Pixel Scroll 5/20/22 With Great Pixels Come Great Scrolls

(1) AUTHORS SEND CONGRESS LETTER AGAINST BOOK BANNING. We Need Diverse Books reports on the “Letter from 1,300 Children’s and YA Authors on Book Banning” sent to the House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties this week.

…The letter was drafted by two-time Newbery Honor-winning author Christina Soontornvat, who was informed by a Texas school that they could not invite her to speak to students because they feared that conservative parents in their district would object to her living in a liberal city (Soontornvat resides in Austin). Alarmed by this decision and by the hateful rhetoric that has accompanied the growing list of banned books, Soontornvat decided to organize with other authors and develop a call for action….

In it, the authors condemned “the current wave of book suppression that specifically targets titles by creators who are LGBTQIA+ and Black, Indigenous, and people of color.”

The signers include Dhonielle Clayton, Rick Riordan, Jacqueline Woodson, John Green, Raina Telgemeier, Malinda Lo, Alex Segura, Greg van Eekhout, Cecil Castellucci, Fran Wilde, Mark Oshiro, Stephanie Burgis, and Leigh Bardugo. The letter reads in part —

…This current wave of book suppression follows hard-won gains made by authors whose voices have long been underrepresented in publishing. Just ten years ago, less than seven percent of children’s books featured characters who were Black, Indigenous, or people of color (source: Cooperative Children’s Book Center). Representation is finally increasing thanks to the work of groups like We Need Diverse Books. The current banning efforts are part of a strong and purposeful backlash against books written by BIPOC authors. Books with characters who are LGBTQIA+ have been vehemently targeted and frequently misrepresented.

When books are removed or flagged as inappropriate, it sends the message that the people in them are somehow inappropriate. It is a dehumanizing form of erasure. Every reader deserves to see themselves and their families positively represented in the books in their schools. These books are important for all children. Reading stories that reflect the diversity of our world builds empathy and respect for everyone’s humanity. At a time when our country is experiencing an alarming rise in hate crimes, we should be searching for ways to increase empathy and compassion at every turn.

A particularly insidious feature of the current attacks is the flood of accusations that anyone who seeks to give readers access to diverse books is a “groomer,” “radical,” or “pedophile.” These charges are abhorrent and without merit, and they have been leveled against not only authors, but against teachers and librarians. We strongly condemn this slander against our colleagues and our nation’s educators.

A book may not be for every student, but—as we know from the many letters we receive from young readers—a single book can matter deeply to an individual student. Nearly all campuses have an existing system to handle a parent’s concern with their own child’s reading material. Pro-censorship groups seek to overwhelm these systems by pressuring schools to pull entire lists of books from shelves “for review.” Some extremists have intimidated authors, educators, and school board members online and even threatened them with violence. This has created an atmosphere of fear that has led to “soft censorship” in many districts. Books are quietly removed or never purchased at all. Authors are never invited to speak, for fear of drawing the wrath of these groups.

Libraries are bastions of the First Amendment. They provide equal access to a wealth of knowledge and ideas for all public school students. When individuals and organizations seek to advance their own political agendas or personal beliefs by censoring books, they infringe upon students’ constitutional rights.

We call upon Congress, statehouses, and school boards to reject the political manipulation of our schools, to uphold the values of freedom and equality promised in the Constitution, and to protect the rights of all young people to access the books they need and deserve.

(2) SLOW DJINN. Camestros Felapton continues his exploration of the finalists with “Hugo 2022 Novel: A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark”.

…From a Hugo perspective, there is an obvious comparison to be made with the 2021 Best Novel winner Network Effect, the novel-length Murderbot story. Although quite different genres, both novels are sequels to a successful set of novellas that have received consistent Hugo attention. Both novels are longer stories with established characters that deliver on the qualities that people admired in the earlier works….

(3) ABOUT YOUR DARLINGS. Marissa Lingen mentors writers in “From Panic to Process: What Taking Criticism Actually Means” in Uncanny Magazine.

…. For me any piece of critique, large or small, can raise two questions about a work. First, how does it bring this work into better alignment with what it was intended to be doing? Second, if it challenges or reshapes those intentions, does it do so in a good way? The former question sounds grandiose when applied to small tasks like removing vague or repetitive language, but specificity helps convey your vision. Whether they change punctuation or add entirely new characters and subplots, revisions should have some method for bringing the work closer to its originating vision.

I think the latter question is often neglected because there is a common idea that only the creator can conceive of an artistic vision, which should remain pure and untrammeled. And this is true up to a point. But it is also true that sometimes it is not the execution but the concept itself that can benefit from critique. Those cases are the exception to the rule that revision should bring works closer to their original intention—rather, the entire vision for the work can be improved….

(4) IT’S BAD. Vogon Poetry Slam 2022 will be livestreamed May 25 beginning at 11:00 a.m. Pacific. Register for the free event at Eventbrite.

For the second year running, the Vogon Slam has hacked into Deep Thought and is back to take over your computer for a night of vintage Vogon poetry!

WORST POET WINS! The Vogon Poetry Slam is part tribute to Douglas Adams, part geek-out, and part release valve for the occasional stinker that all creatives occasionally make. Come, hoopy froods, for a night of nerding, gnashing of teeth, and tortuously bad poetry.

We also have:

– Bureaucracy!

– A communal reading of Paul Neil Milne’s “Dead Swans” poem (the worst poem in the universe!)

– Our special guest, the Ambassador of the Azgoths of Kria

– A feature set from reigning Vogon Poetry Slam Champion (and actual real-life good poet) Tim Kiely!

(5) GONE TO HECK. “Hugh Jackman makes his Simpsons debut singing about middle class decline” with an intro by Entertainment Weekly.

The Simpsons has been running so long (the season 33 finale airs this Sunday) that some elements of its basic premise no longer track in the modern economic context. Modern viewers might very well wonder how an oaf like Homer (Dan Castellanata) can afford a house and car on a single income. Well, don’t worry: Hugh Jackman shows up in the upcoming season finale to explain the history of the American middle class — in song, of course! 

… In the episode, Jackman voices a janitor at the nuclear power plant where Homer works. Bart (Nancy Cartwright) has accompanied his father to the job site, where the janitor explains how the post-World War II era brought prosperity to the American middle class that allowed people like Homer to succeed despite their failings. But then “gradually, it all went to hell,” as Jackman sings.

(6) YOU’LL HAVE TO PAY A BOUNTY FOR THIS ONE. “A Boba Fett Watch Costs $120,000 Redefining Star Wars Items” is Gizmodo’s jaw-dropping headline.

…io9 is filled with writers and readers who are wild about Star Wars, but do any of us know someone who could throw down $120,000 on a Star Wars watch?

A company called Kross Studio hopes there are at least 10 of those people out there. It’s created a super high-end, super limited-edition watch inspired by Boba Fett and the recently renamed Boba Fett’s Starship. Composed of 220 parts, one of which is a one-of-a-kind, handmade mini-replica of Boba Fett’s Starship that takes 90 hours to make (each!), the watch has to be seen to be believed. So here are some images….

The photos come from the Kross Studio website: Boba Fett™ Collector Set.

One of the most enigmatic characters in the Star Wars galaxy has inspired Kross Studio’s latest creation, in collaboration with Lucasfilm. The Swiss design studio is proud to reveal a new and limited edition of ten Boba Fett™-inspired collector sets, each complete with a numbered, manual wound Boba Fett™-inspired central Tourbillon timepiece and a watch display by EFX, inspired by Boba Fett™’s famed starship.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1997 [By Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-five years ago this evening, The Burning Zone series ended its brief run. It lasted but nineteen episodes on UPN (the United Paramount Network) and has had never been released on DVD or Blu-ray, nor licensed to an online streaming service. I’m trying to remember if it showed up on the dumping ground of genre series, Syfy, but I’m not certain it did.

It was created by Coleluck who had previously done the same with Otherworld, which I’ve never heard of, and M.A,N.T.I.S. that I’ve seen. He also did The Equalizer. (He’d write six episodes here.) He executive produced the series along with James Duff McAdams, Carleton Eastlake and Rob Gilmer. McAdams was involved on The Equalizer and M.A,N.T.I.S., Eastlake on SeaQuest DSV and Earth: Final Conflict and Gilmeron Relic Hunter and Knight Rider.

The series was the only drama ordered by UPN for the season that it was on. Everything else was a comedy including the Homeboys in Outer Space series which, yes, was genre.

Think Andromeda Strain crossed with X-Files. And not well done at that. Really I’m not kidding. So how was the reception? Some liked it, some didn’t.

Bret Watson at Entertainment Weekly said of the two genre series at UPN that “The subsequent Homeboys in Outer Space and the sci-fi schlock-fest The Burning Zone, however, have all but crashed and burned” 

Caryn James of the New York Times thought it was fine for what it was: “The idea is ‘Outbreak’ meets ‘The X-Files,’ and everyone involved in ‘The Burning Zone’ keeps a straight face. But the show’s greatest appeal is to more specialized, cultish taste; intentionally or not, it offers the loopy delights of a cut-rate, over-the-top horror movie.” 

It has no rating at Rotten Tomatoes which is not surprising given it has largely if not completely been absent for viewing over the last quarter of a century. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 20, 1911 Gardner F 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 fifteen hundred 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.)
  • Born May 20, 1928 Shirley Rousseau Murphy, 94. Author of the Joe Grey series of mysteries. Its narrator is a feline who speaks and who solves mysteries which is definitely genre. Excellent series which gets better in characterization as it goes along. And the audiobooks as narrated by Susan Boyce are a great deal of fun listening. She also did some more traditional genre fiction, none of which I’ve read in the Children of Ynell series and the Dragonbard trilogy. 
  • Born May 20, 1936 Anthony Zerbe, 86. Zerbe played the major role of Matthias, the news anchor turned mutant albino cult leader determined to kill Charlton Heston’s Richard Neville in The Omega Man, the loosely-adapated 1971 film version of Richard Matheson’s novel, I Am Legend. He  was the villain Milton Krest in the Licence to Kill bond film;  Roger Stuart in Steven King’s The Dead Zone; Admiral Dougherty in Star Trek: Insurrection; and Councillor Hamann in The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. Series wise, he showed up on the Wild, Wild West and five episodes of Mission: Impossible as five different characters, he was Dr. Charles Napier on the Asteroid series on NBC in 1997 that I never heard of. 
  • 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!) She also played Fiona in Brigadoon which has to be genre, isn’t it? (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 20, 1946 Cher, 76. Yes she was Alexandra Medford in The Witches of Eastwick, a film that I absolutely love and adore, (and no I’ve not read the novel) which is really her only genre credit. She did appear as Romana on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in “The Hot Number Affair” and she’s voicing herself in The New Scooby-Doo Movies which despite the name was actually a series, but that’s it. 
  • Born May 20, 1951 Steve Jackson, 71. The UK game designer (not to be confused with the owner of Steve Jackson Games). 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 have been playing around the same time as Traveller.
  • Born May 20, 1961 Owen Teale, 61. 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. I read most if not all of that series and it’s quite excellent. Keeping with my firm belief of never watching a series based on fiction that I really, really liked, I have not seen the series. 
  • Born May 20, 1968 Timothy Olyphant, 54. He’s been cast in the second season of The Mandalorian where he might be Sheriff Cobb Vanth which in turn would mean he’d be wearing Bobo Fett’s salvaged armor. And he was Sheriff Seth Bullock in the Deadwood franchise which must be at least genre adjacent given the great love of it by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly. Or not. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) STRANGE NEW WORLDS CAST Q&A. [Item by Michael Kennedy.] The Hollywood Reporter is publishing a series of interviews with Star Trek: Strange New Worlds actors.

I so appreciate that, right off the bat, the series deals with Spock’s exploration of his inner turmoil and conflict — trying to find his true self, as opposed to who he thinks others want him to be. You’re really pulling double duty at times in that battle.

Absolutely. I’ve been really fortunate with the level of nuance they’ve given to me in the writing. It’s also been very scary. This is such a precious character, not just to the fans, but to me. And like I said, one of the gifts of the episodic format is that every episode’s a new adventure, not knowing what Spock is going to be doing. So I feel like I’m constantly kind of searching for the character and understanding the inner details, which again is a gift.

Spock wants to be accepted by Vulcan, by his people whom he’s grown up with, but he has never been accepted because he’s half human. This is a struggle that exists on our planet, and I may not be the best representative of that, but we have amazing writers who do experience that today. I know that they contribute quite heavily to Spock’s life in that way. His human side is undeniable. He must explore it. And I think eventually his understanding of his humanness is what makes him who he will become later in the Original Series. His emotional side draws in valuable information that he can use in his problem-solving. He’s a beautiful person to be portraying and to be discovered.

What does Broadway represent to you?

Broadway has been a haven for me since I was a little girl. The opportunity to leave my troubles backstage and be whisked away to a completely different world was everything to me, especially growing up as a young Black person in predominantly white institutions. Of course, as I grew up, I learned that the things I was trying to escape are inescapable, but live theater still was a means of escape to me.

When you were auditioning for the role of Uhura, what attracted you to the character?

Fun fact, actually: I didn’t know that I was auditioning for the role of Uhura until after I booked it. Casting went about it in a very interesting way, and I think they actually gave me a bit of grace because I auditioned under a pseudonym. But her character description really got to me: She was described as a bright, young prodigy who is deciding whether or not the place that she’s in is where she wants to be right now. And as someone who is very young in this industry and is still figuring out what my explicit goal and dream is in this life, I found that a lot of her story and a lot of her mentality mirrored mine — in a different industry.

I’m glad that you talked about diving into the character. He’s so mythic in Star Trek lore. Were you given a backstory to help you develop the character, or did you develop your backstory, or was it all canon?

April was Gene Roddenberry’s original pitch back in 1964 to CBS for the captain role, but he was changed to Capt. Pike later when NBC accepted it. That was cool to discover. And then, in the 1974 animated series, he was really introduced in “The Counter-Clock Incident.” So, it’s cool how it all came together.  I’m learning a lot. I grew up a big sci-fi fan.

A friend of mine is friends with LeVar Burton, and LeVar was so kind. He sent me a video welcoming me to the franchise, and I was just so moved by his generosity. He basically said, “Welcome. We are family, and we’re just proud to have you.” He said that when Gene set out to make Star Trek, he knew that as human beings, we could get our shit together. And if we were to become a space-faring civilization, we had to solve the problems that lie in here now. That is the core of Star Trek‘s ethos. It’s about us all working together to build a better future.

The uniforms appear to be different from those on Discovery. They look more comfortable even. How were they changed for Strange New Worlds

The uniforms are a world of difference from the Discovery uniforms. (Laughs.) They’re a lot more forgiving, they fall more naturally, and there are fewer zippers involved. They are more of a throwback.

The sets are just incredible. Working on those had to make you feel like a kid in a candy store, fair to say? 

Jonathan Lee did a phenomenal job as our production designer. I feel like he really accomplished a lot of different goals, balancing a lot of different elements. You want something that pays attention to canon and is a homage to the past and yet accomplishes the scale of television today. And he then retains a very specific mid-century modern look from the 1960s. There are some pieces that you might find in a super upscale version of Macy’s in 1967. It retains that cool ’60s vibe, but in an updated way, which I really dig.

(11) BOEING BACK IN THE SPACE RACE. “Boeing successfully launches Starliner spacecraft to orbit in do-over test flight”The Verge supplies details of the May 19 flight.  

Nearly two and a half years after its first launch didn’t go to plan, Boeing’s new passenger spacecraft, the CST-100 Starliner, successfully launched to space this afternoon, reaching the right orbit it needed to achieve to rendezvous with the International Space Station tomorrow evening. The successful launch marks the beginning of a crucial test flight for Starliner that will play out over the next week in space, one that will help demonstrate if the capsule is capable of carrying humans to space one day.

Starliner is a private spacecraft that Boeing developed in partnership with NASA, primarily to help transport the agency’s astronauts to and from the International Space Station in low Earth orbit. The capsule is one of two vehicles, along with SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, that NASA helped to fund in order to transition space transportation from the government to commercial companies. But before NASA’s astronauts can ride Starliner, the space agency wants Boeing to demonstrate the capsule can perform all of the tasks of a normal spaceflight mission without a crew on board.

(12) LOST THEIR SHIRT. H&I has another little anecdote that explains “The Redshirt Massacre: What Really Went Down In The Enterprise Laundry Room”. Click and learn!

(13) A MARTIAN ODYSSEY. The For All Mankind Official Season 3 trailer.

In season three, the Red Planet becomes the new frontier in the Space Race not only for the U.S. and the Soviet Union, but also an unexpected new entrant with a lot to prove and even more at stake. Our characters find themselves going head-to-head as their ambitions for Mars come into conflict and their loyalties are tested, creating a pressure cooker that builds to a climactic conclusion.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Chrono Cross,” Fandom Games says this is a classic “only because people have been arguing about it for 20 years.” You fight with a “battle toothpick” that’s a cross between , “a pole, a Q-tip, and that thing they fought with in American Gladiators.”  But how many games have a talking mushroom named “Funguy?”

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

Pixel Scroll 2/21/22 And The Scrolls That Mother Gives You Don’t Have Any Pixels At All

(1) WAVE FUNCTION. Jim Benford was interviewed in a double-segment of 60 Minutes about the “Havana Syndrome” that is sickening State Department staffers around the world. He was interviewed as an expert on microwaves and as the author of High Power Microwaves, a copy of which was shown on screen. He was asked if the syndrome could be caused by a microwave weapon. Here’s an excerpt from the transcript.

James Benford: I think the best explanation, the most plausible, is that it’s a high-power microwave weapon.

James Benford is a physicist and leading authority on microwaves. He was not part of the government studies, but he co-wrote the book on microwave transmission. These are portable microwave transmitters of the kind that could damage the tissues of the brain.

James Benford: There are many kinds, and they can go anywhere in size from a suitcase all the way up to a large tractor trailer unit. And the bigger the device, the longer the range. 

Scott Pelley: This would be able to transmit its microwave energy through the wall of a van, the wall of a home, something like that?

James Benford: Vans have windows, microwaves go through glass. They go through brick. They go through practically everything.

The technology, Benford told us, has been studied more than 50 years.

James Benford: It’s been developed widely in, perhaps, a dozen countries. The primary countries are the United States, Russia and China.

(2) VALE LOVECRAFT. From Joseph T. Major’s latest Alexiad I learned: “H. P. Lovecraft has stunned the world by announcing that this summer will see the end of his regular advice videos, ‘Ask Lovecraft’, on YouTube. How blasphemeously rugose and squamous! …Leeman Kessler, the real voice of Ask Lovecraft, has a second child and regular responsibilities as Mayor of Gambier, Ohio. After ten years, this additional activity has become more than he can handle. We will miss Ask Lovecraft.”

The latest video assures listeners things will wind down gradually —

And we’re not ending right away. Have no fear, we’re going to take things to the middle of the year so that we are right on our 10th anniversary. Until that time we will continue to answer your questions, dispense wisdom and offer up all the jackanapes you’ve come to expect.

(3) IT’S THE ECONOMY. Author Kyle Galindez asks “Why can’t Hollywood sci-fi and fantasy imagine alternatives to capitalism or feudalism?” at Salon.

… As a fantasy author myself, I’m intrigued as to how writers’ imagination hit a wall when imagining political alternatives. I am reminded of the oft-quoted remark from literary theorist Frederic Jameson, who quipped that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism. Accordingly, the authors who are adept at imagining the end of capitalism are, more often than not, at the fringes….

(4) BY CROM, NOW THIS IS A MIGHTY ORGAN. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Found in my library’s sale pile, and purchased for a buck, because it didn’t occur to me to first check Hoopla, YouTube, etc:

Basil Poledouris’ soundtrack for the Conan The Barbarian movie, transcribed for organ, performed by Phillipp Pelster (on Amazon).

As opposed to the actual soundtrack: “Conan The Barbarian (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)” (via Hoopla).

Here’s one of several tracks, via YouTube:

Here it is being played on piano

And here’s a live orchestra performance (not just the organ):

By Crom’s Cavitous Teeth, I wouldst happily sell my copye for that dollar plus shipping (media mail even), elstwhyse I mayeth slip the foul thing back into the library’s for-sale box.

(5) MOCCA. The Society of Illustrators released the visuals for the 2022 MoCCA Arts Festival to be held April 2-3 in New York.

Featuring work by over 500 creators, the weekend will also include live lectures, panels, and artist signings! In one of the first independent comics festivals of the season, this year’s Fest will truly be a momentous occasion with many happy reunions for the community!

To help announce and promote this year’s Fest, the Society asked creator Yadi Liu, previous MoCCA Arts Fest exhibitor and Award of Excellence gallery artist, to create a colorful, celebratory image. Liu’s art will grace the cover of the Souvenir Journal and will feature prominently on all advertising and promotional materials, as well as a selection of merchandise available to purchase at the SI Booth. “Yadi’s art really captures our excitement for the return of the Fest. After several years of challenges and disappointments, we are so happy to welcome everyone back!” said Executive Director Anelle Miller.

In addition to Liu’s art, the Society has also asked several notable artists to create work for the show. Natalie Andrewson’s whimsical creatures will be displayed on the badges, and Patrick McDonnell’s quirky MUTTS characters will be featured as spot illustrations found throughout the Fest. These featured artists will be attending the Fest, and their schedules and table locations will be released as the date approaches. 

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

How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? And how do you think it will continue to evolve?

For sure in the 50 years that I’ve been writing I see changes. Per diversity: In the beginning there were so few Blacks (and others) in genre writing. Since then it has increased in horror and science fiction and fantasy, which is good. The birth of black publishers and self-publishing has created an outlet for Other authors to offer their work to readers, in addition to the traditional publishers. We need this expanding to include more Others to continue. There are many different kinds of stories to be told and and creators to be seen. A big part of making this happen is for the publishing field to increase awareness and be willing to work at including other voices and realize that decision makers need to include Others.

