Pixel Scroll 10/5/22 Thoughts Gather, But Fail To Coalesce Into Pixels

(1) CHARLES YU Q&A. “’In Any Version of Reality’: Talking SF with Charles Yu” at Public Books.  

Christopher T. Fan (CF): In a later chapter of How to Live Safely, there’s another father-son scene, where the father is trying to impart knowledge to the young protagonist. He’s opening a pack of graph paper, peeling off the cellophane—it’s very tactile. He says, “Choose a world, any world,” as he opens up this graph paper and presents it to his son. Can you say more about that sense of optimism? How graph paper leads to a world? 

Charles Yu (CY): In my dad’s office, he had these thick pads of graph paper with this very pleasing feel. They were pretty squishy because the paper was thick, and they had these very light green lines. It wasn’t perforation, it was like they were wax. You just tore a page off, and there was a sound that the pad would make as you tore off a nice sheet. I usually wouldn’t tear off the page I was working on, because you’d want the feeling of all the sheets underneath the top one. I was just playing with the idea.

No matter what else is going on, no matter if you’re an immigrant making your life in a foreign country, or if you’ve got all this work pressure and money pressure, or you’re trying to refinance the house because you’re maxed out on all your credit cards—whatever is going on in your life at that moment, you think, OK, we have math, we have a universe. I draw the X axis, I draw the Y. We’re in the Cartesian plane—here we are. To be able to go to that plane, anytime, just like that.

(2) NBA FINALISTS. The 2022 National Book Awards finalists were announced October 4 by the National Book Foundation. There are two works of genre interest. The complete list of finalists is here.

National Book Award 2022 Finalists: Translated Literature

Scattered All Over the Earth by Yoko Tawada

Original Language: Japanese/ Translator: Margaret Mitsutani (Penguin Random House / Riverhead Books)

National Book Award 2022 Finalists: Young People’s Literature

The Ogress and the Orphans by Kelly Barnhill(Workman Publishing / Algonquin Young Readers)

(3) WIKI BARS THE DOOR. [Item by Paul Weimer.] Author Gwenda Bond has been denied a Wikipedia for extremely sketchy reasons. Thread starts here.

(4) THE TANK HAS BEEN REFILLED! Chris Garcia just released his Drink Tank Chicon 8 / Chicago issue — The Drink Tank 441 – Chicon! It’s 84 pages of words and pictures from Alissa McKersie, Chuck Serface, and Chris Garcia, joined by Dave O’Neill, Paul Weimer, Fred Moulton, Vanessa Applegate, Juan Sanmiguel, Phoenix Data Art, Bill Rowe, Thad Gann, Ron Oakes, Steven H Silver, Espana Sheriff, DALL*E 2, Midjourney, and WOMBO Dream.

The Drink Tank’s “Crime Fiction – 1950 to 2000” issue should be out in a week or so, but there’s still time to submit for the up-coming looks at “Welcome to Nightvale” (Deadline Dec. 1) and the “Grant Morrison” issue (November 1).

(5) SKELETOR’S RECRUITING OFFICE. Cora Buhlert has a new photo story — “Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre: ‘Help’”

… “Ahem and why are we capturing Man-at-Arms, boss?”

“So he can build machines and weapons for us, Trap Jaw. And tell me all about the secrets of Castle Grayskull and how to kill He-Man, while he’s at it.”

“Uhm, I’m pretty sure Tri-Klops won’t like that, boss. After all, he is our tech guy.”

“I don’t care what Tri-Klops thinks. If he doesn’t want to be replaced, maybe he should come up with inventions that actually work.”…

(6) MY LITTLE PONYTAIL. GQ inquires “How Did This Ponytail Become the Go-To Men’s Hairstyle in Fantasy Adaptations?”

…The show, a Game of Thrones prequel, takes place 200 years before the events of the original series and focuses on the wheelings and dealings of the Targaryen dynasty. This means that while there was one recurring platinum blonde Targaryen wig on Game of Thrones, pretty much everyone on House of the Dragon gets to rock one—and, along with it, the half-ponytail. (It’s so excessive that Vulture published an entire House of the Dragon half-ponytail ranking.) By the time I saw Matt Smith stride onto screen as the bad boy prince Daemon Targaryen—complete with a fancy little half-ponytail he apparently meticulously styles in between waging wars, riding his dragon, and macking on his niece—I realized that the look was far bigger than Westeros. It’s become the go-to hairstyle to telegraph: “This guy’s in a fantasy series.”

So where did its reign start? The ur-fantasy-half-ponytail, down to the blonde dye job, seems to belong to Legolas in the early aughts Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings movies. J.R.R. Tolkien’s Elven prince had previously been depicted on paperback covers or in the 1978 animated Ralph Bakshi adaptation with more of a cocaine chic shag situation going on. But in the Jackson films, Orlando Bloom emerges with long silky blonde locks, tied back in a half-pony. (Where were you when, in 2001, you discovered what Bloom’s actual hair looked like?) Every prominent modern half-ponytail in fantasy—Henry Cavill in The Witcher, Daemon in House of the Dragon—owes a debt to this one.

Curious about how it originally came to be, I called up the Academy Award-winning hair designer for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Peter Swords King (yes, really). He told me that he didn’t consult any previous aesthetics when developing the hair for Legolas. “We spent weeks experimenting with different things and came up with that. Then Peter Jackson said, ‘Oh, I really like that. That looks great,’” King recalled. “Legolas had two fishtailed braids on the other side of his head and that kept it back off his face. And then there was a tiny bit at the top by the back that was pulled into a ponytail.” (“Elves cannot have messy hair,” King added. “Lots of other characters can, it’s fine. But elves can’t. It’s not elvish to be messy.”)

King also worked on Jackson’s three-part adaptation of The Hobbit and pointed out that he gave a more rugged version of the style to Luke Evans when he played Bard the Bowman. “He was going to have all his hair down at one point and I went, ‘No, no I’m going to just try it half up, half down once,’” he said. “And I did that and said, ‘That’s it. That’s perfect. We want to see that hair moving when he runs and fights, but we don’t want it in his face.’” The issue with the hair all down was that “as soon as he started fighting, even with product in it and everything, it kept getting in his face. It looked bad. He looked messy.”

(7) MIYAZAKI ON STAGE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Sarah Hemming interviews My Neighbour Totoro, based on the film by Hayao Miyazaki, written by Tom Morton-Smith and with music by Joe Hisaishi (who also did the music for the film).  It is playing at the Barbican Theatre (barbican.org.uk) through January 21.

Morton-Smith “describes his task as ‘translation as well as adaptation’  He’s expanded several scenes, brought forward some characters and increased the dialogue.  But he adds that, although the story doesn’t confirm to convention expectations, it does have defined sections and a narrative journey…

Finding a stage language for this delicate story has meant drawing together a high-powered international team.  Hisaishi has been closely involved and his original score will be played live.  Jim Henson’s Creature Shop is building the puppets, designed by Basil Twist, and Phelim McDermott, expert in improvisation and puckish invention is directing.  The show is produced in collaboration with English theatre company Improbable and Japan’s Nippon TV.

(8) ALBERT COWDREY (1933-2022). Author Albert Cowdrey died August 21 at age 88. According to the family obituary, “He wrote Elixir of Life, a historical novel, Crux, a science fiction novel, and more than sixty published short stories, many in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. He was the only writer to receive awards from both the American Historical Association (Herbert Feis Award, 1984) and the World Fantasy Convention (World Fantasy Award, 2002).” The WFA was for his short story “Queen for a Day”.

(9) MEMORY LANE.  

1923 [By Cat Eldridge.] Ninety-nine years ago this month in Black Mask’s October 1923 issue, Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op private detective first appeared. He’s employed as an operative of the Continental Detective Agency’s San Francisco office, hence his nickname. The stories are all told in the first person and his actual name is never given.

He may be the earliest hardboiled detective to appear in the pulp magazines. Note I said maybe. It’s still in matter of debate among pulp magazine historians. 

He appeared in thirty-six short stories, all but two of which appeared in Black Mask. Some ofHammett’s short stories in Black Mask were intended to be the basis for his novels, so for example “Black Lives”, “Hollow Temple”, “Black Honeymoon” and “Black Riddle” would become The Dain Curse. The novels differ substantially from the stories as they were revised by an editor at Alfred A. Knopf.

There are but two novels in the series, The Dain Curse and Red Harvest.  The latter was originally called The Cleansing of Poisonville and it sums up the novel damn well. Red Harvest, like The Dain Curse, started life as linked stories in Black Mask.

The Library of America’s Complete Novels includes both Red Harvest and The Dain Curse as printed by Knopf. The companion collection Crime Stories and Other Writings uses the original pulp magazine texts.

Of course there have been video adaptations. 

The Dain Curse was made into a six-hour CBS television miniseries in 1978 starring James Coburn. Here The Op was named Hamilton Nash which was his creator’s name ‘spelled sideways’. 

Four years later, Peter Boyle played the Continental Op in the opening of Hammett in which Hammett as played by Frederic Forrest is writing a story about the detective character.

And finally thirteen years later, Christopher Lloyd played The Continental Op in “Fly Paper” in season two, episode seven of the Fallen Angels anthology series adapted from Hammett’s short story of the same name. 

Blackstone has done a most exemplary audio productions of the novels which I know are on Audible and probably everywhere else as well.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 5, 1905 John Hoyt. His first genre role was in When Worlds Collide as Sydney Stanton, and the next in Attack of the Puppet People as Mr. Franz, bookending the Fifties. He starts off the Sixties in The Time Travelers as Varno. He appeared twice during the second season of The Twilight Zone in the episodes “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” and “The Lateness of the Hour”. And he had roles in many other genre series, including as the KAOS agent Conrad Bunny in the Get Smart episode “Our Man in Toyland”, and General Beeker in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’s episode “Hail to the Chief”, and Dr. Philip Boyce in the original pilot episode of Star Trek (“The Cage”). In the Seventies he appeared in Flesh Gordon as Professor Gordon. Yes, Flesh Gordon. (Died 1991.)
  • Born October 5, 1919 Donald Pleasence. He was Doctor Samuel Loomis in the Halloween franchise and the President in Escape from New York. He also had a plethora of parts in other genre properties, a few of which include the main role in the movie Fantastic Voyage which was novelized by Isaac Asimov, roles in episodes of the The Twilight ZoneThe Outer Limits, and The Ray Bradbury Theater, a part in George Lucas’ first foray into filmmaking, THX 1138, John Carpenter’s The Prince of Darkness, and the role of Merlin in the TV movie Guinivere. My favorite film title for a work he was in? Frankenstein’s Great Aunt Tillie in which he played the dual roles of Victor Frankenstein and Old Baron Frankenstein. (Died 1995.)
  • Born October 5, 1949 Peter Ackroyd, 73. His best known genre work is likely Hawksmoor which tells the tale of a London architect building a church and a contemporary detective investigating horrific murderers involving that church. Highly recommended. The House of Doctor Dee is genre fiction as is The Limehouse Golem and The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein.  I thought Hawksmoor had been turned into a film but it has not. But he has a credit for The Limehouse Golem which is his film work. 
  • Born October 5, 1952 Clive Barker, 70. Horror writer, series include the Hellraiser and the Book of Art, which is not to overlook The Abarat Quintet which is quite superb. Though not recent, The Essential Clive Barker: Selected Fiction published some twenty years ago contains more than seventy excerpts from novels and plays and four full-length short stories. His Imaginer series collects his decidedly strange art.  There has been a multitude of comic books, both by him and by others based on his his ideas.  My personal fave work by him is the Weaveworld novel.
  • Born October 5, 1945 Judith Kerman, 77. Can we call her a polymath? She’s a translator, publisher, academic, anthologist and poet.  All of her poetry, collected in Uncommonplaces: Poems of the Fantastic, is well worth your time. She did two non-fiction works of which I’m recommending one, “Retrofitting Blade Runner: Issues in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”, as I’ve a Jones for that literature.
  • Born October 5, 1959 Rich Horton, 63. Editor of three anthology series — Fantasy: Best of The Year and Science Fiction: Best of The Year, merged into The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy in 2010. He wrote a review column for Locus for twenty years, signing off this past February. His Strange at Ecbatan blog includes reviews, criticism, and a well-received series that proposes Hugo finalists to fill in the old years when only winners were announced, or even before the award was created.
  • Born October 5, 1971 Paul Weimer, 51. Writer, Reviewer, and Podcaster, also known as @PrinceJvstin. An ex-pat New Yorker living in Minnesota, he has been reading science fiction and fantasy for over 30 years and exploring the world of roleplaying games for more than 25 years. A three-time Hugo finalist for Best Fan Writer (2020-2022), he is a prolific reviewer for Nerds of a Feather. He also contributes to the Hugo-nominated fancast The Skiffy and Fanty Show and the SFF Audio podcast. He was the 2017 Down Under Fan Fund delegate to the Australia and New Zealand National Conventions, and his e-book DUFF trip report, consisting of more than 300 pages of travel stories and stunning photographs, is still available here.
  • Born October 5, 1975 Kate Winslet, 47. A longer and deeper genre record than I thought starting with being Prince Sarah in A Kid in King Arthur’s Court before playing Ophelia in Branagh’s Hamlet a few years later. She shows next as Clementine Kruczynski in the superb Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and was Sylvia Llewelyn Davies in the equally superb Finding Neverland. She’s Jeanine Matthews in Divergent and Insurgent, and is slated to be Ronal in the forthcoming Avatar 2. She’s the voice of Miss Fillyjonk in the English dub of the Swedish Moominvalley series. Finally, I’d like to note she narrated the audiobook version of Roald Dahl’s Matilda.

(11) LIVE FROM NEW BOOK, IT’S SATURDAY NIGHT! Goodman Games is doing a live interview with Michael Moorcock this weekend: “Live Interview With Michael Moorcock is This Weekend!”

The Sanctum Secorum is pleased to announce a special episode of Sanctum Secorum Live with guest Michael Moorcock. In honor of the forthcoming release of the newest book in the Elric saga, The Citadel of Forgotten Myths, Mr. Moorcock will be talking live about Elric, his new book, and more. Perhaps more importantly, he will also be taking questions from you, our viewers!

The show will be broadcast live on The Official Goodman Games twitch channel, and will also be rebroadcast via the Sanctum Secorum podcast feed as well as the Goodman Games Youtube channel. The show is being broadcast at 4:00 pm EST, allowing the entirety of the global Goodman Games fan base to take part and have your voices heard (figuratively at least).

(12) CHOW IN THE PINE TREE STATE. Some parts are edible…! Stephen King talks about the cuisine of Maine and shares a recipe that sounds pretty tasty: “Stephen King on What Authentic Maine Cuisine Means to Him” at Literary Hub.

… When I think of Maine cuisine, I think of red hot dogs in spongy Nissen rolls, slow-baked beans (with a big chunk of pork fat thrown in), steamed fresh peas with bacon, whoopie pies, plus macaroni and cheese (often with lobster bits, if there were some left over). I think of creamed salt cod on mashed potatoes—a favorite of my toothless grandfather—and haddock baked in milk, which was the only fish my brother would eat. I hated it; to this day I can see those fishy fillets floating in boiled milk with little tendrils of butter floating around in the pan. Ugh.

As the twig is bent the bough is shaped, so they say, and my tastes have remained simple and unrefined. I like nothing better than a couple of blueberry pancakes for breakfast, floating in maple syrup. (Folks think of Vermont when they think of maple syrup, but the Maine variety is just as good.) There’s nothing like a chunk of fried fish with vinegar for lunch, and a New England boiled dinner for supper—corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, and carrots. (“You must zimmer very zlowly,” my mother liked to say.) Add some strawberry shortcake (Bisquick biscuits, please) for dessert, and you’ve got some mighty good eatin’….

(13) BLANK SLATE. Slashfilm knows “Why Star Trek: Lower Decks Creator Mike McMahan Wanted Non-Trekkies In The Writers’ Room”.

… While it might seem like a no-brainer to stick with die-hard fans, the writers who were new to the “Trek” universe brought something special to the table, too:

“The original ‘Star Trek’ was made by people who had never seen ‘Star Trek’ because they were creating it. I wanted that feeling of brains that didn’t know ‘Star Trek’ as well, but were just thinking about the characters and the comedy. … [The new writers] find things that are super funny that they love, and you’re like, ‘Oh, right, that was normal to me because I’ve seen it my whole life, but that is an amazing, weird, funny thing.'”

As it turns out, McMahan’s unconventional decision paid off. The show has been a breath of fresh air, which was almost certainly the result of getting fresh eyes in the writers’ room. …

 (14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] How It Should Have Ended took a pause this summer, but they are back with guest voice Jon Bailey (the “epic voice guy” form Honest Trailers)

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Paul Weimer, Cora Buhlert, 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 Lis Carey.]

Pixel Scroll 9/13/22 Of Course That’s Scrollock Holmes. He’s Wearing A Godstalker And Scrolling A Meershaum Pixel

(1) CONGRATULATIONS. The 2022 Washington State Book Award Winners in the Books For Adults Categories include two by authors often in the news here.

Biography/Memoir

Fiction

(2) WHEN THE BIRD NESTS IN YOUR HEAD. Foz Meadows writes at length about the nature of Twitter interactions, taking as a text the criticisms and accusations made against her by Gretchen Felker-Martin and R.S. Benedict related to comments by Meadows about Isabel Fall and the author’s story “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter” for which Meadows subsequently apologized — “Twitter, Truth & Apologies”. At the end, Meadows sums up:

…And all too often, even when social media professes to want growth from those it accuses of wrongdoing, what it really wants is a new culprit to feel vindicated about shaming, because that’s easier than weighing up whether you think so-and-so deserves another chance, and whether all your mutuals will agree with you, and if saying so is worth the chance of being called an apologist in the event that they don’t. Being reactive is simpler, easier, but at some point, we have to accept that not all takes require responses, and that if they do, they don’t necessarily have to be ours. If there’s one positive thing I’ve taken out of all this, it’s a desire to be more judicious about how I speak online: to be less knee-jerk, to give less space to opinions that don’t merit discussion, and to try for kinder readings of the works and people around me…

(3) GET YOUR S&S FIX HERE. At Grimdark Magazine, John Mauro reviews the anthology A Book of Blades, edited by Matt John and L.D. Whitney, in which Cora Buhlert has a story.

…I’d also like to mention “The City of the Screaming Pillars,” Cora Buhlert’s quest story of four travelers seeking long-lost treasure in an abandoned city in the middle of the desert. “The City of the Screaming Pillars” starts off as a standard quest story but then dives into much darker Lovecraftian territory…. 

(4) NEAL ADAMS TRIBUTE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] I just saw the 3-page (comic) story they’re talking about in the new issue of Fables (either #153 or #154, IIRC); here’s links to some articles about it.

DC Comics has published a comic paying tribute to legendary artist Neal Adamsfollowing his passing earlier this year. The three-page story, which is called “The Endless Line”, began to be published in all DC titles beginning Tuesday, July 19th, is written by Tom King and drawn by Neal’s son, Josh Adams. The story, which you can check out in a tweet from King below, features snippets from a real-life interview that Adams did with The Comics Journal in 1982, with wisdom that he is bestowing while drawing a sketch for one of his characters, Deadman.

