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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(12) COMICS SECTION.

Joel Merriner mashes up Gotham with Middle-Earth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Tolkien Society Awards 2022

The Tolkien Society Awards 2022 winners were announced April 9.

BEST ARTWORK

BEST ARTICLE

  • “A Song of Greater Power: Tolkien’s Construction of Lúthien Tinúviel” by Clare Moore in Mallorn 62, winter 2021

BEST BOOK

  • The Nature of Middle-earth, ed. Carl Hostetter

BEST ONLINE CONTENT

OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION AWARD

Brian Sibley
Writer and Broadcaster

“Minas Tirith built from 110000 LEGO Bricks”: Model by STEBRICK. Design by Stefano Mapelli. Assembled by BrickCreation.

The Tolkien Society Awards 2022 Shortlist Announced

The Trustees of The Tolkien Society have released the shortlist for The Tolkien Society Awards 2022. Members of the Society have until April 8 to cast their votes.

The shortlist for the Awards is as follows:

BEST ARTWORK

BEST ARTICLE

BEST BOOK

  • The Gallant Edith Bratt, Nancy Bunting and Seamus Hamill-Keays
  • The Nature of Middle-earth, ed. Carl Hostetter
  • Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien (republished), ed. Christopher Tolkien
  • Tolkien and the Classical World, ed. Hamish Williams

BEST ONLINE CONTENT

OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION AWARD

The recipient of the Outstanding Contribution Award 2022 has been selected by the Trustees and will be announced in due course.

Priscilla Tolkien (1929-2022)

Priscilla Tolkien in 2005. Photo by Sancho Proudfoot.

Priscilla Tolkien died February 28 after a short illness at the age of 92. She was the youngest of J.R.R. Tolkien’s children and his only daughter.

Priscilla Tolkien interacted with fandom many times over the years. She attended The Friends of Lewis party held at Magdalen College, Oxford in 1975 hosted by Fr. Walter Hooper, where Owen Barfield, Nevil Coghill, Colin Hardie, A.C. Harwood, Fr. Gervase Mathew, Clyde Kilby, and her brother Fr. John Tolkien were among those present. That’s where Mythopoeic Society founder Glen GoodKnight met her – visiting from the U.S. – and discovered she was then selling books for charitable purposes that had belonged to her father (who died in 1973). About half of these were first edition translations of Tolkien in various languages. GoodKnight bought all he could carry away in two empty suitcases. (GoodKnight died in 2010 and his collection is now at Azusa Pacific University.)

For the U.K.’s Tolkien Society, she wrote “My Father the Artist,” published in a 1976 issue of Amon Hen, the Society bulletin. In 1986 she accepted appointment as the Society’s honorary vice-president, and hosted members of the Society at its annual Oxonmoot.

Priscilla Tolkien in 1992. Via Glen GoodKnight.

Priscilla, Christopher, and John Tolkien were all present at The J.R.R. Tolkien Centenary Conference, held in 1992 in Oxford by the Mythopoeic Society and The Tolkien Society.

In 2005, when the Tolkien Society celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of The Lord of the Rings at Aston University, Birmingham she opened the event by wishing that “a star would shine upon our meeting.”  

She was a probation officer in Oxford, a social worker, and a tutor at High Wycombe College, before retiring.

After her eldest brother John returned to Oxford in 1987, the siblings began identifying and cataloging the large collection of family photographs. In 1992, she and John published the book The Tolkien Family Album containing pictures of the Tolkien family to celebrate the 100th birth anniversary of their father.

She launched the special Tolkien edition Royal Mail stamps commemorating her father’s works in February 2004. 

In 2012, as a trustee of The Tolkien Trust, she joined a coalition of British publishers to sue Warner Brothers for US$80 million, accusing them of exceeding their rights by exploiting Middle-earth characters to promote online gambling (see “What Has It Got In Its Jackpotses?”).

Priscilla is the last of the Tolkien’s four children to pass away, following Michael (1984), John (2003) and Christopher (2020).

Pixel Scroll 1/8/22 All My Files Are Packed, I’m Ready To Scroll

(1) SOLDIERING ON THROUGH COVID. ConFusion chair Lithie Dubois has written one of the strongest chair communications I have ever read explaining why the Michigan convention is going ahead. “The State of ConFusion – a Transparent Update from the Conchair”.

My name is Lithie Dubois, and I am the 2022 Conchair. I want to update our community and be as transparent as possible with you. This may be long, but if you are a community member, you will want to read this….

First – are we still holding an in-person event? Absolutely. On January 20, 2022 – myself and my team will begin the task of packing in ConFusion gear to the Sheraton Detroit Novi, and setting up.  

The entire ConCom is deeply aware of the current state of this pandemic, and the Omicron Wave. We understand our community’s concerns, and even their disbelief in the fact that we’re holding an in-person ConFusion. We share in the community’s concerns and fears, as well as their hopes.

Truth is, we have a contract with our hotel. That contract does have what is called an Impossibility Clause. The short explanation of that is as follows; Should the government, be it Federal, State or Local impose orders or regulations which would prohibit us, or the Sheraton from being able to have, or provide what is needed for the event – then we’d be released from the contract with no penalties.  Unfortunately, as of today (Jan 7th, 2022) no such regulations or orders are in place at any level. Thus the Impossibility Clause does not apply. 

…Could we cancel the event outright? Legally, yes. Financially – absolutely not. Make no mistake, ConFusion Community – this con and community does not have $80k, – $90k dollars to pay out the entire contract.

Dubois’ message covers in detail their steps to maximize Covid safety, with changes in program, the con suite, etc.

…As a person who has been involved for many many years running not only fan events, but corporate ones, I can say that I have never had to push my team so hard, so fast, and ask for so many pivots than I have had to do this year. There are countless members of my ConCom that have put in hours of work, while always knowing that they themselves can not attend Rising ConFusion. These individuals helped carry the weight and stress of trying our best to do this the safest way we can, while knowing they’d not even be present to reap the benefits. Then there are those members of the Concom who are able to attend, and have also put in countless hours and brain cells to their departments needs. They’re all STILL working at breakneck speeds.  They are each amazing. While the community may not have witnessed all they have faced, I have.  Truly our community is blessed because of these individuals. Truly.

She also hopes members of the community will help prop up their finances, and suggests two ways to do so:

1) You could purchase a membership – and then not attend. This option will not provide you anything other then the knowledge that you did your best to ensure ConFusion lives on, by supporting the con with your membership. To be clear, we will not be rolling over memberships. If you elect to pre-register a membership and then not attend, that membership will not roll over to 2023, and expires at the end of the 2022 con. 

2) You can directly donate to our cost via our Paypal Donation Link…. 

(2) GIVE READERS WHAT THEY DON’T KNOW THEY WANTED. Clarkesworld hosts “Working Towards Legacy: A Conversation with Ann & Jeff VanderMeer by Arley Sorg” in the January issue.

Ann VanderMeer: …Jeff and I have different skills and talents so that helps make these collaborations work well. He is so good with the bigger picture and the overall concepts; and his instincts are spot-on most of the time. I am a detail-oriented person, so I deal with a lot of the nitty gritty, such as the permissions process (not the most fun, but necessary).

We also made a determination early on that each of us gets one veto (to drop a story) and one selection that cannot be vetoed. Luckily, we hardly ever have to use the veto in either scenario, as we generally agree on all selections before finalizing the table of contents. The bottom line is we have a great deal of respect for one another. This is a key component to our work together….

(3) SLUSH ANALYSIS. Editor Neil Clarke has updated the “Clarkesworld Submissions Funnel 2017-2021”, which breaks down by genre stories submitted and the acceptance rates in each category. Clarke advises against taking it all too much to heart for several reasons, beginning with: “Acceptance rates are fundamentally misleading. They suppose that all stories are equal in quality and we all know that isn’t true.”

…Over the last five years, the percentage of submissions reaching the second round has dropped significantly and the conversion from second round to acceptance has grown from 8% to nearly 35%. These changes are the likely result of our work with the slush team and how we recruit, monitor, and provide feedback to them….

(4) SPRING IS COMING. SF² Concatenation has just tweeted its second advance post ahead of its full spring edition. It’s an article comparing the novel Dune with both its cinematic adaptations.

Frank Herbert himself liked the film script, stating in Starlog in January 1983 that “Believe me, it is good, about two hours, 10 minutes, maybe.”.

The critics were less kind. Critic Roger Ebert’s comment is fairly typical of most. He said, “This movie is a real mess, an incomprehensible, ugly, unstructured, pointless excursion into the murkier realms of one of the most confusing screenplays of all time.”

SF² Concatenation’s full spring edition is slated for mid-month.

(5) HOLMES. Collector Glen S. Miranker will share his passion for Holmes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in Sherlock Holmes in 221 Objects, an exhibit at the Grolier Club in New York from January 12-April 16.