Who are some African diaspora horror authors you recommend our audience check out?

The incredibly talented Chesya Burke is a writer who first came to my attention when I was putting together 60 Black Women in Horror. Valjeanne Jeffers and Crystal Connor are two writers who have impressed me with their short story work. I love L.A. Banks’ highly entertaining Vampire Huntress series. I love anthologies that give the reader a sampling of various African Diaspora horror writers, and Sycorax’s Daughers, edited by Linda Addison, Kinitra Brooks, and Susanna Morris and Dark Matter edited by Sheree Renee Thomas are two I recommend.

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

I was drawn to horror because I needed it. I needed the distraction, the escape. The truth is, I was sort of an outcast and a latch-key kid until high school, where I would settle into just being awkward. I’m the quintessential late bloomer. With that, all that we now label ‘nerd stuff’ drew my attention and helped keep my little mind off some of the more challenging aspects of my life. Because of my strange interests, the other kids didn’t get me, and to be fair, I may have handled it badly. To give you a sense of how early my problems started, the first fight I ever had in school was over a Planet of The Apes action figure which I mistakenly brought to school only to have someone try to steal it. That was second grade.

As far as horror was concerned, everything I was exposed to became part of this rich fantasy world I developed in my head. At any given moment my imagination let me either hunt Dracula or be just like them. Naturally, this was balanced out with fantasies about being Batman or Spider-Man but as I approached my teens, these fantasies became an addiction. I think that’s possible; being addicted to your own imagination. And mine is a beast. It’s been fed some of the best horror books and movies. There’s also been a lot of cross pollination within genres, like drama and comedy. That’s why there are certain things I cannot stop doing, like inserting humor into some of my work, or creating these dialogues that could easily be inserted into a family drama, if not for the fact it’s a vampire and a werewolf having the argument.

(7) THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK. The New York Times asked “How Marlon James, Novelist, Spends His Sundays”.

ON CALL When I come back here, I usually have to deal with people who don’t respect the sanctity of my Sunday, like the production team for this TV show I’m working on called “Get Millie Black,” a detective show set in the U.K. and Jamaica. It’s produced by HBO and hopefully will be out around this time in 2023. When you’re a writer, there’s no days off….

(8) WORLD VIDEO GAME HOF NOMINATIONS. You have until February 28 to submit a recommendation for the 2022 World Video Game Hall of Fame sponsored by The Strong National Museum of Play.

Do you have a favorite video game that deserves to join icons such as Pong, Pac-ManSuper Mario Bros., TetrisThe Legend of Zelda, and The Oregon Trail in The Strong’s World Video Game Hall of Fame? Video game lovers everywhere are urged to submit nominations for induction onlineSubmissions for nominations must be made by Monday, February 28, 2022. Finalists will be announced in March, 2022, and inductees will be revealed at a special ceremony at The Strong museum on May 5, 2022.

The World Video Game Hall of Fame at The Strong was established in 2015 to recognize individual electronic games of all types—arcade, console, computer, handheld, and mobile—that meet the following criteria: icon-status, the game is widely recognized and remembered; longevity, the game is more than a passing fad and has enjoyed popularity over time; geographical reach, the game meets the above criteria across international boundaries; and influence, the game has exerted significant influence on the design and development of other games, on other forms of entertainment, or on popular culture and society in general.

(9) WADE IN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna writes about “Homer At the Bat,” a classic episode of The Simpsons that first aired in February 1992 and was one of the first episodes to feature multiple celebrities in one episode.  Cavna reports the episode is packed with baseball lore (if you know who Cap Anson was, this is a show for you) and he interviews Wade Boggs, who says at autograph shows “I feel like I’m at a Comic-Con” because he has as many fans asking him to sign stills from The Simpsons as he does photos of him in a Red Sox, Yankees, or Devil Rays uniform. “’Homer at the Bat’ at 30: The ‘Simpsons’ baseball episode that pushed the show’s boundaries”.

…As Major League Baseball endures a lockout and faces a possible delay to this season, it’s an apt occasion to remember another time when ballplayers and management didn’t see eye to eye. Enter Homer, Mr. Burns and themighty lineup of imported pro ringers.

“Homer at the Bat,” which featured the voices of nine active major leaguers andmade its debutFeb. 20, 1992,was more than a quirky one-off in celebrity stunt casting. The 17th episode of Season 3 emboldened the minds behind “The Simpsons” to push the boundaries of what an animated half-hour series could do and show.

And from a ratings standpoint, it was a bellwether for the surging show: “Homer at the Bat” marked the first time that a new “Simpsons” episode beat an original episode of “The Cosby Show,” long an NBC juggernaut; on that prime-time Thursday night, “Simpsons” softball also topped CBS’s Winter Olympics coverage from Albertville, France….

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1967 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Fifty-five years ago, Raquel Welch starred in One Million Years B.C. which was financed by Hammer Film Productions and Seven Arts. It was a remake of One Million B.C., a film made twenty-seven years earlier. The original film was also known as Cave Man, Man and His Mate and Tumak. That film was produced by Hal Roach and D. W. Griffith who I know you’ll recognize. 

 It was directed by Don Chaffey from the screenplay by Michael Carreras which in turn was based off the screenplay for the first film written by Mickell Novack, George Baker and Joseph Frickert. 

The primary cast was Raquel Welch as Loana and John Richardson as Tumak with rest of the cast being Percy Herbert as Sakana, Robert Brown as Akhoba, Martine Beswick as Nupondi  and Jean Wladon as Ahot. 

Ray Harryhausen animated all of the dinosaur attacks using stop-motion animation techniques, and also coordinated all of the live action creatures used from turtles to crickets and iguanas. 

So what was the reception for it? Most critics liked it. The Monthly Film Bulletin said that while it was “Very easy to dismiss the film as a silly spectacle; but Hammer production finesse is much in evidence and Don Chaffey has done a competent job of direction. And it is all hugely enjoyable.” And TV Guide said “While far from being one of Harryhausen’s best films (the quality of which had little to do with his abilities), the movie has superb effects that are worth a look for his fans.”

It cost just two point five million to make and made four point five million, a solid profit at the time.

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a really poor thirty-six percent rating which I admit surprised me.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 21, 1912 Peter Schuyler Miller. He wrote pulp fiction starting in the Thirties, and is generally considered one of the more popular writers of the period. His work appeared in such magazines as Amazing StoriesAstoundingThe Magazine of Fantasy and Science FictionMarvel TalesSuper Science Stories, and Weird Tales to name but a few of the publications he appeared in. He began book reviewing beginning initially for Astounding Science Fiction and later for its successor, Analog. The 1963 Worldcon presented him with a special committee award for book reviewing. He had but two novels, Genus Homo, written with L. Sprague de Camp, and Alicia in Blunderland. (Died 1974.)
  • Born February 21, 1914 H.L. Gold. Editor of Galaxy from 1951 to 1960 and If from 1959 to 1961. Before that, from 1939-41 he was an assistant editor on Captain FutureStartling Stories and Thrilling Wonder Stories. He also was a writer working for DC in the early Forties on BatmanBoy Commandos, Superboy, Superman and Wonder Woman. In the Thirties, he wrote two novels, A Matter of Form and None But Lucifer, the latter with L. Sprague de Camp. And he wrote a double handful of short fiction. Philcon II awarded him, along with John W. Campbell, Jr. for Astounding Science Fiction, the Hugo for Best Professional Editor for his work on Galaxy. (Died 1996.)
  • Born February 21, 1935 Richard A. Lupoff. His career started off with Xero, a Hugo winning fanzine he edited with his wife Pat and Bhob Stewart.  A veritable who’s who of writers were published there. He also was a reviewer for Algol. To say he was prolific as a professional writer is an understatement as he’s known to have written at least fifty works, plus short fiction, and some non-fiction as well. I’m fond of Sacred Locomotive Flies and The Universal Holmes but your tolerance for his humor may vary. The usual digital suspects stock him deeply at quite reasonable prices. (Died 2020.)
  • Born February 21, 1937 Gary Lockwood, 85. Best remembered for his roles as astronaut Frank Poole in 2001: A Space Odyssey and as Lieutenant Commander Gary Mitchell in the Trek episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. He’s also in The Magic Sword as Sir George which Mystery Science Theatre admitted was pretty good, a rare admission for them. He’s got a number of genre of one-offs including the Earth II pilot, Mission ImpossibleNight GallerySix Million Dollar Man and MacGyver.
  • Born February 21, 1946 Anthony Daniels, 76. Obviously best known for playing C-3PO in the Star Wars film series. To my knowledge, he’s the only actor to have appeared in all of the productions in the series, no matter what they are. He has scant other genre creds but they are being in I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle as a Priest, voicing C-3PO in The Lego Movie and the same in Ralph Breaks the Internet. Did you know that Season 4, Episode 17 of The Muppet Show is listed as “The Stars of Star Wars” and C-3PO apparently appears on it? 
  • Born February 21, 1946 Alan Rickman. I’ll single him out for his role in the beloved Galaxy Quest as Dr. Lazarus but he’s got an extensive acting resume in our community. Of course he played Professor Severus Snape in the Potter franchise, and his first genre role was in the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as the Sheriff of Nottingham. He voiced Marvin the Paranoid Android in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a role worthy of an Academy Award. Voicing Absolem in Alice Through the Looking Glass was his final role. (Died 2016.)
  • Born February 21, 1950 Larry Drake. I know him best as the over the top Robert G. Durant in the Darkman franchise. His other genre roles are largely in series one offs such as several appearances on Tales from the Crypt, an appearance on The Outer Limits and even an episode of Star Trek: Voyager. (Died 2016.)
  • Born February 21, 1961 David D. Levine, 61. Winner of the Hugo Award at L.A. Con IV for the Best Short Story for his story “Tk’tk’tk” which you hear thisaway. He has the Adventures of Arabella Ashby series which currently is four novels strong. To date, he has had one collection titled Space Magic.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro with Batman and Robin – took me a moment to get it!
  • It’s The Argyle Sweater, but this one would be just as at home in Bizarro or The Far Side.
  • Dinosaur Comics’ creator tells the audience, “What this comic assumes is that the ninth and current Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, the former Prime Minister of Portugal, knows who Spider-Man is. I believe this to be an extremely fair assumption.”
  • Tom Gauld in the Guardian:

(13) EASTER EGGS. Each week Dan Piraro, the creator of the Bizarro newspaper comic, posts his Sunday comic, then a short essay. In “Pie Eyed” he explains all the extras in yesterday’s comic. There are plenty!

…Anyway, I’m fascinated by background jokes and hidden images. I’m saying all this because the Sunday cartoon above is a prime example of my obsession. There are so many background gags in this one it almost overwhelms the main joke. I’m aware of that but I can’t stop myself.

I’ve included Bunny’s Pie Repair as a business in the background of cartoons on city streets a bunch of times, but I think this one is the most elaborate version I’ve done. Here’s an enlargement for your convenience….

(14) ARCHIE’S NOTES. Bob Byrne turns another calendar page at West 35th Street: “Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Day 37” at Black Gate.

So, in 2020, as the Pandemic settled in like an unwanted relative who just came for a week and is still tying up the bathroom, I did a series of posts for the FB Page of the Nero Wolfe fan club, The Wolfe Pack. I speculated on what Stay at Home would be like for Archie, living in the Brownstone with Nero Wolfe, Fritz Brenner, and Theodore Horstmann. I have already re-posted days one through thirty-six. Here is thirty seven (April 27). It helps if you read the series in order, so I’ve included links to the earlier entries.

Day Thirty Seven – 2020 Stay at Home

I was looking through some old notebooks today and came across this gem from a case I never finished writing up. There have been times when I think Inspector Cramer really did want to lock me up forever, and this was one of them…

(15) ONCE AND FUTURE AILUROPHILES. Mark Twain House & Museum will host a free virtual event “A Cat’s Tale: Dr. Paul Koudounaris and Baba the Cat on the History of Cats in America” on Thursday, February 24 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Register here.

The Mark Twain House & Museum is delighted to welcome fellow feline enthusiast, historian, and author Paul Koudounaris – a man who might just love cats as much as Mark Twain did.

Paul will discuss the history of America’s felines and their oft neglected contributions. Presented with a slideshow of historical images, the talk will take the audience on a wild and harrowing journey to reclaim the prodigious achievements of some of our nation’s greatest cats. Learn about cats in wartime and their role in the Wild West. Hear the extraordinary stories of cats like Clementine Jones, who traveled 1600 miles to find her family in a home and city she had never before been in. Or Pooli, a World War II US Navy cat who is the most decorated military animal in American history. Or Kiddo the flying cat, the world’s first celebrity feline. Or the amazing Colonel, the greatest (and highest ranking!) cat in US Army history.

(16) KEEP CALM.

Twitter would not give me the blue check, so I can assure everyone that standards are being upheld.

(17) COULD IT BE…CTHULHU? “Galaxy’s Centre Hosts Hundreds Of Strange Tendrils” reports Nature.

The Galaxy’s population of mysterious filaments that emit bright radio waves is at least ten times larger than scientists realised

Radio astronomer Farhad Yusef-Zadeh co-discovered the first of these filaments in the 1980s.  The structures consist of electrons travelling at nearly the speed of light, on trajectories that spiral around magnetic-field lines. Now, Yusef-Zadeh, who is based at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and his collaborators have used MeerKAT, an array of 64 antennas in South Africa’s Northern Cape region, to take a series of 20 shots of the Milky Way’s central region, an effort that took some 200 hours.

The resulting composite image reveals a number of striking features, including expanding shock waves generated by supernovae, or exploding stars, and almost 1,000 filaments. The filaments’ spectral features suggest that their origin is not related to supernovae.

One possible explanation is that they originated from past cycles of activity of Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the Galaxy’s centre. Mysteriously, some of the filaments seem to be clustered together and evenly spaced, like the teeth of a comb.

(18) WALLY FUNK AND INGENUITY AWARDED. The National Air and Space Museum’s 2022 Michael Collins Trophy has been awarded to Wally Funk and the Mars Ingenuity Helicopter Team.

Wally Funk will receive the 2022 Michael Collins Trophy for Lifetime Achievement. Funk embodies the adage of “never give up on your dreams.” Since her first flying lesson in 1948 at age 9 and enrollment in flight school at 16, Funk knew that she wanted to fly, despite societal biases against women in aviation. After earning multiple certificates and ratings, she set her sights even higher in the sky—space. She was one of the top-performing participants in the Lovelace Woman in Space Program and dedicated decades of her life to flight instruction and safety, having logged over 19,600 hours of flight time, while never abandoning her dream of going to space. In 2021, that dream came true when she launched on the first crewed suborbital mission of Blue Origin’s New Shepard capsule.

MiMi Aung and the Mars Helicopter Ingenuity Team will receive the 2022 Michael Collins Trophy for Current Achievement. In April 2021, a small robotic helicopter achieved the first powered flight on another planet. Delivered to the surface of Mars by the rover Perseverance, Ingenuity was a technology demonstration aboard the Mars 2020 mission and successfully proved that flight was possible on the Red Planet. It is also now serving as a helpful tool to aid rover exploration of Mars. Ingenuity completed increasingly challenging flights and scouted areas for the Perseverance rover’s upcoming treks. Ingenuity’s “Wright brothers moment” captured the attention of the public back on planet Earth and inspired everyone to imagine what could be next in planetary exploration.

Congratulations to these two worthy recipients! They will be honored at an event at the end of March. The event is sponsored by Atlas Air Worldwide, BAE Systems, Booz Allen Hamilton, The Claude Moore Charitable Foundation, Jacobs, Leidos, National Air Traffic Controllers Association, Pratt & Whitney, Sierra Nevada Corporation, and Thales.

(19) FLAME ON. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This remake of Stephen King’s Firestarter is coming in May and has a kid “who can unleash a nuclear explosion simply by using the powers of her mind.”  Gosh wow!

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. This video, which dropped yesterday, has Ryan George playing an apprentice ghost who’s having a hard time learning not to haunt people: “Ghosts Are Bad At Revenge”.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/29/21 Will You Still Need Me, Will You Still Read Me, When I Pixel Scroll?

(1) GET AN EARFUL. Today File 770 partnered with AudioFile Magazine to unveil “AudioFile’s 2021 Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Audiobooks”. Here is the link to the complete AudioFile Magazine – Best Of 2021 list.

We love hearing a good story well told, and we know that you do, too: the comfort and intimacy of a voice in your ear, the pleasure of being completely swept up in a narrative. That’s why, every December, we are so glad to celebrate audio excellence by selecting AudioFile’s Best Audiobooks. Thank you to all of the narrators, directors, producers, and publishers who filled our year with good listening.

(2) A PAY SERVICE NIXES DISCON III. “WeChat Restrictions, We Tried, We Really Tried” says DisCon III:  

“We have had to remove WeChat as a payment option. Due to their restrictions on charitable giving, we are unable to use WeChat services at this time. Our tech team is working to find a workaround to help overseas fans who want to pay using WeChat. That said, all of our other avenues are still available, and there’s still time to join us at DisCon III. Please visit our member services page to purchase your membership.” said Mary Robinette Kowal, Chair of DisCon III. 

(3) ON BROADWAY. [Item by Daniel Dern.] The opening of (Marvel) Hawkeye (new TV series) includes Clint “Hawkeye” Barton (and his 3 kids) going to a performance of Rogers The Musical (note that the signage looks very Hamiltonian), and we get to, delightfully, see about half of “I Can Do This All Day” about the NYC invasion, in the first Avengers movie.

Here’s one of many articles on this, including an audio with the full lyrics:  “Hear Hawkeye’s Rogers: The Musical song, and how Marvel pulled it off” at Polygon.

… Written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, who have collaborated on other Broadway musical adaptations like Hairspray and Catch Me If You CanRogers is the MCU’s latest attempt to reminisce over past battles with a wink and nod. A little like the scene in Loki where the God of Mischief finds Infinity stones being used as paperweights, the silliness of Rogers asks the audience if they can remember what all the fuss was about….

(4) HE GAVE IT A SPIN. Camestros Felapton says “The Wheel of Time adaptation is looking good”.

…A strong cast gives the characters more weight and also pushes them closer to how Jordan intended them to be (from context) rather than how they come over in the books. Nynaeve in particular is clearly meant to be a strong-willed character in the books but comes over as just whiny and annoying (your impression may differ) in Jordan’s dialogue. However, the show’s Nynaeve is a really compelling character played by New Zealander Zoë Robins, full of intensity and suspicion of what she (correctly) perceives as a hostile world….

(5) FUTURE TENSE. The November 2021 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Ride,” by Linda Nagata, a story about climate, public transportation, and AI in Hawaii.

 …The boy waved at them, then turned again to Jasmine. “Give it a try,” he exhorted her in a conspiratorial whisper. “Promise you will?”

Those eyes.

Her smile brightened. She didn’t want to disappoint those eyes. So she played along, teasing, “I might.” And maybe she really would. It was just a little game, after all….

It was published along with a response essay by cities and transit journalist Henry Grabar: “What if an All-Knowing Algorithm Ran Traffic and Transit?”

I like to think of myself as deeply skeptical of the many internet algorithms telling me what I want and need. I turn off targeted advertising wherever I can. I use AdBlock to hide what’s left. Most of my YouTube recommendations are for concerts or sports highlights, but I know I’m just a few clicks away from a wild-eyed influencer telling me to gargle turpentine for a sore throat. Twitter trending topics? I regret clicking immediately.

But I make an exception for the sweet, all-knowing embrace of the Spotify algorithm, to whom I surrender my ears several times a day. This software doesn’t just know my taste in music better than my friends; it acts on it, with chains of songs that build off things that I know I like, or forgot I did….

(6) HARLAN IN THE WILDERNESS. Stephen Bowie interviewed Harlan Ellison in 1996 about his early days writing for television: “Harlan Hits Hollywood” at The Classic TV History Blog.

…I was going to ask you if you remembered watching “Memos From Purgatory” when it was first broadcast, but perhaps you don’t, since it wasn’t actually the first one.

It’s a moderately funny story about what happened the night it aired.  I was living in Beverly Glen, in this little treehouse. The television set that I had was a real small TV, with rabbit ears, and the antenna was up the side of the mountain behind the house.  I mean this house, literally and actually, sat half on a rock ledge and the other half sat in the crotch of a gigantic banyan tree. It was raining that night, it was raining terribly. And the antenna, which was up the hill – rabbit ears down in the house and an actual antenna up on the hill; I mean, there was no cable – well, the antenna fell over.  

I had invited all these people to come and see the show, and we couldn’t get any reception.  So a friend of mine volunteered to go up, and he put on my raincoat, and he stood up there in the pounding rain, a really torrential downpour.  He stood up there holding the fuckin’ antenna up. And I was kind of, you know, upset that he was up there, not to mention that there were cougars or mountain cats – really, there were catamounts or cougars or whatever the fuck they are – up there running loose, because it’s all watershed land.  And I was terrified that he was going to get eaten, or washed away, or drowned, or fall off the mountain, or something. So about midway through I went up and I took his place. And I came back drenched, soaking wet, I looked like a drowned rat, and everybody was raving about this thing, and I had only seen about half of it….

(7) DRAGON IT OUT. A new book says “George R.R. Martin flew to New York to ‘beg’ an HBO executive to make ‘Game of Thrones’ 10 seasons long, according to his agent” reports Yahoo!

HBO’s hit series “Game of Thrones” came to an end in 2019 with two shortened seasons, which brought the total to eight seasons and 73 episodes. But the story’s original creator, the author George R.R. Martin, pushed for up to 10 seasons and 100 total episodes, according to a new book.

New accounts of Martin’s wishes can be found in a book titled “Tinderbox: HBO’s Ruthless Pursuit of New Frontiers” by the journalist James Andrew Miller.

Miller, who conducted 757 interviews for the book, spoke with Martin, Martin’s agent, Paul Haas, and Richard Plepler, HBO’s former CEO.