The final page of the story shows a line of other characters that Adams is known for waiting in line for sketches, including Batman, Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Green Lantern. Also included among the story are quotes from some of Adams’ contemporaries and fans, including Jim Lee, Frank Miller, and Roy Thomas, which highlight his prolific work as an artist and advocate for creators’ rights…. 

In April, Bleeding Cool reported the sad news of the deal of comic book publisher, writer, artist and advocate, Neal Adams. From genre-defining runs on Batman, X-Men, Green Arrow and Green Lantern that would define the medium, and heavily influence the TV series and movies that would spin out of it, Neal Adams’ greatest legacy is one of creator rights, fighting for himself and fellow comic book creators against publishers, over rights, royalties, return of artwork and basic human decency. So much so that he even started his own publisher, Continuity Comics, and later his own comic book shop. He also fought creators to value their own contribution, demanding they charge for sketches and then signatures at comic book conventions, as a measure of their worth. 

And here’s a tweet to the full 3-page story!

(5) TALES FROM THE ROOF. In the Washington Post, Mary Quattlebaum interviews comedian George Lopez, who has co-written middle-grade horror novel Chupacarter with Ryan Canejo. “George Lopez, Ryan Calejo blend Latin folklore and laughs in new novel”.

… Like Jorge in the book, Lopez did some of his best thinking as a kid on the roof of his grandparents’ house in Southern California. “I’d sit there and look at the moon and wonder ‘Who am I going to be?’ ” he said.

His grandmother and step-grandfather, who raised him, are the models for Jorge’s loud, tough abuela and gentle abuelo.

Though his abuela didn’t throw empanadas at him, as does Jorge’s grandmother, she “did throw other things,” said Lopez with a laugh.

Calejo’s abuelas told him stories of frightening chupacabras and other legendary creatures to entertain and keep him out of mischief, Calejo said by phone from his home in Miami, Florida.

These tales inspired the first story he remembers writing in elementary school. It was about a protective doglike spirit known as el cadejo….

(6) ELLISON COMMEMORATION. “Troublemaker, Malcontent, Desperado: A Celebration of the Life and Legacy of Harlan Ellison” will be hosted by the Ohio Center for the Book at Cleveland Public Library on September 17. [Warning: The downloadable 2007 booklet is a 238MB PDF file.]

The Ohio Center for the Book, in collaboration with Cleveland State University and Celebrating Cleveland’s Past Masters*, are honoring the life and legacy of Harlan Ellison: speculative fiction author, screenwriter, social critic, and self-described “troublemaker, malcontent, desperado” on Saturday, Sept. 17, 1:00 pm at Cleveland Public Library’s Louis Stokes Wing, 2nd floor, 525 Superior Avenue in downtown Cleveland.

The event commemorates the 15th anniversary of Ellison’s last public appearance in his hometown of Cleveland when he participated in the 2007 Midwest premiere of the biographical documentary Dreams with Sharp Teeth in the auditorium of Cleveland Public Library.

Click here to download a high-resolution PDF of the 2007 program booklet, A Tribute to Harlan Ellison, with appreciations, congratulations, and “short stories” from Daniel Pinkwater, Stuart Kaminsky, Marv Wolfman, Michael Moorcock, Leonard Maltin, Eric Shanower, Leo and Diane Dillon, Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due, Richard Matheson, David Twohy, and many, many others!

(7) BEST OF THE BEST. The Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog says next year’s Hugo ballot is already filled to overflowing with deserving media. Thread starts here.

(8) A DAUGHTER’S MEMOIR. “Emma Straub Remembers Her Father, Peter Straub” at Vulture. Andrew Porter sent the link with a note about his missed opportunity: “I confirmed that he was living in the Watermark, the assisted living facility in the former Towers Hotel, literally half a block from where I live… Wish I’d known; I’ve have visited him there.”

When I gave my father the pile of pages that would become my novel This Time Tomorrow, he quickly thumbed to the back and asked, “What page do I die on?” This was a joke and also not a joke. In the book, he (“he” being Leonard Stern, the fictional father in my novel) dies on page 301. In real life, off the page, my father, Peter Straub, died on September 4, 2022. In the book, Leonard dies in his bedroom at home with his daughter, her stepmother, and his nurse. In real life, my father died in the windowless ICU hospital room he’d been stuck in for a month, most of that time doing fairly well, recovering from a fractured hip and sitting up, reading books and watching MSNBC, just as he would have at home. My mother and brother and I were by his side, and I held his hand. It started very slowly — what page do we begin to die on, any of us — and, mercifully, ended fast….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1974 [By Cat Eldridge.] Forty-eight years ago this evening Kolchak: The Night Stalker first aired on ABC. It was preceded by The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler films, both written by Richard Matheson. 

It was based off a novel by Jeff Rice who Mike has some thoughts about here.

It was remade seventeen years ago as The Night Stalker with Stuart Townsend as Carl Kolchak. It lasted ten episodes. It was set in Los Angeles. Need I say more? 

Let’s talk about Darren McGavin for a moment. He was perfect for this role. Though only fifty-two when the series was shot, he looked a decade older and quite beat up. That suit he wore could have been acquired second hand. Or fourth hand. And that hat — I wonder how many they had in props that were exactly identical. 

The actor himself had certainly had some interesting times with four divorces by then, and this was not his first time portraying a world-weary investigator. He was the title character in the short-lived Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer series in the Fifties. It lasted a year.

Now Kolchak: The Night Stalker did not break the pattern of having a beautiful woman around as it had Carol Ann Susi as the recurring character of semi-competent but likable intern Monique Marmelstein in a recurring role.

And I really liked the characters of his boss, Tony Vincenzo as played by Simon Oakland, who was quite bellicose and had no clue of what Kolchak was doing. Good thing that was, too. 

Ahhh the monsters. Some were SF, sort of — a murderous android, an invisible ET, a prehistoric ape-man grown from thawed cell samples, and a lizard-creature protecting its eggs. Then there was the fantastic ones — a Jack the Ripper, a headless motorcycle rider, vampires, werewolves, witches and zombies to name but a few he tangled with. 

It has become a cult favorite which currently carries a not surprising ninety-four percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes but it was a ratings failure complicated by Darren McGavin being unwilling to do more episodes and only lasted one season before being cancelled.  

Chris Carter who credits the series as the primary inspiration for The X-Files wanted McGavin to appear as Kolchak in one or more episodes of that series, but McGavin was unwilling to reprise the character for his show. He did appear on the series as retired FBI agent very obviously attired in Kolchak’s trademark seersucker jacket, black knit tie, and straw hat.

C.J. Henderson, who won a World Fantasy Award for his Sarob Press, wrote three Night Stalker novels  — Kolchak and the Lost WorldKolchak: Necronomicon and What Every Coin Has. There have been other novels and shorts published. Three unfilmed scripts for the TV series have survived, “Eve of Terror”, written by Stephen Lord, “The Get of Belial”, written by Donn Mullally, and “The Executioners”, written by Max Hodge.

Let’s see if it streaming anywhere… It is streaming on NBC of course. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 13, 1916 Roald Dahl. Did you know he wrote the screenplay for You Only Live Twice? Or that he hosted and wrote for a sf and horror television anthology series called Way Out which aired before The Twilight Zone for a season? He also hosted Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected broadcast in the UK.  My favorite Dahl works are The BFG and The Witches. What’s yours? (Died 1990.)
  • Born September 13, 1920 John Crawford. He appeared in The Twilight Zone’s “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim” as Joe. He was also Harrison in the early Fifties pulp The Invisible Monster.  Interestingly he was Roth in Zombies of the Stratosphere which was supposed to be a Commando Cody serial but got changed for reasons unknown. And late in his career, he was Polydeukes in Jason and the Argonauts. (Died 2010.)
  • Born September 13, 1931 Barbara Bain, 91. She’s most remembered for co-starring in the original Mission: Impossible television series in the 1960s as Cinnamon Carter, and Space: 1999 as Doctor Helena Russell.  Her first genre role was as Alma in the “KAOS in CONTROL” episode of Get Smart! She was active as of last year as showed in the Space Command series as Auut Simone in the “Ripple Effect” episode. 
  • Born September 13, 1933 Warren Murphy. Ok, I’ll admit that I’m most likely stretching the definition of genre just a bit by including him as he’s best known for writing along with Richard Sapir the pulp Destroyer series that ran to some seventy novels and was (making it possibly genre) the basis of Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.  He did a number of other series that were more definitely genre. (Died 2015.)
  • Born September 13, 1937 Don Bluth, 85. Animator of quite some note. In his career, he’s been involved in some manner with Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too, the Fantastic Voyage series, the Archie series (seriously) Will the Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down series (again seriously) The Secret of NIMHAn American TailThe Land Before TimeAnastasia and Titan A.E. 
  • Born September 13, 1944 Jacqueline Bisset, 78. I never pass up a Bond performance and so she’s got on the Birthday Honors by being Giovanna Goodthighs in Casino Royale even though that might have been one of the dumbest character names ever. As near as I can tell, until she shows up in as Charlotte Burton in the “Love the Lie” episode of the Counterpart series that’s her entire encounter with genre acting. Genre adjacent, she appeared in the Albert Finney fronted Murder on the Orient Express as Countess Helena Andrenyi. 
  • Born September 13, 1947 Mike Grell, 75. He’s best known for his work on books such as Green Lantern/Green ArrowThe Warlord, and Jon Sable FreelanceThe Warlord featuring Travis Morgan is a hollow Earth adventure series set in Skartaris which is a homage to Jules Verne as Grell points out “the name comes from the mountain peak Scartaris that points the way to the passage to the earth’s core in Journey to the Center of the Earth. The animated Justice League Unlimited “Chaos at the Earth’s Core“ episode made use of this story. 
  • Born September 13, 1974 Fiona Avery, 48. Comic book and genre series scriptwriter. While being a reference editor on the final season of Babylon 5, she wrote “The Well of Forever” and “Patterns of the Soul” as well as two that were not produced, “Value Judgements” and “Tried and True”. After work on the Crusade series ended, she turned to comic book writing, working for Marvel and Top Cow with J. Michael Straczynski’s Rising Stars series being another place where her scripts were used. She created the Marvel character Anya Sofia Corazon later named Spider-girl. She did work on Tomb RaiderSpider-ManX-Men and Witchblade as well.

(11) MIRACLEMAN. Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham’s unfinished storyline “The Silver Age” begins October 19.  

 In the late 80s, Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham took over the saga of Miracleman to critical acclaim. The pair of comic visionaries expanded the Miracleman mythos with new characters and introduced the story of Young Miracleman. Their series was cut short mid-storyline almost 30 years ago, but now their Miracleman: The Silver Age saga will finally be completed! MIRACLEMAN BY GAIMAN & BUCKINGHAM: THE SILVER AGE #1 and MIRACLEMAN BY GAIMAN & BUCKINGHAM: THE SILVER AGE #2 will present the early chapters of the story that made it to stands but with stunning new remastered artwork by Buckingham and containing bonus content! And then, starting in December’s MIRACLEMAN: THE SILVER AGE #3, all-new material by Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham will at long last, continue this legendary comic story!

(12) SEARCHING FOR INTELLIGENT LIFE. Carl Sagan tells the BBC in 1967 how to send a message to outer space that extraterrestrials could understand. “Where Is Everybody?”

(13) MORE DISNEY SEQUEL MANIA. Disney revives the National Treasure franchise but without Nic Cage. National Treasure: Edge Of History Official Trailer”.

Jess Morales, a 20-year-old Dreamer, sets off on an exploration to discover the mystery of her family history, and, with the help of her friends, seeks to recover historical lost treasure.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Thor: Love and Thunder,” the Screen Junkies say this film has “the joke rate of Family Guy” (including playing Jane Foster’s fatal pancreatic cancer for laughs) with “the look of that time you shroomed at Dave and Busters.”  Chris Hemsworth, who has played Thor ten times in eight years, struggles to come up with something new, and few will be excited by the “100 screaming goat jokes.”

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Cora Buhlert, N., Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 7/15/22 The Pixels Come From The Scrollwork Out

(1) VILLAINS DOING WORK. Max Gladstone on “The Villain, Considered as Safety Tool” in “Guard Rails Around the Bottomless Pit”.

…To ask what makes a good villain, we should first ask what a villain does, so that we can understand what it means to be good at it. To call, say, Darth Vader or Keyser Soze or Sauron a ‘good villain’ is not to make any claims about their absolute moral character. It’s a statement about how good they are at doing the thing they’re in the story to do….

(2) GO PHISH. The Guardian explains why “Alleged book thief Filippo Bernardini may avoid trial in the US”.

Filippo Bernardini, an Italian citizen who worked at UK publisher Simon & Schuster, was arrested in the US in January, with the FBI alleging he had “impersonated, defrauded, and attempted to defraud, hundreds of individuals” to obtain unpublished and draft works. The indictment said Bernardini had registered more than 160 fake internet domains to impersonate others since 2016.

Bernardini, who was charged with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, was due in court in early July. In June, however, the judge in his case, US district court judge Colleen McMahon, agreed to postpone the appearance so prosecutors could consider a deferred prosecution request, according to Publishers Marketplace.

A deferred prosecution agreement is usually used in fraud or financial crime cases. It consists of a deal where prosecution is conditionally suspended while the defendant fulfils the requirements of the agreement in a set period of time. It is supervised by a judge, and could consist of Bernardini having to pay fines or compensation, or enacting other measures. The judge adjourned the case until 10 September.

Bernardini had previously pleaded not guilty to both charges, reported the Bookseller.

Hundreds of manuscripts were stolen over a period of five years, with authors, agents, editors, scouts and even judges for the Booker prize among the victims of phishing scams. Manuscripts of highly anticipated novels by Margaret Atwood, Sally Rooney and actor Ethan Hawke were among those targeted….

(3) GAILEY HEARD FROM. The Fire the Canon podcast is “Talking to Author Sarah Gailey About Horror, Compulsory Girl Bossing, and Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery”.

Sarah Gailey, author of the upcoming book Just Like Home, joins us to talk about one of the most famous American short stories of all time: Shirley Jackson’s 1948 classic, The Lottery. Jackie reveals her long, sordid history with technology. Rachel reads a book review from an alternate reality. Theo discusses an affordable delicacy. Topics include: old houses, cottagecore, rollerblading accidents, park raters, trusting your editor, killing off Chuck, mom texts, Muppet Treasure Island, cicada pizza, and cricket flour.

(4) FILETING THE MINIONS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, John Gapper explains the success of the Minions franchise.

“There are said to be 48 variations of Minion, depending on their height and build, style of hair, and whether they possess one or two eyes, but they are essentially one big gang.  Although te plots require individuals to emerge from the pack–notably Kevin, Stuart and Bob i 2015’s MINIONS–there is power in their union.

They are also cheerful, Chris Melandri, series producer at Illumination studios, defines its purpose as ‘to make you feel good in a world where so many things don’t. The theme song of Despicable Me 2 was Pharrell Williams’s ‘Happy’: that’s the Minions’ selling point.”

(5) UNSTUCK LANDINGS. Only 10? I’d say this is a subject where the pickings are easy! “10 Great Sci-Fi Series With Terrible Endings” at CBR.com.

Series finales can either make or break a show. The science fiction genre, in particular, often weaves a tale of intrigue leading up to its finale episode. Because of this, an unsatisfying ending can make audiences feel as though the entire series has been ruined.

First on the list —

10 – Quantum Leap Audiences Wanted A Happier Ending

When the popular series Quantum Leap ended its run in 1993, audiences were accustomed to a more traditional happy ending. So, when the series ended with the main character, Sam, sacrificing his happy ending and leaping back to help a friend, only to never return, it wasn’t well-received.

A more modern audience might have been more accepting of the show’s sad end, but in 1993, it was too dark. It left audiences feeling as if they had followed the series for five seasons, only to be let down.

(6) MEMORY LANE.  

2007 [By Cat Eldridge.] Doctor Who’s “The Shakespeare Code”. My favorite Doctor by far of the modern Doctors was the one played by David Tennant. And I believe that he got some of the best stories as well. Originally titled “Love’s Labour’s Won”, the re-titling apparently is a reference to The Da Vinci Code. Or least the Wiki page for this thinks so. 

This was the beginning of the period in the series when Freema Agyeman  played companion Martha Jones. Need I say that she was my favorite of the modern companions?  Actually of all companions. 

SPOILERS HERE!

The story here is he takes Jones to 1599 arriving near the Globe Theatre where they meet Shakespeare. Shakespeare is being bewitched by three Carrionites who look like Witches to rewrite the ending to his play “Love’s Labour’s Won” so that the performance will create a code to free the rest of the Carrionite race from imprisonment. 

Jones will, as she does in her time in the TARDIS very often, save the day. How she does is something that I won’t spoil here as it’s a, ahem, meta moment that proves the universe of Doctor Who is our universe. A fascinating meta moment at that.

Martha even suggests that stepping on a butterfly might change the future of the human race, an idea that originates in Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder” story.  

SPOILERS END HERE! 

Jones in her introduction here as a full-time companion is written well and more than holds her own against the Tenth Doctor. They have, and interviews later by both of them, individually and collectively, that they enjoyed working together. Even early on, he said of her that she “inhabited Martha Jones from day one without a hint of trepidation or nervousness. I found myself quite envious of her confidence. She is going to be brilliant.”

Most British critics liked it, but then they liked Tennant’s Doctor more than any other Doctor, and I’ll quote just one here, Scott Matthewman from The Stage: “It’s somehow appropriate that it’s David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor who becomes the first to meet William Shakespeare (at least on screen). More than any other, this incarnation of Doctor Who revels in wordplay, and in Gareth Roberts’ rollocking script he certainly meets his match.”

It’s one of my favorite episodes as it shows Shakespeare in a favorable light and the word play between him and the Doctor is quite delicious. Not to mention the introduction of Jones as a companion here handled quite well. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 15, 1918 Dennis Feltham Jones. His first novel Colossus was made into Colossus: The Forbin Project. He went on to write two more novels in the series, The Fall of Colossus and Colossus and the Crab, which in my opinion became increasingly weird. The usual suspects have the Colossus  trilogy plus a smattering of his other works available. (Died 1981.)
  • Born July 15, 1931 Clive Cussler. Pulp author with definite genre leanings. If I had to pick his best novels, I’d say that would be Night Probe and Raise the Titantic, possibly also Vixen 03. His real-life National Underwater and Marine Agency, a private maritime archaeological group, has found several important wrecks including the Manassas, the first ironclad of the civil war. Warning: do not watch the films based on his novels as they are truly wretched. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 15, 1944 Jan-Michael Vincent. First Lieutenant Jake Tanner in the film version of Roger Zelazny’s Damnation Alley which consensus here is that I’ve been wise in not seeing. Commander in Alienator and Dr. Ron Shepherd in, and yes this is the name, Xtro II: The Second Encounter. Not to mention Zepp in Jurassic Women. (Please don’t ask.) As Airwolf counts as genre, he was helicopter pilot and aviator Stringfellow Hawke in it. (Died 2019.)
  • Born July 15, 1947 T. E. D. Klein, 75. Horror writer with two awards to his name, one a British Fantasy Award for The Ceremonies novel, another a World Fantasy Award for his “Nadelman’s God” novella. He was editor of the Twilight Zone Magazine in the mid Eighties and the Night Cry zine for several around that time.
  • Born July 15, 1961 Forest Whitaker, 61. His best known genre roles are Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as Saw Gerrera and in The Black Panther as Zuri. He’s had other genre appearances including Major Collins in Body Snatchers, Nate Pope in Phenomenon, Ira in Where the Wild Things Are, Jake Freivald In Repo Men (anyone see this?) and he was, and to I’ve somehow managed not to see any of it, Host of Twilight Zone.
  • Born July 15, 1963 Brigitte Nielsen, 59. Red Sonja! What a way to launch your film career. Her next genre roles were 976-Evil II and Galaxis… Oh well… She starred as the Black Witch in the Nineties Italian film series Fantaghiro, and played the Amazon Queen in the Danish Ronal the Barbarian
  • Born July 15, 1967 Christopher Golden, 55. Where to start? The Veil trilogy was most excellent as was The Hidden Cities series co-authored with Tim Lebbon. The Menagerie series co-authored with Thomas E. Sniegoski annoyed me because it never got concluded. Straight On ‘Til Morning is one damn scary novel. His short stories are most excellent thus it’s most fitting his recent The Twisted Book of Shadows collection won a Shirley Jackson Award. 

