Pixel Scroll 6/24/22 Uptown Scroll

(1) DOES THE GENRE HAVE A CORE? Charles Payseur, whose reviews of short sff fiction now appear in a column for Locus, questions what is the “core” of the genre in the context of noting that he doesn’t cover Clarkesworld, Asimov’s or Analog. “Quick Sips 06/24/2022”.

…I do always encourage people to just find venues that you like and then otherwise read what you feel like. The field of short SFF is too big to take on comprehensively, and even trying can quickly lead to burnout and frustration (just ask…most short SFF reviewers who try). As a reviewer and now as an editor, though, does there arise some sort of obligation to try? It’s a decent question, and one that I’m not sure anyone can answer because…what would trying look like, if not doing exactly what I’m doing now? Could I fit Clarkesworld into my reading? I’m actually unsure. Probably if I could I would have. It’s not like I have suddenly opened up a bunch of free time in my life. And yet I feel that some would think this omission a failing, as some have found my lack of coverage of Asimov’s and Analog a failing. And…I don’t have much to offer to that. All of those are very large publications and take a big commitment to get through every month. Were they smaller I’d probably be more tempted. As is…

There are some arguments one could make about how to determine where the “core” should be. By what pays best, maybe? Or by what has a long tradition of award nominations. By the prestige of the editor. However the lines of the “core” are drawn, though, many will feel excluded for being on the outside of it. It’s a problem that really can only be overcome by engagement. If more people were engaged in drawing their personal cores, then what gets engaged with critically might greatly expand. If reviewers all are moved not by proximity to some sort of “required reading” but rather are pulled in the direction of their personal taste, then as long as the field of reviewers were diverse and acting in good faith, then the largest possible coverage would be achieved….

(2) ON THE LEFT COAST. SFF author Brenda Clough, whose family moved from Virginia two years ago, tells a Washington Post interviewer “What I love about my home in Portland, Ore.”

Brenda W. Clough and her husband moved from Reston, Va., to Portland, Ore., early in 2020. Brenda, a novelist, shared their experience and what they love about their new home in an email. The following was edited for length and clarity.

“My husband and I sold our big house in Reston, Va., when we retired in early 2020. What good timing we had, because both of our offices closed down later that year. We moved to his hometown, Portland, Ore., where we bought a condo downtown.

… I also wanted modern architecture. The D.C. suburbs are almost purely Colonial in style, a Mid-Atlantic thing. Now I have become a fan of poured concrete and Brutalism. My current home has plate-glass windows that go from floor to ceiling. There are no steps at all. I can’t hear my neighbors, and I don’t have screens on the windows. There aren’t many bugs downtown.

Because I am a novelist, I also needed a place that could accommodate our 10 tall bookcases full of books. I dragged the ones in the picture all the way from the East Coast to the West, the tools of my trade: a science fiction and fantasy collection that spans 70 years and historical volumes focusing on Antarctica or Victorian England. And these are only the survivors of a major cull. I weeded out half of the books and gave them to Reston’s Used Book Shop in Lake Anne, which has been enabling my book shopping for decades. It costs roughly a dollar a pound to move stuff coast to coast, a price that powerfully focuses the mind. Moving like this is the opportunity to prune all the possessions back. It has been liberating to get rid of stuff from the basement, garage and attic….

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to grab dinner with Gwendolyn Clare during Episode 174 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Gwendolyn Clare

Gwendolyn Clare’s debut novel, Ink, Iron, and Glass, and its sequel, Mist, Metal, and Ash, compose a duology published in 2018 and 2019 about a young mad scientist with the ability to write new worlds into existence. Coming up in November is In the City of Time, the first book in a duology about three science prodigies on a time-traveling adventure to save the Earth. Her short stories have appeared in ClarkesworldAsimov’sAnalog, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, among others, and her poetry has been nominated for the Rhysling Award.

Her short story “Tasting Notes on the Varietals of the Southern Coast” was reprinted in The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018. She holds a BA in Ecology, a BS in Geophysics, and a PhD in Mycology — the last of those making me wish I got around to asking her to assuage my fears about a relative of mine who picks and eats wild mushrooms … but hey, that will have to be dealt with at a future meal during a different con.

We discussed the important lesson COVID taught her about her career, whether her most famous short story reads differently during these pandemic times, the identity of the science fiction writer I was startled to learn had been her high school geometry teacher, what the novels of Elizabeth Bear taught her about writing, the short story concept she decided to instead turn into what became her first published novel, how she gets into the mindset to write in the Young Adult genre, the amazing cleanliness of her first drafts, the pantsing fingerprints she sees on Stephen King, the many iterations recent writers have made to John W. Campbell’s “Who Goes There?,” and much more.

(4) WJW AND THE THREE R’S. The Speculative Literature Foundation’s Portolan Project conducted “An Interview with Walter Jon Williams” about the three R’s of writing craft: Raising the stakes, Reveals, and Reversals.

“Reveals keep the narrative from plodding directly from one point to another, and often sends it off in another direction entirely. This comes from theater in which there’s a curtain, you don’t know what’s behind the curtain. Action goes on, the curtain is pulled back and suddenly you’re in another place that is very different from where you were before.”

Watch or read our interview with Walter Jon Williams on the three R’s of writing craft and how they could make our stories more engaging. 

Incidentally, the Portolan Writing Project: Phase 1 recently completed a successful Kickstarter that raised over $5,000. The initiative seeks “to provide a wealth of exceptional creative writing courses and resources, free to the public.”

(5) BETWEEN WORLDS. Barbara Graham searches for the dividing line in “Paranormal Or Normal?” at Mystery Fanfare.

My debut mystery, What Jonah Knew, has been described many different ways: Magical. Mystical. Paranormal. Supernatural. And though in one way the labels fit, in another way they raise questions about where the otherworldly stops and reality begins.           

Some background. I was working as a journalist when I was assigned to write a magazine article on past-life regression therapy. As part of my research, I scheduled an appointment with a well-known Jungian analyst who specialized in this work and had published books on the subject. To be honest, I didn’t expect anything to happen. I knew these sessions involved hypnotic suggestion and I—an admitted control freak—believed myself to be immune to trance-induced states. What’s more, the whole business struck me as unreliable at best, fraudulent at worst. Nearly everyone I’d read about who claimed to recall a past life under hypnosis seemed to remember being someone famous—Napoleon, Nefertiti, Abraham Lincoln—never your average serf or working stiff….  

(6) VOGEL VOTING DEADLINE APPROACHES. Members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand (SFFANZ) have until June 30 to get in their 2022 Sir Julius Vogel Awards votes.

The main SFFANZ site (separate to this news service) was down for a bit – that has been fixed.

You need to be a member to vote (it only costs $10) – see “How to Join SFFANZ”. Here’s the info about how to vote and where to download the voting form. If you need more info about the nominees, there is a voting pack available.

(7) PRIDE Q&A’S. The Horror Writers Association blog continues their “Point of Pride” theme in these interviews with Cody Sisco and Steve Berman.

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

Being part of a marginalized group creates a hyperawareness of how members are represented in the media, including in fiction. To paraphrase an apocryphal quote: First they ignore you, then they scorn you, then they laugh at you, etc. When LGBTQ writers tell stories, there can be pressure to create “good representation” and to avoid portrayals that are complicated or nuanced especially if they touch on stereotypes. Writing horror is doubly tricky because we have to navigate creating characters and plots based on real fears and injustices, which can blur into inflicting pain on readers and calling up their trauma.

In my writing, I aim to include shades of dark and light, to explore the complications, inconsistencies, and dilemmas that shape every character, and to reach a queer audience with stories that expand the boundaries of queer pop culture.

How do you feel the LGBTQ community has been represented thus far in the genre and what hopes do you have for representation in the genre going forward?

I must admit I am fascinated with essays utilizing queer theory to explore works of horror that most readers would consider “very straight” classic works of horror. A number of academics have applied this to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde as well as Stoker’s Dracula. I feel that such examinations are perfectly valid as I bring my own perspective (a very gay one) to everything I read or watch or hear.

While the number of queer-themed contemporary horror fiction has grown over the years so it is very possible to fill several bookshelves with just new releases, I do wish more LGBTQ readers would familiarize themselves with older works—I’m frustrated with tweets and posts that present and celebrate queer horror as a twenty-first-century phenomenon, ignoring the great efforts of of many authors. Before there was Clive Barker and Poppy Z. Brite, horror fans could delve into the Gothic storytelling of Francis Lathom or Forrest Reid, the Southern macabre of Michael McDowell, or the vampires of Jewelle Gomez and Jeffrey McMahan. To deny their existence is wrong.

(8) BANNED SOMEWHERE BESIDES IN BOSTON. Slashfilm can tell you “Why These Sci-Fi Movies Are Banned Around The World”.

Since the dissolution of the Motion Picture Production Code, also known as the Hays Code, in the late 1960s, film censorship has been relatively uncommon in the United States. However, several other countries still actively ban films. Though science fiction is less of a target than other genres, there are still many notable examples of sci-fi films that ran afoul of censors, and behind each case lies a deeper story. Ironically, these bans end up revealing more about the perpetrators and their politics than any sci-fi film ever could.

First on the list:

The Matrix: Reloaded

“The Matrix” sparked backlash when it was first released in Egypt. As the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports, several Islamic publications interpreted the film as supporting Zionism. Naturally, Egypt promptly banned its follow-up, “The Matrix: Reloaded,” as well, but the reasoning behind that decision is somewhat murkier.

According to Variety, the country’s Department of Monitoring Artistic Products partially attributed the ban to “scenes of excessive violence,” which is a common red flag in Middle Eastern countries. However, the larger reason requires more digging. The committee also noted that the film “deals explicitly with issues of creation and existence,” including “the Creator and the created, the origins of creation, [and] free will and predestination.”

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

1950 [By Cat Eldridge.] Seventy-two years ago on this day, the radio version of Robert Heinlein’s Destination Moon aired on the Dimension X radio show.  It was episode twelve of the series.

Despite common belief that it based off the film version of Heinlein’s novel, it was not. It was instead based on Heinlein’s final draft of the film’s shooting script. During the broadcast on June 24, 1950, the program was interrupted by a news bulletin announcing that North Korea had declared war on South Korea, marking the beginning of the Korean War.

A shortened version of this Destination Moon radio program was adapted by Charles Palmer and was released by Capitol Records for children. 

You can hear it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 24, 1842 — Ambrose Bierce. The Devil’s Dictionary is certainly worth reading but it’s not genre. For his best genre work, I’d say it’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” which along with his “The Tail of the Sphinx” gives you range of his talents. Both iBooks and Kindle offer up everything (as near as I can tell) he’s written, much of it free. (Died circa 1914.)
  • Born June 24, 1925 — Fred Hoyle. Astronomer of course, but also author of a number of SF works including October the First Is Too Late which I think is among the best genre novels done. I’m also fond of Ossian’s Ride which keeps its SF elements hidden until late in the story. Though he won no genre Awards, he won a lot of other Awards, to wit the Mayhew Prize, Smith’s Prize, FRS, Kalinga Prize, RAS Gold Medal, Bruce Medal, Royal Medal, Klumpke-Roberts Award and Crafoord Prize. (Died 2001.)
  • Born June 24, 1937 — Charles N. Brown. Founder and editor of Locus. I’m going to stop here and turn this over to those of you who knew him far better than I did as my only connection to him is as a reader of Locus for some decades now. Locus won far too many Hugos to list under his time there. He also was nominated at Conspiracy ‘87 for a Hugo for his Science Fiction in Print: 1985 that was co-written by William G. Contento. (Died 2009.)
  • Born June 24, 1947 — Peter Weller, 75. Robocop, obviously, which was nominated for a Hugo at Nolacon II, with my favorite scene being him pulling out and smashing Cain’s brain in the second film, but let’s see what else he’s done. Well, there’s The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, a film I adore. And then there’s Leviathan which I’m guessing a lot of you never heard of. Or I hope you haven’t. Well, Screamers based on Philip K. Dick’s short story “Second Variety”.  And Star Trek Into Darkness certainly qualifies. Hey he even showed up in Star Trek: Enterprise
  • Born June 24, 1950 — Nancy Allen, 72. Officer Anne Lewis in the Robocop franchise. (I like all three films for various reasons.) Her first genre role was not in Carrie as Chris Hargensen, but in a best forgotten a film year earlier (Forced Entry) as an unnamed hitchhiker. She shows up in fan favorite The Philadelphia Experiment as Allison Hayes and I see her in Poltergeist III as Patricia Wilson-Gardner (seriously — a third film in this franchise? Oh why?). She’s in the direct to video Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return as Rachel Colby. And she was in an Outer Limits episode, “Valerie 23”, as Rachel Rose. 
  • Born June 24, 1950 — Mercedes Lackey, 72. There’s a line on a wiki page that says she writes nearly six books a year. Very, very impressive. She’s certainly got a lot of really good series out there including the vast number that are set in the Valdemar universe. I like her Bedlam’s Bard series better. She wrote the first few in this series with Ellen Guon and the latter in the series with Rosemary Edghill. The SERRAted Edge series, Elves with race cars, is quite fun too. Larry Dixon, her husband, and Mark Shepherd were co-writers of these. 
  • Born June 24, 1982 — Lotte Verbeek, 40. You most likely know her as Ana Jarvis, the wife of Edwin Jarvis, who befriends Carter on Agent Carter. She’s got an interesting genre history including Geillis Duncan on the Outlander series, Helena in The Last Witch Hunter, Aisha in the dystopian political thriller Division 19 film and a deliberately undefined role in the cross-world Counterpart series. 
  • Born June 24, 1988 — Kasey Lansdale, 34. Daughter of Joe Lansdale. Publicist at Tachyon Books and a really nice person. Really she is. And yes, she’s one of us having written The Cases of Dana Roberts series, and edited two anthologies, Fresh Blood & Old Bones and Impossible Monsters. In her father’s Hap and Leonard collection Of Mice and Minestrone, she has “Good Eats: The Recipes of Hap and Leonard”. 
  • Born June 24, 1994 — Nicole Muñoz, 28. You’ll perhaps best remember her for role as Christie Tarr (née McCawley) in the Defiance series. Her first role was playing a Little Girl in Fantastic Four. Likewise she was A Kid with Braces in The Last Mimzy, and yes, Another Girl, in Hardwired. The latter was written by Michael Hurst, and has apparently nothing to with the Walter Jon Williams novel of the same name.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side suggests superheroes are not immune to the problems of aging.  

(12) YOU ASKED FOR IT. “Amazon Promises Another Attempt to Make Comixology Suck Less” as Gizmodo puts it so delicately. Their article is based on a Comixology thread that starts here.

Daniel P. Dern sent the link with a note: “Among other things, as in, (says DPD, based on other comments I’ve seen in past months along with some of my own experience) to un-‘deprove’ recent changes which made by Amazon.

“To be fair (still DPD opining), IMHO, both Marvel and DC have made similar ‘deprovements’ to their streaming digital comic services over the past year. They’re still great deals, money for reading wise, but the UI/UX has gotten unnecessarily more ornery.”

(13) MIRACLEMAN SERIES RETURNS. After thirty years, Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham complete their Miracleman saga this October in Miracleman By Gaiman & Buckingham: The Silver Age.

“We’re back! And after thirty years away it is both thrilling and terrifying,” Buckingham said. “Neil and I have had these stories in our heads since 1989 so it is amazing to finally be on the verge of sharing them with our readers.”

The two visionary comic talents will complete their unfinished Miracleman storyline “The Silver Age,” including remastered editions of the first two published issues, complete with new artwork and bonus material. The series will follow the previously announced Miracleman By Gaiman & Buckingham Book 1: The Golden Age TPB, the new collection containing Gaiman and Buckingham’s first Miracleman series. After 30 years, fans will finally see the full incredible story of Young Miracleman with more to come!

Young Miracleman — the lost member of the Miracleman Family — is back! His last memories were of a 1963 world of joy and innocence. Now, he’s been thrust into the 21st century, where his best friends have become gods and monsters. Where can a hero from a simpler time call home in this brave new world?

(14) CAN CONFIRM. George R.R. Martin responds to reports about “SNOW… and Other Stuff” at Not A Blog.

…Yes, there is a Jon Snow show in development.   The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER story was largely correct.   And I would expect no less from James Hibberd.   I have dealt with a lot of reporters over the past few years, and Hibberd is one of the very best, an actual journalist who does all the things journalists are supposed to do (getting the facts right, talking to sources, respecting requests for “background only” and “off the record,” etc) that most of the clickbait sites never bother with….

But, yes, it is true.   This was not an official announcement from HBO, so it seems there was another leak.   I did a long interview with James Hibberd last week, for the big HOUSE OF THE DRAGON story that HOLLYWOOD REPORTER is planning.   At the end of the call, he asked a few questions about the spinoffs.   “Is it possible one of the spinoffs is a sequel rather than a prequel?” he asked.   I answered “No comment.”   Then he asked “Is it possible a member of the original cast is attached?”  And again I answered “No comment.”   And that was all.   But plainly he found someone more forthcoming than me.   Who?   I don’t know, and suspect I never will.   A good journalist protects his sources.

There’s not much more I can tell you, not until HBO gives me a green light….

(15) HYSTERICAL LITTER. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Authorities in Malmo, Sweden created a “sexy trashcan” that mutters suggestive comments whenever anyone throws in some trash.“’Sexy’ rubbish bins installed in Swedish town to encourage use”.

Two rubbish bins on Davidshallsbron bridge in Sweden’s southern city of Malmö have been equipped by city authorities with loudspeakers, blaring out sexual phrases like “ooooh, right there yeah” when the lid is opened to encourage passers-by to use the bins to get rid of their rubbish.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Dead By Daylight,” Fandom Games says this multi-player vampire slaughterfest “makes you a little more misanthropic just playing it.” The narrator suggests that after fighting various licensed monsters, the next series should feature Jared Leto. “No. not Morbius, Jared Leto. That would be truly terrifying!

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

Pixel Scroll 1/19/22 File The Pixels, Lest They Squeak Or Scroll

(1) LOTR SERIES TITLE ANNOUNCEMENT. Amazon Studios will be calling it — The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. The series begins airing on Amazon Prime on September 2, 2022.

Amazon Studios’ forthcoming series brings to screens for the very first time the heroic legends of the fabled Second Age of Middle-earth’s history. This epic drama is set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and will take viewers back to an era in which great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin, unlikely heroes were tested, hope hung by the finest of threads, and the greatest villain that ever flowed from Tolkien’s pen threatened to cover all the world in darkness. Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains, to the majestic forests of the elf-capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, to the furthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone.

(2) IN TRANSLATION. The Lord of the Rings on Prime also tweeted a video displaying versions of the series title in different languages – including two of Tolkien’s.

