research a new work in this author interview.

SRT: What literary (or other art/history) pilgrimages have you gone on?

EB: Bendigo is a mining town in Australia. I took a tour to the Central Debora Gold Mine for what they called Nine Levels of Darkness (228 metres) in a miner’s cage to research a portion of my novel Mage of Fools by Meerkat Press in March 2022. One scene happens in a mine and I needed to experience it to write it. Imagine what would happen if I were researching a cannibalistic serial killer.

(4) CHILL OUT. James Davis Nicoll is all in favor of science fiction where the heroes get a nice nap before the action starts: “Space Hibernation: Five Stories Featuring Sleeper Ships” at Tor.com.

The Winds of Gath by E. C. Tubb (1967)

Determined to find his lost home world, Dumarest of Earth travels from world to world. Itinerate labourers like Dumarest must travel by the cheapest method available: cold sleep, AKA “Low Passage.” True, the odds of waking from Low Passage are only five in six, assuming the traveller is well-fed and healthy, but it is a risk Dumarest and his companions accept.

Surviving yet another gamble with Low, Dumarest is confronted by yet another Low reality: there is no protection or warning for the traveller should the starship captain alter destination in flight. Rather than waking on prosperous Broome, Dumarest is stuck on tide-locked Gath. Gath is not prosperous and escape may prove quite difficult. If escape is possible at all.

(5) THE BEST OF CORA BUHLERT 2021. Cora Buhlert is making her 2021 Hugo Voter Packet submission available to everyone – and it’s up now.

(6) PILING UP THOSE CANS OF FILM. “Amazon in talks to buy ‘James Bond’ movie studio MGM” reports the Los Angeles Times.

Amazon is looking to bulk up its film and TV operations with MGM’s deep film library and substantial television production work as it looks to keep Prime Video competitive with Netflix and Disney+, which are spending billions to dominate the streaming wars, the sources said.

The Seattle company had long been thought to be a potential acquirer largely because of the appeal of the MGM film and TV library, which includes 4,000 movies such as “Robocop” “The Pink Panther” and “The Silence of the Lambs.” MGM’s scripted TV division is responsible for “Fargo,” “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Vikings.”

The Information first reported the talks, which escalated recently and are said to be in the advanced stages. Sources said the purchase price being discussed is within a range of $7 billion to $9 billion….

(7) ELECTION INTERFERENCE. Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron will continue its discussion of threats to last year’s US elections in “US Election Interference in 2020 and Beyond Part II – Domestic Interference”. Register at the link. Joining the team for this program will be Bryson Bort (founder of Scythe), Matt Masterson (Former Election Security Lead for CISA), Harri Hursti (Nordic Innovation Labs), and SJ Terp (Strategist, ThreeT Consulting).

(8) LIVING IN SPACE. Jeff Foust reviews two books about the science of settling on Mars and the Moon for The Space Review: “Developing Space and Settling Space”.

Developing Space by John Strickland with Sam Spencer and Anna Nesterova
Settling Space by John Strickland with Sam Spencer and Anna Nesterova

For all his talk about wanting to make humanity multiplanetary, Elon Musk hasn’t said much about how he would ensure people would stay alive on another world. Musk is happy to talk about how Starship can make it possible for people to go to the Moon, Mars, and elsewhere in large numbers, including that vision of a million people living on Mars. But exactly what people would do once on Mars, and how they would survive the extreme environment there, is an exercise left for the reader.

That reader—or maybe Musk himself—could turn to the two volumes recently published by John Strickland, called Developing Space and Settling Space. Strickland, a longtime space advocate and regular contributor to The Space Review, spares no detail in his analysis of how humans can not only get to other worlds—or create their own in the form of space settlements—but also survive and thrive once they got there….

Don Sakers

(9) DON SAKERS OBIT. Author and retired librarian Don Sakers (1958-2021) died May 17. From 2009 to the present he was Analog’s book reviewer, with a “Reference Library” column in every issue.

He most enjoyed being remembered for exploring the thoughts of sapient trees in The Leaves of October (part of his Scattered Worlds series), beating the “Cold Equations” scenario (“The Cold Solution,” Analog 7/91, voted the magazine’s best short story of the year), and editing Carmen Miranda’s Ghost is Haunting Space Station Three (1989), an anthology inspired by Leslie Fish’s filksong, to which he contributed two stories.

Sakers lived at Meerkat Meade in suburban Baltimore with his spouse, costumer Thomas Atkinson.