“George would fly to New York to have lunch with Plepler, to beg him to do ten seasons of ten episodes because there was enough material for it and to tell him it would be a more satisfying and more entertaining experience,” Haas told Miller.

(8) IN XANADU. Henry Farrell points to the availability of the video of a panel he was on with Paul Krugman, Ada Palmer, Noah Smith, and Jo Walton. And he has a few more things he’d like to say in his post “The Future Finds Its Own Uses for Things” at Crooked Timber.

So this event on the relationship between social science and science fiction went live late last week. It has Paul Krugman, Ada Palmer, Jo Walton, Noah Smith and … me. I’ve been wanting to say something a little bit more about this relationship for a while. Here is one take, which surely misses out on a lot, but maybe captures some stuff too.

…The Hume quote captures a particular – and very common – way of thinking about the world. It suggests that beneath the vast procession of history, the extraordinary profusion of ways in which human beings organize their society, their politics and their economies, lies a hidden and coherent unity. He emphasizes “the constant principles of human nature” – other social scientists have other notions about what the underlying unity involves and entails. But from this perspective all the ways in which things are different across time and space are really illustrations of how they are really deeply the same. This is a powerful lens for understanding the world and perhaps changing it.

When Marco Polo counters Kublai Khan, he points towards quite the opposite phenomenon; how an apparent unity -an abstract of plane forces – can be opened up to disclose the quiddity of things. A chessboard is a plane divided into sixty-four squares – yet it is also something physical, made out of joined-together pieces of wood, each with its own history. The apparently all encompassing abstract unity conceals a world of variation. Unless you understand how the squares were formed – a year of drought; a frosty night; a caterpillar’s appetite; you cannot understand how the chessboard came to be as it is.

It is a little too simple to say that social science is on Hume’s side of the dialectic, while science fiction is on Marco Polo’s. What makes more sense, I think is that very good social scientists and very good science fiction writers each work the tensions between the two understandings of the world, more from the one side than the other….

(9) NAME YOUR PRICE. Filer Jane Sand’s novelette “Not Poppy Nor Mandragora” is in the newly released Fusion Fragment issue #9. The publishers invite readers to “download Fusion Fragment #9 for free or pay what you want!”

(10) CIRCUMNAVIGATING THE SPOILERS. I say, this Ars Technica article gives away the entire story, never mind spoilers! “David Tennant makes a dashing Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days preview”. It wasn’t easy to find an excerpt that didn’t blab some important part!

…Verne’s story, in turn, inspired the late 19th-century journalist Nellie Bly to make her own world tour, completing the trip in 72 days. She even met Verne in Amiens and wrote her own bestselling book about her adventures. Monty Python alum Michael Palin made the charming TV travelogue, Around the World in 80 Days with Michael Palin, in 1988, detailing his recreation of Fogg’s journey, without resorting to airplanes….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2002 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Nineteen years ago on NBC, It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie first aired. It was the first film to be made for television by The Muppets franchise. It was directed by Kirk R. Thatcher (in his feature directorial debut though he earlier been hired by Nimoy to associate produce the Conspiracy ’87 Hugo-nominated Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home) and written by Tom Martin and Jim Lewis.

It starred the usual Muppet puppeteers (Steve Whitmire, Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta and Eric Jacobson) plus a number of human guests: David Arquette, Joan Cusack, Matthew Lillard, William H. Macy and Whoopi Goldberg. Executive producers Juliet Blake and Brian Henson, though the actual producers were Martin G. Baker and Warren Carr. 

This is also the final Muppets production from the Jim Henson Company, as The Muppets were in their final years of ownership by the Henson family before being sold to Disney in 2004.

Critics were generally very impressed by this film with such comments as the Canadian Movie News saying it “is a medley of familiar Christmas classics such as It’s a Wonderful LifeA Christmas Story and The Grinch, amongst others, with a distinct Muppet spin.” Interestingly audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes were less impressed giving a mediocre fifty-one percent rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 29, 1898 C S Lewis. I first encountered him when reading The Screwtape Letters in University. I later read of course The Chronicles of Narnia which I found most excellent though I’ll admit that I’ve not read his Space Trilogy. (Died 1963.)
  • Born November 29, 1910 Kendell Foster Crossen. He was the creator and writer of the Green Lama stories.  The character was a Buddhist crime fighter whose powers were activated upon the recitation of the Tibetan chant om mani padme hum. He also wrote Manning Draco series, an intergalactic insurance investigator, four of which are can be found in Once Upon a Star: A Novel of the Future. The usual suspects has a really deep catalog of his genre work, and the Green Lama stories have been made into audio works as well. (Died 1981.)
  • Born November 29, 1918 Madeleine L’Engle. Writer whose genre work included the splendid YA sequence starting off with A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels: A Wind in the DoorA Swiftly Tilting PlanetMany Waters, and An Acceptable Time. One of her non-genre works that I recommend strongly is the Katherine Forrester Vigneras series. She has a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 29, 1950 Peter Hooten, 71. He played the title character in the late Seveties Dr. Strange film, well before the present MCU film reality existed. His other genre appearances are all in definitely low-grade horror films such as OrcaHouse of Blood and Souleater. And one Italian film that had so many name changes that I’d accused it of name laundering, including 2020 Texas Gladiators
  • Born November 29, 1955 Howie Mandel, 66. He was the voice of Gizmo in Gremlins and Gremlins 2: The New Batch. His longest voice acting gig was on the Muppet Babies where he did a lot of different voices, and he voiced Sam-I-Am in In Search of Dr. Seuss which is not nearly as serious as it sounds.
  • Born November 29, 1969 Greg Rucka, 52. Comic book writer and novelist, known for his work on Action ComicsBatwoman and Detective Comics. If you’ve not read it, I recommend reading Gotham Central which he co-created with Ed Brubaker, and over at Marvel, the four-issue Ultimate Daredevil and Elektra which he wrote is quite excellent as well. I’ve read none of his novels, so will leave y’all to comment on those. He’s a character in the CSI comic book Dying in the Gutters miniseries as someone who accidentally killed a comics gossip columnist while attempting to kill Joe Quesada over his perceived role in the cancellation of Gotham Central.
  • Born November 29, 1976 Chadwick Boseman. Another death that damn near broke my heart. The Black Panther alias Challa in the Marvel metaverse. The same year that he was first this being, he was Thoth in Gods of Egypt. (If you’ve not heard of this, no one else did either as it bombed quite nicely at the box office.) He was Sergeant McNair on Persons Unknown which is at least genre adjacent I would say.  And he even appeared on Fringe in the “Subject 9” episode as Mark Little / Cameron James. (Died 2020.)

(13) IT’S NOT SURPRISING. “‘The Simpsons’ Tiananmen Square Episode Missing From Disney+ Hong Kong; Discovery Leads to Censorship Concerns” reports Deadline.

An episode of The Simpsons during which the family visits Tiananmen Square is missing from Disney+’s Hong Kong platform.

Episode 12 of season 16 was found today to be absent from the streamer’s catalogue in the nation, having launched in Hong Kong earlier this month.

The episode features the family going to China to try to adopt a baby. At one point, they visit Tiananmen Square, which was the site of a deadly crackdown in 1989 against democracy protestors. A satirical sign in the cartoon square reads “On this site, in 1989, nothing happened.”

At time of publication, it is not clear whether Disney+ removed the episode or was ordered to by the authorities and Disney has not responded to requests for comment.

The discovery will lead to further concerns over censorship in Hong Kong….

(14) D&D DIVERSITY. “‘A safe haven’: how Dungeons & Dragons is slaying social anxiety” – the Guardian runs the numbers.

… Since its inception in the mid-1970s, the tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) has brought together a far more diverse array of players than its stereotypes suggest. Earlier this year, the game’s publisher, Wizards of the Coast, released a report showing that, of its estimated 50 million players, 54% were younger than 30 and 40% identified as female. What it didn’t reveal was the rise in visibility of queer and neurodiverse players.

…For people such as Shadia Hancock, the founder of advocacy group Autism Actually and Dungeon Master to a group of young neurodiverse players, the therapeutic potential of the game has always been clear.

“It’s about creating a sense of community,” Hancock says. “I work out the players’ expectations at the beginning of a game. Some get really into creating their characters, some are more interested in finding items and exploring the world, others are really interested in how the characters met. We all have a mutual love of gaming, but we all want something different from the session.”

Some characteristics expressed by some of Hancock’s players – social anxiety, increased empathy, difficulty adapting to change, feeling overwhelmed in noisy environments – have become familiar to many Australians in the wake of lockdowns. Studies cited by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found reported levels of social anxiety increased over the past two years among all age groups, with young neurodiverse Australians even more likely to have experienced a decline in wellbeing.

“While other people are excited about going out, I’m filled with dread,” Hancock tells me. “With Covid, we [autistic communities] had all these sudden changes, often with short notice, and there was this need to constantly adapt to new rules. Not knowing what is coming up is really anxiety-inducing. During the pandemic, that became a shared experience.”

(15) NEXT TIME, TAKE THE TRAIN. John Holbo’s “The Ones Who Take the Train to Omelas” is adorned with a big Omelas-themed travel poster (which you can see at the link.)

*Confused? This page contains a parody of a famous story, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”, by Ursula K. Le Guin. I’d point you to it, but there are no versions legally free on the web. Buy a book! Read Wikipedia. If you are somehow here about the BTS song – sorry, I don’t know about that. (But with half a billion hits, somebody probably does.)

I’ve written notes on my take on Le Guin. An essay! That’s here

Also, once I made the graphics I tossed ’em on Redbubble. Forgive me. It seemed funny.

“I incline to think that people from towns up and down the coast have been coming in to Omelas during the last days before the Festival on very fast little trains and double-decked trams.”

– Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”

(16) DS9 ON NFT. Voice actor Joshua Martin put together a parody video where Deep Space Nine’s “Quark and Odo discuss NFTs and Crypto Currency”. There’s also a Twitter thread that starts here.

(17) I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM. SlashFilm reveals “This Is What You’re Really Hearing When R2-D2 Screams In Star Wars”.

…One fateful moment of stress managed to help define a character through more than four decades and nine movies in the Skywalker saga — and counting.

(18) STAND BY TO ENTER HYPE-SPACE. Gizmodo’s Rob Bricken pans Disney World’s effort to sell people on its new theme hotel: “Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser Hotel Preview Looks Unimpressive”.

If you’ve been slavering for your chance to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars to head to Walt Disney World’s upcoming Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser experience, might I suggest you towel off your chin for the time being? Disney has released a video preview of some of what awaits families who come aboard the Halcyon, and it doesn’t look particularly enticing.

The first thing you should know about this video is that it stars Disney Parks Imagineer Ann Morrow Johnson and The Goldbergs’ sitcom actor Sean Giambrone. The two take a very short tour of the Starcruiser, but instead of them just talking like normal people about what people who come to the Halcyon can expect, it’s scripted and painfully unfunny. You’ve been warned. But this video also raises an important question, which is: Disney wants $6,000 for this?

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Danny Sichel, Jayn, Bill, Joey Eschrich, 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 Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 10/15/21 I Know What Pixel You Scrolled Last Summer

(1) ORAL HISTORY OF SMALLVILLE. “‘We Had Freedom to Change the Mythology:’ An Oral History of ‘Smallville’” in The Hollywood Reporter.

Here, the key players look back, with those sharing memories including Welling and the creators, as well as Michael Rosenbaum, Kristin Kreuk, John Schneider, Annette O’Toole, John Glover and Erica Durance.

GOUGH There weren’t any comics on [Clark Kent’s teen years]. It was a blank slate. Jenette Kahn, who was the publisher of DC Comics at the time, said, “Clark is who he is because of his parents. If he had landed in a different cornfield and been raised by different people, he would have been a different person.” That was something that really struck us.

MILLAR We had the freedom to change the mythology, to really make it our own, with Lex losing his hair in the meteor shower — even the meteor shower itself, which was a new development. Anyone approaching that similar story today would not be allowed the freedom that we had, because at that point no one cared….

ROSENBAUM  [Lex Luthor] The casting director is like, “Sit here,” and I go, “Naw, Lex wouldn’t do that.” And she’s like, “Well I have to relight,” and I go, “Would you mind?” And she relit the room and I had to wait outside. I came back in and kind of just took over the room. I go, “What are 700 other guys doing wrong that you are auditioning?” And they said, “Well, we want a sense of charisma, we want a sense of danger, we want a sense of comedic timing.” I only had three pages to work with. I circled, “I’ll be dangerous here, I’ll be funny here, I’ll be charming here.”

GOUGH Lex was the last role we cast. It was a week before we started shooting. Miles was in Vancouver with David Nutter and I was still in Los Angeles with some of the other producers. Michael came in in Los Angeles. We videotaped it and he was just fantastic. He literally hit all the right notes and he was perfect. I remember we somehow got it up to Miles and David in Vancouver.

ROSENBAUM My agent called. “They want to screen test you.” I said, “I’ll never have an audition as good as I just had. Tell them to rewind the tape.” So he goes, “You’re going to lose this role. You know that.” I don’t recommend this to any other actor, and I would never do it again, but I said, “Rewind the tape.”

WELLING “Lex Luthor does not come back for a second audition, OK?”

ROSENBAUM Exactly. He just wouldn’t do it. It’s out of character….

(2) WATCH THE AURORA AWARDS CEREMONY. The winners of the Aurora Awards will be revealed on Saturday, October 16 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern (4:00 p.m. Pacific.) Can*Con will be present awards in a virtual ceremony accessible via their YouTube channel here.

(3) INDIGENOUS FUTURISTS. On October 5 Apex Magazine released its Indigenous Futurists issue, a bonus issue featuring the work of Indigenous genre creators. The issue, guest-edited by Allison Mills, features the work of Pamela Rentz, Kevin Wabaunsee, Tiffany Morris, Sloane Leong, Rebecca Roanhorse, Norris Black, and Theodore Van Alst, Jr. Cover art by Megan Feheley. Read it at the link.

(4) THREE HEARTS. The Poul Anderson Facebook page posted a photo from the Anderson family motorcycle trip in Europe in the Fifties. See it at the link.

We’re going through an album of photos that Poul made in the late 1940s and into the late 1950s, and we’ll be sharing some images from it. For starters, here’s a picture of Poul’s brother, John Anderson, his mother, Astrid Anderson, and Poul, with the motorcycle and sidecar they toured Europe with in 1953. This was taken somewhere in Holland.

(5) NZ FIRE OFFICIAL WIZARD. [Item by Tom Whitmore.] I don’t recall seeing anything about this character around CoNZealand — how did we miss that the country had an official wizard? And doesn’t firing the wizard usually result in bad things for the kingdom? The Guardian reports “New Zealand council ends contract with wizard after two decades of service”.

… The Wizard is a well-known face to Christchurch residents, but in recent years, his presence has diminished, and sightings have become rare. He says that is because the council has made him invisible and would not respond to his suggestions to improve tourism.

“But when they cancelled this honorarium, everyone got furious, they have awakened a hornet’s nest here, it’s hilarious. The next few months are going to be real fun.”

The Wizard said he would keep up his regular appearances at Christchurch’s Arts Centre, chatting to tourists and locals. The centre is hosting an exhibition of his life this month, which is supported by the council.

When asked if he would curse the council over its decision, he said he preferred to give blessings.

“I give children happy dreams, general good health, and I want to make bureaucrats become more human.”

(6) AFRICAN LITERARY PRIZE SHORTLIST. South African author Mandisi Nkomo’s Should have Listened to Mother, a work of genre interest, is one of six shortlisted for the Toyin Falola Prize 2021.

The Toyin Fálolá Prize is an award from Nigerian-based Lunaris aimed at honouring distinguished African scholar and foremost historian, Prof Toyin Fálolá, whose contributions to the field of African history and culture have continued to place Africa on the map and accord it its deserved recognition. The prize honours his endeavours and contributions to the advancement of African cultures, peoples, myths, and histories. The first winner of the award set up in 2020 was Fayssal Bensalah.

The award organizers announced the 11-story longlist from the 495 eligible submissions, 11 stories on September 20.

(7) JUST ARRIVED.  [Item by Daniel Dern.] As seen in the updates from Bud Plant. I haven’t looked at this, I plan to see about getting it through my library. It’s a 2021 Locus Award winner.  The Art Of Nasa: The Illustrations That Sold the Missions.

By Piers Bizony. Art by Robert McCall, Ron Miller, Robert Watts, Paul Calle, David Hardy et al. From space suits to capsules, from landing modules to the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station, and more recent concepts for space planes, 60 years of American space exploration in an unprecedented fashion. All the landmark early missions are represented in detail — Gemini, Mercury, Apollo — as are post-Space Race accomplishments, like the mission to Mars and other deep-space explorations….

From space suits to capsules, from landing modules to the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station, and more recent concepts for space planes, 60 years of American space exploration in an unprecedented fashion. All the landmark early missions are represented in detail — Gemini, Mercury, Apollo — as are post-Space Race accomplishments, like the mission to Mars and other deep-space explorations.

Ultra-rare artworks illustrate a unique history of NASA hardware and missions from 1958 to today, giving readers an unprecedented look at how spacecraft, equipment, and missions evolved — and how they might have evolved. Formed in 1958, NASA has long maintained a department of visual artists to depict the concepts and technologies created in humankind’s quest to explore the final frontier. Culled from a carefully chosen reserve of approximately 3,000 files deep in the NASA archives, the 200 artworks presented in this large-format edition provide a glimpse of NASA history like no other.

(8) CONTRARY TO WHAT SCOTTY SAYS. James Davis Nicoll touts “Five Stories in Which Changing the Laws of Physics Leads to Bigger Problems” at Tor.com.

The laws of physics are forever confounding perfectly reasonable schemes. Whether riding gracefully on the running board of a racing car, adroitly handling semi-molten glass, or gliding lightly down from a roof to the embrace of the sidewalk whilst borne up by what intuition said was a sufficiently large bath towel, the laws of physics are forever barging in to insist that, no, things do not work that way.

What if the laws of physics were altered? …

One of James’ examples is —

A Wizard’s Henchman by Matthew Hughes (2016)

Troubleshooter Erm Kaslo specializes in solving the problems of the rich and powerful. There are enough of those, spread across the Spray’s ten thousand worlds, to keep Kaslo busy and affluent. All he asks of his clients is that they pay his fees promptly. If their demands are immoral or insane? No problem.

One of his rich clients believes that the world is about to transition from an era of technology and enlightenment to one of magic and chaos. Kaslo is willing to do as the client asks, even while he believes that the client is nuts. It’s a surprise when the client turns out to be right.

But a change in the basis of power, from technology and commerce to dark magical arts, means that there will still be powerful folks with problems. Problems Kaslo is happy to handle. The universe may have been upended, but Kaslo will prevail.

(9) SABLE REVIEW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber reviews Sable, a new video game featuring nomads on a desert planet, which Faber says “Is drawn in a thrillingly unique style.”

‘Drawn’ is really the word. Playing Sable is like living in a graphic novel by Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud, the influential artist who pioneered a surrealistic sci-fi style.  From the opening vista we see scrap metal villages and wind-sculpted mesas drawn in fine black lines, their flat textures and minimal shading drawing attention to a stunning pastel colour palette–one of the most artful I’ve ever seen in a game–of tawny desert, powder-blue sky and distant mountains a muted lilac…

…The fable-like qualities of the narrative are lent depth and fragrance by Meg Jayanth, the writer behind the superb interactive novel 80 Days.  Language here bears the plain-spoken profiundity of myth.  A machinist asking you to repair a malfunctioning wind tower says, ‘Go there, mend what is broken or sooth what is hurt, and I will give you what you seek…a direction.’  This abstraction is undercut by precise character writing, particularly in Sable herself, who is far from a blank slate — she is anxious, spunky, and completely relatable.  Conversations with other nomads offer spare but evocative fragments to explain the history of the world, allowing players to fill in the gaps themselves.

(10) A SCARY PROFESSION. CrimeReads’ Celia Mattison looks at horror films about books: “Publishing Is a Nightmare: 31 Horror Films about Writing, Reading, and the Book Business”.

The business of writing and reading pops up all the time in horror films. Maybe it’s that screenwriters understand better than anyone the terror of creation. Maybe it’s that long, late hours spent alone in an office juxtaposes nicely on screen against glamorous events hosted by the literati. Or perhaps we’ve all just had a traumatic childhood experience in a library. Either way, here are 31 films guaranteed to give you an October that’s equal parts eerie and erudite….

(11) TAPPING INTO MEMORY. Strange Horizons presents an interview with Chandler Davis by Gautam Bhatia, “Across fracture lines”.

…Science fiction is not a monolith: even as racism, colonialism, and sexism played a dominant role in SF-production through the long 20th century, there were always writers and texts that questions, challenged, and subverted that dominant paradigm. The contrapuntal canon, or the hidden transcript, as it were.

At Strange Horizons, we see ourselves as committed to a plural and diverse vision of SFF, and therefore, as a continuation of this older – and sometimes submerged – tradition of against-the-grain writing. To know – and understand – more about our forebears, for this Fund Drive Special Issue, we decided to interview Chandler “Chan” Davis, one of the most outstanding exponents of the contrapuntal canon, at a time at which the dominant, regressive tendencies of science fiction were at their apogee: the 1940s and the 1950s.

…CD: One striking example of my writing responding to the preoccupations of the time is my responding to the threat of nuclear weapons. All of us in the science-fiction gang who learned of the Manhattan Project only in August 1945 felt at least a momentary joy of vindication: we had been saying this might happen, the general population didn’t know, and lo! we were in the right. But most of us soon realized, “Hey! this is a calamity, an atrocity” (and to think it was done in the name of the American people). Some of the authors sounded the alarm. I cite especially [Theodore] Sturgeon’s “Memorial”, my “The Nightmare”, and Sturgeon’s “Thunder and Roses”, but there were several others. We put it before our audience a rather large and international audience– that if your country is the target of nuclear attack, then it is up to you not to strike back but to do everything to RESTRAIN your country from striking back. We were right, but our message didn’t stick, in the USA or anywhere….

