Pixel Scroll 5/12/22 We Will Always Have Pixels

(1) IS IT WASTED ON THE YOUNG? At Young People Read Old SFF James Davis Nicoll unleashes the panel on Joe Haldeman’s “Tricentennial”.

This month’s selection has an unusual history for a Hugo finalist, having been commissioned to accompany an already completed cover….

Generally speaking, this sort of exercise does not result in notable fiction1. Haldeman managed to deliver a story that wasn’t simply a finalist but a Hugo winner. Perhaps it’s not entirely coincidental that even though his career as an SF writer was still in its early days, he had by this point racked up two Hugo nominations2, a Hugo win, a Nebula win, a Ditmar win, and been a finalist for the Locus six times. 

Tricentennial stuck a chord with readers way back in the mid-1970s. Will it be as successful with the youth of today? Let’s find out!…

(2) THAT NEW LAFFERTY STORY. Meanwhile, at Galactic Journey the Traveler is reading the latest Galaxy – back in time, when the stories themselves were young! “[May 12, 1967] There and Back Again (June 1967 Galaxy)”.

Polity and Custom of the Camiroi, by R. A. Lafferty

A three-person anthropological team investigates the highly libertarian planet of Camiroi.  Society there is highly advanced, seemingly utopian, and utterly decentralized.  Sounds like a Heinleinesque paradise.  However, there are indications that the Terrans are being put on, mostly in an attempt to just get them to leave.

The result is something like what might have happened if Cordwainer Smith and Robert Sheckley had a baby.  That’d be one weird tot…but an interesting one.

Four stars.

(3) HE’LL GIVE YOU AN EARFUL. In “An Observation on Audiobooks” John Scalzi discusses his experience with the medium.

…As an author, I was not initially in love with audiobook versions of my books because it was an interpretation, and because the narration was not the way I heard the book in my own head — the narrative beats would sometime be different; a word would be given a different emphasis; a character who I heard one way in my head would sound different (and sometimes would feel like they had a different personality entirely).

Two things got me over this. The first was that audio increased my annual income from writing by about a third, which smoothed over quite a lot. The second thing was that I realized that audiobook narration is a performance and that, like one can appreciate the myriad of ways that actors have approached the “To Be Or Not To Be” soliloquy in Hamlet, one can equally look at the choices the narrator makes in their performance and see how they are in conversation with the text, often in ways that are a surprise to me, the author. So the necessary fact of the interpretation stopped being an annoyance and became a thing of interest….

(4) POINT OF DO RETURN. “Once more with feeling: why time loop stories keep coming back”, according to the Guardian’s Gillian McAllister.

If you die, what’s the plan for the next life?” This is the question posed in the opening scene of the recent BBC adaptation of Kate Atkinson’s 2013 novel Life After Life, in which the protagonist, Ursula, repeatedly dies and starts over from birth. It’s a fascinating idea: what would you do differently, and what would remain the same? It is one explored in another hit TV show that has just returned for a second season, Russian Doll, the first season of which saw the main character, Nadia, return endlessly to the night of her 36th birthday party, suffering a different death each time.

Mainstream film and television have a long history of playing with time loops. But while Groundhog Day was a huge success in the early 1990s, narratives about ordinary people caught in this speculative twist have been harder to pull off in literature. Perhaps this is because there tends to be an earnestness to such stories that doesn’t translate into fiction, and a tendency towards repetition that readers may not tolerate as well as viewers. It is trickier to create a montage in fiction: part of what makes Groundhog Day so compelling is the ability to only show the differences in Bill Murray’s repeating days….

(5) ORVILLE THIRD SEASON. “Our return is imminent.” The Orville: New Horizons arrives June 2 on Hulu.

(6) THE MOON THAT SOLD ITSELF. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] “A Twenty-First Century Moon Race Is Kicking Off A New Era of Lunar Exploration” reports Nature. These six countries are about to go to the Moon — here’s why.

Japan, South Korea, Russia, India, the United Arab Emirates and the United States aim to send missions to the Moon in the next year. But will they all make it?

NASA’s US$93-billion Artemis programme might be stealing most of the limelight with its maiden launch this year because it’s the first step towards sending astronauts to the Moon. But the United States is just one of many nations and private companies that soon plan to launch missions, heralding what scientists say could be a new golden age of lunar exploration.

Science isn’t the only driving force. The flurry of missions also signals the growing ambition of several nations and commercial players to show off their technological prowess and make their mark, particularly now that getting to the Moon is easier and cheaper than ever before….

(7) MUSK CONTRADICTED. Shannon Stirone says let the record reflect that “Mars Is a Hellhole” in The Atlantic.

There’s no place like home—unless you’re Elon Musk. A prototype of SpaceX’s Starship, which may someday send humans to Mars, is, according to Musk, likely to launch soon, possibly within the coming days. But what motivates Musk? Why bother with Mars? A video clip from an interview Musk gave in 2019 seems to sum up Musk’s vision—and everything that’s wrong with it.

In the video, Musk is seen reading a passage from Carl Sagan’s book Pale Blue Dot

…Musk reads from Sagan’s book: “Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate.”

But there Musk cuts himself off and begins to laugh. He says with incredulity, “This is not true. This is false––Mars.”

He couldn’t be more wrong. Mars? Mars is a hellhole. The central thing about Mars is that it is not Earth, not even close. In fact, the only things our planet and Mars really have in common is that both are rocky planets with some water ice and both have robots (and Mars doesn’t even have that many)…

(8) CURIOSITY SNAPS A PHOTO. Mars may be a hellhole, but it’s a hellhole with a door. “’Secret doorway built by aliens’ spotted in picture taken by rover on Mars”. Picture at the link.

Recent pictures from Nasa’s Curiosity Mars rover show an intriguing feature which looks like a doorway nestled in the rocks on the Martian landscape.

It looks so convincing that it can almost tempt you to believe that it leads to a Martian hideaway – or a gateway to another Universe entirely.

While the internet seems to be having a field day with conspiracy theories about the mysterious doorway, some Reddit users aren’t buying it.

Many party poopers have pointed out the door is likely just a shear fracture — the result of some kind of strain on the rock, breaking part of it off….

(9) PIECES OF EIGHT. Octothorpe 57 is out now! Listen here! “Back Bacon is Best”.

John is a muppet bilby, Alison is actively drinking, and Liz MURDERS OWLS. We discuss Reclamation 2022 and the COVID that ensued, before talking about Horizon Forbidden West a whole bunch. Also other things.

Below, the Octothorpe cast are depicted as Australian mammals in muppet form. John is a bilby, Alison is a quokka, and Liz is an echidna. John has a glitter octothorpe on his forehead.

(10) MALTIN ON MOVIES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I heard this podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Gustav Hoegen.  Hoegen is Dutch, and when he was 6 he went with his father to the Tuchinski Theatre (an old-school picture palace) in Amsterdam to see Return of the Jedi, and he decided he wanted a career in the movies.  He worked his way up through British special effects shops in 2013 and now runs his own company, Biomimc Studio.  His creatures have appeared in four recent Star Wars movies, one of the Jurassic World pictures, and Ridley Scott’s Prometheus.  He says that Ridley Scott, J.J. Abrams and Tim Burton were the best directors to work with, and he gets work because directors realize that actors do a better job reacting with an actual object on screen rather than doing the entire film via green screen. “Maltin on Movies: Gustav Hoegen”.

(11) SOMETHING FISHY. Radio Times spoke with the showrunner: “Russell T Davies confirms he planted Doctor Who red herrings”. But he won’t tell which ones.

…”There’s been a few false stories and false tales and we placed a few posts ourselves, a couple of misleading things, and we’re very pleased that that kind of worked.”

However, Davies clarified that the rumour James Corden might be taking on the role wasn’t one of his red herrings, adding: “We didn’t plant that one, so that caught me frankly.”

While Davies did not expand on which names he’d planted in the press, a number of actors associated with the award-winning screenwriter were rumoured to be Jodie Whittaker’s replacement

(12) ANN DAVIS (1934-2022). The Guardian paid tribute to the late Ann Davies as an “actor admired for her many roles in TV drama series including Z Cars, EastEnders and in 1964 an appearance in Doctor Who.” She died April 26 at the age of 87.

…Television immortality came early on when when she joined forces with the first Doctor Who, William Hartnell, in 1964 in The Dalek Invasion of Earth. As Jenny, a determined and capable freedom fighter, Davies was a cold and efficient co-combatant with the series regular Barbara (Jacqueline Hill, in real life Davies’s friend and neighbour).

The action required them to encounter the Daleks in arresting scenes filmed at London landmarks. At one point they smashed through a patrol with a van, which required early morning shooting in the capital to avoid the crowds. Although it was just one guest role in her long career, Davies remained in demand for Doctor Who interviews and signings.

(13) MEMORY LANE.

1969 [By Cat Eldridge.] Samuel Delany’s Nova was nominated for a Best Novel Hugo at St. Louiscon fifty three years ago, the year that Stand on Zanzibar won. Two amazing novels; in this Scroll I’m here just to talk about Nova though I won’t deny that Stand on Zanzibar is an amazing novel as well. 

Nova came at a point in Delany’s career after he had just won three Nebulas, two for novels, Babel-17 and The Einstein Intersection, plus one for his short story, “Aye, and Gomorrah..” The first novel was nominated for a Hugo at NYCon 3, the short story and the latter novel at BayCon. BayCon would see him get also nominated for “The Star Pit” novella, and St. Louiscon the next year would see his “Lines of Power” novella get nominated. It was a very fecund time for him. 

And then there was Nova, a fantastic novel that was first published by Doubleday in August 1968. Is it space opera? Is it really early cyberpunk? Of course it also had strong mythological underpinning and the tarot figured prominently into the story as well, so it couldn’t be nearly put into any categories, could it? All I know is that I really liked reading it. 

Reviewer Algis Budrys said in the January 1969 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction that it was “highly entertaining to read” and a later review on the Concatenation site said, “Though a novel, this runs like a string of tangled short stories fused and melted through one another, with fantastic concepts, but making its preposterous mission sound utterly credible for its extraordinary characters.” 

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 12, 1937 George Carlin. Rufus in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. He also showed up in Scary Movie 3 and Tarzan II. I once met him many decades ago at a Maine summer resort. He was really personable and nice. (Died 2008.)
  • Born May 12, 1942 Barry Longyear, 80. Best-known for the Hugo- and Nebula-winning novella Enemy Mine, which became a film by that name as well (novelized by Longyear in collaboration with David Gerrold.) An expanded version of the original novella, plus two novels completing the trilogy, The Tomorrow Testament and The Last Enemy, make up The Enemy Papers. I’m very fond of his Circus World series, less so of his Infinity Hold series. 
  • Born May 12, 1973 Mackenzie Astin, 49. His major genre role was in The Magicians as Richard/Reynard but he’s also appeared in I Dream in Jeannie… Fifteen Years Later (who knew?), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.The Outer LimitsLost and The Orville.
  • Born May 12, 1950 Bruce Boxleitner, 72. His greatest genre role was obviously Captain John Sheridan on Babylon 5. (Yes, I loved the show.) Other genre appearances being Alan T. Bradley in Tron and Tron: Legacy, and voicing that character in the Tron: Uprising series. He has a recurring role on Supergirl as President Baker.
  • Born May 12, 1953 Carolyn Haines, 69. Though best known for her Sarah Booth Delaney mystery series at twenty books and counting, she has definite genre credits having two orbs in her Pluto’s Snitch series, The Book of Beloved and The House of Memory, plus the rather excellent The Darkling and The Seeker though you might not recognize them as being hers as she wrote them as R.B. Chesterton. Her genre books are on Kindle. 
  • Born May 12, 1958 Heather Rose Jones, 64. Member of our File 770 community.  She received the Gaylactic Spectrum Award for the Mother of Souls, the third novel in her Alpennia series which has now seen four novels published, quite an accomplishment. For six years now, she has presented the Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast subseries of the Lesbian Talk Show.

(15) COMICS SECTION.

(16) WALK THIS WAY. “How far did Sam and Frodo walk in Lord Of The Rings?” Yahoo! Movies found someone who thinks they know the answer.

They might have big feet, but with those little legs Hobbits Samwise Gamgee and Frodo Baggins had their work cut out trekking from Bag End to Mount Doom in JRR Tolkien’s seminal The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

One thing that has always enthralled fans when picking up Tolkien’s books is the attention to geography and the maps of Middle Earth.

Well now, thanks to one brilliantly thorough Imgur user called Mattsawizard, we can see how far those little legs had to go.

Better still he’s contextualised them with the UK….

(17) QUITE A HANDFUL. James Davis Nicoll directs us to “Five SFF Stories That Are Much Funnier Than They Sound”. First on the list:

The Night Life of the Gods by Thorne Smith (1931)

At first glance, Hunter Hawk seems to have been served the same dismal gruel as any other Thorne Smith protagonist. His home is inhabited by a swarm of grasping relatives, each one more feckless than the last. Other Smith protagonists require some external impetus to jar them out their conventional rut. Not Hunter Hawk, for long before the reader meets him, Hawk has energetically embraced mad science.

Having invented a petrification ray, Hawk’s immediate impulse is to turn it on his disappointing relatives. This leaves the inventor free for a meet-cute with Megaera, a 900-year-old fairy. It happens that Megaera has a trick that mirrors Hawk’s: she knows how to turn stone to living flesh. The couple could use this to de-petrify his relations. Instead, they transform statues of Roman gods into living deities.

The gods demand entertainment. Fortuitously, Jazz Age America is more than able to provide it.

(18) CONTAGIOUS ENTHUSIASM. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Chris Holm, author of a near-future sf novel where antibiotics have failed, offers eight recommendations for movies where disease is amok and creatures are covered with goo. “Eight Biological Horror Movies Guaranteed to Make Your Skin Crawl” at CrimeReads.

…Since [my novel] Child Zero seems to be scaring the bejesus out of everybody, I thought a fun way to celebrate its release would be an alphabetical roundup of my eight favorite biological horror movies.

Why biological horror rather than, say, body horror? Because even though the latter is an accepted horror subgenre, I’m not convinced everything on my list qualifies. Besides, I’m here to hype a biological thriller, not a body horror novel—so, y’know, synergy!…

(19) SAY CHEESE. What else do you say when you photograph something with a big hole in it? From the New York Times: “The Milky Way’s Black Hole Comes to Light”. (Photo at the link.)

Astronomers announced on Thursday that they had pierced the veil of darkness and dust at the center of our Milky Way galaxy to capture the first picture of “the gentle giant” dwelling there: a supermassive black hole, a trapdoor in space-time through which the equivalent of four million suns have been dispatched to eternity, leaving behind only their gravity and violently bent space-time.

The image, released in six simultaneous news conferences in Washington, and around the globe, showed a lumpy doughnut of radio emission framing empty space. Oohs and aahs broke out at the National Press Club in Washington when Feryal Ozel of the University of Arizona displayed what she called “the first direct image of the gentle giant in the center of our galaxy.” She added: “It seems that black holes like doughnuts.”…

 … Black holes were an unwelcome consequence of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which attributed gravity to the warping of space and time by matter and energy, much as how a mattress sags under a sleeper.

Einstein’s insight led to a new conception of the cosmos, in which space-time could quiver, bend, rip, expand, swirl and even disappear forever into the maw of a black hole, an entity with gravity so strong that not even light could escape it.

Einstein disapproved of this idea, but the universe is now known to be speckled with black holes. Many are the remains of dead stars that collapsed inward on themselves and just kept going.,,,

(20) NOVA FIREBALL. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The cover of the latest Nature is inspired by the article, “Chance discovery sheds light on exploding stars” (which is behind a paywall.) Here’s the introduction:

Nova explosions occur when a runaway thermonuclear reaction is triggered in a white dwarf that is accreting hydrogen from a companion star. The massive amount of energy released ultimately creates the bright light source that can be seen with a naked eye as a nova. But some of the energy has been predicted to be lost during the initial stages of the reaction as a flash of intense luminosity — a fireball phase — detectable as low-energy X-rays. In this week’s issue of NatureOle König and his colleagues present observations that corroborate this prediction. Using scans taken by the instrument eROSITA, the researchers identified a short, bright X-ray flash from the nova YZ Reticuli a few hours before it became visible in the optical spectrum. The cover shows an artist’s impression of the nova in the fireball phase.

(21) DEEP SUBJECT. Terry Pratchett talks to Leigh Sales of Australian Broadcasting about his Alzheimer’s and his support for right-to-die legislation in this 2011 clip: “Sir Terry Pratchett on life and death”.

(22) LEGO MUPPETS. IGN invites everyone to “Meet the LEGO Muppets Minifigures”.

On May 1, LEGO will release a series of Muppet Minifigures depicting Jim Henson’s most iconic creations: Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Rowlf the Dog, Gonzo the Great, Animal, Janice, Swedish Chef, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Beaker, Statler, and Waldorf. LEGO sent IGN a preview set of all 12 minifigures, and we took a few photos (see below) to show off their details….

Part of what makes the Muppets lovable is their scruffiness; they’re cute, but not cloying in appearance or mannerism. And LEGO captures this quality by customizing each head distinctively–to be rounded, or conical, or exaggerated as need be.

Gonzo’s nose is huge. Beaker’s head is narrow. Honeydew’s eyes are non-existent. The Muppets are not subsumed by the LEGO aesthetic; if anything, LEGO compromised its design boundaries to ensure these figures retained that intangible ‘Muppet-ness’ they all possess….

(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Another conversation between Lewis and Tolkien (from Eleanor Morton): “JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis realise something about dwarves”.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Andrew (Not Werdna), 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 Tom Becker.]

It’s About Time

By Rich Lynch: It was back in 2014 that a student filmmaker at Stephen F. Austin State University, Ricky Kennedy, created an extraordinary short movie titled The History of Time Travel.  Exploration of “what ifs” is central to good storytelling in the science fiction genre and this little production is one of the better examples of how to do it the right way.

Back in 1939, at the urging of fellow scientists, preeminent physicists Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard sent a letter to the President of the United States. Franklin D. Roosevelt, warning that Nazi Germany could be planning to develop an atomic bomb.  This, as we know, led to the super-secret Manhattan Project which beat the Nazis to it.  But what if there had also been a second letter from Einstein and Szilard to Roosevelt that warned of the Nazis’ interest in time travel?  And what if that resulted in a second super-secret Government activity, the Indiana Project, which eventually resulted in the creation of a working time machine during the post‑WWII Cold War era?

IMDB describes The History of Time Travel as: “A fictional documentary about the creation of the world’s first time machine, the men who created it, and the unintended ramifications it has on world events.”  And there are no lack of those.  What if, instead of turning the completed device over to the U.S. military, the scientist inventor instead used it to go back in time to save a family member from a deadly disease?  What if the Soviets took notice and stole the machine and its plans for their own uses?  What if persistent meddling in the time stream ended up drastically changing historical events?  And what if it was continuing to happen as the documentary was being filmed?