Highlights include leaves from The Hound of the Baskervilles; four short story manuscripts; original artwork by the British and American illustrators who created Sherlock’s iconic look for readers; a wealth of holograph letters from Arthur Conan Doyle to friends, colleagues, and well-wishers; a fascinating cache of pirated editions; the only known salesman’s dummy for the US Hound; an “idea book” of Conan Doyle’s private musings in which he (in)famously penned “Killed Holmes” on his calendar for December 1893; and a handwritten speech—never before displayed—with the author’s explanation for killing Holmes:

“I have been much blamed for doing that gentleman to death but I hold that it was not murder but justifiable homicide in self defence [sic] since if I had not killed him he would certainly have killed me.”

The New York Times helps build anticipation for the exhibit in “A Sherlock Holmes Mystery at the Grolier Club”.

This has the makings of a detective story with hints of history: Why did Sir Arthur Conan Doyle sign a pirate edition of “The Sign of the Four,” the second of the four Sherlock Holmes novels? Conan Doyle hated pirate editions. He was as famous for denouncing pirate publishers as they were infamous for grinding out cheap editions — and not paying royalties to authors like him.

Consider the plot possibilities here. Did someone force Conan Doyle to write words above his name that he could not have meant — “Yours cordially”?

Sherlock Holmes and Watson are not available to tackle this one, but Glen S. Miranker is on the case. He acquired the evidence years ago….

(6) RETURN TO THE ROCK. Fraggle Rock has been revived and is going to be on Apple TV+ starting January 21.

(7) TOLKIEN SOCIETY ADDS TO ARCHIVE. The Tolkien Society has purchased a historic collection of Tolkien photos taken by Pamela Chandler in 1961 and 1966.

In 1961, Pamela Chandler was commissioned to take portraits of Professor Tolkien. The formal black and white portraits were taken in his study at 76 Sandfield Road, Oxford.

At that time she also took informal photographs of the Professor and his wife, Edith, in the garden.

In 1966, when visiting the Tolkiens, she took a further series of less formal colour photographs of them both, in the study and in the garden.

…The 64 original negatives (which includes the copyright) were bought by the Tolkien Society at auction earlier this month for £18,000 (auction listing here), and the Society anticipates generating a modest income from these into the future. The Society also purchased at the same event lot 1470, two hand-written letters by Edith Tolkien, and lot 1465, a letter from J.R.R. Tolkien to Pamela Chandler.

The Society anticipates making these photos available to the Tolkien community for research and academic purposes, as well as generating a modest income from photo libraries and similar agreements. The Society shall be including more information about the photographs, as well as Pamela Chandler, on the website in due course. Until then you can support the Society by purchasing a postcard collection of 8 photographs, or by making a donation to the Society.

(8) JANE HAWKINS (1951-2022). Seattle fan Jane Hawkins died January 7, the day after explaining on Facebook why she was going through Washington State’s Death With Dignity procedures to end her own life. Hawkins had survived multiple cancers, but the latest recurrence came with a terminal diagnosis, and last November she stopped treatment and entered hospice care. “I have gotten to the point where enough drugs to quell pain pretty much renders me unconscious. I can’t focus on a book, a few minutes conversation wears me out completely, and snuggling with my lovely cat is just barely pleasant. Bluntly put, I just don’t want to be doing this anymore.”

Hawkins was a member of Seattle’s Vanguard fan group and hosted its monthly meetings for years. She was a founder of Norwescon, co-chaired three Potlatch conventions, and worked on many other cons including WisCon, Corflu, and Noreascon 3. She wrote one novel, Quantum Gate (1996), and was part of the Pacific Northwest Review of Books 

Jeanne Gomoll has written a deep-felt and insightful tribute to her friend Jane here on Facebook.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1989 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Thirty-three years ago, Agatha Christie’s Poirot starring David Suchet as Hercule Poirot, the Belgian Detective, the most famous creation of that author, premiered on ITV.  

Over the thirteen series and seventy episodes which ranged in length between fifty and a hundred minutes, some ten production companies would be involved in creating what we saw. Each episode was indeed adapted from original material by Christie. 

David Suchet is the only actor to appear in the entire series though Hugh Fraser as Captain Arthur Hastings and Philip Jackson as Chief Inspector James Japp appeared in the first eight series. Pauline Moran as Miss Felicity Lemon appeared in most of the first eight series. Their absence reflects the stories of the latter series. 

Reception for the series was excellent starting with the family who recommended Suchet for the part.  Christie’s grandson Mathew Prichard commented: “Personally, I regret very much that she never saw David Suchet.” It even won an Edgar Award for Best Episode in a TV Series for “The Lost Mine”. It holds a near perfect ninety-nine percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 8, 1908 William Hartnell. The very first Doctor when Doctor Who first aired on November 23rd, 1963. He would be the Doctor for three years, leaving when a new Showrunner came on. He played The Doctor once more during the tenth anniversary story The Three Doctors (aired 1972–73) which was the last thing he filmed before his death. I scanned through the usual sources but didn’t find any other genre listings for him. Is that correct? (Died 1975.)
  • Born January 8, 1941 Boris Vallejo, 81. Illustrator whose artwork has appeared on myriad genre publications. Subjects of his paintings were gods, hideous monsters, well-muscled male swordsmen and scantily clad females. Early depictions of Tarzan, Conan the Barbarian, and Doc Savage established him as an illustrator.
  • Born January 8, 1942 Stephen Hawking. Y’all know who he is, but did you know that Nimoy was responsible for his appearance as a holographic representation of himself in the “Descent” episode of Next Gen?  He also guest starred in Futuruma and had a recurring role on The Big Bang Theory. Just before his death, he was the voice of The Book on the new version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio series. (Died 2018.)
  • Born January 8, 1947 David Bowie. First SF role was as Thomas Jerome Newton in The Man Who Fell to Earth. He next shows up in The Hunger which is well worth seeing. He plays The Shark in Yellowbeard, a film that Monty Python could have produced but didn’t. Next up is the superb Labyrinth where he was Jareth the Goblin King, a role perfect for him. From that role, he went on to being Pontius Pilate in The Last Temptation of Christ, an amazing role by the way. He was in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me as FBI AgentPhillip Jeffries which was his last role. He also played Nikola Tesla in The Prestige from Christopher Priest’s novel. Ok, what am I leaving y’all to mention?
  • Born January 8, 1956 Jack Womack, 66. Ok I was trying to remember what I’d read by him. I realized it was his excellent Ambient novel when it first came out and that I hadn’t kept up with his later writings. So what do y’all think of his later novels? I know, he stopped witting essentially a generation ago except for his Flying Saucers Are Real! non-fiction release. Non-fiction? Really? Truly?  I was surprised the he’d won but one Award and that was the Philip K. Dick Award for his Elvissey novel. 
  • Born January 8, 1958 Lou Aronica, 64. Editor and publisher, primarily of science fiction. As a publisher he began at Bantam Books and formed their Bantam Spectra line. Later he moved on to Avon and assisted in the creation of their Avon-Eos line. He co-edited the Full Spectrum anthologies with Shawna McCarthy which won a World Fantasy Award once. He wrote three genre novels.
  • Born January 8, 1965 Michelle Forbes, 57. Best remembered as  Ensign Ro Laren in Star Trek: The Next Generation, she also showed up in the Battlestar Galactica: Razor film as Admiral Helena Cain, and the most excellent pilot of Warren Ellis scripted Global Frequency as Miranda Zero. She played Maryann Forrester on True Blood as well. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) GET YOUR KICKS FROM 1966. “Batman rewatch: We will never see anything like Adam West’s Batman again, alas” mourns Yahoo!

…By the time Adam West published his memoir in 1994, it was conventional to think of him as a bad actor and his Batman as a travesty. Dark Knights on page and screen were moping through BDSM role-play, getting spine-crunched by philosophical ‘roidheads, and carving steel cleats across Superman’s chin. West’s version looked like a toothless punchline in reruns. Which was, of course, the point. “We were farce,” West explains in Back to the Batcave (co-written by Jeff Rovin). “We were a lampoon.” The book reads defensive. Critics were wrong to call his series “camp.” Comic book fans were wrong to say his silliness ruined the character. The creators of the TV show were wrong not to pay him more money. The mega-grossing 1989 film Batman was wrong, because Michael Keaton‘s moody hero was “psychotic,” “addle-headed,” “shallow,” and “unpleasant.” (West wishes the film had starred West.)