(12) AAHZ MARUCH (1967-2021). [Item by James Davis Nicoll.] Python programmer, whose fannish activities date back at least as far as classic USENET (alt.poly and other groups), died October 14 following several years of ill health. Survived by partner Steph Maruch.

Editor’s postscript: Alan Prince Winston earlier this year described him as “an unstoppable-seeming guy” who “became a contra and square dance caller and choreographer despite really severe hearing impairment.”

(13) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1954 – Sixty-seven years ago this day, the first Flash Gordon television series as distributed by the DuMont Television Network premiered in syndication.  Its cast was Steve Holland as Flash Gordon, Irene Champlin as Dale Arden and Joseph Nash as Hans Zarkov. It immediately ran into criticism from some reviewers and fans as, well, how dare they cast a Flash Gordon who wasn’t Buster Crabbe. However it was very popular with almost everyone else and continued to run in syndication into the Sixties despite running for only one season of thirty-nine episodes. Only fourteen episodes survive and are all in the public domain, so here’s the pilot.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 15, 1911 James H. Schmitz. Writer of short fiction in a space opera setting, sold primarily to Galaxy Science Fiction and Astounding Science-Fiction. His “Lion Loose” was nominated for a Short Fiction Hugo at Chicon III, and The Witches of Karres was nominated for Best Novel at NyCon 3. Sources laud him for his intelligent female characters. His collections and novels are available at the usual suspects. (Died 1981.)
  • Born October 15, 1919 E.C. Tubb. A writer of at least one hundred forty novels and two hundred twenty short stories and novellas, he’s best remembered I think for the Dumarest Saga. His other long-running series was the Cap Kennedy stories. And his short story “Little Girl Lost” which was originally published in New Worlds magazine became a story on Night Gallery. He novelized a number of the Space: 1999 episodes. Somewhat surprisingly he’s never been nominated for or won any awards. (Died 2010.)
  • Born October 15, 1924 Mark Lenard. Sarek, father of Spock in the Trek franchise, showing up in that role in “Journey to Babel”.  (The role got reprised in the animated series, as well as three films and two episodes of The Next Generation.) Surprisingly he also played a Klingon in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and a Romulan in an earlier episode of Star Trek. He also had one-offs on Mission ImpossibleWild Wild West, Otherworld, The Secret EmpireThe Increible Hulk, and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. He had a recurring role on the Planet of The Apes as Urko. (Died 1996.)
  • Born October 15, 1923 Italo Calvino. Writer and Journalist who was born in Cuba, but grew up in Italy. His works range widely across the literary spectrum, across realism, surrealism, and absurdism. As a genre writer he is best known for his “cosmicomics”, linked stories which explore fantastical speculations about subjects such as mathematics, evolution, and human perception. At the time of his death in 1985, he was the most-translated Italian author, and he was recognized with a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. (Died 1985.)
  • Born October 15, 1926 Ed McBain. Huh, I never knew he ventured beyond his mystery novels but he published approximately twenty-four genre stories and six SF novels between 1951 and 1971 under the names S. A. Lombino, Evan Hunter, Richard Marsten, D. A. Addams, and Ted Taine. ISFDB has a list and I can’t say I know any of them. Any of y’all read them? (Died 2005.)
  • Born October 15, 1953 Walter Jon Williams, 68. The last thing I read by him was his most excellent Dagmar Shaw series which I highly recommend, but Fleet Elements is in my TBR list.  I also like his Metropolitan novels, be they SF or fantasy, as well as his Hardwired series. I’m surprised how few awards that he’s won, just three with two being Nebulas, both for shorter works, “Daddy’s World” and “The Green Leopard Plaque”, plus a Sidewise Award for “Foreign Devils”.  Damn it, where is his Hugo? 
  • Born October 15, 1955 Tanya Roberts. Stacey Sutton in the fourteenth Bond film, A View to Kill. Quite the opposite of her role as Kiri in The Beastmaster. And let’s not forget her in the title role of Sheena: Queen of the Jungle. (Died 2021.)
  • Born October 15, 1969 Dominic West, 52. Jigsaw in that most dreadful Punisher film, Punisher: War Zone. His first SFF role was as Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream which is the same year he shows up as Jerus Jannick in The Phantom Menace, and he was Sab Than on the rather excellent John Carter. One of his recent latest SFF roles was as Lord Richard Croft in the Tomb Raider reboot.

(15) COMICS SECTION.

(16) MOVIE MEMORABILIA. Heritage Auction’s Hollywood & Entertainment Memorabilia Auction runs November 4-7. Some of the monster-themed items are on this page. The publicity poster is arresting, to say the least.

(17) MANIFESTATIONS. The Paris Review on what life might be like as a ghost: “All You Have to Do Is Die” by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan.

…I’ve never seen a soul move through the air. I am not sure that we are anything more than a skin-bag of electrical impulses. But ghosts are different from the other uncanny citizens. They are only one step away from the known. To become a ghost, you don’t have to be bitten by a vampire or receive a curse or encounter a mad scientist or fall under the spell of a full moon. All you have to do is die.

Still, I imagine the first days of ghosthood would be tricky. There are so many different hauntings, so many ways to do it. In a way, it reminds me of puberty. The unpredictable shifts….

(18) SIGN OF THE TIMES. “Portland removes ‘Merge Simpson’ sign from NW Portland freeway ramp” says The Oregonian.

Many Portlanders just thought it was neat, but city officials didn’t feel the same way about a “Merge Simpson” sign that appeared in Northwest Portland earlier this week. Transportation workers took the “Simpsons”-inspired sign down Thursday afternoon, citing driving safety concerns.

An anonymous artist put up a homemade sign near an on-ramp to Interstate 405 North. The artist covered up a pedestrian crosswalk sign with a sign reading “Merge Simpson,” and drew a portrait of TV cartoon mom Marge Simpson. The artist painted her face strategically below a tall, round column of foliage in place of her iconic beehive hairstyle….

(19) COOL STAR WARS PAINTINGS. For your viewing pleasure, Naci Caba’s Star Wars Paintings at the link.

The artist also does other genre subjects  (click “Paintings” on the sidebar).

(20) HOW SAFE WAS IT TO SQUASH SHATNER? CNN answers the question “How space researchers knew that 90-year-old William Shatner didn’t have to worry about his age”.

…A series of studies in the 2010s sought to answer such question. Researchers put people with pre-existing medical conditions, including elderly men with heart conditions, into a spinning centrifuge to simulate the g-forces the body is subjected to during a trip to space.

Subjects were strapped into a small capsule attached to a massive metal arm that can swing the capsule around in a circle. That faster it spins, the higher the g-forces pressing into the passenger grow, much like the carnival rides that pin passengers to the wall of a spinning circle by rotating the circle at high speeds. When the centrifuge is stopped, passengers inside could be said to be experiencing 1G, or normal gravity on Earth.

At 2G, they feel like they weigh twice their body weight. At 5G, a 200-pound person feels like they weigh 1,000 pounds.

Donoviel pointed to three specific studies that saw people — with a broad range of ages, physical conditions and ailments — endure up to 6G.

“They were fine, they were perfectly fine,” Donoviel said. “The only thing… that was of concern when they did those studies was really anxiety and definitely claustrophobia.”

… For its part, Blue Origin does put some limitations on who can fly aboard New Shepard, its suborbital space tourism rocket, including an age requirement that tourists be 18 years or older, be between 5’0″ and 6’4″ and 110 pounds and 223 pounds, and be in good enough physical shape to climb seven flights of stairs in a minute and a half.

The stair climb is no joke: Blue Origin passengers must rapidly climb what’s called the gantry, a tower that allows the crew to access their capsule as the 60-foot-tall rocket sits on the launch pad, brimming with fuel and ready to blast off.

Shatner quipped about scaling the tower after his flight, saying “good lord, just getting up the bloody gantry.”

(21) COSMIC HOME DELIVERY. “Meteorite Crashes Through Ceiling and Lands on Woman’s Bed” – the New York Times has the story.

Ruth Hamilton was fast asleep in her home in British Columbia when she awoke to the sound of her dog barking, followed by “an explosion.” She jumped up and turned on the light, only to see a hole in the ceiling. Her clock said 11:35 p.m.

At first, Ms. Hamilton, 66, thought that a tree had fallen on her house. But, no, all the trees were there. She called 911 and, while on the phone with an operator, noticed a large charcoal gray object between her two floral pillows.

“Oh, my gosh,” she recalled telling the operator, “there’s a rock in my bed.”

A meteorite, she later learned.

The 2.8-pound rock the size of a large man’s fist had barely missed Ms. Hamilton’s head, leaving “drywall debris all over my face,” she said. Her close encounter on the night of Oct. 3 left her rattled, but it captivated the internet and handed scientists an unusual chance to study a space rock that had crashed to Earth….

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Bohemian Catsody” a parody song of the Queen classic, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” this time, all about SJW credentials!

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Olav Rokne, Lise Andresen, Annalee Newitz, James Davis Nicoll, Bill, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cora Buhlert.]

Pixel Scroll 10/9/21 I Met A Filer From An Antique Scroll

(1) TRICK OR WHO. The official Doctor Who site says the new series of Doctor Who will premiere on Sunday October 31.

Get ready for Doctor Who: Flux, beginning this Halloween.

There’s also some kind of flash advertising campaign under way, with a number to call:

(2) SCA SETS COVID POLICY. The Society for Creative Anachronism announced a “Board Resolution – COVIDSafe Proof of Fully Vaccinated Status or Negative COVID Test Policy” to govern who is eligible to participate in its events. (A complete copy of the policy is here.)

The SCA Board of Directors aims to balance getting Society participants back to doing the things we love with measures that support Kingdoms in protecting all that people have worked so hard for. Our COVIDSafe Resolutions provide a flexible, risk based framework that allows Kingdoms in the United States and Canada to put in place a core set of requirements that event organisers and individuals must adhere to, based on their current environment and public health directions and advice….

In addition to the existing policy allowing Kingdoms to establish a mask policy, Kingdom Seneschals in consultation with the Crown shall have the discretion to implement the following policy requiring proof of COVID vaccination or a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of an event start time from all event attendees…

(3) DURING THE SPACE RACE. “Moon Station (1967)” at Dreams of Space displays all the frames of a Soviet school filmstrip produced in 1967 showing the artist’s conception of how a moon colony would be built. Entertaining as well as informative. We’re still waiting for anybody to build a base on the Moon, of course.

(4) WINDY CITY REPORT. Walker Martin’s report on the Windy City Pulp & Paperback show is on page 11 of the Plymouth Review. Photos from the show appear throughout the issue.

(5) BEAR MEDICAL NEWS. Elizabeth Bear gave readers a “Cancer stuff update” at her Throwanotherbearinthecanoe Newsletter.

So, this is gonna get long, but I saw my surgeon on Wednesday and my shiny new medical oncologist on Friday, and the filet (you see what I did there) is that the incisions are healing well, and my tumor samples are being sent for oncotesting (basically genetic analysis of Barry to see what kind of a little bastard he is)….

(6) GILLER PRIZE. One work of genre interest has survived to make the Scotiabank Giller Prize 2021 Shortlist.

The complete five-book shortlist is here.

(7) SPOCK IS NOT LOGICAL: SHOCK, HORROR, DRAMA, PROBE! [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] BBC Radio 4 has a statistics program. (Yes, disturbing for some as it may be, stats are fun for tru-geeks.) It is called More or Less and it has had its 20th anniversary edition that was book-ended by Star Trek. More or Less: “Behind the Stats, Reason, numbers and Mr Spock”.

It began with a parody of the original Star Trek series opening credits and ended with a defense of a previous edition’s assertion that Star Trek’s Spock was not at all logical: many fan listeners wrote in to complain!  In between there were statistics stories from the recent news calling out official figures and some number claims; enough to satisfy your inner nerd.

You can download the mp3 for a few weeks here. You can also enjoy this infographic about The Original Series. Click for a larger image.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2002 – Nineteen years ago this evening on The WB, the Birds of Prey series began its brief, thirteen episode run. Set in a post-Batman Gotham, it was loosely based on the DC Comics series of the same name. It starred Ashley Scott as Helena Kyle / Huntress, Dina Meyer as Barbara Gordon / Batgirl / Oracle and Rachel Skarsten as Dinah Redmond (née Lance). It also had Shemar Moore as Detective Jesse Reese and Ian Abercrombie as a rather perfect Alfred Pennyworth. The Arrowverse Crisis on Infinite Earths eventretroactively establishes the world of Birds of Prey as Earth-203 before the Anti-Monitor destroys it. Ooops. There were two different pilots, with Sherilyn Fenn portraying Harley Quinn in the original unaired pilot. Mia Sara plays her in the series. Ratings started out strong but declined rapidly and The WB didn’t pick up the series after the initial thirteen episode run. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a neither good nor bad forty-one percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 9, 1936 Brian Blessed, 85. Lots of genre appearances including Space 1999Blake’s 7Hamlet (as the ghost of Hamlet’s father), MacGyver: Lost Treasure of Atlantis, Johnny and the Dead and in The Phantom Menace. He even managed to show up on Doctor Who in a Sixth Doctor story, “Mindwarp” as King Yrcanos. 
  • Born October 9, 1948 Ciaran Carson. Northern Ireland-born poet and novelist who is here, genre wise at least, for his translation of the early Irish epic Táin Bó Cúailnge, which he called simply The Táin. I’m also going to single him out for penning the finest book ever written on Irish traditional music,  Last Night’s Fun: About Time, Food and Music. It’s every bit as interesting as Iain Banks’ Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram is. (Died 2018.)
  • Born October 9, 1949 Jim Starlin, 72. Comics artist and illustrator. If you’ve seen Guardians of the Galaxy, you’ve seen the characters Thanos and Drax the Destroyer which he created. He would also work for DC and other companies over the years. Starlin and Bernie Wrightson produced Heroes for Hope, a 1985 one-shot designed to raise money for African famine relief and recovery. Genre writers such as  Stephen King, George R. R. Martin, Harlan Ellison, and Edward Bryant would contribute to this undertaking. He’s written a number of genre novels co-written with his wife Daina Graziunas. 
  • Born October 9, 1953 Barbara March. She was Lursa, one of the Klingon Duras sisters. She appeared on Next Generation (“Redemption” and “Firstborn”), Deep Space Nine (“Past Prologue”), and Star Trek Generations. Though she did no other genre acting, she played Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream on the stage and renown for being Lady Macbeth. She wrote a horror novel, The Copper People. (Died 2019.)
  • Born October 9, 1954 Scott Bakula, 67. Lead in two great SF series, Sam Beckett on Quantum Leap and Captain Jonathan Archer on Enterprise. He also starred as Nolan Wood who discovers the alien conspiracy in the remake of The Invaders. Though definitely not genre or even genre adjacent, he was Dwayne Pride on the recently cancelled NCIS: New Orleans.
  • Born October 9, 1956 Robert Reed, 65. Extremely prolific short story writer with at least two hundred tales so far. And a number of novels as well such as the superb Marrow series. I see he won a Hugo at Nippon 2007 for his “A Billion Eves” novella. And he was nominated for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer as well. His latest novel, Poubelle, was just published.
  • Born October 9, 1958 Michael Paré, 63. I’ll start off with being in Streets of Fire which I’m claiming as genre but he’s also been in The Philadelphia ExperimentLunarcop, both BloodRayne films and Moon 44.
  • Born October 9, 1961 Matt Wagner, 60. The Grendel Tales and Batman / Grendel are very good as is Grendel vs. The Shadow stories he did a few years back. His run on Madame Xanadu was amazing too. Oh, and I’d suggest both issues of House of Mystery Halloween Annual thathe did for some appropriate Halloween reading. And let’s not forget his long run on the Sandman Mystery Theatre
  • Born October 9, 1964 Guillermo del Toro, 57. Best films? HellboyHellboy II and Pan’s Labyrinth which won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form at Nippon 2007. Hellboy II is watchable over and over just for the Goblin’s Market sequence.  His latest project is Pinocchio which will be on Netflix, it’s described as a “stop-motion animated musical fantasy”. Huh. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) HOLY SHEET! Bleeding Cool alerts fans “There Is Not Enough Paper In America For Comic Books Right Now”. Fortunately, there are plenty of pixels.

Comic books, more than many printed media, are vulnerable to issues with printing. Paper stock, and image reproduction are more of an issue for a graphic novel than a novel. Bleeding Cool has been reporting major delays and stock issues hitting the comics industry, including information from Bad Idea, DC Comics and from Marvel Comics, while there is still a “manga drought” from East Asia. This week we have been informed by a major printer in the field that “we continue to experience pricing and supply chain challenges in many sectors of our business – primarily in the graphic paper (commercial papers, SBS board, and corrugate), ocean, and road freight and branded merchandise markets.  All continue to experience extreme volatility, including price increases, extended lead times, product shortages, reduced capacity, and longer transit times.” Here is information that is being shared by printers with their customers, about the issues arising and what publishers need to start doing, including that “there is simply not enough paper making capacity to support the current domestic demand.”

(12) NOT TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE. James Davis Nicoll points Tor.com readers at “Five SF Novels Featuring Ancient Alien Artifacts” even though he finds the idea highly unscientific:

I tend to prefer plausible settings for fiction, as my readers may have noticed. One matter that catches my attention: the implications of geological time scales for the existence of alien relics left behind by visiting extra-solar litterbugs. Many SF stories assume that such visitors will have arrived during the Phanerozoic era. Very often visitors are said to have visited towards the tail end of the Phanerozoic, the Cenozoic….

His first example:

Scarlet Dream by C. L. Moore (1934)

Northwest Smith’s solar system is ancient. The space-tanned Earthman’s civilization is only the latest to call the System home. Artifacts of unknown origin and potentially ominous purpose are scattered over the System like raisins in scones. A prudent man would think twice about acquiring alien artifacts without doing some serious homework re: the device’s past and powers.

Northwest is many things, but prudent is not one of them. He sees only an alluring scarlet scarf. The dream realm in which he is subsequently trapped offers only empty, dissatisfying pleasure. Death appears to be the only escape. Although, as Northwest discovers, it need not be his death…

(13) SPACE COWBOY ROUNDUP. Space Cowboy Books in Joshua Tree, CA has some items for your calendar.

Online Flash Science Fiction Night
Tuesday October 12th 6pm PST
Featuring short science fiction stories by Geoff Habiger, Rodrigo Assis Mesquita, & Tom Purdom
Register for free here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/169769889309

Online Reading and Interview with Gideon Marcus
Tuesday October 19th 6pm PST
Celebrate the release of Gideon’s latest book Sirena
Register for free here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/169201501245

(14) BANNED BOOKS SMELL THIS WAY. North Ave. Candles is offering “Smoked Pine + Parchment / Inspired by Fahrenheit 451”.

No Banned Books Collection would be compete without Bradbury.

Smoked Pine + Parchment is the scents of pine, balsam, bergamot, and smokey birch blended with base notes of antique sandalwood.

“Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.” -Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

The other 15 candles in their Banned Books Collection include these genre titles:

  • White Tea + Rose, inspired by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
  • Clove + Orange, inspired by A Clockwork Orange
  • Ginger + Peach, inspired by James and the Giant Peach
  • Sugared Citrus + Island Greens, inspired by Where the Wild Things Are
  • Pomegranate + Red Tulip, inspired by The Handmaid’s Tale
  • Coffee + Chestnut, Inspired by 1984

(5) TREEHOUSE OF HORROR. The Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror XXXII” airs Oct. 10 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on Fox. Mashable pointed to a segment inspired by American pen-and-ink illustrator Edward Gorey.

Gorey’s segment will join the annual lineup for the Treehouse of Horror episode, which is reportedly set to parody Parasite, Bambi, The Ring and more.

Rolling Stone added these details:

The annual Halloween episode has often turned horror classics — complete with faux-Vincent Price narration — into fodder for its chapters, and in this clip, Price reads Maggie Simpson a bedtime story called “The Telltale Bart”; however, despite its title, the chapter has little in common with Edgar Allen Poe’s version.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/9/21 Someday We’ll Find It, The Scrolling Convention

(1) CLARION ONLINE EVENTS. Each year Clarion West brings the Write-a-thon to the global community. This is the second year it’s been presented virtually. Check out the free virtual panels and readings coming your way.

Register at the link for “Uncovering Cover Art” featuring Grace P. Fong, Sloane Leong, Aimee Fleck, and John Jennings, on Monday, July 12 at 6:30 p.m. Pacific.

While books capture our hearts, covers are what call to readers from the shelves. What makes an eye-catching, imagination-sparking cover? What do authors need to know about the process? Come learn the answers from some of the hottest artists and book designers in the industry.

You also can register at this link for “Mental Health & Writing” with Susan Palwick, Chaplain, Cassie Alexander, ICU RN, and Justin C. Key, MD on Monday, July 19 at 6:30 p.m. Pacific.

Authors and other artists are often stereotyped as struggling with our mental health. With increased emphasis in media and culture toward understanding and promoting mental health, writers have more resources and self-care tools than ever before. Learn about establishing healthy writing habits and writing about difficult subjects from a panel of authors who are also professionals in fields related to health and wellness.

(2) MEET THE NEW BOSS. James Davis Nicoll, for one, is happy to welcome our “Alien Overlords: Five SF Futures Where Humans Are No Longer in Charge” at Tor.com. (OK, not really, but the line begs to be used here.)

Humans are accustomed to seeing ourselves as the rulers of creation, apex beings with the right to rearrange the world for our convenience. For many people this is a central tenet of faith, little challenged by the occasional pandemic or environmental collapse. SF authors, however, are willing to consider that this just might be wrong. Many works have explored what it would be like if we were one day to discover that superior entities now ruled our world. Humans would be domestic animals, mere puppies of Terra…

Consider the following five works that challenge human supremacy….