(10) GRODIN OBIT. Actor Charles Grodin has died of cancer at the age of 86. His best genre roles were in the movies Rosemary’s Baby (1968), King Kong (1976), Heaven Can Wait (1978), The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981), and The Great Muppet Caper (1981). He also appeared in single episodes of TV’s Captain Nice, and My Mother the Car. The Hollywood Reporter’s career notes mention —

…Grodin’s characters occasionally displayed a sinister side. In King Kong (1976), he played the shady businessman who tries to cash in on the giant ape; two years later, he portrayed an oily lawyer in the screwball comedy remake Heaven Can Wait, starring Warren Beatty.

Early in his career, Grodin was in the running to star as Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate (1967), then played an obstetrician in Rosemary’s Baby (1968)….

(11) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • May 18, 1962 — On this date in 1962, The Twilight Zone aired “I Sing The Body Electric,” scripted by Ray Bradbury. They make a fairly convincing pitch here. It doesn’t seem possible, though, to find a woman who must be ten times better than mother in order to seem half as good, except, of course, in the Twilight Zone. — Intro narration. Although Bradbury contributed several scripts to the series, this was the only one produced. An large ensemble cast was needed, hence Josephine Hutchinson, David White, Vaughn Taylor, Doris Packer, Veronica Cartwright, Susan Crane and Charles Herbert all being performers.  This was the year that the entire season of the series won the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo at Chicon III.   

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 18, 1852 – I.L. Peretz.  A great figure in Yiddish literature; a score of stories for us, among which a classic version of the golem legend.  Extra credit: compare Avram Davidson’s.  (Died 1915) [JH]
  • Born May 18, 1919 – Margot Fonteyn.  Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire; named prima ballerina assoluta of the Royal Ballet by Elizabeth II.  Danced many fantasies e.g. The FirebirdGiselleRaymondaSwan Lake.  (Died 1991) [JH]
  • Born May 18, 1930 — Fred Saberhagen. I’m reasonably sure I’ve read the entirety of his Berserker series though not in the order they were intended to be read. Some are outstanding, some less so. I’d recommend Berserker ManShiva in Steel and the original Berserker collection.  Of his Dracula sequence, the only one I think that I’veread is The Holmes-Dracula File which is superb. And I know I’ve read most of the Swords tales as they came out in various magazines. (Died 2007.) (CE) 
  • Born May 18, 1931 – Don Martin.  Album covers for Miles Davis, Art Farmer, Stan Getz.  A cover and thirty interiors for Galaxy.  Mad’s Maddest Artist, of floppy feet, onomatopoeia – his car license plate was SHTOINK – and National Gorilla Suit Day.  Fourteen collections.  Ignatz Award, Nat’l Cartoonists Society’s Special Features Award, Will Eisner Hall of Fame.  (Died 2000) [JH]
  • Born May 18, 1934 — Elizabeth Rogers. Trek geeking time. She had two roles in the series. She provided the uncredited voice for “The Companion” in the “Metamorphosis” episode. She also portrayed Lt. Palmer, a communications officer who took the place of Uhura, in “The Doomsday Machine”, “The Way to Eden”, and the very last episode of the series, “Turnabout Intruder”. She also had appearances on Time TunnelLand of The GiantsBewitchedThe Swarm and Something Evil. (Died 2004.) (CE) 
  • Born May 18, 1946 — Andreas Katsulas. I knew him as Ambassador G’Kar on Babylon 5 but had forgottenhe played the Romulan Commander Tomalak on Star Trek: The Next Generation. His first genre role on television was playing Snout in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and he had a recurring role in Max Headroom as Mr. Bartlett. He also had appearances on Alien NationThe Death of the Incredible HulkMillenniumStar Trek: Enterprise anda voice role on The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest. (Died 2006.) (CE) 
  • Born May 18, 1946 – Larry Smith, F.N.  Chaired Marcon III-XII, Fan Guest of Honor at XIII; vice-chair of Chicon IV, Fan Guest of Honor at Windycon 27; co-chaired Ohio Valley Filk Fest 14, World Fantasy Con 2010.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service).  Bought Dick Spelman’s book business when DS retired, became a leading book dealer with wife Sally Kobee, ran Dealers’ Room at many Worldcons.  (Died 2017)
  • Born May 18, 1948 – R-Laurraine Tutihasi, age 73.  Active in fanzines, the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n; won its Kaymar and Franson awards), and otherwise.  Loccer (“loc” also “LoC” = letter of comment, the blood of fanzines) at least as far back as Algol and The Diversifier, also ArgentusJanusFlagBroken Toys.  Her own fanzine is Purrsonal Mewsings.  [JH]
  • Born May 18, 1952 — Diane Duane, 69. She’s known for the Young Wizards YA series though I’d like to single her out for her lesser-known Feline Wizards series where SJW creds maintain the gates that wizards use for travel throughout the multiverse. A most wonderful thing for felines to do! (CE) 
  • Born May 18, 1958 — Jonathan Maberry, 63. The only thing I’ve read by him is the first five novels in the Joe Ledger Series which has a high body count and an even higher improbability index. Popcorn reading with Sriracha sauce. I see that he’s done scripts for Dark Horse, IDW and Marvel early on. And that he’s responsible for Captain America: Hail Hydra which I remember as quite excellent. (CE)
  • Born May 18, 1969 — Ty Franck, 52. Half of the writing team along with Daniel Abraham that’s James Corey, author of The Expanse series. I’ll admit that I’ve fallen behind by a volume or two as there’s just too many good series out there too keep up with all of them, damn it, but now that it’s ended I intend to finish it. (CE)
  • Born May 18, 1971 – Boros Attila, age 50.  (Personal name last, Hungarian style.)  Two dozen covers.  For Wild Cardshere is Four Aceshere is Only the Dead Know Jokertownhere is Ace in the Hole.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • At Lio’s booth he charges ten times what Lucy did – which makes a kind of sense when you consider what the demand was for his makeover material a year ago.

