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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knight Moves by Walter Jon Williams (1985)

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

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

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

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

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

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(14) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 10/29/21 On The Screen My Pixel Files, Streaming, Scrolled And Read

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to feast on kabobs with E. Lily Yu in episode 157 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

E. Lily Yu

[Because Readercon went virtual] the award-winning E. Lily Yu and I each ordered kabob from local restaurants, and nibbled our take-out remotely as I questioned her about how she spins magic out of her words.

E. Lily Yu won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer in 2012. Her short story “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” was published in Clarkesworld in 2011, and was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Short Story and the World Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction. Her short fiction has appeared in Fantasy and Science FictionUncannyApexLightspeed, and many other venues. Her work has been reprinted in twelve best-of-the-year anthologies, including The Year’s Best Science FictionThe Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the YearThe Best Dark Fantasy and Horror, and The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. Her first novel, On Fragile Waves, was published in February by Erewhon Books.

We discussed why she was glad that when she first came up with the idea for her novel On Fragile Waves she had no idea how long it would take to complete, what she learned through each successive draft of the novel before she was satisfied, why it can be exhausting to see people as they are rather than as you want them to be, the effort required to make the effortful appears effortless, the reasons rejection can be a blessing (especially during the early part of your career), what she learned reading slush for Fantasy magazine, how writing interactive video games helped her write better short stories, and much more.

(2) MONEY TO BURN. GQ invites fans “Inside ‘Wheel of Time,’ Amazon’s Huge Gamble on the Next ‘Game of Thrones’”, where each episode has a $10M budget.

… The town’s inn, an intricately rendered two-story building, is now blackened, its left side plunged into spiky rubble: Smoke machines give the impression that it is still smoldering. There are holes in roofs, artfully destroyed beams. Every house—interior and exterior—has been charred enough so that it shows on camera. The actors who wander the Two Rivers are made up to match. Rosamund Pike, who starred in Gone Girl, is smudged with soot….

…It’s November 2019, and the production—comprising hundreds of, and on some days nearly a thousand, people—is filming the end of the first episode of what everyone hopes will be a television show that runs for, well: six seasons? Eight? A show that will be as epic and sensational and ubiquitous as Game of Thrones once was. On one side of the green, a camera sits on a long dolly track; another camera operator stalks the scene, taking various close-ups. The episode’s veteran television director, Uta Briesewitz, is arranging four of the show’s main cast of relatively unknown young actors in a moment of reckoning: Pike’s character, a woman with mysterious powers, has arrived to awaken them and set them on their way. “Your life isn’t going to be what you thought,” Pike intones, as various cameras circle her. Pike runs through her speech, which is heavy with exposition for both the characters and the audience, a few times. “Can I do one more?” she asks Briesewitz, while apologizing to the extras scattered about. “I think that one got a bit phony.”

Finally, Briesewitz calls “cut.” Pike retreats from the weather into a nearby tent. “It’s not like working with David Fincher,” she says to me, referring to the Gone Girl director’s penchant for shooting 70 takes of a scene. The production is huge and moving at warp speed. Pike has to know things backward and forward. She has to get her lines out as dozens of crew members and background actors get soaked in the cold rain and actual living horses wander around while makeup women with transparent plastic bags dart in and out to touch up extras and guys with smoke canisters paddle mist into the edges of shots. This set they’re on—not just a few hollow façades set up to create the impression of reality, but real buildings, in every direction—is giant, immersive, and won’t last past this episode….

(3) SPACE FOR EVERYONE. UCSD’s article “Making Space Travel Inclusive for All” reports on the initial zero-gravity flight of disabled volunteers.

In a weightless, microgravity environment like space, what do ability and disability look like? How can someone with partial sight or impaired mobility navigate in a confined space like the space station? As scientists and innovators continue to push the boundaries of spaceflight and the possibility of human life on other planets, how can we build space infrastructure that is inclusive of all humans?

The Mission: AstroAccess project aims to answer these questions, starting with a historic parabolic flight that took off from Long Beach on Oct. 17, 2021. A group of 12 disabled scientists, veterans, students, athletes and artists launched into a zero-gravity environment as a first step toward understanding what is needed to make space inclusive for all.… The 12 AstroAccess Ambassadors selected for this first microgravity flight included four blind or low-vision Ambassadors; two deaf or hard-of-hearing Ambassadors; and six Ambassadors with mobility disabilities, all carrying out a variety of tasks and challenges in the weightless environment. One of the challenges was seeing whether all crew members could perform basic safety and operational tasks, like navigating to oxygen masks. The crew also tested a procedure to see whether sound beacons can be used for blind members to orient themselves, and the effectiveness of haptic devices in communicating commands. They’re also investigating how American Sign Language will be impacted by microgravity….

(4) NASA ANALYSIS. University of Arizona English professor Christopher Cokinos calls for artists to work with NASA to celebrate spaceflight. “Engineering the arts for space: developing the concept of ‘mission laureates’” at The Space Review.

…In the coming months, I hope to address more aspects of a vigorous, wide, multidisciplinary arts/space effort, including a call for all-artist analogue missions. (I’ve even submitted, and received an enthusiastic reply, for just such a mission proposal to an analogue facility being developed at Biosphere 2.) But here I want to concentrate on one specific suggestion for increased systematic arts engagement in space activities: mission laureates.

Mission laureates

The term “laureate,” of course, refers to someone who receives an honor, deriving from the ancient Greek tradition of placing a laurel wreath on the head of the honoree. The laurel tree was sacred to the god Apollo, patron deity of poets. In more recent history, countries such as Great Britain and the United States have had offices of poet laureates, a tradition that has spread to states, cities, and towns. The poets are asked to engage the public by presenting outward-facing work for non-literary audiences.

Here I want to argue for a new kind of laureate, one attached not to a region but to a mission, specifically missions to space. In brief, mission laureates would create work inspired by missions—robotic and crewed—for wider public engagement.

I am not calling for art that is propaganda—a danger with laureates in the past—but, rather, work that provides new and exciting perspectives that can link a mission to wider currents in human affairs. It’s likely that artists interested in this opportunity will be pro-space but they surely will bring the nuance and complexity that we all need in confronting the paradoxes, promises, and perils of the human endeavor in space….

(5) THEY TOOK A SHINE TO IT. This product is cleaning up in the marketplace: “Apple’s Most Back-Ordered New Product Is Not What You Expect” says the New York Times. “It’s a $19 cloth.”

…Charging $19 for a piece of cloth about the size of two stacked dollar bills is bold even by Apple’s standards, a company whose legions of loyal customers are conditioned to stomach steep prices. An Apple-branded set of four wheels to “improve mobility” for the Mac Pro, the company’s most expensive desktop computer, is priced at $699, for instance.

But the Polishing Cloth stands out because it is far more expensive than widely available alternatives. MagicFiber, a popular brand of microfiber cloth that uses ultrafine fibers to clean glass without scratching the surface, offers a pack of six for $9 on Amazon.

“You have to give them credit for the chutzpah to charge $19,” Walter Gonzalez, president and founder of Goja, the parent company of MagicFiber, said of Apple….