We’re assured by an expert that the Sindarin translation is accurate: “’Rings of Power’ Tengwar and Sindarin (Prime)”.

Amazon has published today not only the trailer for the series “Rings of Power” (see below) but also a teaser with the title in different languages. There is a Polish version (I will show it in a moment). There is also a Sindarin version! This is the correct Sindarin (you can see that the creators of the series have tried to get good Tolkien linguists). 

(3) SPACE UNICORNS SOUND OFF. You have until February 7 to make your voice heard:

We’ve set up a poll for Uncanny readers to vote for their top three favorite original short stories from 2021. (You can find links to all of the stories here.)

The poll will be open from January 10 to February 7, after which we’ll announce the results. We’re excited for you to share which Uncanny stories made you feel!

snazzy certificate will be given to the creator whose work comes out on top of  the poll!

(4) ALGORITHM RUN AMOK. The Fantasy Book Critic blog was buried under a massive amount of wrong DMCA takedown notices generated by the Link-Busters anti-piracy service, and for the time being has been removed by its host, Blogger, for the breach of TOS (Terms of Service). Link-Busters reportedly has acknowledged their mistake and agreed to notify Blogger. This reputable blog is one of the judges of both the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off and the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition.

The fans are trying to accelerate getting their blog restored through social media. Thread starts here.

(5) THEY’RE EAR-IE. It’s Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday, and Christopher Conlon touts these radio dramas above any other adaptations. “Edgar in the Air: Poe and America’s Golden Age of Radio”.

…Lots of these broadcasts still exist today, and they often make for compelling listening. I would go so far as to say that some vintage radio adaptations of Poe’s stories surpass, both in fidelity to the source material and overall dramatic effectiveness, any film or TV version ever done of them….

His list begins with this 1957 episode of Suspense — “The Pit and Pendulum”.  

(6) FOUNDING OF THE SCA. Fanac.org has extracted the story of how the Society for Creative Anachronism was started from an audio interview with the late Ed Meskys.

Ed Meskys tells us the story of the beginnings of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) in this short audio recording (enhanced with photographs). Ed played a pivotal role in introducing fencers Dave Thewlis and Ken de Maiffe to Diana Paxson, and has an insider’s perspective on how the “Great Idea” was born. Ed recounts how the First Tournament came to be, and points us to a contemporary report about it in his fanzine, Niekas. You can read the report on page 7 of #16 at Niekas This short recording is excerpted from a longer 2018 interview by Mark Olson.

(7) THE MATRIX HAS A FUTURE AGAIN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber reviews games connected to The Matrix.

The most interesting of the Wachowskis’ experiments in gaming was The Matrix Online (MX)O), a massively multiplayer online role-playing game released at the same time World Of Warcraft was becoming a cultural phenomenon.  Following the end of the trilogy, they wanted fans to ‘inherit the storyline’ and collaboratively write a narrative which would be canon in the Matrix universe. Over four years the game’s story developed in instalments, notably featuring the death of Morpheus. This collaborative cross-media space that the Wachowskis created feels imaginative even today, as we buckle under the weight of the extended cinematic universe of Marvel and Star Wars.

Just ahead of the recent film, a new playable Matrix was released. The Matrix Awakens is not a full game but rather a tech demo intended to show off Unreal Engine 5, the latest iteration of Epic’s software engine which powers many contemporary games.  It features (Keanu) Reeves reprising his role in scenes written by Lana Wachowski, including action and narrative sequences, before players are let loose in a stunningly realistic open world.  While you can do little more than play tourist in this space, it is a remarkable demonstration of the game worlds we can expect as developers get to grips with the new generation of consoles.  After a long period of silence, a return to the Matrix in gaming once again points us towards the future.

(8) AND TELL TCHAIKOVSKY THE NEWS. Cora Buhlert tells squeecore to roll over, it’s time to talk about a real trend: “How To Define a New Subgenre/Trend: The Speculative Epic and an Addendum to the ‘Squeecore’ Debate”.

… That said, Lincoln Michel is right that there seem to be more books featuring multiple intertwining timelines right now, that they share certain characteristics such as addressing social issues (though you could argue that The Star Rover address the issue of prisoner abuse) and that they mainly come from the literary side of the pond rather than from the genre side, whereas the predecessors were mostly genre writers. In addition to Cloud Atlas, the examples Michel gives are Appleseed by Matt Bell, To Paradise by Hanya YanagiharaCloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr, Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel and How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu.

However, I’m not just linking to this article because I’m interested in literary trends, subgenre formation and genre taxonomy (though I am), but also because Lincoln Michel demonstrates how to identify and define a new trend/potential subgenre without being a jerk about it….

(9) LEFT BEHIND. James Davis Nicoll says “Novels with a focus on demographic transition-driven decline are sadly rare in Western SF,” to begin his latest post for Tor.com, “Empty Earths: Five SF Stories Set on a Depopulated Planet”. One of those rarities is —

Knight Moves by Walter Jon Williams (1985)

A core-world alien, Snaggles, studies the social evolution of various carbon-based intra-skeletal species. Humanity’s past falls within its remit. Humanity’s present, however, is an inconvenience. Billions of humans interfere with field work. Therefore, Snaggles makes a deal with Doran. Doran can provide his fellow humans with immortality and vast power if they take his one-way tickets to habitable exo-planets. Most humans find the offer attractive. By the modern era, Earth has ten million humans left on it….

(Walter Jon Williams hastened to let his Facebook followers know it’s by no means a rare subject in his catalog — he’s written three on that theme.)

(10) YVETTE MIMIEUX (1942-2022). Actress Yvette Mimeux, whose place in genre history was cemented in 1960 with her appearance as Weena opposite Rod Taylor’s H. George Wells in The Time Machine, died January 17 at the age of 80. She also co-starred as an ESP-sensitive scientist in The Black Hole (1979), Disney’s highest budgeted movie up to that time.

Her other genre appearances included: One Step Beyond (1960 TV show, 1 ep.), The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962), The Picasso Summer (1969) – based on a Ray Bradbury short story, Death Takes a Holiday (1971 TV movie), Black Noon (1971 TV movie), The Neptune Factor (1973), Bell, Book and Candle (1976 TV movie), Snowbeast (1977 TV movie), and Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell (1978 TV movie).

(11) GASPARD ULLIEL OBIT. French actor Gaspard Ulliel, cast as Midnight Man in the upcoming Marvel series Moon Knight, has died following a skiing accident. He was injured Tuesday in a collision with another skier. After being airlifted to Grenoble, he died of a traumatic brain injury NBC News reported. Among Ulliel’s many upcoming projects was La bête, a science fiction movie reteaming him with his Saint-Laurent director, Bertrand Bonello.

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2006 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Just sixteen years ago, Pan’s Labyrinth premiered. In Spanish, it was called El laberinto del fauno which meansThe Labyrinth of the Faun. It was written, directed and co-produced by Mexican-born and raised Guillermo Del Toro. Other producers were Bertha Navarro, Alfonso Cuarón, Frida Torresblanco and  Álvaro Augustin. 

It was narrated by Pablo Adán with a primary Spanish language cast (Sergi López, Maribel Verdú, Ivana Baquero, Ariadna Gil and Álex Angulo) with the exception of Doug Jones as the Faun and the Pale Man who of course has a very long relationship with Del Toro going back to Mimic which was based on theDonald Wollheim’s story of the same name. The “Mimic” story was nominated for a Retro Hugo at Worldcon 76.

Reception for it was excellent. It won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form, at Nippon 2007 which had dual Toastmasters in the guise of George Takei and Nozomi Ohmori. Children of MenThe Prestige, V for Vendetta and A Scanner Darkly were also nominated for this Award.

Critics really liked it. Roger Ebert at the Chicago Sun Times said of it that “Nothing I am likely to see, however, is likely to change my conviction that the year’s best film was Pan’s Labyrinth.” And Mark Kermode writing in The Observer exclaimed that it is “an epic, poetic vision in which the grim realities of war are matched and mirrored by a descent into an underworld populated by fearsomely beautiful monsters.”

Box office was quite superb as it cost just under twenty million to produce and made over eighty million.  Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give a near perfect ninety one percent rating. 

Usually I don’t note the figures made for a film but the Faun got some great ones including the NECA eight inch version which you see here in all its nightmarish glory. The Pale Man got his own figure as well.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 19, 1916 Bernard Baily. A comics writer, editor and publisher. Best remembered as co-creator of the DC Comics the Spectre and Hourman. For DC Comics precursor National Comics, Baily co-created and drew the adventure feature “Tex Thomson” in Action Comics #1 (June 1938), the landmark comic book that introduced Superman. (Died 1996.)
  • Born January 19, 1924 Dean Fredericks. Actor best known for his portrayal of the comic strip character Steve Canyon in the television series of the same name which aired from 1958–1959 on NBC. His first genre role is in Them! followed by appearances in The Disembodied and the lead in The Phantom Planet which you can watch here. (Died 1999.)
  • Born January 19, 1930 Tippi Hedren, 92. Melanie Daniels in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds which scared the sh!t out of me when I saw it a long time ago. She had a minor role as Helen in The Birds II: Land’s End, a televised sequel done thirty years on. No idea how bad or good it was as I’ve not seen it. Other genre appearances were in such films and shows as Satan’s HarvestTales from the DarksideThe Bionic Woman, the new version of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Batman: The Animated Series.
  • Born January 19, 1932 Richard Lester, 90. Director best remembered for his Eighties Superman films. He’s got a number of other genre films including the exceedingly silly The Mouse on the MoonRobin and Marian which may be my favorite Robin Hood film everand an entire excellent series of Musketeers films. He also directed Royal Flash based on George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman novel of that name. 
  • Born January 19, 1956 Geena Davis, 66. Her first genre role was as Veronica “Ronnie” Quaife in The Fly reboot, followed by her widely remembered roles as Barbara Maitland in Beetlejuice and Valerie Gail in Earth Girls Are Easy. She also played Morgan Adams in the box office bomb Cutthroat Island before getting the choice plum of Mrs. Eleanor Little in the Stuart Little franchise.  She has a lead role in Marjorie Prime, a film tackling memory loss in Alzheimer’s victims some fifty years by creating holographic projections of deceased family members that sounds really creepy. Who’s seen it?  Her major series role to date is as Regan MacNeil on The Exorcist, a ten-episode FOX sequel to the film.
  • Born January 19, 1958 Allen Steele, 64. Best, I think, at the shorter length works as reflected in his three Hugo wins: the first at LA Con III for his “The Death of Captain Future”, the second for his “… Where Angels Fear to Tread” at BucConeer and his third for “The Emperor of Mars” at Renovation. Not to say that you should overlook his novels and future history series beginning with The Jericho Iteration, which is well-worth your time. 
  • Born January 19, 1962 Paul McCrane, 60. Emil Antonowsky in RoboCop whose death there is surely an homage to the Toxic Avenger. A year later, he’d be Deputy Bill Briggs in the remake of The Blob, and he played Leonard Morris Betts in the “Leonard Betts” episode of the X-Files. 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) GENRE MUSIC TOPS THE CHARTS. In the Washington Post, Bethonie Butler says that the songs from Encanto have become very popular, with four songs on the Billboard Hot 100 and “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” reaching  #5. They’ve also gotten many fans on TikTok. “How ‘Encanto’ and its soundtrack became a viral phenomenon”.

… If you didn’t know the “Hamilton” creator was responsible for “Encanto’s” original songs, you would almost certainly know by the time you heard “Surface Pressure.” In the bouncy track, the brawny Luisa (Jessica Darrow) belts out her anxiety and resolve around the (literal) heavy lifting she takes on to help her family. It contains one of the most [Lin Manuel] Mirandaesque lines ever: “Under the surface, I feel berserk as a tightrope walker in a three-ring circus,” Luisa sings before asking, “Was Hercules ever like ‘Yo, I don’t wanna fight Cerberus?”

(16) THE SKY’S NO LIMIT. “Radian announces plans to build one of the holy grails of spaceflight”Ars Technica has the story.

A Washington-state based aerospace company has exited stealth mode by announcing plans to develop one of the holy grails of spaceflight—a single-stage-to-orbit space plane. Radian Aerospace said it is deep into the design of an airplane-like vehicle that could take off from a runway, ignite its rocket engines, spend time in orbit, and then return to Earth and land on a runway.

“We all understand how difficult this is,” said Livingston Holder, Radian’s co-founder, chief technology officer, and former head of the Future Space Transportation and X-33 program at Boeing.

(17) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Newsweek is deeply concerned: “Earth’s Core Is Cooling Faster Than Expected, Creating Uncertain Future for Planet”.

A study has unveiled secrets previously locked deep inside the Earth’s interior that could have profound implications for the future of the planet we call home.

The research paper, published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, shows Earth’s core is cooling faster than scientists had thought previously.

Scientists examined the conductivity of bridgmanite, previously named as the most abundant material in the Earth, that is found in great quantities between the core and mantle of the Earth’s interior—a place known as the Core-Mantle-Boundary (CMB.)

By experimenting on bridgmanite using extreme temperatures and pressures found at the CMB, scientists found that bridgmanite is about 1.5 times more conductive of heat than previously thought.

Consequently, the heat transfer of the high temperatures found at the center of the Earth to its outer areas, like the molten rock of the mantle and beyond, is happening faster than was previously thought….

(18) SMELLETH LIKE THE SHOW THOU LOVE. Last month, Old Spice did a commercial that ties into The Witcher. And Netflix ran a related quiz that’s still online: “Old Spice + The Witcher” – I’m counting on you to better my rate of 50% correct.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Hawkeye,” the Screen Junkies say that “in a multiverse of infinite possibilities, even the lamest ideas must exist” and that the series features Hawkeye’s assistant, who is obsessed with branding, and a deaf character who doesn’t have to hear the characters surrounding her overuse the word “bro.”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Chris Barkley, Dann, Cora Buhlert, 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 Stuart Hall.]

Pixel Scroll 12/24/21 Scrollent Green Is Made Of Pixels

(1) THE MOVING FINGER WRITES. “Russell T Davies has already written new Doctor Who episodes for 2023” reports Radio Times.

…In an interview with The Guardian, the writer has revealed some of the new episodes are already written and ready to go – but he insists the new Doctor is not yet decided.

“I’ve already written some of the episodes. The first will go out in November 2023 – that’s the 60th anniversary of the show,” he said.

Davies was tight-lipped on the topic of who will replace Whittaker as the Doctor, however….

(2) BEWARE SPOILER. Radio Times interviews “Jodie Whittaker on being exterminated by Dalek in Doctor Who”.

…Speaking about the upcoming episode, which will see her succumb to her foes a fair bit, Whittaker told press including RadioTimes.com: “When I read this episode for the first time and in one of the opening moments get exterminated I genuinely thought, ‘Somebody has decided to write me out a bit sooner than I thought!’

“It’s brilliant to play because the first time, for the Doctor, it’s as if you’re grasping at those seconds and that realisation that it could be your last moment. And for you to be killed by a Dalek would be so horrendous! But then once you realise you’re in this time loop the anticipation of the pain and the fun that can be had with that… it’s the first time in my career I’ve died so many times in an episode, there’s always a first! ”…

(3) A HUNK OF BURNING LOVE. Marvel shares Kate Bishop’s Yule Log.

Grab some hot cocoa and cuddle up by the fireplace at Kate Bishop’s inspired NYC apartment!

(4) HAWKEYE NON-SPOILER. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Hawkeye’s end of season-finale episode #6 includes the full performance of the Rogers/Avengers “I Could Do This All Day” song.

(5) TWILIGHT ZONE. Slash Film reminds everyone that “Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Is Science Fiction With A Beating Heart”.

…”The Twilight Zone” isn’t only some of the most unique and influential science fiction of all time, it’s also science fiction with a soul. Watch straight through, and you’ll see that Serling has an unmovable moral compass that always directs his narrative path to the most humane end result. It makes sense that the series is often played in marathons around the holiday season, as many episodes would make a great double feature with the Frank Capra Christmas classic, “It’s A Wonderful Life.” The show possesses both a sense of wonder and a through-line of deep awareness of humankind’s fallibility and mortality….

(6) A LOOK AT THE NEW MATRIX FILM. Pablo Vazquez reviewed The Matrix: Resurrection on Facebook. Reprinted here with permission.

First off, let me preface this by noting that the Matrix series has been highly influential to me and cheesily responsible for getting me to read more philosophy and exploring heterodox concepts. After rewatching some scenes and talking with other folks who’ve seen the film, I think the new Matrix film is somewhere between a 5-5.5/10 and some moments border on 6/10. It is very clearly a protest film if an impotent one and I respect it for that. It’s very clear no one involved wanted to do this but they were willing to jump back in if only to maintain an element of creative control. Some scenes are quality Matrix, some are a bit too “Whedonized/Marvelized” for me, and there’s a few sequences that were far too Episode One for me to the point that they might as well have put in some podracing. The pacing was weird, the movie seemed cheaply made, the soundtrack was disappointing and the dialogue was even more so. Don’t even get me started on the fight sequences and, I gotta say, the aesthetic was rather bland for a series so well known for its aesthetics.

What did I like then? Well, probably the first half of the film where it still seemed like a Situationist critique on the power of media to shape consensus reality and a vicious attack on bland sequel culture. The sad point is it basically became the things it was obviously trying to critique. The acting was good and I loved seeing the Sense8 cast involved in something again considering Sense8 is my all-time favorite Wachowski work. I think the movie got too saccharine in its second half but I did like the “two halves of a greater whole” theme. The cinematography was also good but could’ve been better.

Would I go see it again? Probably not. Do I think people are ridiculous for liking it? Definitely not. This is very much a subjective film considering I view it as a cynical nostalgia cash-in masquerading as radical critique but, to someone, it could very well be a crucial “message movie” or some simple entertainment. Lana didn’t want to make this but I suppose her at the helm is a bit better than whatever catastrophe WB was planning in the first place without her. All in all, to me, it’s not a thinking film, it’s rather not what I was looking for with The Matrix, and way too cynical for me, but hey, I suppose that’s the world we live in now and at least it makes alright popcorn fodder if you feel like hitting up the theaters and getting your nostalgia dose.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1981 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty years ago in Australia, The Road Warrior (alt: Mad Max 2) premiered. Directed by George Miller and produced by Byron Kennedy, the screenplay was by Terry Hayes, George Miller and Brian Hannant. Australian New Wave composer Brian May is responsible for the music. It stars Mel Gibson and the Australian outback. 