No one reading Back to the Batcave had seen Lookwell, the astounding pilot West filmed a few years earlier. He plays a struggling actor semi-famous for a long-gone, three-season TV show: Hmmm. Former fake TV cop Ty Lookwell tries to solve actual crimes, and still chases hot-young-dude casting calls. He should be adrift in the wrong era, a turtlenecked Gloria Swanson washed up on grunge beach — but his baritone assurance warps the world around him. The script came from two young whoevers, Conan O’Brien and Robert Smigel, and they realized West’s stentorian I-Am-So-Normal manners had gotten weirder (and funnier) with age….

(13) SIMULATE KINDNESS. The December 19 New York Times Magazine has an interview with New York University philosopher David J. Chalmers about what life would be like if we were living in a simulated work like The Matrix. “Can We Have a Meaningful Life in a Virtual World?”. [May be paywalled.]

“You can try to think of our own physical universe as being a digital universe with bits at the bottom.  That’s not pathological:  that’s just a way for the world to be.  I want to normalize this idea of simulations; I quite like the recent movie Free Guy where the guy discovers he’s a character in a video game, and instead of totally freaking out— –None of this is real!– –he starts a movement.  It’s like, OK, we’re real people, too, and our lives matter and our world matters. That’s thinking of the simulated world not as dystopia but as a place where people can live meaningful lives.”

(14) HARD TRUTH. Try to control your disappointment (yeah, right) – Yahoo! covers the big non-discovery: “Moon Cube Mystery: Chinese Rover Finds It’s Just a Rock”.

…Last November, China’s Yutu-2 lunar rover spotted something curious on the far side of the moon. The image was blurry, but it was unmistakable: The object looked like a cube sitting on the moon’s surface. Its shape looked too precise to be just a moon rock — perhaps something left by visiting aliens like the monolith in Arthur C. Clarke’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

China’s space authorities called it the “mystery hut.” Others called it the “moon cube.” Yutu-2 was sent for a closer look, and at the leisurely speed the rover is capable of traveling, it took weeks to get up close.

On Friday, Our Space, a Chinese language science channel affiliated with China National Space Administration, posted an update. There is no monolith, no secret base on the rim of a lunar crater. Close up, it turns out to be just a rock. The seemingly perfect geometric shape was just a trick of angle, light and shadow….

(15) BIRDSTRIKE. [Item by Michael Toman.] I thought you (and Other Filers’n’Friends in the Lone Star State?) would be interested in this story I found on MSN: “Texas Walmart Overrun by Thousands of Birds Branded Sign of ‘Apocalypse’”.

…Shoppers were seemingly trapped in their cars—and presumably the store—when the flock descended onto the supermarket’s parking lot, off highway 80 in Mesquite.

One man, named Denis Mehic, filmed the “terrifying” spectacle from his car, where he sat with his children as birds swarmed the vehicle, with droppings landing on the windshield….

Will DisneyNature be streaming this “True Life Adventure” soon?

P.S. And here’s a Shout-Out dedicated to ol’ Winston Hibler!

“Now there’s something you don’t see in the sky every day, Woodrow!”

Now what, Gus?”

“Yonder, over there, past those railroad tracks…”

From Larry McMurtry’s uncut first draft of Lonesome Dove?

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Matthias Pilhede hates wizards especially if they have all-seeing orbs!

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

International Interactions with Tolkien – A Roundtable

Compiled by Sultana Raza.

Introduction: Though Tolkien’s novels were very successful in the last century, after the Peter Jackson trilogy in the early 2000s, their reach increased to encompass the globe. Irrespective of geographical or linguistic differences, they spoke to us in different ways. In an informal Discussion Group at Oxonmoot 2021, (held online), participants were welcome to share their thoughts/reactions/ take on various aspects of Tolkien’s works, mainly his Legendarium. The following questions were asked at the discussion group, hosted by Sultana Raza. The responses below were written and compiled after the event had ended. While María Fernanda Chávez Guiñez (MFCG) took part in the Discussion Group, Shareef Kitabi didn’t attend it. We’d like to thank the Tolkien Society and the Oxonmoot organizers for including this Discussion Group on Diversity in their programme. The views expressed herein are those of the contributors, and not of the Tolkien Society.

(1) Whether you first came across Tolkien’s books or films, please feel free to tell us about what struck you most about them.

Sultana Raza: I first came upon Tolkien’s work while watching TV. In fact, many people, from friends, acquaintances, to complete strangers (on the bus, or even some Kiwis on a plane) told me to watch the films when they first came out. In fact, though it’s a bit far-fetched, I felt a bit like Dr Joe Darrow (played by Kevin Costner) in the 2002 film Dragonfly, as he got many signs from his wife to go to a certain place. In my case, though I was told to watch the films, I resisted, because of all the media hype surrounding them. Strangely enough, I even watched the 2004 Oscars late at night, rooting for Return of the King, though I didn’t know why at that time. Then one evening, as I was having a telly dinner, FOTR started playing, and I was hooked. I couldn’t move at all, till the film was finished. Then I asked a friend who had DVDs of TT and ROTK to lend them to me, so I could watch the rest of the trilogy. While the films made Middle-earth seem to be real and believable, I was most struck by the overall plot, as I am with most films/TV series. I could have read a summary of the rest of the books on the Internet, but I resisted doing that. Watching the other two films was the fastest way to get to the end of the story. But I’ve read the books several times since then.

María Fernanda Chávez Guiñez: It is hard to say exactly when I knew of Tolkien’s books. My parents loved watching the movies, and my dad had read the books. But the first time I read Tolkien wasn’t exactly planned. I decided to have a look at my Dad’s books, and there was one with John Howe’s illustration of Smaug. The cover and the title, The Hobbit, called my attention. I marvelled at Thrór’s Map. When I discovered that the book belonged to my paternal grandmother, and that she was a big fan of Tolkien, I read The Lord of the Rings, and we discussed it together, and I can remember that one of the things that struck us both was the incredible world-building, and the strong emotions presented in the story. Everything seemed to be meaningful, nothing seemed superficial.

Shareef Kitabi: I’d read The Hobbit and LOTR in my mid-teens in India through a lending library. What kept me going through the books was the sense of adventure, and I wanted to know how it would end. I got quite invested in the characters, especially the Fellowship, and it was fun to go on this journey with them. I could also identify with some of the characters and their struggles to save their world. When the films were released, I went on the first day to watch them, mainly because I was interested in the special effects created by Weta Digital as I was intrigued by the technical aspects of these effects, especially how Gollum’s character was created. 

I’d like to mention that since I was used to reading classical literature (such as a set of George Bernard Shaw’s plays or Victor Hugo’s The Hunch-back of Notre Dame, or Tolstoy’s War and Peace), in my mid-teens, I didn’t find LOTR to be too long, or heavy-going, and was content to lose myself in his world. I was too young to understand everything in these masterpieces, but I enjoyed the plot-lines which kept me going.

(2) Which aspects of various characters, value systems, races, cultural mores, mythical elements etc. did/do you (or someone from your country would) relate to most?

Sultana Raza: I found Frodo’s character to be the most appealing, mainly because he was carrying such a heavy, and unique burden. His gender didn’t matter, because all of us have some sort of baggage that we try to carry as best as we can. He seemed to be somewhat isolated, as none of the others could have understood what he was going through, except perhaps for Gollum in a twisted sort of way. As Frodo neared Mount Doom, we got hardly any glimpses into his mind, which was a very effective technique used by Tolkien. Mainly because the reader wants to know more about what’s going on inside Frodo’s head. On the other hand, since the story is told through Sam’s point of view, he got more exposure to the readers than Frodo in the third book. Did Tolkien do a disservice to Frodo by not letting us see his huge internal struggles in ROTK? How much of his destiny did Frodo control?

In fact, I even presented and published a paper about it: Who Forged Frodo’s Fate: the Elves or Himself? For what it’s worth, I think Frodo’s the hero of the story, because at least he got to Mount Doom overcoming enormous inner conflicts to run away with the Ring. I found the value system in the books to be more, or less the same as ours, and the Elves to be the most fascinating race. Since I’m very interested in legends, I appreciated the mythical depths of Tolkien’s worlds, specially after I managed to wade through The Silmarillion, and later on the three ‘new’ books, i.e. Children of Húrin, Beren and Lúthien, and Fall of Gondolin.

María Fernanda Chávez Guiñez (MFCG): It might sound absurd, but I try to follow some values embodied by Treebeard. I know he can be analysed according to Cohen’s Monster Studies, or his mythological association with the personification of nature. But I believe this character represents some positive qualities that are fundamental in life. He is an old Ent who was taught by Elves about the creatures that inhabit Middle-earth, their names, and languages. However, when he meets Pippin and Merry, he realizes he’d never heard about Hobbits before. At first, he might be a bit suspicious and confused, but then, he is eager to know more about them, and he accepts them for what they are. He’s tolerant, and open-minded. He listens to them and also practices hospitality. Additionally, as an Ent, he cares about Fangorn Forest, and of course, nature. Those are qualities that I value, which is why I named my blog “Books from Fangorn”.