(3) MORDOR ON THE RIVIERA. “An Enduring Fellowship” in Deadline Disruptors+Cannes on pages 34-41 can be read magazine-style at Issuu.

In 2001, a lavish Cannes part, and 26 minutes of footage changed the course of film history. As Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings approaches its 20th anniversary, Mike Fleming Jr. gathers key players to look back at a breathtaking gamble.

(4) VIDEO GAME LEGENDS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Reader, Financial Times.] In the July 7 Financial Times, Tom Faber discusses urban legends about games that drove users mad (mad, I tell you, mad!)

Much gaming creepypasta revolves around video games for children such as Pokemon and Mario. There is the story of Herobrine, a misty-eyed character who stalks Minecraft, only glimpsed in the distance or through fog.   Another concerns a mod for fantasy adventure Morrowwind named “Jvk1166z.esp’ which causes characters to stare blankly at the sky while a figure with long, spidery limbs haunts the edges of your screen.  Neither myth has been substantiated.

Some popular legends concern haunted games that probably never existed. Polybius was supposedly a 1980s arcade game, created as part of a US government experiment, that induced psychoactive reactions in players.  More recently, a YouTube video emerged called ‘Sad Satan’ that showed a creepy corridor in a mysterious game apparently downloaded on the dark web,  Online commented eager jumped on these, untangling references to serial killers and psy-ops, but both are likely hoaxes dreamt up by horror fans.

(5) TSR’S CHESHIRE CAT IMITATION. En World tries to follow the bouncing brand in the face of a new press release from TSR: “ Just when you thought it was all over…. now there’s a fourth TSR!”

In the story that will never end, after having this week turned itself into Wonderfilled, Inc, and deleted its Twitter account, TSR is BACK AGAIN! Like again, again, again, again. Complete with old-school logo! And Michael appears to actually exist!

Michael K. Hovermale says in a press release that an unnamed individual (I’m guessing Stephen Dinehart) apparently ran all the social media accounts for TSR, Dungeon Hobby Shop Museum, Ernie Gygax, Justin LaNasa, and Giantlands. He goes on to say that this person has been replaced, and that all posts on those social media accounts are “invalid”. There’s no mention of Stephen Dinehart’s social media accounts though.

…The existing (TSR3} website still says it’s WONDERFILED (sic), Inc. However there’s now a NEW one at TSR Hobbies. We’ll call that TSR3.5 for now. I’m struggling to distinguish TSRs from tribbles at this point. They just keep on coming!

Here’s the text of the TSR press release at PR.com: “TSR Appoints New Public Relations Officer; Responds to Social Media Mismanagement”.

TSR has replaced the individual that was serving as both social media manager and information technology manager for TSR and The Dungeon Hobby Shop Museum. This individual was also the social media manager for Giantlands, Justin LaNasa, and Ernie Gygax.

All posts on all social media accounts for TSR and Dungeon Hobby Shop Museum should be considered invalid.

All posts on all social media accounts of Justin LaNasa and Ernie Gygax should be considered invalid.

TSR is in the process of recovering the social media accounts of TSR, The Dungeon Hobby Shop Museum, and the personal Twitter accounts of Justin LaNasa and Ernie Gygax….

Ernie Gygax:
“I wish to speak directly to the transgender community regarding this incident. The individual who was speaking to you on Twitter does not represent me or TSR in any way. Trans people are always welcome to play with us. Everyone is welcome at our table.”

(6) THE MARS MY DESTINATION. Dwayne Day discusses a 1969 proposed NASA Mars rocket that inspired Gordy Dickson, Stephen Baxter and Lego builders today in “Flights to Mars, real and LEGO” in The Space Review.

…Boeing’s design [submitted in 1968] has shown remarkable staying power and still appears in artwork decades later. Now, Boeing’s design has been recreated in LEGO form, in three-dimensional plastic glory that you can build yourself….

The political winds had shifted against expensive human space exploration long before the summer of 1969 and the Mars mission, which was only supposed to be the capstone at the top of NASA’s ambitious plans, never had a chance for approval. NASA officials soon found themselves scrambling to justify any human spaceflight activity at all, let alone the exquisite program they had envisioned.

But by this time, the Mars spaceship design had gone public. Marshall Space Flight Center artists had produced artwork showing the multiple phases of the Mars mission and that artwork was soon published in many places, such as books about future spaceflight. The Apollo-shaped MEM also became iconic and was also illustrated by numerous artists. Although the public knew that a future Mars mission had not been approved, they could reasonably expect that if it eventually happened, this was what it would look like.

In 1978, Canadian-American science fiction author Gordon Dickson published the novel The Far Call, about a mission to Mars which employed a spacecraft similar to the one outlined in 1969. It also appeared in Allen Drury’s heavy-handed 1971 book The Throne of Saturn. In 1996, Stephen Baxter published Voyage, which also used a similar spacecraft, although an accident involving a nuclear propulsion stage has tragic consequences. (See: “Space alternate history before For All Mankind: Stephen Baxter’s NASA trilogy,” The Space Review, June 8, 2020.)

(7) PATTY JENKINS AND STAR WARS. “Patty Jenkins says she’s ‘free’ to create the Star Wars story she wants” notes Fansided. Patty Jenkins, director of two Wonder Woman movies, was announced by Disney in late 2020 to be helming the next Star Wars feature film, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron. 

The Hollywood Reporter’s Chris Gardner included Star Wars questions in a recent interview: “Patty Jenkins Thinks Streaming’s Day-and-Date Strategy Won’t Last”.

You had one of the best announcements of the pandemic, in my opinion, when you suited up and revealed that you are directing Star Wars: Rogue Squadron. How is development going?

It’s going amazing. I had been on it already for six months before I even announced that, so we’re pretty deep into it. We’re finishing a script, crewing up, and it’s all going wonderful. I’m so excited about the story and excited that we’re the next chapter of Star Wars, which is such a responsibility and such an opportunity to really start some new things. It’s really exciting in that way.

What is the consulting process like with the Star Wars brain trust?

There’s plenty of it. It’s an entirely different way of working. I’m on the phone with all of them and doing Zoom meetings with everybody involved in Star Wars all the time. I’m fairly free to do the story that we want to do, but you really need to know who’s done what, who’s doing what, where it goes and how it works, and what designs have been done before. It’s a whole other way of working that I’m getting up to speed on.

(8) WILLIAM SMITH (1933-2021). Actor William Smith, famous as the opponent of Clint Eastwood’s Philo Beddoe in the climactic bare-knuckle fight that ends  Any Which Way You Can (1980), but whose 274 career credits includes many genre productions, died July 5 at the age of 88. The Hollywood Reporter profile mentioned these sff TV and movie appearances:

An inductee into the Muscle Beach Venice Bodybuilding Hall of Fame, Smith was perfect for the role as Adonis, a henchman for Zsa Zsa Gabor’s evil Minerva on Batman. On the ABC show’s final episode in 1968, he was on the receiving end of a Whamm!!, Zowie!, Splatt!, Crash! and Sock! from Batman, Robin and Batgirl.

…He also played the father of the title character in Conan the Barbarian [1982], writing his own lines for his monologue that opens the film. “No one, no one in this world can you trust … not men, not women, not beasts … this you can trust,” he says pointing to the movie’s iconic steel sword.

…Smith appeared in the cult movies Piranha (1972), where he said his stunt with a very large anaconda almost cost him his life, as an FBI agent in Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973), and as a drag racer in David Cronenberg’s Fast Company (1979).

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 9, 1982 – Thirty-nine years ago, Tron premiered. The producer was Donald Kushner. It was written and directed by Steven Lisberger from the story by himself and Bonnie MacBird. The cast was Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, David Warner, Cindy Morgan and Barnard Hughes. The film was well received by critics with Ebert in particular loving it. However it did poorly at the Box Office and the studio wrote it off as a loss. (The sequel, Tron: Legacy, was a box office success.) Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a decent rating of sixty-nine percent. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 9, 1911 — Mervyn Peake. Best remembered for the Gormenghast series which is quite delightfully weird. Most fans hold that there are but there novels in the series (Titus GroanGormenghast and Titus Alone) though there’s a novella, “Boy in Darkness”, that is a part of it. It has been adapted for radio three times and television once, and Gaiman is writing the script for a forthcoming series which as now isn’t out. (Died 1968.)
  • Born July 9, 1938 — Brian Dennehy. He was Walter in the Cocoon films, and, though it’s more genre adjacent than actually genre, Lt. Leo McCarthy in F/X and F/X 2. He also voiced Django in  Ratatouille. His very last performance was as Jerome Townsend in the “Sing, Sing, Sing” episode of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels series. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 9, 1944 — Glen Cook, 77. With the exception of the new novel which is still on my To Be Read list, I’ve read his entire excellent Black Company series. I’ve also mostly liked his far lighter Garrett P.I. series (though not the last novel for reasons I’ll not discuss here) which it seems unfortunately he’s abandoned. And I should read the Instrumentalities of the Night as I’ve heard good things about it. 
  • Born July 9, 1945 Dean Koontz, 76. The genres of of mystery. horror, fantasy and  science fiction are all home to him. Author of over a hundred novels, his first novel was SF — it being Star Quest (not in print) published as an Ace Double with with Doom of the Green Planet by Emil Petaja. ISFDB claims over half of his output is genre, I’d say that a low estimate. 
  • Born July 9, 1954 — Ellen Klages, 67. Her novelette “Basement Magic” won a Nebula Award for Best Novelette. I strongly recommend Portable Childhoods, a collection of her short fiction, which published by Tachyon Publications, my favorite publisher of fantasy. They released another collection from her, Wicked Wonders, which is equally wonderful. Passing Strange, her 1940 set San Francisco novel, which won a BSFA Award and a World Fantasy Award, is also really great. Ok, I really like her.
  • Born July 9, 1971 — Scott Grimes, 50. He’s Lieutenant Gordon Malloy on The Orville. He did show up once in the Trek verse, playing Eric in the “Evolution“ episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. And you might recognize him as Bradley Brown in the first two Critters films. 
  • Born July 9, 1978 — Linda Park, 43. Best known for her portrayal of communications officer Hoshi Sato on the Enterprise. Her first genre role was Hannah in Jurassic Park III, and she was Renee Hansen in the Spectres filmwhich Marina Sirtis was also in. Her latest genre role was in For All Mankind as Amy Chang in the “Pathfinder” episode. 
  • Born July 9, 1995 — Georgina Henley, 26. English actress, best remembered  for her portrayal of Lucy Pevensie throughout the Chronicles of Narnia film franchise from age ten to age fifteen.  She’s listed as having an unspecified role in an untitled Game of Throne prequel series but given the number of those proposed, this may or may not exist. Actually I’d bet on it not happening. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) HERE’S INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING FOR YA. Texas Monthly checked in with the artists who did the comic book that adorns the lawsuit filing: “Houston Comic Book Store Filed a Lawsuit in Comic Form”. (See the images in the June 30 Pixel Scroll, item #12).

They filed the lawsuit as … a comic book?

Sure enough. Artists Michael Charles, Maurice Terry Jr., Michael Brooks, and Benjamin Carbonero of Bad Cog Studios illustrated the 24-page comic at the request of Third Planet owner T.J. Johnson and his attorney, Cris Feldman. “I was really intrigued by it because, first of all, I got a lawyer calling me to do a creative project,” Charles told the Chronicle. The full-color comic shows the store staff fending off an onslaught of ceramic plates, lit cigarette butts that they allege have twice caused fires, and no fewer than fourteen fire extinguishers tossed from hotel balconies onto the store’s roof. One panel depicts store employees using buckets to collect water as rain leaks through the damaged roof onto the shelves.

Is this legal?

It is, in fact! It’s unconventional, but the law doesn’t require that pleadings in civil cases be black-and-white typed documents formatted in any particular way. Still, there are good reasons why most lawsuits look the same: one judge might be amused by an unusual pleading, while another may consider it beneath the dignity of the court; a gimmicky pleading might undermine the gravity of the case; and, of course, not every suit lends itself to creative storytelling. The pleading from Third Planet is a unique case. It’s a third amended petition, which means that the parties involved are already in the middle of the legal process. The store and its attorneys know who the judge reviewing the claim is, and whether he’s the sort to hold this gimmick against them. Also, according to the pleading, lawyers for the defendant claimed that they didn’t understand the previous petition, which meant that filing it as an easy-to-comprehend comic book fits the time-honored legal tradition of being snarky to opposing counsel.

(13) NONE SO BLIND. The Hollywood Reporter’s kerfuffle coverage, “Dean Cain Lambastes ‘Woke’ Captain America Comic; Gets Roasted on Twitter in Return”, includes Cain’s admission that he didn’t read the issue. (But James Bacon did, and recently reviewed it for File 770: “Captain America of the Railways and Joe Gomez”.)

Dean Cain was still trending Friday on Twitter after criticisms he made about the new Captain America comic series earlier in the week on Fox & Friends.

The former Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman star and Donald Trump supporter, bashed The United States of Captain America comic series due to a line in the first issue in which Cap says the American dream for some “isn’t real.”

Cain took issue with that notion, saying everyone in the country should support the U.S.A.

“I love the concept of Captain America, but I am so tired of this wokeness and anti-Americanism,” Cain said on the Fox News Channel program. “In my opinion, America is the greatest country in history. It’s not perfect. We are constantly striving for a more perfect union, but I believe she’s the most fair, equitable country anyone’s ever seen, and that’s why people are clamoring to get here from all over the globe.”

Calling himself a “revolutionary” for supporting America these days, Cain added, “Do these people ever travel outside of America? Do they go to other countries where they have to deal with governments who aren’t anywhere near as fair as the United States? I don’t think they do. I do it all the time, and I kiss the soil when I get back.”

Needless to say, his comments did not go over well with most, a lion’s share of the reaction on social media blasting Cain for his short-sightedness.

Cain later admitted that he had not actually read the comic, he was just responding to a conservative outlet that reported on one line in the book to which ultra Right-wingers then dug in their claws….

(14) HE’S DEAD, JIM. When Loki visits The Simpsons, Stan Lee won’t be with him: “Marvel Blocks Stan Lee Cameo in ‘The Simpsons’-‘Loki’ Crossover Short”.

The long-standing tradition of Stan Lee appearing in every Marvel Comics film, television show and video game has come to an end – “The Simpsons” showrunner, Al Jean, says Marvel prevented them from adding a cameo appearance of the comic book legend in their new animated short, “The Good, the Bart, and the Loki.”

In the short, Tom Hiddleston, as Loki, makes his debut appearance in “The Simpsons” universe for a cartoon that makes an array of allusions to other MCU prominent characters. But there is no sign of Lee.

Jean told ComicBook.com that he and his team considered inserting a tribute to Lee upon discovering unused audio files of the creative genius from a prior engagement with the show.

“It wasn’t a joke,” Jean said. “We just thought, ‘Oh, we have Stan Lee audio from when he was on our show. Could we cameo him in?’”

However, Marvel summarily nixed the plan due to a new policy they have established concerning the beloved author.

“They said that their policy is he doesn’t cameo now that he’s passed away. Which is a completely understandable policy,” Jean explained. “That was their only note and that was, of course, easily done.”

(15) AGAINST THE GRAINS. “World’s biggest sandcastle constructed in Denmark” reports The Guardian. At 21.16 metres in height, it is more than 3 metres taller than the previous holder, says Guinness World Records.

Its Dutch creator, Wilfred Stijger, was assisted by 30 of the world’s best sand sculptors. He said he wanted the castle to represent the power the coronavirus has had over the world since the beginning of the pandemic. On top of the sandcastle is a model of the virus wearing a crown.

“It’s ruling our lives everywhere,” Stijger said. “It tells you what to do … It tells you to stay away from your family and not go to nice places. Don’t do activities, stay home.”

To make it more cohesive, the sand contains approximately 10% clay and a layer of glue was applied after it was completed so that it could stand up to the chilly and windy conditions of the autumn and winter.

Blokhus residents have been delighted to see local features incorporated into the sandcastle, such as beach houses and lighthouses, as well as depictions of popular activities such as windsurfing and kitesurfing.

The castle is expected to stand until the heavy frost sets in, probably next February or March.

(16) KHAN! Io9 debuted DUST’s “Star Trek Khan William Shatner Scream in Claymation”. The whole thing is 10 seconds long. The lip-quiver preceding the scream is what makes it great.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Danish Road Safety Council reminds people that if you’re going to invade another country you should wear a helmet!

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, James Davis Nicoll, Rich Horton, John A Arkansawyer, Michael Toman, Rich Lynch, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 4/19/21 The Calamari Of Dr. Cabinet

(1) UP, UP, AND AWAY. “NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Succeeds in Historic First Flight” the space agency reported today. (For a summary of the mission see the Wikipedia: “Ingenuity (helicopter)”.)

Monday, NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter became the first aircraft in history to make a powered, controlled flight on another planet. The Ingenuity team at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California confirmed the flight succeeded after receiving data from the helicopter via NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover at 6:46 a.m. EDT (3:46 a.m. PDT).

“Ingenuity is the latest in a long and storied tradition of NASA projects achieving a space exploration goal once thought impossible,” said acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk. “The X-15 was a pathfinder for the space shuttle. Mars Pathfinder and its Sojourner rover did the same for three generations of Mars rovers. We don’t know exactly where Ingenuity will lead us, but today’s results indicate the sky – at least on Mars – may not be the limit.”

The solar-powered helicopter first became airborne at 3:34 a.m. EDT (12:34 a.m. PDT) – 12:33 Local Mean Solar Time (Mars time) – a time the Ingenuity team determined would have optimal energy and flight conditions. Altimeter data indicate Ingenuity climbed to its prescribed maximum altitude of 10 feet (3 meters) and maintained a stable hover for 30 seconds. It then descended, touching back down on the surface of Mars after logging a total of 39.1 seconds of flight. Additional details on the test are expected in upcoming downlinks.

(2) ALL THE FEELS. The Atlantic’s Marina Koren captures the emotions of the event in “No, You’re Crying About a Helicopter on Mars”.

… I am not a spacecraft engineer, nor do I know this robot personally. But I am mortal, and we mortals tend to anthropomorphize robots and even have fuzzy feelings toward them. (The exception: If their appearance falls into the “uncanny valley” category, they can creep us out instead). A whole assortment of research on the relationship between people and machines shows that we can’t help attaching our little human feelings to the little mechanical robots we build. And NASA knows it.

As with other robotic missions, NASA maintains a Twitter account for Perseverance, the rover that brought Ingenuity to Mars in February, and dispatches are written from the perspective of the machine. “I love rocks,” Perseverance tweeted in February to its followers, who currently number 2.7 million. “I’m on the move!” it exclaimed in March as it took its first drive. “I’ve taken my first selfie,” the rover said earlier this month, showing us a picture of its robotic frame, with Ingenuity in the background. NASA has already shared imagery of Ingenuity’s flight—from Percy, stationed nearby, and from the helicopter itself, which captured its shadow flitting across the surface of Mars….

(3) A WALK, NOT A GALLOP. Book Riot’s Alice Nuttall points the way: “Slow Sci-Fi: 11 Thoughtful And Low Action Sci-Fi Reads”. A Becky Chambers’ novel is first on the list.

…Slow sci-fi can be a peaceful read between more action-packed books, or can give you the chance to grapple with a futuristic or otherworldly concept on multiple levels. Don’t be fooled — slow doesn’t mean shallow, and sometimes thoughtful sci-fi can give the horrors of a dystopia more time to develop, really drawing back before landing that gut punch. Here are some lower-action, thoughtful sci-fi reads to add to your TBR pile.

(4) THE QUARTERMASS EXPERIMENT. Texas A&M Libraries will host “The Future at 25 Cents A Copy: The Material Culture of Pulp Science Fiction Magazines”, a virtual talk scheduled for Thursday, April 22 at Noon (US Central). The participants are Jeremy Brett, an Associate Professor at A&M’s Cushing Memorial Library & Archives, where he is both Processing Archivist and the Curator of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Research Collection; Anna Culbertson, head of Special Collections & University Archives at San Diego State University, and Andrew Lippert, Special Collections Processing Archivist at UC, Riverside who works with the Eaton Collection. Register at the link.

“The “Pulp Era” of the 1920s-1940s was crucial to the formation of the science fiction genre in the United States. Pulp magazines were colorful, exciting vehicles for the work of countless creators, many of whom became major names. Librarians from three institutions with major pulp collections—Texas A&M University, the University of California, Riverside, and San Diego State University—will discuss the literary and genre legacy of pulps, including their significance as examples of mid-century American material culture.”

(5) DO YOU KNOW? Lise Andreasen would like to poll the audience.

(1) A French gentleman worked with agriculture, and invented a new drill plough, that was better at sowing. Michel Lullin de Chateauvieux – Wikipedia

(2) In “Surface Tension,” James Blish, talks about sowing people in the universe. The premier scientist is Chatvieux.

Does anybody know, whether this is a coincidence?

(6) EUROVISION SONG CONTEST. In return, Lise Andreasen offers to enlighten people who keep asking: How can this movie be nominated for the Hugo? She forwards these snippets from the Wikipedia plot summary:

Sigrit, who believes in the old Icelandic tradition of elves, asks them to help them in the contest…

Katiana’s ghost appears to (redacted)…

Luckily, unseen elves save (redacted)…

(7) HOW MANY RINGS BEFORE YOU HANG UP? Marvel dropped a trailer for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. The movie will be (only) in theaters September 3.

(8) PROVING LOVE. Netflix will release Love, Death, And Rockets, Volume 2 on May 14.

The NSFW animated anthology returns with a vengeance. Naked giants, Christmas demons, and robots-gone-wild… Consume irresponsibly.

Is there another Scalzi story in the new series? Youth wants to know.

(9) PROGRAMMED FOR FAILURE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the April 12 Financial Times, gaming columnist Tom Faber, discusses Disco Elysium, a role-playing game created by “Estonian novelist Robert Kurvitz and his friends during a night of drinking in 2005” and which won three gaming awards at the BAFTAs, the British equivalent of Oscars.