It was extremely well received by critics with Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times saying it was “one of the most relentlessly aggressive movies ever made,” and Vincent Canby of the New York Times calling it “an extravagant film fantasy that looks like a sadomasochistic comic book come to life.” On a budget of just three million, it made thirty-six million — a rather excellent showing.  Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an eighty-seven rating. It would be nominated for a Hugo at ConStellation, the year Blade Runner took home the Hugo.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 24, 1910 — Fritz Leiber. I can say that my fav work by him is The Big Time which I either read or listen to every year. And yes, I’ve read the Change War Stories too, difficult to find as they were. Yes, I know it won a Hugo — much, much deserved!  I’m also fond of Conjure Wife, but otherwise I prefer his short fiction to his novels. (Died 1992.)
  • Born December 24, 1945 — Nicholas Meyer, 74. Superb and funny novel, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution is.  Much better than the film, I think. Now his Time After Time film is spot on. And let’s not forget his work on the Trek films, The Wrath of Khan (much of which went uncredited), The Voyage Home and The Undiscovered Country.  
  • Born December 24, 1964 — Mark Valley, 55. He made my Birthday list first by being the lead, Christopher Chance, in Human Target, a short-lived series created by Len Wein and Carmine Infantino for DC, that was weirdly well done. He was also John Scott in Fringe as a regular cast member early on. He voiced Clark Kent / Superman in the second part of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
  • Born December 24, 1966 — Diedrich Bader, 53. I know him best as the voice of Batman on The Batman and Batman: The Brave and the Bold. No, he’s not Kevin Conroy but his Batman is quite enjoyable and interesting in his own right. He’s best cast as Batman / Bruce Wayne in the new Harley Quinn series on the DC Universe service.
  • Born December 24, 1969 — Mark Millar, 50. Comic book writer whose resume is long. The Millar/Quitely era on The Authority was politically edged and often got censored by DC as it commented on the Iraq War — well worth your reading. His run on Swamp Thing from 142 to 171 has a lot of other writers including Morrison. He did the Ultimates at Marvels and a lot of the superb series ended in the Avengers film. Finally, his excellent Civil War was the basis of the Captain America: Civil War film and his not to be missed Old Man Logan was the inspiration for Fox’s Logan film.

(9) COVID JOURNAL. John Skylar, Ph.D., a virologist who contracted Covid at DisCon III, is publicly documenting his experience with the virus. Thread starts here.

(10) TAIYOU CON. An Arizona anime con has had its director resign after a sexual assault claim: “Anime fans, cosplayers bow out of Arizona convention after sexual assault accusation” at Yahoo!

Cosplayers and fans of comic books, anime and video games have vowed to boycott a long-running Arizona anime convention in January due to allegations of misconduct and sexual assault against the convention’s director, who has since stepped down.

On Dec. 15, Arizona resident Allie Heady, 25, detailed in a public Facebook post that she had been sexually assaulted by someone known within the anime and cosplay communities as Gackto in December 2017. Gackto also was the name of the director of Taiyou Con, an annual anime convention scheduled for Jan. 7-9 at Mesa Convention Center.

…Heady, an anime fan who lives in Arizona, alleged in her Facebook post that she now has post-traumatic stress disorder after being sexually assaulted by Gackto four years ago.

“It’s taken me a long time to come forward and speak about this. But I continue to see him, and his posts and his ‘achievements.’ And I don’t want to,” she wrote. “And whether or not anyone believes me, I can finally get this off my chest.”

At the end of her post, Heady added a call to action: “He also created an anime convention called Taiyou Con. Please boycott it. Please understand what nightmares he has put me and others thru. Please share my story and uplift those who are maybe too afraid to come forward, because it’s happened. And I will not, I do not want to stay quiet anymore.”

(11) SPACE RONIN. [Item by Kendall.] Tons of rogue planets, Jupiter sized (which makes me wonder about smaller ones they simply can’t detect).  I wouldn’t want to meet a Jupiter in a dark alley between the stars. “Astronomers discover largest group of ‘rogue planets’ yet”The Verge has the story.

Astronomers just discovered a treasure trove of “rogue planets” — free-floating planets that don’t orbit a star but exist all by their lonesome in the depths of space. With masses comparable to that of Jupiter, the 70 or more rogue planets spotted throughout the Milky Way galaxy are the largest such group of cosmic nomads ever found.

Located within the Scorpius and Ophiuchus constellations, the planets were spotted using a suite of telescopes on both the ground and in space. Typically, rogue planets are difficult to image because they aren’t close to any stars to make them visible. However, with data compiled over 20 years from European Southern Observatory (ESO) telescopes, the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite, and more, Núria Miret-Roig, an astronomer at the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Bordeaux, France and the University of Vienna, Austria, and her team were able to capture faint heat signatures emitted from planets that formed within the last several million years.

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Well, this is inspired! “Where Is The Comma In ‘God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen’ Supposed To Go?”

This a cappella arrangement of “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” examines how commas can change meanings… often with unintended results.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/23/21 I Get My Sticks On Groot Sixty-Six

(1) THUMB UP. “Paul Krugman on the ‘Dune’ Scene That Won Him Over” in Variety.

… Why does “Dune” matter far more to readers than a thousand other space operas? Partly it’s the richness of the world-building, with its borrowing from many cultures and its stunning ecological prescience. Many science fiction tales are basically Westerns in space; “Dune” draws deeply on Islamic and Ayurvedic tradition instead.

But it’s also the unexpected subtlety: in Herbert’s universe the greatest power comes not from weapons or mystical talents but from self-knowledge and self-control. The gom jabbar tests whether one can override pain and fear; Paul’s ability to do so sets him on his heroic path….

(2) WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN. At Bradburymedia, Phil Nichols’ latest Bradbury 100 podcast episode is about “The Best Martian Chronicles NEVER Made!”

The book came out in 1950, and The Martian Chronicles immediately became a mini sensation that same year, thanks to the radio drama series Dimension X, which dramatised several stories from the book. Ray knew that there was dramatic potential in his Martian tales, and the late 1950s saw him – by now an established screenwriter, thanks to Moby Dick and It Came From Outer Space – drawing up plans for a TV series to be called Report From Space.

Alas, the series didn’t make it to air, and his attempts to develop The Martian Chronicles further for the big screen also came to nothing. But the scripts are pretty good, and allow us to play a game of what if: 

  • What if Ray Bradbury’s TV series came on air the same year as The Twilight Zone or Men Into Space?
  • What if the producer-director/actor team from 1962’s To Kill A Mockingbird had succeeded in making The Martian Chronicles before 2001: A Space Odyssey (or Star Trek) had come along?

To find out more… listen to the episode…!

(3) FUTURE TANK. Christopher J. Garcia, Alissa McKersie, and Chuck Serface have decided upon the following deadlines and subjects for upcoming issues of The Drink Tank:

  • January 20, 2022: Orphan Black
  • February 15, 2022: The Beatles
  • March 10, 2022: Pre-1950 Crime Fiction

They invite submissions of articles, fiction, poetry, photography, artwork, personal reminiscences . . . you get the idea, as long as it’s related to the above subjects. Send your submissions to johnnyeponymous@gmail.com or ceserface@gmail.com.

(4) POST-RESURRECTION. Emily VanDer Werff surveys the five ages of Matrix: “The Matrix Resurrections: Why the Matrix movies never stopped being relevant” at Vox.

But I’m not talking about the movie’s component parts; I’m talking about how the movie felt. And the feeling of watching The Matrix in 1999 was almost overwhelming. In the minds of Lana and Lilly Wachowski, all of these elements blended and fit together seamlessly. And the movie’s masterstroke was setting its story in a world that felt very like the actual world in 1999, rather than an overtly fictional setting (as was the case with Dark City). The film captured a growing sense that nothing was real and everything was manipulated on some level, a sense that has only grown in the 22 years since the movie came out.

The Matrix has a complicated legacy. It’s probably the most influential American movie since Star Wars came out in 1977 (and it is now almost exactly as old as Star Wars was when The Matrix came out), and it’s by far the most popular piece of art created by trans people. But its sequels were divisive, and its ideas about questioning reality have influenced political reactionaries in dangerous ways. Now, with a fourth film in the series coming out on December 22, it’s time to go back … back to the Matrix, across five eras of the franchise’s history….

(5) GENRE BLENDING. Molly Odintz selects the sf novels that would interest crime fiction readers. “The Best Speculative Thrillers and Mysteries of 2021” at CrimeReads.

The future is here. It’s bright. And it’s terrifying. That’s what these authors seem to think, anyway. As we’ve sleepwalked through the second year of the pandemic, lucid dreaming our way through endless possibilities in the midst of endless isolation, these authors have sought to capture the highs and lows, perils and opportunities, of a changing world. Get ready for clones, underwater high-rises, alternate histories, eco-terrorists, and of course, murders in space, all speaking to the inherent instability of identity and morality in the fraught future and rapidly disintegrating present….

(6) DEEP SPACE LINE. NASA is considering an Interstellar Probe that would go perhaps 10 times farther into space than the two Voyager spacecraft have. A 498-page document discussing the related issues can be downloaded here.

Traveling far beyond the Sun’s sphere of influence, Interstellar Probe would be the boldest move in space exploration to date. This pragmatic near-term mission concept would enable groundbreaking science using technology that is near-launch-ready now. Flying the farthest and the fastest, it would venture into the space between us and neighboring stars, discovering uncharted territory. It would provide the first real vantage point of our life-bearing system from the outside, allowing us to better understand our own evolution. In an epic 50-plus-year journey, Interstellar Probe will explore questions about our place in the universe, enabled by multiple generations of engineers, scientists, and visionaries

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1960 [Item by Cat Eldridge.]  Sixty-one years ago, Twilight Zone’s “The Night of the Meek” first aired. This was a Christmas-themed story with Art Carney as a Santa Claus fired on Christmas Eve who finds a mysterious bag that gives an apparently unlimited stream of gifts. The script would be used over in the Eighties version of this series and on the radio program as well. Serling ended the original broadcast with the words,” And a Merry Christmas, to each and all,” but that phrase was deleted in the Eighties and would not be back until Netflix started streaming the series.  

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 23, 1945 Raymond E. Feist, 76. Best known for the Riftwar series. The only novel I’ve read by him is was Faerie Tale, a dark fantasy set in the state of New York, which is one damn scary work. 
  • Born December 23, 1927 Chuck Harris. A major British fan, active in fandom from the Fifities until his passing. He ran the infamous money laundering organization Tentacles Across the Sea with Dean Grennell and was a well-loved British member of Irish Fandom. He was involved in myriad Apas and fanzines. As co-editor of Hyphen he was nominated multiple times for the Best Fanzine Hugo in the Fifties but never won. (Died 1999.)
  • Born December 23, 1949 Judy Ann Strangis, 72. She’s one of the leads, Judy / Dyna Girl, on a Seventies show I never heard of, Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, which was a Sid and Marty Krofft (H.R. Pufnstuf) live action SF children’s television series from 1976. She had one-offs on Twilight Zone and Bewitched and, and appeared twice on Batman courtesy of her brother who was a production manager there.  She’s also done voice work in The Real Ghostbusters and Batman: The Animated Series.
  • Born December 23, 1958 Joan Severance, 63. She’s on the Birthday list because she was Darcy Walker, the Black Scorpion in Roger Corman’s Black Scorpion. She then starred in and co-produced Black Scorpion II: Aftershock and The Last Seduction II.
  • Born December 23, 1971 Corey Haim. You’ll most likely remember him from the Lost Boys but he had a long career in genre film after that with roles in WatchersPrayer of the Roller BoysFever LakeLost Boys: The Tribe (no, I’ve never heard of it) and Do Not Disturb. He showed in two series, PSI Factor and Merlin. (Died 2010.)
  • Born December 23, 1919 Peggy Fortnum. She’s an English illustrator beloved for illustrating Michael Bond‘s Paddington Bear series. She first illustrated him in A Bear Called Paddington. One of Fortnum’s Paddington illustrations is part of a series of stamps that was issued by the Royal Mail in 2006 celebrating animals from children’s literature.  (Died 2016.)

(9) THESE DON’T REPRODUCE FOR FREE. In “This ‘Star Trek’ enterprise is taking flight”, the Boston Globe profiles a business that sells Tribbles.

…As a child growing up in Washington state, Kayleigha says, her dad showed her classic episodes of the Star Trek TV series on videotape. “I wanted a pet Tribble,” she says. But she didn’t just want a simple stuffed toy — she wanted it to be able to purr when it was happy or shriek when it encountered a Klingon. As an adult, “I finally decided to make one,” she says. “I taught myself to do the C++ coding, and Jay learned how to solder.” They built a prototype in their living room, envisioning it as a smart toy that could be put into different modes with an app. One example: “watchdog” mode, so you can put the Tribble on top of a laptop or another item and it screams if someone tries to move it….

(10) GATISS NEWS. In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Adam Scovell interviews Mark Gatiss about his adaptation of M.R. James’s “The Mezzotint,” starring Rory Kinnear, which will be broadcast on BBC2 at 10.30  PM on Christmas Eve,.

For Gatiss, ghost stories are an essential part of the TV schedule.  “There should be one every year,’ he says.  ‘I’m very happy if it’s me (making them)  but it doesn’t have to be.  I just want them to be on and can’t bear it when they’re not.

Having adapted The Tractate Middoth in 2013, starring Sacha Dhawan, and Martin’s Close in 2019, starring Peter Capaldi, he believes James’s stories are ideally suited to TV.  ‘They were written to be read so they’re already semi-dramatised,’ Gatiss says.  ‘They’re pithy and don’t outstay their welcome. I just want them to be on and can’t bear it when they’re not.’

(11) OCTOTHORPE. The Christmas episode of Octothorpe is online. “Authors Eating John”.

John Coxon is sleepy, Alison Scott is talking to Chinese fans, and Liz Batty went to the Hugos. We discuss site selection at DisCon III before discussing Chengdu in 2023’s victory and then move onto The Hugo Awards before plugging some books we like. Listen here!

(12) CAT FLAP FEVER. Not genre at all. Not even a little bit. In the Guardian: “Tim Dowling: I’m on my hands and knees, teaching our new cat old tricks”.

It is a frosty morning and I am standing in the kitchen in bare feet, holding the door open for the cat. The cat dips its head low, studying the world across the threshold.

“Faster, pussycat,” I say. The cat sniffs at the cold air swirling in from the garden, but does not move. I begin to close the door very slowly, in a bid to create a shrinking decision window. In the space of two months the kitten has grown into a tall-eared, spooky-looking thing that I sometimes find standing on my chest staring down at me in the dead of night, its nose a millimetre from mine. It doesn’t fear the dog or the tortoise, but it’s still pretty wary of outside….

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Hailee Steinfeld learns on Comedy Central that despite her Oscar nomination for True Grit, it’s hard work to be part of the MCU!

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

Pixel Scroll 12/1/21 Scrolls, Glorious Scrolls, Fresh Godstalked And Pixeled

(1) FUTURE RACE. Kathryn Finch discusses the way sff uses cross-species “hybrid” characters to discuss racial issues and how those depictions still often fail in “The Kids Aren’t Alright: The Race Essentialism of Sci-fi Hybrids” at Blood Knife.

…Whether it’s the regal elves and (literally) down-to-earth dwarves of the Lord of the Rings or the regal Vulcans and (not-so-literally) down-to-earth Klingons of Trek, world building often relies on generalizations. Race essentialism has been a useful shorthand for some writers, and giving each new race in a populous universe a specific “hat” to wear allows for the appearance of novelty and diversity, without the requirement to actually flesh out individual characters more than the minimum necessary for the purposes of the plot. This does not strike the casual observer as problematic, as the innate foreignness of a creature from another world is much more expected than any sort of familiarity.

And therein lies the problem. In the future, racism is not extinguished, but transformed. A conflict between two completely different species is patently understandable; they are, quite literally, otherworldly….

(2) LAVISH EDITIONS. [Item by Jeffrey Smith.] Unsurprisingly, Michael Dirda is living in our libraries. “Critic’s picks: Best illustrated nonfiction books” in the Washington Post.

What do Santa Claus, Sen. Joseph McCarthy, a certain Washington Post reviewer and the Lord High Executioner from “The Mikado” all have in common? Give up? Each of us has been known to say, “I’ve got a little list.” This holiday season, though, my list isn’t so little. In fact, it will extend over three weeks. This is the first, focusing on large-sized, illustrated nonfiction….

‘Spider-Man,’ by Roy Thomas (Folio Society, $125)

To complement his three-volume historical sampler of Marvel Comics (“The Golden Age,” “The Silver Age,” “The Bronze Age”), the company’s former editor in chief, Roy Thomas, has begun to assemble additional volumes, each devoted to a major superhero. After last year’s Captain Marvel, this fall’s release showcases everyone’s favorite web-slinger in eight representative Spider-Man adventures, starring either Peter Parker or Miles Morales. Given the ritzy Folio Society treatment, Spidey never looked so good — and that goes for his archenemies, too, including my grandson’s favorites, Venom and Doctor Octopus. So if you know someone enthralled by the Spider-Verse, your shopping is done.

(3) WATCH THIS SPACE. The Planetary Society lists “The Best of 2021” in space exploration. For example:

Most exciting planetary science moment

2021 was quite a year for space exploration firsts, but the one that voters loved best was the Ingenuity Mars helicopter’s first flight. On April 19th the little spacecraft took its first leap off the Martian surface, becoming the first aircraft to complete a powered, controlled flight on another planet. 

(4) AFRICAN BOOKS HONORED. Brittle Paper’s list of “50 Notable African Books of 2021” includes several genre works, most notably —

The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction (2021)

(Editor) Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki

The collection celebrates African speculative fiction at its best, giving lovers of the genre an immersive experience of non-realist worlds. Well-known and new authors offer stories in sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and more.

(5) DOUGLAS Q&A. Ian Douglas is one of the many pseudonyms for William H. Keith, creator of many sff works. Writer’s Digest has published an interview with him: “Ian Douglas: On Telling the Truth in Science Fiction”.

What prompted you to write this book?

Alien Hostiles is the second entry in a three-book series, picking up where Book One—Alien Agendas—leaves off and continuing with plot elements introduced there … though it can also be read as a stand-alone work.

My reason for writing the entire series was, I suppose, prompted by my distaste for the extremely bad science and logic behind so many current UFO conspiracy theories, most of which read like very bad B-movie sci-fi. I was at particular pains to weave those theories—those I chose to include, of course—into a seamless whole, a plausible story with at least some reasonable science behind it.

Probably the one idea that was the most important in shaping the entire series has to do with the ubiquitous alien Grays, those big-headed guys with big black eyes and spindly bodies we seem to see everywhere nowadays. It is my contention that the Grays are far, far too human to literally be alien life forms. At several points throughout each of the books, I introduce real aliens, and try to show how different they would be in anatomy, biochemistry, and psychology.

In this way I suppose I follow in the sandal-prints of Poo-Bah, in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, as I provide “corroborative detail intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.”…

(6) EH? WHAT’S THAT? “Here’s Why Movie Dialogue Has Gotten More Difficult To Understand (And Three Ways To Fix It)” at SlashFilm.