(6) SJW CREDENTIAL OWNERS ALERT. New York Review of Books is marketing On Cats with a Margaret Atwood introduction.

In 2019, Notting Hill Editions published an anthology about canines, On Dogs. Now on its tail comes a companion edition for ailurophiles, On Cats, which includes an introduction by Margaret Atwood and more than two dozen essays, stories, and excerpts about the peculiar, sometimes affectionate, and often fickle character of our feline friends.

(7) FINE-GRAINED SIMULATION. A meteorologist and some climate modelers decided to find out if Frank Herbert’s imagined world was plausible, and for a change were not party poopers: “The climate on the Dune world of Arrakis, simulated” in Popular Science. The accompanying graphics are stellar.

Dune, the epic series of sci-fi books by Frank Herbert, now turned into a movie of the same name, is set in the far future on the desert planet of Arrakis. Herbert outlined a richly-detailed world that, at first glance, seems so real we could imagine ourselves within it.

However, if such a world did exist, what would it actually be like?

We are scientists with specific expertise in climate modelling, so we simulated the climate of Arrakis to find out. We wanted to know if the physics and environment of such a world would stack up against a real climate model.

(9) IMAGINARY FRIENDS. Screen Rant wrote up the “8 Best Fictional Bookstores We Wish Were Real”. There were a couple here that were new to me.

…Be it magical stores with books floating from shelf to shelf, comic book stores owned by supernatural beings, or picturesque but ordinary little shops, fictional bookstores like these make fans and viewers wish that they were real….

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1993 – Twenty-eight years ago, The Nightmare Before Christmas premiered. It was directed by Henry Selick (in his feature directorial debut), and produced by Denise Di Novi and Tim Burton. The screenplay by Caroline Thompson from the poem by Tim Burton. Yes, poem. Danny Elfman wrote the songs and score, and provided the singing voice of Jack. The principal voice cast also includes Ed Ivory, Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara, William Hickey, Ken Page, Paul Reubens and Glenn Shadix. Critics loved it though the NAACP condemned Oogie Boogie as a racist stereotype. The Box Office was excellent for it as it earned over a hundred million on a budget of eighteen million. And it has a stellar ninety-one percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. It was nominated for a Hugo at ConAdian, the year that Jurassic Park won.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 29, 1906 Fredric Brown. Author of Martians, Go Home  which would made into a  movie of the same name. He received compensation and credit from NBC as their Trek episode “Arena” had more than a passing similarity to his novelette which was nominated for Retro Hugo at CoNZealand. Interestingly, a whole lot of his Edgar Award-winning mysteries are being released on the usual suspects in December. (Died 1972.)
  • Born October 29, 1928 Benjamin F. Chapman, Jr. He play the Gill-man in the land takes in Creature from the Black Lagoon. Ricou Browning did the water takes. His only other genre appearance was in Jungle Moon Men, a Johnny Weissmuller film. His entire acting career was only eleven years long and had but eight acting credits. (Died 2008.)
  • Born October 29, 1935 Shelia Finch, 86. She is best remembered for her stories about the Guild of Xenolinguists  which aptly enough are collected in The Guild of Xenolinguists story collection. She first used it her 1986 Triad novel. The term would later be used to describe the character Uhura in the rebooted Trek film. Her Reading the Bones novel, part of the Guild of Xenolinguists series would win a Nebula. 
  • Born October 29, 1938 Ralph Bakshi, 83. Started as low-level worker at Terrytoons, studio of characters such as Heckle and Jeckle and Mighty Mouse which I adore. His first major break would be on CBS as creative director of Mighty Mouse and the Mighty Heroes. Fast forwarding to Fritz the Cat which may or may not be genre but it’s got a foul-mouthed talking cat when should make it genre, yes? Genre wise, I’d say Wizards which features voice work by Mark Hamill and whose final name was Wizards so it wouldn’t be confused with you know what film. It was nominated for a Hugo at IguanaCon II when Star Wars won. Next up was The Lord of the Rings, a very odd affair. That was followed by Fire and Ice, a collaboration with Frank Frazetta. Then came what I considered his finest work, the Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures series!  Then there’s Cool World
  • Born October 29, 1947 Richard Dreyfuss, 74. Roy Neary in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. And The Player in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. Not to mention the voice of Mister Centipede in the ever so James and the Giant Peach. And yes, he’s Hooper in Jaws that we declared was genre sometime back. 
  • Born October 29, 1954 Kathleen O’Neal Gear, 67. Archaeologist and writer. I highly recommend the three Anasazi Mysteries that she co-wrote with W. Michael Gear. She’s a historian of note so she’s done a lot of interesting work in that area such as Viking Warrior Women: Did ‘Shieldmaidens’ like Lagertha Really Exist?  And should you decide you want to keep buffalo, she’s the expert on doing so. Really. Truly, she is. 
  • Born October 29, 1954 Paul Di Filippo, 67. Ciphers: a post-Shannon rock-n-roll mystery was his first work. He is, I’d say, an acquired taste. I like him. I’d suggest first reading you don’t know him should be The Steampunk Trilogy and go from there.  His “A Year in the Linear City” novella was nominated at Torcon 3 for Best Novella, and won the 2003 World Fantasy Award and the 2003 Theodore Sturgeon Award. Oh, and he’s one of our stellar reviewers having reviewed at one time or another for Asimov’s Science FictionThe Magazine of Fantasy and Science FictionScience Fiction EyeThe New York Review of Science FictionInterzoneNova Express and Science Fiction Weekly
  • Born October 29, 1971 Winona Ryder, 50. Beetlejuice of course but also Edward Scissorhands and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Not to mention Alien Resurrection and Star Trek as Spock’s human mother Amanda Grayson. Which brings me to Being John Malkovich which might be the coolest genre film of all time if not the strangest one. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Questionable Content this week has been guest-starring (or would this be a cameo) a familiar, um, figure (all week, so click some “Next”s). Note, QC already has its share of SF-y characters, namely robots and AIs, along with one character’s mom living in an orbital space station.
  • Over in Dustin, the titular teenager and one of the younger kids — presumably (info via Wikipedia) “Hayden, a precocious seven-year-old kid and next-door neighbor,” have chosen familiar and we-still-miss-’em Halloween costumes this week.
  • Sally Forth hints at another reason to wear Halloween costumes.

(13) WONG TAKES ON IRON FIST. Writer Alyssa Wong and artist Michael YG introduce a new Iron Fist to the Marvel Universe on February 16 when a new hero claims the power of K’un-Lun.

Award winning writer Alyssa Wong, known for her outstanding work on Doctor Aphra, will team up with artist Michael YG, an extraordinary artist making his Marvel Comics debut, in Iron Fist. The five-issue limited series will see the legendary mantle of Iron Fist passed on to a new hero in a revolutionary transformation of one of Marvel’s most fascinating mystical mythologies. 

After giving up his power to save the world earlier this year in IRON FIST: HEART OF THE DRAGON, Danny Rand believes he’s seen the last of the Iron Fist. But when demons begin to attack cities around the world, a new hero appears, hands blazing with the Chi of Shou-Lao the Undying! Who is this new Iron Fist? And does his power really come from the Dragon of K’un-Lun… Or from something far more sinister? Fans will have to wait until the first issue to discover his identity but they can see him now on the stunning cover for IRON FIST #1 showcasing a brand-new costume design by superstar artist Jim Cheung!