This is a pretty slick production, especially considering it was made with what must have been a microscopic budget relative to Hollywood norms.  It was structured as a series of short straight-up interview snippets – the Astrophysicist, the Philosopher, the SciFi Writer, the retired Army General, the Time Historian, the family friend – which tell the story in what starts as a straightforward manner.  But then, stuff starts to happen.  Little stuff at first – a coffee cup is a different color, a globe in the background shows a different hemisphere.  And then, not-so-little stuff – a change in an object on one of the interviewee’s desk indicates that the entire history of the world since WWII has been tossed into the blender.  This includes the personal history of the inventor and his family, which becomes wildly recursive until it reaches what seemed to me an inevitable conclusion.

 All this is succinctly and ironically summed up in what one of the interviewees states near the end of the film: “We experience time as we perceive it, but if time could be altered and was being altered would we perceive that?  Would we even notice?”

It’s the ‘noticing’ of all those subtle and not-so-subtle alterations to the timeline that, in part, makes this such an interesting production.  When I watched it at the 2015 Orlando Worldcon, I found it so entertaining that it was a pleasant surprise when I discovered it had finally made its way to Orinoco Prime.  And I hear it’s also going to be part of a film festival down in Douglas Commonwealth next year if the COVID-16 pandemic is finally over by then.  Rumor is that President Harris is even going to see it.  You should too.

Pixel Scroll 2/23/22 You Encounter A File Of Pixels. Scroll For Initiative

(1) NOVELETTES ARE ADDED. David Steffan announced that the Indiegogo appeal to fund The Long List Anthology Volume 7 has achieved its final stretch goal —

Today, with 5 days to go in the campaign, we passed the Novelettes stretch goal which adds 10 novelettes to the anthology.  Since novelettes have a longer word count, this more than doubles the word count of the book.  Thank you to everyone who has backed to make this happen!

Steffan unveiled the complete cover when 75% of the novelette goal was reached earlier this month. Artwork by Elaine Ho.

(2) SUPER BLOOPERS. SYFY Wire alerted readers to these gems of unintentional comedy: “Peacemaker: James Gunn shares Season 1 gag reel”.

The Suicide Squad’s most muscled-up anti-hero put on a rambling, raunchy good show in the just-concluded debut outing of Peacemaker at HBO Max. Now that Season 1 is done (and with orders already placed for more new episodes), creator James Gunn has a parting gift for viewers: a huge 9-minute gag reel that’s every bit as funny as the main event itself….

(3) FAUX POE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Baltimore Sun, Mary Carole McCauley says researchers at Johns Hopkins have unearthed a manuscript for an 1827 song called “Mr. Po” which allegedly has an inscription from Edgar Allan Poe to 13-year-old bride, Virginia Clemm.  The researchers think the inscription is probably forged but have no idea why a Poe forger would want to fake sheet music. “Johns Hopkins curators examine musical mystery linked to Edgar Allan Poe”.

… “It’s very confusing,” said Sam Bessen, who discovered the sheet music buried in a box at Johns Hopkins University’s Sheridan Libraries. “If it’s a forgery, it’s a pretty bold one. Why would someone go to all this trouble?

“If you’re going to try to forge a document by Poe, why would you forge something in musical notation instead of trying to pass off a ‘lost poem’? If this were legitimate, it would be the only known example of musical notation in Poe’s hand that I’m aware of.”

The investigation into the document’s origins and history is continuing; there’s always a chance, experts say, that an as-yet undiscovered clue will resolve the question of authenticity beyond any doubt.

Meanwhile, Johns Hopkins curators are encouraging amateur sleuths to examine the sheet music for themselves when it goes on view next month at the George Peabody Library, in the exhibit “Grace Notes in American History: 200 Years of Songs From the Lester Levy Sheet Music Collection.”

Reasons for suspecting forgery are given later in the article.

(4) FURY ROAD FUELLED BY … FURY? [Item by Olav Rokne.] Vanity Fair has an excerpt from a book on the making of Mad Max: Fury Road, which I still think is one of the best movies of the past two decades. But I gotta say, Tom Hardy does not come across very well in the behind-the-scenes discussions. “’It Was Horrible’: Inside Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy’s ‘Mad Max’ War”. From the article: 

He was quite aggressive. She really felt threatened, and that was the turning point, because then she said, “I want someone as protection.” 

(5) YOU CAN CHECK OUT ANY TIME YOU LIKE. The author of a “time travel hotel detective novel” chats with CrimeReads.“Why Rob Hart Needed to Write a Time Travel Hotel Detective Novel”.

DS: Was there an original inspiration for Paradox Hotel?

RH: I had gone to this interactive theater experience in New York called Sleep No More which I’m a huge fan of. It’s structured as a play that you explore, following different actors and different scenes. It starts in a hotel and expands out: all of sudden you’re in a graveyard or a psych ward or a forest. And I thought, “Man! Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a hotel where you could go into a room and it was five minutes later or ten minutes ago?” I went home and opened a Google doc and wrote “time-travel hotel,” and then closed it. I do that whenever I have an idea – I’ll start a Google doc and rough something out: sometimes I come back to it, sometimes I don’t. This one kept sticking with me especially because I love time-travel stories.

(6) ROBOTIC DRAMA. CNET’s Jennifer Bisset admonishes readers, “Don’t Skip This Impressive Sci-Fi Mystery in Prime Video’s Back Catalog”.

… Aside from cute robots, Archive explores a familiar story already covered by the likes of Black Mirror. But it’s the delivery that makes Archive impressive. It’s a story about artificial intelligence, grief and loss that moves at a steady pace but always keeps enough gears humming to hold your focus on the screen. Surprisingly, much of the tension simmers between the robots themselves.

The two big story strands come together for the final third, almost in perfect unison. You’re set up to anticipate the mystery of George’s past unfurling into the light, while the consequences of tinkering with sentient robots arrive right on cue. (And then that aforementioned final twist bonks us on the head.)…

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1954 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Sixty-eight years ago, Rocky Jones, Space Ranger premiered in syndicationThis was the first SF show to be entirely pre-filmed instead of being televised live as was the case with the Captain Video,  Buck Rogers and Tom Corbett series 

It was also the first to use sets of unusual good quality, live location shoots, and quite decent special effects. Rocky Jones was played by Richard Crane. Sally Mansfield played Vena Ray, his navigator and translator. She had an unusually strong female role for the time. 

It was created by Roland D. Reed and written by Warren Wilson, Arthur Hoerl and Marianne Mosner, with Hollingsworth Morse being the director. None of them had a background in SF.

It lasted but two seasons as it never really caught on with the public. Story wise, it actually had a great deal of continuity built into it unlike almost all of the other series at the time. Its thirty-nine episodes in length, each twenty-five minutes in length, aired originally between February 23rd and November 16th, 1954. 

A pilot had been filmed two years earlier but much of the cast was recast for the series. And a publicity push was done leading up to the actual broadcast with lots of goodies including badges, buttons, clothing, records, comics books and space dollars produced to promote the show. Even model rocket ship kits were sold which you can find on eBay though they’re not cheap these days. 

You can see the first episode here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 23, 1930 Gerry Davis. Mid-Sixties Story Editor on Doctor Who where he created companion Jamie McCrimmon and co-created the Cybermen along with unofficial scientific adviser Dr. Kit Pedler. They would create the Doomwatch series that ran in the Sixties on BBC. Davis briefly returned to writing for the series, penning the first script for Revenge of the Cybermen, though his script was largely abandoned by editor Robert Holmes. In 1989 he and Terry Nation, who created the Daleks, made a failed bid to take over production of the series and reformat it for the American market. (Died 1991.)
  • Born February 23, 1932 Majel Barrett. No doubt best remembered for being Star Trek’s  Nurse Christine Chapel and Lwaxana Troi, as well as for being the voice of most of the ship computer interfaces throughout the series. I’ll note that she was originally cast as Number One in the unused Pilot but the male studio heads hated the idea of a female in that role. Early Puppies obviously. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 23, 1965 Jacob Weisman, 57. Founder, Tachyon Publications, which you really should go look at as they’ve published every great author I’d care to read. Seriously Tidhar, Beagle and Yolen are among their newest releases! He also edited (with Beagle) The New Voices of Fantasy which I highly recommend as most excellent reading. He also wrote some early genre fiction but I’ve not read it. 
  • Born February 23, 1970 Marie-Josée Croze, 52. Champagne in Maelström which is genre if only because it’s narrated by a talking fish. In Canada movie theatres, she was in Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000 as Mara. Yeah that film with a long title. Doubt it improved it. It looks like her first genre acting was on The Hunger in two episodes, “A Matter of Style” as Dominique, and “I’m Dangerous Tonight” as Mimi. Oh, and she had the lead as Pregnant Woman in Ascension which just reads weird. 
  • Born February 23, 1983 Emily Blunt, 39. Her most direct connection to the genre is as Elise Sellas in the Adjustment Bureau film based off Dick’s “Adjustment Team” story.  Mind she’s been in quite a number of other genre films including The Wolfman, Gulliver’s TravelsGnomeo & JulietThe Muppets, LooperEdge of TomorrowInto the WoodsThe Huntsman: Winter’s War, The Strange Case of Sherlock Holmes & Arthur Conan Doyle, and Mary Poppins Returns.
  • Born February 23, 2002 Emilia Jones, 20. I’m reasonably sure this is one of the youngest Birthday individuals that I’ve done.  She shows up on Doctor Who as Merry Gejelh, The Queen of Years, in the “The Rings of Akhaten”, an Eleventh Doctor story. At nine years of age, she made her acting debut in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides as an unnamed English Girl. She’s Young Beth in the horror film Ghostland. She’s currently in Residue, an SF horror series you can find on Netflix. 

(9) IMPENITENT. New York Times reviewer Dwight Garner is not a fan of a new nonfiction collection: “In Margaret Atwood’s Essays and Speeches, Some Hazards of the Trade”.

…In Atwood’s new book, “Burning Questions: Essays and Occasional Pieces, 2004-2021,” there are so many such speeches, including a PEN talk, that they quickly capsize the boat, threatening to drown even the good material.

The heart-sinking opening sentences start early, and they never entirely stop….

(10) HOW BAD ARE THEY? Dreamworks dropped another trailer for The Bad Guys today. Comes to theaters on April 22.

Nobody has ever failed so hard at trying to be good as The Bad Guys. In the new action comedy from DreamWorks Animation, based on the New York Times best-selling book series, a crackerjack criminal crew of animal outlaws are about to attempt their most challenging con yet—becoming model citizens.

Never have there been five friends as infamous as The Bad Guys—dashing pickpocket Mr. Wolf (Academy Award® winner Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), seen-it-all safecracker Mr. Snake (Marc Maron, GLOW), chill master-of-disguise Mr. Shark (Craig Robinson, Hot Tub Time Machine franchise), short-fused “muscle” Mr. Piranha (Anthony Ramos, In the Heights) and sharp-tongued expert hacker Ms. Tarantula (Awkwafina, Crazy Rich Asians), aka “Webs.” But when, after years of countless heists and being the world’s most-wanted villains, the gang is finally caught, Mr. Wolf brokers a deal (that he has no intention of keeping) to save them all from prison: The Bad Guys will go good.

Under the tutelage of their mentor Professor Marmalade (Richard Ayoade, Paddington 2), an arrogant (but adorable!) guinea pig, The Bad Guys set out to fool the world that they’ve been transformed. Along the way, though, Mr. Wolf begins to suspect that doing good for real may give him what he’s always secretly longed for: acceptance.

So when a new villain threatens the city, can Mr. Wolf persuade the rest of the gang to become … The Good Guys?

(11) I’LL SEA YOU, AND RAISE YOU. “Monstrous ‘rogue wave’ likely most extreme ever recorded, scientists say”AccuWeather has details.

Oceanographers have confirmed an enormous wave off the coast of Canada in 2020 was the most extreme “rogue” wave to ever be recorded. In November 2020, a 58-foot-tall rogue wave crashed in the waters off British Columbia, Canada.

A “rogue wave” occurs when a wave is proportionally larger than those around it in a given area of the ocean. These waves happen in open water and grow more than double the height of neighboring waves.

The recent rogue wave was detailed in a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, which is a part of the Nature Publishing Group. The buoy that recorded the event was deployed at Amphitrite Bank, about 4 miles offshore of Ucluelet, British Columbia, in August 2020. This was one of many buoys to be part of a network of marine sensors that comprise MarineLabs’ CoastAware™ platform. The buoy is able to record data in 20-minute bursts every 30 minutes.

When the rogue wave hit the buoy in November 2020, it was so large that it raised the buoy about 58 feet. The wave was more than three times as large as the waves that had come before and after it.

…Rogue waves were originally thought to be a myth and often were dismissed as exaggerated accounts. Scientists have since been able to confirm the existence of rogue waves in recent decades.

The first rogue wave to be recorded was off the coast of Norway in 1995. This wave reached a height of nearly 84 feet and was known as the “Draupner wave,” according to NBC News. The Draupner wave was double the size of waves around it.

Even though the 1995 wave was taller than the recent record-breaking wave, the 2020 rogue wave became record-breaking because it was nearly three times as large as other waves around it.

Rogue waves generally occur near the center of a group of waves and are unexpected. There is no gradual build-up of wave height leading up to a rogue wave, according to the study.

(12) A PLANET FOR HAL CLEMENT. “WASP-121b Has Metal Clouds, Astronomers Say”Gizmodo has the story.

New observations of the football-shaped exoplanet known as WASP-121b have revealed clues to its atmosphere and weather. Astronomers say it may have metal clouds made up of iron, corundum, and titanium.

WASP-121b orbits a star 850 light-years from Earth and is twice as large as our Jupiter. (It’s classified as a hot Jupiter, meaning its a gas giant that orbits relatively close to its star.) WASP-121b completes a revolution in just 30 hours—only slightly longer than an Earth day. It also has a bizarrely oblong shape, which is due to the intense gravitational forces the planet is subject to.

But the really surprising element of the latest findings are the details of the planet’s climate; how its temperatures plummet at night and change throughout the atmosphere. The team observed the hot Jupiter using the Hubble Space Telescope, and their study is published this week in Nature Astronomy….

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Pokemon Legends:  Arceus,” Fandom Games says the Pokemon franchise has been stagnant for decades, and “the most interesting thing about the game is watching adults arguing about a game meant for toddlers.”  But while Arecus is the most imaginative Pokemon game in decades, you can’t fight other players, “and how can you call yourself a Pokemon master if you can’t get a 30-year-old to rage quit?”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Chris Barkley, Olav Rokne, Daniel Dern, 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 Christian Brunschen.]

Pixel Scroll 8/25/21 Helen O’Loy And The Scrollcrank Redemption

(1) BLACK STARS. SYFY.com offers a preview of a Black Stars story plus comments by series editor Nisi Shawl: “Amazon Original Stories Black Stars: Read an excerpt by Chimamanda Ngzoi Adichie”.

…Titled Black Stars, the collection showcases some of the biggest names writing science fiction today, highlighting their visions of what the future might look like for the human race and the issues we might have to tackle. The six authors forming this all-star lineup include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (We Should All Be Feminists), C. T. Rwizi (Requiem Moon), Victor LaValle (The Changeling), Nnedi Okorafor (Binti), Nalo Hopkinson (The House of Whispers), and Nisi Shawl (Everfair), who also edited the entire collection, along with co-editor Latoya Peterson. 

“Freedom is the overarching theme among the stories,” Shawl tells SYFY WIRE, while discussing the throughline that connects all six stories. “Freedom to explore new star systems, to develop new economies, to break away from stale stereotypes.” 

Part of what makes Black Stars so special is the fact that it is showcasing speculative science fiction from Black authors from around the world.

“I want readers to take away the dazzling diversity that is the Black experience,” Shawl says. “I want us all to realize how our dreams and fantasies, our supposings and nightmares and aspirations are so very varied. Blackness is not a monolith! I’ve learned this, and I want to share with our readers the enormous wealth that is Black heritage and the many possible Black futures.” …

(2) YORK SOLAR SYSTEM. NickPheas, inspired by Ingvar’s photos of Sweden’s epic model, shot photos of the solar system model running for ten miles south of York, UK. Twitter thread starts here.

(3) STAR TREK EXPLORER. If you aren’t getting enough Star Trek news, Titan Comics promises to fix that for you when Star Trek Explorer – The Official Magazine Issue #1 hits stores on November 2.

EXPLORER is the no. #1 destination for everything Star Trek – filled with in-depth interviews and features taking you behind-the-scenes of all your favorite shows and movies.

The new-look EXPLORER magazine also includes two brand-new exclusive Star Trek short stories, and a bonus 16-page themed supplement bound inside each issue.  The hotly anticipated premier issue features a definitive guide to Captain Kirk!

Subscribers of STAR TREK EXPLORER – THE OFFICIAL MAGAZINE will also receive an exclusive digital magazine, direct to their inbox with every quarterly issue. Each digital magazine will feature bonus short stories, printables, activities and much more!

(4) SLF NEEDS GRANT JURORS. The Speculative Literature Foundation is looking for grant application readers.

The Speculative Literature Foundation needs jurors to help read applications for the Working Class Writers’ Grant Ideally, we’re looking for people who are well read in speculative fiction, but we’d also like a mix of readers, writers, librarians, teachers, editors, etc. who are capable of judging literary quality in a work.

If interested, please send a brief note to Catherine Lin (catherine@speculativeliterature.org) with the subject line: JUROR.

Please include the grant you wish to be a juror for and a paragraph about what your qualifying background is to serve as a juror: for example, your interest in / connection to the field. (i.e., “I’m an ardent reader!” or “I’ve been writing SF/F for seven years…”). Please feel free to ask any questions you may have as well.

(5) AMAZING STORIES RETRENCHES. Following the announcement “Amazing Stories Special All Canadian Issue Now Available” comes a statement that “Amazing Stories has had a rough past year, mostly owing to the fact that our former Licensee – NBC/Universal Television – has failed to meet their contractual obligations” and how their publishing program is changing in response:

…Beyond denying you a regular issue of the magazine up till now, in order to continue publishing the magazine we have had to take the following steps as well:

Owing to the previously stated, Amazing Stories must change the way it produces issues, while at the same time attempting to do what is right by our subscribers. These are necessary, budget-related changes that represent our only option for keeping the magazine in publication. Those changes are as follows:

First, Amazing Stories will be changing to an annual format, producing one (over-sized) issue per year rather than quarterly (four) issues per year.

Second, we are eliminating the print edition as a regularly available option. Print copies of each issue will remain available as a separately purchased Print On Demand (POD) product.
All current print subscriptions will be converted to Electronic Editions moving forward. In addition, former print subscribers may select one of the Amazing Select titles, electronic edition, for each year of subscription that is being converted.

Please know that we are not happy with having to make these changes, but following long discussion, we believe that these changes offer us our best chance of moving forward. Those with questions, please feel free to get in touch with the publisher, Steve Davidson, via Steve (at) amazingstories (dot) com.

(6) RATIONALIZATIONS. James Davis Nicoll was able to think of “Five Ludicrous Reasons for Not Reading a Perfectly Good Book”. How about you?