Shareef Kitabi: I was impressed by Aragorn’s noble goals, and his leadership style as well. Though Gandalf was an effective strategist, he could have been more communicative with his team. Some people think I was similar to Pippin when I was younger, but possibly all of us were a bit naïve and foolish once. I really liked Pippin in the films too, for the much-needed comic relief. Sam showed us the value of hard work and perseverance, which is an integral factor of the Asian work ethics. The Fellowship represented the way our international teams have to work and get on together, since there’re a lot of different cultures in Asia. We can glean valuable lessons about cooperation from the functioning of the Fellowship. I suppose one could learn capital management from the Dwarves, as long as we don’t wake up any monsters by mining too deep for gold. I also liked the character of Faramir, and the exploration of his (blind?) obedience to his father, which is something that’s encouraged in the Indian culture too. In fact, we can relate to a lot of the values present in the books in Asian societies as well.

(3) What aspects of Tolkien’s works reminded you of facets of your own traditions/legends/classical stories from your region?

Sultana Raza: I couldn’t help thinking of the two most famous epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Since Tolkien was inspired to a certain degree from European epics, and these in turn have some common factors with Indian sagas, there are bound to be some similarities between Tolkien’s sub-created world and Indian legends. People tend to forget the word ‘Indo’ in Indo-European myths. For example, inter-planetary vehicles are mentioned in Indian epics, comparable to Elvish ships that took them to the Undying Lands from Middle-earth and vice-versa. The stars where the Valar have their home are described as heavenly, as is the abode of Lord Vishnu, for example, called Vaikuntha or Vishnulok. Shiva’s abode is in Kailash or Mount Meru. There are imperishable seven upper lokas or dimensions, realms, or spheres. And seven lowers lokas/spheres.

There are also similarities between certain characters such as Dronacharya (an (irate) ascetic in Mahabharata) and Saruman. Though Dronacharya was sympathetic towards the Pandavas (the protagonists), he sided with the Kauravas (the antagonists) during the Mahabharat war. Dronacharya’s excuse was that he was doing his duty towards Hastinapur, the kingdom of the Kauravas which he was supposed to protect. Similarily, when it suited his own interests, Saruman switched sides as well. In fact, I’ve given papers on the similarities between Indian legends and Tolkien’s worlds, one of which, Projecting Indian Myths, Culture and History onto Tolkien’s Worlds can be viewed on Tolkien Society’s YouTube channel.

María Fernanda Chávez Guiñez (MFCG): This is honestly a very hard question to answer. On the one hand, unfortunately, my generation has been shaped mostly by “Western” tales and stories rather than local ones. On the other hand, Iegends, tales and traditions are diverse in Chile, as they depend on the geographical region. Nevertheless, I found some similarities, for example, between the monstrous beasts that the Nazguls ride, and the Mapuche´s legendary creature, the Tué Tué. Both make a sound that fills almost anyone who hears them with dread. Now, the Tué Tué is an evil wizard who can turn into a wicked bird. Another example I can think of, are some similarities between a legend from the North and some Tolkien’s stories about the Elves.

In the north of Chile, there is a popular legend that gives the name of a red flower, Añañuca, which tells the story of a beautiful young lady, and a young foreign miner who fell in love with each other. After they lived together for a while, the man went away to find a mine he had been searching for, and never came back, implying that he died in the desert. Añañuca waited for him until she passed away from pain, but when they search for her body, they found some red flowers instead, which they named after the lady. The story of Añañuca reminds me in a way of the story of Nimrodel, as both ladies acquired a new shape that is related to nature: a flower, and a spirit of the river respectively, and they are both associated with a place. Now, some versions of Añañuca’s story mention the fact that the woman was of indigenous origins, and the man was a Spaniard. This might be also compared with Elvish ladies such as Lúthien, and a man such as Beren. A love that breaks cultural barriers, but unlike Tolkien, the local legend ends tragically.

Shareef Kitabi: As I grew up in India, obviously the two big epics mentioned above come to mind. But since I’ve been living in Singapore for a long time, I’ve also watched various documentaries on the history of China. Not to mention epic Chinese or Japanese TV series (including some fantastical ones). I can answer this question in reverse. When I was watching Chinese TV series such as Heavenly Sword and Dragon Sabre (2009), The Sword of Legends (2014), or Fights Break Spear (2018), I was reminded of Peter Jackson’s films based on Tolkien’s books. Sometimes it’s the long story lines, the stunning landscapes, the intrigues among the characters, or attention to detail when it comes to props. Also, the fighting styles of different races in PJ’s films are interesting to compare with the way the action scenes are choreographed in Chinese TV series. In fact, I think PJ could have learned a thing or two from watching the sword fights in Chinese/Japanese TV series.

(4) In what ways do you project familiar elements from your culture onto Tolkien’s works and vice versa?

Sultana Raza: I enjoy reading, or watching films/documentaries about the Mughal dynasty in India. Their complicated relationships with each other, their social and cultural values of appreciating art for example, remind me somewhat of Elvish culture too. If some Elves had travelled East, would they have ended up building a monument with white marble like the Taj Mahal? Certain mosaics of flowers found in Mughal era buildings wouldn’t be out of place in Rivendell, for example. To quote Cath Pond: “The first Art Nouveau designs were Aubrey Beardsley’s illustrations for Oscar Wilde’s play Salome in 1883,” says Paul Greenhalgh, director of the Sainsbury Centre in Norwich and an expert on Art Nouveau. Beardsley had been inspired by the eclectic aesthetic of the department store Liberty, which combined Arts and Crafts furniture with Japanese and Indian imports.”

There’s an oriental element in Art Nouveau, and Alan Lee mentioned in the DVD extras that his design of Elvish architecture and interiors (such as Rivendell in the films) was influenced by Art Nouveau. The delicate trellis-work found in Mughal buildings, might have been appreciated by the Elves too. There are massive forts in various parts of India, including the famous Mughal Red Fort in Delhi, or many forts in Rajasthan, the ruins of which remind us of somewhat similarly huge structures in Middle-earth.

The Mughals designed beautiful gardens too (some of which still exist), which might have appealed to nature-loving Elves as well. Additionally, the fabrics (whether delicate silks, or heavily embossed taffetas, or richly embroidered organzas) for the LOTR films were imported from India, so that’s another connection to my country of origin. Some of these (regional) fabric designs and techniques have been used for centuries in India.

[Here is a slideshow with examples of architecture Sultana discusses above.]

María Fernanda Chávez Guiñez (MFCG): When I read The Lord of the Rings for the first time, I felt more familiar and comfortable with Hobbits than with Men, (I’m using the capital letter “M” like Tolkien to refer to humanity). One of the main reasons was their political system, they had a mayor, and no king or queen, no Medieval type of architecture and customs. In Chile, there has never been a king, not even among the indigenous peoples, (if I am allowed to call the culturally diverse group that way, who lived here before the Spaniards came). It made sense to me that the Hobbits didn’t care about kings or queens, but rather, voted for their mayor and were just interested in their own local affairs.

Another reason is that even though Chile has big cities, if you ask any Chilean what they like most about our country, we will say it’s our landscapes and nature. Also, hobbits are different, depending on their geographical regions. People from Hobbiton differ from Bucklanders, in that they have dissimilar traditions and ways of living. Chile is a long country with a diverse geography, from deserts, to channels, to islands, and people don’t talk and live the same way. We are united in a way, of course, but local traditions associated with each geographical area are unique and special, not homogeneous.

Shareef Kitabi: I agree with most of what Sultana said about India above. Another aspect that I’d like to mention is the music of the 2006 LOTR musical. I’ve seen some short videos on YouTube. I’d say the music of the well-known Indian composer, A. R. Rahman fitted very well into Middle-earth, though they were obviously Indian tunes, played on instruments familiar to us. So, I’d say this is another connection between our culture, and Tolkien’s sub-created worlds.

Also, I’ve travelled a lot for my work. When I visited the Great Wall of China, for example, I could easily imagine similar mammoth ruins existing in Middle-earth too, though there’s no mention of a specific great wall. For example, when I was in Mongolia, the flat, sweeping steppes reminded me of the great plains of Rohan. In an article2 that I came across a theory has been put forward by Iranian scholar, Mohammad Reza Kamali that Prof. Tolkien may have been inspired by some regions in the Indian sub-continent such as mountains in Pakistan, the river Indus, or the Gulf of Kutch in Gujarat, and may have included them in his map of Middle-earth. I’m inclined to agree with this theory.

(5) What’s the glue that binds so many fans, readers, viewers, scholars together from all over the world?