Here’s what Wong had to say this upcoming series:

“It’s an incredible honor to introduce a new Iron Fist to the Marvel Universe. I’m excited to delve into the comic’s rich mythos and build on it. What does it mean for someone to take up the mantle of the Iron Fist right now, today? As a newcomer, how does one interact with legacy, and how does one honor it while forging a new path?”

(14) THE GAME’S AFOOT. “Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Rickrolls Players With Rick Astley” at Screen Rant.

A new promotional video for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy sees various streamers getting “rickrolled,” with singer Rick Astley himself joining in on the fun. The recently-released sci-fi superhero title, developed by Eidos-Montreal, seeks to capture the spirit of the team’s live-action films while also embracing the characters’ comic book roots. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy‘s 80’s soundtrack helps to inform the backstory of protagonist Star-Lord while also playing a role in combat.

(15) FOR THE RECORD. The old crew’s sign-off strip is followed by the announcement that “Dick Tracy comic strip to have first female lead artist in 90 years”.

… The latest artist, Joe Staton along with the entire Dick Tracy team has brought innovation to the Dick Tracy world, incorporating a bevy of crossovers such as The Green Hornet, The Spirit and a villain named the Jumbler, who gives Jumble puzzles as clues to the police.

Now Staton has passed his two-way wrist radio, Detective Tracy’s trademark yellow trench coat and fedora over to his long-time Dick Tracy teammate, Shelley Pleger.

For the last 10 years, Pleger has inked and lettered Dick Tracy. Now she takes the helm as the first female lead artist Dick Tracy has ever had….

(16) NOT THE END, MY FRIEND. Netflix dropped this trailer for season 2 of The Witcher today.

(17) SPEAKING OF WITCHES. This Twix commercial has caused major conniptions on the right. RT USA News’ overview of the commercial is followed by a roundup of social media reactions: “The Witch & the Wardrobe change: Twix blasted for ‘woke’ Halloween ad with boy wearing princess dress, but no holiday… or candy”. “‘New Nanny’ is part of a collection of short films created by 18 young filmmakers from various backgrounds, produced by 20th Digital Studio.” 

A Halloween-themed ad from Twix has critics accusing the candy manufacturer of ‘ruining’ the holiday with a woke and confusing message on boys wearing dresses that has little to do with the celebration – or the product advertised.

In the ‘bite-size Halloween’ commercial, a young boy wearing a princess dress is defended from bullies by a witch nanny, who arrives at his house unannounced in a minivan while the child appears to be unattended. The nanny says she was hired by the child’s parents and she goes on to casually threaten two children questioning why the boy is dressed up when it’s not Halloween. In the last scene of the ad, a boy is making fun of the princess-dress-wearing boy at a park – the synopsis for the ad refers to him as ‘non-binary’ – and the witch makes him disappear. She says he will “probably” come back….

(18) DEAR DEPARTED. Cat Eldridge recommends the article’s photo gallery: “Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard” at Gastro Obscura.

BEN & JERRY MIGHT BE a couple of ice cream tycoons, but they’ve remained true to their roots. Case in point: the deliciously somber Flavor Graveyard located on the grounds of their factory in Waterbury, Vermont.

Opened in 1997, the memorial to bygone flavors was originally an online-only affair, until a handful of resin headstones were mocked up and planted on a hill behind the factory….

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Daniel Dern, Chris Barkley, Jennifer Hawthorne, StephenfromOttawa, 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 Jayn.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It could have several categories:

Most Popular Unread Book That I Think is SF.

Most Popular Unread Book That I Think is Fantasy.

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

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

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

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

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

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, HOST:

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

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

NOEL KING, HOST:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t believe me? Consider these five….

Aiah from Metropolitan by Walter Jon Williams (1995)

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

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

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

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

(8) MEMORY LANE.

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(10) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About this event

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bolton concludes his post with this affirmation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) MEMORY LANE.

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

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Galileo Project follows three major avenues of research:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope hinges on two men with no hope.

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

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

Pixel Scroll 4/3/21 Oh, Dear, One Of My Cats Just Brought Me Half A Pixel

(1) BSFA AWARDS LINK CHANGE. Use this link instead of the one posted yesterday to view the BSFA Awards ceremony on April 4.

BSFA chair Allen Stroud says, “Apologies for the alteration. Owing to a case of deleting a scheduled event (totally my fault), the url for the awards has changed.”

(2) WFC PROGRESS REPORT. World Fantasy Convention 2021 – which still plans an in-person con in Montreal this November – has released Progress Report #2. Chair Diane Lacey says:

…In the midst of these difficult times, we want to assure everyone that we are actively monitoring the COVID-19 situation. We’re working hard to ascertain every contingency that may have an impact on WFC 2021. We will make modifications to our plans accordingly to keep our membership safe. We sincerely hope there will be progress in controlling and conquering the virus long before our convention, and we are quite confident we will be able to hold an in person convention. We look forward to welcoming you all to Montréal. Please feel free to contact us at any time with your concerns or questions….

(3) 2024 WORLDCON BID NEWS. The UK in 2024 bid committee aired this video update during the virtual Eastercon:

(4) SLF PODCAST LAUNCHES. The Speculative Literature Foundation has started a new podcast, “Mohanraj and Rosenbaum Are Humans”, hosted by Mary Anne Mohanraj and Benjamin Rosenbaum.

Join two old friends as they talk about science fiction, community, the writing life, teaching, parenting, and a whole lot more. Does Ben really think you should let your kids touch the stove, and did he really burn his son’s homework? Why did he write a novel with no men or women in it? What exactly did a young Mary Anne do to appall her aunts in college, and how did it lead circuitously to her founding science fiction’s longest-running webzine? Mohanraj and Rosenbaum… Are Humans? Yes, yes they are.

Episodes of the Spring 2021 season are being released on Mondays and Thursdays, starting March 22. They’re available on major podcast platforms including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube, etc. Or tune into the “Mohanraj and Rosenbaum Are Humans” website. Episodes available so far are –

  1. Episode 1: “Introductions” (Published 22 March 2021)
  2. Bonus Episode 1: “The Capitol and the Cafe” (Published 25 March 2021)
  3. Episode 2: “The Toilet Seat Con Hook-Up” (Published 29 March 2021)

Mohanraj is the author of A Feast of Serendib, Bodies in Motion, The Stars Change, and twelve other titles. Mohanraj founded Hugo-nominated and World Fantasy Award-winning speculative literature magazine Strange Horizons, and serves as Executive Director of both DesiLit (desilit.org) and the Speculative Literature Foundation (speclit.org). Rosenbaum’s short stories have been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, Sturgeon, Locus, BSFA, and World Fantasy Awards. He designed the Ennie-nominated Jewish historical fantasy tabletop roleplaying game Dream Apart, and serves on the board of Basel’s liberal Jewish congregation, Migwan. He lives in Switzerland with his wife Esther and a gradually emptying nest of children. His first SF novel, The Unravelling, is forthcoming from Erewhon Books.

