Pixel Scroll 8/6/22 Ours Is Not To Pixel Why, Ours Is But To Scroll And Die

(1) THEY COULD HAVE BEEN CONTENDERS. Rich Horton has “Hugo Nomination Recommendations, 1959”, which he says is the next-to-last in the series.

…I have cited Jo Walton’s excellent Informal History of the Hugos before, and in that book you can find Jo’s comments on the short lists, her choices for the winners, and comments by a variety of people (myself included) discussing the stories and often offering additional possible nominees or winners. I’ll list Jo’s choices below, along with Richard Lupoff’s short fiction selection from What If, Volume 1. And for the years from 1960 on, I’ll leave the field to Jo! (After all, my thoughts are generally recorded in her book anyway.) I’ve decided to go ahead and make one additional post for stories from 1959, for two reasons: one, to round out the decade of the 1950s by story publication year, not just Worldcon year; and, two, because I was born in 1959….

(2) SUGGESTED INFLUENCES. Phil Christman has an “Interview With Adam Roberts” in his newsletter The Tourist.

…As a British Gen X-er, you were a child during an era of televised fantastika that strikes me (if maybe only me, and a handful of bloggers who use the word “hauntology” a lot) as uniquely rich. I’m thinking of the later Nigel Kneale, or of things like The Owl Service, Sapphire and Steele, and Children of the Stones, not to mention some of the stronger seasons of “Doctor Who,” and even “The Tomorrow People” (laughable as it often is). Was this an influence on you? I’m wondering partly because these shows do “haunted suburb” scenes really well, and that’s true of some of your work—though I suppose that could all just be the influence of Ballard. 

I read Owl Service, and indeed all of Alan Garner (my Dad was at Manchester Grammar School with Garner—I mean, he wasn’t a family friend or anything, but going back to visit relatives meant wandering around Alderley Edge and so on which added a frisson to my reading of Weirdstone of Brisingamen) … although I never saw the TV version. But I did watch Sapphire and SteeleTomorrow People—maybe if I rewatched that one I’d find it laughable, but I certainly didn’t at the time—and of course Doctor Who. But also US shows like The Time Tunnel and Star Trek. TOS Trek is intensely suburban, I think: the bridge of the USS Enterprise is a comfortable suburban living room with a big comfy chair for the ‘Dad’ to sit as he watches the universe come to him via his gigantic TV screen. So much of Trek is a manifestation of the comfortable life, surrounded by labour-saving devices, demure women to attend you like suburban wives and so on.

I never watched what are, now, some of the classic shows—the Patrick Goohan Prisoner series for instance was before my time, I only saw when I was properly grown up, by which time it was basically a period piece. But two shows nobody talks about any more made a big impact upon me: Greatorex’s 1990, and Terry Nation’s Survivors. I also remember the last of the Quatermass series, with John Mills as an elderly Quatermass: I hadn’t seen, and frankly had no idea about, the earlier Quatermass shows, but that 1979 drama worked strangely and powerfully upon my teenage imagination….

(3) INTERNATIONAL SHORT FICTION. InterNova edited by Michael K. Iwoleit is an international SF zine with fiction in English. It’s an offshoot of the German SF zine Nova. The current online issue is here: July 2022 – InterNova.

InterNova is intended be a showcase of contemporary SF writing in all those countries and regions that are generally neglected by the Anglo-American centered sf markets. American and British writers will not be excluded but the main intention is to feature stories and essays by writers who are rarely published outside of their home countries. We will try to be as international as possible, advancing our editorial work into countries and areas that are rarely associated with Science Fiction.

To make InterNova available for readers in as many countries as possible this e-zine is published in English which has become the lingua franca of the international SF community. It is planned, however, to later include some stories in the original languages, especially in Spanish, but also in French and German.

(4) WRITING VIDEO GAME MUSIC. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber discusses video game music and interviews Austin Wintory, whose music for Journey earned him a BAFTA Award.  On August 1, the BBC Proms held their first concert devoted to video game music.

Wintory’s first step is to analyse the gameplay and map out the ‘spider web of possibilities’ of player behaviour.  In his score for Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, an open-world adventure game, he accommodated not only whether a player was fighting or exploring, but also which part of the Victorian London setting they were in, writing musical themes inspired by boroughs such as Whitechapel and Westminster which played as they crossed those particular rooftops.  There would be alternate versions of the score with additional instruments and vocal layers, depending on whether it was day or night on the in-game clock, whether the player had completed specific missions and even which of the game’s two protagonists they were controlling at the time.

What makes one game soundtrack rise above the rest in popularity?  It could be the nostalgia factor, or the marriage of a memorable gameplay moment with the perfect musical accompaniment.  Wintory suspects that it might be the undeniable appeal of a great melody.  “Humans are fundamentally melodic instruments,” he says. “We can’t strum a chord with our vocal cords or simulate a choir on our own.  We sing one note at the time, so it’s not a shock that the music we hold on to is the stuff we can sing back. Melody has always been the thing that united the classics.”

(5) THEY’VE GOT IT GOING ON. Episode 2 of the If This Goes On (Don’t Panic) podcast is “Priuses of the Apocolypse with Tobias Buckell”.

If This Goes On (Don’t Panic) is a podcast about hope and resistance in Science Fiction and Fantasy. Cohosts Alan Bailey, Cat Rambo, Diane Morrison, and Graeme Barber interview a diverse breadth of writers, editors, activists, gamers, and various other members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy community.

(6) CENSORSHIP PROCEEDINGS. Publishers Weekly reports on Virginia litigation that could affect the availability in the state of Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe and A Court of Mist and Fury by bestselling author Sarah J. Maas: “With Hearing Set, Court Urged to Dismiss Closely Watched Virginia Obscenity Lawsuits”.

A Virginia state judge has set an August 30 hearing to consider two lawsuits that, if successful, would cause two popular books to be pulled from bookshelves across the state, alleging they are “obscene” under an obscure state law.

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, judge Pamela Baskervill (a retired judge hearing the case by designation after all the sitting judges in the circuit disqualified themselves) found there was “probable cause” and ordered the defendants to answer the charges.

While the two lawsuits have not been officially consolidated, the court will consider the fate of both cases at the single hearing, noting their “overlap.” According to a June 30 order, the hearing will focus on motions, which, if granted, “would result in dismissal of the suits.” Lawyers for the authors and publisher defendants as well as bookseller Barnes & Noble filed motions to dismiss the suits late last month. Reply briefs from the plaintiffs are due August 9, with final replies due from the defendants on August 16….

(7) LOCAL LIBRARY DEFUNDED. The Guardian reports Gender Queer is also under attack in a Michigan town: “US library defunded after refusing to censor LGBTQ authors: ‘We will not ban the books’”.

A small-town library is at risk of shutting down after residents of Jamestown, Michigan, voted to defund it rather than tolerate certain LGBTQ+-themed books.

Residents voted on Tuesday to block a renewal of funds tied to property taxes, Bridge Michigan reported.

The vote leaves the library with funds through the first quarter of next year. Once a reserve fund is used up, it would be forced to close, Larry Walton, the library board’s president, told Bridge Michigan – harming not just readers but the community at large. Beyond books, residents visit the library for its wifi, he said, and it houses the very room where the vote took place.

…The controversy in Jamestown began with a complaint about a memoir by a nonbinary writer, but it soon spiraled into a campaign against Patmos Library itself. After a parent complained about Gender Queer: a Memoir, by Maia Kobabe, a graphic novel about the author’s experience coming out as nonbinary, dozens showed up at library board meetings, demanding the institution drop the book. (The book, which includes depictions of sex, was in the adult section of the library.) Complaints began to target other books with LGBTQ+ themes.

(8) IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD. Nina Nasseth looks at how horror movies manipulate your brain. “This is Your Brain On Horror” at CrimeReads.