(8) SUPERHERO GIRLFRIENDS ANONYMOUS. Ravynn K. Stringfield tells Catapult readers how “Black Women in Fantasy Saved Me Where Academia Failed”.

…I flipped through a few dozen issues of Marvel’s Jungle Action  comics featuring Black Panther, as well as several  Captain America and Fantastic Four titles at the comics archive at Virginia Commonwealth University. I read the issues as I scanned them and took quick notes on storylines and the fan letters readers sent in when I walked back to my table to grab another from the box.

The more I read, the more the lack of Black women and girls present in meaningful ways on the page bothered me. Though I had committed to a project on Black Panther as the focal point, searching for racial diversity in comics, the distinct lack of women characters triggered an alarm in my brain. So when I stumbled across a few issues that featured a new-to-me character, T’Challa’s Black American girlfriend, Monica Lynne, I kept her close to my periphery as I worked. At that moment, I could not commit to a project or a paper on her, but she distracted me.

Even as a side character, Monica demanded attention. Her speech often reflected 1970s Black American vernacular, and she wore her hair in a neat Afro, both of which gave Wakandans pause. Monica did not always like it in Wakanda, feeling ill at ease in the palace, where she was meant to be invisible, a background fixture while everything about her defied that.

There was something about Monica that refused to be relegated to the background, a quality I envied. I saw myself folding into someone smaller in graduate school. I increasingly lacked the energy to continually insist upon the validity of how I, and others like me, experienced, thought about, and wrote about the world. Though often depicted as out of place in Wakanda because of her speech and dress, Monica’s inability to blend was a lesson in stepping confidently into the world and changing for no one.

(9) HOW NOPE GOT A YEP. “Jordan Peele on why ‘Nope’ felt impossible 5 years ago” at SYFY Wire.

…Now, as he prepares to release his third film as director, Nope, Peele has realized that the movie he just made may have been impossible back in the days of Get Out. At least, it felt that way at the time.

“I think this idea of letting a Black director put his vision into a film and commit to it… let’s put it this way, five years ago, I didn’t think they’d ever let me do that,” Peele told TODAY in a new interview. “So much of my career before I became a director was marred with this internalized sense that I could never be allowed to do that, that no one would ever trust me with money — enough money to do my vision the way they’d trust other people. I felt that that was true.”…

(10) WHAT’S SAUCER FOR THE GOOSE. BBC Culture is inspired by the Nope trailer to recall “The UFO sightings that swept the US”.

It’s only there for a moment in the trailer for Jordan Peele’s new horror film, Nope, but it’s definitely there: a flying saucer. Judging by the twists and turns in Peele’s previous films, Get Out and Us, it’s impossible to say whether its real or fake, whether it’s from the Earth or from outer space, but that glimpse of sparkling silver is tantalising. Maybe, just maybe, Nope will be a proper flying-saucer movie – a celebration of one of the most recognisable and spine-tingling shapes in the history of popular culture.

“By the end of the 1950s,” says Andrew Shail, senior lecturer in film at Newcastle University, “that particular shape had become a shorthand for ‘spacecraft piloted by beings from another world’, available to everyone working in the visual arts.” Sure enough, flying saucers have signified mysterious visitors from Mars and beyond in countless films, TV series, novels, comics, and even hit records, from Mulder’s I Want To Believe poster in The X-Files TV series to the popular children’s picture book, Aliens Love Underpants. The flying saucer is a design classic – the archetypal Unidentified Flying Object. And yet it didn’t take off, so to speak, until the 1950s, when the world went flying-saucer crazy….

(11) A DIFFERENT PRINCESS DIARY. BBC Culture calls “Princess Mononoke: The masterpiece that flummoxed the US” – “Twenty-five years old this week, the film is Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki’s most complex work. But how it was mishandled in the West speaks of fundamental artistic differences, writes Stephen Kelly.”

In 1997, the British fantasy author Neil Gaiman received a call out of the blue from then-head of Miramax, Harvey Weinstein. “This animated film, Princess Mononoke,” Gaiman recalls him saying, “it’s the biggest thing in Japan right now. So I thought I’ve got to get the best to do it. I called Quentin Tarantino and said, ‘Quentin, will you do the English language script?’ And he said, you don’t want me, you want Gaiman. So, I’m calling you.” Miramax, a then-subsidiary of Disney, had acquired the rights to distribute Princess Mononoke, the newest film from Japanese animation studio Studio Ghibli, in the United States, and Weinstein wanted to fly Gaiman to Los Angeles to watch a cut of the movie….

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Thor: Love And Thunder Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George, in a spoiler-packed episode, has the writer tell the producer, “Thor’s back–and he’s dumber than ever!”  Jane Foster may have Stage 4 cancer, but the writer says, “don’t worry–it will be hilarious all of the time!” adding that “we’re redlining the JPM”–that’s jokes per minute.  For example, in New Asgard  there’s Infinitz Conez, named after Thanos’s infinity gauntlet.  When the producer asks why someone would name an ice cream store after a device Thanos used to kill billions of people, the writer says, “Who doesn’t like ice cream?”

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

Pixel Scroll 7/9/22 Pixeled In The Scroll By A Chuck Tingle Pixel Scroll Title

(1) CULTURAL INSIGHTS INTO A MULTIVERSE. [Item by Soon Lee.] This terrific article by S. Qiouyi Lu explores many aspects of Everything Everywhere All at Once from a Chinese-American perspective that might not be immediately apparent to a Western viewer. At Strange Horizons: “Everything Everywhere All At Once”. SPOILERS.

…It was as if I had just seen my own brain projected onto the screen. And there were things in Everything Everywhere All At Once that I’d never seen before on the big screen. I’m not talking about the dildo fights, though those were indeed new to me. I’m talking more about seeing an immigrant Chinese mother allowed to fail, and fail repeatedly; seeing a dorky Chinese dad be a badass and a love interest; seeing a Chinese family openly having emotionally vulnerable reconciliations with each other; seeing an entire cast of people from multiple Chinese diasporas coming together to create a movie in which the greatest villain to defeat is the bureaucracy excluding Chinese people from being part of the United States. Nor had I ever seen a movie that so thoroughly reflected my own philosophical, moral, and ethical understandings of the world, mirroring them so closely that I wept with the resonance of its message….

(2) HE, THE JURY. Alex Hormann of the At Boundary’s Edge review site discusses his experience as a judge in the inaugural Self-Published Science Fiction Competition: “SPSFC At Boundary’s Edge: Closing Thoughts”.

Who Is It For?

This one has been weighing on my mind a lot recently. When I look at social media, there are two groups I see talking about the SPSFC. The first are the judges, promoting their reviews and favourite books. The second group is the authors themselves, sharing the positive reviews and using the contest to support each other. This is all great, by the way. While I do think the self-publishing community can be a little insular and self-congratulatory at times, that goes for just about any group of people. But what I’m not seeing a whole lot of is readers. Now, it’s always going to be true that most people who visit a blog aren’t going to comment or engage beyond their initial reading, but it has left the SPSFC feeling somewhat inward-looking. If the majority of the interest is from bloggers and writers, then the SPSFC isn’t really helping books find a wider audience, which to me is the whole point of the competition. For context, the fewer books I talk about in a post, the fewer views it receives. The initial cut posts are all in the three figure range, while the individual reviews still sit in the double digits. To me, this suggests that the people reading the reviews are the authors and their already interested following. I could be wrong about this though. If you’ve found a book through the SPSFC, do let me know.

The caveat here is that this is only year one of the SPSFC. Success doesn’t come overnight. It grows over time. Right now the only people following the SPSFC are those with a stake in it. Next year, there will presumably be more. Exposure is an exponential curve….

(3) SILENTS ARE GOLDEN. The New York Times’ Calum Marsh has a pretty good handle on “The Real Reason the Minions Have Taken Over the World”.

…“Despicable Me” is Gru’s story, but it’s the Minions that made the biggest impression, leading to a larger role in “Despicable Me 2” (2013) and their own vehicle in 2015. Central to their appeal is their unique manner of communicating. Voiced by [Pierre] Coffin himself, they speak a peculiar, made-up language, Minionese, that is both indecipherable and strangely coherent. A gibberish tongue that borrows words from English, Spanish, Dutch and other languages, it has a bubbly, mellifluous tone that is used to almost musical effect. When the Minions hijack an airplane in “Rise of Gru,” one makes an announcement to the passengers over the intercom. What he says is nonsense. But it sounds exactly like the bland, soothing patter of a pilot before takeoff; that you get the gist of the message without identifying a single word is the joke.

Of course, because the Minions don’t use a comprehensible language, their humor isn’t based on spoken jokes. This has doubtless helped the franchise find success abroad — with few punch lines in English, little is lost in translation. But the emphasis on sight gags and physical humor makes the Minions films very different from what you’d expect of family-friendly modern animation. Given the abundance of acrobatic antics, pratfalls and slapstick action, what the Minion movies end up resembling most is silent-era comedies.

Coffin has often mentioned the influence of silent comedians on the style and spirit of the Minions, and he has said he drew inspiration from such titans of the form as Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, particularly their gift for “telling a story through character that conveys humor, emotion, even plasticity.”…

(4) FIRST, THEY HAD TO FIND THEM. [Item by Michael Toman.] “Don’t Bogart that old NASA Voyager manual, pass it over to me?” “NASA’s Voyager 1 from the ’70s is glitching. Engineers are consulting 45-year-old manuals to troubleshoot.” reports Business Insider.

…During the first 12 years of the Voyager mission, thousands of engineers worked on the project, according to Dodd. “As they retired in the ’70s and ’80s, there wasn’t a big push to have a project document library. People would take their boxes home to their garage,” Dodd added. In modern missions, NASA keeps more robust records of documentation.

There are some boxes with documents and schematic stored off-site from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Dodd and the rest of Voyager’s handlers can request access to these records. Still, it can be a challenge. “Getting that information requires you to figure out who works in that area on the project,” Dodd said. 

For Voyager 1’s latest glitch, mission engineers have had to specifically look for boxes under the name of engineers who helped design the altitude-control system. “It’s a time consuming process,” Dodd said…. 

(5) IT’S A THOR SPOT WITH HIM. Leonard Maltin drops the hammer on the latest Marvel film: “Thor: Love, Thunder And Shtick” at Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy.

… But there can be too much of a good thing, as anyone who’s overindulged in chocolate or ice cream can verify. The new Thor: Love and Thunder is a scattered affair that, at a certain point, is played as out-and-out comedy. Can this really be Chris Hemsworth spouting gag lines? Is his relationship to Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) a springboard for sitcom-style jokes? Even the rock-like creature Korg, played by Waititi, wears out his welcome before this meandering story concludes….

(6) YOU WON’T HAVE TO SHELL OUT FOR THESE PEANUTS. “Charles M. Schulz: An American Cartoonist” is a free online event hosted by the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum of Ohio State University. The webinar will run July 23 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. Register at the link.

Join us via Zoom for a pictorial journey through Charles M. Schulz’s life and career and learn why Peanuts is one of the most popular and influential comic strips ever. This live, interactive experience includes a hands-on, how-to-draw Snoopy workshop at the end. This event is presented by the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California in partnership with the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum’s exhibition Celebrating Sparky.

(7) L. Q. JONES (1927-2022) L. Q. Jones, a character actor with a deep resume, who also directed A Boy and His Dog based on the Harlan Ellison story, died July 8. His first film role was a solder in Battle Cry (1955), and his latest was in Robert Altman’s final film A Prairie Home Companion (2006). Variety adds:

…Jones’ career also extended beyond screen acting, producing four independent features over his life. He produced, directed and wrote the 1975 feature “A Boy and His Dog,” which is adapted from Harlan Ellison’s novella of the same name. Jones began the project as an executive producer, but took over writing and directing responsibilities as other collaborators fell through.

A post-apocalyptic black comedy, “A Boy and His Dog” follows a teenager and his telepathic dog as they fight for survival in the southwestern U.S. of 2024, a time when nuclear fallout grips the world. Starring a young Don Johnson and Jason Robards, Jones’ fellow Peckinpah alum, the film has garnered the reputation of a cult classic over the years, with Jones stating that director George Miller cited it as an influence for his “Mad Max” series…

Jones and Ellison were both on hand at DisCon II (1974) where a rough cut of the movie was shown. It was really rough, because one of the two 35mm projectors broke down and they were forced to show it one reel at a time, with yawn-inducing delays each time they mounted the new reel. And when it was shown again at next year’s NASFiC in LA – the same thing happened!

(8) MEMORY LANE

1987 [By Cat Eldridge.] An Appreciation: Ellen Kushner’s Riverside series

I read it starting with the first book Swordspoint: A Melodrama of Manners. The second paragraph of that novel has this lovely sentence: “Let the fairy tale begin on a winter’s morning, then, with one drop of blood newly-fallen on the ivory snow: a drop as bright as a clear-cut ruby, red as a single spot of claret on the lace cuff.” Oh my. 

I was hooked. A novel that was a fantasy of manners as Kushner called it, set in a city where it was always winter, where being gay was normal and nothing to be commented upon, conversations are sharp as the ever-present sword fighting is and the drink of choice is hot chocolate. What was there not to love? 

Riverside itself is a fascinating setting. As the name implies the place is set up in now decaying buildings near a river which I don’t recall as ever being named. Kushner simply calls it “an unsavoury quarter in a prosperous city”. It is always cold there, and dressing properly is of course important as is dressing with a degree of elegance. One character notes that “He felt the cold, the wind cutting across the river, even in his new clothes. He had bought himself a heavy cloak, jacket, and fur-lined gloves.”

Oh, and the stories told here are quite fascinating. I’m going to avoid talking about them as there’s a good possibility that some of you might not have read this series yet. Our Green Man reviewer of Swordspoint in his retrospective review said “I once called this book ‘elegant, magical, and bitchy’,” and that, I think, still catches the feel of it. George R. R. Martin said “Swordspoint has an unforgettable opening . . . and just gets better from there.” That’s only the truth.” 

If you decide to read the series, you are for a extended and absolutely great reading experience as there would be quite a few novels to come telling a complex story that will extend over a considerable period of time. There are also a number of short stories too.

There are also audiobooks of the series which I should bring to your attention as these are full cast productions in which damn near everyone performs including Neil Gaiman and Simon Jones. It’s a stellar experience. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 9, 1906 Walter Sande. He’s best remembered for being on Red Planet MarsThe War of the Worlds and Invaders from Mars, but he also showed up playing a heavy in such serials as The Green Hornet Strikes Again! and Sky Raiders, the latter being at least genre adjacent. He’s had a recurring role as Col. Crockett on The Wild Wild West, and one-offs on Voyage to the Bottom of The SeaThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.Lost in Space and Bewitched. (Died 1971.)
  • Born July 9, 1911 Mervyn Peake. Best remembered for the Gormenghast series which is quite delightfully weird. Most fans hold that there are but three novels in the series (Titus Groan, Gormenghast and Titus Alone) though there’s a novella, “Boy in Darkness”, that is a part of it. It has been adapted for radio three times and television once, and Gaiman is writing the script for a forthcoming series which isn’t out yet. (Died 1968.)
  • Born July 9, 1938 Brian Dennehy. One of my favorite performers. He was Walter in the Cocoon films, and, though it’s more genre adjacent than actually genre, Lt. Leo McCarthy in F/X and F/X 2 which I immensely enjoyed. He also voiced Django in Ratatouille, a film that was, err, very tasty.Sorry I couldn’t resist the pun. I thought his very last performance was as Jerome Townsend in the “Sing, Sing, Sing” episode of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels series, but he shot three films that either have come out since he died, or will, none genre or genre adjacent. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 9, 1944 Glen Cook, 78. Yes, I’ve read his entire excellent Black Company series. I’ve also mostly liked his far lighter Garrett P.I. series (though not the last novel for reasons I’ll not discuss here) which it seems unfortunately he’s abandoned. And I really should read the Instrumentalities of the Night as I’ve heard good things about it. I’m really, really surprised not only that he hasn’t won any awards, but how few he’s been nominated for. 
  • Born July 9, 1954 Ellen Klages, 68. Her story “Basement Magic” won a Nebula Award for Best Novelette. I strongly recommend Portable Childhoods, a collection of her short fiction, published by Tachyon Publications, my favorite publisher of fantasy. They released another collection from her, Wicked Wonders, which is equally wonderful. Passing Strange, her novel set in 1940s San Francisco, which won a BSFA Award and a World Fantasy Award, is also really great. Ok, I really like her.
  • Born July 9, 1970 Ekaterina Sedia, 52. Her Heart of Iron novel which was nominated for a Sidewise Award for Alternate History is simply awesome. I’d also recommend The Secret History of Moscow and the recent The House of Discarded Dreams as well, the latter is a fantastic audio work which is narrated by Robin Miles. It’s worth noting that the usual suspects list several collections by her, Willful Impropriety: 13 Tales of Society, Scandal, and Romance and Wilfill Impropriety that ISFDB doesn’t list. They’re quite superb it turns out as is Paper Cities: An Anthology of Urban Fantasy for which she won a World Fantasy Award. She had a story out just last year, “Ghost Shop”, in Professor Charlatan Bardot’s Travel Anthology to the Most (Fictional) Haunted Buildings in the Weird, Wild World.  She’s amply stocked at the usual suspects. She’s also very deeply stocked at the audio suspects as well which sort of surprised and delighted me as I’ve added a number of her works to my To Be Listened to list, including The House of Discarded Dreams which sounds really fascinating in the manner of Gaiman’s Sandman.
  • Born July 9, 1978 Linda Park, 44. Best known for her portrayal of communications officer Hoshi Sato on Enterprise, a series that deeply divides Trekkies. (I really liked it.) Her first genre role was Hannah in Jurassic Park III, and she was Renee Hansen in the Spectres filmwhich Marina Sirtis was also in. She was in something called Star Trek: Captain Pike as Captain Grace Shintal. It has to be another one of those fan video fictions which are quite common. Her latest genre role was in For All Mankind as Amy Chang in the “Pathfinder” episode. 
  • Born July 9, 1995 Georgie Henley, 27. English actress, best remembered for her portrayal of Lucy Pevensie throughout the Chronicles of Narnia film franchise from age ten to age fifteen. Not even vaguely genre adjacent, she recently played Margaret, Queen of Scots in The Spanish Princess.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side features a Stone Age alien encounter.
  • Tom Gauld’s latest cartoon for the Guardian:

 (11) FANS MOURN TAKAHASHI. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna has an appreciation for “Yu-Gi-Oh” creator Kazuki Takahashi. “’Yu-Gi-Oh!’ creator Kazuki Takahashi dies at 60”.