I used to be able to understand 99% of the dialogue in Hollywood films. But over the past 10 years or so, I’ve noticed that percentage has dropped significantly — and it’s not due to hearing loss on my end. It’s gotten to the point where I find myself occasionally not being able to parse entire lines of dialogue when I see a movie in a theater, and when I watch things at home, I’ve defaulted to turning the subtitles on to make sure I don’t miss anything crucial to the plot.

Knowing I’m not alone in having these experiences, I reached out to several professional sound editors, designers, and mixers, many of whom have won Oscars for their work on some of Hollywood’s biggest films, to get to the bottom of what’s going on. One person refused to talk to me, saying it would be “professional suicide” to address this topic on the record. Another agreed to talk, but only under the condition that they remain anonymous. But several others spoke openly about the topic, and it quickly became apparent that this is a familiar subject among the folks in the sound community, since they’re the ones who often bear the brunt of complaints about dialogue intelligibility…. 

(7) PODCAST PEOPLE. Podside Picnic episode 145 features Karlo Yeager Rodriguez and Connor Southard making their “Hugo Predictions Beer Run”. My hearing isn’t good enough to take a listen, which is too bad because there are a couple categories I’m curious to hear them talk about.

(8) SCORING ENCANTO. At Nerds of a Feather, Arthur Serrano’s “I’m Colombian. Here’s what ‘Encanto’ means to me” provides analysis of how the new Disney animated movie makes use of Colombian culture.

…So when I, a Colombian reviewer, draw attention to the significance of Mickey Mouse dancing cumbia at the end of Encanto, I’m absolutely not in any way framing it as our culture being finally worthy of being showcased by Hollywood. The question to ask is exactly the opposite: it’s whether Hollywood is worthy of getting its hands on our culture….

One example of it being deployed effectively:

…Just like in the United States you hear of a divide between the prosperous, educated, productive coastal cities vs. the neglected flyover country, in Colombia we have prosperous, educated, productive mountain cities vs. the neglected coasts and forests. It has become a habitual refrain to say that ruling elites in Colombia live secluded between mountains and oblivious to what goes on elsewhere. In the flashback scene where the matriarch of the Madrigal family loses her husband, bursts into tears and magically creates an entire town (am I the only one getting WandaVision vibes here?) so that she can raise her kids in safety, the most striking image is the rising of the mountains that keep her refuge closed off from the world. This is a symbolic clue to the persistent anxiety that defines this character: she’s afraid of everything outside of her microcosm.

It’s a brilliant move by the film to establish the grandmother’s character flaw in terms of her relation to physical space. It has been pointed out that Encanto is the rare adventure story where the adventure doesn’t leave the home, and there’s a solid reason for that. There’s a certain current in Colombian literature that treats the extended family household as a metaphor for the country…. 

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1995 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-six years ago, The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space premiered in the USA at theaters though details of where are scant to say the least. It was not released elsewhere in this manner as far I can determine. 

It is about the adventures of Fifties actor Ty Farrell who plays the title character in The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space, a series akin to Captain Video. And it won’t surprise you that it was intended to pay homage to both Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon.

The cast was Nichelle Nichols as Sagan, High Priestess of Pangea, Ron Perlman as Lord Vox of Vestron, Daniel Riordan as Ty Farrell / Captain Zoom, Liz Vassey as Princess Tyra, Native Leader of Pangea and Gia Carides as Vesper, High Priestess of Vestron. 

Reception was excellent with critics universally liking it. It hasn’t apparently been given a video release, nor does it apparently made it to the streaming services, so it has no rating over at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 1, 1905 Charles G. Finney. Writer and Editor. It’s rare that I pick writers whose main accomplishment is one work which has defined them, but his one such work is, well, phenomenal. His first novel and most famous work, The Circus of Dr. Lao, was a Hugo finalist at Loncon II and won one of the inaugural National Book Awards, the Most Original Book of 1935; it is most decidedly fantasy. Ray Bradbury liked the novel so much that he included it as the headline story in his anthology The Circus of Dr. Lao and Other Improbable Stories; it is said that the carnival in his Something Wicked This Way Comes is modeled upon The Circus of Dr. Lao. (Died 1984.)
  • Born December 1, 1928 Malachi Throne. You’ve likely seen him if you watched genre television on the Sixties and Seventies as he had roles on Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaStar TrekNext GenLand of the GiantsThe Time TunnelMission: Impossible, Lost in SpaceOuter LimitsThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. , Batman,  and The Six Million Dollar Man. He provided the voice of the Keeper in Trek’s first pilot episode “The Cage”. Throne was cast in another role in “The Menagerie”, Commodore José I. Méndez, so his voice has altered in his “Cage” role. (Died 2013.)
  • Born December 1, 1936 Melissa Jaffer, 85. Likely you best remember her as Utu Noranti Pralatong on Farscape though she was also in Mad Max: Fury Road where she played Keeper of the Seeds. And she was Annie in the Good Vibrations series. And she played Adeline Fitzgerald on Glitch, the Australian paranormal series. It ran for seven seasons. 
  • Born December 1, 1942 John Crowley, 79. I’m tempted to say he’s a frelling literary genius and stop there but I won’t. Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and World Fantasy Award winning Little, Big is brilliant but if anything his crow-centric novel of Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr which received the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award makes that novel look like child’s play in comparison. (Yes Little, Big did a Hugo nomination at Chicon IV.) Did you know he wrote a novella called The Girlhood of Shakespeare’s Heroines? Or Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land, which contains an entire imaginary novel by the poet? 
  • Born December 1, 1962 Gail Z. Martin, 59. Best known for known for The Chronicles of The Necromancer fantasy adventure series. Her single award to date, and it is impressive, is the Manly Wade Wellman Award for North Carolina Science Fiction and Fantasy for her Scourge novel. It was the seventh time that she had been a finalist for it. 
  • Born December 1, 1964 Jo Walton, 57. She’s won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. In her World Fantasy Award-winning Tooth and Claw dragons got positively and delightfully Victorian. Even if they eat each other. Her Small Change trilogy may be the finest WW II novels I’ve read bar none, and her Sulien series is an excellent retelling of the Arthurian myth.  Among Others which won a Hugo at Chicon 7 is she says about the “coming-of-age experience of having books instead of people for friends and solace”. I can relate to that as I imagine many here can too. She even won an Aurora Award for her “Nidhog” poem! 
  • Born December 1, 1965 Bill Willingham, 56. Best known I’d say for his long running Fable series though personally I think his best work was Proposition Player. He got his start in the late 1970s to early 1980s as a staff artist for TSR games where he was the cover artist for the AD&D Player Character Record Sheets and a lot of games I don’t recognize not being a gamer at that time. I do recognize his superb 1980s comic book series Elementals, and he later write the equally excellent Shadowpact for DC. I was always quite ambivalent about the Jack of Fables series that he spun off of Fables. Though his House of Mystery was rather good. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) SIX-PACK. In “6 Books with Marissa Lingen”, Nerds of a Feather’s Paul Weimer gets to hear what’s on a writer’s shelves, or might be soon.

1. What book are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading Megan E. O’Keefe’s Catalyst Gate, which is the culmination of a trilogy that starts with Velocity Weapon. It’s space opera that’s filled with spaceships, alien intelligence, nanites, and shooty-shoot–and also personal relationships and the human heart. The series is full of twists and turns, and I can’t wait to see where it all ends up.

(13) KDRAMA. The Silent Sea comes to Netflix on December 24.

With Earth in ruins, 24 hours on the clock, and the odds stacked against them, a team of space specialists embarks on a seemingly routine mission to the moon. But when things quickly take a turn for the worse, they’ll fight for their lives and uncover secrets that make their mission seem more and more impossible by the minute.

(14) THE MACHINES ARE TAKING OVER. ARE WE READY? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] And now for a bit of science culture from the nation that first put someone on the Moon (with the aid of Cavorite;).

A bit of one of the many cultural traditions in Brit Cit are the annual Reith LecturesBaron Lord Reith, in case your memory needs jogging, was the first Director-General of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). The BBC’s Reith Lectures were instituted in 1948 in his honour. These annual radio talks, with the aim of advancing “public understanding and debate about significant issues of contemporary interest” have been held every year since, with the exception of 1992.

This year the Reith Lectures’ topic will be Living With Artificial Intelligence. There will be one lecture per week this month broadcast Wednesdays 09.00 GMT. “The Reith Lectures – Reith Lectures 2021 – Living With Artificial Intelligence”.

Stuart Russell, Professor of Computer Science and founder of the Centre for Human-Compatible Artificial Intelligence (AI) at the University of California, Berkeley will be the 2021 BBC Reith Lecturer. He will deliver four lectures this autumn, which will explore the impact of AI on our lives and discuss how we can retain power over machines more powerful than ourselves.

The lectures will examine what Stu Russell will argue is the most profound change in human history as the world becomes increasingly reliant on super-powerful AI. Examining the impact of AI on jobs, military conflict and human behaviour, Stu Russell will argue that our current approach to AI is wrong and that if we continue down this path, we will have less and less control over AI at the same time as it has an increasing impact on our lives. How can we ensure machines do the right thing? The lectures will suggest a way forward based on a new model for AI, one based on machines that learn about and defer to human preferences

The first lecture (already broadcast and online) is entitled What is AI and should we fear it?

In it Stuart Russell reflects on the birth of AI, tracing our thinking about it back to Aristotle. He will outline the definition of AI, its successes and failures, and potential risks for the future. Why do we often fear the potential of AI? Referencing the representation of AI systems in film and popular culture, Russell will examine whether our fears are well founded. As previous Reith Lecturer Professor Stephen Hawking said in 2014, “Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it might also be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks.” Russell will ask how those risks arise and whether they can be avoided, allowing humanity and AI to coexist successfully.

The lectures will be downloadable as an .mp3 for a month after broadcast. The
first is here.

(15) TOP 10. JustWatch says these were the Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies and TV Shows in the United States in November 2021:

Rank*MoviesTV shows
1Free GuyThe Wheel of Time
2DuneDoctor Who
3GhostbustersCowboy Bebop (1998)
4Venom: Let There Be CarnageHawkeye
5Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten RingsArcane
6Spider-ManFoundation
7Spider-Man: Far From HomeRick and Morty
8VenomBlade Runner: Black Lotus
9Spider-Man: HomecomingBattlestar Galactica
10The Amazing Spider-ManInvasion

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

(16) THE HOLE TRUTH? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Ars Technica reports “Russia threatens criminal charges against a NASA astronaut”.  (1) This traces back to the August 2018 “hole in the Soyuz” incident. (2) The headline implies criminal charges may be pending. That seems to be an overstatement, based on what is actually written in the article. The article could, however, have left out information that would support the headline.

The Russian space corporation, Roscosmos, said it has completed an investigation into a “hole” found in a Soyuz spacecraft when the vehicle was docked to the International Space Station in 2018.

Moreover, Roscosmos told the Russian publication RIA Novosti that it has sent the results of the investigation to law enforcement officials. “All results of the investigation regarding the hole in the habitation module of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft were transmitted to Law Enforcement officials,” Roscosmos said. No further details were provided.

In Russia, the results of such an investigation are sent to law enforcement to allow officials to decide whether or not to initiate a criminal case, which would be akin to issuing an indictment…. 

Since then, the focus has been on what—or who—may have caused the hole. A micrometeoroid strike was soon ruled out. Some Russian media reported that the hole had been caused by a manufacturing or testing defect, and this seems to be the most plausible theory. At the same time, however, sources in the Russian government started baseless rumors that perhaps a disgruntled NASA astronaut had drilled the hole….

(17) MONSTROUS BEHAVIOR. “2022 National Park Monsters Calendar” strikes me as a highly amusing product. However, the seller I ordered it from bit me with an $8.99 “tax” that was not shown to me as part of my order and now I am disputing it. So no link….

Real National Parks; Fake Monsters! It’s the 2022 Alternate Histories Calendar, packed with monsters, aliens, zombies, and other creatures rampaging through America’s National Parks.

(18) ONE HACKER’S OPINION. Behind a paywall at Wired, Andy Greenberg makes the argument that “The Matrix Is the Best Hacker Movie“ ever. Oh, he admits that the actual amount of hacking shown is quite small, but, quoting an early viewer of the movie, Neo understood that “by interfacing with this black screen with glowing green writing on it, he could change the world in ways that it was not necessarily meant to be changed.”

Or, in Greenberg‘s words, “The real hacking in The Matrix is metaphorical. The red-pill lesson Morpheus gives Neo is that a user in a digital system doesn’t have to abide by its terms of service.“

…For years the generally accepted canon of classic hacker movies has been a kind of holy trinity: 1983’s WarGames, with its digital delinquent caught up in Cold War geopolitics; the 1992 computers-and-cryptography heist film Sneakers; and 1995’s teen cyber-hijinks thriller Hackers. With a couple of decades of hindsight, however, it’s well past time to recognize that The Matrix has in some ways eclipsed that triumvirate. As other hacker films ossify, turning into computer cat-and-mouse-game time capsules, The Matrix has become the most abiding, popular, and relevant portrayal of hacking—a brain-plug jacked so deeply into our cultural conception of the genre that we’ve almost forgotten it’s there….

(19) WE HAVE IGNITION. Yahoo! recaps a network TV show which includes a genre Christmas light extravaganza: “Homemade ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ decorations set high bar for Christmas displays”.

The holiday season was in full swing Sunday as ABC’s The Great Christmas Light Fight returned for yet another year. While there were no large crowds in attendance this year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, it was still a festive celebration filled with thousands of lights and incredibly creative decoration themes. One of the more popular themes from the night was based on the stop-motion holiday classic The Nightmare Before Christmas.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Ghostbusters: Afterlife Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George, in a spoiler-packed episode, has the writer pitch that all the fans who were mad at the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot will pay to see a “loving tribute” to the original, including the last third that “follows the third act of the original, beat for beat.”  Also the writer has the producer play “product placement Mad Libs,” which is why we have characters buying a lot of Baskin-Robbins ice cream at Wal-Mart.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/9/21 Please Remove Shoes Before Standing On Shoulders Of Giant

(1) TAKEI PAYS TRIBUTE TO BJO. [Item by David Doering.] If you didn’t catch it, last night the Paramount+ network put on a Star Trek Day special. They included short retrospectives on past Star Trek series from cast members. For TOS, they had George Takei. He described how the series was rescued for a third season, but then went out of his way with the short time he had to mention Bjo Trimble as the force behind it. His mention received a roar of applause and cheers from the crowd. I was deeply touched by both his highlighting Bjo and the audience’s response.

He went on to say that thanks to the third season, TOS could go into syndication, which is what cultivated a whole world of fans which led…and so on. Today we will have FIVE simultaneous Trek series on TV. Woah. So, SO glad to live to this era! 

(2) WATCH STAR TREK DAY SPECIAL. A recording of the three-hour-plus Star Trek Day livestream celebration is available at Facebook Live today.

(3) YOU WON’T EAT LUNCH IN THIS TOWN AGAIN. They controlled the vertical. They controlled the horizontal. The 1965 Worldcon committee even found a way to tune out Harlan Ellison, writer of Outer Limits’ “Soldier” episode. The Hugo Book Club Blog replays that bit of history in “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bombastic Ego”.

…Though he backed down from that attempt, Ellison was adamant that there should be a Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation in 1965, and encouraged other fans to write in nominations for the category … with the apparent belief that if the category was being considered that year, his Outer Limits episode would be a shoe-in.

But the 1965 Hugo Awards operated under a unique set of rules that have not been used since; as per the convention committee, the shortlist was created via “nomination by a panel of experts, selecting from suggestions offered by the membership at large.” In practice, this meant that no matter how many voters included “Soldier” on their nominating ballot, the Hugo Committee could omit it if they so chose….

(4) REMATRIX. The Matrix Resurrections will be in theaters and on HBO Max on December 22.

From visionary filmmaker Lana Wachowski comes “The Matrix Resurrections,” the long-awaited fourth film in the groundbreaking franchise that redefined a genre. The new film reunites original stars Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss in the iconic roles they made famous, Neo and Trinity.

(5) HE’S DEAD, JIM. Did you notice anything missing from the trailer above? Vice tries to explain the absence of a major character: “Is Morpheus Not in The Matrix Trailer Because He Died in The Matrix MMO?”

So you just watched the new Matrix Resurrections trailer and you’re wondering where Laurence Fishburne character Morpheus is. I’ve got bad news for you: Canonically, he’s been dead since the mid 2000s.

As part of an ambitious plan to continue The Matrix franchise after the films, the Wachowskis gave their blessing to a massively multiplayer online game based on the franchise, which launched in 2005. Victim of an overcrowded MMO market, The Matrix Online was canceled only four years later in 2009, and had less than 500 active players by that point. That this game is little known and now impossible to play does not also stop the following from being true: Technically, everything that occurred in that game is canon. The Matrix’s fan wiki considers The Matrix Online canon, and the Wachowskis were heavily involved in the creation of some of the Matrix games. They even appeared in The Matrix: Path of Neo.

According to The Matrix‘s fan wiki, Morpheus’s death was part of an in-game event where the character was, as always, up to some esoteric scheme…

(6) BYO. The real event was cancelled due to Covid, but 15,000 people showed up anyway. “Nevada sheriff says ‘Renegade’ Burning Man kept officers busy with rowdy behavior” reports the Reno Gazette Journal.

Things got a little salty on the playa at this year’s rogue Burning Man, according to the sheriff who has been overseeing the annual festival since 2015.

Pershing County Sheriff Jerry Allen described this year’s event — held outside the official auspices of the Burning Man organization — as  “people packed in a small space in the heat, no shade or cooling other than nighttime, little respect for your fellow man, and this year add the thick amounts of smoke and no (organized group) to attempt to diffuse situations.”

In addition to an increase in car crashes and open acts of speeding, there was a general “lack of care for fellow participants” over gathering that culminated Monday, Allen said.

He estimated more than 15,000 people flocked to what was dubbed “Renegade” Burning Man after organizers canceled the event for the second year in a row amid the COVID-19 pandemic. https://www.usatodaynetworkservice.com/tangstatic/html/pren/sf-q1a2z3be0d353f.min.html Typically, the annual event attracts more than 80,000 people to the playa about two hours north of Reno.

Last year it was estimated that about 5,000 people gathered in the Black Rock Desert even though the arts festival was cancelled.  

(7) CALLING BUGGIRL200. The New York Times profiles the creator of “A T-Shirt Shop for the Semi-Ironic ‘Twilight’ Fan”.

… She started selling them on Depop — a site often used to list “pre-loved” items — but realized, after receiving nearly 80 requests in her first day, that she’d need to scale up. So, she bought a web domain, BUGGIRL200.com (after her TikTok user name), and built her own online store. She has since sold more than 15,000 shirts, each of them reflecting tongue-in-cheek nostalgia for cultural touchstones from the last two decades. 