Sultana Raza: I’m think that believe that most of humanity shares the same values, which are also present in Tolkien’s works. It’s assumed that Tolkien was inspired to write the LOTR saga after he witnessed horrific events in the First World War. Most people in the world don’t want wars, would like to preserve nature, and live in peace, rather like hobbits. His novels are quite inspiring as well, for we don’t know what we can achieve or accomplish once we set our mind to it. One of the enduring popularity of hobbits, specially Frodo and Sam is that it’s easier for most folk to identify with their struggles than with the powerful Elves. Characters such as Aragorn and Gandalf can be inspirational too. For a lot of women, the actions, and decisions of Galadriel and Lúthien tend to be quite admirable.

Tolkien’s world is so vast that readers from all continents can easily find various elements to attract and hold them in it, whether it’s the character, story lines, places, or cultures. Since it’s fantasy, it’s easier for us to slip into it, and to lose ourselves in the story.

María Fernanda Chávez Guiñez (MFCG): One of the things that binds so many fans are the emotions that Tolkien’s works produce. If they were plain and dull, I don’t believe many people would be moved and attached to them. I know Tolkien wasn’t a big fan of Shakespeare, but Shakespeare’s works remain popular because of the intense emotions they produce. Now, to be honest, I am not a big fan of Shakespeare either. For this reason, emotions can’t be the only element that help to bind people from all over the world who enjoy Tolkien’s works. Possibly, another factor, as my grandmother noticed, is that in his works there are different cultures, races, and characters, but to succeed in their mission, they must overcome their differences, and co-operate together. It’s a work of art that shows that it doesn’t matter where you’re from, as you’re likely to find your own place in Middle-earth or Valinor wherever you might belong. Additionally, I think this is also because Tolkien’s works present some universal values and motifs which are transversal and can be found all over the world.

Shareef Kitabi: I think the readers/audience form a sort of fellowship, even if we come from many different regions. The Fellowship in LOTR showed how we can complement each other to achieve our goals. I tend to do that in the teams I manage for international projects. I often have to meet colleagues or future business partners from many countries, and we have to get along together to accomplish our objectives. Just like the Fellowship in Tolkien’s books. There are many principles in his novels that can be applied in real life too. I suppose a love of his stories, and the characters bind us together.


Note to Prospective Contributors: In case you’re familiar with non-European cultures/regions and would like to contribute to a similar Roundtable, feel free to contact Sultana via: https://www.facebook.com/sultana.raza.7 or https://twitter.com/Sultana_Tara1

About Sultana Raza: An independent scholar, Sultana Raza has presented papers related to Romanticism (Keats) and Fantasy (Tolkien) in international conferences. Her creative non-fiction has appeared in Literary Yard, Litro, Literary Ladies Guide, impspired.

Of Indian origin, her poems have appeared in 100+ journals, with SFF work in Entropy, Columbia Journal, Star*line, Bewildering Stories, spillwords, Unlikely Stories Mark V, The Peacock Journal, Antipodean SF, Galaxy#2, and impspired. Forthcoming: poemsin theMusing on Muses Anthology (Birgid’s Gate Press) in 2022. Her fiction received an Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train Review, and has been published in Coldnoon Journal, Knot Magazine, and Entropy. She’s read her fiction/poems in Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, England, Ireland, the USA, and at WorldCon 2018, and CoNZealand 2019.  Tolkienists | Sultana Raza  

Sultana Raza

About María Fernanda Chávez Guiñez: María Fernanda Chávez Guiñez inherited her first Tolkien’s books from her grandmother. She has studied English Literature and Linguistics, and a Minor in Art History at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. She wrote her thesis on gender studies in Tolkien’s works, focussing on feminism. She promotes her love for literature, art and nature in her blog: Books from Fangorn. https://booksfromfangorn.com/about/

María Fernanda Chávez Guiñez

About Shareef Kitabi (a pseudonym): He grew up in India where he obtained an MBA, and later settled in Singapore. He’s a senior manager in the corporate world. He likes to read/watch films/TV series in his spare time. (Note: he didn’t participate in the Global Tolkien Discussion Group at Oxonmoot 2021).

Notes:

1Excerpted from the article: What Art Nouveau can teach us about national identity by Catherine Pond, published on 31st May 2018https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20180525-what-art-nouveau-can-teach-us-about-national-identity

2Source: https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/tolkien-map/

Relevant links:

  1. The photos of Mughal arts and architecture in the link below give a sense of their refinement. Would the Elves have found some of their artefacts, clothes, and jewelry to be appealing to their tastes? –https://www.vam.ac.uk/articles/the-arts-of-the-mughal-empire
  2. Global Tolkien – A Roundtable (vector-bsfa.com)
  3. Sultana Raza – ‘Projecting Indian Myths, Culture and History onto Tolkien’s Worlds’ – YouTube

Pixel Scroll 10/10/21 The Lone And Level Pixels Stretch Far Away

(1) SAINT OF STEEL CONTINUES. Oor Wombat has a third Paladin book out today, written in her guise as T. Kingfisher.

Piper is a lich-doctor, a physician who works among the dead, determining causes of death for the city guard’s investigations. It’s a peaceful, if solitary profession…until the day when he’s called to the river to examine the latest in a series of mysterious bodies, mangled by some unknown force.

Galen is a paladin of a dead god, lost to holiness and no longer entirely sane. He has long since given up on any hope of love. But when the two men and a brave gnole constable are drawn into the maze of the mysterious killer, it’s Galen’s job to protect Piper from the traps that await them.

He’s just not sure if he can protect Piper from the most dangerous threat of all…

Here are some early returns from the readers on Twitter:

(2) BARRELLING OVER LEVIATHAN FALLS. In “The Expanse Saga Takes Its Final Space Flight”, Publishers Weekly interviews authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck about how they created the story arc.

…Their aspirations were extremely modest initially. “The original concept for this was we would write Leviathan Wakes and sell it for pizza money,” Abraham said.

Franck added, “We didn’t have high expectations for it being a big new title or anything. And that’s what Daniel means by pizza money—you know, you could sell it for a few thousand bucks, and high-five each other, and that’d be the end of it.”

They did have a firm idea of where their story could continue after that first novel, however. “When we sent it out, we wrote one-paragraph outlines of what the next two books would be,” Franck said. “We sent that to the publisher too. And they bought three books based on one complete book and two one-paragraph blurbs. It was when we started writing the second book that we actually sat down and said, ‘Let’s have a good plan for this. Let’s figure this out.’ And that was when we really started to plan out what the longer story would be.”

The plan, inevitably, changed a bit. While the authors once contemplated writing 12 books, they cut out three after realizing their ideas for what would have followed the sixth book, 2016’s Babylon’s Ashes, were just a “boring rehash.” Instead, the seventh book, 2017’s Persepolis Rising, featured a dramatic time jump that allowed the authors to give the solar system time to stabilize after the events of the prior book.

Not much else changed, though. Franck said he had pitched “the last scene and the last line of the last scene” of Levithan Falls to his colleague around 2012.

The Expanse has sold a total of four million copies in North American and has been translated into 21 languages, according to Orbit, its publisher. Interest in the series has continually grown and Levithan Falls has a first printing of 125,000 copies….

(3) SUPERSAVER. “How ‘Adventures of Superman’ star Jack Larson saved a piece of Charlie Chaplin history and met Seinfeld”Decades has a memory about the actor who played Jimmy Olsen.

… [In 1955] Chaplin had sent for his films and memorabilia to be shipped to Europe.

But Chaplin only kept certain costumes and props. Other props lying around Chaplin Studios were being tossed in the trash. One prop that was about to end up in the garbage can was a rubber wrench that Chaplin used to great effect in the classic film Modern Times.

While working on Superman, Larson saw this cinematic crime about to happen and couldn’t sit still. He begged them to let him have it. They thought he was nuts for asking for this piece of rubber….

(4) TRANSLATING TOLKIEN. The virtual Tolkien Society Autumn Seminar with the theme “Translating and Illustrating Tolkien will take place November 6. It is free, sign up at the link.

Tolkien’s appeal has led to his fiction and non-fiction being translated into over fifty languages. The art of translation is immensely complex and when discussing the Dutch translation of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien himself saw the task as “formidable”, offering his own supportive intervention to achieve a satisfactory result. The author’s invented names and languages prompt the question of how the translator should approach Tolkien’s immense mythology. Recent scholarship has emphasised the need for a wider range of Tolkien’s work to be translated in order for readers to gain a fuller understanding of Arda and the author’s development. But with a wealth of translated texts existing already, this seminar hopes to spark new interpretations about old texts and for unacknowledged translations to be brought to light and examined….

(5) TAFF REPORT AVAILABLE. Anna Raftery’s report of her TAFF trip to MidAmeriCon II (the 74th Worldcon) in 2016, Cuttlefish and Cake, can now be acquired for a donation of £5 at the link. Purchase will give you access to the PDF and MP3 versions of the report. All proceeds will go to TAFF.