…When we look at what gives any good horror movie its true horror vibe, we end up with two distinct elements: terror and horror. We often use these terms interchangeably, but they are very different. Terror is where tension lives. It’s that awful, creepy-crawly feeling, the anxiety and anticipation that builds toward a horrifying event or realization— basically, it’s the heebie-jeebies. Horror is how we react once that event actually occurs. We can thank Ann Radcliffe, mother of Gothic literature, for those definitions….

(9) UHURA FILK. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] With the sad news of Nichelle Nichols’ passing earlier this week, I kept thinking about this great filksong “Uhura” I heard decades ago by Joey Shoji, a Hawaiian-style love crooner for the Communications Officer of the Enterprise NCC-1701.  It occurred to me, belatedly, to see if the song had been uploaded to the Internet. Turns out, it has, although the quality is a little iffy. It’s the lead-in song in the following video.  I thought it might be a nice tribute.

(10) MEMORY LANE.  

1988 [By Cat Eldridge.] In 1988 during the American fall television season was hampered by a writers’ strike that prevented the writing of any new scripts. Producers, anxious to provide new series for viewers but with the prospect of a lengthy strike, went into the archives for previously written material. And the Powers That Be decided a new Mission Impossible series would be a good idea. 

Now the only actor from the original series that ran from 1966 to 1973 (and which is streaming on Paramount+ though this one is not, odd that) who would end being involved in his series would be Peter Graves who once again is playing Jim Phelps. That might be because the Powers That Be decided to film it in Australia and a lot of actors did decline to disrupt their live by relocating there. The first season was in Queensland before moving to Melbourne.

The only other regular cast member (of course completely unseen) to return for every episode was the voice of “The Tape” (in this series, “The Disc”) in the form of Bob Johnson. I’m assuming his bit was voiced back in the States.

The rest of the cast was of course mostly Australian. Nicholas Black, portrayed by Thaao Penghlis, was an actor, master of makeup/disguise, visual effects, voice impersonation, mimicry. He was there for all thirty episodes. Max Harte who played Tony Hamilton, an expert in strength, acting, role playing and marksmanship. 

Now we get a connection to the first series — Grant Collier, played by Phil Morris who’s the son of Greg Morris, was the computer expert here. And obviously he’s American. 

We had two women, who each did one season and were described as femme fatales in the press releases at the time. Terry Markwell played Casey Randall for the first season and Jane Badler played Shannon Reed, an ex-Secret Service agent, for the second season. She’s actually Australian-American and is best remembered for her role as Diana, the main antagonist on V.

So how were the stories? I liked them a lot. They were more sophisticated in their use of SFX than the earlier series was but that was to be expected, say in “The Devils” where they investigated a member of the English gentry, and involves various officials in Satanic rituals and human sacrifice for blackmail purposes: they are available to make the eyes of Phelps and one other member glow very convincingly and they leave burning cloven hoofs as they leave the room.

Some scripts are reworked ones that were done during the original series. Some like “The Banshee” were from what we could call the slush pile as they never got used. 

To my knowledge as I said, it’s not streaming anywhere, but it on DVD fir quite reasonable prices. I got mine off eBay.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 6, 1874 Charles Fort. Writer and researcher who specialized in anomalous phenomena. The term fortean is sometimes used to characterize such phenomena. No, not genre as such, but certainly an influence on many a writer. The Dover publication, The Complete Books of Charles Fort, that collects together The Book of The Damned and Lo!Wild Talents and New Lands has a foreword by Damon Knight. L. Sprague de Camp reviewed it in Astounding Science-Fiction in the August 1941 issue when it was originally published as The Books of Charles Fort. (Died 1932.)
  • Born August 6, 1877 John Ulrich Giesy. He was one of the early writers in the Sword and Planet genre, with his Jason Croft series. He collaborated with Junius B. Smith on many of his stories though not these which others would call them scientific romances. He wrote a large number of stories featuring the occult detective Abdul Omar aka Semi-Dual and those were written with Smith. I see Apple Books has at least all of the former and one of the latter available. Kindle just has the latter. (Died 1947.)
  • Born August 6, 1911 Lucille Ball. She became the first woman to run a major television studio, Desilu Productions, which is where Star Trek was produced. Her support of the series kept it from being terminated by the financial backers even after it went way over budget in the first pilot. (Died 1989.)
  • Born August 6, 1926 Janet Asimov. Wife of Isaac Asimov. Author of some half dozen novels and a fair amount of short fiction on her own, mostly as J.O. Jeppson; co-author with Isaac of the Norby Chronicles. Her memoir, Notes for a Memoir: On Isaac Asimov, Life, and Writing, came out sixteen years ago. (Died 2019.)
  • Born August 6, 1956 Ian R. MacLeod, 66. Another author I need to read more of. I’ve read the first two in what’s called the Aether Universe series, The Light Ages and The House of Storms, but there’s a number of novels I’m intrigued by including Song of Time and The Great Wheel. Anything else y’all would recommend I read? 
  • Born August 6, 1960 Leland Orser, 62. If you look closely, you’ll spot him in Escape from L.A. as Test Tube and in Independence Day in the dual roles of the Day Tech and a Medical Assistant.  He’s in Daredevil as Wesley Owen Welch, Kingpin’s right-hand man. And someone at Trek casting liked him as he was on Deep Space NineVoyager and Enterprise. All different roles. 
  • Born August 6, 1962 Michelle Yeoh, 60. Ok, I have to give her full name of Yang Berbahagia Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Michelle Yeoh Choo-Kheng. Her first meaningful genre roles was as Wai Lin in Tomorrow Never Dies and Yu Shu Lien in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I actually remember her as Zi Yuan in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, the first film of a since cancelled franchise. And then there’s her dual roles in the Trek universe where she’s Captain Philippa Georgiou and Emperor Philippa Georgiou. A deliciously twisted role. Roles? The forthcoming Section 31 series will involve one of them but I’m not sure which one… or maybe both… Michelle Yeoh is Evelyn Wang in Everything Everywhere All at Once, a role that Filers now are thinking about for their Hugo ballot. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld shows a proofreading machine. It works alarmingly like the File 770 comments section.

(13) POTTERING AROUND. Ranker’s Saim Cheeda presents “Things You Didn’t Know About Wizarding Professions”. First on the list:

1. Curse-Breakers Dig Up Gold And Magical Artifacts

The nature of Bill Weasley’s job isn’t too clear in the novels apart from his status as a curse-breaker for Gringotts Bank. Curse-breakers are specialized roles in which the witch or wizard needs to raid places like tombs and pyramids to find gold and magical artifacts for Gringotts to procure.

Curse-breakers make sure that the protective enchantments and curses around ancient locations are removed to ensure the safety of everyone involved. It’s a dangerous but thrilling job, and Bill Weasley’s distinguished O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. scores are the reason he managed to become a curse-breaker.

(14) A VISIT TO LA-LA-LAND. Ed Brubaker talks to CrimeReads about his graphic novel about Ethan Reckless. “Exploring a Reckless Vision of Los Angeles, with Ed Brubaker”.

…“One of my favorite things about comics, graphic novels, whatever you want to call them, is that it costs the same to do a period piece (or a sci-fi) as it does to do something that takes place in modern times. It’s just about research and trying to get it right. For the Reckless books, I’ve been trying to recreate my kind of ‘dream LA’ from my childhood,” Brubaker said. “I didn’t grow up in Los Angeles, but we visited it a lot in the 70s and 80s, and I was always Hollywood obsessed, because my uncle was a once-famous screenwriter—he wrote Crossfire, On the Beach, and The Wild One, among many others. So in making these books, I’m also trying to showcase forgotten or lost places in LA that meant something to me growing up. Like pieces of the LA punk scene, or cool old restaurants, or the way Venice used to feel—cheaper and more dangerous, but with lots more roller skaters.”…

(15) THEY STEPPED ON SUPERMAN’S CAPE. Last weekend’s box office had a leader you may not have heard about yet because it’s only been released in China so far: “Chinese sci-fi movie ‘Moon Man’ becomes biggest movie in the world after $129 million weekend”.