There are perfectly legitimate reasons not to have read works widely regarded as science fiction and fantasy classics. Perhaps the most compelling is that the field is far too large for any one person to have read all of it, even if they were to limit themselves to works other readers enthusiastically recommend. However, there are other reasons, some quite silly, to have left promising books unread. Here are five of my stupidest reasons for not having read a widely-praised book cover to cover….

(7) STORIES THAT ARE THE FOUNDATIONS FOR RPG. Goodman Games, an RPG publisher, occasionally features interesting articles on their site. Here are two:

 Ngo Vinh-Hoi, co-host of the Appendix N Book Club podcast, profiles Andrew J. Offutt: A “Adventures in Fiction: Andrew Offutt”.

Appendix N of the original Dungeon Masters Guide has become a Rosetta Stone for the study of the literary roots of D&D. One figure carved on that stone is Andrew J. Offutt, who is cited not for his own writing, but for editing the Swords Against Darkness heroic fantasy anthology series. Oddly, only the third volume of the five-book series is singled out and none of the other four books are even mentioned. Who then is Andrew Offutt, and why is he enshrined with the other Appendix N luminaries? …

Pulp scholar Jason Ray Carney talks about dehumanising violence and compassion in “Red Nails”, Robert E. Howard’s final Conan story: “Dehumanizing Violence and Compassion in Robert E. Howard’s ‘Red Nails’”.

Robert E. Howard’s sword and sorcery tale “Red Nails,” published as a three-part serial in Weird Tales in 1936, tells the story of the city of Xuchotl, the enduring, blood-soaked war between the Tecuhltli and the Xotalanc, and the dehumanizing effect of sustained hatred and violence. “Red Nails” engages with several ancient literary tropes, but the one that centers “Red Nails” is what I term “the stalemate war.” By focusing on the stalemate war between the murderous Tecuhltli and insane Xotalanc, I hope to bring into focus a surprising facet of Robert E. Howard’s most famous sword and sorcery character, Conan of Cimmeria: the way the barbarian maintains his humanity through compassion….

(8) A KEY INVENTION. The Typewriter Revolution exhibit can be seen at the National Museum of Scotland through April 17, 2022. Or you can view photos of over 100 typewriters in their connection at the website.

The impact of the typewriter has been much wider than simply speeding up the way we write. It helped revolutionise the world of work and change the lives of working women in particular. Typewriters helped them launch their own businesses at a time when female employers were rare and became a vital weapon in the fight for the vote. 

The typewriter’s social and technological influence is revealed in this new exhibition and looks at its role in society, arts and popular culture. It traces the effect and evolution of typewriters across more than 100 years, from weighty early machines to modern style icons. And despite being erased from many offices by the rise of computers, the typewriter has remained a beloved design icon that is still in use today.

Drawing on our outstanding typewriter collection, the exhibition features a range of machines, including an 1876 Sholes and Glidden typewriter which was the first to have a QWERTY keyboard; a 1950s electric machine used by Whisky Galore author Sir Compton Mackenzie; and the 1970s design icon, the Olivetti Valentine.

(9) ON THE RADIO, Listen to “Black Sci-Fi: Stories from the End of the World” at BBC Radio 4.

Writer, activist and broadcaster Walidah Imarisha presents the untold story of black sci-fi and its vital role in redefining the present and imagining the future.

This documentary explores the power – and the rich history – of speculative, visionary fiction by black authors in the UK, USA and Africa, and how activists around the world have been inspired by science fiction as they strive to build new worlds. Walidah Imarisha unravels the idea that all organisation and activism is a form of “science fiction” – and how bringing new realities into being is itself a creative act.

Interviewees include multidisciplinary artists Moor Mother and Rasheedah Philips, Nigerian-American writer Nnedi Okorafor, and British feminist writer and researcher Lola Olufemi.

(10) DAVIN Q&A. The collection of “Science Fiction Author Interviews” linked at the Middletown Public Library, conducted by the Science Fiction Club Facebook group, has a new addition this month — “Interview with Eric Leif Davin (Aug. 2021)”.

Dr. Eric Leif Davin teaches labor and political history at the University of Pittsburgh. He wrote “Pioneers of Wonder: Conversations with the Founders of Science Fiction.” as well as “Partners in Wonder: Women and the Birth of Science Fiction, 1928-1965.”

John Grayshaw: What is the Gernsback era?

[Davin] Although Hugo Gernsback briefly published an SF magazine in the 1950s, “SF Plus,” the Gernsback Era is actually referring to the period 1926-1934. In 1926 Gernsback launched “Amazing Stories,” the first SF magazine. It was the only SF magazine until 1929, when he launched “Wonder Stories.” In 1934 he sold the latter magazine to the Thrilling group, with it becoming “Thrilling Wonder Stories.” With that, he exited the SF magazine world until the 1950s

(11) SPACED OUT LIBRARIAN. David Nickle offers a personal tribute: “In the orbit of Lorna Toolis – 1952-2021”.

…In the late 1980s when I first met Lorna, the Spaced Out Library was on the second floor of the Boys and Girls House at Beverly and College Streets. Not climate-controlled. Not accessible. As ad-hoc a library as its name might suggest.

I’d come in as a journalist, ostensibly working with another writer on an article about the Canadian science fiction community for a local alternative paper – but really, dipping my toe into a world that I very much wanted to enter.

Lorna helped me do both. First, she gave me a who’s-who rundown of sources I might speak to, suggested I hit Ad Astra, the local science fiction convention to find those sources in one place.

Those sources included Judith Merril herself, who after a very professional interview, told me very candidly, about a writer’s workshop that might be looking for members – and introduced me to one of the founding members, Michael Skeet. Lorna’s husband….

(12) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2007 – Fourteen years ago today, Masters of Science Fiction, an anthology science fiction series, finished its very brief run on ABC. And I do mean brief as only four of its six episodes actually aired. It was presented by Stephen Hawking which is why when it broadcast later on the Science Channel in its entirety that it was called Stephen Hawking’s Sci-Fi Masters. The six stories were all by SF writers, to wit John Kessel, Howard Fast, Robert Heinlein, Harlan Ellison, Walter Mosley and Robert Sheckley. The few critics that actually noticed it liked it. Like so many similar short-run series, it has no Rotten Tomatoes audience rating. The trailer is up here. (Several YouTubers attempted to host the videos, however, they aren’t available as, of course, the series is under copyright.) 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 25, 1909 Michael Rennie. Definitely best remembered as Klaatu in The Day the Earth Stood Still. He would show up a few years later on The Lost World as Lord John Roxton, and he’s got an extensive genre series resume which counts Lost in Space as The Keeper in two episodes, The Batman as The Sandman, The Time TunnelThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Invaders. (Died 1971.)
  • Born August 25, 1913 Walt Kelly. If you can get them, Fantagraphics has released Pogo in six stunning hardcover editions covering up to 1960. They’re planning to do all of his strips eventually. Did you know Kelly began his career as animator at Walt Disney Studios, working on DumboPinocchio and Fantasia? (Died 1973.)
  • Born August 25, 1930 Sir Sean Connery. Best film overall? From Russia with Love. Best SF film? Outland. Or Time Bandits you want go for silly. Worst film? Zardoz. These are my choices and yours no doubt will be different. (Died 2020.)
  • Born August 25, 1940 Marilyn Niven, 81. She was a Boston-area fan who lives in LA and is married to writer Larry Niven. She has worked on a variety of conventions, both regionals and Worldcons.  In college, she was a member of the MITSFS and was one of the founding members of NESFA. She’s also a member of Almack’s Society for Heyer Criticism.
  • Born August 25, 1955 Simon R. Green, 66. I’ll confess that I’ve read pretty much everything he’s written. Favorite series? The NightsideHawk & Fisher and Secret History are my all-time favorite ones with Drinking Midnight Wine the novel I’ve re-read the most. He’s got three active series now of which the Ishmael Jones and the Gideon Sable series are the best. 
  • Born August 25, 1958 Tim Burton, 63. Beetlejuice is by far my favorite film by him. His Batman is kind of interesting. Read that comment as you will. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is definitely more Dahlish than the first take was, and Sleepy Hollow is just damn weird. Not really true to the source material though. 
  • Born August 25, 1970 Chris Roberson, 51. Brilliant writer. I strongly recommend his Recondito series, Firewalk and Firewalkers. The Spencer Finch series is also worth reading. He’s also written two Warhammer novels, Dawn of War and Sons of Dorn, and is publisher with his wife Allison Baker of Monkey Brain Books which has twice been nominated for World Fantasy Awards. He won two Sidewise Awards for Alternate History, for his novella O One (2003), and novel The Dragon’s Nine Sons (2008).
  • Born August 25, 1987 Blake Lively, 34. She was Adaline Bowman in The Age of Adaline, a neat mediation upon life and death. She also played Carol Ferris in that Green Lantern film but the less said about it the better. Her very first role was as Trixie / Tooth Fairy in The Sandman at age eleven. 

(14) SMALL WONDER. The biggest hit sci-fi movie of 1966 (to date, anyway) – read the raves at Galactic Journey: “[August 24, 1966] Fantastic Voyage lives up to its name!”

It’s finally here! And it was worth the wait. Fantastic Voyage has reached the big screen, and it’s spectacular.

Fantastic Voyage may be the most advertised science fiction film ever made, with intriguing articles in Life and Look, a novelization published in The Saturday Evening Post and about a zillion articles in Famous Monsters in Filmland. And despite this endless campaign – or maybe because of it – I’m delighted to tell you this audacious film deserves its media ubiquity.

(15) YOU’LL SHOP HERE SOONER OR LATER. A business in LA’s Echo Park neighborhood has the fascinating name Time Travel Mart. Here are just a few of the items they sell there.

Portable Wormhole

(16) INSTANT CLASSIC. Joe H. contributed a fine verse to yesterday’s comments:

As we go filing, filing
In the pixel of the scroll
We climb our Mount Tsunduko
And we make our series whole

Our shelves shall not be emptied
From birth until life closes
Eyes starve as well as bodies
Into books we’ll stick our noses

(17) A LOOK BACK. Cora Buhlert has posted a new Retro Review: “’More Than Shadow’ by Dorothy Quick” about a 1954 Weird Tales story. Spoiler warning!

…Just to make sure that she isn’t imagining things, Mona calls over Ellen, the maid, and asks her what she sees in the puddle of spilled water. Ellen confirms that the puddle looks like a dog, but not just any old dog either, but the little dogs on which the leprechauns ride on moonlit nights. For Ellen just happens to be Irish and therefore a fount of Irish folklore…..

(18) IT CAUSES ME TO TINGLE. Not only is love real, so is Chuck.

(19) R.L. STINE REMEMBERS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to this podcast that Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with R.L. Stine. “Maltin on Movies: R.L. Stine”. The Maltins began by remembering how they would chat with Stine in the Los Angeles Times Book festival green room, where they would also say hello to Ray Bradbury and Harlan Ellison.  Stine then explained how he, born in 1943, was first influenced by radio comedians (remember Mortimer Snerd?) He also loved E.C. comics and after his parents refused to let him buy the comics he made sure to get a haircut every Saturday because the local barbershop had a plentiful supply.  Stine then worked his way up at Scholastic Books, and became a YA horror author because an editor got mad at Christopher Pike and they wanted someone to write YA horror novels.  Stine said he was a hands-on producer of the Goosebumps TV series, which “gave every child actor in Canada a job” including 11-year-old Ryan Gosling.  Stine also explained that he had kids come up to him and say they learned how to use typewriters because they saw Jack Black use a typewriter playing Stine in the Goosebumps movie.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Monster Hunter Stories” on YouTube, Fandom Games says Monster Hunter Stories is a dinosaur-fighting game that has gone through “Pokemonification,.” and includes a scene here you fight a dinosaur with a bagpipe and another where a talking cat spends too much time explaining how she enjoys donuts.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/31/21 I’m At The Godstalk, The Death Star, The Second Fifth Hotel, The Pixels Keep On Scrolling And Rolling Files As Well

(1) HANSEN BOOK FREE FROM TAFF. Another ebook is available from the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund’s website, #60 in the free library, Rob Hansen’s Faan Fiction 1930-2020: an exploration. Cover artwork adapted from Rob Hansen’s cover for his fanzine Epsilon #7, July 1981. Approximately 61,000 words. (TAFF hopes you’ll make a little donation to the fund if you please.)

In this combined critique and anthology, Rob Hansen discusses the phenomenon of fan fiction (in the fannish fanzine sense) with a particular focus on the UK. His commentary is interspersed with many examples from such diverse fan writers as John Berry, C.S. Youd (John Christopher), Leroy Kettle, David Langford, Mark Plummer, Bob Shaw, Ian Sorensen, James White, Walt Willis – and Rob Hansen himself, including previously unpublished work. There are several surprises.

From Rob Hansen’s Foreword:

One aspect of fandom only lightly touched on by me in Then was fan fiction. By which, of course, I mean fiction about fans and/or fandom. This is a thread that has been woven through SF fandom since it began, enduring almost to the present day, and so is worthy of consideration in that light. I’ll be looking at the people who wrote it and all its various forms and the purposes to which they were put. Inevitably, the quality of the writing varies wildly, with that of those who later went on to write professionally usually being a cut above the rest.

…Where possible the pieces of fan fiction reprinted herein to illustrate various types and forms – all by UK fans – were specifically chosen from those not already available. As a result, most will be things the majority of readers won’t have encountered before.

(2) SF ART COLLECTORS WILL SPEAK. Tomorrow on Comic Art Spotlight Doug Ellis joins a panel with three friends — Glynn Crain, John Davis & Victor Dricks — discussing SF/fantasy art.  All four have large collections of vintage SF art. They’ll be highlighting and discussing various artists and pieces in those collections, including creators like Virgil Finlay, Frank Kelly Freas, Ed Emshwiller, Wally Wood, Ed Valigursky, George Barr and many more.  The panel kicks off June 1 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern:

(3) PLONK YOUR MAGIC TWANGER. The Haffner Press’ two-volume edition of The Complete John the Balladeer by Manly Wade Wellman is available for pre-order.

John, whose last name is never revealed, is a wandering singer who carries a guitar strung with strings of pure silver. He is a veteran of the Korean War and served in the U.S. Army as a sharpshooter (in the novel After Dark, he mentions that his highest rank was PFC). In his travels, he frequently encounters creatures and superstitions from the folk tales and superstitions of the mountain people. Though John has no formal education, he is self-taught, highly intelligent and widely read; it is implied that his knowledge of occult and folk legendarium is of Ph.D level. This knowledge has granted him competent use of white magic, which he has used on occasion to overcome enemies or obstacles, but it is primarily his courage, wit and essential goodness that always enables him to triumph over supernatural evils (although the silver strings of his guitar and his possession of a copy of The Long Lost Friend are also powerful tools in fighting evil magic), while basic Army training allows him to physically deal with human foes.

Haffner recently posted this photo of artist Tim Kirk’s dropcaps for the book.

(4) FEELIN’ GROOVY. John Coulthart has a gallery of “groovy” sf covers in “The art of Mike Hinge, 1931–2003” at { feuilleton }.

Back in March I ended my post on the psychedelia-derived art style that I think of as “the groovy look” with the words “there’s a lot more to be found.” There is indeed, and I’d neglected to include anything in the post by Mike Hinge, a New Zealand-born illustrator whose covers for American SF magazines in the 1970s brought a splash of vivid colour to the groove-deprived world of science fiction. This was a rather belated development for staid titles like Amazing and Analog whose covers in the previous decade wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Gernsback era. Opening the door to someone like Mike Hinge, a graphic designer as well as a general illustrator, was probably a result of both magazines having undergone recent changes of editorship.

(5) HEVELIN COLLECTION UPDATE. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.]Just found out the University of Iowa’s “Hevelin Collection” Tumblr account, which posted pics of items from Rusty Hevelin’s collection of fanzine and other SFnal material (but has been inactive for the last several years), announced about ten days ago they’re officially suspending the Tumblr. (But past posts will remain online for the foreseeable future.)

But you can still see over 700 fanzines, etc., from the Hevelin Collection in the Iowa Digital Library: Hevelin Fanzines — The University of Iowa Libraries.

And rather than single pictures like the Tumbler account did, the IDL archive leads to scans of the full contents, so far as I’ve tested it. Probably a fair amount of overlap with Fanac.org and eFanzines.com, but always good to have fannish history backed up in multiple places.

(The IDL archive may, it occurs to me, be old news to those who keep up with fanzines past and and present more than I do. “Slight” is a polite way to describe my level of involvement these days. Still, news to me.)

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • May 31, 1990 — On this day in 1990, Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall premiered. It starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone, Ronny Cox, and Michael Ironside. It’s rather loosely based on Philip K. Dick‘s “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” story. Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon and Gary Goldman wrote the screenplay. It finished second at Chicon V for Best Dramatic Presentation to Edward Scissorhands.  Most critics liked it well-enough though a number of feminist critics thought it excessively violent towards women. It currently holds a seventy-eight percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 31, 1893 – Elizabeth Coatsworth.  Newbery Medal for The Cat Who Went to Heaven (1930).  Four “incredible tales” for adults; four books of poetry; ninety in all; memoir Personal Geography.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born May 31, 1895 — George R. Stewart. As recently noted in the Scroll, his 1949 novel Earth Abides won the first International Fantasy Award in 1951. They were a British award and the first one, this very one, was given at Festivention. Other genre works would include Man, An Autobiography and Storm which is at least genre adjacent. (Died 1980.) (CE)
  • Born May 31, 1910 – Aubrey MacDermott.  Possibly the first fan.  He always said he was. Unfortunately, the supporting evidence is thin.  He may well have founded the Eastbay Club in the San Francisco Bay area around 1928.  Anyway, he was Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon XXXX (Oakland, 1987).  Here is his Origin Story as of 1990.  (Died 1996) [JH]
  • Born May 31, 1921 – Arthur Sellings.  Six novels, fifty shorter stories, in Fantastic, Galaxy, Imagination, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, NebulaNew WorldsNew WritingWorlds of Tomorrow. Antiquarian, book & art dealer.  (Died 1968) [JH]
  • Born May 31, 1930 — Gary Brandner. Best remembered for his werewolf trilogy of novels, The Howling, of which the first was very loosely made into a film. He wrote the script for Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf. The fourth film of the series, Howling IV: The Original Nightmare, is actually almost an accurate adaptation of the first novel. He wrote a lot of other horror and penned the novelization of Cat People. (Died 2013.) (CE) 
  • Born May 31, 1942 – Brian Burley.  Active fan in Ohio and New York.  Co-founded Marcon.  In 1979 he was in FISTFA (Fannish Insurgent Scientifictional Ass’n); here he is (with S.H. Craig and Pat O’Neill) on “Fandom in New York” for the Lunacon XXII Program Book.  Co-founded the Beaker People Libation Front, which Fancyclopedia III mildly calls “not entirely serious”; see here.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 31, 1948 — Lynda Bellingham. She was The Inquisitor in the Sixth Doctor Story, “The Trial of The Time Lord”.  Other genre appearances include the Landlady in Hans Christian Andersen: My Life as a Fairy Tale, and one-offs in Blake’s 7Robin Hood and Julia Jekyll and Harriet Hyde. (Died 2014.) (CE) 
  • Born May 31, 1950 — Gregory Harrison, 71. I’m always surprised to discover a series didn’t last as long as I thought it has. He was Logan 5 in the Logan’s Run TV series which only lasted fourteen episodes. He was also in Dark Skies, twenty episodes before cancellation, as the voice of Old John Loengard, and had one-offs in Dead Man’s Gun (cursed object and that series actually lasted awhile), Touched by an AngelOuter Limits and Miracles. (CE)
  • Born May 31, 1961 — Lea Thompson, 60. She’s obviously best known for her role as Lorraine Baines in the Back to the Future trilogy though I remember her first as Beverly Switzler in Howard the Duck as I saw Back to the Future after I saw Howard the Duck. Not sure why that was. Her first genre role was actually as Kelly Ann Bukowski in Jaws 3-D, a film I most decidedly did not see. If you accept the Scorpion series as genre, she’s got a recurring role as Veronica Dineen on it. (CE)
  • Born May 31, 1977 – Cat Hellisen, age 44.  Fantasy for adults and children; free-lance editing; also archery, aikidô, figure skating.  Six novels, a score of shorter stories.  “The Worme Bridge” won the Short Story Day Africa award.  More recently in Fife she likes the forests and the fields and the Forth.  Has read Giovanni’s RoomFlatlandHerland, five plays by Aeschylus, Peter Pan, both Alice books, Les liasons dangereusesThe Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  [JH]
  • Born May 31, 1979 — Sophia McDougall, 42. She has a very well crafted alternative history series,  the Romanitas series, In which Rome did not fall and rules the world today. She has two SF novels —Mars Evacuees is sort of YA alien invasion novel; Space Hostages reminds of a Heinlein YA novel. (CE)
  • Born May 31, 1995 – Jeremy Szal, age 26.  One novel, thirty shorter stories.  Fiction editor at StarShipSofa 2014-2020 (Episodes 360-600).  Collects boutique gins.  See his review of Predestination at Strange Horizons here.  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Half Full could be making a combined Alice in Wonderland and Simon & Garfunkel joke. Or not.