(5) DC PROJECTS SHELVED. Two DC movies, Ava DuVernay’s New Gods and James Wan’s Aquaman spinoff The Trench, are “not moving forward” Warner Bros. and DC told The Hollywood Reporter.

…New Gods, which DuVernay has been developing as a directing vehicle with acclaimed comic book writer Tom King since 2018, would have brought to the screen the comic book characters created by the late and legendary artist Jack Kirby. DuVernay, however, remains in the DC fold and is currently working on the DC series Naomi for The CW.

The Trench, meanwhile, was to have been a horror-tinged project spinning out of Aquaman and focused on the group of deadly amphibious creatures seen in the $1 billion-grossing 2018 film. Noah Gardner and Aidan Fitzgerald had written the script, which Wan was developing as a producer with collaborator Peter Safran. Wan, too, remains in the DC fold as he is prepping to shoot Aquaman 2 for the studio later this year….

(6) THESE SPUDS WON’T PEEL THEMSELVES. Ted Chiang tells New Yorker readers “Why Computers Won’t Make Themselves Smarter”.

…The idea of an intelligence explosion was revived in 1993, by the author and computer scientist Vernor Vinge, who called it “the singularity,” and the idea has since achieved some popularity among technologists and philosophers. Books such as Nick Bostrom’s “Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies,” Max Tegmark’s “Life 3.0: Being Human in the age of Artificial Intelligence,” and Stuart Russell’s “Human Compatible: Artificial Intelligence and the Problem of Control” all describe scenarios of “recursive self-improvement,” in which an artificial-intelligence program designs an improved version of itself repeatedly.

I believe that Good’s and Anselm’s arguments have something in common, which is that, in both cases, a lot of the work is being done by the initial definitions. These definitions seem superficially reasonable, which is why they are generally accepted at face value, but they deserve closer examination. I think that the more we scrutinize the implicit assumptions of Good’s argument, the less plausible the idea of an intelligence explosion becomes.

… Some proponents of an intelligence explosion argue that it’s possible to increase a system’s intelligence without fully understanding how the system works. They imply that intelligent systems, such as the human brain or an A.I. program, have one or more hidden “intelligence knobs,” and that we only need to be smart enough to find the knobs. I’m not sure that we currently have many good candidates for these knobs, so it’s hard to evaluate the reasonableness of this idea. Perhaps the most commonly suggested way to “turn up” artificial intelligence is to increase the speed of the hardware on which a program runs. Some have said that, once we create software that is as intelligent as a human being, running the software on a faster computer will effectively create superhuman intelligence. Would this lead to an intelligence explosion?…

(7) BLACK WIDOW SPINNING YOUR WAY. “We have unfinished business” is the keynote of  Marvel Studios’ Black Widow trailer dropped today. The movie comes to theaters or Disney+ with Premier Access on July 9.

(8) PENNY FRIERSON OBIT. Penny Frierson (1941-2021), co-chair of the 1986 Atlanta Worldcon, has died reports Guy H. Lillian III, who received the news through Charlotte Proctor.

Frierson joined fandom in 1968.  She chaired DeepSouthCon 15 in Birmingham, AL in 1977 and helped found the Birmingham Science Fiction Club in 1978.

Penny also was a member of the Southern Fandom Press Alliance. She won the Rebel Award in 1986.

She was married to Meade Frierson III, who predeceased her in 2001.

1992 Worldcon: Charlotte Proctor, Penny Frierson, Nicki Lynch, Rich Lynch.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 3, 1953 — In London sixty-eight years ago, The War Of The Worlds based on the H.G. wells novel had its very first theatrical showing. It was the recipient of a 1954 Retro-Hugo Award at Noreascon 4 in 2004.  It was produced by George Pal, and directed by Byron Haskin. It starred Gene Barry and Ann Robinson. It was deemed culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant in 2011 by the United States Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 3, 1783 Washington Irving. Best remembered for his short stories “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, both of which appear in The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. collection. The latter in particular has been endlessly reworked downed the centuries into genre fiction including the recent Sleepy Hollow series. (Died 1859.) (CE)
  • Born April 3, 1905 – Noel Loomis.  Two novels, three dozen shorter stories for us (five at Project Gutenberg); also detective fiction; Westerns (including film, television) and related nonfiction: two Spur Awards, President of Western Writers of America.  Also printing; he edited this.  (Died 1969) [JH]
  • Born April 3, 1927 Donald M. Grant. He was responsible for the creation of several genre small press publishers. He co-founded Grant-Hadley Enterprises in 1945, Buffalo Book Company in 1946, Centaur Press in 1970 and Donald M. Grant, Publisher, Inc. in 1964. Between 1976 and 2003, he won five World Fantasy Awards and a Balrog Award as well. (Died 2009.) (CE)
  • Born April 3, 1928 – Colin Kapp.  A dozen novels, three dozen shorter stories; perhaps best known for the Unorthodox Engineers: collection recently republished for Kindle.  CK was an engineer himself, though art doesn’t always work that way.  Guest of Honour at Eastercon 31.  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born April 3, 1929 Ernest Callenbach. Ecotopia: The Notebooks and Reports of William Weston was rejected by every major publisher so Callenbach initially self-published it. Ecotopia Emerging is a prequel and sequel as well was published later. Yes, I read both. As such fiction goes, they’re just ok.  If you can find a copy, Christopher Swan’s YV 88: An Eco-Fiction of Tomorrow which depicts the rewilded Yosemite Valley is a much more interesting read. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born April 3, 1936 Reginald Hill. Now this surprised me. He’s the author of the most excellent Dalziel and Pascoe copper series centered on profane, often piggish Andrew Dalziel, and his long suffering, more by the book partner Peter Pascoe solving traditional Yorkshire crimes. Well there’s a SF mystery in there set in 2010, many years after the other Dalziel and Pascoe stories, and involves them investigating the first Luna murder. I’ll need to read this one. There’s another with Peter Pascoe as a future European Pan Police Commissioner. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born April 3, 1946 Lyn McConchie, 75. New Zealand author who has written three sequels in the Beast Master series that Andre Norton created and four novels in Norton’s Witch World as well. She has written a lot of Holmesian fiction, so I’ll just recommend her collection of short stories, Sherlock Holmes: Familar Crimes: New Tales of The Great Detective. She’s deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born April 3, 1950 – Mark Linneman, age 61.  Helpful reliable fan often found where such are needed and even the non-monetary compensation we can grant is scant, e.g. tallying Worldcon Site Selection ballots, which ML has done four times I can think of.  Often seen at Midwestcons, SMOFcons (Secret Masters Of Fandom, as Bruce Pelz said a joke-nonjoke-joke; con for studying, trying to improve, SF cons and like that).  North America agent for Aussiecon 4 the 68th Worldcon.  Guest of Honor at Concave 33.  [JH]
  • Born April 3, 1950 – Tony Parker, age 71.  Co-chaired TropiCon VIII-IX (with wife Judy Bemis).  Guest of Honor at Concave 16 (with JB).  Thoughtful and even (sorry, Tony) wise. [JH]
  • Born April 3, 1958 – Vanna Bonta.  One novel, three collections of poetry.  Voice actress in Beauty and the Beast (1991).  She, her husband, and the zero-gravity suit she invented were in The Universe (2008); she designed a pressure-release device for high-combustion engines in NASA (U.S. Nat’l Aeronautics & Space Adm’n) and Northrop Grumman’s Lunar Lander Challenge.  Among twelve thousand haiku submitted to NASA for inclusion with the Mars explorer MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere & Volatile EvolutioN), hers made the top five: “Thirty-six million / miles of whispering welcome. / Mars, you called us home.”  You’ll see its alliteration; do attend to its ambiguity.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born April 3, 1958 Alec Baldwin, 63. I’ve no idea how many times I’ve seen him in Beetlejuice as Adam Maitland since it’s one of my favorite films, period. Despite those who don’t like The Shadow and him in his dual role of Lamont  Cranston and The Shadow, I’m quite fond of it. Let’s just skip past any mention of The Cat in the Hat… Ahhhh Rise of the Guardians where he voices Nicholas St. North is quite fantastic. Another go to, feel good film for me. He’s Alan Hunley in some of the Mission: Impossible franchise, a series I think I’ve only seen the first two films of. And here’s a weird one — the US. run of Thomas The Tank Engine & Friends replaced the U.K. narrator, some minor musician no one had ever heard of by the name of Ringo Starr, with him. (CE)
  • Born April 3, 1962 James R. Black, 59. I’d like to say he’s best known for his leading role as Agent Michael Hailey on The Burning Zone but since it was short-lived and I’m not sure anyone actually watched it on UPN that might be stretching reality a bit. If you like great popcorn viewing, The Burning Zone is certainly worth seeing. Prior to his run on that series, he’s got a number of one-offs including Babylon 5Deep Space 9, The SentinelSpace: Above and Beyond with his first genre role being Doctor Death in Zombie Cop. (CE)
  • Born April 3, 1989 – Elaine Vilar Madruga, age 32.  Two novels, fifty shorter stories, some in English: last year “Elsinore Revolution”, see the Jan/Feb Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction; her poem “The Apocalypse According to My Name” in Spanish and English, see the Spring Star*Line; four more.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) THE SOUND OF MUSIC? Puppeteer and space aficionado Mary Robinette Kowal told Twitter followers, “I giggled all the way through this puppet music video ‘Everybody Poops In Space’ from @AdlerPlanet There’s a SINGING FECAL CONTAINMENT BAG”. Consider yourself warned.