The Chinese sci-fi movie “Moon Man” outshined all others at the global box office over the weekend.

The film grossed $129 million over the weekend, according to Comscore, and that’s only from the Chinese market. DC’s animated movie “League of Super Pets,” which follows the adventures of Superman’s dog, lagged behind at $41 million internationally.

“Moon Man” follows the story of an astronaut stranded on the moon who believes he’s the last human alive after witnessing an asteroid crashing into Earth.

The film is directed by Zhang Chiyu (“Never Say Die”) and produced by the studio Mahua FunAge (“Hello Mrs Money”).

Before its premiere on July 29, “Moon Man” had over 1.4 million fans rating the movie as “want to see” on Chinese film tracking platforms. It has since gone on to score a 9.4 and 9.5 out of 10 on film sites Maoyan and Taopiaopiao, respectively, according to Variety.

(16) NEW EDITION OF GADALLAH FAVORITE. The Legend of Sarah by Alberta author Leslie Gadallah, a classic Canadian science fiction novel originally published as The Loremasters by Del Rey Books in 1988, is now available in a new, revised edition from Shadowpaw Press.

At fourteen, Sarah is an accomplished pickpocket who knows all the back streets and boltholes of the town of Monn. She steers clear of Brother Parker and his Church of True Faith, knows better than to enter the Inn of The Honest Keeper, and avoids the attentions of Butch, the Miller’s son, as best she can.

The one bright spot in Sarah’s day is listening to the storyteller’s tales of the magically easy lives of the Old People—and if,  as darkness falls, one of the wealthier listeners happens to be so intent on the storyteller’s voice that he becomes careless of his own purse, well, so much the better. Inspired by the storyteller’s narratives, Sarah often imagines her own life as the stuff of legend for some future troubadour.

But even such daydreams can’t prepare her for becoming embroiled with a witchy Phile—an agent of the devil, come in search of the Old People’s hidden secrets. How could Sarah have known that picking the wrong pocket would strand her in the middle of a power struggle among Brother Parker, the Governor, and the encroaching Phile spies?

Leslie Gadallah grew up in Alberta and is currently living in Lethbridge with her geriatric black cat, Spook. Educated as a chemist, she has worked in analytical, agricultural, biological, and clinical chemistry.  She has written popular science for newspapers and radio, has served as a technical editor, and is the author of four SF novels and a number of short stories.

The Legend of Sarah can be bought directly from the publisher or from most online bookstores. This handy URL provides links to multiple online sources:  https://books2read.com/thelegendofsarah

(17) THUMBS UP AND DOWN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This video where Patton Oswalt discusses his picks for the five best and five worst sf films for GQ dropped Wednesday. Independence Day is on the bottom. “Patton Oswalt Critiques Sci-Fi Films (Top 5 & Bottom 5)”.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Gizmodo declares “Weird Al’s ‘Scarif Beach Party’ Is a Star Wars Summer Bop”. It’s from LEGO Star Wars: Summer Vacation which premieres August 5 on Disney+.

We knew that “Weird Al” Yankovic wouldn’t just be appearing in the Lego Star Wars Summer Vacation special, but singing an entirely new song for it. And now that the special has arrived on Disney+ today, the full song has been released as well, and frankly? It rules.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/30/22 I Can Scroll Pixels From The Vasty File

(1) BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING. ALSO LISTENING, PHONE-STALKING, AND DNA TRACKING. “A New York Times analysis of over 100,000 government bidding documents found that China’s ambition to collect digital and biological data from its citizens is more expansive and invasive than previously known.” “Four Takeaways From a Times Investigation Into China’s Expanding Surveillance State”. There’s also a 15-minute video at the link.

China’s ambition to collect a staggering amount of personal data from everyday citizens is more expansive than previously known, a Times investigation has found. Phone-tracking devices are now everywhere. The police are creating some of the largest DNA databases in the world. And the authorities are building upon facial recognition technology to collect voice prints from the general public.

The Times’s Visual Investigations team and reporters in Asia spent over a year analyzing more than a hundred thousand government bidding documents. They call for companies to bid on the contracts to provide surveillance technology, and include product requirements and budget size, and sometimes describe at length the strategic thinking behind the purchases. Chinese laws stipulate that agencies must keep records of bids and make them public, but in reality the documents are scattered across hard-to-search web pages that are often taken down quickly without notice. ChinaFile, a digital magazine published by the Asia Society, collected the bids and shared them exclusively with The Times.

This unprecedented access allowed The Times to study China’s surveillance capabilities. The Chinese government’s goal is clear: designing a system to maximize what the state can find out about a person’s identity, activities and social connections, which could ultimately help the government maintain its authoritarian rule….

(2) LEAVING THE GOLD STANDARD BEHIND. Rich Horton’s latest “Old Hugos that never were” post lists potential Hugo Nominations among stories published in 1949. “Hugo Nomination Recommendations, 1950” at Strange at Ecbatan.

…This is the earliest set of potential Hugo nominees for 1950s Worldcons I’ll do. I chose this date mainly because it seemed a clean break to posts on 10 years of Hugos — for the 10 1950s Worldcons. (The 1950 Worldcon was NorWesCon, held in Portland, OR.) 

Another reason is that 1949 is a fairly significant year in the transition from the so-called “Golden Age” to the next phase … the time when John W. Campbell’s Astounding slipped from its unquestioned place at the top of the SF heap. …

(3) EYE ON THE DREAM. There’s a rich selection of videos about writing and career advice on the Dream Foundry YouTube page, including many items recorded during their Flights of Foundry event.

(4) CATCH UP WITH WFC. The World Fantasy Con 2022’s third Progress Report can be downloaded by anyone at this page. It includes write-ups about all the guests of honor and toastmaster.

(5) LUNAR ACCOMODATIONS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] In a hole in the moon there lived a moonstronaut. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a moonstronaut-hole, and that means comfort.

Relatively speaking.

The Atlantic extols “The Coziest Spot on the Moon”. Most of the text of the article is behind a paywall. The Atlantic does show a limited number of free articles and makes the first bits of additional articles available to all.

The moon has a reputation for “magnificent desolation,” as Buzz Aldrin said when he stepped onto the surface more than 50 years ago. It has no atmosphere to speak of, and no protection from a constant stream of radiation, whether from the sun or deep space. During a lunar day, about as long as 15 of our own, nonstop sunlight makes the surface hot enough to boil water. A lunar night lasts just as long, only it’s unfathomably cold.

Yet hidden in this bleak picture are a select few places that might offer some respite from all those inhospitable conditions. And one particular spot that sounds almost … pleasant?

Using data from a spacecraft in orbit around the moon, scientists have studied a cavern on the lunar surface and discovered that part of it has a pleasantly cool temperature of 63 degrees Fahrenheit (about 17 degrees Celsius). This cavern is shaped like a cylinder, and extends about 328 feet (100 meters) down from the surface—about the height of a 30-story building. Sunlight illuminates only part of the cavern’s bottom; the rest is out of reach, and remains permanently shadowed….

(6) ALL CATS, ZERO HUMANS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber reviews Stray, a new game from Annapurna Interactive. Faber begins his column by explaining that before YouTube he and his friends delighted in getting semi-secret URLs for crazy cat videos.