(14) IN TUNE WITH SFF. Jackiem Joyner is a contemporary saxophonist, author, and music producer. He’s released seven albums, has two number one hit songs, and five Top 10 Billboard singles. On the sff side, his second sff novel, Timelab: Episode One, came out in October.

Two Scientists. One from long ago. The other from modern day 2018.
Both on the precipice of greatness.
Both met with disdain, and in one case, branded a witch.

Sir Bernard, a seasoned and trusted scientist, living in the time of King Caesar, is lauded by many… until his invention sparks rage and fear among the people. When they brand him as a witch, practicing dark magic, he makes a daring escape via his time machine.
He finds himself in San Francisco, 2000 years in the future. There, he befriends Kyle, a young, talented physics student, whose brilliance also sparks distrust, and in some cases, maltreatment.
Together, the two scientists are a formidable force, but there are barriers that prevent them from making good use of their scientific theories.
Sir Bernard’s homeland is on the brink of war. To save his people, he must go back in time, but first he’ll need a new, more powerful time machine.
Kyle has struggles of his own. His brain puts him ahead of the class, but he has trepidation about his mother’s legacy. He wants to clear her name and prove that she didn’t intentionally detonate a scientific lab, killing everyone, including herself.
Two scientists from vastly different worlds fight to erase the past. Can they prove their theories are real and can they save lives and reputations, including their own?

(15) YOU HAVE TO BE OH SO SMART OR OH SO NICE. The artist is trying to nice despite the kerfuffle: “’Sinister’ statue of mythical Irish creature put on hold in Co Clare”IrishCentral tells all about it.

Sculptor Aidan Harte has shared with IrishCentral his thoughts about the controversy surrounding his ‘Púca of Ennistymon’ statue.

Harte told IrishCentral on Wednesday morning: “All I can say is that it matters what all the people of Clare think.

“A vocal minority seem to have been set against it from the start, and that culminated with the priest denouncing it from the altar as a pagan idol.

“That’s silly; the Púca is no more pagan than the leprechaun.

“But since the controversy went national there’s been a swing, with locals who like it now speaking up. That’s welcome and I hope it goes ahead.

“The brief was to make a statue that would attract tourists to Ennistymon. The Púca hasn’t even been put up yet and all Ireland is already talking about it!”

(16) THAT’S WHAT TIGERS DO. Entertainment Weekly tells how “C. Robert Cargill pays tribute to a sci-fi hero in robot apocalypse novel Day Zero”.

C. Robert Cargill‘s just-published science-fiction novel Day Zero hinges on the relationship between a boy named Ezra and his tiger-resembling “nannybot,” Pounce.

“It’s the eve of the robot revolution,” the author and Doctor Strange co-writer, 45, tells EW. “When everything hits the fan, it’s up to a nannybot to decide whether he wants to join the revolution or protect the boy he loves.”