(13) FROM THE BOTTOM TO THE TOP. Variety’s Matthew Chernov puts 33 films in order in “Godzilla: All the Movies Ranked Including ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’”.

He’s been dissolved at the bottom of the ocean, frozen solid in an iceberg, blown up in a volcano, disintegrated in an atomic meltdown, and killed by missiles on the Brooklyn Bridge, but thanks to the millions of fans who love him, Godzilla will never die. Japan’s biggest star returns again in “Godzilla vs. Kong,” the latest entry in the Big G’s ever-expanding filmography. Pitted against his hairy rival for the second time in history, “Godzilla vs. Kong” is the fourth movie in Legendary Pictures popular MonsterVerse saga, which launched in 2014 with Gareth Edwards’ stylish reboot.

Like many long-running franchises, the Godzilla series has gone through a number of distinct phrases since its introduction. The first phrase, which covers the 15 titles released between 1954 and 1975, is commonly known by fans as the Showa era. These kaiju films (kaiju is the Japanese term for giant monster) are marked by their dramatic shift in tone, from the somber and haunting original classic to the wonderfully ludicrous “Godzilla vs. Hedorah.”

The second phase is often referred to as the Heisei era, and it includes the seven titles released between 1984 and 1995. These Godzilla films feature a greater sense of narrative continuity, and they ask complex philosophical questions about science and humanity. The third phase is the Millennium era, which covers the six titles released between 1999 and 2004. The majority of these Godzilla films are self-contained stories, much like an anthology series. There have also been a number of standalone reboots, both Japanese and American, that put their own unique spin on the character.

To help you program the ultimate monster marathon, here’s our Godzilla movie ranking, listed from wretched worst to bestial best. Long live the lizard king!

(14) WAS THE GRINCH AN ASTRONAUT? [Item by rcade.] Spaceflight can cause the heart to shrink, according to a study in the journal Circulation led by Dr. Benjamin Levine of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. “Long spaceflights and endurance swimming can ‘shrink the heart’” at BBC News.

The study examined astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent 340 days about the International Space Station, and endurance swimmer Benoît Lecomte. Swimming for extended periods of time is a useful model for time spent in orbit. Lecomte trained over five hours a day for five months preparing to swim the Pacific Ocean.

Both Kelly and Lecomte showed signs of heart atrophy and lost mass in the organ — 19 to 27 percent loss in Kelly.

Levine said:

One of the things we’ve learned over many years of study, is that the heart is remarkably plastic. So the heart adapts to the load that’s placed on it. …

In spaceflight, one of the things that happens, is you no longer have to pump blood uphill, because you’re not pumping against gravity….

(15) WITCHER WRAP. Netflix dropped a behind-the-scenes trailer for season 2 of The Witcher.

15 locations, 89 cast members, and 1,200 crew members later, The Witcher has officially wrapped production on Season 2! Here’s a look behind-the-scenes at some of the excitement among the cast and crew – led by showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich.

(16) WHAT’S BUGGING YOU? In the Washington Post, Alexandra Petri offers a “handy quiz” to determine whether you’re someone who is emerging from a year of pandemic lockdown or if you are a Brood X cicada!

Check all that apply:

  • You haven’t had any contact with friends or other members of your generation in what feels like 17 years….

(17) FAKE OLDS TO GO WITH FAKE NEWS. Gizmodo surveys research showing how “Scientists Implant and Then Reverse False Memories in People”.

Researchers have demonstrated just how easy it is to trick the mind into remembering something that didn’t happen. They also used two very simple techniques to reverse those false memories, in a feat that paves the way for a deeper understanding of how memory works….

“When people describe a memory, they will say that they are ‘absolutely certain’ of it. But this certainty can be an illusion. We suffer from the illusion of believing that our memories are accurate and pure,” Lisa Son, professor of Psychology at Barnard College of Columbia University, told Gizmodo. “This is despite the fact that we, in fact, forget all the time.”

Indeed, our minds are able to fabricate memories of entire events just by piecing together bits of stories, photographs, and anecdotes somebody else shares. These so-called false memories have been a hot topic of research for a while now, and there’s growing evidence that they could be a widespread phenomenon, according to a 2016 analysis of the field.

Building off of that, Oeberst’s lab recently implanted false memories in 52 people by using suggestive interviewing techniques. First, they had the participants’ parents privately answer a questionnaire and come up with some real childhood memories and two plausible, but fake, ones—all negative in nature, such as how their pet died or when they lost their toy. Then they had researchers ask the participants to recall these made-up events in a detailed manner, including specifics about what happened. For example, “Your parents told us that when you were 12 years old during a holiday in Italy with your family you got lost. Can you tell me more about it?”