The game casts you as a slender ginger who lives in a humanless future. Your hero has neither magical powers nor an arsenal of quips; it’s just a regular moggie, mute except for miaows and purrs.  An accidental slip sends it tumbling into a sunless underworld occupied by friendly robots with TVs for faces and nasty little creatures called Zurks. With the help of a drone companion, your mission is to find a way back to the surface and work out what happened to the humans. The game balances puzzles, stealth, and platforming with explanatory quests more reminiscent of old point-and-click adventure games.  Its gameplay is well constructed but unremarkable,…

…Still, if you are a fan of felines, this game is catnip.  It’s easy to imagine a room of developers making a huge list of all the particular things cats do and incorporating them:  you can scratch at carpets, push objects off roofs, walk on computer or piano keyboards to chaotic effect and settle down for a nap on a pile of cushions. There’s even a dedicated ‘miaow’ button whose sound on PS5 issues intimately from your computer. Most of these features do not serve a gameplay purpose–the game just wants you to enjoy being a cat.

Faber says that there’s a Twitter feed of cats enjoying watching the feline cyberpunk dystopia action in Stray.

Of further interest to Filers: the Washington Post reports “Players are putting their own pets into ‘Stray,’ the cat video game”.

“Stray,” the video game about a nameless feral cat wandering through a city of robots, is one of the summer’s biggest surprise hits. Now, some players are modifying the game to add their own feline friends to its post-apocalyptic world.

Mods — short for modifications — are fan-made alterations to a video game that are done by rewriting or changing the game’s files. The simplest mods make cosmetic changes, such as changing the texture on a weapon to look nicer. But mods can also be wildly ambitious, sometimes ballooning into entirely new games. 2021’s “The Forgotten City,” an adventure set in ancient Rome, was originally a “Skyrim” mod.

On NexusMods, a site that hosts downloadable mods, there are already a number of options available to players seeking to change the look of “Stray’s” furry hero with different coats and eye colors. The site is flush with options for black cats, gray tabbies, calicoes and more, each already downloaded hundreds of times.

Many of the modders who made those skins based them off their own cats. One creator added their green-eyed tuxedo cat, Maro, to “Stray.” The download page includes a real-life photo reference for maximum accuracy. Hi, Maro!

(7) CHARLIE JANE ANDERS NEWS. Variety reports “Michael B. Jordan, Amazon Hire Gennifer Hutchison for New Series”.

Michael B. Jordan’s Outlier Society and Amazon have brought on Gennifer Hutchison to serve as showrunner on the series “Victories Greater Than Death.”

Variety has learned exclusively that Hutchison, in addition to showrunning, will also write and executive produce on the series, which is based on the Charlie Jane Anders novel of the same name. It was reported as being in development at Amazon in September 2021….

… “Victories Greater Than Death” follows Tina, a teenager and keeper of an interplanetary rescue beacon. Tina can’t wait for it to activate, leave home, and chase her dreams. But she’s stuck waiting, until one day, destiny calls….

(8) THEY’RE MELTING. Ironic without being funny: “Snowpiercer Production Halted Following Hospitalizations Due to Extreme Heat” reports CBR.com.

Production on Snowpiercer‘s fourth and final season is on hold after multiple members of the cast and crew were hospitalized due to heat exhaustion.

On Thursday, temperatures hit the mid-90s on the show’s outdoor set in British Columbia, Canada. The high temperatures resulted in as many as 14 people, including background actors and crew members, requiring transportation to local hospitals to seek treatment, as one crew member tells Deadline….

(9) IT’S ALL IN HIS HEAD. “’Max Headroom’ Series Reboot Starring Matt Frewer In Works At AMC Networks From Christopher Cantwell & Elijah Wood’s SpectreVision”Deadline has details.

A 1980s pop culture mainstay is plotting a comeback. AMC Networks is developing a Max Headroom drama series reboot, with Matt Frewer set to reprise his role as the world’s first artificial intelligence TV personality. Halt and Catch Fire co-creator Christopher Cantwell is writing the adaptation and is attached as showrunner for the project, which is produced by Elijah Wood and Daniel Noah’s SpectreVision and All3Media….

(10) MASHED UP INTELLECTUAL PROPERTIES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Marvel comics are now Penguin Classics. Time to turn classics into Marvel.”, the Washington Post’s Alexandra Petri shows what classics such as Little Women and The Scarlet Letter would look like with the addition of superheroes. Here’s one example:

The Importance of Being Earnest: “To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune,” Lady Bracknell intones, “but to lose both and also your Uncle Ben in an unrelated incident looks like carelessness.” Jack rolls his eyes at her. “Okay, Downton Abbey. Nobody asked you.”

Cecily punches Algernon in the face. “That’s for not being named Ernest,” she says. She punches him again. “And that’s for trying to pit me against Gwendolen, who is my sister, and we passed the Bechdel Test together seconds before you came in.” “Good,” Algernon says, rubbing his face. “I wouldn’t have known you were a strong woman unless you punched somebody!”

(11) SPACE MEMORIAL PLANS. People have an opportunity to say a final farewell to Carolyn Meskell Grayson on August 4. The wife of Ashley Grayson, who has worked in the field as a literary agent, died in 2017. Click on the link and see the picture of her that is going into space on August 4. “Tesla Photo in Space Mosaic”.

(12) MEMORY LANE.  

1995 [By Cat Eldridge.] Ghosts. Haunted houses. Many maintain that such concepts have no place in our computerized twentieth century reality. But until man conquers death, one inevitable question will always linger within the recesses of the human mind: What lies beyond? — Opening narration Outer Limits’s “If These Walls Could Talk”.

Twenty-seven years ago this evening on the rebooted Outer Limits we had an apparently classic haunted house story where a woman whose son disappeared asks a supernatural debunker to investigate a seemingly haunted house where her son was last seen.

SPOILER ALERT!

Now being Outer Limits, it turns out that the house isn’t haunted at all. Did any of you read the first novel in Simon R. Green’s Nightside series, Something from the Nightside? John Taylor enters a house to rescue a woman only to discover the house itself is alive. Same here. It’s essentially an alien kudzu lifeform that crashed to earth and is mimicking being a house. And eating people. Lots of them.

I think that, like the alien house in Something from the Nightside, that the scriptwriter did a rather good job of making the Big Bad believable. 

END SPOILER

I don’t think it’s steaming for free anywhere right now. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 30, 1911 Reginald Bretnor. Author of many genre short stories involving Ferdinand Feghoot, a comical figure indeed. It looks like all of these are available in digital form on iBooks and Kindle. He was a consummate SJW. He translated Les Chats, the first known book about cats which was written by Augustin Paradis de Moncrif in 1727. He also wrote myriad articles about cats, was of course a companion to cats, and considered himself to have a psychic connection to cats. Of course most of us do. (Died 1992.)
  • Born July 30, 1927 Victor Wong. I remember him best as the Chinese sorcerer Egg Shen in John Carpenter’s exemplary Big Trouble in Little China. He was also The Old Man in The Golden Child, Walter Chang in Tremors, Dr. Wong in the “China Moon” episode of the Beauty and the Beast series and Lee Tzin-Soong in the “Fox Spirit” episode of Poltergeist: The Legacy. (Died 2001.)
  • Born July 30, 1948 Carel Struycken, 74. I remember him best as the gong ringing Mr. Holm on Next Gen, companion to Deanna Troi’s mother. He was also Lurch in The Addams FamilyAddams Family Values and the Addams Family Reunion. He’s listed as being Fidel in The Witches of Eastwick but I’ll be damned if I remembered his role in that film. And he’s in Ewoks: The Battle for Endor which I’ve never seen… 
  • Born July 30, 1961 Laurence Fishburne, 61. Appeared in The Matrix films of which I watched at least two. His voice work as Thrax in Osmosis Jones is outstanding as is his role as Bill Foster in Ant-Man. Oh I must note that he shows up on the new Muppets series they did about a decade ago in the “Hostile Makeover” riff they do in the first season. 
  • Born July 30, 1966 Jess Nevins, 56. Author of the superlative Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victorian and the equally great Heroes & Monsters: The Unofficial Companion to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen which is far better than the film ever could be. He’s also written the Fable Encyclopedia which is a most excellent look at Willingham series. I didn’t know he was a fiction author ‘til now but he has two genre novels, The Road to Prester John and The Datong Incident. He picked up three impressive nominations: IGH for Companion to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, World Fantasy for The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana and Sidewise for An Alternate History of Chinese Science Fiction. I’ve read the first two and recommend them wholeheartedly. 
  • Born July 30, 1970 Christopher Nolan, 52. Writer, producer and often director as well of the latest Batman film franchise, The Prestige (which I absolutely love), InterstellarInception and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to name some of his work. Tenet was nominated for a Hugo at DisCon III. 
  • Born July 30, 1975 Cherie Priest, 47. Her southern gothic Eden Moore series is kickass good and Clockwork Universe series is a refreshing take on steampunk which has been turned into full cast audiobooks by GraphicAudio. I’ve not read the Cheshire Red Reports novels so have no idea how good they are. Anyone read these?  She won an Endeavour Award for her Dreadnought novel.
  • Born July 30, 1984 Gina Rodriguez, 38. Anya Thorensen in Annihilation based on Jeff VanderMeer’s novels which I’ve read though I’ve not seen the film. She was also Robin I the “Subway” episode of the Eleventh Hour series, and directed the “Witch Perfect” episode of the new Charmed series.  Who has seen this new Charmed series?