(9) WRITING PROMPT. From Agatha Chocolats:

Popehat suggests: “Cthulhu fhtagn exact change only.”

(10) SHAVER MYSTERY MAGAZINE ADDED BY FANAC. “If you’ve been hearing the words ‘Shaver Mysteries’ bruited about, now’s your chance to see what all the fuss is over,” says Fanac.org’s Joe Siclari. Check here: Shaver Mystery Magazine, by Richard S. Shaver. There are 7 issues of this semi-pro, related zine. 

Siclari further says, “Some might not consider this a fanzine because rumor has it that it was paid for by Ray Palmer and Ziff-Davis. However the Shaver Mystery stories were a subject of great controversy in fanzines. So it is of related interest. It definitely was not a money-maker. It seems to fit into the category we later called a semi-prozine. And the art! McCauley, Finlay…”

(11) JUMPING IN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Pepe The Frog creator Matt Furie who is trying to recapture his character from the alt-right by creating non-fungible tokens featuring Pepe and other of Furie’s characters that have sold for up to $1 million. “Matt Furie is trying to reclaim his famous cartoon Pepe the Frog — through NFTs”.

To Furie, the NFT realm is about more than coin. During the era of Donald Trump, extremist social media users adapted Pepe so often that the Anti-Defamation League deemed it a hate symbol. But the exploding world of crypto-art is allowing the cartoonist to reclaim a character who was never meant to stand for much beyond love, peace, hedonism and altered-state chillaxin’.

“The NFT world is new, and there are a lot of optimistic people creating cool things,” Furie says of his interest in exploring non-fungible tokens — unique digital files whose origins and ownership can be verified.“Pepe does not have the baggage here that he does in the ‘real world,’ and I like working with utopians and optimistic freethinkers. There are so many possibilities.”

(12) A SCHULZ CURIOSITY. Cavna has also written: “Three ‘lost’ Charles Schulz strips have been rediscovered. Do they show the adult Lucy Van Pelt?”To some, they resemble “Peanuts” characters — if Charlie Brown and the gang had ever grown up.

These rare curiosities intrigue and baffle even the experts. “They’re a puzzle to me,” says Jean Schulz, wife of the late cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, who drew them.

They are the seven black-and-white works of comic art from the mid-’50s collectively called the “Hagemeyer” strips. Four of them have appeared in books. The three other “lost” strips were found and purchased at auction in May 2020— but have never been widely published, according to the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center.

(13) IT’S IMPOSSIBLE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] From this week’s Nature: “First Nuclear Test Created Impossible ‘Quasicrystals’”.

SF is full of exotic substances from Cavorite to Corbomite. Now it has been discovered that the world’s first nuclear bomb test created ‘impossible’ quasicrystals.

The previously unknown structure, made of iron, silicon, copper and calcium, probably formed from the fusion of vaporised desert sand and copper cables. Quasicrystals contain building blocks made up of arrangements of atoms that — unlike those in ordinary crystals — do not repeat in a regular, brickwork-like pattern. They have symmetries that were once considered impossible.

Materials scientist Daniel Shechtman first discovered such an impossible symmetry in a synthetic alloy in 1982. He won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery. In subsequent years, materials scientists synthesised many types of quasicrystal,
expanding the range of possible symmetries. In the aftermath of the Trinity test — the first detonation of a nuclear bomb in 1945 researchers found a field of greenish glassy material that had formed from the liquefaction of desert sand. They dubbed this trinitite. The bomb had been detonated on top of a 30-metre-high tower laden with sensors and their cables. As a result, some of the trinitite had reddish inclusions: it was a fusion of natural material with copper from the transmission lines. The quasicrystal recently found from this trinitite has the same kind of icosahedral symmetry as the one in Shechtman’s original discovery.

(14) NOW IN 3-D. Nature also reports on “The most detailed 3D map of the Universe ever made”.

A survey of the southern sky has reconstructed how mass is spread across space and time, in the biggest study of its kind. The data provide striking evidence that dark energy, the force that appears to be pushing the Universe to accelerate its expansion, has been constant throughout cosmic history.

The Dark Energy Survey (DES) collaboration revealed its results in an online briefing on 27 May and in several papers posted online1.

…The researchers grouped the galaxies by colour, to get a rough indication of each galaxy’s distance from our own: as the Universe expands, galaxies that are further away appear redder because their light waves have stretched out to longer wavelengths. That way, the team was able to add a third dimension to its map.

Looking further away also corresponds to looking to the past, so a 3D cosmic map provides a record of the Universe’s history. By tracking how galaxies spread out over time, cosmologists can then indirectly measure the forces at play. These include the gravitational pull of dark matter, the invisible stuff that constitutes some 80% of the Universe’s mass and dominates the formation of galaxies and clusters of galaxies.

(15) DRONE WARFARE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] It’s not exactly a Terminator-style HK-VTOL, but the first autonomous wartime kill by a robot might have happened last year in Libya. Gizmodo reports on the story: “The Age of Autonomous Killer Robots May Already Be Here”.

…“The lethal autonomous weapons systems were programmed to attack targets without requiring data connectivity between the operator and the munition: in effect, a true ‘fire, forget and find’ capability,” the UN Security Council’s Panel of Experts on Libya wrote in the report.

It remains unconfirmed whether any soldiers were killed in the attack, although the UN experts imply as much. The drone, which can be directed to self-destruct on impact, was “highly effective” during the conflict in question when used in combination with unmanned combat aerial vehicles, according to the panel. The battle resulted in “significant casualties,” it continued, noting that Haftar’s forces had virtually no defense against remote aerial attacks.

The Kargu-2 is a so-called loitering drone that uses machine learning algorithms and real-time image processing to autonomously track and engage targets. According to Turkish weapons manufacturer STM, it’s specifically designed for asymmetric warfare and anti-terrorist operations and has two operating modes, autonomous and manual. Several can also be linked together to create a swarm of kamikaze drones.

(16) CLOCKING IN. CBS Sunday Morning did a segment about “Exploring the boundaries of time travel”.

Breaking the bonds of time has been a timeless pursuit in science fiction stories and movies. Will it ever become science fact? Correspondent Faith Salie explores the possibilities of taking a journey to the future, or the past, even without a souped-up DeLorean.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Cruella Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George, in a spolier-filled episode, says that the only way to get viewers interested in Cruelle DeVil’s backstory–“How does she become the person who wants to skin puppies?”–is to have her work for a boss even more evil than her.  Also the screenwriter warns the producer that if he wants all those groovy hits of the 1970s in the movie, he’d better have plenty of money for the rights.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, David Langford, Jennifer Hawthorne, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little.]

Pixel Scroll 3/21/21 Who Is Commenter #1? You Are, Pixel Fifth

(1) NO MIDWESTCON THIS YEAR. [Item by Joel Zakem.] A message from Bill Cavin on behalf of the Cincinnati Fantasy Group (CFG):

Most fans who attend Midwestcon probably won’t be surprised to hear we will not be having the con this year, but I occasionally hear of someone asking the question.  So let this be the official announcement that Midwestcon is on hold until June, 2022.

Until 2020, Midwestcon had occurred every year since 1950.

(2) ONE IF BY LAND, TWO IF BY TRANSPORTER BEAM. “Live Long And Prosper: Boston Dedicates Day For Leonard Nimoy” says the Boston, MA Patch.

Boston is paying a special tribute to actor Leonard Nimoy, who would have turned 90 years old later this month. Mayor Marty Walsh is declaring his birthday, March 26, to be “Leonard Nimoy Day” in the city.

Nimoy, who died in 2015, was born in Boston’s West End neighborhood. He’ll always be remembered for portraying the logical, pointy-eared Spock in “Star Trek,” and embracing the Vulcan character’s “live long and prosper” motto….

(3) MIRROR, MIRROR. E.T. Perry and Will Solomon examine how Star Trek: The Original Series’ view of expansion and “the frontier” clash with its progressive, egalitarian ideals in “New Life and New Civilizations: Socialism, Progress, & The Final Frontier” at Blood Knife.

In “Day of the Dove,” a 1968 episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, the crew of the USS Enterprise fights a group of Klingons for control of their Federation starship. The Klingons, led by Kang (Michael Ansara, in seriously questionable make-up), are locked in battle with Captain Kirk and his men. Both sides have become victims of a mysterious alien entity aboard the ship that induces and draws life from emotions of hate, violence, and bigotry. In an attempt to convince Kang’s wife Mara to persuade her husband to accept an armistice, Captain Kirk argues that she accept the Federation’s doctrine of peaceful co-existence, a philosophy that Mara claims is incompatible with the Klingons’ warlike, imperialist way of life. 

“We must push outward to survive,” says Mara.

“There’s another way to survive,” replies Kirk, “mutual trust and help.”

Unspoken in Kirk’s characteristic response is that the Federation actually endures in pretty much the same way as the Klingon Empire—that is, by expansion. They just do it more humanely. But we should not mistake Kirk’s emphasis on decency with a radically different conception of civilization. Both systems are equally dependent on imperialism, on colonialism, on limitless resource extraction to survive. Both, in other words, find themselves unavoidably dependent upon a single concept: progress. 

* * * * *

This tension between the espoused ideals of “mutual trust and help” and the imperialist undercurrent of the Federation’s on-screen actions is an essential dimension of Star Trek, and one that is evident in many of the show’s recurring premises: visiting planets devoted to resource extraction, specifically mining (“The Devil in the Dark”); attempting to establish colonies, promote development, or facilitate “diplomatic relations” (“The Trouble with Tribbles,” “Journey to Babel”); and bartering with aliens for dilithium crystals or other raw materials (“Friday’s Child”). Often these plots occur in the context of competition with the Klingons (“Errand of Mercy,” “A Private Little War”) or Romulans (“Balance of Terror”). And even more often, they result in conflict and battle.

(4) CUT ABOVE THE REST. Variety’s Owen Glieberman makes a compelling case for why the Snyder Cut matters, and why any sequel would be a barometer of Hollywood’s health. “Will Zack Snyder Be Invited to Make a ‘Justice League’ Sequel?”

“Zack Snyder’s Justice League” has that thing. What is it? You could call it vision, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But it’s also something I would call voice. That’s not a quality we associate with comic-book movies, but the rare great ones have it. And in “Justice League,” Zack Snyder’s voice comes through in ways at once large and small. It’s there in the doomy Wagnerian grandeur, and in the puckish way the movie hones on a seed coming off a hot-dog bun in the bullet-time sequence that introduces the Flash’s superpowers. It’s there in the way the backstories don’t just set up the characters but intertwine their fates, and in the way that Snyder, leaving Joss Whedon’s genial jokiness on the cutting-room floor, replaces it with a sincerity so present it doesn’t have to speak its name. It’s there in the majestic symphonic rigor of the battle scenes, and in how the villains, the glittering-with-malice Steppenwolf and the dripping-with-molten-corruption Darkseid, comprise a threat at once relentless and remorseless.

… Now that that’s happened, to leave Snyder by the wayside seems not merely unjust; it strikes me as foolhardy….

(5) DOES YOUR FANNISH ABODE NEED A CENTERPIECE? Then loosen your money belt: “H.R. Giger’s ‘Alien’ Prototype Is Up for Auction”.

What could be creepier than the drooling, carnivorous monster from 1979’s Alien? How about a translucent version?

The original design from the mind of H.R. Giger for the classic science fiction horror franchise is part of a Hollywood memorabilia sale being offered by Julien’s Auctions on Wednesday, April 28, and Thursday, April 29.

The Xenomorph costume, nicknamed “Big Chap” by those involved with the production, is a milky white and close to the final design. Camera tests were performed before director Ridley Scott opted for a non-translucent version. Long believed lost, it’s expected to fetch between $40,000 and $60,000. Alien collectors, however, are sure to drive up that conservative estimate.

(6) SIGN LANGUAGE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is another excerpt from Isaac Asimov’s In Joy Still Felt.

In one way, autographing became more and more of a problem for me, since it supplied me with more and more work; partly because the number of my books was increasing steadily, and partly because those books were individually popular.  In another sense, they were not a problem, because I loved autographing.  Some writers cut down on their labors by refusing to sign anything except hard-cover books, but I have never refused anything, and will sign torn scraps of paper if that is what is asked of me.

There is the occasional joker who hands me a blank check.  I just sign it along with everything else, but when the joker gets it back he finds I have signed it, ‘Harlan Ellison.’

(7) KRUGMAN REFERENCES ASIMOV. [Item by Linda Deneroff.] The March 16 edition of the New York Times had an opinion column from Paul Krugman entitled “The Pandemic and the Future City”. The first paragraph discusses Isaac Asimov’s The Naked Sun and refers back to it again later in the article.

The first paragraph reads: “In 1957 Isaac Asimov published “The Naked Sun,” a science-fiction novel about a society in which people live on isolated estates, their needs provided by robots and they interact only by video. The plot hinges on the way this lack of face-to-face contact stunts and warps their personalities.”

It’s behind a paywall.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

1991 – Thirty years ago at Chicon V, The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold which had been published by Baen Books the previous year wins the Hugo for Best Novel. It’s the sixth novel of the Vorkosigan Saga. The other finalists that year were Earth by David Brin, The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons, The Quiet Pools by Michael P. Kube-McDowell and Queen of Angels by Greg Bear. It would be nominated for a number of other Awards but this would be the only one it would win. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 21, 1876 – Oshikawa Shunrô.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Pioneer of Japanese SF.  So far I’ve found only his Verne-like Undersea Warship translated into English, first in a very popular series of six.  Also loved baseball.  Wrote detective fiction, some carrying SF.  Co-edited World of Adventure magazine; later founded World of Heroism.  A teacher of mine said “A vice is a virtue gone astray”: too true of heroism, nationalism, patriotism in Japan then, coloring Oshikawa’s work and leading to catastrophe.  (Died 1914) [JH]
  • Born March 21, 1915 Ian Stuart Black. British screenplay writer best known for work on two First Doctor stories, “The Savages” and “The War Machines” (with Kit Pedler and Pat Dunlop) and a Third Doctor story, “The Macra Terror”. He wrote thirteen episodes of The Invisible Man as well as episodes of One Step BeyondThe SaintStar Maidens and Danger Man. (Died 1997.) (CE)
  • Born March 21, 1931 Al Williamson. Cartoonist who was best known for his work for EC Comics in the ’50s, including titles like Weird Science and Weird Fantasy, and for his work on Flash Gordon in the Sixties. He won eight Harvey Awards, and an Eisner Hall of Fame Award. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born March 21, 1946 Timothy Dalton, 75. He is best known for portraying James Bond in The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill but is currently in The Doom Patrol as Niles Caulder, The Chief. As I’ve said before, go watch it now!  He also was Damian Drake in Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Sir Malcolm on the Penny Dreadful series and Lord President of the Time Lords (Rassilon) during the Time of Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. He went to theatre to play Lord Asriel in the stage version of His Dark Materials. (CE)
  • Born March 21, 1946 Terry Dowling, 75. I was trying to remember exactly what it was by him that I read and it turned out to be Amberjack: Tales of Fear and Wonder, an offering from Subterranean Press a decade ago. Oh, it was tasty! If it’s at all representative of his other short stories, he’s a master at them. And I see he’s got just one novel, Clowns at Midnight which I’ve not read. He’s not at all deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects but they do have that plus several story collections. (CE) 
  • Born March 21, 1947 – Don Markstein.  Active New Orleans fan whose love of comics ran with a more general SF interest to which he gave full energy.  Chaired DeepSouthCon 11, won the Rebel Award, then two Southpaws (Best Apa Writer and Best Apa Administrator); he was in, among others, SFPA and Myriad.  Just for one sample, he produced, with Guy Lillian, Rally Round the Flag, Boys! (alluding to a satirical book – set in Connecticut! – and its movie) for the Rafael Aloysius Lafferty League of Yeomen.  DM’s Toonopedia, though not seeming updated recently, remains priceless.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born March 21, 1952 – Sue-Rae Rosenfeld, age 69.  I’m baffled by having been acquainted with her for years to the point where I find no notes.  It won’t help you to know she led a Bible study session on Genesis 23:1 – 25:18 recounting the life of Sarah.  She was on the NY in ’86 Worldcon bidding committee with people you do know or know of e.g. Genny Dazzo, Moshe Feder, Elliot Shorter, Ben Yalow; serving egg creams, which have neither egg nor cream, they lost to Atlanta.  “Stu,” she told Stu Shiffman, as he dutifully recounted, “you are a great pain to your friends” – while we were electing him TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate.  [JH]
  • Born March 21, 1956 Teresa Nielsen Hayden, 65. She is a consulting editor for Tor Books and is well known for her and husband, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Making Light superb weblog, and back in the Eighties, they published the Izzard fanzine. And she has three fascinating framing pieces in The Essential Bordertown, edited by Delhia Sherman and Terri Windling. (CE)
  • Born March 21, 1964 – Lisa Desimini, age 56.  Fifty covers.  Here’s one for her own chapbook.  Here’s Shakespeare’s Landlord– no, not that Shakespeare.  Here is Death’s Excellent Vacation.  Here is This Is Midnight.  [JH]
  • Born March 21, 1970 Chris Chibnall, 51. Current Showrunner for Doctor Who and the head writer for the first two (and I think) best series of Torchwood. He first showed up in the Whoverse when he penned the Tenth Doctor story, “42”.  He also wrote several episodes of Life on Mars. He’s been nominated for a Hugo twice for work on Doctor Who. (CE)
  • Born March 21, 1981 – Lauren Kate, age 40.  Nine novels (Fallen was made into a movie, S. Hicks dir. 2016), eight shorter stories for us; a novel set in 1700s Venice became a top NY Times Best-Seller.  “My ‘blocks’ are generally related to not understanding how a character of mine feels, so … I will write … from the point of view of another character who … can often see things in my protagonist that I cannot.”  [JH]
  • Born March 21, 1982 – Andreas Suchanek, age 39.  Three novels (The Awakening, in English, appeared in January; Queen of Shadows earlier this month), eight shorter stories, starting with Perry Rhodan who or which is some kind of miracle.  Website in English or German; perhaps AS will forgive me for thinking “Multidimensional Characters – Nothing is as it seams” Typo of the Day (it’s just fine in the German, Nichts ist wie es scheint) – my fantastic imagination wishes he’d meant it.  [JH]

(10) ON BOARD. G.T. Reeder looks at how tabletop RPGs like Pathfinder and D&D represent race and disability, where it succeeds, where it fails, and how it could be a tool for better understanding these ideas in the real world: “Ability Score: Tabletop RPGs & the Mechanics of Privilege” at Blood Knife.