The test subjects met their interviewer three times, once every two weeks, and by the third session most participants believed these anecdotes were true, and over half (56%) developed and recollected actual false memories—a significantly higher percentage than most studies in this area of research….

(18) REMEMBER THE DEAN DRIVE. “Latest EmDrive tests at Dresden University shows “impossible Engine” does not develop any thrust”.

… After tests in NASA laboratories had initially stirred up hope that the so-called EmDrive could represent a revolutionary, fuel-free alternative to space propulsion, the sobering final reports on the results of intensive tests and analyzes of three EmDrive variants by physicists at the Dresden University of Technology (TU Dresden) are now available. Grenzwissenschaft-Aktuell.de (GreWi) has exclusively interviewed the head of studies Prof. Dr. Martin Tajmar about the results….

(19) DOUBLE DUTCH LUNAR EXCURSION MODULE. [Item by Andrew Porter.] Live Science asks “How long would it take to walk around the moon?” Depends whether you go with the wind before or behind you, right?

…A total of 12 humans have stepped foot on the lunar surface, all of whom were part of the Apollo missions between 1969 and 1972, according to NASA. The footage that was beamed back to Earth showed how challenging (and, apparently, fun) it was to walk — or more accurately, bounce — around in the moon’s low gravity, which is one-sixth the gravity of Earth

However, research from NASA has since suggested that it is possible for humans to maneuver much faster on the moon than the Apollo astronauts did. Theoretically, walking the circumference of the moon could be done faster than previously predicted.

Picking up the pace 

During the Apollo missions, astronauts bounced around the surface at a casual 1.4 mph (2.2 km/h), according to NASA. This slow speed was mainly due to their clunky, pressurized spacesuits that were not designed with mobility in mind. If the “moonwalkers” had sported sleeker suits, they might have found it a lot easier to move and, as a result, picked up the pace.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Persona 5 Strikers” on YouTube, Fandom Games says that this game combines the happy joys of teenagers vacationing in Japan with the thrill of ‘spending 80 hours slaughtering one billion people,” a combination that’s like “peanut butter and methamphetamines.”

[Thanks to Alan Baumler, Cat Eldridge, Guy H. Lillian III, JJ, John Hertz, Lorien Gray, Rob Thornton, JeffWarner, Andrew Porter, rcade, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, James Davis Nicoll, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

Pixel Scroll 6/6/20 You Get A File, I’ll Get A Troll, We’ll Head Down
To The Pixel Scroll, Honey, Enemy Mine

(1) CUTTING OFF THEIR AIR. Connie Willis starts her Facebook post by comparing recent tragedies with the Salem witch trials: “On The Surreal Situation We Find Ourselves In”.

The first thing I thought of when I saw the horrific police murder of George Floyd was the Salem witch trials. Most people think the innocent victims of those monstrous trials were burned at the stake, but they weren’t–they were hanged. Mostly. Fourteen women, five men, and two dogs were executed by hanging. And one, an eighty-one-year-old farmer named Giles Corey, was pressed to death by putting a large flat stone on his chest and then piling more stones on top of it till they crushed the life out of him.

Basically the same thing happened to George Floyd. The policeman kneeling on his neck cut off his airway, and the other two holding him down pressed him flat against the ground so that his rib cage couldn’t inflate, and he suffocated to death.

The atrocities in Salem were precipitated by a belief that Evil was loose in their community.

It was, but it didn’t reside in the helpless slaves and old women and religious dissenters (and people who dared to speak out against what was happening) who were “tried” for witchcraft and executed.

The terrible irony of Salem is that the evil they were trying so hard to stamp out resided in the pious Christian town folk who accused them and the self-righteous judges who presided over their mock trials– “spectral evidence” was allowed, and they were pronounced guilty of crimes they had supposedly committed in the town even though they were locked up in jail at the time–and sentenced them to death.

The crimes brought to light by the death of George Floyd haven’t just been the murders of other African-Americans killed by the police, but other crimes the police have committed and are committing: the brutalizing of people exercising their First Amendment rights, the calling out of troops against the citizens they’re supposed to protect, and administration officials directing them to do so, calling for violence against their own people. Crimes by so-called law-abiding citizens and the officials they’ve put in office to “serve and protect” the public….

(2) YES, THIS AUGUST. Inverse fills readers in: “Everything We Know About Lovecraft Country, HBO’s Timely New Horror Series”.

In what just might be your next obsession from HBO, the weird fiction of H.P. Lovecraft finally does what the famed author never dared to do: Tell stories about Black people.

In August, HBO will premiere the television series Lovecraft Country, a road trip horror fantasy set in Jim Crow era America. It tells the story of an Army veteran and science fiction geek embarking on a cross-country trip to find his missing father, only to encounter otherworldly — and some very familiar — horrors along the way….

(3) LESS CYBER, MORE FILLING. “The New AP Stylebook Gets Technical. Really Technical”Slate explains how.

On Wednesday, the Associated Press released the 55th edition of its official Stylebook, complete with a new chapter on digital security practices for journalists. It also comes with a slew of new entries on technology that reinforce the importance of online advertising and cybersecurity in everyday life—and journalism.

For most journalists, the advice in the AP guide on how to secure their communications—through strong passwords, multifactor authentication, and the use of virtual private networks and encrypted messaging apps—will probably not come as a surprise. Still, for those tools to have made their way into the Associated Press Stylebook seems like a landmark of some kind for measuring how mainstream digital security concerns have become for journalists.

The new and revised technology-related entries in the Stylebook also reflect some interesting shifts in what the Associated Press believes journalists can expect general audiences to know. In general, many of the recommendations tend to urge journalists in the direction of greater specificity about the technologies they are describing and away from more generic, dated terms. For instance, the Stylebook endorses the terms digital wallets and mobile wallets, but it recommends avoiding e-wallet. In a similar vein, journalists are advised to use the prefix cyber– and the terms cyberspace and cyber sparingly, and instead substitute words like internet or digital…. 

(4) THE POSITIVE POWER OF BOREDOM. Eh, maybe. “What type of ‘bored’ are you? Find out and master the art of boredom”Body+Soul tells you how.

Lockdown got you climbing the walls? Are you over feeling bored? While it’s certainly an unpleasant feeling, experts say boredom isn’t always a bad thing. Some say that ‘blah’ feeling can even spur you on to greatness.

“There’s a real misconception that boredom is a sign of laziness and associated with apathy — actually, it’s the opposite,” says Professor James Danckert, who studies boredom. “It’s motivating — and, if we listen to it, we can learn a lot.”

Other experts agree that being bored can be a good thing. “Most of the time our minds are constantly occupied by external stimuli like smartphones,” says psychologist Dr Joann Lukins. “But boredom gives us a space to pause, reflect and then, often out of necessity, sees us create our next opportunity. I find it interesting that we use negative phrases like ‘bored to tears’ to discuss boredom when we can be ‘bored to brilliance’.’’