The brew of debauchery, failure, and resilience that marks this origin story is palpable in the 6,000 years of dense history Kurvitz and his team crafted around this detective game.  The story unfolds across the impoverished district of Martinaise, abandoned by the law following a failed communist revolution and now under the heel of a corrupt labor union.

Your protagonist is similarly scarred, beginning the game with a bout of amnesia following a drug-fueled bender so destructive it makes Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas look like something for children.  As you recover your memory it becomes apparent that you’re a cop with a murder case to solve, a task you are profoundly ill-equipped to handle.  ‘The entire story is about how to react when you’re faced with failure,’ Helen Hindpere, lead writer on the Final Cut, tells me.  ‘How do you come out of it?  What do you do?’

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1981 — In 1981 at Devention Two, The Empire Strikes Back which was released the previous year by Lucasfilm won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. Other nominated works were Lathe of Heaven, the Cosmos series, The Martian Chronicles and Flash Gordon.  It was directed by Irvin Kershner from the screenplay by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan with story by being George Lucas. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 18, 1907 Alan Wheatley. Best remembered for being the Sheriff of Nottingham in The Adventures of Robin Hood, with Richard Greene playing Robin Hood. In 1951, he had played Sherlock Holmes in the first TV series about him, but no recordings of it are known to exist. And he was in Two First Doctor stories as Temmosus, “The Escape” and “The Ambush” where he was the person killed on screen by Daleks. (Died 1991.) (CE) 
  • Born April 19, 1923 – Lygia Fagundes Telles, age 98.  Camões Prize.  Commander, Order of Rio Branco.  Chevalier de l’Ordre des Artes et des Lettres.  Grand officer, Order of Gabriela Mistral.  Third woman elected to the Brazilian Academy of Letters.  Called First Lady of Brazilian Literature.  Fifteen stories for us available in English, see collection Tigrela.  Many other works, many other awards.  [JH]
  • Born April 18, 1925 Hugh O’Brian. He was Harry Chamberlain in Rocketship X-M which you can see here as it’s in the public domain. (It was nominated in the 1951 Retro Hugo Awards given at Millennium Philcon but lost out to Destination Moon.)  He would later play Hugh Lockwood in Probe, the pilot for Search, and Search itself, an SF series. His only other genre appearance I think was playing five different roles on Fantasy Island. (Died 2016.) (CE)
  • Born April 18, 1933 W.R. Cole. Author of A Checklist of Science Fiction Anthologies, self-published In 1964. Ok, I’m including him today because I’m puzzled. SFE said of this work that ‘Though it has now been superseded and updated by William Contento’s indexes of Anthologies, it is remembered as one the essential pioneering efforts in Bibliography undertaken by sf Fandom.’  Was this really the first time someone compiled an index of anthologies? I seem to remember earlier efforts though I can’t remember precisely who. (Died 2002.) (CE) 
  • Born April 18, 1935 Herman Zimmerman, 86. He was the art director and production designer who worked between 1987 and 2005 for the Trek franchise. Excepting Voyager, in that era he worked on all other live-action productions including the first season of Next Gen, the entire runs of Deep Space Nine and Enterprise, as well as six Trek films. As Memory Alpha notes, “Together with Rick Sternbach he designed the space station Deep Space 9, with John Eaves the USS Enterprise-B and the USS Enterprise-E. His most recognizable work though, have been his (co-)designs for nearly all of the standing sets, those of the bridge, Main Engineering (co-designed with Andrew Probert) and Ten Forward for the USS Enterprise-D in particular.” Not surprisingly, he co-wrote the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Technical Manual with Rick Sternbach and Doug Drexler. (CE)
  • Born April 18, 1946 Tim Curry, 75. Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show of course, but it’s not his first genre appearance as a year earlier he’d been in the Scottish Opera’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Puck. And yes, I know that he appeared in the live show which was at the Chelsea Classic Cinema and other venues before the film was done. Other genre appearances include playing Darkness in Legend, an outstanding Cardinal Richelieu  in The Three Musketeers, Farley Claymore in The Shadow (great role), another superb performance playing Long John Silver in Muppet Treasure Island and in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead as The Player. (CE) 
  • Born April 19, 1947 – Donald Eastlake III, F.N., age 74.  Co-chaired Boskone 11, chaired Boskone 16.  Served as President of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n). Frequent chair of WSFS (World SF Society) Business Meetings, a particularly difficult thankless task.  Fellow of NESFA (service).  Guest of Honor (with wife Jill Eastlake) at Rivercon IX.  See here.  [JH]
  • Born April 19, 1948 – Christopher Yates, age 73.  A dozen covers.  Here is The Committed Men.  Here is The Year of the Quiet Sun.  Here is Solaris.  Here is Rogue Moon.  Here is Toyman.  Here is The Bornless Keeper.  [JH]
  • Born April 19, 1951 – Patricia Geary, age 70.  Four novels.  Vassar woman.  P.K. Dick Award.  Professor at Univ. Redlands.  [JH]
  • Born April 19, 1967 – Steven H Silver, age 54.  Chaired Windycon XXIX-XXX, 42 (so some are in Roman, some in Arabic numerals; do you think anyone asked me?); co-chaired Nebula Award Weekend 2010 (with Peggy Rae Sapienza, making SHS a Lawn Mower), chaired 2015-2016.  Fan Guest of Honor at DeepSouthCon 49, Capricon 32.  Fanzine, Argentus; three guest-editorships on Journey Planet.  See here.  [JH]
  • Born April 19, 1978 – Aleksi Briclot, age 43.  A score of covers, two dozen interiors; comics, films, video games.  Collection Worlds and Wonders in French and English (here is his cover).  Here is the Sep 04 Deep Magic.  Here is Galaxies 42.  Here is The Rose of Sarifal.  Here is Boundless.  Here is Stranger Things 4. [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) NOT DRAWN THAT WAY. CBR.com says “DC’s Karate Kid Was Accidentally Drawn the Wrong Way for Years”.

… One of the other audacious things about Shooter’s story was that he actually added FOUR new Legionnaires to the Legion in that story! Can you imagine pitching an editor with a story where you add four new members to the team? But hey, it worked out! One of the things Shooter felt that the Legion lacked was action characters. He felt that everyone’s powers were too passive. Everyone just pointed and fired a blast from their fingers or whatever. So that’s why Shooter loved the idea of Karate Kid, and wow, devoting PAGES to a fight between Superboy and Karate Kid was a bold, bold gambit at the time…

The problem was, as Shooter explained to my pal Glen Cadigan in Glen’s seminal work, The Legion Companion (I’d link to it, but I think it’s out of print and I don’t think it does Glen any good for me to tell you go buy a used copy on Amazon, ya know?), “In my crummy drawings, he was Half-Asian…when Shelly drew him, he made him like an American. Which is a shame.” As I noted in another old Comic Book Legends Revealed, one of the other Legionnaires introduced in that issue, Ferro Lad, was going to be Black, but Mort Weisinger wouldn’t approve it. Shooter was trying to diversify the Legion and he kept coming up short….

(14) IMPOSTER SYNDROME. The Hollywood Reporter tells why “Tim Curry Once Got Thrown Out of a ‘Rocky Horror’ Screening”.

…[Curry] explained, “I went rather early on at the Waverly [Theatre] in New York where it started, and they thought I was an imposter. And they threw me out.” Curry noted he was not in costume when he was tossed.

The Waverly (now IFC Center) was the original home of the midnight audience-participation screenings of Rocky Horror, which then spread across the country and still takes place to this day.

Asked about his feelings on the audience-participation screening, he said, “I thought it was enormous fun. I was having a ball — and then I got thrown out.”…

(15) TIME TO PLAY. James Davis Nicoll’s latest Tor.com entry has nothing to do with curling: “A Game of Stones: Five Novels Set in Asteroid Belts”. On the list is –

Up Against It by M. J. Locke (2011)

By the 24th century, humans can be found everywhere in the solar system, from the inner system all the way out to the Kuiper belt. This is possible in large part thanks to a trade network spanning the system. The network ensures that vital resources like volatiles are transported cheaply and reliably from source to destination. A case in point: asteroid 25 Phocaea (and its one settlement, Zekeston) flourish because the settlement can import the volatiles it lacks.

What Zekeston accepts as necessity, others see as opportunity. A disaster leaves Zekeston short on volatiles. Ogilvie and Sons is the only company in a position to resupply Zekeston in time to save its population. Ogilvie and Sons is more than willing to do this, provided Zekeston submits to rule by Ogilvie and Sons. Zekeston’s head of resource management, Jane Navio, is determined to save her adopted community from the predatory corporation. Whether she can do so with the resources at hand—some sympathetic functionaries and a gang of plucky kids—is unclear.

(16) BIG EARS. YouTube has a sketch from last night’s The Simpsons called “Everyone Is Horrid Except Me (And Possibly You)” where Quilloughby of The Snuffs (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) shows up in Springfield and charms Lisa Simpson. Morrissey of The Smith’s manager Peter Katsis loudly complained the show was making fun of the artist.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Pirates of the Caribbean:  Dead Man’s Chest” on ScreenRant, Ryan George says there are “enough nautical-themed Maguffins to fill an entire movie” in the first ten minutes, but he notes that it’s never clear in the movie why Davy Jones has an octopus face.

[Thanks to Ben Bird Person, Hampus Eckerman, JJ, Jeffrey Smith, Mike Kennedy, Lise Andreasen, Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 2/23/21 Trillogoogies

(1) DON’T MISS OUT. DisCon III reminds eligible voters they have until March 19 to nominate for the 2021 Hugo Awards.

Members of DisCon III, who registered before 11:59 p.m. PST December 31 2020, and CoNZealand have nominating rights for this year’s Hugos. Check now at https://members.discon3.org/ to make sure that you are in our system. If for some reason you aren’t, we can put that right quickly.

381 people have submitted The Hugo Awards nominations. Are you one of them?

(2) AN EQUATION WHERE 1138 IS 50. The Fanbase Weekly podcast is devoted to a “50th Anniversary Retrospective on ‘THX 1138’ (1971)”.

In this Fanbase Feature, The Fanbase Weekly co-hosts Bryant Dillon and Phillip Kelly (writer, filmmaker, and Fanbase Press Contributor) are joined by special guests Craig Miller (Star Wars Memories, Former Director of Fan Relations at Lucasfilm) and Gavin Hignight (writer – Star Wars: Resistance, Transformers: War for Cybertron) to participate in a thorough discussion regarding THX 1138 (1971) in light of the film’s 50th anniversary, with topics including the timely nature of the film’s themes, what the film reveals about filmmaker George Lucas and his pre-Star Wars ambitions and interests, and more. (Beware: SPOILERS for THX 1138 abound in this panel discussion!)

(3) COULD THERE BE A SEVENTH FOR NUMBER ONE? A.V. Club tells how the late actress could keep a streak alive: “The late Majel Barrett might still voice the computer on Star Trek: Discovery”.

…Earlier this week, the Roddenberry family Twitter account announced that Barrett’s voice had been recorded phonetically before she died, and that the family—including her son, Eugene Roddenberry Jr., an executive producer on CBS’s forthcoming Star Trek: Discovery—was working to synthesize it for potential use on a number of upcoming projects. According to the tweet, those include Apple’s Siri, and possibly even the voice of the Discovery computer.

It’s worth noting, though, that neither CBS, nor showrunner Byran Fuller, have confirmed that there are any plans to use Barrett’s phonemes for the computer’s voice. (Meanwhile, Discovery might already have a nod to Barrett in the form of lead character “Number One,” whose nickname probably references an otherwise-unnamed character Barrett played in the original Star Trek pilot “The Cage.”)

(4) LETTER FROM THE EDITOR. Nightmare Magazine’s Wendy N. Wagner sends a message:

(5) AFROFUTURISM. In “Afrofuturism gaining in popularity as nation wrestles with race” on Axios, Russell Contreras gives an overview of Afrofuturism, including interviews with Sheree Renee Thomas and Maurice Broaddus.

More Black writers and artists are turning to science fiction — and an artistic movement known as Afrofuturism — to tackle issues around race and inequality and give fans an escape from the harsh realities on Earth.

The big picture: Afrofuturism was long an underground movement. Its roots date back to W.E.B. Du Bois, though its name wasn’t coined til the 1990s. But it has been gaining a bigger mainstream profile in recent years with the blockbuster movie “Black Panther” and the HBO series “Lovecraft Country” and a national racial reckoning….  

(6) LEE OR DITKO? OR ALL OF THE ABOVE? “Roy Thomas, Former Marvel Editor, Pushes Back on New Stan Lee Biography” in a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter.

Something like 95 percent of the time, Abraham Riesman’s True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee is a very good biography. However, the remaining (and crucial) 5 percent of its content, scattered amid all that painstaking research and well-written prose, renders it often untrustworthy… i.e., a very bad biography. Because the author often insists, visibly and intrusively, on putting his verbal thumb on the scales, in a dispute he seems ill-equipped to judge.

As Marvel Comics visionary Stan Lee’s longtime employee and de facto protégé, and as a known student of the history of comic books, I suppose I would be expected to denounce Riesman’s book as scurrilous, a pack of lies.

But it’s both better — and worse — than that.

… That Stan Lee was the co-creator, and not the sole creator, of the key Marvel heroes from the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man through Daredevil and the Silver Surfer can hardly be in dispute at this late stage. I myself, back in the ’80s when I wasn’t working for him, had a friendly argument with him on that score over lunch. I soon realized that, as much as he respected the talents and contributions of artists (Riesman would say “artist/writers” and he’s right, at least in one sense) such as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko to the characters introduced in the 1960s, he could never really bring himself, in his own mind, to think of them as “co-creators.” The two of us had to agree to disagree, and I never saw any use in bringing it up again.

If I can judge from Riesman’s writings, and from other sources over the years, I’m sure I’d have encountered the same kind of blinders-on stubbornness in Jack Kirby (oft-quoted in this book), who saw Stan as little more than the guy who scribbled a few words of dialogue and rode to unearned glory on his back.

Both men were, I think, wrong, and that’s why Riesman is so ill-advised to use nearly every opportunity he gets to weight things in Jack’s favor and against Stan. (By the way, if someone objects to my referring to Jack Kirby as well by his first name, it’s because the two of us were on a first-name basis from 1965 till the last time we met, sometime in the 1980s. I considered him then, and I consider him now, to be by far the greatest superhero artist in the history of the medium, and, along with Stan, one of its preeminent pop-culture geniuses.)

You think I’m exaggerating when I suggest that Riesman finds gratuitous excuses to favor Jack’s version of things over Stan’s? I’m not….

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 23, 1886 – Ganpat.  This Anglo-Indian so wrote because “Ganpat” – as it happens, another name for the elephant god Ganesh – was as nearly as locals could approximate his surname Gompertz.  Eight novels for us, much other work.  Retired with the rank of Brigadier, went home and indulged his other love, fishing.  (Died 1951) [JH]
  • Born February 23, 1930 Gerry Davis. Mid-Sixties Story Editor on Doctor Who where he created companion Jamie McCrimmon and co-created the Cybermen along with unofficial scientific adviser Dr. Kit Pedler. They would create the Doomwatch series that ran in the Sixties on BBC. Davis briefly returned to writing for Doctor Who, penning the first script for Revenge of the Cybermen, though his script was largely abandoned by editor Robert Holmes. In 1989 he and Terry Nation who created the Daleks made a failed bid to take over production of the series and reformat it for the American market. (Died 1991.) (CE)
  • Born February 23, 1932 Majel Barrett. No doubt best remembered for being  Nurse Christine Chapel and Lwaxana Troi as well as for being the voice of most of the ship computer interfaces throughout the series. I’ll note that she was originally cast as Number One in the unused Pilot but the male studio heads hated the idea of a female in that role. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born February 23, 1944 – John Sandford, age 77.  Hugely successful outside our field, he’s written one SF novel, Saturn Run with Ctein.  I thought it Hugo-worthy. You can see my interview with Ctein here (PDF; starts p. 17).  [JH]
  • Born February 23, 1955 – Francesca Simon, age 66.  Six novels, one shorter story for us – I think; opinions differ about work called “children’s”.  Fifty books all told.  Children’s Book of the Year (U.K.) Award for Horrible Henry and the Abominable Snowman; first U.S. author to win this; at least it wasn’t about Henry VIII.  Libretto for a Gavin Higgins opera based on FS’ book The Monstrous Child in which Hel, Norse god of the dead, is an angry teenager.  Hey, it’s opera – [JH]
  • Born February 23, 1965 Jacob Weisman, 56. Founder, Tachyon Publications which you really should go look at as they’ve published every great author I’d care to read. Seriously Tidhar, Beagle and Yolen are among their newest releases! He also edited (with Beagle) The New Voices of Fantasy which I highly recommend as most excellent reading. He also wrote some early genre fiction — no I’ve not read it. (CE) 
  • Born February 23, 1968 – Sonya Hartnett, age 53.  Six novels for us.  Lindgren Award.  Guardian Prize.  Much more work, many more awards, and controversy, outside our field; maybe you’d better look here.  [JH]
  • Born February 23, 1975 – Nova Ren Suma, age 46.  Four novels, two shorter stories for us; three other novels, half a dozen other shorter stories.  Another Antiochian (as I am); people note her B.A. was self-designed, but we all do that: not saying it’s easy, Antioch isn’t for everyone.  The Walls Around Us NY Times Best-Seller, Cybils Award for it too.  Worked at Marvel on X-Men.  Went to the Launch Pad Workshop, NASA-funded astronomy for writers.  [JH]
  • Born February 23, 1983 Emily Blunt, 38. Her most direct connection to the genre is as Elise Sellas in the Adjustment Bureau film based off Dick’s “Adjustment Team” story. Mind she’s been in quite a  number of other genre films including The WolfmanGulliver’s TravelsGnomeo & JulietThe MuppetsLooperEdge of TomorrowInto the WoodsThe Huntsman: Winter’s WarThe Strange Case of Sherlock Holmes & Arthur Conan Doyle, and Mary Poppins Returns. (CE)
  • Born February 23, 2002 Emilia Jones, 19. I’m reasonably sure this is the youngest Birthday individual that I’ve done.  She shows up on Doctor Who as Merry Gejelh, The Queen of Years, in the “The Rings of Akhaten”, an Eleventh Doctor story. At nine years of age, she’s made her acting debut in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides as an unnamed English Girl. She’s Young Beth in the horror film Ghostland. She’s currently in Residue, an SF horror series you can find on Netflix. (CE)
  • Born February 23, 1989 – Almijara Barbero Carvajal, age 32.  Two short stories in Spanish; two Spanish poems with translations in Strange Horizons, whose bio for her notes she was born in Motril, Granada, Spain, “and is still trying to figure out how to become real.”  But, as a teacher of mine once said, why not escape?  [JH]

(8) ALT-HIST. Sylvain Neuvel recommends “10 Mind-Bending Alternate Histories” at Publishers Weekly.

4. Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Speaking of Gettysburg, what if all the dead didn’t stay that way? After the zombie apocalypse puts a stop to the Civil War, Black and Indigenous people are sent to fight the undead. Ireland uses imagined horror to explore a very real one in this provocative YA novel about racism, resilience, and one badass woman fighting for her life.

(9) DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE. Heroes & Icons remembers: “Star Trek paid this subtle tribute to M*A*S*H when David Ogden Stiers appeared on The Next Generation”.

…It happens about 13 minutes into the episode when Stiers, who played a Kaelon named Timicin, is aboard the ship for a special mission. His character is portrayed as a brilliant scientist who believes he has figured out a way to save his planet’s dying sun. While he and Captain Picard’s crew experiment with Timicin’s theory, we watch Stiers coordinating with LeVar Burton’s Geordi La Forge. At a dramatic point, Geordi calls Timicin over to monitor his screen, and that’s when the M*A*S*H reference flashes, “Composite Sensor Analysis 4077.” 

(10) HOLO? HOLO? In the Washington Post, Dalvin Brown says ARHT Media has created HoloPod, which enables companies to beam holograms of people into meetings, thus enabling “people to engage with life-size, three-dimensional representations of people” in office or corporate settings. “Lifelike holograms may be the future of remote work”.

… Holograms might not be the next big thing, but start-ups in the 3-D space are positioning their offerings just in case.

The three-dimensional light projections have primarily been seen re-creating musicians onstage in recent years. Companies have wanted to bring them into homes, but the projection hardware is still too expensive for most people to afford. Companies, on the other hand, have larger budgets. And now software advancements are unlocking ways to use laptops, computers and smartphones to engage with and stream holograms emitted elsewhere.

In December, ARHT media showed what a hologram-enabled conference could look like as it beamed an executive from Los Angeles to Singapore to speak at an innovation summit. The event brought together a “small group” of attendees and was broadcast live to a larger audience online….

(11) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter adjusted the rabbit ears and received tonight’s episode of Jeopardy! where the contestants didn’t know these legendary blades. 

Category: Swords.

Answer: In a fantasy saga by Michael Moorcock, this emperor of Melnibone wields a sword called Stormbringer.

No one got: Who is Elric?

Another answer: Glamdring is this wizard’s sword of choice.

No one got: Who is Gandalf?

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers:  The Simpsons Movie,” the Screen Junkies note the movie came out a decade after “anyone over the age of 12 stopped caring” about the show, and that Homer Simpson evolved into “An irredeemable jerk crossed with Wiley Coyote.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bruce D. Arthurs who is right when he calls it a “fine-looking word.”]

Pixel Scroll 11/20/20 Trapped In A Pixel He Never Scrolled

(1) “THE FUTURE WAS SO BAD.” “HOW BAD WAS IT?” The Library of Congress’ National Book Festival Blog introduces “2020 National Book Festival Highlights: Dystopian Worlds”.