Tabletop gaming has experienced a recent surge in popularity to heights never before seen, bringing hordes of new players into close contact with what are frequently decades-old mechanics for the first time. This Great Leap Forward in gaming has brought new and necessary scrutiny on what are in many cases antiquated notions of race, gender, and valor that had been baked into the tabletop RPG landscape over the years.

The result of this has been twofold. First, it’s led to a great “spiritual purge” of the genre, as publishers grapple (or fail to grapple) with issues that had long been overlooked or tolerated within the once-insular tabletop community. This sea change has also opened doors onto new issues and new perspectives, such as transgender characters, race mixing, and questions of accessibility. 

Questions of identity and experience are unavoidable in tabletop roleplaying. After all, a character in an RPG functions essentially as a number of modifiers, either positive or negative, to the dice rolls that propel gameplay. A player can even opt to hobble their character — losing an eye, having less ability in a hand — in exchange for yet more points to spend on positive parts of gameplay. The result is that the in-game privilege of the characters is often tied to the possibilities of the adventure on which they are embarking: games are considered easier (and therefore potentially more fantastical and fun for players) when players are given more points to use while creating their characters, or harder (and therefore more “realistic”) when there are fewer. But in truth, the story of a character with less privilege in their imagined world need not be less fun or less fantastical—indeed, it may be just the opposite.

(11) HUMMINGBIRD SALAMANDER. Powell’s virtual events include Jeff VanderMeer in Conversation With Karen Russell on April 13 at 5 p.m. Pacific. Register for the webinar here.

Software manager Jane Smith receives an envelope containing a list of animals along with a key to a storage unit that holds a taxidermied hummingbird and salamander. The list is signed “Love, Silvina.” Jane does not know a Silvina, and she wants nothing to do with the taxidermied animals. The hummingbird and the salamander are, it turns out, two of the most endangered species in the world. Silvina Vilcapampa, the woman who left the note, is a reputed ecoterrorist and the daughter of a recently deceased Argentine industrialist. By removing the hummingbird and the salamander from the storage unit, Jane has set in motion a series of events over which she has no control. Instantly, Jane and her family are in danger, and she finds herself alone and on the run from both Silvina’s family and her ecoterrorist accomplices — along with the wildlife traffickers responsible for the strange taxidermy. She seems fated to follow in Silvina’s footsteps as she desperately seeks answers about why Silvina contacted her, why she is now at the center of this global conspiracy, and what exactly Silvina was planning. Time is running out — for her and possibly for the world. Hummingbird Salamander (MCD) is Annihilation author Jeff VanderMeer at his brilliant, cinematic best, wrapping profound questions about climate change, identity, and the world we live in into a tightly plotted thriller full of unexpected twists and elaborate conspiracy. VanderMeer will be joined in conversation by Karen Russell, author of Orange World and Swamplandia!.

(12)  VIDEO OF THE DAY. Mind Matter’s intro“Sci-fi Saturday: Can We Live In More Than the Present Moment?” warns “Scenes of gruesome suffering so caution re kids.”

The creator of a time machine becomes trapped inside his own creation where he must figure out the timing of his mistakes. PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE, CONTAINED.

[Thanks to Joel Zakem, JJ, Kurt Schiller, Mike Kennedy, Olav Rokne, Linda Deneroff, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 3/11/21 Pixels Are Reactionaries, And The Scrolls Are Missionaries

(1) IT’S TIME. Kristian Macaron analyzes “Why I Love Time Travel Stories” on From the Earth to the Stars, the Asimov’s SF blog.

Time travel is never only about the science, rather, the impossibilities.

The science and whimsy of time travel are infinite, complex, and lovely, but I love time travel stories because the quest of traversing Time can explore how possibilities and probabilities shape the person we are in the Present, the person we become in the Future. Fate is more fluid than it would like us to believe.

There are three reasons I love time travel stories. First, it’s a form of storytelling that transcends genre; next, the rules of the time machine or loop are creative and crucial; finally, no matter the plot, Time as a player forces the character to confront the infinity of their impact….

(2) CUTTING OFF CIRCULATION. Washington Post tech columnist Geoffrey A. Fowler protests “Amazon’s monopoly is squeezing your public library, too”.

Mindy Kaling has gone missing from the library.

I was looking forward to reading the comedian’s new story collection, “Nothing Like I Imagined.” So I typed Kaling’s name into the Libby app used by my public library to loan e-books. But “The Office” star’s latest was nowhere to be found.

What gives? In 2020, Kaling switched to a new publisher: Amazon. Turns out, the tech giant has also become a publishing powerhouse — and it won’t sell downloadable versions of its more than 10,000 e-books or tens of thousands of audiobooks to libraries. That’s right, for a decade, the company that killed bookstores has been starving the reading institution that cares for kids, the needy and the curious. And that’s turned into a mission-critical problem during a pandemic that cut off physical access to libraries and left a lot of people unable to afford books on their own.

Many Americans now recognize that a few tech companies increasingly dominate our lives. But it’s sometimes hard to put your finger on exactly why that’s a problem. The case of the vanishing e-books shows how tech monopolies hurt us not just as consumers, but as citizens….

(3) BUTLER’S AND OTHERS’ LITERARY ESTATES. The Writers’ Room on NPR discusses “The State Of Literary Estates” with panelists Merrilee Heifetz, literary executor, the Octavia Butler Estate, and former agent for Octavia Butler; Blake Hazard, trustee, F. Scott Fitzgerald Estate and Zelda Fitzgerald Estate; great-granddaughter of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald; and Miranda Doyle, intellectual freedom chair, Oregon Association of School Libraries; district librarian, Lake Oswego School District.

Much has been made recently of the literary estate of Dr. Seuss choosing to discontinue printing several of his books due to racist imagery and stereotyping in several titles.

Some right-wing news outlets have decried the decision as an example of cancel culture, despite the estate making the decision independently. Seuss’ story isn’t particularly novel, either. Roald Dahl’s books for children have also been criticized for racist language and the author’s anti-Semitism. At the end of 2020, the Dahl family released a statement in which they apologized for “lasting and understandable hurt” caused by his anti-Semitic comments.

Many online and in the news are continuing to discuss the best way to handle problematic content in significant pieces of art from the past. But others are asking fundamental questions: What’s the purpose of a literary estate? And what’s their role in managing the legacy of an artist or author?

(4) CHINA THEME ISSUE. The British Science Fiction Association’s Vector 293 (Spring 2021) is devoted to the theme of Chinese SF, and is produced in collaboration with guest editors Yen Ooi and Regina Kanyu Wang. “Yen Ooi introduces the issue as well as many of its recurring concepts, such as techno-orientalism. Regina Kanyu Wang takes us through the history of women writing SF in China….” And much more.

One item from the issue is available online: “Chen Qiufan: Why did I Write a Science Fiction Novel about E-waste?” a transcription of a public talk given by the author in 2019.  

 …Many people have asked me why I wrote a science fiction novel instead of discussing the issue of environmental pollution in a documentary literature, if I wanted to talk about it. But for me, science fiction has a metaphorical role that cannot be found elsewhere. It can transcend the limits of the “present” and incorporate literary symbols that are applicable to all cultures in all countries concerning the imagination of the future. Thus, in science fiction, environmental issues can be generalised to a broader social context, and readers are more willing to consider how their personal actions can affect our environment, or the work and lives of garbage workers they have never met….

(5) SPEAKS VOLUMES. Elizabeth Knox’s “Metaliterary Worlds: On Fictional Books Within Books” includes a paragraph about Clifford D. Simak’s Time and Again. The post begins:

I set out to remind myself about fictional books within books and, researching, discovered how much has been said already about the cursed and forbidden ones. The characters of my novel, The Absolute Book, think about some of these in the course of the story—Lovecraft’s Necronomicon or, in Robert Chambers’ short story collection The King in Yellow, the eponymous play said to drive all who encounter it insane. I wanted to suggest that the Firestarter of The Absolute Book—an ancient scroll box which has survived so many library fires that scholars have begun to imagine it starts them—is cursed in some way. I also wanted to suggest the possibility that the Firestarter might in fact be blessed and revelatory….

(6) GRRM, DEVELOPMENT HELLION. George R.R. Martin has what seems like a pretty exhaustive list of all of his current media projects in his most recent post in “Coming…Eventually…Maybe” at Not A Blog. (This excerpt covers only part of them.)

…I am not quite sure why all these stories seem to be breaking now.   The SANDKINGS project has been underway for more than a year (Covid obviously shut things down) and IN THE LOST LANDS for something like six years.   We also have an animated feature of THE ICE DRAGON in development at Warner’s (as it happens I wrote “Sandkings” and “The Ice Dragon” within a couple weeks of each other, during a Christmas break from my job teaching college in Dubuque, Iowa — that was a good break).

And that’s just in the feature sphere.   In television, as seen here, I am working with Kalinda Vazquez on a pilot for Roger Zelazny’s ROADMARKS, and I am part of the terrific team that is trying to bring Nnedi Okorafor’s WHO FEARS DEATH to series on HBO…. 

(7) BAILIE OBIT. South African-born character actor David Bailie died March 5 at the age of 83. On TV he played “Dask” in the 1977 Doctor Who serial The Robots of Death, and also appeared in Blake’s 7. In movies, he played the mute pirate Cotton in the Pirates of the Caribbean series. His other film credits include The Creeping Flesh (with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing), Son Of Dracula (1973), Legend Of The Werewolf (also with Cushing), The Beyond (2017), The House That Jack Built and In The Trap. Bailie reprised his Doctor Who role as Dask in the Kaldor City audio drama series, and he was in Big Finish Productions audio dramas playing the “Celestial Toymaker”. Bailie also was a professional photographer, specializing in portrait photography. 

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

The New York Times article “A Model and Her Norman Rockwell Meet Again” focuses on how the artist often used people in his town as models. For most of them it was their main claim to fame, with one exception —  

…The people he painted were real, though. Like Sorenson in “Bright Future,” many lived in or near Stockbridge. William J. Obanhein, the police chief in Stockbridge, posed for Rockwell several times (though he was better known as “Officer Obie” in Arlo Guthrie’s Vietnam-era ballad “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” because he had arrested Guthrie for littering)….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 11, 1971 — On this day in 1971, THX 1138 premiered. It was the first feature film from George Lucas. It was produced by Francis Ford Coppola and written by Lucas and Walter Murch. It starred Robert Duvall and Donald Pleasence. A novelization by Ben Bova was published. The film was not a box office success though critics generally loved it and it developed a cult following after Star Wars released, and it holds a ninety percent rating among the audience at Rotten Tomatoes. (CE)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 11, 1921 F. M. Busby. Together with his wife and others he published a fan magazine named Cry of the Nameless which won the Hugo award in 1960. Heinlein was a great fan of him and his wife with The Cat Who Walks Through Walls in part dedicated to Busby and Friday in part dedicated to his wife Elinor.  He was a very busy writer from the early Seventies to the late Nineties writing some nineteen published novels and myriad short stories before he blamed the Thor Power Tools decision for forcing his retirement which is odd as he published a number of novels after that decision came into effect. (Died 2005.) (CE)
  • Born March 11, 1952 Douglas Adams. I’ve have read the book and listened to the full cast production the BBC did of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy but have absolutely no desire to see the film. Wait wasn’t there a TV series as well? Yes there was. Shudder! The Dirk Gently series is, errr, odd and escapes my understanding its charms. He and Mark Carwardine also wrote the most excellent Last Chance to See. It’s more silly than it sounds. (Died 2001.) (CE) 
  • Born March 11, 1963 Alex Kingston, 58. River Song in Doctor Who. She’s in a number of different stories with a number of different Doctors and was the eventual wife of the Eleventh Doctor. She was in Ghost Phone: Phone Calls from the Dead, as Sheila, and she was Lady Macbeth in the National Theatre Live of Macbeth. Oh, and she’s in the Arrowverse as Dinah Lance, in FlashForward as Fiona Banks, and recently shows up as Sara Bishop on A Discovery of Witches, a series based off the Deborah Harkness novel of the same name. Great series, All Souls Trilogy, by the way. She’s been continuing her River Song character over at Big Finish. (CE)
  • Born March 11, 1967 John  Barrowman, 54. Best genre role without doubt is as Captain Jack Harkness in Doctor Who and Torchwood.  He reprised the role for Big Finish audiobooks and there’s one that I highly recommend which is the full cast Golden Age production with all the original cast. You’ll find a link to my review here. I see he’s been busy in the Arrowverse playing three different characters in the form of Malcolm Merlyn / Dark Archer / Ra’s al Ghul.  He’s also had a long history in theatre, so he’s been in Beauty and the Beast as The Beast / The Prince, Jack and The Bean Stalk as Jack,  Aladdin as, well, Aladdin and Cinderella as, errrr, Buttons. (CE) 
  • Born March 11, 1989 Anton Yelchin. Best known for playing played Pavel Chekov in Star TrekStar Trek Into Darkness and  Star Trek Beyond. He also was in Terminator Salvation as Kyle Reese, in the Zombie comedy Burying the Ex as Max and voiced Clumsy Smurf in a series of Smurf films. Really he did. (Died 2016.) (CE)
  • Born March 11, 1914 – Francis Towner Laney.  Active fan in the late 1940s, he left telling us all why in Ah! Sweet Idiocy! (1948).  He answered FIAWOL (“Fandom is a way of life”) with FIJAGH  (“Fandom is just a [gosh-darned] hobby”); we took things too seriously, he took 130 pages to say; we were a lot of fuggheads, a term he coined, cuttingly, disputably, memorably.  (Died 1958) [JH]
  • Born March 11, 1925 – Christopher Anvil.  Twoscore stories about the Federation of Humanity; another dozen about Pandora’s Planet; another nine about War with the Outs; fourscore others; half a dozen collections; two novels; comical, daredevilish, moving.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born March 11, 1953 – Judith Silverthorne, age 68.  Six novels for us; nonfiction e.g. Ingrained about pioneer Saskatchewan woodworkers 1870-1930.  Two Moonbeam Awards.  [JH]
  • Born March 11, 1964 – Libba Bray, age 57.  Nine novels, half a dozen shorter stories.  A Great and Terrible Beauty NY Times Best-Seller.  Printz Award for Going Bovine.  [JH]
  • Born March 11, 1970 – Nicole Murphy, age 51.  Seven novels, two anthologies, 15 shorter stories.  Wrote up Artist Guest of Honour Shaun Tan for the Aussiecon 4 Programme Book (68th Worldcon).  Chaired Conflux 4, co-chaired 9.  [JH]
  • Born March 11, 1971 – Jonas Karlsson, age 50.  Actor (Guldbagge Award) and author; three novels so far available in English.  Born in Salem, the one in Stockholm County, Sweden, not the one in Essex County, Massachusetts.  Played Mats, which Swedish-speakers do not rhyme with “Do cats eat bats?”, in Bang Bang Orangutang, a Swedish film which is not SF but who couldn’t love the title? which rhymes in Swedish too.  [JH]

(11) SUING FOR SUPER NON-SUPPORT. Joe George is “Ranking the Live-Action Members of Superman’s Supporting Cast” for Tor.com. Did you ever wonder who is the worst Lex Luthor? Here’s George’s candidate:

9. Jesse Eisenberg (DCEU) — Okay, I’m going to lose some of you right away, so let’s get this over with. I dislike all of Zack Snyder’s movies, especially those with Superman in them. But the worst part of his very bad Superman movies is, without question, Jesse Eisenberg’s take on Lex Luthor. There’s potential here to update Lex from an early 20th-century mad scientist to a 21st-century villain like Mark Zuckerberg. But Eisenberg’s jittery, manic take is all irritating style and no substance, coming off as the perfect embodiment of the phrase “a dumb person’s idea of a smart person.”

(12) THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS. Mental Floss says these are “14 Things You Might Not Know About ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’”.

3. BEFORE CRITICIZING PROPAGANDA IN NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR, GEORGE ORWELL WORKED AS A PROPAGANDIST.

During World War II, Orwell worked for the British Broadcasting Corporation. His role with the BBC Empire Service involved creating and supervising programming that the nation would feed to Indian networks to encourage a pro-Allies sentiment and spark volunteering.

4. GEORGE ORWELL MODELED ROOM 101 AFTER AN OFFICE AT THE BBC.

Nineteen Eighty-Four’s most horrifying setting is Room 101, the Ministry of Love’s torture chamber in which victims are exposed to their worst nightmares. What readers might not know is that Orwell modeled the chilling locale on an actual room.

As a propagandist, Orwell knew that much of what the BBC said had to be approved by the Ministry of Information, possibly in the BBC’s Room 101. He probably drew the name of his nightmare room from there. Curious about what the dreadful room looked like? The room has since been demolished, but in 2003 artist Rachel Whiteread created a plaster cast of the room.

(13) URB BLURB. Science News reviews Annalee Newitz’ nonfiction book Four Lost Cities: “A tour of ‘Four Lost Cities’ reveals modern ties to ancient people”.

… The section on Cahokia (A.D. 1050 to 1350) — located in what is now Illinois, across the Mississippi River from St. Louis — offers an unexpected reason for a city’s emergence. Many people link cities with capitalism and trade. Cahokia’s 30-meter-tall pyramids, 20-hectare plazas and a population (at the time) bigger than Paris suggest that spiritual revival can also build a major metropolis. Cahokia and Angkor, which reached its peak from A.D. 800 to 1431 in what is now Cambodia, also show how cities can form when power gets concentrated in a few influential people. 