…Takahashi’s creatures range from horror to fantasy, yet “there’s a common craftsmanship among them — the kind of thing that reveals hidden details over time, as well as the visceral ‘Oh my God, that looks so rad,’ ” [Daniel Dockery, senior writer for Crunchyroll] said. “The fact that they would be summoned in a world not too unlike our own makes them even more appealing to the eye. They are truly yours to adore and play with, making you feel powerful and inspired in equal measure.”

Takahashi had recently worked on this year’s Marvel’s “Secret Reverse,” a manga graphic novel team-up featuring Spider-Man and Iron Man/Tony Stark, who travels to a Japanese gaming convention….

(12) OH, THOSE REBELLIOUS YOUNG PEOPLE. The New York Times is curious: “‘Why Is Everyone Wearing Suits?’: #GentleMinions Has Moviegoers Dressing Up”.  

Normally when Carson Paskill heads to the movie theater, he opts for a comfortable outfit of sweatpants and a sweatshirt. But last weekend, he arrived in a black suit, white collared shirt and dress shoes.

Mr. Paskill, 20, attended a screening of “Minions: The Rise of Gru” at the Century 16 in Beaverton, Ore., on July 2 with eight of his friends, all dressed in suits for the occasion.

“Anybody over the age of 25 was, like, really, really confused about what we were doing there,” said Mr. Paskill, who has 1.6 million followers on TikTok. “Like, ‘why is everyone wearing suits?’”

The inspiration is a TikTok trend known as #GentleMinions, which has amassed more than 61 million views on the platform. It encourages “Minions” moviegoers to film themselves as they dress up in suits and sunglasses to attend screenings of the latest installment of the “Despicable Me” series….

(13) HOW DO YOU GET THIS THING OUT OF SECOND GEAR? “Why the [expletive] can’t we travel back in time?” from Ars Technica in 2021.

Look, we’re not totally ignorant about time. We know that the dimension of time is woven together with the three dimensions of space, creating a four-dimensional fabric for the Universe. We know that the passage of time is relative; depending on your frame of reference, you can slip forward into the future as gently as you please. (You just need to either go close to the speed of light or get cozy with a black hole, but those are just minor problems of engineering, not physics.)

But as far as we can tell, we can’t reverse the flow of time. All evidence indicates that travel into the past is forbidden in our Universe. Every time we try to concoct a time machine, some random rule of the Universe comes in and slaps our hand away from the temporal cookie jar.

And yet, we have no idea why. The reasons really seem random; there is nothing fundamental we can point to, no law or equation or concept that definitively explains why thou shalt not travel into the past. And that’s pretty frustrating. It’s obvious that the Universe is telling us something important… we just don’t know what it’s saying.

Go ahead, kill your grandfather

There are all sorts of philosophical debates for and against the possibility of time travel. Take, for example, the famous “grandfather paradox.” Let’s say you build a time machine and travel back in time. You find your own grandfather and shoot him dead (I don’t know why, but roll with me here). But wait… if your grandfather is dead, it means he can’t father your father, which means you never exist. So how did you go back in time to do the awful deed?…

(14) CATCH A FALLING STAR. In this week’s Nature: “European mission plans to ambush a rare comet”.

The European Space Agency (ESA) last month approved the first mission that will launch without a pre-selected target. Instead, it will wait in space, ready to fly at short notice.

The Comet Interceptor mission will launch in 2028 and will travel to a point of gravitational stability 1.5 million kilometres from Earth. Once there, it will be able to wait for up to six years for a suitable comet to pass close enough to Earth’s orbit to visit. If that occurs, the probe will leave on a fly-by course. The main spacecraft will approach to a distance of about 1,000 kilometres — far enough away to avoid being damaged by nearby material — while two smaller probes will dive closer, down to as little as 400 kilometres from the surface.

The goal is to find a pristine object, known as a long-period comet, that is approaching the Sun for the first time. The encounter would provide a window on material that formed at the dawn of the Solar System, 4.5 billion years ago. Other missions have visited comets that have been altered by the Sun because they have spent time in the inner Solar System.

Alternatively, the craft could intercept an object from another solar system, similar to the rock ‘Oumuamua, which crossed the Solar System in 2017.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: V Rising,” you play a vampire who isn’t harmed that much by sunlight, “Making him like a really committed Goth.”  But the real vampires are the gamers who spend too long on this “because they’re sucking their parents’ retirement money.”

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

Pixel Scroll 6/23/22 Last And First Scrolls

(1) CHARLIE JANE ANDERS KEYNOTE OPENS EVERY DOOR. In “Children’s Institute 10: Charlie Jane Anders Says ‘Magical Portals Exist, and Adults Aren’t Real’”, Publishers Weekly has extensive details of the author’s talk.

Science fiction author Charlie Jane Anders (Victories Greater Than Death) brought abundant charisma to the stage for her Ci10 keynote. Her hot-pink bob, matching Doc Martens, and neon-confetti-dotted black dress reinforced her energy. She delivered her talk, “Magical Portals Are Real, and I Can Prove It!,” in a conversational and confiding tone, to booksellers who know and recommend her LGBTQ+ fiction.

Alluding to Frank Herbert’s Dune dictum that “the universe is full of doors,” Anders said that we encounter portals in our lives. “I’ve jumped universes three or four times,” she said, acknowledging how she came to recognize her authorial persona and trans identity. “This is definitely not the universe I was born in.”…

(2) FINAL SCORE? Indiana Jones 5 might be it: “John Williams, 90, steps away from film, but not music” – reports the Associated Press.

After more than six decades of making bicycles soar, sending panicked swimmers to the shore and other spellbinding close encounters, John Williams is putting the final notes on what may be his last film score.

“At the moment I’m working on ‘Indiana Jones 5,’ which Harrison Ford — who’s quite a bit younger than I am — I think has announced will be his last film,” Williams says. “So, I thought: If Harrison can do it, then perhaps I can, also.”

Ford, for the record, hasn’t said that publicly. And Williams, who turned 90 in February, isn’t absolutely certain he’s ready to, either.

“I don’t want to be seen as categorically eliminating any activity,” Williams says with a chuckle, speaking by phone from his home in Los Angeles. “I can’t play tennis, but I like to be able to believe that maybe one day I will.”

Right now, though, there are other ways Williams wants to be spending his time. A “Star Wars” film demands six months of work, which he notes, “at this point in life is a long commitment to me.” Instead, Williams is devoting himself to composing concert music, including a piano concerto he’s writing for Emanuel Ax….

(3) THE DNA OF SFF. Camestros Felapton works out the difference between bounty hunters and Our Heroes in “Friday’s Rag Tag Crew versus bounty hunters”.

…But why, in reality, are bounty hunters so distinctly American? Like many things, once you dig beyond the fiction you run straight into the depressing inevitabilities of US history. There is a complex history behind bounty hunters in the US but looming large in that history are slave catchers. People employed to catch fugitive slaves were not a US invention but the size of the US slave economy (until the Civil War and emancipation) meant that “slave catcher” was both casual work and a profession for some. The powers of slave catchers was further enhanced prior to the Civil War with the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fugitive_Slave_Act_of_1850) which codified the ability of slave catchers to act beyond the borders of slave states. Slavery is not the only defining element in the US bounty hunting history but it is such a substantial example in the formative years of the nation that it is hard to imagine that it isn’t key to the lasting influence of the idea in the US.

The attraction of the bounty hunter concept to quasi-libertarian SFF is apparent. The bounty hunter as a character can be simultaneously running a private business and be an arm of law enforcement. As a legitimised vigilante, the bounty hunter as a character can sit in a kind of Lagrange point between the pull of the heroic individualist and the pull of authoritarian imposition of order…. 

(4) SPACEHOUNDS OF THE WSFS, And when Camestros Felapton is finished with the topic above, he chronicles the work of another set of adventurers who are hard at work to disarm “The Hugo Kill Switch”.

The people at The Hugo Book Club Blog (Olav Rokne & Amanda Wakaruk) are on a high-stakes mission to defuse a time bomb. Deep within the WSFS constitution is a hidden switch that is creeping ever closer to hitting some beloved Hugo Award categories. Can a rag-tag team save the Fan categories before the timer reaches zero?!

(5) TO THE EGRESS, AND BEYOND. Arturo Serrano analyzes the special challenges inherent in the audience’s complicated history with the Toy Story franchise and the Buzz Lightyear character and tells why Lightyear doesn’t fly, but it falls with style” at Nerds of a Feather.

…The quest for continued relevance is a preoccupation that the movie assigns to both Buzz and itself. It tries to evoke the feel of the Flash Gordon serials and, of course, both of the big Star franchises. But instead of the now-common practice of attempting to recapture an old moment of wonder via repetition and allusion, this movie gave itself the harder task of pretending to be that first experience. Although the villain’s big plan involves the return to an idealized past, Lightyear is not a case of nostalgia (because anything it could try to revisit is supposed to be provided by this story for the first time), but of pastiche. It may be unfair to cast Pixar as a victim of its own spectacular successes, but Lightyear is certainly not the best that the studio is capable of, and at times it’s a stretch to imagine small Andy being blown away by it….

(6) YES, THE END IS NEAR! The inaugural winner of the first Self-Published Science Fiction Competition will be announced in three weeks.

(7) WHO IN THE MOVIES. Radio Times covers the revelation that a “Doctor Who unmade film script featured two Doctors”.

…However, Subotsky revealed that a second deal was negotiated following production of 1965’s Dr. Who and the Daleks which would indeed have allowed for a third film. “There was a further agreement that was entered into, to give the rights to make a third movie, which of course was never done,” he explained. “It was on the same terms as the original films, so my feeling is… the option lapsed.”

Though a third movie never materialised, Subotsky further revealed that his father did in fact produce a screenplay for the proposed sequel that remains in his family’s possession and was also displayed at the BFI event – this script, however, was not an adaptation of any existing Doctor Who television serial.

“Many years later, maybe 15 years later, it was clearly still on his mind, because he had prepared a script called ‘Doctor Who’s Greatest Adventure’ which actually was a repurposed script of a horror film entitled ‘King Crab’… the original title was even worse, it was ‘Night of the Crabs’!

“It was with two Doctors – a young Doctor and an old Doctor – which is an idea that has been returned to.”…

(8) PEOPLE WHO NEED PEOPLE. Polygon’s Joshua Rivera drops a few SPOILERS along the way: “Obi-Wan Kenobi finale review: a Star Wars show as broken as its hero”.

… Across its brief six-episode run, Obi-Wan stopped the spectacle to focus on people — and it mostly resonates as a contrast to how much I’ve missed them in other Star Wars stories.

At the heart of this are Obi-Wan’s two central performances. As Obi-Wan, Ewan McGregor plays a broken man in exile, a soldier who knows he lost the war but is still being asked to fight it, keeping constant vigil from afar over the young Luke Skywalker. As befits the character that shares the series’ name, every note of Obi-Wan’s journey rings true, largely thanks to McGregor’s performance….

(9) PHYSICS AIN’T MISBEHAVING. Matt O’Dowd of PBS Space Time whittles away at the question, “Is Interstellar Travel Impossible?”.

Space is pretty deadly. But is it so deadly that we’re effectively imprisoned in our solar system forever? Many have said so, but a few have actually figured it out.

(10) MEMORY LANE

1983 [By Cat Eldridge.] Thirty-nine years ago, the follow-up film to the Twilight Zone series premiered this week. Produced by Steven Spielberg and John Landis, Twilight Zone: The Movie certainly carried high expectations. This film features four stories directed by Landis, Spielberg, Joe Dante, and George Miller. 

Landis’ segment is the only original story created for the film, while the segments by Spielberg, Dante, and Miller are remakes or more precisely reworkings of episodes from the original series.

The screenplay is not surprisingly jointly done by a committee of John Landis, George Clayton, Johnson Richard Matheson and Melissa Mathison as is the story which is by Landis, Matheson, Johnson and Jerome Bixby. 

The principal cast was surprisingly small given that there were four stories, just Dan Aykroyd, Albert Brooks, Scatman Crothers, John Lithgow, Vic Morrow and Kathleen Quinlan. 

It did quite well at the box office, making over forty million against a budget of under ten million. Some critics like Roger Ebert at the Chicago Sun-Tribune like some of it though he noted that, “the surprising thing is, the two superstar directors are thoroughly routed by two less-known directors” while others such as Vincent Canby at the New York Times hated all of it calling the movie a “flabby, mini-minded behemoth”. 

It was enough of a financial success that the suits at CBS gave the approval to the Twilight Zone series.

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a not great fifty-five percent rating. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 23, 1908 — Sloan Nibley. Writer who worked on a number of genre series including Science Fiction TheaterAddams FamilyThe Famous Adventures of Mr. MagooShazan, and the New Addams Family. (Died 1990.)
  • Born June 23, 1945 — Eileen Gunn, 77. Her story “Coming to Terms” based on her friendship with Avram Davidson won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Her stories are in Stable Strategies and OthersSteampunk Quartet and Questionable Practices. With L. Timmel Duchamp, she penned The WisCon Chronicles, Vol. 2: Provocative Essays on Feminism, Race, Revolution, and the Future. Her ”Stable Strategies for Middle Management” story picked up a nomination at Noreascon 3 (1989), and “Computer Friendly” garnered a nomination the next year in the same category at ConFiction (1990). She’s well stocked at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born June 23, 1957 — Frances McDormand, 65. She’s God. Well at least The Voice of God in Good Omens. Which is on Amazon Prime y’all. Her first genre role was in the “Need to Know” episode of Twilight Zone followed shortly thereafter by being Julie Hastings in Sam Raimi’s excellent Dark Man. She’s The Handler in Æon Flux and that’s pretty much everything worth noting. 
  • Born June 23, 1963 – Liu Cixin, 59. He won the Best Novel Hugo at Saquan (2015) for his Three Body Problem novel, translated into English by Ken Liu. It was nominated for the Campbell Memorial, Nebula, Canopus and Prometheus Awards as well. He picked up a Hugo novel nomination at Worldcon 75 (2017) for Death’s End also translated by Liu. 
  • Born June 23, 1972 — Selma Blair, 50. Liz Sherman in Hellboy and  Hellboy II: The Golden Army. She also  voiced the character in the animated Hellboy: Sword of Storms and Hellboy: Blood and Iron as well which are quite excellent. She’s Stevie Wayne in The Fog, a slasher film a few years later and was Cyane on the “Lifeblood” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess. Later on, she’d be Jessica Harris in the “Infestation” episode of Lost in Space. 
  • Born June 23, 1980 — Melissa Rauch, 42. Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz on The Big Bang Theory which is at least genre adjacent if not genre. She gets to be really genre in voicing Harley Quinn in Batman and Harley Quinn which Bruce Timm considers “a spiritual successor to Batman: The Animated Series”. Having watched a few episodes on HBO when I was subscribed to that streaming service, I vehemently disagree. 
  • Born June 23, 2000 — Caitlin Blackwood, 22. She was the young Amelia Pond in these Doctor Who episodes; “The Eleventh Hour”, “The Big Bang”, “Let’s Kill Hitler” and “The God Complex”. She had a cameo in “The Angels Take Manhattan”.  She’s the cousin of Karen Gillan who plays the adult Pond.  I can’t find anything online that talks about how she was cast in the role but it was brilliantly inspired casting!

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) DEADLY DESIGNS. Paul Weimer will make you want to read the second City Siege novel of KJ Parker: “Book Review: How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with it” at Nerds of a Feather.

…While the first volume had Orban explicitly say that he was not telling the whole truth in the end, here from the beginning we have a professional telling us right from the get go about the power of stories, lies, shading the truth and more in order to tell his story. The first novel was Parker geeking out about engineering and siegecraft and how a determined engineer could frustrate the greatest army the world has assembled. By contrast, this second novel does have concerns regarding the siege and defending it, because Parker does really like to go down his rabbit holes and show it off. (In some ways, I think of him very much like Herman Melville, just enjoying sharing what he has learned and shown off about all sorts of abstruse subjects, interwoven masterfully into the story)….

(14) OCTOTHORPE. With a cover courtesy of DALL-E, Octothorpe 60 is now up! Listen here: “Different Types of Tedium”.

John Coxon is going to brunch, Alison Scott watched a film, and Liz Batty is critical. We discuss what we’d do if we were king of The Hugo Awards for the day, and then we talk about ABBA and other science fiction. And Monster Munch – you love to hear it.

Cover by DALL-E

(15) LIGHT FINGERS. Yahoo! listens as “Taika Waititi admits to stealing equipment from ‘The Hobbit’ set”.

New Zealand filmmaker and actor Taika Waititi appeared Wednesday on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, where he shared a Hobbit-sized secret regarding the second film in the popular franchise directed by fellow Kiwi Oscar winner Peter Jackson.

Waititi shared, “When I did What We Do in the Shadows, when Jemaine [Clement, the film’s co-writer and star] and I were shooting that, we didn’t have much money to do that film, and The Hobbit had just wrapped. And, so, our production designer — man, I don’t know if I should tell this. OK, but I will. Our production designer, in the dead of night, took his crew to The Hobbit studios and stole all of the dismantled, broken-down green screens and took all of the timber, and we built a house.”…

(16) THEY CROSSED THE STREAMS. “The Mandalorian gets mashed up with The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in Star Wars/Ghostbusters crossover cosplay” at Ghostbusters News. They draw our attention not only to the clever cosplay, but “the adorable replacement for Grogu, consisting of a miniature version of Stay Puft being seen nestled inside his pram pod.”

(17) IT IS HIS FETA. Gizmodo takes a pretty funny look at “The Weirdest, Goat-iest Thor: Love and Thunder Merchandise”.

Marvel’s latest movie is bringing with it an Asgard Tours boat-load of weird and wonderful merchandise.

(18) REVISITING FILMATION. [Item by Bill.] The 1973-1974 Star Trek: The Animated Series was produced by Filmation.  Recently, Gazelle Animations has done some clips from Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager in the Filmation style:

The animator gives background. And note the Most Important Device in the Universe!

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Lightyear Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George, in a spoiler-packed episode, the producer learns that the premise of Lightyear–that it’s an action movie Andy saw in 1995 that made him want to buy a Buzz Lightyear toy–he gets excited because that means a producer in the Toy Story universe made money on the film.  But even though it’s supposed to be “a 1990s movie,” fans of 1990s movies that featured “a lot of over the top action and cheese” will be cruelly disappointed.  Toy Story fans who remember that the villain Zurg is Buzz Lightyear’s father will also be very disappointed.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/22/22 Heigh-ho, The Battling Throg, The Frog Down In Valhalla, Oh

(1) HOW WRITERS GET UNPAID. Quenby Olson shows how a returned book costs her money on Amazon. Thread starts here.

Olson backed up the account with Vice’s article “TikTok Users Are Showing Readers How To Game Amazon’s Ebook Return Policy”.

A TikTok trend where users encourage others to purchase, read, and return Amazon ebooks within the company’s return policy window has irked independent authors, who claim to have seen dramatic spikes in their ebook return rates since the trend went viral.