Day Zero is a tip of a hat to the late science fiction writer Harlan Ellison, whose tale A Boy and His Dog found a character named Vic and his telepathic canine partner Blood attempting to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. Cargill got to know Ellison when he and Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson signed on to turn the Ellison-written Outer Limits episode “Demon With a Glass Hand” into a movie.

“The big deal was announced and nobody had told Harlan,” says Cargill. “Harlan immediately hit all of the [web] boards he was frequently on and goes, ‘Who the hell is C. Robert Cargill?’ Three different friends reached out to me on the same Saturday morning and said, ‘Ah, Harlan Ellison is looking for you. He seems kind of pissed.'”

Although the film was never made, the pair became friendly.

(17) CATCH ‘EM ALL. Input leads the cheers for this obsessive collector: “All hail King Pokémon!”

“We’re honored to have the one and only King Pokémon!” an announcer calls out.

On this mid-March day, he strides into Collect-A-Con, a two-day, first-of-its-kind conference dedicated to non-sports trading cards, in Frisco, Texas. By his side are fellow Pokémon royalty — RealBreakingNate and Leonhart, two mega-popular Pokémon Trading Card Game (TCG) YouTubers. Making his way through the cheering crowd, King Pokémon waves and smiles, his demeanor that of a kid popping bubbles: lit-up, blissful.

The King is Gary Haase, a 67-year-old father of three from Las Vegas. His Pokémon TCG collection’s estimated total value is more than $10 million, making it the most expensive in the world. In this windowless Embassy Suites ballroom, owning top-tier Pokémon cards makes you a star. And Haase, who has obsessively collected Pokémon cards since 1998, is a bona fide celebrity. One meet-and-greet, expected to go for an hour and a half, lasts five hours….

(18) QUACKING UP. The New Yorker chronicles “The Strange Story of Dagobert, the “DuckTales” Bandit”.

…He mailed a ransom note to the store demanding a million marks—the equivalent of more than a million dollars today. “I gave you a demonstration of my determination to achieve my goal, including with violence,” he warned. “The next time there will be a catastrophe.” Funke instructed the store to place a coded message in the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper if it was willing to comply: “Uncle Dagobert greets his nephews.” Dagobert Duck is the German name for Scrooge McDuck, the money-grabbing duck from Disney’s “Uncle Scrooge” comics and “DuckTales” TV show.

Funke sent directions to a forested area, where police officers found a box attached to a telephone pole, with a linen bag inside bearing the “DuckTales” logo and an image of Scrooge McDuck. They also found a strange contraption designed to connect the money bag to the back of a train using electromagnets. Funke instructed them to attach the money bag to a train from Rostock to Berlin. When the train roared past, he pushed a button on a transmitter to deactivate the magnets, but the package didn’t drop; the police had tied it to the train. He sent another letter, changing the pickup location. On August 14th, he again waited near the train tracks, wearing gloves, black glasses, and a gray wig. This time, the package eventually detached and crashed against the tracks. As Funke ran to pick it up, the train stopped and police officers jumped out. “Stand still or I’ll shoot!” an officer cried, firing his weapon into the air.

Funke grabbed the package and scampered to safety. When he opened it, he saw that only four thousand marks were real; the rest was Mickey Mouse money. He had threatened the store with another bomb if it didn’t pay up. Meanwhile, it didn’t take the police long to connect the two bombings: both involved voice changers, a treasure hunt, ingenious gadgets, and money thrown from a train. They were dealing with a serial bomber who appeared to take inspiration from the capers in comic books featuring Scrooge McDuck. From that moment on, they called him Dagobert….

(19) TRAILER PARK. Hotel Transylvania: Transformania comes to theaters July 23. SYFY Wire frames the scene:

As the film opens, the title hotel — set up by Dracula (Brian Hull, replacing original star Adam Sandler) as a haven for himself and his monster friends where they could be free of human persecution — is celebrating its 125th anniversary, and Dracula’s son-in-law Johnny (Andy Samberg) is doing his best to throw a killer bash for his father-in-law. When things go wrong, Johnny worries that he’ll never really be able to relate to Dracula and his pals because he’s not a monster.

Enter Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan), who reveals that he’s developed a “Monsterification Ray” that will transform Johnny into the monster he’s always wanted to be. Of course, the ray can also transform any monster it hits into a human, and when the invention goes haywire, the whole monster squad gets an unexpected and unwelcome taste of mortality.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Resident Evil Village” on YouTube, Fandom Games says in this game you “Have the arena of a small country as you blast away at vampires, werewolves, livestock, and the Borg!”

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