Through touring such diverse cities, Newitz shows that the move to urban life isn’t just a setup for a hero of a story. It’s a common setup for many ancient cultures….

(14) E.T. PHONE ROME. In “Extraterrestrials in the Catholic Imagination”, John C. Wright points out he is one of three sff authors who contributed to Cambridge Scholars Publishing’s essay collection Extraterrestrials in the Catholic Imagination: Explorations in Science, Science Fiction and Religion:

Included:

Sciopods, Blemyae, and the Green Children of Woolpit: “Aliens” in the Catholic Imagination, Premodern Era
Michael F. Flynn

What Has Outer Space to Do with Christ?
John C. Wright

Catholic Questions in Science Fiction and Fantasy
Tim Powers

I was honored to be asked to pen an essay titled “What Has Outer Space To Do with Christ?” for this volume. The burning question of whether soulless and dispassionate Vulcans can be baptized is not necessarily addressed, but questions of like magnitude are.

However, as is only to be expected, Mike Flynn’s essay on Sciopods and Blemyae is the more interesting. It is the first I ever heard about the Green Children of Woolpit — and if you have not heard these names before, prepare to be fascinated.

(15) FAIR HEARING. A reconstructed Neanderthal ear adds a new piece to the puzzle of whether the early humans could speak. “Neanderthals Listened to the World Much Like Us” in the New York Times.

…In the new study, the researchers used high-resolution CT scans of ear structures in five Neanderthals, 10 modern Homo sapiens and nine early hominids from Sima de los Huesos, an archaeological site in what is now Spain, who lived before Neanderthals.

The team created 3-D models of these ear structures and ran the measurements through a software model to calculate the sound power transmission, which describes the way sound energy moves from the environment into the ear canal and winds its way toward the cochlea — essentially how much of the sound energy ultimately makes it to your inner ear.

The researchers used this metric to calculate the occupied bandwidth, which reflects the range of frequencies in which at least 90 percent of the sound power reaches the inner ear — the “sweet spot” of hearing, according to Dr. Quam. This sweet spot is the range we hear best in, where our ears are most tuned to sound.

The study found the Neanderthal ear’s sweet spot extended toward frequencies of 3 to 5 kHz, which are specifically dedicated to consonant production. The researchers believe this optimization toward consonants could be a key sign that Neanderthals had verbal language.

“The use of consonants distinguishes human language from mammalian communication, which is almost completely vowels,” Dr. Quam said. “Like grunts, howls, shrieks.”

In fact, the study found Neanderthals’ sweet spot was the same as modern human hearing, whereas the early hominids from Sima de los Huesos had a hearing range somewhere between chimpanzees and modern humans….

(16) WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN? Here’s a show I knew would produce a Scroll item sooner or later. And the promise was fulfilled by the opening episode of its fifth season: “First reveal of ‘The Masked Singer’ Season 5 is ‘most famous guest ever’”.

This Wednesday, when guest host Niecy Nash removed the Snail’s stovepipe chapeau and Kermit’s adorable little green noggin popped out of a foxhole in the costume’s back, viewers were united in their excitement and delight over this meta, puppet-within-a-puppet, Russian-doll-like moment. (There was a pair of decidedly less adorable actual Russian Dolls who also performed on Wednesday’s premiere, but I’ll get to them later.) Judge Ken Jeong even declared Kermit the “most famous guest ever” to compete on the show, and — sorry Lil Wayne, Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle, Tony Hawk, et al — Ken wasn’t wrong. Kermit is an icon… and, as it turns out, he’s not a bad Daryl Hall impressionist either.

Sadly, while Kermit the Snail gave a charming and not-at-all-sluggish performance, as he told Niecy: “It’s not easy being green, but sometimes it’s even harder being a snail!”…

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Rich Lynch.] “Right Up Our Alley” — not exactly genre, but it caught the attention of Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn. The video footage is not CGI.

[Thanks to Dan B., Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, PJ Evans, Andrew Porter, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, Rich Lynch, John Hertz, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jeff Smith.]

Pixel Scroll 2/11/21 The Englishfan Who Filed Up To-Be-Read Hill But Scrolled Down Mount Tsundoku

(1) CHANGING OF THE GUARDIAN. Lisa Tuttle has taken the handoff from The Guardian’s SF/Fantasy reviewer Eric Brown who ended his fifteen-year run in January. Tuttle’s first genre round-up will appear in The Guardian’s books section on Saturday, February 13.

(2) MANDALORIAN ACTRESS OUT. Deadline reports “Gina Carano Off ‘The Mandalorian’ After Social Media Comments”. Their article quotes from the posts she made immediately following this excerpt:

In the wake of Gina Carano’s controversial social media posts, Lucasfilm has released a statement Wednesday night, with a spokesperson saying “Gina Carano is not currently employed by Lucasfilm and there are no plans for her to be in the future. Nevertheless, her social media posts denigrating people based on their cultural and religious identities are abhorrent and unacceptable.”

Carano played bounty hunter Cara Dune on the first two seasons Lucasfilm and Disney+’s The Mandalorianand it looked like we’d be seeing more of her. It appears not….

(3) ROBORIGHTS. A film based on the short story “Dolly” by Elizabeth Bear is in development: “Apple TV+ Lands Hot Package ‘Dolly’ With Florence Pugh On Board To Star” at Deadline.

Following competitive bidding war, Apple Studios has landed Dolly, a new feature film with Academy Award-nominee Florence Pugh attached to star with Vanessa Taylor and Drew Pearce Penning the script. Insiders close to the project stress the project is not greenlit at this time as the script still needs to penned and a director still needs to be attached. Insiders go on to add that the package caught the interest of a total of four bidders that included multiple studios and another streamer with Apple TV+ emerging as the winner earlier this week.

The film is a sci-fi courtroom drama in which a robotic “companion doll” kills its owner and then shocks the world by claiming that she is not guilty and asking for a lawyer. The film, which is inspired by Elizabeth Bear’s short story of the same name, has elements of both classic courtroom drama and sci-fi….

(4) FOURTH COMING. In “The Four Types of Time Travel (And What They Say About Ourselves and the World Around Us)” at CrimeReads, Dan Frey looks at whether time travel novels have characters going forwards or backwards in time and whether they retrieve objects.

Time travel is a genre unto itself, one that spans sci-fi, mystery, fantasy, history and more. But there are distinct categories of time travel narratives, each with its own set of rules—and each with a different baked-in outlook.

Getting to a taxonomy of time travel stories, the first question is—who or what is actually time-traveling? Because while the first stories we think of involve spaceships and Deloreans, the oldest time travel stories are stories about…

1. SEEING THE FUTURE

In these stories, it is actually INFORMATION that travels through time. And this might be the most scientifically plausible form of time travel, one that is already happening all the time on the quantum level….

(5) WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN. Robert J. Sawyer tells Facebook readers that 26 years ago Ace Science Fiction thought they were going to land a contract with Lucasfilm to produce a trilogy of novels outlining the origins of the alien races from the Star Wars universe:

Ace editor Ginjer Buchanan approached me to write those books, and before the license was finalized I produced an 11,000-word outline and also the first 11,000 words of the manuscript of volume one. But the deal fell apart — yes, they’d get a Lucasfilm license, but, no, I couldn’t use any of the actual STAR WARS races, and so I walked away. Since I was never paid for the work, I posted the material on my website as fan fiction.

Sawyer mentioned this because the Yub Nub podcast episode “Hollywood Dinners and Alien Exodus”, which dropped today, discusses that project beginning at the 36:30 mark.

Sawyer reminds fans that the outline for the whole book is here: “Alien Exodus Outline”. And his opening chapters are here: “Alien Exodus Chapters”.

(6) THE WORDS OF SFF. In the February 6 Financial Times, book columnist Nilanjana Roy discusses the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction website.

Skipping from ‘ecotopia’ (first used back in 1975) to ‘Frankenstein complex ‘(coined by Isaac Asimov in 1947 to describe the anxiety and distrust held by humans towards robots), a living history of science fiction began to take shape in my mind.  The HDSF records language coined by eminent figures from the realms of literature and science, but also long-forgotten hacks who wrote stories for the pulps…

…The HDSF is full of surprises, even to an unabashed sf fan.  Many entries are older than I imagined:  ‘teleport’ might seem like a word dreamt up in the 1950s, for instance, but the first recorded instance comes from an 1878 mention in the Times Of India:  ‘The teleport,.an apparatus by which men can be reduced to infinitessimal (sic) atoms, transmitted through the wire, and reproduced safe and sound on the other end!’ While “infodump” was first used in a 1978 conference on science.

(7) BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR. Someone who dismissed the Locus Recommended Reading List as “useless” was pointed at the Tangent Online 2020 Recommended Reading List” which contains these introductory remarks by Dave Truesdale:

Looking at short fiction over at least the past 10 years, a general observation can be made. It would appear that Woke Culture is as pervasive and cancerous as it has ever been for at least the past 10 years. The dearth of true originality when it comes to political or socially themed short fiction is becoming more and more apparent to those of us who have observed and studied the field for decades. Political Correctness has now infiltrated the field like a metastazing cancer, to the point where long time readers are beginning to voice complaints. The complaints arise not from what is published in the magazines or some of the original anthologies, but what is not being published. Identity Politics and the Cancel Culture have inserted themselves into the field to the extent that not only magazine fiction editors, but other areas of the SF field are bowing to intimidation and peer pressure to conform to the total obeisance the Woke doctrine demands….

(8) PRESENT AT THE CREATION. The documentary Marvel’s Behind the Mask premieres tomorrow on Disney+. Variety has an exclusive clip, and homes in on one topic — how the “Black Panther’s ‘Perfect’ Marvel Comic Book Launch Had One Major Flaw”.

When Marvel Comics first launched the character of Black Panther, it was in the July 1966 issue of “Fantastic Four.” As explained in this exclusive clip from the upcoming Disney Plus documentary “Marvel’s Behind the Mask,” premiering Feb. 12, the character of T’Challa, the King of Wakanda, was presented just like any other Marvel superhero — attention wasn’t paid to the color of his skin, but rather to the supreme quality of his abilities.

“The first Black superhero, Black Panther, comes out perfect,” says writer-director Reginald Hudlin, who wrote a run of Black Panther comics in the 2000s. “He’s this cool, elegant, handsome guy who’s just got it on lock.”

But as the clip also demonstrates, there’s one essential element of Black Panther that was glaringly incorrect: His skin is grey, not brown.

…Rather than shy away from its less than admirable history, the “Behind the Mask” filmmakers say Marvel’s executives were on board with a warts-and-all look at the company’s efforts with representation. “They were complete partners,” says Gary. “They accepted the fact that we were going to make some things uncomfortable.” The company even opened up its vault so the filmmakers could access the full range of its history.

“There were certain things that we needed to scan that weren’t part of the digital history, that were important to the storytelling,” says Simon. “We needed to get that older imagery out of the vault.”…

(9) NYT JAMES GUNN OBITUARY. The New York Times paid their respects today: “James Gunn, Prizewinning Science Fiction Author, Dies at 97”.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1971 — Fifty years ago at Noreascon I, Fritz Leiber wins the Hugo for Best Novella with “Ill Met in Lankhmar”, one of his Fafhrd and The Grey Mouser tales. It was originally published in the April issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction. The other nominees were “The Thing in the Stone” by Clifford D. Simak,  “The Region Between” by Harlan Ellison.  “The World Outside” by Robert Silverberg and “Beastchild” by Dean R. Koontz.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 11, 1898 – Leo Szilard.  Vital in the Manhattan Project; first to connect thermodynamics and information theory; filed earliest known patent applications for the electron microscope, the linear accelerator, and the cyclotron (but did not build all these, nor publish in scientific journals, so credit went to others; Lawrence had the Nobel Prize for the cyclotron, Ruska for the electron microscope).  Present when the first man-made self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction was achieved in the first nuclear reactor; shook Fermi’s hand.  Credited with coining the term “breeder reactor”.  Half a dozen short stories for us.  To him is attributed “We are among you.  We call ourselves Hungarians.”  (Died 1964) [JH]
  • Born February 11, 1910 L. T. C. Rolt. English writer whose enthusiasm for heritage railways is writ large in his 1948 Sleep No More collection of supernatural horror stories which tend to be set in rural railways. (Simon R. Green may be influenced by him in his Ghost Finders series which often uses these railways as a setting.)  Some of these stories were adapted as radio dramas.  Sleep No More isavailable from the usual digital suspects. (Died 1974.) (CE) 
  • Born February 11, 1915 – Mabel Allan.  Four novels, one shorter story for us; a hundred seventy books all told, some under other names; some in series e.g. a dozen about Drina Adams who at age 10 wants to be a ballerina and finally is.  Here is the Mabel Project for reading MA’s books in chronological order.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born February 11, 1920 – Daniel Galouye.  (“Ga-lou-ey”)  Navy pilot during World War II; journalist; New Orleans fan who developed a pro career.  Half a dozen novels, five dozen shorter stories.  Guest of Honor at Consolacon, DeepSouthCon 6.  Interviewed in Speculation.  Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award.  (Died 1976) [JH]
  • Born February 11, 1926 Leslie Nielsen. I know the comic, bumbling fool who delighted generations of film goers. But his first starring role was as Commander John J. Adams in one of the finest SF films of all time Forbidden Planet. I am most decidedly not a fan of his later films but I think he’s brilliant here. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born February 11, 1939 Jane Yolen, 82. She loves dark chocolate so I send her some from time to time. She wrote me into a novel as a character, an ethnomusicologist in One-Armed Queen to be precise in exchange for finding her a fairytale collection she wanted. Don’t remember now what it was other than it was very old and very rare. My favorite book by her is The Wild Hunt which she’s signing a copy for me now, and I love that she financed the production of Boiled of Lead’s Antler Dance which her son Adam Stemple was lead vocalist on. (CE) 
  • Born February 11, 1948 Robert Reginald. He’s here because of two Phantom Detective novels he wrote late in his career which are most popcorn literature. (The Phantom Detective series started in 1936 so he used the Robert Wallace house name.) He has two series of some length, the Nova Europa Fantasy Saga and War of Two Worlds. Much of what he wrote is available from the usual digital sources. (Died 2013.) (CE) 
  • Born February 11, 1950 Alain Bergeron, 70. He received an Aurora Award for Best Short Story for “Les Crabes de Vénus regardent le ciel” published In Solaris number 73, and a Sideways Award for Alternate History for  “Le huitième registre” (translated in English as “The Eighth Register” by Howard Scott). (CE) 
  • Born February 11, 1953 Wayne Hammond, 68. He’s married to fellow Tolkien scholar Christina Scull. Together they’ve done some of the finest work on him that’s been done including J. R. R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator, The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s CompanionThe Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book and The J. R. R. Tolkien Companion and Guide. (CE)
  • Born February 11, 1965 – John Zeleznik, age 56.  A dozen covers, a score of interiors.  Here is Find Your Own Truth.  Here is The Heart of Sparrill.  Here is his Rifts Coloring Book.  Here is a Magic: the Gathering card.  Ten years in Spectrum anthologies.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born February 11, 1970 – Reinhard Kleist, age 51.  Half a dozen covers, as many interiors.  Here is Asimov’s collection Azazel.  Here is Das Böse kommt auf leisen Sohlen (German, “Evil comes on quiet feet” – more literally Sohlen are soles – tr. Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes).  [JH]
  • Born February 11, 1975 – Kathy McMillan, age 46.  Two novels for us, four others (one got an Indies Award); eight resource books for educators, librarians, parents. ASL (American Sign Language) Interpreter.  Website says Author & Language Geek.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) UNFORGOTTEN LORE. Gene Luen Yang fills readers in  “On the Connection Between Chinese Folktales and American Comic Book Heroes” at Literary Hub.

I first heard about the monkey king from my mom.

When I was a kid, my mother used to tell me Chinese folktales before bedtime. My mother is an immigrant. She was born in mainland China and eventually made her way to the United States for graduate school.

She told me those stories so that I wouldn’t forget the culture that she had left. Even though I hadn’t ever experienced that culture firsthand, she wanted me to remember it.

Of all her stories, my favorites by far were about Sun Wukong, the monkey king. Here was a monkey who was so good at kung fu that his fighting skills leveled up to superpowers. He could call a cloud down from the sky and ride it like a surfboard. He could change his shape into anything he wanted. He could grow and shrink with the slightest thought. And he could clone himself by plucking hairs from his head and then breathing on them. How cool was that?…

…Turns out, my mother was pretty faithful. As I read it, I realized that American superheroes hadn’t replaced Sun Wukong in my heart after all. Superman, Spider?Man, and Captain America were simply Western expressions of everything I loved about the monkey king….

(14) THE MILLENNIUM HAS ARRIVED. The thousandth book by a woman reviewed on James Nicoll Reviews: “Just Keep Listening”.

K.B. Spangler’s 2021 coming-of-age space opera The Blackwing War is the first book in her Deep Witches Trilogy. It is set in the same universe as Spangler’s 2017 Stoneskin .

Tembi Stoneskin was rescued from abject poverty when the Deep, the vast, enigmatic entity that facilitates transgalactic teleportation, took a shine to her. As long as the Deep retains its affection for Tembi, she will be an ageless Witch, stepping from world to world as it pleases her. There is little chance Tembi will alienate the Deep. 

There is, however, every chance she will alienate her superiors in the Witch hierarchy. Youthful Tembi is that most dreaded of beings, an idealist…. 

(15) YOU DON’T HAVE TO DIAL M ANYMORE. In “The Rise of the Digital Gothic” on CrimeReads, Katie Lowe says many of today’s Gothic novelists are coming up with plots that involve apparitions or other supernatural phenomena coming out of characters’ smartphones.

…But for all that this new technology gives, there’s also the sense of our personal spaces—the physical homes we inhabit—seeming always invaded by others, both strangers and not. They wander through, startling us with questions as we brew our morning coffee; scanning our living rooms while we’re on Zoom; liking our family photos as we crawl into bed. Our daily lives are interrupted constantly by apparitions: by the voices and figures of people who simply are not there.

This is not, however, a state of being sprung entirely from the pandemic—nor is it unique to fiction. In her 2014 essay “Return of the Gothic: Digital Anxiety in the Domestic Sphere,” critic Melissa Gronlund observed similarities between recent work in the visual arts. She suggests that artists using “the Gothic tropes of the uncanny, the undead, and intrusions into the home” in their work are searching for “a way to wrestle with daunting, ongoing questions prompted by current technological shifts: How has the internet affected our sense of self? Our interaction with others? The structures of family and kinship?”

(16) MARS MERCH. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum told people on its mailing list that the limited edition Mars Perseverance merchandise collection will only be available until February 21. (Click for larger images.)

(17) MR. SCOTT’S SECRET STUFF. Say, we just mentioned this substance the other day: “The Science Behind Transparent Aluminum on ‘Star Trek’” at Heavy.

Forbes reports that there are two methods of creating transparent aluminum in common use today. The first method involves taking a powdered aluminum-magnesium compound that is subjected to high pressure and heated, a method used by the US Military, specifically the US Naval Laboratory. This method produces a somewhat cloudy material that needs to be polished prior to use. An alternative method, which creates a slightly stronger and much clearer material, also exists. This end-product is called aluminium oxynitride, sold under the name ALON.