The #ReadAndReturn challenge drew attention to Amazon’s Kindle return policy, which states that readers can “cancel an accidental book order within seven days.” But what’s been presented as a literary community “life hack” is hurting romance-fantasy authors like Lisa Kessler’s bottom line. 

“When you buy a digital book, if you read and return it, Amazon just turns around and gets the money back from the author, plus Amazon builds in a digital delivery fee and so Amazon is still getting that delivery fee but we get all the royalties taken back,” Kessler told Motherboard. 

Kessler, who self-publishes several book series, says that before the challenge, she would see on average one or two returns per month. But when she checked her Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) sales dashboard on June 1st, she says she was shocked to find a negative account balance….

(2) JUST A SECOND. The Fall of Númenor, a collection of Tolkien’s works about the Second Age of Middle-Earth, will be published by HarperCollins in November 2022. The book will appear after Amazon Prime releases the streaming series The Rings of Power, set during the Second Age of Middle-earth, in September 2022. “New Tolkien book: The Fall of Númenor to be published” at The Tolkien Society.

A HarperCollins press release included in the post explains that the volume is edited by writer and Tolkien expert, Brian Sibley, and illustrated by acclaimed artist, Alan Lee.

…Presenting for the first time in one volume the events of the Second Age as written by J.R.R. Tolkien and originally and masterfully edited for publication by Christopher Tolkien, this new volume will include pencil drawings and colour paintings by Alan Lee, who also illustrated The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and went on to win an Academy Award for his work on The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

J.R.R. Tolkien famously described the Second Age of Middle-earth as a ‘dark age, and not very much of its history is (or need be) told’. And for many years readers would need to be content with the tantalizing glimpses of it found within the pages of The Lord of the Rings and its appendices.

It was not until Christopher Tolkien presented The Silmarillion for publication in 1977 that a fuller story could be told for, though much of its content concerned the First Age of Middle-earth, there were at its close two key works that revealed the tumultuous events concerning the rise and fall of the island-kingdom of Númenor, the Forging of the Rings of Power, the building of the Barad-dûr and the rise of Sauron, and the Last Alliance of Elves and Men.

Christopher Tolkien provided even greater insight into the Second Age in Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth in 1980, and expanded upon this in his magisterial 12-volume History of Middle-earth, in which he presented and discussed a wealth of further tales written by his father, many in draft form.

Now, using ‘The Tale of Years’ in The Lord of the Rings as a starting point, Brian Sibley has assembled from the various published texts in a way that tells for the very first time in one volume the tale of the Second Age of Middle-earth, whose events would ultimately lead to the Third Age, and the War of the Ring, as told in The Lord of the Rings.

(3) BALTICON UPDATE. Balticon’s post-convention email dated June 17 included the following update about the Code of Conduct investigation that is addressing events reported by File 770 here, here, and here.

(4) LIBRARY E-BOOK RELIEF UNCONSTITUTIONAL. “In Final Order, Court Declares Maryland’s Library E-book Law Unconstitutional” reports Publishers Weekly.

In a June 13 opinion and order, Judge Deborah L. Boardman declared Maryland’s library e-book law “unconstitutional and unenforceable” all but ending a successful months-long legal effort by the Association of American Publishers to block the law.

“In its February 16, 2022 memorandum opinion, the Court determined that the Maryland Act likely conflicts with the Copyright Act in violation of the Supremacy Clause,” Boardman’s opinion reads. “Although neither AAP nor the State has moved for summary judgment on any claim, they agree a declaratory judgment may be entered… Therefore, for the reasons stated in the February 16, 2022 memorandum opinion, the Court finds that the Maryland Act conflicts with and is preempted by the Copyright Act. The Act ‘stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress.’”

… First introduced in January 2021, the Maryland library e-book law required any publisher offering to license “an electronic literary product” to consumers in the state to also offer to license the content to public libraries “on reasonable terms.” The bill passed the Maryland General Assembly unanimously on March 10, and went into effect on January 1, 2022.

In response, the AAP filed suit on December 9, 2021 arguing that the Maryland law was pre-empted by the federal Copyright Act. Just days after a February 7 hearing, Boardman agreed with the AAP and temporarily enjoined the law. Boardman’s order this week now permanently renders the law enforceable….

(5) CENSORSHIP CASE IN VIRGINIA. Publishers Weekly also reports, “Lawyers Say ‘Defective’ Virginia Obscenity Claims Should Be Tossed”.

First filed in May by lawyer and Republican Virginia assembly delegate Tim Anderson on behalf of plaintiff and Republican congressional candidate Tommy Altman, the suits allege that the graphic memoir Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe and A Court of Mist and Fury by bestselling author Sarah J. Maas—are “obscene for unrestricted viewing by minors.” On May 18, a retired local judge found there was “probable cause” for the obscenity claims and ordered the authors and publishers to answer the charges, raising the possibility that the court could bar the books from public display and restrict booksellers and librarians from providing the books to minors without parental consent.

But in filings late last week, lawyers for Kobabe and her publisher, Oni Press, and Maas and her publisher Bloomsbury, along with lawyers for Barnes & Noble, told the court the suits as filed are defective and the remedy sought unconstitutional.

“The petition and show cause order are facially defective because [the Virginia law] does not authorize a court to declare that the book is ‘obscene for unrestricted viewing by minors,’” reads a joint filing by Maas and Bloomsbury, explaining that the Virginia law “cannot constitutionally be the basis for the relief sought by petitioner as a matter of law.”

In separate filings, Kobabe and Oni Press also argue the law in question is misapplied and the complaint defective. “The statute permits the challenge of a book on the grounds that it is ‘obscene’ to the entirety of the community of the Commonwealth,” reads the brief from Oni Press lawyers. “Petitioner here attempts to redefine [the Virginia law] to have book declared obscene as it relates to one subset of the Community: minors in the Hampton Roads and Virginia Beach areas.”

Furthermore, lawyers for the authors and publishers argue that the books in question do not come close to meeting the standard for obscenity as established by the Supreme Court, which requires that materials, even if they contain explicit material, be found to lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. Thus, the relief requested by the plaintiffs would be “an unconstitutional restraint on free speech,” lawyers argue.

(6) THE MIGHTY NATALIE. “’Thor: Love and Thunder’: How Natalie Portman Grew Nine Inches Taller”Variety divulges the answer at the link.

…“I definitely got as big as I’ve ever been,” Portman explained for Variety‘s cover story. “You realize, ‘Oh, this must be so different, to walk through the world like this.’”

Portman means that quite literally. Along with getting her arms and shoulders as swole as humanly possible, Portman’s Mighty Thor also stands 6 feet tall — nearly 10 inches larger than Portman’s actual height.

… To date, no one has figured out how an actor can safely elongate their body, so director Taika Waititi and his crew needed to figure out how to get Portman to the proper height for scenes in which she walked with her co-stars. Their solution proved to be about as low-tech as a Marvel movie can get….

(7) KGB. The Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series will be changing its schedule to the second Wednesday of the month. The date change begins on September 14, 2022. Both the July and August readings will be on the third Wednesday as originally scheduled.

After more than twenty years of being held on the third Wednesday of every month, the Fantastic Fiction reading series, currently hosted by Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel at the KGB Bar in Manhattan, will be switching to the second Wednesday of the month, beginning in September, for the foreseeable future. Previously, the series was held on the third Wednesday of the month.

During the Pandemic, when Covid cases in New York City were dangerously high, hosts Ellen and Matt decided to go virtual (via YouTube) for the safety of all. This virtual period lasted for more than eighteen months, during which time Ellen and Matt were able to bring in guests, many of whom were unable to visit New York in person, from all over the world, including Pakistan, Barbados, the U.K., Australia, South Africa and elsewhere.

During this same period a younger crowd less fearful of Covid began to congregate in person at the KGB Bar during the series’ usual third Wednesday. When the Fantastic Fiction series finally returned to the KGB Bar in person in late 2021 and early 2022, the KGB Bar saw a significant drop in income. Because of this, the KGB Bar owner has asked Ellen and Matt to switch weeks for this “big earner/younger generation” that they wish to accommodate on the third Wednesday of each month.

(8) EAR TO THE GROUND. CSI Skill Tree is a series from the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University.The latest event in the CSI Skill Tree series on how video games envision possible futures and create thought-provoking experiences will streamed on Thursday, July 7, from 2:00-3:15 p.m. Eastern. The event is free and open to everyone—here is the registration link.

In this event, speculative fiction author Tochi Onyebuchi and composer/sound designer Amos Roddy will discuss how sound and music in games contributes to worldbuilding, storytelling, and immersion. They’ll look closely at Inside (2016), a moody adventure game with environmental puzzles and grim, industrial aesthetics.

Roddy’s other sound work in games is frequently for science fiction titles (most recently, Citizen Sleeper), and Onyebuchi is an incredibly talented SF storyteller. 

(9) AN IDEA THAT WHIFFED. Galactic Journey knows exactly what the public in 2022 wants to hear about the Worldcon – which is nothing good, of course – and presents: “[June 22, 1967] The Stench Arising from the World Convention” by Alison Scott.

…Here we are in 1967, and Ted White, from his lofty position of power as chairman of NyCon 3, this year’s World SF Convention, has decided that the time has come to expand the existing Best Fanzine Hugo. I think that many of we actifans would welcome additional awards for Best Fan Writer and Best Fan Artist. However, the NyCon 3 committee – and I think we must assume this is mostly Ted – decided to unilaterally create a new class of awards, the Fan Achievement Awards, by analogy to the Science Fiction Achievement Awards, and to nickname them the “Pongs”, by analogy to the “Hugos”….

P.S. Even at the time almost everyone said they hated the idea. That’s why in the end the NyCon 3 committee actually did call these added fan awards Hugos.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

1925 [By Cat Eldridge.] Let’s keep in mind that ninety-seven years ago when this first version of The Lost World premiered, A. Conan Doyle was very much alive. This is very important as he was involved in the film including writing the script from his novel and being involved in the production quite personally. Doyle said repeatedly that Challenger, not Holmes, was his favorite creation.

Directed by Harry O. Hoyt, The Lost World featured the amazing stop motion special effects by Willis O’Brien, the dinosaurs here being a great look at what he would do on King Kong in eight yers. Nine different types of dinosaurs were created including of course Tyrannosaurus. A very crowded plateau it was. Some of the dinosaur models made for this film were collected later by Ackerman.

It cost seven hundred thousand to make and grossed one point three million. Studios being relatively honest in those days, we can say it actually made money. 

Full early prints include an introduction by Doyle. Later prints removed this.  

The New York Times after seeing early reels of the dinosaurs said if these be “monsters of the ancient world, or of the new world which he has discovered in the ether, were extraordinarily lifelike. If fakes, they were masterpieces.” Contemporaneous reviews such as the LIFE one say the same thing: “In The Lost World, as it appears on the screen, the animals have been constructed with amazing skill and fidelity and their movements, though occasionally jerky, are generally convincing.” 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently have a sixty-nine percent rating for it.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 22, 1856 — H. Rider Haggard. Writer of pulp fiction, often in the the Lost World subgenre. King Solomon’s Mines was the first of his novels with Allan Quatermain as the lead and it, like its sequels, was successful. These novels are in print to this day. Haggard by the way decided to take ten percent royalties instead of a flat fee for writing, a wise choice indeed.  And let’s not forget his other success, She: A History of Adventure, which has never print out of print either. (Died 1925.)
  • Born June 22, 1894 — George Fielding Eliot. ISFDB has scant listings from him and Wiki is not much better but shows “The Copper Bowl”  in Weird Tales in the December 1928 issue and notes that thirty years later he has “The Peacemakers”  in the Fantastic Universe in January 1960 edition. Stitching this together using the EofSF, I’ll note he wrote Purple Legion: A G-Man Thriller, a really pulpish affair. As Robert Wallace, he wrote “The Death Skull Murders”, one of the Phantom Detective stories, a series that came out after The Shadow and ran for a generation. (Died 1971.)
  • Born June 22, 1936 — Kris Kristofferson, 86. He first shows up in a genre film, The Last Horror Film, as himself. As an actor, his first role is as Bill Smith in Millennium which is followed by Gabriel in Knights, a sequel to Cyborg. (A lack of name creativity there.) Now comes his role as Abraham Whistler in Blade and Blade II, a meaty undertaking indeed! Lastly I’ll note he voiced Karubi in Planet of the Apes.
  • Born June 22, 1947 — Octavia Butler. I think her Xenogenesis series is her most brilliant work though I’m also very, very impressed by the much shorter Parable series. I’m ambivalent on the Patternist series for reasons I’m not sure about. Her first Hugo was L.A. Con II (1984) for her “Speech Sounds” short story and she also got a Hugo for her “Bloodchild” novelette at Aussiecon Two (1985). DisCon III (2021) saw Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation with text by her obviously as adapted by Damian Duffy and illustrated by John Jennings pick up the Best Graphic Story or Comic Hugo. (Died 2006.)
  • Born June 22, 1949 — Edward M Lerner, 73. I’m here today to praise the Ringworld prequels that he co-wrote with Niven, collectively known as Fleet of Worlds which ran to five volumes. Unlike the Ringworld sequels which were terribly uneven, these were well written and great to read. I’ve not read anything else by him.
  • Born June 22, 1949 — Meryl Streep, 73. She’d make the Birthday list just for being Madeline Ashton in Death Becomes Her and her epic battle there with Goldie Hawn. She’s the voice of Blue Ameche in A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and a very real Aunt Josephine in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. She’s the voice of Felicity Fox in Fantastic Mr. Fox, based off the on Dahl’s 1970 children’s novel. She voices Jennie in a short that bring Maurice Sendak’s dog to life, Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life. She’s The Witch in Into The Woods. I think that’s it.
  • Born June 22, 1958 — Bruce Campbell, 64. Where to start? Well let’s note that Kage loved the old rascal as she described him, so I’ve linked to her review of Jack of All Trades. I personally liked him just as much in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and think it’s well worth checking out. I think his work as Ash Williams in the Evil Dead franchise can be both brilliant and god awful, often in the same film. Or the same scene. The series spawned off of it is rather good. Oh, and for popcorn reading, check out If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor, his autobiography. 
  • Born June 22, 1973 — Ian Tregillis, 49. He is the author of the Milkweed Triptych trilogy which is frelling brilliant. He’s contributed three stories to Max Gladstone’s The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, a  rather good serial fiction narrative (if that’s the proper term), and he’s got another series, The Alchemy Wars, I haven’t  checked out. He’s also a contributor to George R. R. Martin’s Wild Cards series which I’m beginning to suspect everyone has been involved in.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

Joel Merriner mashes up Gotham with Middle-Earth.

(13) THE READING LIFE. The Critic’s Paul Dean mourns the decline of the second-hand book trade in “Bookshops remaindered”.

At the Oxford Book Fair in April, the presence of a hundred exhibitors from all over Britain suggested that Covid had not killed off the antiquarian book trade. But those who buy antiquarian books are not necessarily interested in reading, any more than those who buy hundreds of cases of rare wines are interested in drinking.

The second-hand market — for immediate consumption rather than laying down — is a different matter, as Oxford itself sadly demonstrates. In the 1970s, Blackwell’s second-hand department occupied the whole of the top floor. By 2000, it occupied most of the third floor. Now it shivers forlornly in a few feet of the first floor.

Will Waterstones, Blackwell’s new owners, bother to keep it? One second-hand bookshop after another has closed in Oxford, leaving two admittedly excellent Oxfams, St Philip’s Books opposite the cathedral, a new small outlet in the Covered Market, and the ominously named The Last Bookshop in Jericho. Thornton’s and Robin Waterfield are much missed. The former still sells online, but, although I plead guilty to online buying, that is not the same. It is like eating the menu instead of the food….

(14) GETTING READY TO INTERACT WITH AI. “Soon, Humanity Won’t Be Alone in the Universe” says David Brin in his opinion piece for Newsweek.

…In 2017 I gave a keynote at IBM’s World of Watson event, predicting that “within five years” we would face the first Robotic Empathy Crisis, when some kind of emulation program would claim individuality and sapience. At the time, I expected — and still expect — these empathy bots to augment their sophisticated conversational skills with visual portrayals that reflexively tug at our hearts, e.g. wearing the face of a child. or a young woman, while pleading for rights… or for cash contributions. Moreover, an empathy-bot would garner support, whether or not there was actually anything conscious “under the hood.”

One trend worries ethicist Giada Pistilli, a growing willingness to make claims based on subjective impression instead of scientific rigor and proof. When it comes to artificial intelligence, expert testimony will be countered by many calling those experts “enslavers of sentient beings.” In fact, what matters most will not be some purported “AI Awakening.” It will be our own reactions, arising out of both culture and human nature.

Human nature, because empathy is one of our most-valued traits, embedded in the same parts of the brain that help us to plan or think ahead. Empathy can be stymied by other emotions, like fear and hate — we’ve seen it happen across history and in our present-day. Still, we are, deep-down, sympathetic apes.

But also culture. As in Hollywood’s century-long campaign to promote—in almost every film — concepts like suspicion-of-authority, appreciation of diversity, rooting for the underdog, and otherness. Expanding the circle of inclusion. Rights for previously marginalized humans. Animal rights. Rights for rivers and ecosystems, or for the planet. I deem these enhancements of empathy to be good, even essential for our own survival! But then, I was raised by all the same Hollywood memes….

(15) SPIDER-REX. “Spider-Rex Makes His Roaring Debut on Leinil Francis Yu’s New ‘Edge of Spider-Verse’ #1 Variant Cover” Marvel announced today.

The future of the Spider-Verse is here! Launching in August, Edge of Spider-Verse will be five-issue limited series that introduces brand-new Spider-heroes and redefines fan-favorites such as Araña, Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Gwen, and Spider-Man: India! Each thrilling issue will contain three stories crafted by Marvel’s biggest Spider talents including an overarching narrative by Dan Slott who will lay the groundwork for the epic conclusion of the Spider-Verse later this year. Edge of Spider-Verse #1 will see the debut of Spider-Rex in a story by hit Spider-Woman creative team, Karla Pacheco and Pere Perez. Fans can see this awesome and one-of-a-kind Spider-Hero in a brand-new variant cover by Leinil Francis Yu.

(16) WEIRD AL’S SONG FOR STAR WARS. There might actually be a few notes from it in this trailer, I’m not sure. “LEGO Star Wars Summer Vacation”, set shortly after the events of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, features the voices of “Weird Al” Yankovic, Yvette Nicole Brown, Kelly Marie Tran, Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams, and returning cast members from previous LEGO Star Wars specials, and includes “Weird Al’s” new original song, “Scarif Beach Party”.

(17) CAT NOT SLEEPING ON SFF. Enjoy this entertaining trailer for “Puss In Boots: The Last Wish”.

This Christmas, everyone’s favorite leche-loving, swashbuckling, fear-defying feline returns. For the first time in more than a decade, DreamWorks Animation presents a new adventure in the Shrek universe as daring outlaw Puss in Boots discovers that his passion for peril and disregard for safety have taken their toll. Puss has burned through eight of his nine lives, though he lost count along the way. Getting those lives back will send Puss in Boots on his grandest quest yet. Academy Award® nominee Antonio Banderas returns as the voice of the notorious PiB as he embarks on an epic journey into the Black Forest to find the mythical Wishing Star and restore his lost lives. But with only one life left, Puss will have to humble himself and ask for help from his former partner and nemesis: the captivating Kitty Soft Paws (Oscar® nominee Salma Hayek).