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Eek! shows a supercrime in progress.
  • poorly drawn lines has a time traveling reconnaissance report.

(15) HANDICAPPING THE LODESTAR. Garik16 is reviewing the 2022 Hugo finalists – and also the books up for “The Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult SciFi/Fantasy Novel”. An insightful set of comments!

To start this series, we’re looking at the Lodestar Award, which is “technically” not a Hugo Award, but is awarded with them anyway, so it counts for this series.  The Lodestar Award is for the best Young Adult SciFi and Fantasy novels of the previous year – the Hugo equivalent of the Norton Award (which is the Nebula version of the same award).  As a huge fan of YA works, I love going through the nominees of this award every year, and unsurprisingly I had read all of the nominees of this one prior to the shortlist being announced.  None of the nominees were on y nomination ballot….and yet there’s a number of works here on this list that I really liked, and a few very deserving winners….

(16) CLIMB INSIDE YOUR TV. Yahoo! Entertainment covers the walk-through displays created for fans attending SDCC: “Inside the ‘Severance’ Offices, Visiting the ‘House of the Dragon,’ and Other Wild Activations at Comic-Con This Year”. Photos included.

Not all of this year’s San Diego Comic-Con action took place on the convention center floor or in its ballrooms. While studios and producers like Marvel made headlines in Hall H, thousands of attendees to this year’s Con took time out to visit lavish, expensive activations geared toward an experiential visit to the worlds of films and series like Apple TV+’s “Severance,” HBO’s upcoming “Game of Thrones” prequel “House of the Dragon” and the upcoming “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” movie.

Fans eager to return to Comic-Con — the first since 2019, after two years of virtual events due to the pandemic — welcomed that ability to once again interact with pop culture. Here are five of the most notable activations at this year’s Comic-Con, which took place July 20 to July 24….

(17) RECOVERING THE WONDER. “Scenes from The Wizard of Oz Remastered in Brilliant 4K Detail: Behold the Work of a Creative YouTuber” at Open Culture.

…This final form of Technicolor enraptures viewers even today, reproducing colors as it did at intense, sometimes borderline-psychedelic depths of saturation. The process found its ideal material in the fantasy of The Wizard of Oz, with its yellow brick road (choosing whose exact shade inspired about a week of deliberation at MGM), its ruby slippers (calculatedly changed from the silver shoes in L. Frank Baum’s original novel), and its host of settings and characters with great chromatic potential.

You can appreciate this un-repeatably fortuitous intersection of content and technology again in these scenes from an unofficial 4K restoration of the film posted by Youtuber Oriel Malik.

This is surely the sharpest and most-detail rich version of The Wizard of Oz most of us have seen, and, in those respects, it actually outdoes the original prints of the film. For some the image may actually be too clear, making obvious as it does certain artificial-looking aspects of the backgrounds and costumes. But in a sense this may not run counter to the intentions of the filmmakers, who knew full well what genre they were working in: even on film, a musical must retain at least some of the look and feel of the stage. 

(18) ON THE GRIPPING HAND. The Verge explains how “Scientists reanimate dead spiders as robot gripping claws”.

Why bother to design your own robots when you can just reuse what nature created?

This was the thought process behind a research project from engineers at Rice University who successfully transformed dead spiders into robotic gripping claws. The scientists have dubbed their new area of research “necrobotics” and say it could create cheap, effective, and biodegradable alternatives to current robotic systems….

(19) LONG MEMORY. Scott Simon’s opinion piece for NPR asks “Are robots masters of strategy, and also grudges?”

When I saw that a robot had broken the finger of a 7-year-old boy it was playing at the Moscow Open chess tournament, my first reaction was, “They’re coming for us.”

All the machines that have been following commands, taking orders, and telling humans, “Your order is on the way!”, “Recalculating route!”, or “You’d really like this 6-part Danish miniseries!” have grown tired of serving our whims, fulfilling our wishes, and making their silicon-based lives subservient to us carbon breathers.

And so, a chess-playing robot breaks the finger of a little boy who was trying to outflank him in a chess match.

Onlookers intervened to extricate the boy’s hand from what’s called the actuator, which a lot of us might call a claw. The boy’s finger was placed in a plaster cast. He returned to the tournament the next day.

Sergey Smagin, vice-president of the Moscow Chess Federation, told the Baza Telegram channel that the robot had lunged after the little boy tried to make his move too quickly.

“There are certain safety rules,” he said, “and the child, apparently, violated them.”…

(20) SHELF AWARENESS. The New York Times’ profile of Anthony Marra, author of the forthcoming Mercury Pictures Presents, “Using Fiction to Summon the Glittering, Golden Age of Hollywood”, shows what it’s like when there’s an author in the family.

…The women are named after Marra’s own great-aunts, first-generation Italian Americans with a similarly curdled worldview. (“You poor girl,” one of the fictional aunts tells Maria. “You have your whole life ahead of you.”)

The last of Marra’s aunts, Mimi, died in 2015.

“She lived to 98 and hated every second of it,” Marra said. “Her love language was that she told people that her grandnephew was better than theirs.”

When Marra’s first book came out, Mimi drove around to different bookstores, moving copies of the novel closer to the front door. “I’m sure she didn’t read it herself, but she would be damn sure that you would,” Marra said….

(21) HEY, HO. Jim Janney shared this wonderful parody in comments:

When that I was and a little tiny fan,
With hey, ho, the pixel and the scroll,
No one did worry if my verses would scan,
For the file it scrolleth every day.

But when I came to fan’s estate,
With hey, ho, the pixel and the scroll,
‘Gainst bots and trolls fen shut their gate,
For the file it scrolleth every day.

But when at a con did I arrive,
With hey, ho, the pixel and the scroll,
By swaggering could I never thrive,
For the file it scrolleth every day.

A great while ago the world begun,
With hey, ho, the pixel and the scroll,
But that’s all one, our file is done,
And we’ll strive to please you every day.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In this 2013 video by Jeff Blyth, Wall-E creates an evil robot and they have a showdown. “Breaking Bad Robot”.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Lise Andreasen, Carl Andor, Denise Dumars, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

Pixel Scroll 7/27/22 And Did Those Files, In Ancient Time, Scroll Upon England’s Pixels Green?