In fact, when researchers at the UK’s University of Central Lancashire asked people to do a boring task for 15 minutes and then asked them to come up with a list of things they could do with a plastic cup, they came up with more creative ideas than those in the control group who weren’t bored….

(5) WRITING FOR TEENS. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination is promoting the SDFutures online writing courses, along with UCSD and other supporters.

Imagining fantastic worlds and the future has never been more important.

It’s how we expand our sense of what is possible. It’s how we change our culture, save our planet, and make stories that create better futures for our loved ones and ourselves. This summer, we’re inviting San Diego–area teens to join us in exploring the power and potential of one of our most powerful human capacities: imagination.

SDFutures is series of online courses to help young people write science fiction and fantasy stories by developing their skills, meeting other young writers, and stretching their imagination with incredible professional writers of speculative fiction as guides. 

Our instructors include: Rebecca Roanhorse, Minh Lê, Kali Wallace, Lilliam Rivera, Patrick Coleman, Leah Thomas, Jeanelle Horcasitas, and Olivia Quintanilla.

If you know a community group, teacher, or young person who would benefit from this opportunity, please feel free to share.

More information, including how to register, at sd-futures.org.

(6) COMING ATTRACTIONS. Rich Horton put together a list of recommended books on his TBR pile. Many well-known titles here, but being TBR, he said his own score is zero. I’ve read 7. You have probably read multiples of my score.

Recently I posted a list of 100 books that was full of crap … it claimed to be a BBC list (it wasn’t) and it claimed that the average person had read only 6 (who knows?) and it was shoddily curated (multiple weird duplicates, etc.)

Here is what I believe to be a far better list. There are no duplicates (not even duplicate authors.) It is very English-language-centric — I can’t help that, English is all I can read…

(7) WITCHER WATCHER. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Behind a paywall in the May 30 Financial Times, Nilanjana Roy says she misses browsing bookstores in Delhi but has found some consolation watching TV shows adapted from novels, including The Witcher.

The hugely popular Netflix series, The Witcher, is a dark fantasy based on five novels written by Andrzej Sapkowski in the 1990s, following Geralt of Rivia, a lone monster killer who plies his trade across time jumps in the Continent, a place where monsters, humans, and creatures from Slavic fantasy battle it out with one another. Sapkowski, now 71, lives in Lodz and is as big a star in Polang as Terry Pratchett was in the UK. In one of his interviews, he dismissed critics of the fantasy genre:  ‘All literature is fantastic in its own way because it tells what wasn’t on paper before and it doesn’t matter whether you write about hobbits or love.’  Over the years, the community of Witcher fans has grown larger, drawn in by three wildly successful video games based on Geralt’s adventures, but it’s only now that the books have become a hit, propelled by the Netflix show.

What drew me in was not just the lure of a fantasy world peopled by vedmaks (sorcerers) or strigas (a flying witch who sucks the blood of infants at night); it’s that many of the characters are depicted as outsiders and outcasts.  It’s refreshing to watch fantasy that has a subtle echo of this last century’s swirl of xenophobia and politics about who belongs and who lives in the periphery, and that seeps into Geralt’s bloody exploits.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 6, 1980 — The decidedly low-budget Galaxina premiered. Starring the 1980 Playboy Playmate of the Year Dorothy Stratten as the android Galaxina and a cast too large to detail here, it was written and directed by William Sachs. Marilyn Jacobs Tenser was the producer. She did work for Crown International which did low-budget genre films such as horror cinema, biker films, exploitation films, and B-movie drive-in fare. Critics thought it was a failure at spoofing it’s intended victims of Star TrekStars Wars and Aliens.  Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a not so generous 24% rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 6, 1799 – Alexander Pushkin.  Sometimes after a surprise you re-examine and think “Oh.  Of course.”  When Ravi Shankar first visited Russia, people cried “Pushkin!  Pushkin!”  They loved Pushkin and there is a resemblance.  I’d like to call Mozart and Salieri a fantasy but, as my father used to say, not within the normal meaning of that term.  Anyway, we get Ruslan and Lyudmila and “The Queen of Spades” and The Bronze Horseman and “The Golden Cockerel” and The Stone Guest and “The Shot”.  Speaking of which –  (Died 1837) [JH]
  • Born June 6, 1918 Richard Crane. In the Fifties, he would be cast in two of the series that largely defined the look and feel of televised SF for a decade. First, he was the dashing lead in Rocky Jones, Space Ranger which lasted for thirty-nine thrilling episodes; second, he’s Dick Preston in nine of the twelve episodes of the wonderfully titled Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe. He was also the lead in the fifteen-chapter serial Mysterious Island which was a very loose adaption of the Jules Verne novel. (Died 1969.) (CE) 
  • Born June 6, 1921 – Milton Charles.  Artist and art director in and out of our field; Art Director for Jaguar (New York), later for Pocket Books; five hundred awards from Amer. Inst. Graphic Arts (AIGA), Society of Illustrators, Amer. Book Publishers, and like that.  Here is his cover for Tucker’s Wild Talenthere is Vonnegut’s Mother Nighthere is a study of his V.C. Andrews covers.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born June 6, 1924 Robert Abernathy. Writer during the 1940s and 1950s. He’s remembered mostly for his short stories which were published in many of the pulp magazines that existed during the Golden Age of Science Fiction such as Planet StoriesGalaxyF&SFAstounding and Fantastic Universe. He did around forty stories in total, and apparently wrote no novels that I can locate. There’s no collection of his works currently available in digital form but some of his stories are up at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1990.) (CE)
  • Born June 6, 1942 Dorothy Heydt, 78. She was the creator and first editor of the Star Trek Concordance, first published in March of 1969. (Yes, I owned a copy.) A linguist, she credited with creating one of the first widely used Vulcan languages in 1967 for a Trek fan fiction series. Though most of her short fiction is set in her own Cynthia, Daughter of Euelpides series, some was set in Bradley’s Darkover series. (CE)
  • Born June 6, 1945 – Vivian French.  Libraries in the United Kingdom say she is borrowed – that’s a metaphor, folks – shall we call it a Thing Contained for the Container? – half a million times a year; the Tiara Club books have sold three million copies.  Three dozen novels for us, some shorter stories, not least “I Wish I Were an Alien” in which the extraterrestrial boy, for his part, wishes –  [JH]
  • Born June 6, 1947 Robert Englund, 73. I think his best performance was as Blackie on the very short-lived Nightmare Cafe. Short-lived as in six episodes. Of course most will remember him playing Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. He actually appeared in a couple of now forgotten horror films, Dead & Buried and Galaxy of Terror, before landing that role. And he’s continued to do myriad horror films down to the years ranging from CHUD to Strippers vs Werewolves. Versatile man, our Robert.  (CE)
  • Born June 6, 1948 – Ron Salomon.  Hey Ron, I saw you had a Supporting Membership in last year’s Worldcon; thanks!  If CoNZealand has published a list I haven’t got one yet.  [JH]
  • Born June 6, 1959 Amanda Pays, 61. I first encountered her as Thero Jones on Max Headroom, a series I think should be considered one of the best SF series ever made. She appeared as Dawn in the Spacejacked film. She also had a guest role as Phoebe Green in the episode “Fire” of The X-Files, and was cast as Christina “Tina” McGee in The Flash of  the 1990 series, and she has a recurring role on the present Flash series as the same character.(CE)
  • Born June 6, 1964 – Jay Lake.  Born on Taiwan, lived in Nigeria, Dahomey (as it then was), Canada, and the U.S.  Won the Campbell Best New Writer award (as it then was); anyway, he was astounding.  Endeavour Award, also appropriate.  A dozen novels, two hundred seventy shorter stories, some co-authored.  Here is a cover he did for Polyphony – also appropriate.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born June 6, 1973 – Anne Ursu.  Teaches at Hamline, first university in Minnesota.  She’s given us eight novels, for children, adults, both.  The Lost Girl is told from the viewpoint of a crow.  In The Cronus Chronicles – three so far – two cousins find they’re in Greek myths; the first cousin we meet is Charlotte Mielswetzki, and if I say so myself it’s about time we did.  Breadcrumbs retells The Snow Queen; creatures from Hans Andersen’s tales keep showing up; and Jack, Hazel’s only friend in 5th Grade, may not want to be saved.  [JH]
  • Born June 6, 1973 Guy Haley, 57. British author of the Richards & Klein Investigations series, a cyberpunk noir series where the partners are an android and an AI. His regular paycheck comes from his Warhammer 40,000 work where he’s written a baker’s dozen novels so far. Not surprisingly, he’s got a novel coming out in the their just announced Warhammer Crime imprint which, though I’ve read no other Warhammer 40.000 fiction, I’m interested in seeing how they do it. (CE)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) MAD, I TELL YOU. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna throws a party when “Mad magazine legend Al Jaffee retires at age 99 after a record-breaking career”.