(18) SHOULD BE WORTH MORE THAN TWO POINTS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This Rube Goldberg machine by Creezy has been viewed nearly 10 million times, but not on File 770! “The Swish Machine: 70 Step Basketball Trickshot”.

(19) REFERENCE DIRECTOR! [Item by Daniel Dern.] To help you decipher today’s Scroll title “Heigh-ho, The Battling Throg, The Frog Down In Valhalla, Oh” —

Throg is Frog Thor, The Frog Of Thunder, first introduced by Walt Simonson in 1986 (see “Thor Left Asgard’s Future to Marvel’s Strangest Thunder God”), although, Marvel being Marvel (sigh), there are now several variants and versions…

“Heigh-Ho etc” riffs on the Irish folk song “Heigh-Ho, The Rattlin’ Bog” popularized by The Irish Rovers and done by many others including Seamus Kennedy,

(20) AMATEURS DRIVING THE CHARIOT OF APOLLO. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] James Burke and John Parry tour an Apollo training facility, crash a “scooter” on the Moon and mispronounce “Houston” in this clip from the BBC show Tomorrow’s World in 1968.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. This is buzzzzzare! “Best-Case Scenario, Worst-Case Scenario and One with Bees” from Late Night with Seth Meyers.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/21/22 The Upside Down

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

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers, Halo” the Screen Junkies say that Microsoft has been trying to develop Halo as a movie or TV series for 20 years (Ridley Scott and Neill Blomkamp were attached to the project so it’s a bad sign the show has landed at Paramount Plus. The show features three battle scenes in nine hours, one character who runs the only “libertarian paradise” with a churro stand, and “a girl with a backstory as tragic as her haircut.”  The narrator suggests that gamers may find more entertainment playing Halo than watching this plodding series.

(16) A HAMMER FILM. Gizmodo declares “Thor Love and Thunder Footage Is Pure Marvel Studios Excitement”.

This new featurette for Thor: Love and Thunder is more exciting than all of its trailers combined. Which is saying something: the trailers for Taika Waititi’s latest, starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, and Christian Bale, have been excellent. There’s just something about seeing all that footage cut with the actors and filmmaker gushing over it that gives a whole new level of energy….

(15) NAPTIME FOR VOYAGER. “NASA is starting to shut down the Voyager probes, which launched in 1977 and made it deeper into space than anything since”: Yahoo! has the story.

The epic interstellar journeys of NASA’s acclaimed Voyager probes are due to come to an end as the agency starts switching off their systems, Scientific American reported.

The probes launched 45 years ago, in 1977, and have pushed the boundaries of space exploration ever since. They’re farther away from Earth than any other man-made object, a record that will likely stay unbroken for decades.

The decision to reduce power on the probes is meant to extend their life span a few more years and take them to about 2030, Scientific American said….

…The instrument’s hardwired electronics have survived the test of time remarkably well, in spite of its age.

The primitive computers onboard the probes don’t require much power. All of the data collected by the instruments on Voyager is stored on an eight-track tape recorder and sent to earth using a machine that uses up about as much power as a refrigerator light bulb, Scientific American said.

They have “less memory than the key fob that opens your car door,” Spilker said.

(14) GLUE GUY. Joe Moe holds forth on “The Importance of Building Monster Models!” for Heritage Auctions.

…Amidst the deluxe monster masks, 8mm film reels, books, magazines, and other horror novelties, there lurked the coveted monster models. These cast-plastic, puzzle figures came in a cardboard box with a glorious full-color lid featuring a vivid image (painted by the brilliant James Bama) of your favorite movie monster, which we’d ultimately use as our paint master. Once newspapers were spread across the kitchen table, the tight-fitting lid would vibrate and practically hum as we pried it off the box bottom to reveal, first, the industrial perfume of fresh plastic. Next, we’d regard all the split, hollow pieces of our particular creature, suspended in a plastic spider’s web matrix of flashing that we would twist each model piece free of as carefully as you’d extract a loose, wiggling baby tooth. Once the pieces were laid out, we’d unfold the graphic instructions, which weren’t needed, but served to get you even more excited about the finished masterpiece you were about to assemble and paint. Unlike other collectibles you could buy, once you’d finished painting and detailing, your monster model would be a one-of-a-kind display piece – unique from anyone else’s…. 

(13) ONE TOKEN OVER THE LINE. Archie McPhee expects the people who like their catalog will want to play “Go Go Gargoyle! The Game”.

The Horrible Horseman has defeated the gargoyles that defended Crowning Castle and thrown everything into chaos. A new batch of baby gargoyles has been birthed from the fire demon to retake the castle and protect it from future attacks. These gargoyles have got to save the kingdom! This simple game takes you through a magical kingdom full of ghosts, cryptids and grumpy wizards. Includes a fantastic detail-filled game board, four 1-1/8″ tall gargoyle tokens and 54 standard-sized, 2-1/2″ x 3-1/2″ illustrated cards.

(12) BRITISH TV NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Gabriel Tate discusses “The Lazarus Project,” which premiered on Sky Max and NOW in Britain on June 16.

The series begins on July 1,with George (Paapa Essiedu) waking up to his partner, Sarah (Charly Clive).  Later that day, he secures funding for his start-up app.  In the months that follow, Sarah becomes pregnant and the couple marry before the escalating pandemic puts everything off-beam.  Then one day George wakes up and finds it is again that same July 1. Everyone else seems oblivious…

…The field of time-loop-based fiction is a crowded one, from Groundhog Day and Source Code to Looper, among others. Yet while its predecessors have used the premise as a technical exercise, an excuse for action-packed thrills or a vehicle for humour, an eight-episode run allows “The Lazarus Project” to delve more deeply into moral considerations.  What could be a slightly silly show with good gags and terrific stuntwork becomes something else, asking serious questions about a modern world that feels increasingly out of control.  Who wouldn’t want to take hold of the tiller?

(11)  THEY PUT THINGS IN OUR EARS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] As an sff fan you might be forgiven for thinking that NextSense was founded by a bunch of zombie Ferengis. They are, after all, obsessed with ears—but what they’re really interested in is brains. “This Startup Wants to Get in Your Ears and Watch Your Brain” at WIRED.

… For years, people have been shifting from tracking their health through sporadic visits to a doctor or lab to regularly monitoring their vitals themselves. The NextSense team is gambling that, with a gadget as familiar as an earbud, people will follow the same path with their brains. Then, with legions of folks wearing the buds for hours, days, and weeks on end, the company’s scientists hope they’ll amass an incredible data trove, in which they’ll uncover the hidden patterns of mental health.

For now, that’s the stuff of dreams. What’s real is that on one day in 2019, a patient tucked a bud into each ear, fell asleep, and proceeded to astound NextSense’s scientists—by churning out brain waves that showed exactly how this product could save a person’s life.

Jonathan Berent is the CEO of NextSense. On a recent evening, the 48-year-old was talking like a podcast at 1.5 speed while we waited for our entrées on the patio of an Italian restaurant in Mountain View, California. The subject of his filibuster was how he’d gotten into brain health. His obsession wasn’t ears or wellness; it was sleep….

(10) “EVERYTHING IS SEEN IN CHINA”. “US TikTok User Data Has Been Repeatedly Accessed From China, Leaked Audio Shows” reports BuzzFeed News.

For years, TikTok has responded to data privacy concerns by promising that information gathered about users in the United States is stored in the United States, rather than China, where ByteDance, the video platform’s parent company, is located. But according to leaked audio from more than 80 internal TikTok meetings, China-based employees of ByteDance have repeatedly accessed nonpublic data about US TikTok users — exactly the type of behavior that inspired former president Donald Trump to threaten to ban the app in the United States….

Adweek carried the corporation’s denial: “TikTok Looks to Counter Report That US User Data Was Repeatedly Accessed in China”.

…TikTok fired back, asserting that no user data was shared in China, but the Trump administration kept applying pressure. No action was taken during the remainder of his term, however.

Calamug stressed in his blog post that TikTok’s data center in Virginia “includes physical and logical safety controls such as gated entry points, firewalls and intrusion detection technologies,” adding that the Singapore data center served as a backup….

TechCrunch says the company is trying to restore confidence: “TikTok moves all US traffic to Oracle servers, amid new claims user data was accessed from China”.

TikTok said on Friday it is moving U.S. users’ data to Oracle servers stored in the United States. Overshadowing its migration announcement was a damning report that followed, claiming that TikTok staff in China had access to its U.S. users’ data as recently as this January.

The report from BuzzFeed News, which cites recordings from 80 TikTok internal meetings it obtained, claims that U.S. employees of TikTok repeatedly consulted with their colleagues in China to understand how U.S. user data flowed because they did not have the “permission or knowledge of how to access the data on their own.”

“Everything is seen in China,” the report said, quoting an unnamed member of TikTok’s Trust and Safety department as saying in a September 2021 meeting….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 21, 1969 — Christa Faust, 53. It does not appear that she’s written any original fiction save one novel with Poppy Z. Brite called Triads but she’s certainly had a lot of media tie-in work including novels set in the Final DestinationFriday the ThirteenthFringeGabriel HuntNightmare on Elm StreetSupernatural and Twilight Zone universes.  Did you know there’s an entire ecology of novels, fan fiction, a game, comics, even an encyclopedia guide, September’s Notebook — The Bishop Paradox made around Fringe? I hadn’t until I was researching her. One of the perks of doing this. 
  • Born June 21, 1965 — Steve Niles, 57. Writer best  known for works such as 30 Days of NightCriminal Macabre, Simon Dark and Batman: Gotham County Line. I’ve read his Criminal Macabre: The Complete Cal McDonald Stories and the graphic novel — great bit of horror! Sam Raimi adapted 30 Days of Night into a film. 
  • Born June 21, 1964 — David Morrissey, 58. His most well-known role is playing The Governor on The Walking Dead (which is a series that I’ve not seen and have no interest of seeing as I don’t do zombies) but I saw his brilliant performance as Jackson Lake, the man who believed he was The Doctor in “The Next Doctor”, a Tenth Doctor adventure which was an amazing story. He was also Theseus in Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Greek Myths, and played Tyador Borlú in the BBC adaption of China Mieville’s The City & The City. I’ll admit that I’m not at all ambivalent about seeing it as I’ve listened the novel at least a half dozen times and have my own mental image of what it should be. He has also shows up in Good Omens as Captain Vincent. 
  • Born June 21, 1957 — Berkeley Breathed, 65. ISFDB on the basis of a chapbook called Mars Needs Moms is willing to include him as genre but I’d argue that Bloom County which includes a talking penguin is explicitly genre as they are fantastic creatures. And he contributed three cartoons to the ConFederation program book.
  • Born June 21, 1952 — David J. Skal, 70. Vampires! He’s an academic expert on them and horror in general, so he’s got a number of items in his CV with his first being Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen. He followed that up with a more general work, The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror. And then he produced The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror which links horror films to what is going on in culture at that time, ie AIDS. His latest book was a biography of Bram Stoker, Something in the Blood.
  • Born June 21, 1947 — Michael Gross, 75. Ok I’ll admit that I’ve a fondness for the Tremors franchise in which he plays the extremely well armed and very paranoid graboid hunter Burt Gummer. Other than the Tremors franchise, he hasn’t done a lot of genre work as I see just an episode of The Outer Limits where he was Professor Stan Hurst in “Inconstant Moon” (based on the Niven story I assume) and voicing a  few Batman Beyond and Batman: The Animated Series characters.
  • Born June 21, 1940 — Mariette Hartley, 82. She’s remembered by us for the classic Trek episode “All Our Yesterdays”, though, as OGH noted in an earlier Scroll, probably best known to the public for her Polaroid commercials with James Garner. She also had a role as psychologist Dr. Carolyn Fields in “Married”, an episode of The Incredible Hulk. 
  • Born June 21, 1938 — Ron Ely, 84. Doc Savage in Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze, a film I saw a long time ago and remember little about. He was also, fittingly enough, Tarzan in that NBC late Sixties series. Somewhere Philip Jose Farmer is linking the two characters…  Other notable genre roles included being a retired Superman from an alternate reality in a two-part episode “The Road to Hell” of the Superboy series, and playing five different characters on the original Fantasy Island which may or may not be a record.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

1991 [By Cat Eldridge.] There are some films that I just like without reservation. One of these is The Rocketeer that premiered on this date thirty-one years ago. I’ve seen this one at least three or four times. It’s proof that the Disney can actually be creative unlike the Marvel films which have all the weakness of a franchise undertaking. (End of rant.) 

It was directed by Joe Johnston whose only previous genre film was Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and produced by a committee of Charles Gordon, Lawrence Gordon and Lloyd Levin. None had done anything that suggested they’d be up to this level of excellence. (Yes, my bias is showing.) The script was by Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo who did the most excellent Trancers. Bilson wrote the story along with Paul De Meo and William Dear.

Now the source material was the stellar Rocketeer graphic novel series that the late Dave Steven was responsible for. If you’ve not read it, why not? It’s a Meredith moment at the usual suspects at a mere six dollars.  

The cast of Bill Campbell, Alan Arkin, Jennifer Connelly, Paul Sorvino and Timothy Dalton was just damn perfect. And there wasn’t anything the film from the design of Rocketeer outfit itself to the creation of the Nazi Zeppelin which was a thirty-two-foot-long model that isn’t spot on. Cool, very cool. The visual effects were designed and done by George Lucas’ ILM. 

Disney being Disney never did actually release an actual production budget but Variety figured that it cost at least forty million, if not much more. It certainly didn’t make much as it only grossed forty seven million at the very best. 

So what did critics at the time think of this stellar film? Well, Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times liked it: “The movie lacks the wit and self-mocking irony of the Indiana Jones movies, and instead seems like a throwback to the simple-minded, clean-cut sensibility of a less complicated time.” And Pete Travers of the Rolling Stone was equally upbeat: “But then the film is awash in all kinds of surprises that are too juicy to reveal. The Rocketeer is more than one of the best films of the summer; it’s the kind of movie magic that we don’t see much anymore — the kind that charms us, rather than bullying us, into suspending disbelief.” 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give an excellent sixty-five rating. 

(7)  TODAY’S PHRASEOLOGY QUESTION. [Item by Daniel Dern.] From the subject line of a press release I just got: “Eleven Madison Park went vegan. Then chaos unfolded.”

This is not, I think, intended as an SFnal reference, so, not a nod to Joanna Russ (And Chaos Died), David Gerrold (The Man Who Folded Himself), etc.

A quick web search shows that, much to my surprise, “unfolding chaos,” “chaos unfolding,” etc. this is a relatively common phrase/image, everywhere from economic to political news coverage, not to mention a company name, a poetry anthology (and no doubt, although I did not check, a magic trick).

I guess my questions include:

  • “Did it start as folded chaos?”
  • “If so, who/how folded it?”
  • “Can unfolded chaos be folded back again?”
  • “Is unfolded chaos bigger than folded chaos?”
  • “What did somebody roll to get this?”

(6) THINKING DEEPER. “Robotics expert Robin Murphy explains why ‘Star Wars’ robots don’t reflect reality” at Space.com.

Space.com: What are your particular associations with “Star Wars” and early gateway into science fiction?

Murphy: For the first book I read that wasn’t like a McGuffey Reader or “See Dick and Jane” stuff, I had snuck in and got my dad’s copy of “The Green Hills of Earth” anthology, by Robert Heinlein. It was game on! I consider myself, to this day, a Heinlein babe. The first story in that book is “Delilah and the Space Rigger,” about a space station under construction. [G.] Brooks McNye, the female electrical engineer in the story, was mouthy and guys might push on her, but she just pushed right back and kept going. And that’s pretty much been my career.

I stood in line to see “Star Wars” the second week it was out back in 1977, when it became the phenomenon. Then, years later, I saw Kurosawa’s “The Hidden Fortress” and thought, “Ah-ha!” and realized all the similarities, especially with “Star Wars'” two sidekick droids….

Space.com: If you had the keys to the “Star Wars” kingdom, what would you change in its depiction of robots? Or does it not matter to audiences?

Murphy: I don’t think it matters for entertainment purposes. But there’s one thing that I think is really inconsistent that would be interesting to try and figure out. In “The Mandalorian,” the insect-looking droid, Zero, tells Mando that it decided to join a criminal gang. How did it decide that? How does that work? Because C-3PO and R2-D2 were owned, and they just decided that they’re suddenly not owned by people anymore. Then, you’ve got the whole thing with IG-11. He’s constantly threatening to self-destruct, which could potentially kill or maim innocent bystanders. 

That self-destruct sequence is hard-coded by the manufacturers to protect their intellectual property, but they’d be liable for all that collateral damage. If they looked a little more consistently about the rules of when can a droid be free, when can it be its own agent and who built it, that would help. What are the legal and ethical liabilities associated with them?

(5) STRANGER THINGS. Entertainment Weekly warns us: Stranger Things 4 trailer teases possible fatalities in two-part finale: ‘Your friends have lost'”.

Queue up the Kate Bush because things are not looking good for our pals in Hawkins.

The full-length trailer for Stranger Things season 4’s two-episode finale comes with a warning: “It might not work out for us this time.” That can’t be good.

Adding to the ominous vibe of the teaser is Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower). “It’s over. Now I just want you to watch,” he says. The psychic demo-creature then tells Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown): “Your friends have lost.”

It’s the penultimate season and Netflix split the last two episodes into their own Volume 2, releasing on July 1. Together they run nearly four hours, so basically they are two back-to-back Stranger Things movies. It’s clear the stakes are high. Might someone — or several someones — not make it out alive? (You know, for real this time.)…

(4) AMBITIOUS PROJECT. African sff writers will create “The Sauúti Fictional World: A Partnership Between Syllble and Brittle Paper “.

Once every generation, there are defining events that reshape the landscape of the speculative fiction literary realm, this time ten African science fiction and fantasy authors from five African nations have gathered over the past few months of this year to bring to life a new and intricate fictional world called Sauúti

Born out of a partnership between Syllble, a sci-fi and fantasy production house based in Los Angeles that produces fictional worlds, and Brittle Paper Magazine, The Sauúti Collective has produced a unique science-fantasy world for and by Africans and the African Diaspora. 

… It all began after Dr. Ainehi Edoro, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Brittle Paper, Wole Talabi, Nigerian author and Editor of Africanfuturism: An Anthology, and I met to discuss what this collaboration could look like and the importance of bringing African voices together. Wole, now a Syllble Brain Trust member, has been facilitating the collaborative sessions between these nine creative minds leading to the creation of the Sauúti Universe.

Sauúti is taken from the word “Sauti” which means “voice” in Swahili. This world is a five-planet system orbiting a binary star. This world is rooted deeply in a variety of African mythology, language, and culture. Sauúti weaves in an intricate magic system based on sound, oral traditions and music. It includes science-fiction elements of artificial intelligence and space flight, including both humanoid and non-humanoid creatures. Sauúti is filled with wonder, mystery and magic….

In addition to Wole Talabi, the members are Kalejaye Akintoba, Eugen Bacon, Stephen Embleton, Dare Segun Falowo, Adelehin Ijasan, Cheryl Ntumy, Ikechukwu Nwaogu, Xan van Rooyen, and Jude Umeh. Each participant does a Q&A as part of the announcement here.