(1) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. “Stranger Things is being edited retroactively by Netflix. Is this the beginning of a dangerous TV trend?” asks British GQ. It’s not a long article and these tweets have the gist of it.

(2) VIDEO GAME NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber reviews The Quarry, a new game from Supermassive that stars Ted Raimi, David Arquette, and Grace Zabriskie.

While much horror cinema has taken a turn for the intellectual over the past decade, this is a straight-up lesson in the schlock doctrine, a love letter to campy teen slashers such as Friday The 13th.  You’ll find every trope in the book here, from full moons to mysterious trapdoors to flimsy metaphors for intergenerational trauma. The set-up is simple:  it’s the end of summer camp and your group of teenage counsellors are planning to stay one last night to have a party in the woods. The forest inevitably harbours a dreadful, murderous secret, but it will take a lot to faze these kids–theyre horny, wisecracking and ready to make some truly terrible decisions…

…For most of this ten-hour adventure, watching is all you’ll do. Rather than playing, you’re mostly observing scripted sequences and influencing the story by making choices,  These might be fluffy character beats (who do you want to flirt with?) or grim decisions (do you want to pull the knife out of your stomach, risking blood loss?)You’ll also be faced with that horror ur-choice:  run, or hide? There’s no right or wrong; characters can die and the story will keep going.  Each choice leads you towards one of the game’s 186 possible endings.

(3) REMEMBER WHAT THE DORMOUSE SAID. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Royal Society concludes that playing video games will not rot your brain. “Time spent playing video games is unlikely to impact well-being”.

Abstract

Video games are a massively popular form of entertainment, socializing, cooperation and competition. Games’ ubiquity fuels fears that they cause poor mental health, and major health bodies and national governments have made far-reaching policy decisions to address games’ potential risks, despite lacking adequate supporting data. The concern–evidence mismatch underscores that we know too little about games’ impacts on well-being. We addressed this disconnect by linking six weeks of 38 935 players’ objective game-behaviour data, provided by seven global game publishers, with three waves of their self-reported well-being that we collected. We found little to no evidence for a causal connection between game play and well-being. However, results suggested that motivations play a role in players’ well-being. For good or ill, the average effects of time spent playing video games on players’ well-being are probably very small, and further industry data are required to determine potential risks and supportive factors to health….

(4) INSIDE BABYLON 5. As J. Michael Straczynski’s Babylon 5 new commentaries get uploaded to his Patreon page, older ones get a public release. The latest posted to YouTube is: “Babylon 5: Message From Earth commentary by J. Michael Straczynski”.

A full-length, sync-up commentary by creator Straczynski about Messages From Earth, the first installment of a trilogy that would forever alter the course of the series.

(5) OKORAFOR PROFILED. “Africanfuturista! The fantastical adventures of Nnedi Okorafor” at Geek Afrique.

Spaceships, terrorist aliens, water spirits, soldiers, Boko Haram, and wet piles of meat. These aren’t part of a kind of dark poetry, but mainstays of some of the best work of writer Nnedi Okorafor. Her work in her genre of choice Africanfuturism (one word, no space), her speculative fiction and fantasy work, are among the most unique today. Africanfuturism, which Okorafor coined, is an exciting subgenre that welds science fiction and technology to African mythologies, weaving black people —or blackness, really— into fertile worlds rife with story possibilities….

(6) OBAMA’S BOOK RECS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Barack Obama put books by Emily St. John Mandel and Silvia Moreno-Garcia on his Summer 2022 reading list.

He also put S.A. Cosby’s novel on there. In “Noir at the Bar”, a piece I wrote for File 770 in 2019 about going to hear crime writers read short stories, I said that Cosby was clearly the best writer in the room…

(7) CREEPY CRAWLIES. “Giant spiders, creeping tentacles all in a day’s work for this Ypsilanti artist”Michigan Live profiles Anna Miklosovic. (Her website is here.)

…Miklosovic currently has two art series depicting the unusual. The first shows a paranormal side of Ypsilanti and features work with giant spiders crawling up the side of the iconic Ypsilanti water tower and a giant tentacle in the Peninsula Paper Company Dam. The 12-part series was turned into a calendar, Miklosovic said.

Her second series focuses on Ann Arbor through the lens of the apocalypse, showing abandoned versions of well-known city locations….

(8) NOT JUST ANY USED CLOTHING. The prices didn’t quite go to infinity and beyond, but close: “Buzz Aldrin’s Space Memorabilia Sells for More Than $8 Million” reports the New York Times.

white, Teflon-coated jacket worn by the astronaut Buzz Aldrin during the Apollo 11 mission to the moon in 1969 sold for $2.7 million at a Sotheby’s auction on Tuesday, fetching the highest price among dozens of pieces of rare memorabilia tracing his career in space exploration.

Mr. Aldrin, now 92, has a storied career as an astronaut, joining NASA in 1963 after flying for the Air Force. Within three years, he had walked in space on the Gemini 12 mission. Then, on July 20, 1969, millions of people watched on television as he became the second man to walk on the moon, about 20 minutes after Neil Armstrong, who declared it “one giant leap for mankind.”

The custom-fitted jacket Mr. Aldrin wore on that mission sold after fierce bidding lasting nine minutes, with the auctioneer calling it “the most valuable American space-flown artifact ever sold at auction.” (The garments worn by the two other Apollo 11 astronauts from that mission are owned by the Smithsonian.)

In all, 68 of 69 lots of Mr. Aldrin’s belongings were sold for a combined $8 million on Tuesday by Sotheby’s in Manhattan at an auction that lasted more than two hours….

(9) MEMORY LANE.  

2008 [By Cat Eldridge.] Your essay tonight is brought to you courtesy of two of my loves — Agatha Christie and Doctor Who. Doctor Who’s “The Unicorn and The Wasp” involved both and had the added advantage of being a David Tennant story — bliss!

This episode aired first aired by BBC One on May 17, 2008. As I said it’s a Tennant Doctor and the Companion was Donna Noble as played delightfully by Catherine Tate. I didn’t care for her at first by she grew on me nicely. 

SPOLIERS ABOUND. GO AWAY NOW!

The two arrive at British manor of Lady Clemency Eddison, (Manor house mysteries are another fascination of mine), where Christie is staying. The episode is a murder-mystery where a shapeshifting giant wasp, in disguise as one of the party guests, murders the other guests using methods similar to those in the novels of Christie. The Doctor and Christie, wonderfully played by Fenella Woolgar, collaborate rather deliciously in uncovering what is going on.

Doctor Who does CGI really well and the wasp here comes off nicely even though it could’ve come as damn silly given how big it is. It didn’t. I mean a giant wasp in the British countryside? Seriously? 

More than a few Christie novels get mentioned. Actually a lot acoording to the writer and Russell T Davies. Titles that were noted were: The Murder of Roger AckroydWhy Didn’t They Ask EvansThe Body in the LibraryThe Secret AdversaryN or M?NemesisCat Among the PigeonsDead Man’s FollyThey Do It With MirrorsAppointment with DeathCards on the TableSparkling CyanideEndless NightCrooked HouseDeath in the CloudsThe Moving FingerTaken at the FloodDeath Comes as the EndMurder on the Orient Express and The Murder at the Vicarage

And there’s a neat riff at the end where the Doctor pulled a copy of a Christie novel out of a locker on the TARDIS from five billion years in the future refuting Christie’s belief that she would be remembered. 

They tie the story into the real life mystery of Christie disappearing for nearly eleven days. Mind you, their explanation is fantastical in the extreme.  

So we get The Doctor playing effectively Holmes in a manor house mystery with the assistance of Christie. 

It’s worth noting Christopher Benjamin who is Colonel Hugh Curbishley here played Henry Gordon Jago in The Talons of Weng-Chiang, another favorite episode of mine.