…This shirt — one of several “Twilight”-themed items Ms. Sinclair has made — was posted by Olivia Rodrigo on Instagram.

Her work has not gone unnoticed by the celebrity class: Olivia Rodrigo, for instance, tagged her friend Iris Apatow — daughter of Judd — in a photo on Instagram of a BUGGIRL200 original that reads as follows: “I think the Twilight movies are AWESOME!!!!! If you don’t think that makes me SEXY and COOL, DON’T FREAKING TALK TO ME!!!!! I am not even kidding.”

The image caught the eye of Dulce Clara, 21, a student in San Marcos, Calif. “‘Twilight’ will forever have a special place in my heart because not only did I grow up watching the movies, but it was actually my first teen romance film,” she said. When she saw Ms. Rodrigo’s post, she said, “I instantly fell in love with the shirt and bought it.”

(8) CHUNG MEDICAL UPDATE. Winchell Chung of Atomic Rockets has announced he is battling cancer.

Ad Astra Games reports on the efforts to keep Atomic Rockets online:

(9) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1978 – Forty-three years ago this week, the Jason of Star Command series was first seen on CBS. It was created and produced by Arthur H. Nadel who was previously responsible for Shazam!The Secrets of Isis and Space Academy which this is a spin-off of. (The only series of these which I’ve seen is the first. I really liked it at the time. No idea what the Suck Fairy would make of it.) It would last but two seasons of twenty eight episodes.  (The first season episodes were fifteen minutes long and formed one story, the second were thirty minutes long.) James Doohan would be in the cast as Commander Canarvin for the first season before leaving to film Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and the chief villain here was Sid Haig who had appeared on Star Trek as the First Lawgiver in “The Return of the Archons”. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 9, 1922 — Pauline Baynes. She was the first illustrator of some of J. R. R. Tolkien’s lesser known works such as Farmer Giles of Ham and Smith of Wootton Major and of C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. With the help of cartographers from the Bordon military camp in Hampshire, Baynes created a map that Allen & Unwin published as a poster in 1970. Tolkien was generally pleased with it, though he didn’t particularly like her creatures especially her conception of a spider. (Died 2008.)
  • Born September 9, 1929 — Joseph Wrzos, 92. He edited Amazing Stories and Fantastic under the name Joseph Ross from 1965 through early 1967. With Hannes Bok, he edited in 2012, Hannes Bok: A Life in Illustration. He won First Fandom Hall of Fame Award, and its Sam Moskowitz Archive Award twice.
  • Born September 9, 1935 — Topol, 86. He’s best remembered for his role of Tevye the Dairyman in Fiddler on the Roof, on both stage and screen, but that’s not why he’s getting a Birthday.  No, that’s because it’s because he was Dr. Hans Zarkov in the 1980 Flash Gordon film. He’s got just two other genre appearences, once in Tales of the Unexpected as Professor Max Kelada  in the “Mr. Know-All” episode, and in the Bond film, For Your Eyes Only.
  • Born September 9, 1943 — Tom Shippey, 78. Largely known as a Tolkien expert, though I see he wrote a scholarly 21-page introduction to Flights of Eagles, a collection of James Blish work. Under the pseudonym of John Holm, he is also the co-author, with Harry Harrison, of The Hammer and the Cross trilogy of alternate history novels. And early on, he did a lot of SF related non-fiction tomes such as Fiction 2000: Cyberpunk and the Future of Narrative (edited with George Slusser). He edited The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories thirty years ago. 
  • Born September 9, 1952 — Angela Cartwright, 69. Fondly remembered as Penny Robinson on the original Lost in Space. She, like several of her fellow cast members, made an appearance in the Lost in Space film. In her case, it was as Shelia Harris in the “Echoes” episode. She appeared in the Logan’s Run series in “The Collectors” episode as Karen, and in Airwolf as Mrs. Cranovich in the “Eruption” episode. 
  • Born September 9, 1955 — Janet Fielding, 66. Tegan Jovanka, companion to the Fifth Doctor. The actress had a rather short performing career starting with the Hammer House of Horror series in 1980 where she was Secretary Mandy on the “Charlie Boy” episode” before landing the Doctor Who gig through 1984 before her career ending in the early Nineties. She was part of the 2013 50th Anniversary The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. Her last acting role was voicing Dr. Mendez in the “Breakout” episode of the Australian Prisoner Zero series.
  • Born September 9, 1960 — Hugh Grant, 61. He appeared in The Lair of the White Worm as Lord James D’Ampton and in the remake of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as Mr. Waverly. And he was the Handsome Doctor in Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death, the 1999 Doctor Who special made for the Red Nose Day charity telethon. He’s in the forthcoming Dungeons & Dragons as Forge Fletcher. 
  • Born September 9, 1971 — Henry Thomas, 50. Elliot in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Let’s just say that he’s had a busy post-E.T. acting career for which I will single out his rather good work in Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King and The Haunting of Hill House series. He’s playing Doctor Mid-Nite in the ongoing Stargirl series which I really need to see. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

Lise Andreasen supplies a Danish/English translation for the Wulffmorgenthaler 7/9 cartoon published at Politiken.

Good news!  Now that the apocalypse is over, we actually have the resources to rebuild the whole society, just as it was before!  What do you say!?

How about we don’t!  How do you think we ended up here?  Think, Lars!

(12) TILT. Somewhere down the I-10 from me a pop culture mecca is going away: “Pinball Museum Will Auction 1,700 Arcade Games After Closing Its Doors” says the New York Times.

Inside an unremarkable warehouse near Palm Springs, Calif., hundreds of pinball machines once beckoned arcade game aficionados from far and wide, their blinking lights and coin slots a throwback to a time long before Xbox.

But then came the coronavirus pandemic, and the game, one that the museum’s owner said was already a losing proposition because of the economic climate and the cost of real estate and insurance, was over. No flippers could keep the ball in play.

Now, the Museum of Pinball in Banning, Calif., one of the largest museums devoted to pinball machines, is about to do something that once might have seemed inconceivable: It will start on Friday to auction off more than 1,700 arcade games.

The auction will be conducted both online and at the museum itself, where in 2015 a Guinness World Record was set for the most people playing pinball simultaneously: 331.

The collection could be worth as much as $7 million, according to the auctioneer handling the sale, which includes some machines more than 60 years old. The holy grail of the sale could be a “Pirates of the Caribbean” collector’s edition pinball machine from 2018, associated with the Disney franchise, which the auction house said could fetch up to $35,000….

(13) MEET THE CREW. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds cast announcement does major fan service. See the video at StarTrek.com.

(14) CONTROL THAT IMPULSE. That’s the plan, says Yahoo! News: “A 150-Year Old Idea Could Lead To A Breakthrough In Space Travel”.

… Once the exclusive province of science fiction films, space colonization has been moving closer to becoming a reality thanks to major advances in astronautics and astrophysics; rocket propulsion and design, robotics and medicine. Trekkies, along with the otherworldly technology featured in the Star Trek series, have helped define the science fiction universe. One of the most mind-boggling of these technologies from those shows is the “Impulse Drive,” a propulsion system used on the spaceships of many species to get across the galaxy in amazingly short timeframes measured in months or a few years rather than centuries or millennia. 

And now scientists have unveiled the Holy Grail of Space Travel: A real-life Impulse Drive system able to achieve sub-light velocities using zero fuel propellants. After 30 years of tinkering and fine-tuning, a pair of scientists might finally be close to turning science fiction into science fact. 

And, NASA is taking the idea seriously. 

Conventional spaceships burn rocket fuel to achieve escape velocities, maneuver, and even land, in the case of SpaceX rockets. But what if you could build a spaceship that runs entirely on electricity?

That’s exactly what the Mach Effect Gravity Assist (MEGA) drive does.

Jim Woodward, a physics professor emeritus at California State University, Fullerton, and Hal Fearn, a physicist at Fullerton, have developed the Mach Effect Gravity Assist (MEGA) Drive propulsion based on what they say is peer-reviewed, technically credible physics.

With the help of a NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) grant, the two scientists have developed MEGA Drive based on the physics described in Einstein’s theory of relativity….

(15) WHAT A TOOL. “Judge Says an AI Can’t Be an Inventor on a Patent Because It’s Not a Person”MSN.com has the verdict.

U.S. federal judge Leonie Brikema ruled this week that an AI can’t be listed as an inventor on a U.S. patent under current law. The case was brought forward by Stephen Thaler, who is part of the Artificial Inventor Project, an international initiative that argues that an AI should be allowed to be listed as an inventor in a patent (the owner of the AI would legally own the patent).

Thaler sued the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office after it denied his patent applications because he had listed the AI named DABUS as the inventor of a new type of flashing light and a beverage container. In various responses spanning several months, the Patent Office explained to Thaler that a machine does not qualify as an inventor because it is not a person. In fact, the machine is a tool used by people to create inventions, the agency maintained.

Brikema determined that the Patent Office correctly enforced the nation’s patent laws and pointed out that it basically all boils down to the everyday use of language. In the latest revision of the nation’s patent law in 2011, Congress explicitly defined an inventor as an “individual.” The Patent Act also references an inventor using words such as “himself” and herself.”

(16) HIJACK THE STARSHIP. Star Trek: Prodigy is coming to Nickelodeon.

Developed by Emmy Award-winners Kevin and Dan Hageman (“Trollhunters” and “Ninjago”) the CG-animated series STAR TREK: PRODIGY is the first “Star Trek” series aimed at younger audiences and will follow a motley crew of young aliens who must figure out how to work together while navigating a greater galaxy, in search for a better future. These six young outcasts know nothing about the ship they have commandeered – a first in the history of the Star Trek Franchise – but over the course of their adventures together, they will each be introduced to Starfleet and the ideals it represents.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, N., Lise Andreasen, Chris Barkley, James Davis Nicoll, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, and  John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 1/5/21 Guilty Pixels Got No Rhythm

(1) GO BACK AND TRI AGAIN. “HG Wells fans spot numerous errors on Royal Mint’s new £2 coin” — Adam Roberts and Stephen Baxter explained the gaffes to Guardian readers.

Observant fans of HG Wells have questioned how a new coin from the Royal Mint commemorating The War of the Worlds author could be released with multiple errors, including giving his “monstrous tripod” four legs.

The £2 coin is intended to mark 75 years since the death of Wells, and includes imagery inspired by The War of the Worlds and The Invisible Man.

…Science fiction novelist and professor of 19th-century literature Adam Roberts, who is author of a biography of Wells and vice president of the HG Wells Society, also criticised the depiction of the Invisible Man, shown in a top hat; in the book he arrives at Iping under a “wide-brimmed hat”.

“It’s nice to see Wells memorialised, but it would have been nicer for them to get things right,” Roberts said. “A tripod with four legs is hard to comprehend (tri: the clue is in the name), and Wells’s (distinctly ungentlemanly) invisible man, Griffin, never wore a top hat … I’d say Wells would be annoyed by this carelessness: he took immense pains to get things right in his own work – inviting translators of his book to stay with him to help the process and minimise errors and so on.”

Stephen Baxter, vice president of the Wells Society and author of The Massacre of Mankind, an official sequel to The War of the Worlds , said he thought Wells would have been “very flattered by the coin, but infuriated by that non-tripod! It’s not just the extra leg but the stiffness of it. In the book itself, he has a sideswipe at the ‘stiff, stilted tripods’ depicted in an early ‘pamphlet’ on the war – in fact he was talking about clumsy illustrations in the newspaper serialisation of the book, its first publication. ‘They were no more like the Martians I saw than a Dutch doll is like a human being.’ Take that!”

(2) BEWARE DOCTOR WHO SPOILER. For the rest of you – “Doctor Who star Jodie Whittaker quits after three years as Time Lord” reports Mirror Online (among other sources). Showrunner Chris Chibnall is to remain. (Here’s the Guardian link.)

Jodie Whittaker is quitting at the end of the next Doctor Who series, when she will regenerate into the 14th Time Lord.

The 38-year-old has told bosses she intends to stick to the traditional rule of leaving after three stints in the TARDIS, like the majority of her predecessors.

One insider said: “It’s all very hush-hush but it is known on set that Jodie is leaving and they are gearing up for a regeneration.

“Her departure is top secret but at some point over the coming months the arrival of the 14th Doctor will need to be filmed. It’s very exciting.”

Insiders claim Whittaker is keen to take on other roles.

(3) DAVID WEBER UPDATE. Posted by Regina Kirby on SouthernFandomClassic listserv and forwarded by Andrew Porter:

Here is the latest from David Weber’s Facebook on his condition:

They seem to have the temp totally under control now. BP is still a little ping-pongy, but trending MUCH lower. I think they’re still worried a bit about my heart (remembering I was scheduled for a heart cath last week before all this blew up) and about clotting. 

Still coughing up wet phlegm. Not as many blood draw sticks, thank goodness! Breathing is a lot better, at least when not moving. I’ve been limited to sort of shooting out half-dozen word bursts and then gasping for breath. I’m up to whole sentences (well, phrases) now between breaths. Soon as I move, the panting and dizziness starts in, but I think even that is better. Not sure if we’re completely through the antibiotics yet, but I do think everything they’ve pumped into me has helped a lot.

Then, tonight on David Weber the Author on Facebook:

I am now officially off the heart monitor!

Tah-DAH!

O2 absorption still too low and they’re still watching for clotting, but the situation is clearly improving.

(4) ERIC FLINT & COMPANY. Ring of Fire’s first Open House event of the new year will be held Saturday, January 9, beginning at 1:00 Central time.

 Join us for a discussion of the upcoming Colony High series with special guests Dr. David Brin and Steve Ruskin.

Use the Zoom link below to join in on the fun. We’ll see you there!

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/6057032055

(5) GONE VIRTUAL. The Popular Culture Association will take its annual conference online in 2021 – the vaccine rollout won’t be completed in time to save the day: “A Message From Our President”.

Happy 2021 to all PCA members! I wish you a brighter, better year. The PCA Governing Board met today and made the difficult decision to hold a fully virtual conference in June 2021. We have been monitoring the rollout of the vaccine and have determined that not enough of our members will be vaccinated in time to meet face to face in Boston or have a hybrid conference. We also learned, via a survey last month to our area chairs, that many academic institutions have withdrawn travel support for this year and that members overwhelmingly support going forward with a remote conference if we cannot meet in person. Thus, virtual is the way to go! 

(6) SFSFC LEADERSHIP ELECTION. At the November 2020 meeting of the Board of Directors of San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions, Inc. (SFSFC), Kevin Roche was elected President of the Board effective January 1. Says Roche, “Dave Gallaher, whose many years of hard work and service as SFSFC President are greatly appreciated, remains as a regular Director.”

Kevin Roche was Conference Chair of Worldcon 76 in San Jose.

(7) FREE READ. A Turtledove book is Arc Manor’s free ebook for January: Over The Wine-Dark Sea. A publisher’s note says “The cart will show the suggested price of $1.99. You may change it to any price including $0.00.”

The first book in the highly acclaimed ‘historicals’ by the Master of Alternate History, Harry Turtledove. 

?No one recreates historical settings like Turtledove who has that special knack for being both historically accurate and highly entertaining.

?Menedemos, the young dashing sea captain, and his helper, the scholarly Sostratos, are sea-traders from the Greek island of Rhodes. Fearless sailors, they will travel any distance to make a profit or to search for rich treasures.

?While they trade in fineries such as wine and silk (and even, to the chagrin of many, peacocks), they live in dangerous times with pirates, thieves and barbarians. As if avoiding death by the hands of these miscreants isn’t enough (particularly the barbarians from an obscure town called Rome), they are also caught between the political intrigues of Alexander’s former generals.

(8) ROBERTS OBIT. Actress Tanya Roberts died January 4 reports People.

Tanya Roberts died from a urinary tract infection, her representative tells PEOPLE. She was 65.

Roberts was first erroneously reported dead on Monday morning before her publicist corrected the news. She later died Monday night.

Her genre roles included the Bond movie A View To A Kill, films The Beastmaster, and Sheena.

(9) SMITH OBIT. Horror writer (among other things) Guy N. Smith died on Christmas Eve aged 81. Here is a touching tribute by Thomas McNulty: “Remembering Guy N. Smith”.

…While GNS is best known as a “horror writer,” his oeuvre includes much more; stories for young readers, thrillers and police procedurals, and several years writing for The Countryman’s Weekly. In fact, his output of countryside living articles and books is exemplary. Of this work I include Gamekeeping and Shooting for Amateurs (1976), Midland Gun Company: A Short History (2016), and Managing and Shooting Under Ten Acres (2017) as ideal representations. Guy Smith is much more than a horror writer, and yet the spooky tales have made him famous. Guy’s solitary Western, The Pony Riders, published in 1997 by Pinnacle, is widely considered a Western classic and among Guy’s best novels. 

GNS is to my way of thinking the embodiment of what a writer should be. His various interests, devotion to the countryside lifestyle, dedication to his craft, friendliness and generosity with his fans have distinguished him from all others. Of his novels, I offer five as the scariest books written, and I list them for readers to examine at their own risk: The Slime Beast (1975), The Sucking Pit (1975), Doomflight (1981) The Wood (1985) and The Island (1988)….