(3) 1932: A VERY GOOD YEAR FOR HOWARD FANS. The Cromcast shares another recording of a Howard Days panel on REH in 1932, which was a landmark year for him (among other things, he created Conan): “Howard Days 2022 – Part 2 – Robert E. Howard in 1932!”

The panelists discuss the 90th Anniversaries of Conan, Worms of the Earth, the poem “Cimmeria” plus other notable REH events in 1932. Panelists include Rusty Burke, Patrice Louinet, Deuce Richardson, and Paul Sammon. The panel is moderated by Bobby Derie.

(2) PEN PINTER PRIZE. Malorie Blackman, author of the Noughts and Crosses dystopian YA series, has won the 2022 PEN Pinter Prize reports the Guardian.

Noughts & Crosses author Malorie Blackman has become the first children’s and YA writer to be awarded the PEN Pinter prize.

The prize is given by English PEN annually to a writer of “outstanding literary merit” who is based in the UK, Ireland or the Commonwealth. The recipient must also, in the words of Harold Pinter’s Nobel prize, cast an “unflinching, unswerving” gaze on the world and show a “fierce intellectual determination … to define the real truth of our lives and our societies”.

Blackman said she was “incredibly honoured” to get the award, and said she was sure she would not be the last children’s and YA author to win the prize, as many “fearless” authors were writing for young people and “tackling complex issues in an entertaining, informative, and understandable way”.

… Blackman will receive the Pinter prize in a ceremony in October, where she will deliver an address. The prize will be shared with an International Writer of Courage, who is active in defence of freedom of expression, often at great risk to their own safety and liberty. Blackman will choose that winner from a shortlist of international cases supported by English PEN. The author said she was grateful to be given the chance to pick the writer of courage. “Such authors who seek to write their truth in spite of often intractable opposition define the word courage,” she said….

(1) IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY, LETHEM THINKS IT’S TIME YOU MET HIM. “An Introduction to Stanislaw Lem, the Great Polish Sci-Fi Writer, by Jonathan Lethem” at Open Culture.

…Represented best in the pages of Astounding Stories and other sci-fi pulps, hard sci-fi “advertises consumer goods like personal robots and flying cars. It valorizes space travel that culminates in successful, if difficult, contact with the alien life assumed to be strewn throughout the galaxies.” The genre also became tied to “American exceptionalist ideology, technocratic triumphalism, manifest destiny” and “libertarian survivalist bullshit,” says Lethem.

Lem had no use for these attitudes. In his guise as a critic and reviewer he wrote, “the scientific ignorance of most American science-fiction writers was as inexplicable as the abominable literary quality of their output.” He admired the English H.G. Wells, comparing him to the inventor of chess, and American Philip K. Dick, whom he called a “visionary among charlatans.” But Lem hated most hard sci-fi, though he himself, says Lethem, was a hard sci-fi writer “with visionary gifts and inexhaustible diligence when it came to the task of extrapolation.”…

Pixel Scroll 5/24/22 Gonna Scroll Them Pixels

(1) FAHRENHEIT – NEVER MIND. The Associated Press reports: “Burn-proof edition of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ up for auction”.

Margaret Atwood has imagined apocalyptic disaster, Dystopian government and an author faking her own death. But until recently she had spared herself the nightmare of trying to burn one of her own books.

With a flamethrower, no less.

She failed, and that was the point.

On Monday night, timed for PEN America’s annual gala, Atwood and Penguin Random House announced that a one-off, unburnable edition of “The Handmaid’s Tale” would be auctioned through Sotheby’s New York. They launched the initiative with a brief video that shows Atwood attempting in vain to incinerate her classic novel about a totalitarian patriarchy, the Republic of Gilead. Proceeds will be donated to PEN, which advocates for free expression around the world…

…The Gas Company’s principal owner, Doug Laxdal, told the AP that instead of paper, he and his colleagues used Cinefoil, a specially treated aluminum product. The 384-page text, which can be read like an ordinary novel, took more than two months to complete. The Gas Company needed days just to print out the manuscript; the Cinefoil sheets were so thin that some would fall through cracks in the printer and become damaged beyond repair. The manuscript was then sewed together by hand, using nickel copper wire….

(2) THE NEXT UNICORN. “Peter S. Beagle Returns to the World of The Last Unicorn With The Way Home reports Molly Templeton at Tor.com.

…The Way Home, according to a press release, “continues the story of beloved characters unicorn, Molly Grue, and Schmendrick the Magician from the point of view of a young girl named Sooz.” The two works included in the collection are Two Hearts, which won the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novelette in 2006, and Sooz, which has not been previously published. It’s described as “a lyrical story of childhood left behind, dedicated to the love of Beagle’s life, who passed away before it could be published.”

The new edition of The Last Unicorn will be available in July; The Way Home publishes in spring 2023.

(3) THE LONG AND WINDING FILM. “‘Stranger Things’ Is Back, and the Duffer Brothers Made It Big” – and the New York Times knows just how big.

…During the two days I observed them, the Duffers, who continue to direct, write and oversee “Stranger Things,” had enough on their plates just getting things manageable. The pandemic had already caused significant delays, and the new season is five hours longer than any previous one. That was the main reason they had decided to release it in two chunks, Ross said. There was just so much material to get through. Demogorgons needed animating. Run times needed tightening.

“How long is the episode right now?” Ross asked their editor Dean Zimmerman about the episode on the screen. Zimmerman glanced my way.

“You want me to say it out loud?” he asked.

“Yeah.”

“Two and a half hours.”

With episodes like short movies (three of the first four are 75 minutes or more), one might worry that the Duffers have succumbed to excess. For now, they seem content to let the fans decide; Netflix has proved willing to support their expanding vision. Meanwhile, the tone is decidedly shifting this season (think “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Hellraiser”), and its young cast has been shaving for at least a few years. (Want to feel old? Caleb McLaughlin and Sadie Sink are 20.) Plenty can change in three years, including viewer attention. Will fans still flock to “Stranger Things”?

(4) TOMORROW THROUGH THE PAST. Jeff VanderMeer needs no predictive powers to speak about “The Annihilation of Florida: An Overlooked National Tragedy” in Current Affairs.

…In his 1944 book That Vanishing Eden: A Naturalist’s Florida, Thomas Barbour bemoaned the environmental damage caused by development to the Miami area and wrote, “Florida … must cease to be purely a region to be exploited and flung aside, having been sucked dry, or a recreation area visited by people who …  feel no sense of responsibility and have no desire to aid and improve the land.”

Even then, a dark vision of Florida’s future was clear.

Most of this harm has been inflicted in the service of unlimited and poorly planned growth, sparked by greed and short-term profit. This murder of the natural world has accelerated in the last decade to depths unheard of. The process has been deliberate, often systemic, and conducted from on-high to down-low, with special interests flooding the state with dark money, given to both state and local politicians in support of projects that bear no relationship to best management of natural resources. These projects typically reinforce income inequality and divert attention and money away from traditionally disadvantaged communities.1

Consider this: several football fields-worth of forest and other valuable habitat is cleared per day2 in Florida, with 26 percent of our canopy cut down in the past twenty years.  According to one study, an average of 25 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation worldwide.

The ecocide happening here is comparable for our size to the destruction of the Amazon, but much less remarked upon. Few of the perpetrators understand how they hurt the quality of life for people living in Florida and hamstring any possibility of climate crisis resiliency. Prodevelopment flacks like to pull out the estimates of the millions who will continue to flock to Florida by 2030 or 2040 to justify rampant development. Even some Florida economists ignore the effects of the climate crisis in their projects for 2049, expecting continued economic growth. but these estimates are just a grim joke, and some of those regurgitating them know that. By 2050, the world likely will be grappling with the fallout from 1.5- to 2-degree temperature rise and it’s unlikely people will be flocking to a state quickly dissolving around all of its edges….

(5) WALDEN WITH AN ELECTRIC SOCKET. And if you need cheering up after that last excerpt – surprisingly, Kim Stanley Robinson is the one about to help you out. “Q&A with Sci-Fi Author Kim Stanley Robinson” in Sactown Magzine.

I hear birds singing in the background. Where are you right now?

I’m outside. My office is my front courtyard on the north side of the house. I’ve got a tarp slung up so that I can be in the shade all the time and see my laptop screen. I also work outside in the rain. I’ve got a waterproof power cord and it powers the laptop and sometimes a little heating pad like you use for your lower back that I throw over my feet. I work all the days of the year out here. In the cold, I wear my winter backpacking gear, including a down hood and [fingerless] wool gloves. I feel like I’m on a little backpacking trip.

My work life has turned into an outdoor adventure. I did this about 15-20 years ago, and it was a great move. I thought I was burning out on writing, but what I was really burning out on was staying indoors all day. When I moved out to this courtyard, the first day that it rained and I slung a tarp up, that was it for me. I have never written a single word of my novels indoors since. I’m looking at white-crowned sparrows now. That’s probably what you’re hearing. And the scrub jays, these are my office mates. I’ve got a couple bird feeders around in this courtyard, and because I’m just sitting here for hours every day, I’m just part of the landscape as far as they’re concerned. I’ve had a scrub jay land on my boot at the end of my footstool and just stare at me like, “Are you alive or dead?”

(6) ACTIVISM. “Workers at an Activision studio vote to unionize, a first for the gaming industry.” The New York Times has the details.

A group of workers at a video game studio that is part of Activision Blizzard has voted to form a union, a first for a major North American video game company.

The vote, which passed 19 to 3, affects 28 quality-assurance employees at Raven Software, the Wisconsin studio that helps to develop the popular Call of Duty game. The workers voted over the past several weeks, and the results were tallied by the National Labor Relations Board on Monday. Activision has one week to formally object if it finds grounds for complaint.

The new union, the Game Workers Alliance, is the culmination of months of labor organizing at Activision, which has faced increasing pressure from employees to improve working conditions after a lawsuit accused the company of having a sexist culture in which women were routinely harassed.

Organizing at Raven in particular increased in intensity in December, when quality-assurance, or Q.A., workers walked out to protest the ending of about a dozen workers’ contracts. The Communications Workers of America, a prominent tech, media and communications union, helped lead the unionization effort….

(7) BRING THE HAMMER.  The trailer for Marvel Studios’ Thor: Love and Thunder dropped today.

“Let me tell you the story of the space viking, Thor Odinson…”

(8) HE MORPHED THOSE CHECKS. The New York Times tells why “A former ‘Power Rangers’ actor is charged with helping steal millions in Covid relief funds.”

The actor who led a team of teenage superheroes on “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” has been accused of helping steal millions of dollars from the government’s Paycheck Protection Program pandemic relief fund.

Jason Lawrence Geiger, 47, who played the Red Ranger under the stage name Austin St. John, and 17 others were charged with fraud this week in a Texas federal court over what prosecutors described as a conspiracy to illicitly obtain $3.5 million in P.P.P. loans.

Mr. Geiger and the others he is said to have worked in coordination with used a mix of genuine and sham businesses to obtain loans from the relief program, prosecutors said. According to court filings, they fabricated documents and made false claims about sales and payroll to obtain inflated loans, then spent the cash on jewelry, precious metals and cars.

Mr. Geiger received a loan of $225,754 in June 2020 for his company St. John Enterprises, which sells Power Rangers memorabilia, such as $60 autographed photos and $100 personalized video messages. Instead of using the money to pay workers — the relief program’s intended purpose — Mr. Geiger funneled most of the money to two of his co-defendants, prosecutors said in court filings….

(9) DENIS MEIKLE (1947-2022). In the Guardian, Jasper Sharp pays tribute to his late friend, film historian Denis Meikle.

…In 1996 Denis’s first book, A History of Horrors: The Rise and Fall of the House of Hammer, was published, after almost six years of writing and intensive research during which time he developed a close friendship with Michael Carreras, the head of the studio in its later years. It is considered the definitive history of Hammer Films.

This was followed by Jack the Ripper: The Murders and the Movies (2001), Vincent Price: The Art of Fear (2003), Johnny Depp: A Kind of Illusion (2004), The Ring Companion (2005) and Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out (2006).

With Jane, in 2007 he founded Hemlock Books, specialising in non-fiction publications on film, horror, mystery and the macabre and actor and director biographies, through which he edited and published the journals The Fantastic Fifties, The Sensational Sixties and The Age of Thrills (1930s and 40s), and published his final work, Mr Murder: The Life and Times of Tod Slaughter (2019), jointly researched with Kip Xool and Doug Young.

This recent Tod Slaughter biography encapsulates Denis’s approach to film writing perfectly: scholarly, fact-driven and intensively researched without being dry, and writerly and critical without thrusting his role as the writer to the fore….

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1964 [By Cat Eldridge.] This is the month that saw the publication of John D. MacDonald’s The Deep Blue Good-by, the first of the Travis McGee novels. (Warning: there’s nothing genre or genre adjacent here. So go away if that’s what you were expecting.) In my opinion, the Travis McGee novels are among the finest mystery series ever done.

I’m listening to them now because Audible dropped the price way, way down on each work. And it’s been at least twenty years since I read them all. So it’s an excellent time to re-experience them. The narrator, Robert Perkoff, is quite excellent, capturing the first person voice of Travis as well as I expect him to. 

This novel was only accepted by in 1964 by Fawcett Publications editor Knox Burger after MacDonald says in a later interview with Ed Gorman: “At the request of Knox Burger, then at Fawcett, I attempted a series character. I took three shots at it to get one book with a character I could stay with. That was in 1964. Once I had the first McGee book, The Deep Blue Good-by, they held it up until I had finished two more, Nightmare in Pink and A Purple Place for Dying, then released one a month for three months. That launched the series.” 

McGee is of an uncertain background, he’s ex-military, but that may be the Korean War or it might be just out of the very early Vietnam War, as MacDonald hints at both. He is a big man and knows how to fight, has a temper, but controls it.  He won the Busted Flush, his house boat, in a card game. Was it a honest game? Who knows? 

The novels really should be read in the order written as both McGee and the America that he’s part of change in a very chronological fashion. Travis has definite strong political opinions and I won’t say I always agree with them, but that’s the character. And no, I won’t say that this character is altogether pleasant as he isn’t as in this novel and in every novel in the series, he will do things that make me cringe. 

If you haven’t read The Deep Blue Good-by, go ahead and read it — if you like it, you’ll like the whole series. The Deep Blue Good-by is reasonably price at the usual suspects for six dollars.

A film version of The Deep Blue Good-by, directed by Oliver Stone, was optioned a decade ago. Christian Bale who is six feet tall to Travis McGee’s stated six feet four was going to the lead. The film was never developed. There’s one film based off a later novel in this series, Darker Than Amber starring Rod Taylor, and one, Travis McGee: The Empty Copper Sea that starred Sam Elliott but which moved McGee to sunny California. McDonald vetoed a television series in the Sixties on the grounds that if it was popular no one would read his novels. 

See? Not a single spoiler! 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 24, 1925 Carmine Infantino. Comics artist and editor, mostly for DC Comics, during the late 1950s known as the Silver Age of Comics. He created the Silver Age version of the Flash (with writer Robert Kanigher), Deadman with writer Arnold Drake and the Elongated Man (with John Broome). He also introduced Barbara Gordon as a new version of Batgirl. Infantino wrote or contributed to two books about his life and career: The Amazing World of Carmine Infantino (Vanguard Productions and Carmine Infantino: Penciler, Publisher, Provocateur. (Died 2013.)
  • Born May 24, 1945 Graham Williams. He produced three seasons of Doctor Who during Tom Baker’s era as the Fourth Doctor. He’d write a novelization of his story, The Nightmare Fair, developed as a Sixth Doctor story but never filmed when Colin Baker’s contract was terminated. He would die at home of an accidental gunshot wound. (Died 1990.)
  • Born May 24, 1952 Sybil Danning, 70. Her rise to fame began with her role in Roger Corman’s space opera cult classic, Battle Beyond the Stars which he billed as his Star Wars. (No kidding.) She went on to star in HerculesHowling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf (which bears the charming alternative title of Howling II: Stirba – Werewolf Bitch), a faux trailer directed by Rob Zombie titled Werewolf Women of the SS for Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse (I couldn’t make this stuff up!), the Halloween remake and finally she as in a horror film called Virus X. Series. She appeared in recurring roles of the The Lair as a vampire out for revenge.
  • Born May 24, 1953 Alfred Molina, 69. His film debut was on Raiders of The Lost Ark as Satipo. He was an amazing Doctor Octopus on Spider-Man 2 and inSpider-Man: No Way Home, and he also provided the voice of the villain Ares on the outstanding 2009 animated  Wonder Woman. Oh, and he was a most excellent Hercule Poirot in the modern day version of Murder on the Orient Express. I know, not genre, but one of my favorite films no matter who’s playing the character. 
  • Born May 24, 1960 Doug Jones, 62. I first saw him as Abe Sapien on Hellboy, an amazing role indeed. To pick a few of my favorite roles by him, he’s in Pan’s Labyrinth as The Faun and The Pale Man (creepy film), a clown in Batman Returns, the Lead Gentleman in the “Hush” episode of Buffy and Commander Saru on Discovery
  • Born May 24, 1963 Michael Chabon, 59. Author of what I consider the single best fantasy novel about baseball, Summerland, which won a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. His other two genre novels, Gentlemen of the Road and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, winner of Best Novel at Denvention 3, are stellar works in themselves. He was Showrunner for the first season of Picard but was Executive Producer for the just concluded season.
  • Born May 24, 1965 John C. Reilly, 57. I honor him for just his performance as Amos Hart in Chicago but as that film is hardly genre I’d better go on and list genre appearances, shouldn’t I? (Chicago is streaming on Paramount +.) He’s Lefty in A Prairie Home Companion which we’ve established is genre followed by being Crepsley in Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant and he shows up in the Guardians of the Galaxy as Corpsman Dey. He’s Hank Marlow in Kong: Skull Island. He was Dr. Watson in the film everyone wants to forget, Holmes & Watson. His last genre role that I’m aware of was playing Cap in the Moonbase 8 comedy series. 

(12) KAMALA KHAN. Marvel Studios’ Ms. Marvel starts streaming June 8 on Disney+.

Good is not a thing you are, it’s a thing you do.

(13) MADE (UP) MAN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to this podcast that Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Ron Perlman.  Perlman is of interest to us because nearly all of his work has been genre-related, beginning with his debut in Quest For Fire.  Perlman says he got his job in the first Beauty and the Beast because makeup artist Rick Baker said Perlman worked well with prosthetics.  Perlman also discusses his long-running collaboration with Guillermo del Toro; Perlman worked on del Toro’s first film, Cronos, and has collaborated with Del Toro on seven other projects, including the forthcoming Pinocchio.  Perlman also discusses what actors do during a daily four-hour stint in the makeup chair and his extensive voice work, including playing Optimus Prime in two Transformers movies. “Maltin on Movies: Ron Perlman”.

In his earliest screen appearances (remember Quest for Fire?) Ron Perlman was buried under a ton of makeup and prosthetics. That’s also how he became the Emmy-winning star of television’s Beauty and the Beast. Since then he’s shown his versatility, especially in his collaborations with the gifted filmmaker Guillermo del Toro like Hellboy and the forthcoming Pinocchio. His new film The Last Victim, casts him as a weary sheriff in the modern-day West. As Leonard and Jessie quickly discovered, Ron has the soul of a poet and the heart of a movie buff. Wait till you hear him singing the praises of Gary Cooper!