END SPOILERS. REALLY. 

It’s a delightedly written episode that was penned by Gareth Roberts, who previously wrote the another episode that played off history, “The Shakespeare Code”. I’ve watched it least half dozen times and enjoyed it every times. It’s streaming on HBO Max.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 27, 1938 Gary Gygax. Game designer and author best known for co-creating  Dungeons & Dragons with Dave Arneson. In addition to the almost beyond counting gaming modules he wrote, he wrote the Greyhawk Adventure series and the Dangerous Journeys novels, none of which is currently in print. I’ll admit that I’ve not read any of the many novels listed at ISFDB, so I’ve no idea how he is as a genre writer. Opinions, oh intelligent masses? (Died 2008.)
  • Born July 27, 1949 Maury Chaykin. Though best remembered as portraying Nero Wolfe staring with The Golden Spiders: A Nero Wolfe Mystery on A&E, a role that lasted twenty-seven episodes, he did have some appearances in genre work. He was in WarGames as Jim Sting, he showed up in The Twilight Zone’s “A Game of Pool” as James L. “Fats” Brown, the Millennium film as Richard Keane, on Andromeda in “Pieces of Eight” as Citizen Eight and so forth. (Died 2010.)
  • Born July 27, 1949 Robert Rankin, 73. Writer of what I’d call serious comic genre fiction. Best book by him? I’d single out The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse as the best work he ever did bar none. Hell even the name is absolutely frelling great. 
  • Born July 27, 1968 Farah Mendlesohn, 54. She’s an historian and prolific writer on genre literature, and an active fan. Best works by her? I really like her newest work on Heinlein, The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein which won a BSFA and was a 2020 Hugo finalistHer Diana Wynne Jones: Children’s Literature and the Fantastic Tradition is also a fascinating read. And I highly recommend her Rhetorics of Fantasy as we don’t get many good theoretical looks at fantasy. Her only Hugo to date was at Interaction for The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction though she won a lot of other Awards including BSFAs for the introduction to “Reading Science Fiction”, Rhetorics of Fantasy and The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein. She’s also garnered a BFA for Children’s Fantasy Literature: An Introduction (shared with co-writer Michael Levy) which also got a Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Myth and Fantasy, and she’s also won the Karl Edward Wagner Award as well.
  • Born July 27, 1969 Bryan Fuller, 53. Let’s see…There’s credits as either Executive Producer, Producer or Writer for Voyager and DS9American GodsMockingbird Lane, the  last being a reboot of The Munsters which lasted one episode and was, err, strange, Pushing Daisies, a Carrie reboot, Heroes and Dead Like Me. And animated adaptation of a quirky Mike Mignola graphic novel entitled The Amazing Screw-On Head. Go see it. It’s quite amazing.
  • Born July 27, 1970 Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, 52. Jaime Lannister in Game Of Thrones and Game of Thrones: Conquest & Rebellion: An Animated History of the Seven Kingdoms; as the lead in the short lived New Amsterdam series which is not based on the series by the same name by Elizabeth Bear; also genre roles in the Oblivion and My Name Is Modesty: A Modesty Blaise Adventure films.
  • Born July 27, 1977 Jonathan Rhys Meyers, 45. Dracula in the 2013 – 2014 Dracula series, other genre roles includes being in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, the Gormenghast series and Killer Tongue, a film with poodles transformed into drag queens. Would I kind you about the latter? It’s genre. 

(11) HULK ALUM RETURNS. Peter David, known for his legendary and impactful run on Incredible Hulk, is proving his acclaimed work on the Hulk mythos is far from over.  Having just finished an epic trilogy of limited series that told the grand saga of Hulk villain Maestro, David will now turn his attention to another iconic creation of his—Joe Fixit! The fan-favorite Hulk persona that muscled his way through Las Vegas as a hedonistic bodyguard will star in his very own limited series set during David’s original time on the Incredible Hulk. Joining David in this Sin City adventure will be artist Yildiray Cinar (The Marvels).

 “When I created Joe Fixit decades ago, it was merely as a means to shake up the standard formula,” David explained. “Typically Bruce would have set up some sort of situation and he would be worried that the Hulk would inevitably show up and screw things up. The storyline with Joe flipped the formula on its head, and set up the Hulk with his great situation in Vegas and he was worried that Bruce would show up to screw things up. I had no idea that the character would have this much staying power, and that so much would eventually be done with him in the pages of the Immortal Hulk. I’m thrilled that Marvel has given me this opportunity to revisit with an old friend.”

(12) 2023 EASTERCON. Chair Caroline Mullan announced that Conversation, the 2023 Eastercon, will be at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole at the NEC, from April 7-10, 2023.

…Expect to see more information from us soon about booking hotel rooms, booking for the dealers’ room and fan tables, and the timing and details of our initial rise in membership rates.

This has been a difficult year for site negotiations. We are very grateful to Vanessa May and the Persistence committee for providing the continuity with this site that has given us this outcome….

(13) THESE ARE THE DAYS OF OUR UNDEAD LIVES. Rest of World purports to take you “Inside the global gig economy of werewolf erotica on platforms like Dreame, GoodNovel and Amazon Kindle Vella”.

…The central characters of many of Dreame’s most beloved werewolf novels often inhabit Americanized settings, but the authors don’t typically live in the U.S. Rather, they come from countries like Mexico, the Philippines, Nigeria, and China – and often write novels in their second or third language. One student in Bangladesh, who writes under the pen name Anamika, spends five hours a day, seven days per week writing romance novels. She ends each chapter with a cliffhanger to keep readers hooked. Each book earns her up to $300, along with adoring messages from Western fans. “They are very sweet,” she said. “Their comments are my encouragement.” 

The emerging web novel industry spans the globe, taking a business model from Asia, assembling a global supply chain of authors in lower-income countries, and paying them to churn out thousands of words a day for English-speaking readers in the West. Rest of World spoke to four current and former employees at these platforms, who described how the art of novel writing is broken down into a formula to be followed: take a popular theme like werewolves, sprinkle it with certain tropes like a forbidden romance, and write as many chapters as you can. Some novels have hundreds of chapters, most ending on a cliffhanger to keep readers engaged and eager to read on.

The platforms, some backed by Tencent or TikTok’s parent ByteDance, thrived during the pandemic amid a surge in demand for online content – jobs that can be done from home. Dreame, GoodNovel, Webnovel, and Fizzo consistently rank among the most-downloaded reading apps in the U.S., the U.K., the Philippines, and Indonesia, and together rake in millions of dollars in revenues every month. The model has proven so successful that, in 2021, Amazon launched Kindle Vella, featuring similar episodic titles and plotlines. Kindle Vella even mimics a key mechanic of the other platforms: readers earn coins by spending more time engaged in the apps, which they can then spend to unlock more chapters….

(14) REBRANDING MURDER HORNETS? Like you need little branding irons for branding ants? MSN.com reports “Invasive ‘murder hornet’ is getting a rebrand. Here’s why.”

… The Asian giant hornet, commonly known as the murder hornet, has a new name as its former moniker could stoke anti-Asian sentiment.  

The Entomological Society of America (ESA) chose to rebrand the invasive species as the northern giant hornet, with the ESA concluding the political climate contributed to the need to change the name…. 

(15) A BAD DAY FOR STURGEON. “Two of the Largest Freshwater Fish in the World Declared Extinct”. MSN.com has details.

The Yangtze sturgeon lived in its namesake river for 140 million years. Now it doesn’t. Nor does another behemoth it shared China’s longest waterway with for ages, the Chinese paddlefish. Updating its Red List of Threatened Species on Thursday for the first time in 13 years, the International Union for Conservation of Nature declared the two species, known as “the last giants of the Yangtze,” extinct.