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • January 5, 1974Starlost came to an end. It came on the the air on the air on September 22 of the previous year and was executive produced by William Davidson, Gerry Rochon, Douglas Trumbull and Jerome M. Zeitman. It was, as you know, written in part by Harlan Ellison (as Cordwainer Bird) though there were other writers as well — George Ghent, Norman Klenman and Martin Lager. Of Canadian production, it would last but one season of sixteen episodes. Though Ellison received a Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay for the original script, this is not what was filmed, nor representative of the experience science advisor Ben Bova had with the series. It is generally considered one of the worst genre series of all time.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 5, 1914 George Reeves. Best known obviously for being Clark Kent and Superman in the Adventures of Superman which ran for six seasons. It was preceded by two films, Superman and the Mole Men and the now public domain Stamp Day for Superman. Reeves had one log running SFF series prior to this series, Adventures of Sir Galahad, a fifteen part serial in which he played the lead. This clip is the only English one I found of him in that role. Yes, he was just forty five when he apparently committed suicide. (Died 1959.) (CE) 
  • Born January 5, 1926 – Bob Abbett.  Fifty covers for us, thirty others.  Here is The Third “Galaxy” Reader.  Here is Dolphin Boy.  Here is A Fighting Man of Mars.  Later known for paintings of wildlife, fishing, dogs; see A Season for Painting.  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born January 5, 1928 – Raylyn Moore.  Newspaper reporter, teacher, poet, motorcyclist.  Co-founded Monterey Peninsula (California) Dickens Fellowship.  First woman to publish a story in Esquire.  A novel and thirty short stories for us, in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, also EdgesOrbitShadows.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born January 5, 1940 – Tom Digby, age 81.  It seems incongruous to consider the birth or death of this consummately yet mildly strange being.  Larry Niven put the best known theory in “What Can You Say About Chocolate-Covered Manhole Covers?”  While TD lived in Los Angeles he had a clock that ran backwards, a machine you could set to sound rhythms you invented, a sign that said in big letters Important not ice (as you’ll see in a moment, I can’t reproduce it properly) and when you went much closer you could read text beginning It’s important that you understand this sign is not ice.  Worked hard enough for LASFS to earn its Evans-Freehafer Award.  Later moved to San Francisco Bay.  For his songs, see here.  Fan Guest of Honor at Minicon 15, MileHiCon 13, and ConFrancisco the 51st Worldcon, for which you can see his Guest of Honor book here (revised 2014).  Here is his analemma page.  [JH]
  • Born January 5, 1940 Jennifer Westwood. Folklorist who I’m including on the Birthday Honors List (if the Queen can have such a list, I can too) for one of her works in particular, Albion: Guide to Legendary Britain as it has a genre connection that will take some explaining. Ever hear of the band from Minnesota called Boiled in Lead? Well they took their name from a local legend in that tome about a man that was wrapped in lead and plunged in a vat of scalding oil so that he now stands forever in a circle of stones. Among the genre folk that have had a role in the band are Emma Bull, Steven Brust, Adam Stemple, Jane Yolen and Will Shetterly. (Died 2008.) (CE) 
  • Born January 5, 1941 – Miyazaki Hayao, age 80.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Author, animator, director, producer, manga artist, screenwriter.  Co-founded Studio Ghibli.  My Neighbor Totoro, the first Princess Mononoke story, the Nausicaä in the Valley of the Winds and Kiki’s Delivery Service picture books are available in English.  Academy Award for Spirited Away.  Nebula for Howl’s Moving Castle. Academy Honorary Award for contributions to animation and cinema.  Chesley and World Fantasy awards for life achievement.  SF Hall of Fame.  Person of Cultural Merit.  [JH]
  • Born January 5, 1943 – Awa Naoko.  (Personal name last.)  The Fox’s Window collects thirty of her stories in English.  Twoscore more.  Seven collections in Japanese.  Fantasy in a folktale style; later works sometimes said to be conscious of the world after her death.  Five Japanese awards.  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born January 5, 1959 Clancy Brown, 62. I first encountered him as the voice of Lex Luthor In the DC animated universe. All of voice roles are far too extensive too list here, but I’ll single out  as voicing as Savage Opress, Count Dooku’s new apprentice and Darth Maul’s brother, in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  Very selected live roles include Rawhide in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, The Kurgan In Highlander, Sheriff Gus Gilbert in Pet Sematary Two, Captain Byron Hadley in The Shawshank Redemption, Sgt. Charles Zim In Starship Troopers and, one of my best loved weird series, the truly strange Brother Justin Crowe in Carnivàle (CE)
  • Born January 5, 1966 Tananarive Due, 55. I’m particularly fond of her short fiction which you can find in her BFA winning Ghost Summer collection which also won the Carl Brandon Kindred Award. The Good House and The Between are novels are worth reading for having strong African-American characters. (CE) 
  • Born January 5, 1975 Bradley Cooper, 46. He’d be here just for voicing Rocket Raccoon in the MCU. In fact he is here just for that role. Mind you he’ll have voiced him five time by that Guardians of The Galaxy Vol 3 comes out, so I’d say he’s got him spot perfect. (CE) 
  • Born January 5, 1978 Seanan McGuire, 43. Ahhhh, one of my favorite writers. I just finished re-listening to her Sparrow Hill Road storieswhich was are excellent and earlier I’d read her InCryptid series, both of her Indexing books which are beyond amazing and, God what else?, the Wayward Children series which I’ve mixed feelings about. (CE)
  • Born January 5, 1989 – Heather Fawcett, age 32.  Four novels; The Language of Ghosts just published.  “Before becoming a writer I worked … as an archaeologist, a technical writer, and a backstage assistant for a Shakespearean theatre [she’s Canadian] company….  I have a Master’s degree in English Literature and briefly considered becoming a professor, before I realized it involved more than reading books, drinking excessive amounts of tea, and wearing colourful elbow patches.”  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

Versions of this have been floating around for over six months, I saw it for the first time today.

(13) BEYOND CLAY. Available at BBC Sounds, In The Studio’s episode“The Big Fix Up: A new, digital venture for Wallace and Gromit”

Wallace and Gromit – the eccentric inventor and his loyal dog – are one of Britain’s best-loved comedy duos. Created in plasticine clay by Nick Park of Aardman Animations, their stop motion adventures have won three Academy Awards and a BAFTA.

Now, Wallace and his faithful hound are heading into exciting new territory. The pair’s new business venture, Spick & Spanners, needs employees to help them ‘Fix Up’ the British city of Bristol. This interactive story, which takes place on smart phones and uses augmented and mixed reality, is a daring departure from their traditional claymation films. For the first time ever, fans can step directly into the world of Wallace and Gromit.

In The Studio goes behind-the-scenes of the production’s final stage, as the technical team grapple with bugs and the directors shoot final takes with their first ever real human character.

Eliza Lomas talks to Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park about his own childhood dreams of being an inventor, and he opens up his sketchbooks to reveal some very recent, very silly Wallace and Gromit doodles.

(14) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter watched tonight’s episode of Jeopardy! where the contestants whiffed on a pop culture landmark. (Porter adds this was one of the last episodes presided over by Alex Trebeck – three more to come.)

Category: Possession is 9/10

Answer: There is no Sigourney Weaver, only Zuul, & what a lovely singing voice Zuul must have in this 1984 movie.

Wrong question: What is Aliens?

No one got, What is Ghostbusters?

Incidentally, Ryan Reynolds appeared virtually on January 4’s Jeopardy!‘ for a clue related to his movie Free Guy, which will feature Alex Trebek’s last film cameo: “Ryan Reynolds says working with Alex Trebek ‘one last time’ for Jeopardy! clue was ‘heartbreaking’”.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Matrix — Never-Before-Seen Cold Open”. A Peacock extra on YouTube.

Watch an exclusive, never-before-seen cold open from The Office’s ninth season to celebrate The Office US coming to Peacock! In loving memory of Hugh Dane, Hank the security guard.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/14/20 Dangerous Pixels

(1) MORE ABOUT LAST DANGEROUS VISIONS. Ellison estate executor J. Michael Straczynski announced yesterday that Last Dangerous Visions will be submitted to publishers in 2021. Some of the comments here prompted me to ask him will there be author/story introductions written by Harlan Ellison in the book? Straczynski answered, “More information about specific content will come later.”

(2) FUTURE SHARKS. Andrew Liptak contends “Tech CEOs should stop using Science Fiction as a blueprint for humanity’s future in space”.

… Musk isn’t alone in his love of science fiction. Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos has noted that he’s a particular fan of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars and Star Trek. In Rocket Billionaires: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the New Space Race, Tim Fernholz notes that Bezos had long been interested in space exploration, saying in his high school valedictorian speech that we could save humanity “by creating permanent human colonies in orbiting space stations while turning the planet into an enormous nature preserve.” 

… While science fiction makes for fine inspirational material, it needs to be treated with some level of skepticism. Countless writers and artists have imagined what life in space might look like, but the genre they built got its start at a time when rocketry and space travel were in their earliest stages. They took technological leaps beyond our capabilities to imagine interstellar ships, space stations, intelligent robots, and more, which made for fine storytelling material, but which were also several steps away from reality. That was their job: to imagine fantastical, entertaining adventures, rather than write about what they were seeing around them. 

While it’s steeped in a form of realism (depending on how “hard” you want your science fiction), the arts are only a simulacrum for the world around us. Based on what we know now, interstellar empires, travel between star systems, and colonizing other planets are improbable ventures. 

In 2015, author Kim Stanley Robinson sought to tackle the long-standing trope of the Generation Ships — a spaceship designed to take hundreds or thousands of years to reach its destination, the descendants of the original crew carrying on the flag of humanity — with his novel Aurora. The result was a bleak outlook for his crew members: riding a starship that had begun to break down because of unforeseen problems and shortages, and a destination that proved to be habitable, but extremely inhospitable for human habitation. Other authors have drawn on recent scholarship to imagine a more plausible universe in which we might end up. Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Time and its sequel Children of Ruin each take the enormous interstellar distances into account and imagine various survivors of humanity’s ambitions as they seek to terraform the universe to better suit them. 

(3) LAT BOOK CLUB FEATURES BUTLER GIVEAWAY. The Los Angeles Times Book Club will host Lynell George, author of A Handful of Dirt, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler on November 18 to discuss Butler’s work and her enduring legacy. The event will be livestreamed on the Times’ Facebook page, YouTube and Twitter. Sign up at Eventbrite — this event is free. And when you register for this event, you can receive a free copy of one of 10 books written by Butler or another sci-fi great — thanks to a generous donation from the author’s estate.

After working as a telemarketer, potato chip inspector and dishwasher, Butler went on to a groundbreaking writing career, publishing 12 novels and several short-story collections. She earned two Nebula and two Hugo awards and became the first science fiction writer to win a MacArthur “genius” grant….

Butler’s 1993 “Parable of the Sower” envisioned a Los Angeles ravaged by climate change and economic injustice where people are scraping by just to survive. The author died in 2006 but her novel has surged in popularity in recent months. “Parable of the Sower” landedon both the Los Angeles Times and New York Times bestseller lists this fall.

(4) TAKING THE PAIN OUT OF PAINT. North Hollywood’s Iliad Bookshop had its famous murals vandalized and tagged. They’ve started a GoFundMe — Restore The Iliad Bookshop’s Mural – to raise $4,000 and have it redone. See photos of all the authors on the original murals here.

The Iliad Bookshop was founded by Dan Weinstein in 1987, and moved to its current location at the corner of Chandler and Cahuenga Blvds. in North Hollywood in 2006. Besides its vast inventory of used books and its adorable cats, the Iliad has always been known for its beautiful murals. When we moved to our current location, we hired British artist Paul Dilworth to decorate our walls with murals that depicted dozens of famous authors, musicians, mythological characters, and others. Paul has expanded the mural over the years, and we added custom-made giant books as well.

Our mural was more than a source of pride for the Iliad; we believe it was a valuable part of the local community. Travelers from all over the world admired the art; we’ve had visitors, authors, and even newlyweds pose in front of the mural.

If you’d like to see the mural in its entirety, complete with a list of all the authors who appeared on it, please click here .

On October 23, 2020, we arrived to find that much of the Chandler wall had been vandalized by taggers who painted over a number of author portraits, including Shirley Jackson, Philip K. Dick, and Octavia Butler. There is a protective coating on the mural, but when the tag is rendered in thick enamel layers there’s no way to remove it. All you can do is paint over it.

Of course it broke our hearts (as if 2020 wasn’t already hard enough on a small independent bookstore), but more importantly, it left many of our customers and neighbors heartbroken and angry. We painted over the graffiti…

…and were tagged again two days later. Once more we painted over the tag.

It’s now been two weeks and we haven’t been tagged again, so we’re ready to think about fixing the mural. Since the original artist, Paul Dilworth, is on lockdown in the U.K. we can’t hire him, but he has recommended a local artist to restore the mural.

(5) $¢REW REALITY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] When it came time for a wrap party, the cast and crew of Matrix 4 decided to abandon reality — the reality of COVID-19 restrictions, that is.TMZ has the story: “‘Matrix 4’ Cast and Crew Throw Secret Wrap Party in Germany”.

The wrap party went down Wednesday in Babelsberg, Germany on a film studio stage, and they reportedly had a cover story — filming a party scene for the movie — and a code name … “Ice Cream Team Event.”

The party included around 200 guests who took rapid COVID tests, and were handed masks. But, as you can see from the pics and vid … most took off their masks once inside. It’s unclear if any of the big stars — Keanu ReevesJada Pinkett Smith or Priyanka Chopra — attended the party.

…”Matrix 4″ production moved to Germany back in March when the pandemic hit and was temporarily forced to pause production there as the global health crisis worsened. The release date was also pushed back from May 2021 to April 2022.

Germany implemented a 4-week partial nationwide lockdown that went into effect November 2 … with bars, clubs, restaurants and theaters closing. Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, had urged people to stay home to flatten the curve of a recent COVID spike.

(6) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Who received Martian Driver License #1?

Ray Bradbury’s Martian driver license

(7) WALKER OBIT. Colorado conrunner John S. Walker died November 8 reports Anime News Network.

The Colorado Anime Fest event revealed on Wednesday that staff member of the Nan Desu Kan (NDK) convention and former president of Denver Anime International John S. Walker passed away on November 8. He was 45.

Colorado Anime Fest also noted that Walker was a frequent panelist of the event, and that he also worked for the Starfest Convention, MileHiCon, and Denver Pop Culture Con. Colorado Anime Fest added, “His legacy will live on through all of Colorado’s conventions and the countless people he helped. But we will greatly miss him.”

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1980 — Forty years ago, the British Fantasy Society gave the August Derleth Fantasy Award for Best Novel to Tanith Lee’s Death’s Master. It’s the second of her Tales of the Flat Earth series which led off with Night’s Master. It was published the previous year as Daws Books’ Daw Collectors #324. Cover art by by David Schleinkofer, interior art is by Jack Gaughan.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 14, 1907 Astrid Lindgren. Creator of the Pippi Longstocking series and, at least in the States, lesser known Emil i LönnebergaKarlsson-on-the-Roof, and the Six Bullerby Children series as well. In January 2017, she was calculated to be the world’s 18th most translated author, and the fourth most translated children’s writer after Enid Blyton, H. C. Andersen and the Brothers Grimm.  There have been at least forty video adaptations of her works over the decades mostly in Swedish but Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter was an animated series in Japan recently. The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, world’s largest award for children’s and young adult literature, is named for her. (Died 2002.) (CE) 
  • Born November 14, 1932 – Alex Ebel.  Thirty covers, forty interiors for us; other illustration including World Book.  Known for The Left Hand of Darkness.  Did The Dispossessed too.  Here is the Winter 54 Fantastic Story.  Here is an interior from the Mar 53 Fantasy (Sheckley, “The Demons”).  Here is When the Star Kings Die.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born November 14, 1949 – Carol Matas, 71.  A dozen novels for us, half again as many with Perry Nodelman.  Outside our field a dozen more, and another half dozen contributions to Dear Canada and I Am Canada.  Bilson Award, Sydney Taylor Award, Silver Birch.  [JH]
  • Born November 14, 1951 – Moshe Feder, 69.  Fan and pro.  Co-created the FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards.  Co-author of The Mimeo Man.  Chaired Corflu 7 (corflu = mimeo correction fluid; fanziners’ con), Guest of Honor at Corflu 19 (there’s something I’m not telling you about Corflu Guests of Honor); also Ozymandias 2, Minicon 45, Loscon 46.  Skylark Award.  Consulting editor at Tor.  Likes Komodo Dragons, railroads, Coca-Cola, and New York.  [JH]
  • Born November 14, 1951 Beth Meacham, 69. In 1984, she became an editor for Tor Books, where she rose to the position of editor-in-chief. After her 1989 move to the west coast, she continued working for Tor as an executive editor which she just retired from.  She does have one novel, co-written with Tappan King, entitled Nightshade Book One: Terror, Inc. and a handful of short fiction. (CE)
  • Born November 14, 1959 Paul McGann, 61. Yes, he only did one film as the eighth incarnation of the Doctor in the 1996 Doctor Who television film, but that role he has reprised in more than eighty audio dramas and the 2013 short film entitled “The Night of the Doctor”. Other genre appearances include The Pit and the Pendulum: A Study in TortureAlien 3, the excellent FairyTale: A True StoryQueen of the Damned and Lesbian Vampire Killers. (CE)
  • Born November 14, 1959 – Wolf von Witting, 61.  Born in Finland, lives in Italy, has published fanzines in English, German, and Swedish, currently CounterClock (European SF Award for Best Fanzine), about which Teddy Harva asks: Appeltofft Award.  [JH]
  • Born November 14, 1963 – Gail Anderson-Dagatz, 57.  Her first novel The Cure for Death by Lightning unfolds partly through narrative and partly through a collection of recipes and household tips belonging to the narrator’s mother; a Canadian best-seller; Ethel Wilson Prize, Betty Trask Award.  One more for us; three others and a collection of shorter stories.  [JH]
  • Born November 14, 1963 Cat Rambo, 57. All-around great person. Really. Recently finished up a term as SWFA President.  She was editor of Fantasy Magazine for four years which earned her a 2012 World Fantasy Special Award: Non-Professional nomination. Her story “Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain”, was a Nebula Award finalist.  Her first novel, Beasts of Tabat, is the beginning of what I suspect will be an impressive fantasy quartet. Hearts Of Tabat came this year.  She also writes amazing short fiction as well.  The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers is her long-standing school for writers that provides her excellent assistance in learning proper writing skills both live and on demand as well. You can get details  here. (CE) 
  • Born November 14, 1969 Daniel Abraham, 51. Co-author with Ty Franck of The Expanse series which I really must get back get to having only read the first four volumes. Under the pseudonym M. L. N. Hanover, he is the author of the Black Sun’s Daughter urban fantasy series.  He collaborated with George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois to write the Hunter’s Run. A frequent collaborator of Martin, Abraham adapted several of Martin’s works into comic books and graphic novels, such as A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel, and has contributed to several Wild Cards anthologies . (CE) 
  • Born November 14, 1976 Christopher Demetral, 44. He also played the title character on the oh so excellent The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne series which still isn’t on DVD or streaming services, damn it. He shows up in the “Future Imperfect” episode of Next Gen, and had the recurring role of Jack on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. (CE) 
  • Born November 14, 1995 – Elizabeth Anne McKinney, 25.  Two novels for us so far.  A Texan (born in Dripping Springs) studying in Virginia who dreams of living in Scotland.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • We might call this Bliss a Star Wars business idea.
  • The Onion marks the passing of “Sir Sean.”

(11) FLORIDA MAN. SYFY Wire interviews him: “A Year After A Heartbreaking Theft, Florida Man Says Goodbye To $2m Batman Collection”.

It took losing his collection of Batman comics to make one collector realize, it was time to say goodbye.

Randy Lawrence has spent the better part of his 60 years putting together a legendary collection of high-grade, ultra-rare Batman comics. The CGC-certified “Alfred Pennyworth” collection is known in collecting circles as being the gold standard for Batman comic book collections. “This collection is so beautiful and it’s such a cool high grade,” Lawrence says. “It’s the number one Batman collection on the [CGC] registry.”

The 1,000+ issues are going up for auction in two separate events by Heritage Auctions, the first one of which will take place on Nov. 19-22…. 