Why is it that some of us love dystopian novels, the kind of fiction that takes a dim, bleak view of the future? Is it because writers of this genre show us how bad things can become if we aren’t careful? Or that we can feel better about the current state of affairs because they aren’t nearly as bad as the book’s scenario?

The “Dystopian Worlds” conversation at the 2020 National Book Festival featured Dark Star trilogy novelist Marlon James, who spoke with sci-fi/fantasy writer Jeff VanderMeer. James’s most recent novel is “Black Leopard, Red Wolf” (Riverhead), and VanderMeer’s is “A Peculiar Peril” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Everdeen Mason, senior audience editor of The Washington Post, moderated and, in her words, is an “occasional book critic.”

(2) BLOOM’S FINAL LE GUIN APPRECIATION. “The Strange Friendships of Ursula K. Le Guin’s ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’” in The New Yorker is an essay was drawn from The Bright Book of Life: Novels to Read and Reread by Harold Bloom (d. 2019), out this month.

…Though I have written about “The Left Hand of Darkness” before, in 1987 and again in 2000, I have forgotten what I said and do not want to consult it now, but, rather, make a fresh start on this marvellous romance. In one of her letters, Ursula remarked that writing “The Dispossessed” was liberating for her, and she seemed to prefer it to “The Left Hand of Darkness.” Rereading both, I find myself torn between the two. The protagonist, Shevek, in “The Dispossessed,” is far more interesting than anyone in the earlier book, and yet he and his story manifest something of the ambivalence of Le Guin’s subtitle: “An Ambiguous Utopia.”

In a fierce introduction to “The Left Hand of Darkness,” Le Guin charmingly remarks, “A novelist’s business is lying.” She adumbrates:

“I talk about the gods; I am an atheist. But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth.

“The only truth I can understand or express is, logically defined, a lie. Psychologically defined, a symbol. Aesthetically defined, a metaphor.”

Always in Le Guin we hear reverberations of Lao Tzu’s “Tao Te Ching,” which she translated, with J. P. Seaton, as “A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way” (1997). We corresponded about her understanding of the Tao, yet I had to confess my permanent difficulty in absorbing this way that is not a way. I myself always keep to hand a copy of “The Bhagavad-Gita” as rendered by Barbara Stoler Miller, which I purchased in the autumn of 1986, the year of its publication. After hundreds of readings, I think I know what Krishna means by “dark inertia,” “passion,” and “lucidity,” but a dozen readings of the Le Guin-Seaton “Tao Te Ching” have left me muttering that I do not apprehend the water and stone of the Way. Is it that I am not enough open to my own female component? That seems not right. I am more my late mother than my late father. What moves me most in Ursula is the serenity. I lack it utterly….

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to loaf around with A.C. Wise in Episode 132 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast as they nibble — she on chocolate zucchini bread and he on cherry pecan bread.

A.C. Wise

Wise is a two-time finalist for the Nebula Award, two-time finalist for the Sunburst Award, and a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Plus she’s won the Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. Her fiction has appeared in UncannyTor.comShimmer, and multiple Year’s Best anthologies. Her work can also be found in two collections, The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again and The Kissing Booth Girl and Other Stories, both published with Lethe Press. Her debut novel, Wendy, Darling, will be out from Titan Books in June 2021, and a new short story collection, The Ghost Sequences, will be published by Undertow Books next August.

We discussed how her first professionally published fiction ended up printed on a coffee can, the 24-hour challenge which led to the creation of her Lambda Award-nominated collection, which comic book character obsesses her the most, how individual stories can act as commentary on all stories, why she enjoys wielding the power of ambiguity, how workshopping with other writers can help make stories better, what The Queen’s Gambit can teach us about dealing with reader expectations, the unexpected way a flash fiction piece turned into her first novel, and much more

(4) SLF WANTS ENTRIES FOR ILLUSTRATION OF THE YEAR. The Speculative Literature Foundation is making an open call for original artwork combining fantasy and science fiction themes, to be featured as its cover art (Illustrationof the Year or Artwork) for 2021.

Artwork will be displayed on the Speculative Literature Foundation’s (SLF) website and social media accounts. Artwork will also be used as a visual element of SLF’s marketing material and swag, including but not limited to, bookmarks, pins, posters, etc., and may be cropped or otherwise minimally altered to fit these different formats.

The winning artist will receive $500.00 (USD) and will be announced, along with the selected Artwork, on SLF’s website and in a press release.

This is the SLF’s second international open call for Illustration of the Year, and the fourth consecutive year that it has featured an illustration. The SLF, founded in 2004 by author and creative writing professor Mary Anne Mohanraj, is a global non-profit arts foundation serving the speculative literature (science fiction, fantasy, and horror) community. It provides resources to speculative fiction writers, editors, illustrators, and publishers, and aims to develop a greater public appreciation of this art.

Submission Dates: November 20, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. through December 20, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.

Criteria: Each artist (Artist) may submit one (1) artwork for consideration. The artwork may be created digitally or by hand (no photography). The subject matter must combine fantasy and science fiction elements as well as incorporate SLF’s literary focus. All artwork must be submitted in both jpeg and pdf formats. Aspect ratio must work for the website banner, being at least 1500 points wide, and 400-500 points high. Final resolution for print must be at least 11 inches wide and 300 dpi. Files are limited to 10MB.

Submit artwork to development@speculativeliterature.org, including your name, email address, phone number and short bio.

(5) DON’T INVITEMS. LitHub’s Chris Gosden explains “Why Harry Houdini DID NOT Like Arthur Conan Doyle”.

… Later in 1924 Houdini wrote a book exposing mediums and their activities at séances—A Magician among the Spirits.

Houdini’s position was complex and interesting. The greatest illusionist of the last century became the great debunker of illusions. Conversely, Houdini was keen to stress the physical skill and strength that formed the basis for his act and to reveal the tricks employed by others, many of whom claimed not to be tricksters. Houdini himself became the subject of myth-making, seen by some as having shamanistic powers; and Conan Doyle was not alone in considering Houdini to be a magician, a view expressed in his book The Edge of the Unknown (1930).

Conan Doyle’s two-volume work The History of Spiritualism (1926) was an argument for the veracity and validity of the spiritualist movement, citing, among many other cases, the Davenport brothers and the Spirit Cabinet as an instance when people were able to summon spirits.

Important issues were contained in the disagreements between Houdini and Doyle that resonated elsewhere. First was the issue of evidence and how different people were either convinced by, or skeptical of, exactly the same set of events, such as the activities within the Davenports’ Spirit Cabinet. The creator of the arch-empiricist and logician, Sherlock Holmes, was famously credulous. Houdini took a lot to be convinced of other-worldly phenomena.

Deeper issues were also involved, concerning the nature of the person and of reality more broadly. Were people divided into body and spirit, with the latter surviving the death of the body? As skepticism concerning religious belief grew, so did doubts about life after death, which in turn threw notions of the composition of the person into doubt—perhaps people did not have souls or some form of immaterial reality?…

(6) THE G.O.A.T. In “An Oral History of ‘Marge vs The Monorail’, the Episode That Changed ‘The Simpsons'” on Vice, Sean Cole interviews the people involved in “Marge vs. The Monorail,” which many think is the greatest episode of The Simpsons.  The episode was written by Conan O’Brien, directed by Rich Moore (who won an Oscar for Zootopia) and had guest spots by Phil Hartman and Leonard Nimoy.

Jeff Martin: Mindless groupthink is a recurrent theme on The Simpsons, and I think the monorail episode is the best – and certainly my favourite – example of Springfield mob mentality. Watching the episode, I decided to go ahead and time it. From Lanley whistling in the back of the auditorium to the entire town marching on the town hall steps singing “Monorail!” is a little less than two minutes. I think it took Harold Hill at least four minutes to whip up River City.

Rich Moore: That musical number was almost harder to pull off than the whole third act climax. I’d done “A Streetcar Named Marge” before. That was a big musical spectacular, so it felt like, ‘Okay, we’re going to have to pull off what we did on that episode.’ That’s hard to do when you’re not working under the same roof as the animators. We would send a very complete blueprint, with all the key posing and animation timing, to Korea [where the bulk of animation is done by a studio called AKOM], but there was a bit of crossing your fingers and hoping, since you’re not there in the room to direct them. Everything is being communicated through instructions on exposure sheets, which have been translated from English to Korean.

Jeff Martin: Every single word of the monorail song was unchanged from Conan’s first draft, which is impressive. My niche on the show in those days was to actually write the tunes to the songs. I wrote a bunch of songs, so I was assigned to set the monorail song to music. It’s sort of like, “Bum, bum, bum, bum. I think I’m done!” It’s barely a song. It’s just sort of a rhythm and “Monorail! Monorail! Monorail!” The notion that Conan and I co-wrote that song is laughable. I’ve told Conan over the years that he had his part in that song. Elton John, meaning me, needs Bernie Taupin, meaning him.

(7) VOSS OBIT. Actor Philip Voss has died of COVID-19 at the age of 84. The Guardian ran anoverview of his career.

…His television career had begun in the first (1963) season of Doctor Who, with William Hartnell, as Acomat, the leader of Mongolian bandits, in the Marco Polo story, and as a young Dulcian, Wahed, a humanoid pacifist killed by Quarks, a few years later, with Patrick Troughton as the second doctor. His last television role was as Ian McKellen’s acid-tongued brother, Mason, in the sitcom Vicious (2013-16).

In the late 1970s he was also a member of the BBC Radio Drama Company, working with the directors Jane Morgan and Celia De Wolff, in subsequent years, on The Lord of the Rings (he was Lord of the Nazgûl)… On film, he popped up in Octopussy (1983) with Roger Moore as James Bond, Trevor Nunn’s Lady Jane (1986), Bob Rafelson’s Mountains of the Moon (1990) and as Laura’s father in Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994).

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1980 — Forty years ago, Roger Zelazny would win the Balrog Award for “The Last Defenders of Camelot”. It was originally published in Asimov’s SF Adventure Magazine, Summer 1979. The Balrog Award were a set of awards given annually from 1979 to 1985 for the best works and achievements of genre fiction in the previous year. You knew what they were named after. The awards were originally announced by editor Jonathan Bacon in Issue #15 of Fantasy Crossroads and presented at the Fool-Con II convention on April Fool’s Day, 1979. Bacon says that they were not to considered serious awards. 

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • November 20, 1964 The First Men in the Moon premiered. It’s an adaptation by screenwriter Nigel Kneale of H. G. Wells novel of the same name. It was produced by Charles H. Schneer, and directed by Nathan Juran. It  starred Edward Judd, Martha Hyer and Lionel Jeffries. Ray Harryhausen of course did the special effects with sculptor Bryan Kneale constructing the Selenites from Harryhausen’s designs. With the exception of the grinch critic at the New York Times, critics loved it, though it was a box-office bomb which Harryhausen thought was the fault of too much comedy in the script. It holds a respectable sixty-seven percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 20, 1858 – Selma Lagerlöf.  Nine novels, a score of shorter stories for us, many others of each outside our field.  First woman to win Nobel Prize in Literature; given “in appreciation of the lofty idealism, vivid imagination, and spiritual perception that characterize her writings”.  (Died 1940) [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1923 – Len Moffatt.  Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon 25.  Forry Award (for life contribution to SF; given to pros and fans, some people are both).  With wife June, Fan GoH at Loscon 8; TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegates, publishing The Moffatt House Abroad; Evans-Freehafer Award (for service to L.A. Science Fantasy Society); fanzine Moonshine; L & J and I published Button-Tack (memorial zine for Rick Sneary – rhymes with “sherry”); L & J posthumously in First Fandom Hall of Fame.  My appreciation of Len here.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1926 John Gardner. Author of more Bond novels that one would think possible. He’d write fourteen original James Bond novels, more than Fleming wrote, and the novelized versions of two Bond films. He also dip into the Sherlock universe, writing three novels around the character of Professor Moriarty. Rights to film them were optioned but never developed. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born November 20, 1929 Jerry Hardin, 91. He’s best known for playing Deep Throat on The X-Files. He’s also been on Quantum Leap, StarmanBrimstone and Strange World, plus he was in the Doomsday Virus miniseries. And he made a rather good Samuel Clemens in the two part “Time’s Arrow” story on Next Gen. (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1932 Richard Dawson. Usually one appearance in a genre film or show isn’t enough to make the Birthday list but he was Damon Killian on The Running Man, a juicy enough role to ensure his making this list, and twenty years earlier he was Joey on Munster, Go Home! He’d voiceLong John Silver on an animated Treasure Island film in the Seventies as well. And he had a one-off on the classic Fantasy Island. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1936 – Don DeLillo, 84.  A dozen novels, half as many shorter stories, for us; four other novels, a score of other shorter stories, plays, a screenplay.  Nat’l Book Award, PEN/Faulkner Award (Poets, Essayists, Novelists), PEN / Saul Bellow Award, Lib’y of Congress Award.  More here.  [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1944 Molly Gloss, 76. She received the Otherwise Award for her Wild Life novel, and nominated for another one for The Dazzle of Day novel.  Much of her excellent short stories are collected in the recently released Unforeseen which along with her two genre novels are available from the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1950 – Donita Paul, 70.  A dozen novels.  Romances and juveniles under another name.  Why shouldn’t a Christian author write of dragons – what about St. George? [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1956 Bo Derek, 64. She makes the Birthday list for being Jane Parker in Tarzan, the Ape Man. There’s also Ghosts Can’t Do It and Horror 101 as wellas the two Sharknado films she just did. (CE)
  • Born November 20, 1959 Sean Young, 61. Rachael and her clone in the original Blade Runner and the sequel. More intriguingly she played Chani in Dune. A bit old for the role, wasn’t she? She was the lead, Helen Hyde, in Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde. And she’s a Trekkie as she was in the Star Trek: Renegades video fanfic pilot as Dr. Lucien. (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1972 – Cerece Rennie Murphy, 48.  Seven novels, one shorter story.  Ardent fan of John Donne, Alice Walker, Kurt Vonnegut, and Alexander Pope from an early age.  A 2nd Grade teacher applauds a CRM book for children, “I have struggled to find books with African-American characters who are not stereotyped or set in a time period of racial struggle.”  [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1980 – Ignacio Bazán Lazcano, 40.  Illustrator and conceptual artist.  Here is Beneath Ceaseless Skies 101.  Here is The Fall of Io.  Here is Welcome.  Here is an astronaut.  Here is a robot bartender.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Rich Horton says this Rhymes With Orange reminded him of Howard Waldrop’s first sale (to Analog! Possibly even to Campbell!) — “Lunchbox”.

(12) GREAT DAYS OF ANIMATION. Join legendary animator Glen Keane, director of Over The Moon, for a virtual retrospective conversation with filmmaker and animator Sergio Pablos. Free event on Saturday, December 5 at 7:30 p.m. Pacific. Register here.

A 38-year veteran of Walt Disney Feature Animation, Glen Keane trained under Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men. Keane went on to create many beloved Disney characters such as The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Beast, Tarzan, and Rapunzel. In 2012, Keane departed Disney to begin Glen Keane Productions as a way to further his artistic explorations in animation, design, and film. He has since gone on to collaborate with Google, the Paris Ballet, and Kobe Bryant. In 2017, he animated and directed the Academy Award-winning animated film “Dear Basketball” in collaboration with legends Kobe Bryant and John Williams. Most recently, he directed OVER THE MOON, now available on Netflix.

(13) A STARCHY PARABLE. [Item by rcade.] The AmITheAsshole subreddit is a place for people to find out whether they’ve done something to someone else that makes them an asshole.

A woman asked: “AITA for “ruining” the rice that my boyfriend cooks with by consolidating the multiple bags of rice which he claims are “different” into a single container?”

Here’s where it becomes fodder for File 770. Commenter SelectNetwork1 has responded in the form of a fairy tale in this thread. [There are now over 4K comments, and it took OGH 10 minutes to find it again, so we’re just going to quote it in full.]

Once there was a princess who always wanted things her way. There were three bags of rice in the kitchen and every day she asked, why can’t all the rice be in the same bag? They are all the same.” And every day her boyfriend replied, “They look the same to you because you only look at them from a distance, but they are not the same. They won’t cook right if they’re mixed together.”

One day, the princess’s boyfriend went away for the weekend, leaving the princess home alone. The three bags of rice sitting were all she could think about. They are the same! she thought, over and over. Why are they not in the same bag together! At last she could stand it no more. She went to the kitchen, found a single, big container, and dumped all three bags of rice into it. Then she shook it very hard so the grains would mix. There, now all the rice is together, she thought. At last, she was at peace.

A few hours later, there was a knock at the door. The princess went to answer it, and on the front step was a mysterious woman. “Did you mix three bags of rice all together?” asked the mysterious woman. “They were all the same, they belonged in one bag,” said the princess. The mysterious woman seemed to grow to a hundred feet tall! The princess cowered, and let out a squeak. She covered her eyes with her hands, and realized her hands were paws! She had been turned into a mouse.

The mysterious woman picked her up and put the mouse princess on her shoulder. The mouse princess clung to her shirt as the mysterious woman went into the house and walked straight to the kitchen. She took the big bag of rice and dumped it out on the kitchen table, then gently lifted the mouse princess off her shoulder and set her down beside the rice, which towered above her mouse head like a mountain. “Do you wish to become a human princess again?” the mysterious woman asked, and the mouse princess nodded and squeaked. “Then you must separate these grains of rice that you have mixed together. Only then will you return to your true form.”

The mouse princess stared up at the mountain of rice: it was too large to contemplate, and the rice was all the same! It seemed like an impossible task. She turned back to the mysterious woman, but she had vanished: the kitchen was empty.

For a while, the mouse princess sulked. Eventually, she got bored, and picked up a grain of rice between her paws. “It’s just rice, it’s all the same,” she tried to say, but it came out as “squeak.” She put it aside, and picked up another grain of rice. “See, just rice?” she tried to say, but that, too, came out as “squeak.” This grain was heavier than the first one, and she looked more closely at it. The first grain was long and thin, and this one was a little shorter, and fatter at the middle. She pawed through the pile and came up with another: this grain was shorter and fatter still. “They are not the same!” she tried to exclaim, but it came out as “Squeak!”

The mouse princess contemplated the mountain of rice, and for the first time since she had been turned into a mouse by the mysterious stranger, she felt a little hope. She took the three grains of rice and set them down in three corners of the table, then went back to the mountain of rice and began to take it apart, one grain at a time.

The longer she worked, the easier it became. After a while, she didn’t have to examine the grains to tell them apart, she could see the difference as soon as she as much as glanced at them. She worked until she was exhausted, then she fell asleep on a pile of rice, and woke up again a few hours later to begin working again. She worked and slept, worked and slept, and worked again.

After three days and three nights, the mouse princess was finished. As soon as she pushed the last grain of rice into its pile, she felt as if the room were shrinking around her! She leapt off the table before she could spill the rice, and landed on the floor on her human feet.

Just as she was getting her bearings, she heard the front door open. Her boyfriend was home! She swiftly found the original bags and swept the three piles of rice into their three separate containers. Just as she set the last bag of rice on the table, her boyfriend walked into the room. When he saw the bags of rice, he sighed. “I’ve told you before, they are not the same just because they look the same to you,” he said. The princess smiled. “I know,” she said. “All the rice looked the same to me when I looked at them only from a distance; now I have looked closer, and I understand that each rice is unique.”

The human princess’s boyfriend looked surprised, but happy. “I’ll start making dinner,” he said. “What kind of rice would you like to eat?”

“The medium-length one,” the princess said. “But rinse it carefully… I think I saw a mouse around here somewhere.”

(14) STAY FROSTY. Variety peeks behind the curtain as “George Clooney Navigates Two Worlds in Sci-Fi Drama ‘The Midnight Sky’”.

Netflix’s sci-fi drama “The Midnight Sky,” set for release next month, will see George Clooney as a scientist in the Arctic trying to protect a little girl, and prevent a group of astronauts from coming back home after a global catastrophe.

“It’s two different worlds; we were basically saying we were going to shoot ‘The Revenant’ and stop, and then shoot ‘Gravity,’” said Clooney about his seventh feature as a director during an online seminar at EnergaCamerimage Film Festival dedicated to “The Midnight Sky,” an adaptation of Lily Brooks-Dalton novel “Good Morning, Midnight.” He was accompanied by the film’s cinematographer Martin Ruhe.

“Usually, when space movies are shot, up is up and down is down, and that’s not exactly how it works. In ‘Gravity,’ the camera was constantly rotating. We wanted to keep the idea of the horizon being different, without making everyone throw up along the way. But our first conversation was: ‘How do we shoot winter’?,” said Clooney, mentioning that while two-thirds of Earthbound sequences were shot in Iceland, one-third was completed on the sound stage, “which was as cold as Iceland for some reason!,” he said.

(15) A LITTLE GAFFE. “Star Wars: The Mandalorian Has Its Own Game of Thrones Coffee Cup Blunder” in “Chapter 12: The Seige.”

…For the second time on The Mandalorian, an on-set mistake has been noticed, reminding fans of the infamous coffee cup on Game of Thrones. Photo at the link.

Without giving too much away, this episode sees Mando and Baby Yoda return to Nevarro, where Din Djarrin reunites with Greef Carga and Cara Dune to shut down an old Imperial base on the planet. While they’re working through the base, getting into a shootout with a few stormtroopers, a pretty obvious mistake can be noticed in the background….

In the back-left corner of the frame, a man can be seen that clearly isn’t a part of the Star Wars universe. He’s wearing a t-shirt, blue jeans, and a watch. You can only see the left side of his body, and his head is thankfully out of the frame, but it’s still very noticeable.

(16) LAST LIGHTNING. People reports “The CW’s Black Lightning to End with Season 4”.

Black Lightning is coming to an end, the CW announced Friday.

The superhero drama will conclude with its upcoming fourth season, set to premiere in February 2021. Though the network did not give a reason for the series’ end, showrunner Salim Akil released a statement thanking the cast, crew and fans.