(18) UNBELIEVABLE TAZ. MeTV remembers how “Taz was so crazy, he convinced the world that Tasmanian devils didn’t exist”. And the iconic character has been used to help the real ones avoid extinction.

People accept that fantasy creatures like unicorns and dragons do not really exist, and it was that kind of categorical thinking that led many Looney Tunes fans around the world to assume that a Tasmanian devil is not a real animal.

They’d never seen one before. They’d never heard of one before. It must be a made-up animal!

When the cartoon devil called “Taz” was introduced in cartoons in the 1950s, creator Robert McKinson had no idea he would be creating so much confusion with his brand-new character, which he never foresaw becoming such an icon….

(19) THAT’S CAT. They’re everywhere – on these altered versions of book covers – like the ferocious feline on the front of Arkady Martine’s A Desolation Called Peace.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Mask Up America” on YouTube is a PSA from WarnerMedia in which Wonder Woman, Harry Potter, and Humphrey Bogart urge you to wear masks.

[Thanks to Joel Zakem, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Danny Sichel, Iphinome, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, JJ, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 9/25/20 The Scrollwave Pixel

(1) GUIDING LIGHTS. “Personal Canons: Young Wizards” is Erin Maier’s guest post in a series at Sarah Gailey’s blog.

…Here Young Wizards says: it’s never too late to change. Diane Duane comes back to this idea again and again throughout the series. Wizardry is always about choosing to change or not, in one way or another. Of course, change is never without a price: wizardry gives only so much as it is given. But if you are willing, if you choose, you can change more than you ever dreamed.

“This is a business for saints, not children!” Nita’s father exclaims to Tom and Carl in High Wizardry, upon learning Nita’s younger sister Dairine has also become a wizard. “Even saints have to start somewhere,” they tell him. The youngest wizards have the most power, because they aren’t yet so confined by the idea of “possible.”

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman says “Uh-oh! It’s Spider-Man SpaghettiOs with comics writer/editor/historian Danny Fingeroth” in Episode 128 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Danny Fingeroth

I’ve known that guest, Danny Fingeroth, for more than 40 years. A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan Lee, his biography of “The Man,” has just been released in paperback. That’s but the latest of his many accomplishments since he started in comics back in the ’70s as an assistant at Marvel to previous guest Larry Lieber.

Danny went on to become group editor for all the Spider-Man titles, and writer of the Deadly Foes of Spider-Man and Lethal Foes of Spider-Man mini-series, plus long runs on Dazzler and Darkhawk. His other books in addition to that Stan Lee bio include Superman On The Couch: What Superheroes Really Tell Us About Ourselves and Society and Disguised as Clark Kent: Jews, Comics, and the Creation of the Superhero.

As for dinner … our multi-course meal was made up of nothing but Marvel-branded food — which clearly should be ingested for their novelty value only — about which you’ll hear us kibitz during our conversation.

We discussed his start (like mine) in the Marvel British reprint department, what was wrong with the early letters he wrote to comics as a kid, his admittedly over-generalized theory that there were only two kinds of people on staff at Marvel, our differing reactions to the same first comic book convention in 1970, our somewhat similar regrets about the old-timers we worked beside during our early days in comics, the reason working in comics was wonderful and heartbreaking at the same time, why he wanted to be not only Stan Lee, but both Stan and Jack Kirby, how he was able to interview “The Man” and get him to say things he’d never said before, why comics was the perfect medium for Stan Lee, and much more.

(3) IT’S NO SECRET. Mythaxis casts their “Editor Spotlight on Ellen Datlow”.

DSW: What’s your secret to being so successful as an editor of anthologies?

ED: It depends on what one means by success. I’ve been lucky to continue to propose anthologies that are of interest to enough publishers and readers that they sell OK (usually, but not always).

But basically I only edit anthologies on themes that are broad enough that I can get the writers I solicit stories from to push the envelope of that theme. I’ll be living with the “theme” for at least two years from conception to publication so I have to love it.

I’d very much like to edit more non-themed anthologies but they’re a very hard sell.

(4) THE BOMB PICTURE BOOM OF 1947. Leonard Maltin rolls out his list of “New And Notable Film Books  September 2020”.

THE BEGINNING OR THE END: HOW HOLLYWOOD—AND AMERICA—LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB by Greg Mitchell (The New Press)

A letter to Donna Reed from a former schoolteacher led to MGM making the first film about the development of the atomic bomb. That’s the first nugget in this scrupulously researched tale of The Beginning or the End (1947), a film that tried to keep everyone from J. Robert Oppenheimer and President Harry S. Truman happy and wound up pleasing almost no one. Author Greg Mitchell appears shocked—shocked!—that Washington exerted such power over a movie studio, but threads his story with documentation that is beyond dispute. An experienced author and researcher (whose earlier book The Campaign of the Century: Upton Sinclair’s Race for Governor of California and the Birth of Media Politics is a longtime favorite of mine) he reveals his ignorance of old movies when he badly summarizes the career of Brian Donlevy—who was chosen to play General Leslie Groves in this film—but stays on solid ground when he details the endless negotiations that won the government’s approval of the finished picture. It’s an interesting saga that has particular relevance as we reevaluate the consequences of the bombs that dropped on Japan 75 years ago.

(5) HOSTS OF GHOSTS. Amy Shearn analyzes “How Literary Ghosts Can Help Us All Be a Little More Human” at LitHub.

…Or, okay, at the very least, we can all agree that hauntings are a very useful metaphor. “Whether or not ghosts are real,” writes Erica Wright, “their stories give us inspiration, a way to live more alert to possibilities.” A ghost in a story can deliver information living characters lack access to, so it’s no wonder spirits have apparated throughout Western literature, from Hamlet’s truth-telling father to the psychological spirits of Henry James’s The Turn of the ScrewA literary ghost can also be a neat way to link a story’s present with the past, a seductive trick for the expansively-minded novelist. The contemporary American ghost tends to be a little more complicated, however, than a Dickensian Ghost of Christmas Past rattling around in a nightgown. As Parul Sehgal writes in the New York Times, “The ghost story shape-shifts because ghosts themselves are so protean—they emanate from specific cultural fears and fantasies… They are social critiques camouflaged with cobwebs; the past clamoring for redress.” She notes that America is a haunted country, despite, or maybe because of, our “energetic amnesia.”

(6) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • Twenty-five years ago, Greg Bear’s Moving Mars, the third novel in his Quantum Logic series, won the Nebula Award beating out works by Octavia E. Butler, Jonathan Lethem, James K. Morrow, Rachel Pollack, Kim Stanley Robinson and Roger Zelazny. It would also be nominated for the Hugo, Locus, and John W. Campbell Memorial Awards. It would lose in the Hugo race for Best Novel at ConAdian to Kim Stanley Robinson’s Green Mars.  (CE)

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 25, 1919 – Betty Ballantine.  With husband Ian (1916-1995) established Bantam Books, then Ballantine Books which they led to a fine SF publishing history: Blish, Bradbury, Clarke, Kornbluth, Leiber, Niven, Pohl, Tolkien; a hundred covers by Richard Powers, a distinctive genius.  SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) President’s Award; Special Committee Award from the 64th Worldcon; World Fantasy Award for life achievement; SF Hall of Fame (Betty & Ian jointly).  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born September 25, 1930 – Shel Silverstein.  Cartoonist, journalist, poet, songster.  Introduced to most by the Ballantines.  Here is one of his collections.  Here is another.  Is he jolly, or melancholy?  Have you sung “The Boa Constrictor”, by golly?  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born September 25, 1932 J. Carol Holly. Her various book dedications showed she had a strong love of cats. I’ve not encountered her novels but she wrote a fair number of them including ten genre novel plus The Assassination Affair, a novel in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. franchise. Only The Flying Eyes novel by her is available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 1982.) (CE) 
  • Born September 25, 1946 – John D. Owen, 74.  Fanziner noted particularly for Crystal Ship, which you can see here, and Shipyard Blues, which you can see here (both in archived copies).  [JH]
  • Born September 25, 1951 Mark Hamill, 69. I’ll confess that my favorite role of his is that he voices The Joker in the DC Universe. He started doing this way back on Batman: The Animated Series and has even been doing on other such series as well. Pure comic evilness! Oh, and did you know he voices Chucky in the new Child’s Play film? Now that’s creepy. (CE)
  • Born September 25, 1957 – Christine Morton-Shaw, 63.  Two novels for us; a half dozen picture books for young children which have been found fun.  You may already know her teen fantasy The Riddles of Epsilon.  [JH]
  • Born September 25, 1960 – Kristin Hannah, 60. Lawyer and fictionist.  Two novels for us; a score of others (historical fiction The Nightingale sold 2 million copies).  “The mall?  I live on an island.”  Website.  [JH]
  • Born September 25, 1961 Heather Locklear, 59. Her first genre role was Victoria ‘Vicky’ Tomlinson McGee in Stephen King’s Firestarter followed by being Abby Arcane in The Return of Swamp Thing. She was also Dusty Tails in Looney Tunes: Back in Action. She’s had one-offs in Tales of the UnexpectedFantasy IslandMuppets Tonight and she voiced Lisa Clark “Prophecy of Doom” on Batman: The Animated Series. (CE)
  • Born September 25, 1962 Beth Toussaint, 58. She was Ishara Yar in the “Legacy” episode of Next Gen and she’s been in a lot of genre series and films including BerserkerBabylon 5, the Monsters anthology series, the very short-lived Nightmare CafeMann & MachineProject Shadowchaser IILegend and Fortress 2: Re-Entry. (CE)
  • Born September 25, 1964 Maria Doyle Kennedy, 56. She was Siobhán Sadler in Orphan Black, and currently is Jocasta Cameron in Outlander. She’s been cast as Illa in the soon to be filmed The Wheel of Time series. (CE) 
  • Born September 25, 1969Catherine Zeta-Jones, 51. Her first role ever was as Scheherazade in the French short 1001 Nights. The Daily Telegraph noted it’s remembered only for its “enjoyable nude scenes”.  Her next role was Sala in The Phantom. Does Zorro count as genre? If go, she appeared as Eléna Montero in The Mask of Zorro and Eléna De La Vega in The Legend of Zorro. She was Theodorain The Haunting, a riff off of The Haunting of Hill House. And finally she was in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles as Maya in “Palestine, October 1917”. (CE) 
  • Born September 25, 1989 – Élodie Serrano, 31.  Two novels, collection The Die Is Cast, twenty more stories (e.g. “Muse for Sale, Accepts Souls”, “The Word Thief”, “At the Heart of Plants”), in French.  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) TAKING FLIGHT. Lyles Movie Files reports “Aldis Hodge joins Black Adam cast to play Hawkman”.

If you’ve been reading my comic book reviews, you know Hawkman is one of my favorite comics out right now. Robert Venditti has written an excellent take on the character and he’s reached new heights (sorry) of what’s possible with him.

It was kind of fitting then that I saw the news about Aldis Hodge (The Invisible Man) being cast as Hawkman in the Black Adam movie from Venditti’s Twitter feed….

Hodge joins Dwayne Johnson, who plays the title character Black Adam, and Noah Centineo (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before) who will be Atom Smasher. The Black Adam version of the JSA is small with only Doctor Fate and Cyclone revealed although their casting have yet to be announced.

(10) LEARN WHILE YOU BURN. James Davis Nicoll pulled from the shelf “Five Fantasy Novels Starring Self-Taught Protagonists” at Tor.com. One of them is –

A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher (2020)

Riverbraid prides itself on its toleration of magickers, even minor ones like Mona, whose talents are limited to baked goods. Because Mona is poor and her magic has no obvious military applications, she’s left to work in her aunt’s bakery. It’s not a bad life, really. Everything changes the morning that Mona finds a corpse sprawled on the floor of the bakery.

The victim is a another magicker. It soon becomes apparent that someone is hunting down the magically talented. Mona’s attempts to unravel the mystery involve her in a desperate resistance against high-level scheming and barbarian invasion. Only a baker can save the day.

(11) ROAMING CHARGES. LitHub reports “$3.2 million worth of rare stolen books have been found under a house in rural Romania.”

When a group of thieves stole $3.2 million worth of rare books from a London warehouse in 2017, including seminal scientific texts by Isaac Newton and Galileo, they shocked the antiquarian book world and inspired a number of theories about what had happened. Who would target such rare titles—including a 1566 edition of On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres by Nicolaus Copernicus, worth $268,000—that they would be essentially impossible to sell on the black market?

An anonymous source told The Guardian that the heist “must be for some one specialist. There must be a collector behind it.” One source, in Smithsonian, said that “a wealthy collector known as ‘The Astronomer’ may have hired the thieves to steal the books for him.” Other texts in the collection included those by Leonardo da Vinci and a copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy from 1569.

Now, British, Romanian, and Italian investigators working together have found them: they were “in a concealed space under a house in rural Romania,” the Associated Press reports. The main suspects are members of a Romanian organized crime group, and police have already arrested 13 people in connection with this heist and a string of other high-profile burglaries.

(12) RUSSIAN VACCINE DATA SUSPICIOUS SAY RESEARCHERS. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Putin is rushing out a vaccine – Sputnik V – against SARS-CoV-2 / CoVID-9 but it has not had mass testing, though it has had a small trial on 76 volunteers. The immune response of this small trial has been reported in The Lancet.

This rushed approval (by Russia only – as the approval does not meet international standards) has previously been criticised.  However, now, the Russian paper in The Lancet reporting the trial has also been criticised in an open letter by 40 biomedical research scientists.

The Lancet paper does not include in the on-line version the underlying data. Conversely, the Oxford University and Astra Zeneca vaccine paper previously published in The Lancet had the underlying data included.  Without it, it is impossible to check the headline data in the paper.

Further, in the headline data that was included in the Sputnik V vaccine paper in The Lancet, there were seeming repetitions. While these repetitions could be purely coincidence, they are unlikely.

The journal Nature became intrigued and their news team investigated. The Russian researchers  are standing by their paper and have not responded to Nature’s news team’s queries.  Nor has The Lancet commented why it failed to insist that the underlying data be included in the Sputnik V vaccine paper as it was for the British vaccine.

The news article in Nature is open access and can be found here: “Researchers Question Russian Covid Vaccination Trial Reults”.

(13) ANTARCTICA IS CLOSE TO THE POINT WHERE FURTHER WARMING WILL SEE A COMMITMENT TO ICE SHEET COLLAPSE. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Researchers have looked at how the Antarctic has responded in the past and compared this with an ice sheet model that includes a number of feedbacks.  For example, with ice surface melt, the surface becomes less reflective and so absorbs more sunlight. So enhancing future warming. Also with surface melt, the melted ice drains away lowering the surface and low altitude surfaces are warmer.  There are other feedbacks, both positive and negative.

We have already warmed the planet by 1.25°C above pre-industrial era temperatures. The researchers have found that up to 2°C above pre-industrial  there is some stability in both the West and East Antarctic ice sheets.  However, above 2°C warming (which we are currently on track to reach before the mid-21st century) the West Antarctic ice sheet becomes committed to partial collapse. Also, above 2°C warming sea level rise from Antarctic melt almost doubles to 2.4 metres per degree of warming.  Above 6°C, melt soars to 10 metres per degree of warming up to 9°C above pre-industrial.

Worse, once each threshold level is reached, it is harder to reverse.  That is to say cooling to temperatures back to the threshold point will not reverse matters: still further cooling is required.

The paper’s abstract is here. (The full paper is behind a pay wall.)

(14) SHIP AHOY. Gizmodo effuses that “The Mandalorian’s Razor Crest Is Hasbro’s Next Magnificent Crowdfunding Toy”.

With a handful of successfully funded projects under its belt, including a towering X-Men Sentinel robot, Hasbro’s HasLab crowdfunding platform is returning to its Star Wars roots with another Vintage Collection spaceship: an incredibly detailed, 30-inch long replica of the Razor Crest from The Mandalorian. Now this is the way.

Designed to be perfectly scaled to Hasbro’s 3.75-inch action figures, the Star Wars: The Vintage Collection Razor Crest also measures in at an impressive 20-inches wide and 10.5-inches tall when perched on its functional retractable landing gear…. 

(15) OVER THE RIVER. A comedy mini-series earns raves from The Guardian: “Zomboat! A surprisingly clever and refreshingly upbeat zombie apocalypse”.

If you’re craving a zombie series that ditches the cynicism and has some good old-fashioned fun with the idea, then allow me to introduce you to Zomboat!, a short, six-episode British comedy with a silly title but a surprisingly clever premise.

The series follows sisters Kat and Jo (Leah Brotherhead and Crazyhead’s Cara Theobold) after they wake up one Sunday to find Birmingham under attack by zombies. As a gamer nerd who knows her zombie lore, Kat already has a plan for this scenario – steal a canal boat and escape to Eel Pie Island in London, because zombies can’t swim. And, as Kat puts it, “The Walking Dead would have been over in one season if Rick Grimes had gone to the Everglades.”

After stealing said canal boat, the sisters find two stowaways in the bathroom: misanthropic Sunny (Hamza Jeetooa) and his sensitive gym bro buddy Amar (Ryan McKen), who are stranded in the city after a stag weekend. Though they clash at first, the group decides to team up for survival, leading to plenty of bickering, bonding and snogs. As a result, the series avoids falling into the same style-over-substance trap that spoiled other recent zombie comedies (like Netflix’s Daybreak); instead, it benefits from the kind of found-family warmth that made Zombieland so charming.

(16) COMPOUND INTEREST. “A Student Just Proved Paradox-Free Time Travel Is Possible” – but why am I learning about this from Yahoo! Finance?

…In a new peer-reviewed paper, a senior honors undergraduate says he has mathematically proven the physical feasibility of a specific kind of time travel. The paper appears in Classical and Quantum Gravity….

The math itself is complex, but it boils down to something fairly simple. Time travel discussion focuses on closed time-like curves (CTCs), something Albert Einstein first posited. And Tobar and Costa say that as long as just two pieces of an entire scenario within a CTC are still in “causal order” when you leave, the rest is subject to local free will.

“Our results show that CTCs are not only compatible with determinism and with the local ‘free choice’ of operations, but also with a rich and diverse range of scenarios and dynamical processes,” their paper concludes….

(17) ATTENTION ELEANOR CAMERON FANS. Lehman College Multimedia Music Theater and Dance department presents Wonderful Flight To The Mushroom Planet. A musical composed by Penny Prince.

[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michal Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Rich Horton, Andrew Porter, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 8/8/20 You Unlock This Scroll With The Key Of Pixelation

(1) JURY SUMMONS. Two groups are recruiting jurors for their annual awards.

The British Fantasy Society’s call is here.

If you are interested in being a juror for this year’s awards, please register your interest here We are especially interested in hearing from those historically under represented on juries; and you do not need to be a member of the BFS to fulfil this role.

Both forms will remain open until Wednesday 16th August.
Any questions, please get in touch at bfsawards@britishfantasysociety.org

A few days ago they were concerned about the balance of applicants:

The Aurealis Awards also are looking – “Aurealis Awards 2020 – Call for Judges”. Full requirements at the link.