(6) NEWS, GOOD AND OTHERWISE. David Brin has rounded up a bunch of interesting science links “Gravitational waves, Snowball Earth … and more science!” at Contrary Brin.

…A fascinating paper dives into the SFnal question of “what-if” – specifically if we had been as stupid about the Ozone Layer as we are re climate change. The paper paints a dramatic vision of a scorched planet Earth without the Montreal Protocol, what they call the “World Avoided”. This study draws a new stark link between two major environmental concerns – the hole in the ozone layer and global warming – and how the Montreal Accords seem very likely to have saved us from a ruined Earth.

Going way, way back, the Mother of Modern Gaia Thought – after whom I modeled a major character in Earth – the late Lynn Margulis, has a reprinted riff in The Edge – “Gaia is a Tough Bitch” – offering insights into the kinds of rough negotiations between individuals and between species that must have led to us. Did eukaryotes arise when a large cell tried and failed to eat a bacterium? Or when a bacterium entering a large cell to be a parasite settled down instead to tend our ancestor like a milk cow? The latter seems slightly more likely!

Not long after that, (in galactic years) some eukaryotes joined to form the first animals – sponges – and now there are signs this may have happened 250M years earlier that previously thought, about 890 Mya, before the Earth’s atmosphere was oxygenated and surviving through the Great Glaciation “Snowball Earth” events of the Kirschvink Epoch….

(7) EXPANSE REACHES ITS LIMIT. The Expanse’s sixth and final season arrives December 10 on Amazon Prime.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2008 – Thirteen years ago this October, G. Willow Wilson’s most excellent Air series would see its first issue on Vertigo, an imprint of DC comics, published. It’s illustrated by Turkish artist M. K. Perker, and it tells the story of Blythe, an acrophobic flight attendant, who gets involved with a terrorist from a country that doesn’t exist. Amelia Earhart and Quetzalcoatl are crucial characters. Reception was sharply divided with folks within our community such as Neil Gaiman and Gail Simone loving it but with mainstream critics pretty much dismissing it for both for the story and the artwork. It would last but twenty four issues before being cancelled due to low sales. It’s not available digitally but is easily had in the four trade paper collections for reasonable prices at online sellers. Oddly enough, it’s not listed on ISFDB even though it’s clearly fantasy, but then neither is her graphic novel Cairo which is also quite excellent.  Does ISFDB have a bias against graphic novels? 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 10, 1924 Ed Wood Jr. Though best remembered for Plan 9 from Outer Space which inexplicably has a sixty-eight percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes, he did a lot of terribly bad genre films including Night of the Monster and Bride of The Ghouls. (Died 1978.)
  • Born October 10, 1927 Dana Elcar. Most of you will remember him as Peter Thornton on MacGyver, but he has a long genre history including Russ in Condorman which was inspired by Robert Sheckley’s The Game of X. He also played Sheriff George Paterson in Dark Shadows, and showed up in 2010 as Dimitri Moisevitch. (Died 2005.)
  • Born October 10, 1929 Robin Hardy. Wicker Man is the film he’s known for though he followed that up with The Wicker Tree, an adaptation of his Cowboys for Christ novel. Anyone seen it? The Bulldance is at least genre adjacent. (Died 2016.)
  • Born October 10, 1931 Victor Pemberton. Writer of the script for the “Fury from the Deep”, a Second Doctor story in which he created the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. He had appeared as an actor in the series, in a non-speaking role as a scientist in “The Moonbase”, a Second Doctor story. In the Seventies, he wrote the BBC Doctor Who and the Pescatons audio drama which I remember hearing. It was quite excellent. (Died 2007.)
  • Born October 10, 1941 Peter Coyote, 70. He actually did two genre films in 1982 with the first being Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann in which he appeared as Porter Reese and the second being E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial which he’s Keys, the Agent hunting E.T. down. (Not so named in the film but in the novelization.)  Sphere in which he’s Captain Harold C. Barnes is his next SF outing followed by The 4400 and FlashForward series being his next major genre involvements.
  • Born October 10, 1966 Bai Ling, 55. She’s Miss West in that wretched Wild West West and the Mysterious Women in the exemplary Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, she has a major role as Guanyin in The Monkey King which aired on Syfy. Nope, not seen that one. Her last genre role was Zillia in Conjuring: The Book of the Dead, a horror film riffing off Alastair Crowley. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) NEVERENDING STORY. Read the first chapter of Douglas Wolk’s All of the Marvels: A Journey to the Ends of the Biggest Story Ever Told at Entertainment Weekly.

The twenty-seven thousand or so superhero comic books that Marvel Comics has published since 1961 are the longest continuous, self-contained work of fiction ever created: over half a million pages to date, and growing. Thousands of writers and artists have contributed to it. Every week, about twenty slim pamphlets of twenty or thirty pages apiece are added to the body of its single enormous story. By design, any of its episodes can build on the events of any that came before it, and they’re all (more or less) consistent with one another….

(12) BEFORE AND BEHIND THE CAMERA. A profile of Phoebe Waller-Bridge in the October 2 Financial Times notes she is involved in two franchises: she co-wrote No Time To Die and is an actor in Indiana Jones 5. (I had to take a three-question survey about underwear brands to get free access to the article – make sure your drawers are in order.) “Phoebe Waller-Bridge: the writer making James Bond ‘a little bit twisted’”.

…The marriage between quirky creativity and mega budgets can be fraught. Waller-Bridge, who stars opposite Harrison Ford in the fifth instalment of Indiana Jones, has been coy about her contributions to the latest Bond film. Those hoping to find Fleabag will be disappointed. The secret agent retains some of his old cheesiness. Yet the central speech by sinister villain Lyutsifer Safin contained a reminder of Waller-Bridge’s protagonist: “I just think I want someone to tell me how to live my life?.?.?. because so far I think I’ve been getting it wrong.”…

(13) TRIPPING. Victoria Silverwolf finds a clever lead for a review of the latest (in 1966) issue of Worlds of Tomorrow at Galactic Journey: “[October 10, 1966] Let’s Take A Trip (November 1966 Worlds of Tomorrow)”.

… Until this month, this hallucinogenic drug [LSD] was legal everywhere in the USA. On October 6, it became illegal in the state of California. In response to the new law, on the same day thousands of people showed up for a so-called Love Pageant Rally in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. They enjoyed music from local artists, and many took doses of LSD in defiance of the law….

Even if you live in California, you can enjoy a trip deep into your imagination in a perfectly legal manner, simply by opening the latest issue of Worlds of Tomorrow. Fittingly, almost all the fiction takes place in the far reaches of interstellar space….

(14) INSIDE TZ. Marc Scott Zicree is doing full episode commentaries on over 100 Twilight Zone episodes that will supplement those he did for the official disc set. To find out how to buy them, look at Twilight Zone Commentaries.

The official Twilight Zone BluRay set contained 54 full-length detailed, informative, and entertaining commentaries by Marc Scott Zicree. And now, Marc continues where that left off, with commentaries of the remaining 102 Twilight Zone episodes delivered in a convenient app on your phone, tablet, laptop, SmartTV, or other device.

(15) FOUNDATION GARMENT. You’ve read the series – now buy the shirt that looks as old as it is — Foundation unisex book t-shirt from Out of Print.

The Foundation series by Isaac Asimov received the 1966 Hugo Award for Best All-Time series, beating out the Lord of the RingsFoundation is the first book in that trilogy.

Each purchase helps to fund literacy programs and book donations to communities in need.

(16) ASTRO’S COUSINS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Also in the Financial Times, columnist John Gapper, in a column about the Amazon Astro, made a Doctor Who reference that was news to me.

There is a well-known Punch cartoon of some Daleks from Dr Who at the foot of a staircase, cursing that their plans to conquer the universe are ruined.  This machine (the Astro) suffers from similar limitations:  It can navigate apartments but would be stymied by a two-storey house.

(17) READY FOR EVERY EMERGENCY. “Star Trek: Prodigy Gives Extended Look at Captain Janeway Hologram” at CBR.com.

… At Prodigy‘s panel at New York City Comic-Con, the show debuted a minute-long clip from the show’s pilot episode. In it, the hologram introduces herself to the ragtag group of young aliens, announcing she is the Emergency Training Hologram for the USS Protostar. Little does she know that everything is far from routine on this ship.

After making her introductions, Tellurite Jankom Pog (Jason Mantzoukas) criticizes her looks, prompting a snippy response to show that Janeway’s snark made its way into the programming. The crew does no better job after that first impression to show that they have any idea what they’re doing. Shy Rok-Tahk (Rylee Alazraqui) doesn’t even know what a Federation is.….

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, John Coxon, Lise Andreasen, Daniel Dern, 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 Paul Weimer.]