Mad magazine’s iconic back-page Fold-In is about to fold it in. Finito after 56 years. Because Al Jaffee, officially the longest-working comic artist ever, has decided to retire at age 99.

So to mark his farewell, Mad’s “Usual Gang of Idiots” will salute Jaffee with a tribute issue next week. It will be the magazine’s final regular issue to offer new material, including Jaffee’s final Fold-In, 65 years after he made his Mad debut.“He deserves some spotlight outside our industry,” Mad caricature artist Tom Richmond said of the magazine’s beloved elder statesman, who broke into the business during World War II.

One of the most heartfelt features in the send-off issue will be by Sergio Aragones, a fellow Mad legend who befriended Jaffee in 1962 upon joining the staff. They formed a mutual admiration society — both deeply steeped in the craft of the pantomime cartoon — and were occasional roommates on the Mad staff’s storied annual trips to far-flung vacation spots….

(12) TOUGH AUDIENCE. ScreenRant has surprisingly demanding standards: “”Up, Up & Away”: Every Superman Actor, Ranked By Comic Book Accuracy”.

5. Christopher Reeve: Superman The Movie (1978)

There is so much that this movie does right. Superman’s strength, powers, and heroic optimism are fully realized, while Christopher Reeve gives a performance as strong as his character’s steely muscles. In his civilian life as Clark Kent, he is bumbling and shy, but sweet and a skilled reporter.

The biggest problem working against this movie is the famous scene in which Superman turns back time by flying around the Earth and reversing its rotation. This is not how time works, and it is certainly not how Superman’s powers work. If not for this scene, Christopher Reeve would top this list (at least in his first two films).

(13) READY FOR YOUR MT. TBR. The Little Red Reviewer has high praise for A Sinister Quartet, with fiction by Cooney, Wick, McGee, and Allen”.

…Part of me wants to tell you to read this collection in the order the stories are presented, so that you can move from least dark and scary to most dark and scary: Start with Cooney’s beautifully rendered fantasy “The Twice Drowned Saint”;  then go to Jessia P. Wick’s “An Unkindness”, a dark fantasy of a sister trying to save her brother from the fae;  from there go to Amanda J. McGee’s “Viridian”, a contemporary gothic horror of isolation and obsession;  and from there go to Mike Allen’s absolutely horrifying and terrifying “The Comforter”.  If you go that path, you’ll slowly ramp up from “fun, sorta creepy” to “not sure I should be reading this before bed”.

(14) AND IN THIS CORNER. The Little Red Reviewer also gives this irresistible description about Gods of Jade and Shadow, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia”.

…one day,  when the family is on an outing, having left Caseopea at home, as a punishment,  she takes special notice of an old trunk in her grandfather’s bedroom.  And she opens the trunk.

What’s in the trunk?   oh, only the bones and soul of Hun-Kame,  Lord of Xibalba, and one of his bone shards gets lodged in Casiopea’s hand.  no biggie, right?  He can just, remove the shard, and then he can go back to Xibalba to dethrone his brother, and then Casiopea can pretend none of this ever happened, right?

hahahaha, NO.

(15) MOUTHPIECE. “Facebook Begins Labeling ‘State-Controlled’ Media”.

Facebook has begun labeling content produced by media outlets it says are under state control, enacting a policy the social network first announced in October.

Pages and posts from at least 18 outlets including Russia Today, China’s People’s Daily and Iran’s Press TV now carry notices to users that they are “state-controlled media.” Ads from state-controlled publishers will also be labeled starting later this year. The labels will initially be shown to U.S. Facebook users and roll out to other countries over time.

“We’re providing greater transparency into these publishers because they combine the influence of a media organization with the strategic backing of a state, and we believe people should know if the news they read is coming from a publication that may be under the influence of a government,” Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, wrote in a blog post.

Facebook will also begin barring state-controlled outlets from buying advertising in the U.S. later this summer. Gleicher said that decision was “out of an abundance of caution to provide an extra layer of protection against various types of foreign influence in the public debate” ahead of the 2020 presidential election. He noted that these outlets “rarely” advertise in the U.S.

(16) I’M THINKING IT OVER. “Facebook Will Review Policies On Posts About State Violence, Voting” reports NPR.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Facebook employees on Friday that the social network will review how it handles some of the most incendiary posts on its platform, including those by President Trump. His announcement follows a revolt by employees over his decision to do nothing about messages the president posted about violence toward protesters and mail-in voting.

In a memo to staff, Zuckerberg said he wanted “to acknowledge that the decision I made last week has left many of you angry, disappointed and hurt.”

Zuckerberg said Facebook will consider labeling posts that violate its rules, a more nuanced approach than the company’s current policy, which states that posts should either be removed or left alone. It will also review its policies allowing “discussion and threats of state use of force” and its policies on voter suppression.

(17) FACING UP. “Coronavirus face mask lights up with moving mouth shapes” – video. (At least it’s not as creepy as the Syncro Vox they tried on Clutch Cargo.)

A light-up face mask that responds to the sound of the wearer’s voice has been developed by a games developer in California.

The BBC’s Chris Fox spoke to designer Tyler Glaiel and had a go at making the mask himself – although he keeping his purely as a novelty.

(18) CONZEALAND CHAIRS Q&A. Norman Cates and Kelly Buehler held a video Q&A session this afternoon. Bottom line: Hugo voting is only being done with paper ballots right now. Site selection voting won’t start until the online advanced memberships fee token payment system is available — perhaps next week.

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