“When we first started the Black Lighting journey, I knew that Jefferson Pierce and his family of powerful Black women would be a unique addition to the superhero genre,” the statement said, according to Entertainment Weekly.

He continued, “The love that Blerds and all comic book fans around the globe have shown this series over the past three seasons proved what we imagined: Black people want to see themselves in all their complexities.”

(17) NIGHT OF THE GAS GIANTS, Mental Floss urges everyone, “Don’t Miss Saturn And Jupiter’s Great Conjunction on the Winter Solstice” on December 21.

In 2020, skygazers were treated to meteor showers, a new comet, and a Halloween blue moon. One of the last major astronomical events of the year is set to fall on the night of the winter solstice. On December 21, look up to catch Saturn in conjunction with Jupiter.

WHAT IS THE CONJUNCTION OF SATURN AND JUPITER?

In astronomy, a conjunction occurs when two planets appear exceptionally close in the night sky. Two of our solar system’s gas giants will share a celestial “kiss” on the longest night of the year. The rare meeting of Saturn and Jupiter is known as the “great conjunction” by astronomers.

(18) A MODEST DESIGN PROPOSAL. The election coverage is winding down, so here’s what Fox News has moved on to: “Grow-your-own human steaks meal kit is not ‘technically’ cannibalism, makers say”.

…A “DIY meal kit” for growing steaks made from human cells was recently nominated for “design of the year” by the London-based Design Museum.

Named the Ouroboros Steak after the circular symbol of a snake eating itself tail-first, the hypothetical kit would come with everything one needs to use their own cells to grow miniature human meat steaks.

“People think that eating oneself is cannibalism, which technically this is not,” Grace Knight, one of the designers, told Dezeen magazine.

(19) THAT’S NO MOON! The Planetary Society pointed readers to NASA’s story “Earth May Have Captured a 1960s-Era Rocket Booster”. This one’s not a conjunction – it’s just regular junk.

Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory were puzzled over Earth’s newest moon: an object in orbit around the Earth, temporarily captured by our planet’s gravity. Tracing the object’s trajectory back through time, they discovered it came from Earth itself in 1966, when NASA launched Surveyor 2 to the Moon. The object is likely the rocket’s upper stage.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/19/20 We Keep Our Cats As Happy As We Can

(1) OOR WOMBAT KNOWS HOW TO WRITE HORROR. Kansas City’s The Pitch has Nick Spacek “Asking author Ursula Vernon to reveal what hides in The Hollow Places.

…Part of what makes Vernon’s books so terrifying is that they’re quite relatable. Told in the first person by rather chummy narrators who immediately become something like your best friends, The Twisted Ones‘ Mouse and The Hollow Places‘ Kara feel like folks you’d love to get to know better, making each page in both books an absolute treat.

“Horror is sufficiently immediate and visceral that you spend a lot of time thinking, ‘What would I do in this situation?’” Vernon explains her style. “It has to be very immediate, so that the reader isn’t yelling, ‘Don’t go in there!’ when they’re about to open the door. You don’t want that. You want people to relate to why they’re making these choices. You need a pressing reason why they will stay in this situation that is obviously bad. Things are going down, so it has to be a believable reason.”

She points to the fact that in The Twisted Ones, Mouse doesn’t want to leave her dog behind, and I concur, pointing to the fact that much of The Hollow Places is due to the fact that Kara’s Uncle Earl is still recovering and Kara doesn’t want to abandon him.

“That’s why people stay in scary situations,” Vernon agrees. “I think that’s a more relatable reason than something I don’t actually believe. People stay in situations either because they’re too poor to leave, they have nowhere to go, or there’s someone they just can’t bear to leave behind. You got to have the personal stakes.”

 (2) MARS MY DESTINATION. Tesmanian listens in as “Elon Musk shares SpaceX Starship plans at the Mars Society Convention”.

SpaceX’s founder Elon Musk was a guest at a the virtual International Mars Society Convention on Friday, October 16 (full video below). During the conference, he held a discussion with Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin. –“I think we want to be on track to become a multiplanet species and a spacefaring civilization, in order to […] ensure the continuance of consciousness as we know it,” Musk told Zubrin. “… As far as we know… we could be the only life.”

When Zubrin asked about Starship, SpaceX’s next-generation launch vehicle, Musk said he will manufacture many iterations of the vehicle. Starship will be capable of transporting tons of cargo and one hundred passengers to space destinations. It is actively under development at Boca Chica Beach in South Texas. Musk talked about the challenges SpaceX faced to develop the Falcon rocket, stating that he expects to have Starship failures throughout its development before reaching orbit.

Musk told Zubrin that Starship is being designed to enable a self-sustaining ‘city’ on Mars. “If the ships from Earth stop coming for any reason, does Mars die out?…” he said. So, Starship must be reusable and capable of carrying all the resources needed to aid humans’ survival on the Red Planet. Musk stated SpaceX’s goal is to get enough people and tonnage to the Martian surface ‘as soon as possible’, –“Are we creating a city on Mars … before any possible World War three… […]” — He told Zubrin he hopes to takes humans to Mars before any nuclear war, asteroid strike, any potential disaster threatens humanity’s existence.

(3) ANTE AND DEAL. If you didn’t catch it live, here’s a video of the latest Wild Cards panel.

Join five of the Wild Cards authors as they discuss what it’s like to write in a shared universe series and how exactly the Wild Cards Consortium works. Featuring Melinda Snodgrass, Paul Cornell, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Kevin Andrew Murphy, and David Levine.

(4) EMPLOYMENT IN TIMES OF PANDEMIC. “‘I worked in horror films. Now I’m an undertaker’: arts workers who had to find new jobs”The Guardian tells how entertainment industry workers are adapting.

For many workers who would ordinarily be earning a living in theatres, live music venues and nightclubs, which largely still remain closed in the UK, however, retraining has been a harsh reality since they lost their jobs in March. Countless creatives have already been forced to find other income to make ends meet, while a recent report found that 34% of musicians alone had thought about hanging up their instruments for good. Here we meet some of the people who’ve added some unusual strings to their bow during the pandemic …

‘In undertaking, you get to drive luxury cars’

Paris Rivers: SFX technician turned undertaker
Paris Rivers is on the phone from a cemetery in London, where he has just done a cremation. Formerly a special effects technician in film and TV, as well as a cabaret performer, he became an undertaker at the start of lockdown. Last week, he had to help dress the body of a man who had died from stab wounds. Even more shocking was seeing a child’s brain. “I’m doing a job that most people wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole,” he says. “But a lot of us didn’t have any alternatives.” Besides, he adds, “when people ask, ‘What did you do during 2020?’ I can say I was there on the frontlines.”

Rivers, 31, was “really scared and desperate for work” when Covid-19 hit and by chance, had a friend who was working in one of the temporary morgues set up at the beginning of the pandemic. After working there for two months, he contacted funeral homes to see whether anyone would take him on as a funeral service operator. He’s been transporting ashes, cadavers and coffins ever since. Compared with being on a film set, he says, the job is relatively “stress-free”.

“It’s strangely relaxing,” Rivers explains. “You get to go to beautiful cemeteries, wear a nice suit, drive luxury cars. Some people are shocked by the ick factor, but I started in horror films, so I find this fascinating. And how many people who work in horror films have actually worked around death? I feel this will be helpful for me in the long run.”

Even when the film industry starts back up properly, Rivers says, he’ll continue as an undertaker part-time. The job has inspired him in other ways, too. “I’m developing an Elvira-esque cryptkeeper,” he says of a character that he plans to bring to the stage. There will, of course, be “lots of black humour”.

(5) WIZARDS SUED. “Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman sue Wizards of the Coast after it abandons new Dragonlance trilogy” reports Boing Boing.

Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, creators of the Dragonlance fantasy mythos, are suing Wizards of the Coast after the company ditched a licensing deal for the latest books in the long-running series.

Filed in district court in Seattle, the lawsuit [Scribd, PDF] was first reported by Cecilia D’Anastasio. The lawsuit claims that WoTC breached their contract without explanation and in “stunning and brazen bad faith”, despite having been intimately involved in the development of the new work, approving a trilogy’s worth of characters, storylines and scenes and signing with a publisher, Penguin Random House.

The lawsuit claims $10m in damages.

Weis and Hickman created Dragonlance, set within the broad ambit of WoTC’s Dungeons & Dragons role-playing franchise, in the 1980s. Its lively mix of colorful heroes and epic drama was a hit with gamers and readers, growing into a sprawling shared universe fleshed out by many authors, artists and designers. According to the lawsuit, Weis and Hickman agreed with Wizards of the Coast to produce the new novels in 2017, capping off the series and giving fans a final sendoff.

But the company pulled the plug in August 2020—and Weis and Hickman blame controversies at WoTC itself….

(6) TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN TV SHOW. This sff production went more quietly. NPR delivers the eulogy: “‘The Venture Bros.’ Creators On The Show’s Legacy, Its Fans — And Its Cancellation”.

An era of American television ended in September.

Its death came quietly, with news of its passing drowned out from all sides by crumbling institutions, environmental disasters, a historic pandemic and pervasive social unrest. As with all matters of public interest in 2020, its demise was announced via Twitter.

After spanning three presidencies and surviving several cultural sea changes, The Venture Bros. was cancelled after 17 years on the air.

If you’ve never heard of the animated series despite its longevity, you’re far from alone: Neither the half-hour comedy nor its home, Cartoon Network’s late night programming block Adult Swim, are often mentioned in the same breath as HBO and AMC or what’s conventionally viewed as “prestige TV.”

The Venture Bros. began airing its first season in 2004. It followed Dr. Thaddeus S. “Rusty” Venture, his sons Hank and Dean — the titular brothers of the program — and bodyguard Brock Samson on episodic romps in the action-adventure and science fiction vein…

(7) EARLY WARNING. The New York Times tells how Disney unabashedly apologizes and monetizes when it comes to some of its animated classics: “Disney Adds Warnings for Racist Stereotypes to Some Older Films”.

The 1953 film “Peter Pan” portrays Indigenous people “in a stereotypical manner” and refers to them repeatedly with a slur, according to Disney.Disney

They are classic animated films like “Dumbo” (1941) and “Peter Pan” (1953), but on Disney’s streaming service they will now get a little help to stand the test of time.

Before viewers watch some of these films that entertained generations of children, they will be warned about scenes that include “negative depictions” and “mistreatment of people or cultures.”

The 12-second disclaimer, which cannot be skipped, tells viewers, in part: “These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now. Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together.”

In addition to “Peter Pan” and “Dumbo,” the warning plays on films including “The Aristocats” (1970) and “Aladdin” (1992), and directs viewers to a website that explains some of the problematic scenes.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • October 19, 2010 — On this day in 2010 in the United Kingdom, the BBC’s adaption of H.G. Wells’ The First Men In The Moon premiered on BBC Four. This film was written by Mark Gatiss, directed by Damon Thomas, it stars Gatiss as Cavor and Rory Kinnear as Bedford, with Alex Riddell, Peter Forbes, Katherine Jakeways, Lee Ingleby and Julia Deakin. It ends with a tribute to Lionel Jeffries, who played Cavor in the 1964 feature film, and who died earlier that year. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a so-so forty five percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 19, 1889 – Miguel Asturias.  A novel and a few shorter stories for us, maybe more; nine novels all told, story collections, poetry.  A Kind of Mulatto (tr. English as Mulatto and Mr. Fly) called “a carnival incarnated….  a collision between Mayan Mardi Gras and Hispanic baroque”.  In Men of Maize (Eng. in UNESCO Collection of Representative Works) a postman turns into a coyote, his people into ants, “written in the form of a myth….  experimental, ambitious, and difficult to follow.”  Nobel Prize in Literature.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1909 Robert Beatty. He’s best known for being in 2001: A Space Odyssey as Dr. Ralph Halvorsen. He played General Cutler in “The Tenth Planet,”  a Third Doctor story, and was General Halstead in The Martian Chronicles. He was in Superman III and Superman IV, respectively playing a tanker captain and the U.S. President. (Died 1992.) (CE)
  • Born October 19, 1940 Michael Gambon, 80. Actor on stage and screen from Ireland who is best known to genre fans as Professor Albus Dumbledore from the Hugo-nominated Harry Potter films (a role he picked up after the passing of Richard Harris, who played the character in the first two films), but also had roles in Toys (for which he received a Saturn nomination), Mary ReillySleepy Hollow, and the Hugo finalist Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He has had guest roles in episodes of The Jim Henson HourDoctor Who, and Tales of the Unexpected, and played an acerbic storyteller and possibly tomb robber in Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. He has also done voice roles in animated features including Fantastic Mr. FoxPaddington, and The Wind in the Willows, in which he voiced very nicely The Badger. (CE) 
  • Born October 19, 1943 – Peter Weston, F.N.  Founded Birmingham SF Group.  Fanzines Zenith, renamed SpeculationProlapse, renamed Relapse.  Reviewed fanzines for Vector as “Malcolm Edwards”, confusing when a real ME appeared later, indeed each chairing Worldcons (PW the 37th).  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate.  Doc Weir Award (British; for service).  Fan Guest of Honor at Boskone 37, Eastercon 53, Noreascon 4 the 62nd Worldcon.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service).  Lifetime Achievement Award at Corflu 32 (fanziners’ con; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid).  His foundry cast the rockets of the Hugo Awards trophies.  (Died 2017)
  • Born October 19, 1945 John Lithgow, 75. He enters SF fame as Dr. Emilio Lizardo / Lord John Whorfin in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. He’ll later be in Santa Claus: The MovieHarry and the HendersonsShrekRise of the Planet of the ApesInterstellar and the remake of Pet Sematary. He was on television’s Third Rock from the Sun for six seasons. Oh, and he voiced The White Rabbit on the Once Upon a Time in Wonderland series! (CE)
  • Born October 19, 1943 L.E. Modesitt, Jr., 77. Writer of more than 70 novels and 10 different series, the best known of which is his fantasy series The Saga of Recluce. He has been Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, including a World Fantasy Convention. (CE) 
  • Born October 19, 1946 Philip Pullman, 74. I’ll confess that I like his Sally Lockhart mysteries, both the original versions and the Billie Piper-led series,  far more than I enjoy the Dark Materials series as there’s a freshness and imagination at work there I don’t see in the latter. Oh, some of the latter is quite good — I quite enjoyed Lyra’s Oxford and Once Upon a Time in The North. (CE) 
  • Born October 19, 1948 – Jerry Kaufman, 72.  New York fan, then Seattle.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate.  Fanzines with Suzanne Tompkins, The Spanish InquisitionMainstreamLittlebrook.  Also Sweetmeats (Sandra Miesel collection); The Best of Susan WoodThe Portable Carl Brandon; final issue of Innuendo (with Robert Lichtman).  Frequent loccer (loc = letter of comment) to fanzines.  Fan Guest of Honor at Balticon 10, Rustycon 1, Minicon 26, Westercon 44, Boskone 34.  [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1961 – Mike Manley, 59.  Draws The Phantom (daily since 30 May 16; Sundays by Jeff Weige), also Judge Parker (since 23 Feb 10).  Worked at Marvel (Spider-Man; co-created Darkhawk), DC (Batman, did 500th issue; Superman), Warner Bros. (Kids WB BatmanSuperman).  Plein air painter.  Teacher.  See his Weblog Draw!  [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1964 – Kathleen Cheney, 56.  A dozen novels, thirty shorter stories.  Here is her cover for her own collection Shared Dreams.  Taught math through calculus, coached the Academics and Robotics teams, sponsored the chess club.  Fences with foil and saber.  Gardener.  Two large hairy dogs.  [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1966 Roger Cross, 54. Actor from Jamaica who moved to Canada. He played a lead role in the series Continuum and has had parts in genre films The Chronicles of RiddickWar for the Planet of the Apes, the remake of The Day the Earth Stood StillX2Doomsday RockVoyage of TerrorThe Void, and the adaptations of Dean Koontz’ Hideaway and Sole Survivor. (CE)
  • Born October 19, 1982 – Jenny Bellington, 38.  One novel so far, about a boy whose gift is making maps.  More in the works.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) GOOD NEWS, FEATURING BABY YODA. The Washington Post traces the beginnings of a legend: “A boy gave a Baby Yoda to crews battling Oregon wildfires. They lovingly passed it among firefighters, across state lines.”

Sasha Tinning took her 5-year-old grandson, Carver, grocery shopping earlier this month to buy granola bars and other snacks to contribute to a donation drive for firefighters battling wildfires in Oregon.

But when Tinning ended up in the toy aisle that day, Sept. 12, her eyes — and Carver’s — were drawn to a Baby Yoda doll, the last one on the shelf.“I said, ‘The firefighters could use a friend, couldn’t they?’ ” said Tinning, 54, who lives in Scappoose, Ore., about 20 miles north of Portland.

“He would be a very good friend for them,” she recalled Carver saying.

They agreed that volunteer firefighters needed “The Force” more than anyone. So instead of buying granola bars and nuts, they picked up Baby Yoda — also known as the Child — from the popular Star Wars series “The Mandalorian.”

On their way home, they stopped by a donation tent for firefighters with the big-eyed, pointy-eared doll in hand. Tinning helped Carver write a quick note on a piece of scrap paper she found in her car trunk:“Thank you, firefighters,” it read. “Here is a friend for you, in case you get lonely. Love, Carver.”

Tyler Eubanks, a 34-year-old horse dental technician who was working in the donation booth that afternoon, showed the note and Baby Yoda to a few other volunteers. They all started crying, she said.

“The fires were close to us, and everyone was really high on emotion,” said Eubanks. “We were all really touched that Carver wanted to give a companion to the men and women who were out there risking their lives to fight the wildfires.”

Eubanks brought Baby Yoda to some firefighters who were helping in the effort to contain the 25-acre Unger Road Fire near Colton, Ore. She snapped a few photos of the fire crew with the doll so that she could send them to Carver, and thought that would be the end of it.

“But then the firefighters said, ‘We want to take him with us,’ ” Eubanks said.

So they did. And when they came upon other fire crews and showed off their Baby Yoda, those firefighters asked if they could have him for a while. The answer was yes.

“Before I knew it, Baby Yoda was out there traveling the universe,” Eubanks said.

Eubanks quickly came up with the idea to start a Facebook page — Baby Yoda Fights Fires — to chronicle the adventures of the Child.

More than 26,000 people now follow the page, which is full of photos of Baby Yoda hanging out with firefighters on the front lines of wildfires in Oregon and Colorado, and relaxing in fire base camps.

(12) HANGING OUT WITH THE DEAD. BBC Radio 4’s series A Natural History of Ghosts kicks off with an episode about “Ancient Ghosts”

‘When was the first time a human felt haunted?’

Kirsty Logan travels back to the world’s earliest civilisations to uncover where tales of ghosts first emerged.

From the earliest evidence of belief in an afterlife, seen in decorated bones in early grave sites, to Ancient Egyptian letters to the dead, and predatory Chindi unleashed to wreak deadly vengeance in the snowy wastes of North America, Kirsty tells the tales of the spirits that haunted our most ancient forebears, and became the common ancestor for ghost stories across all of human history.

(13) HARD CHARGING. “Die Hard’s Bruce Willis reprises John McClane role for unusual commercial”Digital Spy has the story.

…Now Bruce Willis has reprised the role once again, only this time it’s for… a car battery commercial?

The ad, for the DieHard Battery from Advance Auto Parts, sees John McClane crash through a window, escape through an air vent and face off against the villainous Theo, played by a returning Clarence Gilyard Jr.

De’voreaux White also reprises his role as driver Argyle, and steals the “yipee ki yay” line from Willis, who is probably glad that he didn’t have to say it.

(14) THE UNFORSEEN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “MVPs of Horror: How ‘The Simpsons’ creators added COVID-19 masks to this year’s ‘Treehouse of Horror'” says Simpsons writers were already planning an election segment for this year’s Treehouse of Horror, but added jokes about masks (which everyone in Springfield wears except for Homer).  Next year’s Treehouse is already in development, and will include a segment based on the Oscar-winning film Parasite.

When the staff of The Simpsons sat down to write the thirty-first edition of the show’s annual “Treehouse of Horror” Halloween anthology in 2019, they knew that the 2020 Presidential election would be the scariest subject they could tackle. That’s why “Treehouse of Horror XXXI,” which airs Nov. 1 at 8 p.m. on Fox, opens with an election parody that’s not for the faint of heart. “We predict what will happen on January 20 if people like Homer don’t smarten up a little,” longtime Simpsons showrunner, Al Jean, teased during the all-star The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror at Paley Front Row 2020. “Amazingly, most of it was written a year ago, and all of it still seems true!” (Watch the panel above.)

Simpsons fans know that the show has a knack for seeing into the future, whether it was predicting President Donald Trump back in 2000 or calling the winners of multiple Super Bowls. But there’s one thing that the writers didn’t predict while writing their own 2020 election parody: that Americans would be casting ballots for either President Trump or Vice President Joe Biden during the midst of a deadly pandemic….

(15) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. Food & Wine found a portal story in the candy section of the store: “Reese’s Created a Roving, Remote-Controlled Door to Help Make Trick-or-Treating Safer This Halloween”.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still in full force, this year’s Halloween celebrations will look significantly different than they did in 2019. Trick-or-treating, specifically, is problematic as attempting to visit as many neighbors as possible in a single night is pretty much the opposite of staying “bubbled.” But major candy brands are doing what they can to keep the Halloween spirit alive with interesting interpretations on how to make trick-or-treating coronavirus-friendly.

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are a Halloween favorite, and for 2020, the always inventive brand is introducing an over-the-top new candy delivery system: the Reese’s Trick- or-Treat Door. This robotic door uses voice-recognition technology to deliver candy hands-free. When the remote-controlled, nine-foot-tall front door (lamps and all!) uses its three motors to lumber your way, simply say “trick-or-treat,” and a Bluetooth speaker should know it’s time to spit out a king-size Reese’s candy bar via a retractable shelf in the mail slot.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Bill Wagner, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, N., SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]