Pixel Scroll 8/7/21 Do Not Taunt Happy Fun Scroll

(1) STAR POWER. Nicholas Whyte puts “Contact, film and book” in perspective at From the Heart of Europe.

Contact won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation in 1997, beating four other films (the first time since 1992 that no TV episode was on the ballot, and only the second time since 1992 that a cinematic film won). The losers were, in order, Men in BlackGattacaThe Fifth Element and Starship Troopers. I have seen Men in Black and Starship Troopers, and I really like them both, but I actually think Contact is better. IMDB users are not as impressed, rating it 13th of the year’s films on one system and 19th on the other, with all the other Hugo finalists ahead of it on the latter ranking and all but one on the former. Top IMDB spot for the year goes, of course, to Oscar-winner Titanic, on both rankings….

(2) NEXT TOLKIEN SEMINAR. The Tolkien Society has announced a call for papers for its third online seminar of the year: “Autumn Seminar: Translating and Illustrating Tolkien” which will be held November 6. (Probably won’t get as much press as the second, “Tolkien and Diversity.”) The event will be free for all. See the full guidelines at the link.

Tolkien’s appeal has led to his fiction and non-fiction being translated into over fifty languages. The art of translation is immensely complex and when discussing the Dutch translation of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien himself saw the task as “formidable”, offering his own supportive intervention to achieve a satisfactory result…..

Papers may consider, but are not limited to the following:

  • Translations/illustrations of Tolkien’s fiction/non-fiction
  • The role of the translator/illustrator
  • Translations/illustrations and their context
  • Translations’/illustrations’ reception

(3) PLAYING WITH YOUR HEADLINES. “Fake news video gives taste of what we’ll see in Season 3 of Amazon’s ‘The Boys’”SYFY Wire frames the picture:

Amazon gave us a tease today, however, of what we can expect for the Seven, Vought’s handpicked superheroes that help bolster their corporate image.

The five-minute clip is a newscast from Vought’s own channel, the Vought News Network (VNN for short). In a style that evokes Fox News, the “reporter” provides an update on its parent company’s Seven superheroes.

(4) READING OF THE WILL. Scholastic Corporation CEO M. Richard Robinson Jr., who died in June, had an unexpected heir: “Children’s book publishing tycoon wills $1.2B company to Toronto woman instead of his family” reports National Post.

The unexpected death of the head of the children’s book publishing giant behind Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Clifford the Big Red Dog, produced a surprise ending of his own: He left control of his $1.2 billion company and all his possessions to the company’s chief strategy officer, a Toronto woman he reportedly had a romance with.

That M. Richard (Dick) Robinson Jr. left everything to Iole Lucchese rather than to his former wife, two sons, or his four siblings is causing alarm, family drama and potential high-stakes legal action, which is more than enough for a sequel to any story, according to reporting in The Wall Street Journal.

(5) ORVILLE HAILS HULU. Deadline says the show has finally broken radio silence: “’The Orville’: Hulu Scripted Chief Jordan Helman Gives Update On Seth MacFarlane’s Sci-Fi Drama”.

Seth MacFarlane’s sci-fi drama, which moved from Fox to Hulu in 2019 for its third season, was hit by the pandemic disrupting production, meaning fans were in for a pretty long wait after the second season premiered in 2018.

However, Jordan Helman, head of scripted originals at Hulu, has provided an update on progress. He said that he’s seen cuts of the show coming in and is hopeful of a premiere sooner rather than later.

“The past year and a half has been complicated on a variety of levels as it pertains to production,” he told Deadline. “I can’t share a launch date, but we’re really excited about what we’ve seen thus far.”

MacFarlane and Jon Cassar are directing episodes of the third season. Filming initially began in October 2019 but was halted in March 2020 with the arrival of Covid-19 with around half of production completed. Production resumed in December 2020 but was suspended again in January 2021 due to a surge. Filming resumed in February….

(6) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1986 – Thirty-five years ago this weekend, Knight Rider ended its four-year, ninety-episode run on NBC. Arguably a more successful talking car series than My Mother the Car was in the Sixties which lasted but a single season, it had as its leads KITT the AI controlled car (voiced uncredited by William Daniels) and David Hasslehoff as Michael Knight. (You can decide which had a more vibrant personality.) This was his first genre role though he’d later play Nick Fury in Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., a rather awful version of that character I’d add. It was created by Gary Larson who also responsible for Battlestar GalacticaBattlestar Galactica 1980,  Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Caprica,  AutomanMagnum, P.I (which some of you have argued here is genre) and Manimal. Yes, Manimal.  If you watched the series and had the jones for more fiction set in that universe, Larson and co-writer Roger Hill wrote five novels set there. The series somewhat inexplicably holds a ninety-nine percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 7, 1918 Jane Adams. Actress who showed in the Forties Batman and Robin film as Vickie Vale, Girl Reporter. (That’s how she’s created at the time.) Other genre credits were House of DraculaTarzan’s Magic FountainMaster Minds (eat too much sugar and you can see the future) and the Adventures of Superman series. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 7, 1933 Jerry Pournelle. I first encountered not his fiction but his BYTE column for computer users. That said, I did read a lot of his CoDominium Universe though I suspect the Suck Fairy might judge it harshly now. His best work certainly is the one he co-wrote with Larry Niven, The Mote in God’s Eye, which was nominated for a Hugo at Aussiecon One. Did you know he won a Astounding Award for Best New Writer? Well he did. And he and Niven were joint winners of the Robert A. Heinlein Award from the Baltimore SF Society. (Died 2017.)
  • Born August 7, 1944 John Glover, 77. He’s got a wealth of genre roles, so I’m going to be highly selective. (Go ahead and complain.) he was Brice Cummings in the Bill Murray fronted Scrooged, he voiced a great Edward Nygma who was The Riddler in Batman: The Animated Series, in Brimstone, he was both The Devil and The Angel. 
  • Born August 7, 1957 Paul Dini, 64. First he is largely responsible for the existence  of Batman: The Animated SeriesSuperman: The Animated SeriesThe New Batman/Superman AdventuresBatman Beyond, and yes, Duck Dodgers and Tiny Toons as well. He’s recently been writing for the Ultimate Spider-Man series which is quite good. He co-authored with Pat Cardigan, Harley Quinn: Mad Love. He’s responsible for the single best animated Batman film, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, as he wrote it.
  • Born August 7, 1960 David Duchovny, 61. Obviously Fox Mulder on X-Files. Now has he done any other genre? Well he was Dr. Ira Kane in Evolution, a comic SF film, and then there’s Denise Bryson, formerly Dennis Bryson, played by him, who’s a transgender DEA agent on the Twin Peaks series. He also voices Ethan Cole in Area 51, a first person video game shooter.
  • Born August 7, 1960 Melissa Scott, 61. I think the first work I read by her was Trouble and Her Friends which holds up well even now. I’m also fond of Night Sky Mine and The Jazz. I see that she has an entire series set in the Stargate Atlantis universe. She won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, and four Lambda Awards, the first for Trouble and Her Friends, a second for Shadow Man, a third for Point of Dreams and a fourth for Death by Silver
  • Born August 7, 1979 Eric Johnson, 42. Scifi’s Flash Gordon on the series of that name that aired from  August 10, 2007 to February 8, 2008. Look I’m used to Flash Gordon series that are nearly a century old so I had no idea no one had been done recently. Anyone see this? I’ll be writing it up as the Anniversary in a few days.
  • Born August 7, 1957 —  Lis Carey, 64. A prolific reader whose reviews fill the shelves at Lis Carey’s Library. She is also a frequent Filer, contributor of numerous cat photos and even more book reviews. She is a longtime member of NESFA, and chaired Boskone 46 in 2009. (OGH)

(8) D&D GETS A MUSEUM. “Lake Geneva Dungeons & Dragons-themed museum officially open to the public” – Wisconsin’s Lake Geneva Regional News has the story.

Artifacts and memorabilia related to Dungeons & Dragons are now available for public viewing in the city where the popular roleplaying game was created.

The Dungeon Hobby Shop Museum, 723 Williams St. in Lake Geneva, officially opened, July 21. The museum features books, games, figurines, magazines, artwork, gaming dice and merchandise related to Dungeons & Dragons.

Jeff Leason, curator, said many Dungeons & Dragons enthusiasts have toured the museum since it has been open to the public.

“We had a newlywed couple on their honeymoon, and they said, ‘We can’t believe we walked by and you were open.’ They were so excited,” Leason said. “It’s been wonderful. There hasn’t been anything negative that I’ve heard.”

…Most of the items either were donated by museum staff or former Tactical Studies Rules (TSR) employees. The museum building was TSR’s first commercial location for Dungeons & Dragons.

Leason said one of the more rare items at the museum is a boxset of the original Dungeons & Dragons game, which is worth about $10,000. He said another notable item is a full set of “Strategic Review,” which was an early Dungeons & Dragons publication….