(14) I GUESS WE DO TALK ABOUT HIM. Tonight Andrew Porter witnessed another item that stumped Jeopardy! contestants.

Category: Bruno

Answer: “Sylvie and Bruno” was a dreamy 1889 children’s book by this Brit who was comfortable with fantasy worlds.

Wrong questions: “Who was Barrie?” and “Who was Tolkien?”

Right question: “Who was Lewis Carroll?”

(15) GENUINE TRIVIA. It doesn’t get much more obscure than this: “10 actors from The Andy Griffith Show who voiced major cartoon characters” at MeTV.

The Andy Griffith Show hired a sprawling cast to play all the quirky citizens of Mayberry. Many of those actors were skilled at performing in amusing voices. No wonder they tended to have careers in cartoons, too.

Many of the faces from Mayberry were notable animation voice-over artists. Here are some of our favorite that might surprise you.

1. Arlene Gorlonka

Speed Buggy was one of several successful Hanna-Barbera clones of its hit Scooby-Doo. Substitute the Great Dane with a talking anthropomorphic dune buggy and it’s essentially the same show. “Tinker” looked and acted a whole lot like Shaggy. And then there was Debbie, the Daphne, if you will. The mystery-solving teen was voiced by none other than Howard Sprague’s girlfriend, Millie!

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Morbius,” the Screen Junkies say that “Michael Morbius is a doctor living a serious challenge: being Jared Leto.”  Dr. Morbius chugs enough blood at blood banks that the narrator says it reminds him “of the time at camp when we found the Capri Suns.” Also Matt Smith (speaking of doctors) “acts with the freedom of someone who knows he’s in a train wreck.”

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

Pixel Scroll 4/18/22 You Get A File, I’ll Get A Troll, We’ll Head Down To The Pixel Scroll, Honey, Enemy Mine

(1) NEXT YEAR’S EASTERCON COMMITTEE PICKED. Conversation is the 2023 Eastercon – it will be held April 7-10. Where? “We don’t have a confirmed site yet,” they say. But somewhere in England. The convention website is here: Conversation 2023. And the guests of honor will be —

  • Zen Cho
  • Niall Harrison
  • Jennell Jaquays
  • Kari Sperring
  • Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • Ursula Vernon (T Kingfisher).

(2) EUROCON REPORT. Polish fan Marcin Klak writes about “Luxcon Eurocon 2022 – Convention From Behind the Mask” – a report that includes a photo of TAFF delegate “Orange Mike” Lowrey.

It was so good to see the people. I haven’t seen some friends for two and more years. Being able to greet them differently than on Zoom was great. Meeting some new people was also awesome. And last, but not least I had the opportunity to meet in person people whom I met online but haven’t yet seen in the real world – this was so cool. I had no idea how strongly I missed all of that. Don’t understand me wrong – virtual conventions are awesome. I appreciate them and think they were a blessing for those of us who attended them. Yet getting back to in-person conventioning was magical….

(3) SEPTEMBER SONG. Allen Steele told Facebook followers his email contained “A ROTTEN EASTER EGG”, and after being turned down as a Chicon 8 program participant he had much to say about the application process. He says he was “uninvited” after answering the questionnaire — because he claims they initiated the contact thus, in his view, issued an invitation. However, Chicon 8’s head of program says it was Steele who initiated things by filling in the form on the website requesting to be contacted.

When I opened my email this morning, here was what I found, printed verbatim. It came from a staff member for this year’s World Science Fiction Convention, an annual event I’ve attended — albeit infrequently in recent years — as a fan since 1973 and as a professional SF writer since 1989. I hadn’t yet decided whether to attend this year’s worldcon, but if I had, it would’ve been the fourth time I’ve been to one in Chicago (including once as a writer with a story on that year’s Hugo ballot).

“Dear Allen Steele.

“Thank you for reaching out to us with your interest in being on Program at Chicon 8: The 80th World Science Fiction Convention. We’re sending this email to inform you that we will not be extending you an invitation to participate as a panelist for the 2022 Worldcon in Chicago.

“Deciding who to invite as panelists is an ongoing multistep process that includes reviewing your program survey answers and the input of many members of the Chicon Program Team. As we have received requests from well over 1500 people, we cannot accept everyone, and so some difficult choices have to be made.

“Best,

“[NAME DELETED}

Head of Program for Chicon 8

My Pronouns: They/Them/Theirs”

This has really floored me, in a number of ways and for a number of reasons. First: I didn’t “reach out” to them. Instead, they reached out to me, in email I received in early March asking whether I would be interested in attending this year’s worldcon. Perhaps it was not technically an invitation, but in the past when I’ve received letters of this nature from worldcon committees, I’ve always felt it safe to assume that I was being asked to attend (for those who don’t know: this kind of invitation doesn’t include a free membership or having any of my hotel or travel expenses paid; it simply asks whether you would like to participate in panels, book signings, readings, etc.). So when I received it, I gave a positive response, assuming this was another worldcon invitation, something I’ve done dozens of times for dozens of years….

Steele also “joked” about pronoun preferences such as they/them/theirs.

Artist Bob Eggleton, in comments, made a suggestion in the spirit of Jon Del Arroz:

Chicon 8’s process for becoming a program participant is explained in detail here. After someone contacts the committee, this is the first of several things that happen —

    • Within a few weeks we will send you the program participant survey. This tells us who you are, and gives us an overview of what you hope to contribute to the program. Among other things, this survey will include the opportunity to (optionally): Suggest panel topics that you would like to see run at the convention. Propose workshops and presentations that you would like to conduct as solo or duo presenters.
    • Potential participants will be put through a vetting process to make sure that they are aligned with the values and principles set out in the convention code of conduct and anti-racism statement….

(4) THAT’S NOT STREAMING, IT’S A FLOOD. Ask.com wants to know “When Did It Become a Job to Be a Fan?” You might wonder after reading the previous item. But conrunning is not the focus of this article.

I never watched episodes three and four of Disney+’s The Book of Boba Fett. I read recaps and just tuned in for the juicy Mando-and-Baby-Yoda-filled episodes of the Star Wars show. I didn’t bother with HBO Max’s Peacemaker; James Gunn’s brand of humor and the absurdist violence in the DC Extended Universe’s (DCEU) The Suicide Squad wasn’t exactly my thing. And even though I have a soft spot for Oscar Isaac, I don’t know if I’ll ever finish watching the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) Moon Knight. 

There’s way too much stuff to watch to be able to stay on top of everything — just take a look at our selection of movie and TV releases for April — and yet I can’t help but feel like a failed pop culture writer and media critic for all the things I’m skipping. I should be watching — and probably enjoying — all of it. But, most of the time, these serialized shows and movies that are part of a larger universe feel like homework….

(5) CHINESE SF. The Shimmer Program has released New Voices in Chinese Science Fiction, a collaboration between Clarkesworld and Storycom, edited by Neil Clarke, Xia Jia and Regina Kanyu Wang , including eight stories from Chinese sf writers. Early bird copies of the anthology have been sent out to the Kickstarter backers and it will be made available for purchase in June.

Writers: Shuang Chimu, Liu Xiao, Yang Wanqing, Hui Hu, Congyun “Mu Ming” Gu, Liang Qingsan, Shi Heiyao, Liao Shubo

Translators: Carmen Yiling Yan, Andy Dudak, Rebecca Kuang, Judith Huang, Emily Jin

(6) LONG REMEMBERED THUNDER. “Prehistoric Planet” is a five-night documentary event coming to Apple TV+ May 23.

…This series is produced by the world-renowned team at BBC Studios Natural History Unit with support from the photorealistic visual effects of MPC (“The Lion King,” “The Jungle Book”). “Prehistoric Planet” presents little-known and surprising facts of dinosaur life set against the backdrop of the environments of Cretaceous times, including coasts, deserts, freshwater, ice worlds and forests. From revealing eye-opening parenting techniques of Tyrannosaurus rex to exploring the mysterious depths of the oceans and the deadly dangers in the sky, “Prehistoric Planet” brings Earth’s history to life like never before. 

(7) HALF A CENTURY OF SIMULTANEITY. Space Cowboy Books of Joshua Tree, CA has released the 50th episode of the Simultaneous Times podcast.

Stories featured in this episode are:

  • “RealView”- by Liam Hogan (music by RedBlueBlackSilver), read by Jean-Paul Garnier & Robin Rose Graves
  • “Psionic Thread” by Sam Fletcher (music by Phog Masheeen), read by Jean-Paul Garnier

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1997 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] On this date a quarter of a century ago on Canada’s Citytv (which is sometimes just called City), Lexx (also known as LEXX: The Dark Zone Stories and Tales from a Parallel Universe) premiered as a series of four films. The series follows a group of rather unique and sometimes dysfunctional individuals aboard the living craft Lexx as they travel through two universes and encounter various planets including an Earth that is decidedly not ours. 

It was created by Paul Donovan, Lex Gigeroff and Jeffrey Hirschfield, none of which had a background in the genre in any meaningful sense before this. Hirschfield wrote for three of the four seasons Lexx ran and voiced the character of the robot head 790. 

Now Lexx had a large cast including Brian Downey, Eva Habermann and Xenia Seeberg. Should you be so inclined, and I’m not saying saying that you should be, go ask Google for the uncensored versions of the City broadcast Lexx as regards Eva Habermann and Xenia Seeberg. Let’s just say that when it hit Syfy that network reduced it from a hard “R” to a very friendly “PG” rating in terms of both language and nudity. I’ve also heard that quite a bit of violence was also removed as well. Remember that I’ve mentioned previously that Syfy emasculated Fifties SF series when they ran there too.

It would run, including the original four films of ninety-three minutes in length, for five seasons with the four actual seasons ending with a total of sixty-one episodes with a conventional running time of between forty-five and forty-eight minutes. SyFy trimmed three to five minutes out of each of these episodes. 

Though the series was primarily filmed in Canada and Germany befitting it being a Canadian and German co-production, additional filming done on location in the British Virgin Islands. Iceland, Namibia, New Zealand, Thailand, and the United Kingdom. I need a guide to which scenes were filmed where. Seriously I do. 

Reception was decidedly mixed. The New York Daily News reviewer said she “can only imagine that the great SciFi channel must have been captured by idiot monsters from outer space and Germany” but the Independent got it spot-on when they noted that it is “extremely gory, not a little nasty and rather fun”.  Finally the TV Guide summed it up by noting it is “a siren of distinction for its black comedy, skewed take on the human condition and open sexuality.” 

It currently has a ninety-two percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 18, 1884 Frank R. Paul. Illustrator who graced the covers of Amazing Stories beginning with this cover for April 1926, as well as Science Wonder Stories and Air Wonder Stories from June 1929 to October 1940 and a number of others.  He also illustrated the cover of Gernsback’s Ralph 124C 41+: A Romance of the Year 2660 (Stratford Company, 1925), published first as a 1911–1912 serial in Modern Electrics. He was the Guest of Honor at the very first WorldCon, Nycon, in July 1939. He was inducted into Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2009. Stephen D. Korshak and Frank R. Paul’s From the Pen of Paul: The Fantastic Images of Frank R. Paul published in 2010 is the only work I found that looks at him. (Died 1963.)
  • Born April 18, 1930 Clive Revill, 92. His first genre role was as Ambrose Dudley in The Headless Ghost, a late Fifties British film. He then was in Modesty Blaise in the dual roles of McWhirter / Sheik Abu Tahir followed by The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes playing Rogozhin. A choice role follows as he’s The Voice of The Emperor in The Empire Strikes Back.  As for one-offs, he shows up in The Adventures of Robin HoodThe New AvengersWizards and Warriors in a recurring role as Wizard Vector, Dragon’s Lair, the second version of The Twilight ZoneBatman: The Animated Series in recurring role as as Alfred Pennyworth, Babylon 5Freakazoid in a number of roles, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and Pinky and The Brain… that’s not even close to a full listing! 
  • Born April 18, 1946 Janet Kagan. Another one who died way too young, damn it. “The Nutcracker Coup” was nominated for both the Hugo Award for Best Novelette and the Nebula Award for Best Novelette, winning the Hugo at ConFrancisco. She has but two novels, one being Uhura’s Song, a Trek novel, and quite a bit short fiction which is out in The Complete Kagan from Baen Books and is available from the usual digital suspects as everything else by her.  (Died 2008.)
  • Born April 18, 1965 Stephen Player, 57. Some Birthday honor folks are elusive. What I did find is awesome as he’s deep in the Pratchett’s Discworld and the fandom that sprung up around it. He illustrated the first two Discworld Maps, and quite a number of the books including the25th Anniversary Edition of The Light Fantastic and The Illustrated Wee Free Men. Oh, but that’s just a mere small taste of all he’s done, He also did the production design for the Sky One production of Hogfather and The Colour of Magic. He did box art and card illustrations for Guards! Guards! A Discworld Boardgame. Finally, he contributed to some Discworld Calendars, games books, money for the Discworld convention. I want that money.
  • Born April 18, 1969 Keith R. A. DeCandido, 53. I found him working in these genre media franchises: such as Supernatural, AndromedaFarscapeFireflyAliensStar Trek in its various permutations, Buffy the Vampire SlayerDoctor WhoSpider-ManX-MenHerculesThorSleepy Hollow,and Stargate SG-1. Now I will admit that his Farscape: House of Cards novel is quite fantastic, and it’s available from the usual suspects. He’s also written quite a bit of non-tie-in fiction.
  • Born April 18, 1971 David Tennant, 51. The Tenth Doctor and my favorite of the modern Doctors along with Thirteen whom I’m also very fond of. There are some episodes such as the “The Unicorn and The Wasp” that I’ve watched repeatedly and even reviewed over at Green Man.  He’s also done other spectacular genre work such as the downright creepy Kilgrave in Jessica Jones, and and Barty Crouch, Jr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. He’s also in the Beeb’s remake of the The Quatermass Experiment as Dr. Gordon Briscoe.
  • Born April 18, 1973 Cora Buhlert, 49. With Jessica Rydill, she edits the Speculative Fiction Showcase, a most excellent site. She has a generous handful of short fiction professionally published, and was a finalist for Best Fan Writer Hugo at CoNZealand and DisCon III, and has been nominated this year again at Chicon 8. Very impressive indeed! And of course she’s a member of our community here. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) COMICS FOR UKRAINE. Kurt Busiek is among the many stellar contributors to Comics for Ukraine: Sunflower Seeds, a benefit anthology edited by multi-Eisner Award-winner Scott Dunbier. The book will be full-color, 96 pages, 8×12 inches, and available in both hardcover and softcover editions.

Mark Evanier will be in the book, too:

Among the many writers and artists contributing to this effort are Sergio Aragonés and myself. We’re doing a new Groo story that will be included. You can see the whole list of contributors here and you can get your order in for a copy of this historic volume on this page.

There have been $28,808 of pre-orders, with 30 days to go. Order here.

A benefit anthology featuring an all-star lineup of comic book creators, with all proceeds being donated to Ukrainian refugees. Comics for Ukraine: Sunflower Seeds features an incredible roster of comics talent united under the mission of providing relief to the war-torn Ukraine, which has suffered attacks from neighboring Russia since late February. With the exception of hard costs (printing, credit-card fees, marketing) all of the funds raised by Comics for Ukraine: Sunflower Seeds will benefit the relief efforts in Ukraine in partnership with Operation USA. Since time of of the essence, if the campaign is successful, right after the campaign is over and payments have been collected by Zoop, all funds will be sent to Operation USA immediately.

(12) NO BRAINER? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] It’s apparently been a burning question for almost 2 decades. Is 28 Days Later a zombie movie or not? I mean, the revening hordes are not technically undead – type zombies, but they do act pretty much like one & spread the infection by biting their victims.

So, what does screenwriter Alex Garland say? But what about director Danny Boyle?  “28 Days Later writer settles long-running debate” at Digital Spy.

…The premise of 28 Days Later follows a pandemic caused by the accidental release of a contagious virus named The Rage, but the infected don’t die and then come back to life like a typical zombie.

However, they do exhibit zombie-like aggressive behaviour and spread the disease by biting victims, though, so that’s where the debate comes in….

(13) HE’S A BLOCKHEAD. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] News has broken that Jason Momoa will be trading in the ripped physiques of Aquaman and Duncan Idaho for the squared off physique of a lead character in a movie based on Minecraft. Or, at least, negotiations to that effect are nearing completion. “Jason Momoa to Star in ‘Minecraft’ Movie for Warner Bros.” says The Hollywood Reporter.

… Gaming movies have been on a hot streak in recent years, with 20th Century launching a hit franchise with Ryan Reynolds’ Free Guy last year, and Paramount finding success with its Sonic sequel earlier this month.

Momoa and Warners have Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom due out in March 2023. The film is the sequel to the $1 billion-grossing 2018 film Aquaman

(14) DROPPING THE HAMMER. Marvel Studios’ Thor: Love and Thunder opens in theaters July 8, 2022.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) on a journey unlike anything he’s ever faced – a quest for inner peace. But his retirement is interrupted by a galactic killer known as Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), who seeks the extinction of the gods. To combat the threat, Thor enlists the help of King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Korg (Taika Waititi) and ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who – to Thor’s surprise – inexplicably wields his magical hammer, Mjolnir, as the Mighty Thor. Together, they embark upon a harrowing cosmic adventure to uncover the mystery of the God Butcher’s vengeance and stop him before it’s too late.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Lindsay Ellis and Princess Weekes discuss “Why Magical Realism is a Global Phenomenon”.

Blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, magical realism in literature and other media combines fantasy elements with concrete realities to make statements about the world we live in. In this episode, we explore its roots, lay out the tenets of the genre, and discuss how it has flourished in Latin American Literature. Hosted by Lindsay Ellis and Princess Weekes, It’s Lit! is a show about our favorite books, genres, and why we love to read.

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

Thor’s Greatest Writers and Artists Return to Asgard for Thor’s 750th Issue

Fans will get to celebrate the long and storied history of the God of Thunder with the writers and artists who helped build his legacy! Coming just in time for Thor’s 60th anniversary, Thor #24 will be a 74-page epic honoring 750 thunderous issues. When the milestone issue arrives April 27, some of Thor’s greatest legends will return to tell thrilling new tales set during their landmark runs.

Thor #24 will take place in the aftermath of “God Of Hammers,” the latest epic in writer Donny Cates and artist Nic Klein’s hit run on the title. After a scorched-earth victory that cost the God of Thunder both his hammer and his father, Thor and all of Asgard mourn Odin, unaware that the former All-Father lives on in Thor’s newly reforged hammer!

In addition to the main story by Cates and Klein, here are the all-new tales readers can look forward to:

  • Writer J. Michael Straczynski and artist Oliver Coipel reunite for a story set during their redefining Thor saga
  • Legendary comics creator Dan Jurgens writes and draws an incredible Thor and Balder teamup
  • Comics icon Walter Simonson makes his grand return to Thor, writing and drawing an all-new adventure that explores the origin of his beloved creation, Beta Ray Bill
  • Al Ewing and Lee Garbett collaborate for the first time since LOKI: AGENT OF ASGARD to bring you an all-new chapter for the god of mischief that leads directly into Ewing’s upcoming DEFENDERS BEYOND series
  • And prepare for a revelatory tale about Odin that only writer Jason Aaron and artist Das Pastoras can deliver!

Following the jump, check out variant cover art and Nic Klein’s design sheet for Mjolnir’s new look.

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