The collection includes gems such as Batman #2, a book that’s sought-after in any condition. But Lawrence’s is a CGC-graded 9.0, an absurdly high-grade copy of a Golden Age book….

Of course, a lot of people learned about the existence of Lawrence’s astonishing collection when it made headlines in January of 2019. Thieves broke into the storage facility in Boca Raton, Florida, where he had kept his collection and stolen nearly 500 of his valuable comics. Being a very careful and organized collector, Lawrence recalls that it was one box that was slightly out of place that made him think something was wrong. “I had only gone there to put some stuff away and inventory some new books that I had gotten. And I didn’t remember touching that box,” he says. “So I pulled the top off the first CGC box and it was empty. And then I ripped off the next one and it was empty and so on. And I remember I let out like, it was a primal scream, like a wounded animal. It was like my whole life had just disappeared.”

…It would take more than a year, but he would recover every single comic that was stolen from the storage facility, except one (and Lawrence says it wasn’t a key book). But after the ordeal, and the fight to get them all back, it made him realize that perhaps it was time to move on from comics. And then, a deal he thought he had to fill one hole in his collection, a high-grade copy of Batman #26, fell through in such a way that soured him on the current state of high-grade collecting. “I said, you know what, between the stress that I went through to get my comics back and now what happened trying to get that Batman issue, I said, ‘it’s time.'”

(12) ON ANY GIVEN SUNDAY. “SpaceX, NASA delay Crew-1 astronaut launch to Sunday due to rocket recovery weather” reports Space.com.

SpaceX’s first four-astronaut launch for NASA is going to have to wait at least an extra day to get off the ground. 

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule were slated to launch the astronauts to the International Space Station on Saturday (Nov. 14) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. That mission, called Crew-1, will now launch no earlier than Sunday at 7:27 p.m. EST (0027 Nov. 16 GMT) due to weather delays from Tropical Storm Eta that affected SpaceX’s drone ship rocket recovery operations. The launch itself had a promising 70% chance of good weather.

“Fundamentally, this was an issue of getting the drone ship there in time,” Benji Reed, SpaceX’s senior director for human spaceflight programs, told reporters in a Friday press conference. “The weather was such because of this tropical storm, that we couldn’t get the drone ship to leave in time and get there.”

(13) BITES OF HISTORY. The Washington Post tells how “London’s mudlarks find castoff history along the Thames”.

… Beneath our feet are what at first appear to be just tide-washed sand and stone. Maiklem reaches down and picks up a piece of red clay with a thick lip. It’s a bit of Roman roof.

“They were the first to mass-produce this,” she says, following the invasion of A.D. 43, led by Roman Emperor Claudius, whose legions founded the city Londinium along the shores of the Thames.

There’s so much roofing material that the mudlarks rarely keep a piece, but what Maiklem covets are fragments of tile with a story. She’s found pieces with the impression of a child’s fingers, with cat paw prints, left by those long gone who strayed across the drying clay.

Across the river is the Tate Modern museum and London City Hall and the replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. On our side are the ruins of Walbrook Wharf, where a trash barge nests on a pebbly beach.

To Maiklem’s practiced eyes, the foreshore is a midden, filled with Elizabethan pennies from Shakespeare’s day, beads used in Africa as part of the slave trade, and scores of clay pipes. While the pipe bowls are rare, the stems are plentiful, ranging in date from 1580 through the early 1900s. Once Maiklem points out what to look for — short lengths of bone-white stem — I see them all over.

“I love the ones where you can see someone’s teeth marks,” she says….

(14) MAGIC MOUNTAIN’S COVID-PROOF CHRISTMAS. In Santa Clarita, CA —“Six Flags Magic Mountain To Host Drive-Thru Holiday In The Park” beginning at 6 p.m. on select evenings from November 20 to January 3.

…Magic Mountain is set to have guests experience eight distinctly different areas throughout the park with millions of twinkling lights choreographed to festive music, characters “decked out” for the holidays, iconic Holiday in the Park decorations, and a drive-by featuring Santa and his elves.

As one of the largest holiday drive-through events in Southern California and the only one inside a theme park, the Holiday in the Park Drive-Thru Experience will include eight immersive,  distinctly different areas throughout the 125-acre theme park which will be filled with an exquisite palette of colorful twinkling lights, choreographed to festive music….

  • Rockin’ Universe in DC Universe features “dancing” lights customized to  contemporary holiday music favorites in one of the largest light displays of its kind in  Southern California; 
  • Merry Lane, located in Metropolis includes magnificent, larger-than-life 30-foot  brilliantly lit ornaments with thousands of twinkling lights synchronized to holiday music; 
  • The Underground, a newly added section of the park this year, will feature several  rarely-seen show cars from world-famous West Coast Customs’ vast collection, in a  unique setting decked out for the season (car enthusiasts—get your cameras ready!);  
  • Winter Wonderland is the site of beautifully adorned pine trees with red and white lights at Katy’s Kettle, continuing with fanciful “ice” sculptures and tree-filled white lights  simulating winter-like conditions along the hilly path toward Viper; 
  • Holiday Square is a kaleidoscope of breath-taking color, featuring falling “snow” and  hundreds of thousands of lights on trees and buildings throughout the main gate area;  
  • Snowy Nights will delight guests with its high energy vibe and contemporary tunes  while marveling at the magnificent silver and blue décor of the area;  
  • North Pole Plaza located in front of Golden Bear Theatre, is where Mrs. Claus and her  merry, mischievous, and bumbling elves will entertain guests from afar; and 
  • Gleampunk District is the largest area of the event and is a journey back in time to the sights and sounds of the 19th century’s industrial revolution, featuring thousands of lights illuminating the tree-lined streets and the steampunk-inspired mechanical sculptures amid the light-blanketed planters. Santa will bid guests a joyous holiday farewell from the safety of his magnificent over-sized sleigh at the conclusion of the Holiday in the Park  Drive-Thru Experience.

(15) WELCOME TO KAIJULAND.  “New Japanese theme park attraction lets guests zipline into Godzilla’s mouth” – and CNN has photos.

In what could be viewed as a fitting metaphor for 2020, a new theme park ride in Japan lets guests zipline into the gaping mouth of a massive Godzilla statue.

Part of a new attraction called Godzilla Interception Operation Awaji, it officially opened in October at Nijigen no Mori, a theme park located on Awaji Island, southwest of Kobe and Osaka.

The star of the new attraction is the “life-size” Godzilla, which measures 20 meters (65 feet) high, 25 meters (82 feet) wide and 55 meters (180 feet) long and sits in the heart of the park.

Here’s a video taking you through the whole experience:

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

Pixel Scroll 10/8/20 It’s Time For The Retro-Dragon Awards

(1) CATS MEOW, LIZARDS THUNDER, BOOK HAPPENS. Filers Charon Dunn and Sally Smith collaborated on a book that’s newly released! What’s it about? Rhonda Wray’s “favorite boy band is trapped on a dinosaur planet and it’s up to Rhonda to save them!” Let’s eavesdrop on what their cats think about it: “Rhonda Wray: Raptor Wrangler by Charon Dunn and Sally Smith (according to their cats)”.

Charon Dunn (above) and Sally Smith (below)

…T.B. Kahuna: I helped write the Sonny Knight trilogy. She didn’t really give me any credit. She did give me some of the cake with the book cover decoration, and it had whipped cream frosting. 

Naomi: Pardon me, I didn’t mean to talk while you were interrupting. And yes, that was very good frosting. “Charon wanted to write about a girl adventurer going from zero to hero. And about dinosaurs, and boy bands, two things that have fascinated her for at least half a century. Sally wanted to make sure the science was tight and that the hero was truly heroic. They both undertook some serious #dinosaur research and many of their surprising findings are incorporated into the book.

For instance, raptors had feathers. There’s a little controversy over whether tyrannosaurids did, but raptors are basically birds with fangs, and they probably acted a lot more like crows or parrots than a pack of wolves. Which means they could probably communicate.” …

(2) NOBEL PRIZE FOR LITERATURE. The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2020 is awarded to the American poet Louise Glück “for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal”.

(3) MINTY FRESH. [Item by Dann.] Minty of Minty Comedic Arts dropped a “10 things” video about Dune recently.  He actually had quite a few things that I hadn’t heard before.  The behind-the-scenes ties to other genre properties were really interesting.

  • 10 Things You Didn’t Know About DUNE

As a result, I also saw this one from August.

  • 10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Matrix

(4) HI TECH, HIGH FEAR. “Thoroughly Modern Hauntings: How Ghost Stories Keep Finding New Ways To Scare Us”: Frazer Lee explains at CrimeReads.

…Modern ghost stories, rather than being exposed as bunkum by technology, have instead utilised that technology to create new sources of terror. Our baby monitors, camera phones, and laptop webcams have of course given us a window on a secure and happy world. But they have also provided the ghosts with a way in. Just in the same way that Shirley Jackson’s paranormal investigators found themselves possessed by the evil in Hill House, our need to connect with each other is now providing fertile ground for the ghosts to emerge. Poltergeist’s entry point for evil was the TV set in the corner of every living room, swiftly followed by Stephen Volk’s Ghostwatch (1992), which made us afraid to watch live TV broadcasts ever again…. 

(5) A TREK FOR NICKELODEON. Ars Technica excites Trek fans with news of “Kate Mulgrew returning as Capt. Janeway in Star Trek: Prodigy.

…Mulgrew popped in to make made the surprise announcement during the end of a Star Trek panel at this year’s all-virtual New York Comic Con. “I have invested every scintilla of my being in Captain Janeway, and I can’t wait to endow her with nuance that I never did before,” Mulgrew said. “How thrilling to be able to introduce to these young minds an idea that has elevated the world for decades. To be at the helm again is going to be deeply gratifying in a new way for me.”

…Prodigy, the first modern* Star Trek series to be explicitly targeted to a young audience, will be coming to Nickelodeon at some point in 2021. According to ViacomCBS, the show “follows a group of lawless teens who discover a derelict Starfleet ship and use it to search for adventure, meaning, and salvation.”

(6) ROCKET STACK RANK. Eric Wong forwarded the link to Rocket Stack Rank’s annual Outstanding SF/F Horror of 2019 with 28 stories that were that were finalists for major SF/F awards, included in “year’s best” SF/F anthologies, or recommended by prolific reviewers in short fiction.

Included are some observations obtained by changing the Highlight from Free Online to Podcasts, changing the table View by Publication and Author, and Filtering the table by awards, year’s best anthologies, and reviewers.

(7) WHO HOLIDAY SPECIAL. There’s going to be a Doctor Who holiday special – but exactly which holiday, they haven’t said. “NYCC 2020: The Gang Has To Fight A Dalek While The Doctor’s Stuck In Space Prison In Holiday Special”.

A lthough the cast of Doctor Who couldn’t reveal much about the upcoming holiday special Revolution of the Daleks, they were able to give fans a taste of what to expect during the virtual Doctor Who Spotlight New York Comic Con panel.

During the panel, series stars Jodie Whittaker, Mandip Gill, and Bradley Walsh explained that Revolution picks up where the Season 12 finale left off, with The Doctor stuck in a maximum security space prison, while her friends were back on Earth, completely unaware of the Time Lord’s incarceration.

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • Fifty years ago, the British SF Association Award went to John Brunner‘s The Jagged Orbit, and it followed his BSFA Award win in the previous year for Stand on Zanzibar which also won a Hugo at St. Louiscon. It would also be nominated for a Nebula but did not win. It was first published by Doubleday the previous year, but it hasn’t been printed in almost twenty years, though Open Road Integrated Media has it as an ebook available from the usual digital suspects. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 8, 1916 – George Turner.  Eight novels, a dozen shorter stories; anthology The View from the Edge; memoir In the Heart or in the Head; essays, letters, reviews, in AlgolAmazingAstoundingAustralian SF News, Australian SF ReviewFoundationMetaphysical RevNY Rev SFSF CommentaryVector; Chandler, Clarke Awards; nine Ditmars (three for fiction, six for criticism); more work outside our field.  Named Guest of Honor for Aussiecon Three the 57th Worldcon but died before it was held.  Stern, perhaps waspish, distinguished.  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born October 8, 1920 Frank Herbert. I’ll confess that I enjoyed Dune and Dune Messiah that’s as far as I got in the series. The BBC full cast audio version of Dune is quite amazing. The other Herbert novel I really liked was Under Pressure. Yes, I’ve read much more by him but all that I remember vividly. (Died 1986.) (CE) 
  • Born October 8, 1924 – Suzanne Martel.  Quatre Montréalais en l’an 3000 (tr. as The City Under Ground; rev. as Surréal 3000 and The City Undergound) seems to have been the first SF novel in Quebec (or Québec).  Two dozen novels in and out of our field.  Three ACELF Prizes (Association canadienne d’éducation de langue française), Metcalf Award (for body of work; Canadian Authors’ Ass’n), Canada Council Children’s Literature Award (for Nos Amis robots tr. Robot Alert), Governor General’s Literary Award.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born October 8, 1928 John Bennett. A very long involvement in genre fiction starting with The Curse of the Werewolf in the early Sixties and ending forty years later with a role on the Minority Report series. Being a Brit, naturally he appeared on Doctor Who in the prime role of Li H’sen Chang as part of a Fourth Doctor story, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”. He had roles in Blake’s 7, Watership DownTales of The UnexpectedThe Plague DogsDark MythSherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (as Dr. Sigmund Freud!), Merlin of The Crystal Cave and The Infinite Worlds of H.G. Wells. (Died 2005.) (CE)
  • Born October 8, 1941 – Penny Frierson, 79.  Chaired DeepSouthCon 15, co-chaired ConFederation the 44th Worldcon.  Guest of Honor at Coastcon 1978 with husband Meade; fanzines with him e.g. Friersign Theater PresentsScarfing Humble Pie; play (with MF) Shattered Like a Clockwork Orange.  Rebel Award.  [JH]
  • Born October 8, 1946 – Andrew Stephenson, 74.  Two novels, five shorter stories; a dozen covers, five dozen interiors.  Here is Vector 69.  Here is the Aug 75 Galaxy.  Here is an interior for Inferno in its magazine serialization.  [JH]
  • Born October 8, 1949 – Richard Hescox, 71.  A hundred fifty covers, fifty interiors; more outside our field.  Artbooks The Fantasy Art of RHThe Deceiving Eye.  Gaughan Award.  Cover designer for DAW Books 1987-1994.  Here is Walkers on the Sky.  Here is Once on a Time.  Here is Dancer of the Sixth.  Here is The Sailor on the Seas of Fate.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born October 8, 1949 Sigourney Weaver, 71. 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. (CE)
  • Born October 8, 1951 Terry Hayes, 69. Screenwriter of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior which he co-wrote with George Miller & Brian Hannant, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome with Miller, and From Hell (from the Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell novel) which he co-wrote with Rafael Yglesias. He’s also the writer of an unused screenplay, Return of the Apes. (CE)
  • Born October 8, 1954 Stephen Furst. Stephen is dead, damn it all. The saddest part of doing these birthdays is discovering how many folks have died that I reasonably expected were still living. Babylon 5 has had far too many deaths among its cast. He died of complications from diabetes at a far too young age. You know him most likely as Centauri diplomatic attaché Vir Cotto on Babylon 5, a decent being way over his head in a job he was ill-prepared for. He also directed three low-budget movies for the Sci Fi Channel: Dragon StormPath of Destruction, and Basilisk: The Serpent King; he additionally co-starred in the last two films. And he produced Atomic Shark which aired during Sharknado Week on Syfy. (Died 2017.) (CE) 
  • Born October 8, 1983 Molly C. Quinn, 37. Fey / Intern Molly / Melony on the Welcome to Night Night podcast and Pemily Stallwark on the sort of related Thrilling Adventure Hour podcast. She’s Jenny in the Authurian Avalon High series, and showed up in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as Howard’s date. (CE)
  • Born October 8, 1988 – Charlotte McConaghy, 32.  Author, screenwriter.  Eight novels.  Interested in nature and fierce women.  Migrations just released.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off The Mark gives a genre example of a “senior moment.”

(11) BEA MOVIE. Leonard and Jessie Maltin’s latest podcast is “Howard Ashman Documentary” which is a double-length episode centering around Don Hahn’s documentary Howard:  The Howard Ashman Story, currently streaming on Disney+. Director Hahn, who the Maltins had interviewed before, is interviewed along with Ashman’s life partner, Bill Lauch; his sister, Sarah Gillespie;, composer Alan Menken; and Little Mermaid writer/director John Musker.

Fun fact:  the producers of The Little Mermaid modeled villain Ursula after Bea Arthur but Arthur never read for the part because her agent refused to send her the script because he didn’t want her playing a witch.

(12) GEORGE CARLIN. Matthew Berry’s ESPN fantasy football column begins with a reminiscence about his first boss, George Carlin, which some of you who don’t hang around sports sites might like to read just the same.

…To be specific, I was the stage PA (production assistant) for “The George Carlin Show,” a 1994 sitcom that ran on Fox, so technically I was the assistant to George and the rest of the cast. But George was the star and, you know, his name was in the title, so it was made clear to me by my bosses that my primary and even my secondary duty was taking care of George and anything he needed, any time he needed it.

I answered the stage phone for him (George didn’t have a cellphone back then). I got meals for him. I would drive scripts to his house, and then I would drive George’s handwritten notes on scripts (George preferred to write things out longhand, and if he used email back then I never saw it) and bring them back to the writers room, among many other various tasks, all of them with the sole purpose of making George’s life easier.

I absolutely loved working for him.

As kind and gentle a guy as you’d ever want to meet, someone if you didn’t know who he was you’d never guess was a living legend. The exact opposite of his on-stage persona, he was always positive, not angry. Soft-spoken and unassuming, he was the first guy on the set every morning and the last guy to leave….

(13) JEOPARDY! Rich Lynch says tonight’s Jeopardy! has a whole category on science fiction novels.

Andrew Porter found contestants had trouble with this item —

Category: The World is Not Enough

Answer: In a Larry Niven novel, a motley crew of explorers travel to this ribbon-like “world” that encircles a star.

Wrong question: What is Discworld?

(14) PEGG’S PARANORMAL PROJECT. SYFY Wire eavesdrops on the New York Comic Con program: “Truth Seekers: Nick Frost And His Co-Stars Share Their Own Ghost Stories At Nycc 2020”.

When the Ghostbusters are busy and can’t catch a last-minute flight to England, who ya gonna call? Truth Seekers! Before the new paranormal comedy series hits Amazon later this month, Nick Frost and most of the core cast stopped by New York Comic Con to discuss the project, which Frost co-created with Simon Pegg, James Serafinowicz, and Nat Saunders. The panel kicked off with the actors recounting some of their personal experiences with the otherworldly.

After breaking up with a former girlfriend years ago, Frost came home to find all of his possessions (save for a single mattress) had been taken by his ex. With her gone, strange things started to happen.