We are seeking expressions of interest from Australian residents who would like to judge for the 2020 Aurealis Awards. Judges are volunteers and are drawn from the Australian speculative fiction community, from diverse professions and backgrounds, including academics, booksellers, librarians, published authors, publishing industry professionals, reviewers and enthusiasts. The only qualification necessary is a demonstrated knowledge of and interest in their chosen category (good time management skills and an ability to work in a team in an online environment are also essential).

(2) ULTIMA RATIO REGUM. Camestros Felapton continues to work out what canon means to sff readers, and if it’s useful in “Types of canon/key texts”.

… I think within discussions of canon there is a sense of books whose role it is to edify the reader, the books that will make you (somehow) a better reader. I’m sceptical that any books really fit that criteria and even more sceptical that we can find a common set of such books. However, there are clearly books that themselves provoke further books and as such books that get referenced in later works and later works that can be seen as response to earlier works. Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers being an obvious example of such a work. This is canon as a kind of feedback loop of significance — the books that are themselves critiques of Troopers lend significance to Troopers as a book. You don’t have to have read Starship Troopers to enjoy Kameron Hurley’s Light Brigade but having some familiarity with Heinlein’s book adds an element to Hurley’s book.

(3) HEATED WORDS. As someone wrote on Twitter: “The phrase ‘You couldn’t make Blazing Saddles today’ takes on an entirely new meaning.” CBR.com has the story: “Blazing Saddles Is Being Remade as an Animated Samurai Movie About Cats and Dogs” .

Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles is considered a film classic, even though it’s stirred up some controversy over the years. Now the film is being retold in an entirely new medium, as well as an entirely new genre.

The Los Angeles film company Align is helping develop an animated film titled Blazing Samurai. The film takes the basic premise of Blazing Saddles and transplants it to the Samurai era. The story follows a dog named Hank who dreams of becoming a Samurai. When he becomes in charge of protecting Kakamucho, he learns that the town is populated entirely by cats.

(4) A GOLDEN AGE. Galactic Journey does a rundown on the 1964-1965 television season: “[AUGUST 8, 1965] NAVIGATING THE WASTELAND #2 (1964-65 IN (GOOD) TELEVISION)”. I was 12 around then so no wonder I remember this as the Golden Age of TV. The Traveler obviously has a later bedtime than I did that year, because I never got to watch his favorite, Burke’s Law —

Three years ago, I reported on the state of television in the wake of former FCC-chief Newton Minow’s pronouncement that television was a ‘vast wastelend.’  Since then, I have remained a devoted fan of the small screen, if not completely addicted to ‘the boob tube.’  Indeed, the Young Traveler and I have our weekly favorites we do not miss if we can at all help it.

And so, as we sail through the sea of summer reruns, gleefully anticipating the Fall line-up, I take delight in awarding the Galactic Stars of Television for the 1964-65 season.

Burke’s Law 1963-65

Amos Burke is what would have happened if Bruce Wayne’s parents had never been shot – he’s a Beverly Hills playboy millionaire who also happens to be the dapper Captain of Homicide for the L.A. Police Department.  In each episode, Amos, with the aide of grizzled Sergeant Hart and youthful Detective Tilson (and occasionally the doe-eyed Sergeant Ames), solves a murder mystery…..

If The Traveler hadn’t waxed rhapsodically about this show – and I’m not sure whether he thinks it fits the blog’s sff theme or just thinks it’s good – then it wouldn’t have seemed such a glaring oversight to end the post pointing out Harlan Ellison wrote a script for the lamentable Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, without mentioning Ellison also wrote four scripts for 1964 episodes of his beloved Burke’s Law series.

(5) SINCE 1984. Jane Johnson looks back on “A life in publishing”.

I realised this morning that it’s 36 years to the day when I started to work in publishing, as an editorial secretary at George Allen & Unwin Publishers, in Ruskin House on Museum Street. What follows really is the trajectory of modern publishing in microcosm.

My skillset was not ideal: I loved books, especially the works of JRR Tolkien and came with a first class English degree, a Masters in Scandinavian Studies (Old Icelandic) and absolutely no secretarial abilities at all. But I had worked for a year at Foyles and another as a boardmarker/cashier at Ladbrokes, and so had proved I could work hard and not be snooty about getting my hands dirty; and that I was numerate and understood the concept of gambling, which my new boss assured me was the essence of publishing. These were the times of Telex machines and manual typewriters, which were just giving way to electronic typewriters (my nightmare) but David was remarkably patient with my Tippexed letters, blackened carbon copies and non-existent shorthand, and within a year had promoted me away from my disaster zone to become an editor. Paperbacks were a fairly new concept: hardbacks were the prestige edition.

(6) IMPROVEMENT NOT NEEDED. In a post on Facebook, David Gerrold tells how a book is being unfairly belittled.

There is currently a backlash against The Giving Tree, and some people are circulating an alternate ending.

Hey! I have an idea. I have an alternate ending for Winnie The Pooh. Pooh is a bear. He decides he likes bacon. He eats Piglet. Much more realistic, right?

No, look. Shel Silverstein knew what he was doing when he wrote The Giving Tree.

It doesn’t need an alternate ending — specifically not one that’s preachy, badly written, doesn’t really fit, and is intended to cast the original in a bad light….

(7) TAKING THE MINUTES. In “Six Novels That Bring Together Mystery And Time Travel” on CrimeReads, Julia McElwain recommends novels by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Lauren Beukes as time travel novels mystery readers might like.

Depending upon how it’s done, it can add to the tension—a race against time as our characters try to return to their own era—or it can allow readers to explore the past through modern eyes. In my own In Time mystery series, I’ve enjoyed the fish-out-of-water sensation that my main character—a modern-day woman and brilliant FBI agent—experiences after being tossed back to the Regency period in England. As women then were second-class citizens without the ability to even vote, not only does she have to deal with personal obstacles, but she also cannot tap into her usual arsenal of forensic tools to solve crimes.

Whether time travel is being used to wrap a mystery in an extra, innovative layer or is allowing readers to view humanity and history through a different lens, the theme is brilliantly done in the books that I’ve listed below….

(8) ALLEN OBIT. A software pioneer has died: “Frances Allen, Who Helped Hardware Understand Software, Dies at 88” in the New York Times.

Frances Allen, a computer scientist and researcher who helped create the fundamental ideas that allow practically anyone to build fast, efficient and useful software for computers, smartphones and websites, died on Tuesday, her 88th birthday, in Schenectady, N.Y.

Her death, in a nursing home, was confirmed by her great-nephew Ryan McKee, who said the cause was Alzheimer’s disease.

In the mid-1960s, after developing software for an early supercomputer at the National Security Agency, Ms. Allen returned to her work at IBM, then the world’s leading computer company. At an IBM lab in the Hudson River Valley town of Yorktown Heights, just north of New York City, she and her fellow researchers spent the next four decades refining a key component of modern computing: the “compiler,” the software technology that takes in programs written by humans and turns them into something computers can understand.

For Ms. Allen, the aim was to do this as efficiently as possible, so programmers could build software in simple and intuitive ways and then have it run quickly and smoothly when deployed on real-world machines.

Together with the researcher John Cocke, she published a series of landmark papers in the late 1960s and ’70s describing this delicate balance between ease of creation and speed of execution. These ideas helped drive the evolution of computer programming — all the way to the present day, when even relative novices can easily build fast and efficient software apps for a world of computers, smartphones and other devices.

In 2006, on the strength of this work, Ms. Allen became the first woman to win the A.M. Turing Award, often called the Nobel Prize of computing.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 8, 1956 X Minus One aired “The Last Martian.” This is the story of a reporter  seeing if a man’s claim that he is a Martian placed in a human’s body.  George Lefferts was the scriptwriter who adapted the story from the Fredric Brown’s “The Last Martian” short story first published in Galaxy Science Fiction in October 1950.  Mandel Kramer, Elliot Reed, Santos Ortega, Ralph Bell, John McGovern, and Patricia Weil were in the radio cast.  You can listen to it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 8, 1883 – Paul Stahr, Jr.  Forty covers for Argosy 1925-1934.  Also Collier’sJudgeLife, People’s Home JournalThe Saturday Evening Post; book covers, posters.  Here is the 10 Jan 31 Argosy.  Here is the 25 Aug 34.  Here is The Ship of Ishtar.  Here is a World War I poster.  (Died 1953) [JH]
  • Born August 8, 1919 Dino De Laurentiis. Maker of Dune obviously but less obviously also a lot of other genre including Conan the BarbarianFlash GordonKing KongHalloween II and Halloween IIIDead Zone and The Last Legion. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born August 8, 1930 Terry Nation. Best-known as scriptwriter for Doctor Who and creator of the Daleks. He later created Blake’s 7. He would also write scripts for The Avengers, The Champions andMacGyver. (Died 1997.) (CE) 
  • Born August 8, 1935 Donald P. Bellisario, 85. Genre shows include Tales of the Gold MonkeyAirwolf and of course, that truly amazing show Quantum Leap. Ok, is Tales of the Gold Monkey genre? Well if not SF or fantasy, it’s certainly pulp in the best sense of that term. (CE)
  • Born August 8, 1937 Dustin Hoffman, 83. Ahhh, Captian Hook, the man who got swallowed by the vast crocodile in Hook. Yeah, I like that film a lot. By no means his only genre appearance as he was Mumbles, Caprice’s fast-talking henchman in Dick Tracy (not a film I love), Mr. Edward Magorium in Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium and the voice of Master Shifu in Kung Fu Panda. (CE)
  • Born August 8, 1950 – John D. Berry, 70.  Of New York (Fanoclasts), later Seattle.  “The Club House” 1969-1972 (fanzine reviews) for Amazing.  Pacific Northwest Review of Books (with Loren MacGregor).  Fan Guest of Honor, Norwescon 1, VCON 13, Westercon 63.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate.  Designed the souvenir book for 15th World Fantasy Con.  I daren’t say a font of knowledge but indeed he is good with them.  [JH]
  • Born August 8, 1958 – David Egge, 62.  Thirty book and magazine covers, three dozen interiors.  Here is The End of Summer.  Here is The Dorsai Pacifist (in German).  Here is a 1986 cover for The Mote in God’s Eye (in fact Moties don’t have faces, a non-trivial point, but see this anyway).  Here is the Apr 01 Analog.  [JH]
  • Born August 8, 1961 – Tim Szczesuil, F.N., 59.  Chaired Boskones 33, 53.  Five terms as NESFA (New England SF Ass’n) President, four as Treasurer; various committees.  Contributed to APA:NESFA.  For NESFA Press, edited His Share of Glory (C.M. Kornbluth), Strange Days (Gardner Dozois; with Ann Broomhead).  Fellow of NESFA (service award).  [JH]
  • Born August 8, 1971 – Phlippa Ballantine, 49.  First New Zealand author to podcast her novel (Weaver’s Web, 2006; three more; PB since moved to Virginia).  Three novels about the Order, five (with husband Tee Morris) about the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences (Phoenix Rising was a top-10 SF book of the year on Goodreads, sequel The Janus Affair a Locus best-seller and Steampunk Chronicle readers’ choice for fiction), two about the Shifted World; a score of shorter stories.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 8, 1988 – Flavia Bujor, 32.  Children’s novel The Prophecy of the Stones (or “Gems”), written at age 13, translated into 23 languages.  A second is rumored.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump shows that the pandemic has reached mythic proportions.
  • Bizarro has a moral.

And Today In Comics History:

  • August 8, 1978: Garfield’s sidekick, Odie, made his comic strip debut.

(12) TUNING UP. CinemaBlend pays tribute to “10 Excellent John Williams Scores In A Steven Spielberg Movie”. On their list is:

Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977)

The 1977 science-fiction epic Close Encounters of the Third Kind helped cement Steven Spielberg as a master of the genre, and the movie’s epic story of humans coming into contact with aliens was only made that more memorable thanks to soaring and sweeping score by John Williams. 

Throughout the entire movie, the score pushes the plot along to the point where the humans finally begin to communicate with the alien mothership, which is another way of inserting Williams’ composition into the picture. The “Play The Five Tones” scene is a miraculous piece of filmmaking and orchestration as it starts rather small and hushed before going into a back and forth between the two species before growing into a grand composition that ultimately ends with a chorus of strings growing in intensity as the aliens reveal themselves to the amazement of the humans.

(13) PRIVATE EYES. NPR tells how “From Desert Battlefields To Coral Reefs, Private Satellites Revolutionize The View”.

As the U.S. military and its allies attacked the last Islamic State holdouts last year, it wasn’t clear how many civilians were still in the besieged desert town of Baghouz, Syria.

So Human Rights Watch asked a private satellite company, Planet, for its regular daily photos and also made a special request for video.

“That live video actually was instrumental in convincing us that there were thousands of civilians trapped in this pocket,” said Josh Lyons of Human Rights Watch. “Therefore the coalition forces absolutely had an obligation to stop, and to avoid bombardment of that pocket at that time.”

Which they did until the civilians fled.

Lyons, who’s based in Geneva, Switzerland, has a job title you wouldn’t expect at a human rights group: director of geospatial analysis. He says satellite imagery is increasingly a crucial component of human rights investigations, bolstering traditional eyewitness accounts, especially in areas where it’s too dangerous to send researchers

…They get those images from a handful of private, commercial satellite companies, like Planet and Maxar.

For the past three years, Planet has done something unprecedented. Its 150 satellites photograph the entire land mass of the earth every day — more than one million images every 24 hours. Pick any place on earth — from your house to the peak of Mt. Everest — and Planet is taking a photograph of it today.

“If you could visualize a string of pearls going around the poles, looking down and capturing imagery of the earth underneath it every single day,” said Rich Leshner, who runs Planet’s Washington office.

Scroll through Planet’s photo gallery and you get a bird’s eye view of the state of the world: idle cruise ships clustered off Coco Cay in the Bahamas, deserted streets around normally bustling sites like the Colosseum in Rome, and the smoke from the relentless fires set by farmers clearing land in the Amazon rainforest.

U.S. government satellites are the size of a bus. Planet’s satellites are the size of a loaf of bread. Planet is in business to make money, and its clients include the U.S. military and big corporations. But it also works with lots of non-profits and other groups it never anticipated.

(14) DAMMIT, BLANET! There is a thesis about a new type of planets, called “Blanets” (BLack Hole plANETS). “New Class of Planet Can Form Around Black Holes, Say Astronomers”Discover has the story.

Supermassive black holes are among the most exciting and puzzling objects in the universe. These are the giant, massive bodies that sit at the heart of most, perhaps all, galaxies. Indeed, they may be the seeds from which all galaxies grow.

Supermassive black holes are at least a hundred thousand times the mass of our sun. They are often surrounded by thick clouds of gas that radiate vast amounts of energy. When this happens, they are called active galactic nuclei. Discovering the properties of these clouds, and their curious central residents, is an ongoing exercise for astrophysicists.

Now researchers have a new phenomenon to consider — the idea that planets can form in the massive clouds of dust and gas around supermassive black holes. Last year, Keichi Wada at Kagoshima University in Japan, and a couple of colleagues showed that under certain conditions planets ought to form in these clouds. These black hole planets, or blanets as the team call them, would be quite unlike any conventional planet and raise the possibility of an entirely new class of objects for astronomers to dream about.

(15) DEAD OR ALIVE? In this 2019 article, WIRED considers the possibilities after “A Crashed Israeli Lunar Lander Spilled Tardigrades on the Moon”.

…Half a world away, Nova Spivack watched a livestream of Beresheet’s mission control from a conference room in Los Angeles. As the founder of the Arch Mission Foundation, a nonprofit whose goal is to create “a backup of planet Earth,” Spivack had a lot at stake in the Beresheet mission. The spacecraft was carrying the foundation’s first lunar library, a DVD-sized archive containing 30 million pages of information, human DNA samples, and thousands of tardigrades, those microscopic “water bears” that can survive pretty much any environment—including space.

But when the Israelis confirmed Beresheet had been destroyed, Spivack was faced with a distressing question: Did he just smear the toughest animal in the known universe across the surface of the moon?

…The lunar library on the Beresheet lander consisted of 25 layers of nickel, each only a few microns thick. The first four layers contain roughly 60,000 high-resolution images of book pages, which include language primers, textbooks, and keys to decoding the other 21 layers. Those layers hold nearly all of the English Wikipedia, thousands of classic books, and even the secrets to David Copperfield’s magic tricks.

Spivack had planned to send DNA samples to the moon in future versions of the lunar library, not on this mission. But a few weeks before Spivack had to deliver the lunar library to the Israelis, however, he decided to include some DNA in the payload anyway. Ha and an engineer on Spivack’s team added a thin layer of epoxy resin between each layer of nickel, a synthetic equivalent of the fossilized tree resin that preserves ancient insects. Into the resin they tucked hair follicles and blood samples from Spivack and 24 others that he says represent a diverse genetic cross-section of human ancestry, in addition to some dehydrated tardigrades and samples from major holy sites, like the Bodhi tree in India. A few thousand extra dehydrated tardigrades were sprinkled onto tape that was attached to the lunar library.

(16) THE BARD’S SJW CREDENTIALS. Cats are the theme for Shakespeare & Beyond’s post: “Of the flattering, pampered, reviled, predatory, ‘harmless, necessary’ early modern cat”.

… While many of us today think of cats primarily as pampered pets and cherished internet weirdos, for early modern Europeans cats ran the gamut, from pests and carriers of disease, to indicators of witchcraft and other feminine misbehavior, to objects of affection and partners in play. Shakespeare’s own references to cats display such a variety. Trying to shake Hermia off in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Lysander calls her “thou cat, thou burr! vile thing,” (3.2.270), and Macbeth’s First Witch calls out to Graymalkin, a common name for a cat that could also be applied to a “jealous or imperious old woman,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary (1.1.9). In other places, he references a cat’s behavior, as when Falstaff insists he is “as vigilant as a  cat to steal cream” (Henry IV, Part 1 4.2.59). The Oxford English Dictionary also credits Shakespeare with the first reference to a cat’s purr, in All’s Well That Ends Well (5.2.19)…

(17) IS THAT PAL OR HAL? Wil Wheaton devotes a blog post to his forthcoming movie: “Wil Wheaton is a very bad friend in trailer for horror-thriller Rent-A-Pal”.

Everything about this movie makes me happy. The cast is superb, the editing and photography and music are gorgeous, and the story is REALLY FUCKING CREEPY.

I can’t wait for y’all to see this when it comes out in September.

The short description of the movie on YouTube says:

Set in 1990, a lonely bachelor named David (Brian Landis Folkins) searches for an escape from the day-to-day drudgery of caring for his aging mother (Kathleen Brady). While seeking a partner through a video dating service, he discovers a strange VHS tape called Rent-A-Pal. Hosted by the charming and charismatic Andy (Wil Wheaton), the tape offers him much-needed company, compassion, and friendship. But, Andy’s friendship comes at a cost, and David desperately struggles to afford the price of admission.

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