(9) EXPLICATE! EXPLICATE! On Twitter, @Dunemovie challenged people to “Explain Dune in one sentence.” About one-third of the responses took it seriously, for example –

And about two-thirds did not. An example of those —

(10) SELECTED LONG AND SHORT SUBJECTS. Todd Mason, curator of “A night at the movies…”, seeks an audience for his repaired 2014 post, full of (mostly somewhat macabre) cartoons and such wrapped around a double-feature of Night Of The Eagle and The City Of The Dead (and links to “alternate” features Castaway with Amanda Donohoe and Oliver Reed and Testament Of Orpheus), with Harlan Ellison in-joke references at the headnotes…

(11) A SWING AND A MISS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] NASA has announced that Perseverance’s first attempt to gather a rock sample apparently failed. The titanium sample tube was left empty. There are 42 more tubes available to try to find the ultimate answer. “NASA’s Perseverance Team Assessing First Mars Sampling Attempt”.

“While this is not the ‘hole-in-one’ we hoped for, there is always risk with breaking new ground,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “I’m confident we have the right team working this, and we will persevere toward a solution to ensure future success.”

Perseverance’s Sampling and Caching System uses a hollow coring bit and a percussive drill at the end of its 7-foot-long (2-meter-long) robotic arm to extract samples. Telemetry from the rover indicates that during its first coring attempt, the drill and bit were engaged as planned, and post-coring the sample tube was processed as intended.

“The sampling process is autonomous from beginning to end,” said Jessica Samuels, the surface mission manager for Perseverance at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “One of the steps that occurs after placing a probe into the collection tube is to measure the volume of the sample. The probe did not encounter the expected resistance that would be there if a sample were inside the tube.”

(12) WE’RE NOTHING SPECIAL? MIT Press book offers an excerpt from Wade Roush’s new book Extraterrestrials in “Alien Dreams: The Surprisingly Long History of Speculation About Extraterrestrials”.

… Materialist interpretations of the cosmos eventually began to take the place of mythological ones. But the idea that there might be other beings in the sky has stayed with us, and it found its first protoscientific roots in Greece in the sixth century BCE.

Anaximander, a philosopher who lived in Miletus in modern-day Turkey, contributed one key idea. He was the first to propose that Earth is a body floating in an infinite void, held up by nothing. For someone who lived 2,200 years before Isaac Newton, this was a stunning insight. The philosopher Karl Popper called it “one of the boldest, most revolutionary, and most portentous ideas in the whole history of human thought.” Anaximander also thought Earth was a cylinder with the continents arrayed on one flat end, so he wasn’t right about everything. But he did invent the idea of space, a place with no absolute up or down. And just as important, Anaximander’s system was the first to leave open the possibility that there are other worlds like ours. (Though, to be clear, he may not have believed that these worlds existed elsewhere in space. He may have thought they preceded or would succeed Earth in time or perhaps coexisted in some parallel universe.)…

(13) SHARP POINTY TEETH. The second Venom: Let There Be Carnage trailer has dropped. In theaters this Fall.

Tom Hardy returns to the big screen as the lethal protector Venom, one of MARVEL’s greatest and most complex characters. Directed by Andy Serkis, the film also stars Michelle Williams, Naomie Harris and Woody Harrelson, in the role of the villain Cletus Kasady/Carnage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bolton concludes his post with this affirmation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) MEMORY LANE.

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

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Galileo Project follows three major avenues of research:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope hinges on two men with no hope.

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

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

Seminar’s Focus on Diversity in Tolkien Draws Conservatives’ Ire

The Tolkien Society Summer Seminar 2021 scheduled for July 3-4 – “a short academic conference of both researcher-led and non-academic presentations on a specific theme pertaining to Tolkien scholarship” — is free and online. Last year’s online event had over 400 viewers from 37 countries. (Register at this link.)

The topics of the papers scheduled for presentation in July have attracted lightning strikes from culture warriors John C. Wright, Bounding Into Comics’ John F. Trent, The American Conservative’s Rod Dreher, and Not The Bee’s Joel Abbott. Meanwhile, The Tolkien Society has had to turn off comments on its own Facebook page.

The Society’s call for papers set this focus:

…Representation is now more important than ever and Tolkien’s efforts to represent (or ignore) particular characteristics requires further examination. Additionally, how a character’s identity shapes and influences its place within Tolkien’s secondary-world still requires greater attention. This seminar aims to explore the many possible applications of “diversity” within Tolkien’s works, his adaptations, and his readership….

And they have scheduled the following papers for presentation over the two days:

  • Gondor in Transition: A Brief Introduction to Transgender Realities in The Lord of the Rings
  • The Problem of Pain: Portraying Physical Disability in the Fantasy of J. R. R. Tolkien
  • “The Burnt Hand Teaches Most About Fire”: Applying Traumatic Stress and Ecological Frameworks to Narratives of Displacement and Resettlement Across Cultures in Tolkien’s Middle-earth
  • The Invisible Other: Tolkien’s Dwarf-Women and the ‘Feminine Lack’
  • Projecting Indian Myths, Culture and History onto Tolkien’s Worlds
  • The Lossoth: Indigeneity, Identity, and Antiracism
  • The Problematic Perimeters of Elrond Half-elven and Ronald English-Catholic
  • Hearkening to the Other: Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth
  • Pardoning Saruman?: The Queer in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings
  • Desire of the Ring: An Indian Academic’s Adventures in her Quest for the Perilous Realm
  • Queer Atheists, Agnostics, and Animists, Oh, My!
  • Hidden Visions: Iconographies of Alterity in Soviet Bloc Illustrations for The Lord of the Rings
  • Questions of Caste in The Lord of the Rings and its Multiple Chinese Translations
  • Stars Less Strange: An Analysis of Fanfiction and Representation within the Tolkien Fan Community
  • “Something Mighty Queer”: Destabilizing Cishetero Amatonormativity in the Works of Tolkien
  • Translation as a means of representation and diversity in Tolkien’s scholarship and fandom

The topics quickly attracted the attention of the conservative blogosphere.

Bounding Into Comics did a straight news story, “The Tolkien Society’s Summer Seminar 2021 Will Focus On ‘Tolkien And Diversity’” [Archive link], which nevertheless was enough to whip their commenters into a froth.

Then the pundits on other sites went to work.

Rod Dreher said in his short report for The American Conservative: “The Woke J.R.R. Tolkien” [Archive link] —

The reader who sent this in cites it as an example of O’Sullivan’s First Law: “All organizations that are not actually right-wing will over time become left-wing.” The Tolkien Society has announced its summer seminar — and hoo boy, is it ever woke!…

At Not the Bee (a Babylon Bee affiliate) Joel Abbott scoffed: “The Tolkien Society goes full woke, bows to the will of Sauron in unbelievable new summer seminar”  [Archive link.]

Here’s the first of the virtual sessions, just to give you a taste of how the Tolkien Society has abandoned reason for madness:

Gondor in Transition: A Brief Introduction to Transgender Realities in The Lord of the Rings

Someone has been looking into the Palantír seeing stones for far too long.

How is that an actual session being sponsored by the Tolkien Society??

We’re gonna put The Babylon Bee out of business at this rate.

Oh, but that’s just a taste of the insanity. If there were only a few sessions that were woke, you’d think they are simply trying to be relevant.

…Where does the Tolkien Society even go from here? They’ve already hijacked a devout Catholic’s epic saga of heroism and hope against all odds.

…Do they not hear themselves? These people probably fancy themselves free spirits like the elves, without realizing they’ve been taken by a Dark Power and mutilated, turned into a ruined and terrible form of life….

John C. Wright, in “Tolkien and Diversity” [Archive link], declared his own spiritual tone with typical heavy-handed irony:  

Please do not contact these people, harass these people, challenge any of them to a duel, or ignite a thermonuclear device in their vicinity. Wrath is a deadly sin, no matter how abundantly deserved or long overdue.

Nor he did spare the dictionary in the climactic lines of his jeremiad:

…Until and unless Professor Tolkien is canonized, despite the universal and ferocious sentiment of all hale and sound Men of the West, technically it is not blasphemy to utter injuries and libels against him, not even by grotesque and orkish freaks in service to the Dark Lord.

And the princes and stewards of the decayed remnant of lands not yet conquered by the Shadow have not the valor and wisdom of day of old, and will not lift up the sword against the malefactors. Numenor is fallen, the heroes of old are lost beneath the waves, and we will not see their like again. 

We scattered few who remain no longer have freedom of speech our fathers knew, but the trolls and unclean spirits in service to Dol Guldur enjoy the privilege, and were-worm lolls on his ill-gotten heaps of dwarven gold. 

[Thanks to Robin Reid for the story.]