“Me and Simon Pegg ended up sleeping on this single mattress and just watching The X-Files on this weird, TV-video player combo,” said the Shaun of the Dead actor, who plays Gus, a paranormal investigator posing as an internet technician. “But we’d hear the door banging all the time and this bell would ring. And then one day I was laying there, watching TV, and I felt a woman kiss my forehead. As I span ’round, thinking it was Simon mucking about, I was just there in the house on my own.”

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Daniel Craig was on Jimmy Fallon’s show on Monday and said that he had never had a martini until he was chosen as James Bond, so the first thing he did was to go to Whole Foods, get a bottle of vermouth and a bottle of vodka and learned how to make one.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Eric Wong, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinan, John Hertz, Rich Lynch, Dann, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 5/20/20 Don’t Wait To Get Filed, There Are Pixels To Scroll And Boxes To Tick

(1) TAP INTO THE COMMUNITY. Cat Rambo gives writers a list of tips about “How to Ask for Things” at the SFWA Blog.

One thing that can really boost a writer in their early career is getting help from a more experienced writer. The fantasy and science fiction genre has a long and valued tradition of “paying things forward,” mentoring and assisting newer writers to pay back the way they themselves were helped when they first came onto the scene….

Accordingly, I join others telling new writers not to be afraid to draw on this tradition and ask for things. But I do have some tips for making those asks more successful.

Above all: be specific, and do as much of the work for the other person as you can. The reference letter where I have the URL to submit it, the applicant’s statement of purpose, and their notes of stuff I might want to hit are more likely to get written than the one where I have to ask or search online for the information…

(2) NOT USING WESTERN UNION. NPR’s Annalisa Quinn finds that “‘The Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes’ Is A Lackluster Prequel To ‘The Hunger Games'”.

With her Hunger Games novels, Suzanne Collins harnessed a combination of twisty plots, teen romance, dystopian worldbuilding and subtle intimations of cannibalism to sell more than 100 million books around the world.

The premise was unbeatable: Authoritarian regime forces children to fight to the death on live TV; rebellion ensues. But much of the series’ appeal came from the spiky charisma of protagonist Katniss Everdeen, the sharpshooting teenager who wins the games and starts a revolution while choosing between two boys who are as alike in cuteness as they are different in Weltanschauung.

Collins’ new novel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, is a baggy, meandering prequel to the events of The Hunger Games that tells the story of Katniss’ nemesis and Panem’s authoritarian ruler, Coriolanus Snow. With his Roman tyrant’s name, surgically altered face and breath smelling of blood and roses, Coriolanus appeared as a distant villain throughout most of The Hunger Games series. It’s only the last installment that gives him a touch of mystery — in its final pages, sentenced to public execution, he instead dies laughing, choked on his own blood.

…The question of how much of character is innate, how much formed, becomes a more explicit — OK, painfully obvious — theme in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. The novel is a plinth for two opposing worldviews. The cruel Hobbesian Gamemaster tells Coriolanus that the hunger games are a reminder that people are monsters kept only in check by strong rule: “What happened in the arena? That’s humanity undressed. … That’s mankind in its natural state.” Meanwhile, in spite of the cruelty she suffers in the arena, Lucy Gray believes that there is “a natural goodness built into human beings.” The debate matters, the Gamemaster says, “[b]ecause who we are determines the type of governing we need” — a republic or a tyranny.

(3) ICONIC ACTRESS DEPARTS BATWOMAN. “Ruby Rose leaves Batwoman – and other stars who exited major roles” – BBC has an overview.

The Australian actress Ruby Rose is to leave her role as comic book superhero Batwoman after just one series.

Rose said it had been a “very difficult decision” not to return to the show, which is shown in the UK on E4.

Batwoman, which began on the CW network last year, is the first superhero show to have an openly gay lead character.

Its producers said they were “firmly committed” to the show’s “long-term” future and would re-cast the role with another member of the LGBTQ community.

Rose, who is openly gay, said she was “truly grateful… to everyone who made season one a success”.

The 34-year-old said she had “the utmost respect” for everyone involved and that the decision to leave had not been “made lightly”.

(4) GETTING EVEN. Even if you’re working at home that presence is probably lurking in Zoom. Does James Davis Nicoll suspect what might happen after you read “Five Revenge Tales Featuring Treacherous Bosses and Evil Overlords”?

…David Drake’s mercenary troupe, Hammer’s Slammers (commanded by Friesland’s Colonel Alois Hammer), was formed to suppress an uprising on Friesland’s colony-world Melpomone. The foreign mercenaries were offered settlement on wealthy Friesland in exchange for their services, as well as a chunk of cash. But after the mercenaries crushed the rebellion, Friesland’s government decided that it wasn’t such a great idea to settle battle-hardened mercenaries in their midst. Nor did it seem like a good idea to let the mercenaries sell their skills to other employers, since said employers could well be Friesland’s enemies. Best idea: kill off the now-superfluous soldiers. Friesland expects that their own Colonel Hammer will acquiesce. They are wrong. Hammer sides with his soldiers. Forewarned, the Slammers obliterate their would-be assassins and become the very destabilizing force that Friesland had feared.

(5) FULFILLING A ROLL. In “A City Locks Down to Fight Coronavirus, but Robots Come and Go”, the New York Times studies the success of an emerging technology.

If any place was prepared for quarantine, it was Milton Keynes. Two years before the pandemic, a start-up called Starship Technologies deployed a fleet of rolling delivery robots in the small city about 50 miles northwest of London.

The squat six-wheeled robots shuttled groceries and dinner orders to homes and offices. As the coronavirus spread, Starship shifted the fleet even further into grocery deliveries. Locals like Emma Maslin could buy from the corner store with no human contact.

“There’s no social interaction with a robot,” Ms. Maslin said.

The sudden usefulness of the robots to people staying in their homes is a tantalizing hint of what the machines could one day accomplish — at least under ideal conditions. Milton Keynes, with a population of 270,000 and a vast network of bicycle paths, is perfectly suited to rolling robots. Demand has been so high in recent weeks, some residents have spent days trying to schedule a delivery.

(6) THOMAS OBIT. German film composer Peter Thomas, who died May 19, aged 94. Cora Buhlert says that since she couldn’t find an English language obituary, she wrote one herself: “In Memoriam: Peter Thomas”. Thomas provided the soundtracks for a lot of SFF works, including the legendary SF TV series Raumpatrouille Orion as well as the 1959 science fiction film Moonwolf and a lost TV adaptation of G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday. A lot of the Edgar Wallace thrillers, for which he composed the music, are borderline SFF as well.

(7) LIPPINCOTT OBIT. Charles Lippincott (1939-2020), whose work marketing Star Wars changed the way movies are publicized, died May 19 following a heart attack last week. He was 80. The Hollywood Reporter traced his beginnings:

Lippincott worked on campaigns for a number of groundbreaking films, including Michael Crichton’s Westworld (1973); Alfred Hitchcock’s final film, Family Plot (1976); Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979); and Flash Gordon (1980). But it was his work on Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) that left the biggest mark, and he helped reshape how movies are marketed.

Craig Miller, in his recent book Star Wars Memories, notes that Lippincott went to USC Film School at the same time as George Lucas. At the Star Wars Corporation —

Charley was responsible for a lot. He made sure every character, every name, every image was properly copyrighted and trademarked. He made the licensing deals (along with Marc Pevers, an attorney who was Vice President of Licensing at 20th Century Fox) for the merchandise that, despite the enormous box office gross, was the real profit center for Lucasfilm. He was even part of the pitches to the 20th Century-Fox Board, to help convince them to make the movie.

Charles Lippincott

Lippincott’s other film publicity and advertising credits include Judge Dredd (which he also produced) and Comic Book Confidential (which he wrote and produced), which starred Star Wars’ Mark Hammill.

I’ve always been grateful to him for the chance to bask in the reflected glory of Star Wars when, in my first meeting as LASFS president, held at the 1976 Westercon, I introduced his promotional pre-release Star Wars slide show.

You can find many posts about marketing and Star Wars industry history at his blog From the Desk of Charles Lippincott.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 20, 1950 Dimension X’s “The Lost Race” was playing on NBC stations nationwide. Ernest Kinoy adapted the story from Murray Leinster’s “The Lost,” first published in the April 1949 of Thrilling Wonder Stories. A space crew find themselves shipwrecked on a world where the ruins of a long dead spacefaring civilization hide a deadly secret that has much power to destroy the present as it did the past.  Matt Crowley, Kermit Murdock and Joseph Julian were the cast. You can listen to it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 20, 1799 – Honoré de Balzac.  His complete works total 20,000 pages.  We can claim six novels, three dozen shorter stories, translated into English, German, Romanian, sometimes more than once.  What of The Quest for the Absolute, whose alchemist hero at the end cries Eureka! [Greek, “I have found it”] and dies: is it fantasy?  (Died 1850) [JH]
  • Born May 20, 1911 Gardner Francis Fox. Writer for DC comics and other companies as well. He was prolific enough that historians of the field estimate he wrote more than four thousand comics stories, including 1,500 for just DC Comics. For DC, he created The Flash, Adam Strange and The Atom, plus the Justice Society of America. His first SF novel was Escape Across the Cosmos though he wrote a tie-in novel, Jules Verne’s Five Weeks in a Balloon, previously. (Died 1986.) (CE)
  • Born May 20, 1911 – Annie Schmidt.  Mother of the Dutch theatrical song, queen of Dutch children’s literature.  Hans Christian Andersen Medal.  Poetry, songs, plays, musicals, radio and television for adults.  Two fantasies for us, Minoes (tr. as The Cat Who Came In Off the Roof), Pluk van de Petteflet (tr. as Tow-Truck Pluck).  One of fifty in the Dutch Canon with Erasmus, Rembrandt, Spinoza, Van Gogh, Anne Frank; see here.  (Died 1995) [JH]
  • Born May 20, 1925 – Roy Tackett.  “HORT” (Horrible Old Roy Tackett, so named by Bruce Pelz; while RT was alive, anyone hearing this responded “Oh, I know Roy, and he’s not that old!”) is credited with introducing SF to Japan.  Active since 1936, drifted away in the late 1950s, returned upon finding the Coulsons’ fanzine Yandro, published a hundred issues of his fanzine Dynatron.   Co-founded the Albuquerque (New Mexico) SF Society and Bubonicon.  Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate, 1976; report, Tackett’s Travels in Taffland.  Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon XXI and the 55th Worldcon.  (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born May 20, 1928 Shirley Rousseau Murphy, 92. Author of the Joe Grey series of mysteries. Its narrator is a feline who speaks and who solves mysteries. Surely that’s genre. Excellent series which gets better in characterization as it goes along. She also did some more traditional genre, none of which I’ve encountered, the Children of Ynell series and the Dragonbard trilogy. (CE)
  • Born May 20, 1940 Joan Staley. She showed up twice as Okie Annie on Batman in “It’s How You Play the Game” and “Come Back, Shame“. She played Ginny in Mission Impossible’s two-parter, “The Council”, and she was in Prehistoric Valley (Dinosaurs! Caveman! Playboy mates in bikinis!) (Died 2019) (CE)
  • Born May 20, 1946 – Mike Glicksohn.  A great loccer (“loc” also “LoC” = letter of comment, the blood of fanzines) comparable to Harry Warner; three Fan Activity Achievement awards.  Founding member of Ontario (Canada) SF Club.  With Susan Wood published the superb fanzine Energumen, Hugo winner 1973; with her, Fan Guests of Honour at the 33rd Worldcon; his trip report, The Hat Goes Home (he famously wore an Australian bush hat).  Co-founded the fanziners’ con Ditto (named for a brand of spirit-duplicator machine).  One of our best auctioneers at Art Shows, at fund-raisers for cons and for traveling-fan funds.  (Died 2011) [JH]
  • Born May 20, 1949 – Mary Pope Osborne.  Children’s and young-adults’ book author best known for the Magic Tree House series, sixty of them so far; 164 million copies sold; animé film grossed $5.7 million, donated to educational projects.  Iliad and Odyssey retelling books, also myths e.g. Echo, Atalanta, Ceres; Thor, Baldur.  Thirty chapbooks.  Camped six weeks in a cave on Crete.  Two separate terms president of the Authors Guild.  Says she tries to be as simple and direct as Hemingway.  Honorary Doctorate of Letters, U. North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  [JH]
  • Born May 20, 1951 Steve Jackson, 69. With Ian Livingstone, he founded Games Workshop and  also the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, the two most dominant aspects of the UK games industry before it came to be essentially wiped by the advent of videogames. I’m fairly sure the only one of his works that I’ve played is Starship Traveller which I’d been playing around the same time as Traveller. (CE)
  • Born May 20, 1954 – Pat Morrissey.  Thirty covers, a hundred twenty interiors; Magic, the Gathering cards; limited-edition prints; tattoos; Einstein Planetarium at Smithsonian Institute; Philadelphia Museum of Science; sometimes as Pat Lewis, Pat Morrissey-Lewis.  See herehere.  [JH]
  • Born May 20, 1954 – Luis Royo.  Prolific Spanish artist; covers in and out of our field, comics, a Tarot deck, CDs, video games; a domed-ceiling fresco in Moscow (with his son Romulo Royo).  Spectrum silver award, Inkpot award.  See hereherehere.  [JH]
  • Born May 20, 1961 Owen Teale, 59. Best known role is as Alliser Thorne on the just concluded Game of Thrones. He also was Will Scarlet in the superb Robin Hood where the lead role was performed by Patrick Bergin, he played the theologian Pelagius in 2004 King Arthur, was Vatrenus in yet another riff on Arthurian myth called The Last Legion, was Maldak in the “Vengeance on Varos” episode in the Era of the Sixth Doctor, and was Evan Sherman in the “Countrycide” episode of Torchwood. He’s currently playing Peter Knox in A Discovery of Witches based on the All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness, named after the first book in the trilogy. (CE)
  • Born May 20, 1968 Timothy Olyphant, 52. He’s been cast in the next season of The Mandalorian where he might be Sheriff Cobb Vanth which in turn means he’d be wearing Bobo Fett’s salvaged armor. And he was Sheriff Seth Bullock in the Deadwood franchise which must at least genre adjacent given the great love of it by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly.  (CE)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) A KINDER CUT. Apparently, we’ll get to find out. “What if the Snyder Cut of Justice League is actually great?” Jeffrey Lyles of Lyles Movie Files has hope.

…All of which to say is I’m actually very interested in the HBO Max launch 2021 reveal of the Snyder cut of Justice League. I’m surprised it needs to wait another year to debut unless Warner Bros. is throwing out some more cash for some post production elements. If anything the Snyder cut will be a win because it shouldn’t feature a digitally removed mustache version of Cavill’s Superman with the odd lip CGI.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Snyder said while he’s never watched the version Joss Whedon completed, fans “probably saw one-fourth of what I did.” Snyder added, “It will be an entirely new thing, and, especially talking to those who have seen the released movie, a new experience apart from that movie.

(12) SPACEX MISSION. “Astronauts arrive at Kennedy for historic launch” – BBC has the story.

Nasa astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken have arrived at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to prepare for their historic mission next week.

The pair’s flight to the International Space Station (ISS) will be made in a rocket and capsule system provided by a commercial company, SpaceX.

Nasa has traditionally always owned and operated its space vehicles.

But that is a capability it gave up in 2011 when it retired the last of the space shuttles.

The agency now intends to contract out all future crew transportation to low-Earth orbit.

Hurley and Behnken flew into Florida from the agency’s human spaceflight headquarters in Texas where they have been in quarantine.

They’ll continue protecting their health at Kennedy as they get ready for Wednesday’s planned lift-off.

Their rocket, a Falcon-9, and capsule, known as Dragon, will be wheeled out to the spaceport’s famous launch pad – complex 39A – in the next few days for its static fire test.

This will see the Falcon ignite briefly all nine of its first-stage engines to check they are fit to go.

(13) TURNOVER AT NASA. But why did you resign? NASA doesn’t usually remind me of The Prisoner, “Nasa: Doug Loverro steps down days before crewed launch”.

The head of Nasa’s human spaceflight programme has stepped down just days before a “historic” launch.

Doug Loverro resigned on Monday, Nasa announced, less than a year after his appointment.

…No official reason for Mr Loverro’s departure has been announced, but a leaked copy of an email sent to Nasa employees mentioned a risk taken earlier in the year “because I judged it necessary to fulfil our mission”.

“Now, over the balance of time, it is clear that I made a mistake in that choice for which I alone must bear the consequences,” the message continued.

While Mr Loverro offered no further explanation, he told the Axios news website that his decision to leave the agency was unrelated to the upcoming launch. “I have 100% faith in the success of that mission,” he said.

Mr Loverro was appointed in October last year. His deputy, Ken Bowersox, will become the acting head of human spaceflight.

(15) BIG BIRD. And BBC has the word: “Megaraptor: Fossils of 10m-long dinosaur found in Argentina”.

Palaeontologists have found the fossils of a new megaraptor in Patagonia, in the south of Argentina.

Megaraptors were large carnivorous dinosaurs with long arms and claws measuring up to 35cm (14in) in length.

They also had powerful legs and long tails which made them more agile than the Tyrannosaurus rex and allowed them to catch smaller herbivorous dinosaurs.

The new megaraptor is one of the last of its group, before dinosaurs became extinct, the scientific team says.

(16) TAKE ONE TABLET AND CALL ME IN THE MORNING. “Gilgamesh tablet: Bid to confiscate artefact from Museum of the Bible reports the BBC.

US prosecutors are seeking to confiscate a rare ancient tablet from a Christian museum co-founded by the president of retailer Hobby Lobby.

The 3,500-year-old artefact, from what is now Iraq, bears text from the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the world’s oldest works of literature.

Prosecutors allege that an auction house deliberately withheld information about its origins.

Hobby Lobby said it was co-operating with government investigations.

It bought the tablet from the auction house in a private sale in 2014 for $1.67m (£1.36m) for display at the Museum of the Bible in Washington.

The office of the US attorney for the Eastern District of New York says the tablet was illegally imported into the US.

(17) JEOPARDY! Last night’s Jeopardy! contestants struggled with this one, says Andrew Porter.

Category: Adventure Novels.

Answer: In this novel the surname of a pastor, his wife & 4 sons is not given in the text; the title was meant to evoke a 1719 novel.

Wrong questions: “What is Gulliver’s Travels?” and “What is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea?”

Correct question: “What is Swiss Family Robinson?”

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “This is What The Matrix Really Looks Like Without CGI!!!–Special Effects Breakdown” on YouTube, Fame Focus looks at how the special effects crew of the matrix used a combination of CGI, wire work, rear projection, and miniatures to acheive the spectacular special effects of The Matrix.

[Thanks to John Hertz, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, N., Mike Kennedy, Richard Horton, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]