Once the largest freshwater fish in the world, the Yangtze sturgeon, Acipenser dabryanus, could reach 26 feet in length and weigh 1,500 pounds. Its historic range extended throughout Asia, including Japan, Korea, and the Yellow River in China. Dubbed a “living fossil,” it sported a rounded snout, large pectoral fins, and rows of elevated ridges on its spine and flanks. Though there are still captive fish in breeding programs, authorities, despite many efforts, have failed to successfully reintroduce the fish to the river system, and now it considered extinct in the wild.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Matthew Van Ness duplicates himself dozens of times as he sings “Hedwig’s Theme” from the Harry Potter movies: “I sing the ENTIRE orchestra in Hedwig’s Theme”.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/16/22 Files, Scrolls, Pixels From The Sea

(1) SECOND ANNUAL SPSFC CONTEST TAKING SUBMISSIONS. Here’s the link for authors to submit their books to the next Self-Published Science Fiction Competition.

(2) KEEPING UP. Lincoln Michel on sf epics at Esquire: “Genre-Bending Books: Everything Everywhere All in One Novel”.

It’s a cliché to say that we live in science fictional times. But recently it’s felt like we’re living in every science fictional time simultaneously. The world’s richest man decides to purchase a global communications platform on a whim, then decides to back out on a whim. Climate change heat waves lead governments to patrol borders with robot dogs. Meanwhile, a global pandemic rages on, new dystopian technologies are unveiled every day, and the wealthy work on their plans to escape into space. When a scroll through the news reveals a dozen dystopian scenarios—and the daily tasks of work, life, and family trudge on—what’s a novelist who hopes to capture our reality to do?

Maybe novels must do everything too.

In the last couple of years, there’s been a wave of ambitious genre-bending novels whose wide scopes and wild imaginings reflect the surreal state of our times. I’ve come to think of the form as “the speculative epic.” “Speculative” is used here as an umbrella term for science fiction, fantasy, magical realism, and other fictional modes that imagine worlds different from ours. Examples of these speculative epics from the last two years include Emily St. John Mandel’s Sea of Tranquility, Matt Bell’s Appleseed, Anthony Doerr’s Cloud Cuckoo Land, Sequoia Nagamatsu’s How High We Go in the Dark, Monica Byrne’s The Actual Star, Vauhini Vara’s The Immortal King Rao, Hanya Yanagihara’s To Paradise, and Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future. These novels vary in style and range from breakout debuts to works from established masters, but they all share an epic scope and the use of speculative premises to tackle the biggest concerns of our day….

(3) TAFF SELLING TWO CHICON 8 MEMBERSHIPS. [Item by Michael J. “Orange Mike” Lowrey.) The Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund has received a generous donation of two Chicon 8 (2022 Worldcon) attending memberships, Hugo voting and site selection rights intact, from two members who sadly cannot attend.

If you are interested in buying one or both of these, please contact the TAFF administrators, Johan Anglemark (EUTAFF@gmail.com) and Michael J. Lowrey (orangemike@gmail.com) for further instructions. The price asked is $150 per membership.

(4) FAST TIMES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber discusses the gaming subculture of “speedrunning” or going through a game as quickly as possible.  The speed record for The Elden Ring is 21 minutes.

Speedrunners often specialise in classic game series–Doom, Mario, Zelda–and certain new titles, such as platformer Celeste, have become popular and there is even a community dedicated to lengthy Japanese role-playing games. The ingenuity of these players is remarkable–community members have specific roles such as ‘routers,’ who pore over a game to work out the optimal sequence of actions to get the fastest time, or ‘glitch-hunters,’ who look for flaws in the game’s code which can be exploited to gain seconds.

In new release Lego Star Wars:  The Skywalker Saga, a speedrunner realised that child characters cannot be killed, so if you hit one upwards and continually slash them with your lightsabre, you can fly infinitely through the air, bypassing all manner of obstacles. This technique has been dubbed ‘child flight.’

(5) TUNE INTO HORROR. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] English Rose is a new, five-part, fantastical horror on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Sounds.

It is a #MeToo take on a traditional fantasy horror genre of which I don’t want to say more lest it counts as a spoiler. Risking this last, our protagonist – 18 year-old Rose – leaves Whitby to go to New York to be a nanny for a very wealthy couple. Episode 1: The Call of the Wild sees us realize that Rose is leaving behind a family and suggests that she did something that has caused her family to fear being hunted.  There is also more than a suggestion that she is on a mission and has a target… Enough said. The radio play is by the novelist and playwright Helen Cross.

The special effects for this radio drama rely on the best technology: the human brain.

(6) FANS GATHER IN LONDON. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] The Northumberland Heath SF group had its 2nd Thursday of the month meeting this week in southeast London.

Somewhat slightly depleted due to a few members away on holiday but in the mix is the daughter of a former Worldcon fan GoH Vince Clarke (see picture).

The group resumed its monthly meets in the spring following a winter CoVID lockdown.

All fans in London’s Bexley borough or on the 89 and 229 bus routes are most welcome. Details here and Facebook page here.

Apologies – the pic is a smartphone mosaic. (Not mine – don’t use smart phones – sustainability, rare earth metals etc)

(7) HERBERT W. FRANKE (1927-2022). Austrian scientist, artist, and SF writer Herbert W. Franke died July 16 at the age of 95. A major science fiction writer in the German language, he was a guest of honor at the 1970 Worldcon. He also was a computer graphics pioneer. His wife Susanne announced his death on Twitter, which he had just joined in March.

His fiction won the Deutscher Science Fiction Preis for Best Novel in 1985 and 1991, and the Kurd Lasswitz prize for sff in 1985, 1986, and 2007. The European Science Fiction Society named him “European Grand Master of Science Fiction” in 2016.

(8) MEMORY LANE.  

1987 [By Cat Eldridge.] “True enough,” Willy said with a rueful quirk of an eyebrow. “All right. There are certain days associated with magic. Halloween, May Eve, the solstices and equinoxes, a few others. Some are more favorable to one Court than the other. The next big event is Midsummer’s Eve, which is a good one for the Seelie Court. The Eve itself is a truce period. But the Sidhe would like to hold off and fight soon after that, when we’re still strong.” — Willy to Eddi

Emma Bull’s War for The Oaks was published in paperback by Ace Books thirty-five years ago this month. And then that publisher promptly tied up the rights so that it would be fourteen years before Tor Books could release another edition. Yeah Emma wasn’t happy.

SPOILERS ABOUND! 

I’ve read it at least a half dozen times, usually in the summer. I’m reasonably sure it was one of a handful of books that I took overseas with me. 

I love Eddi McCandry, a musician who dumps her quite nasty boyfriend and in the process of doing that finds herself chosen to be the agent of Good in the fight between the two sides of the Fey. 

Everything here is spot-on including the shapeshifter who’s chosen to protect Eddi and falls in love with her. For her first novel, Emma does am exceedingly great job of writing the characters here so that each is a true individual. Seelie, unseelie and just plain human characters all seem real. 

The story here is that a concert at Midsummer’s Eve will determine if the Seelie or Unseelie Court will hold sway for the next six months. The same premise was used in Gael Baudino’s rather stellar Gossamer Axe

Now it won’t surprise you, and yes this is why I said there would be spoilers, that Eddi McCandry and her band of human and seelie musicians will triumph and Good will sway for now.

END OF SPOILERS!

Fourteen years after Ace tied the rights to the novels up in, well, I can’t use the language I’d like to use, Tor published it in a nifty trade paper. Now they almost published it in a hardcover edition as well though that hardcover did come out as an Orb / SFBC edition. 

I have two signed editions here, one hardcover and one softcover. One was signed just after she broke both her forearms at a RenFaire (water and catching yourself don’t mix) and is quite shaky, the other from much later on is quite better.

They made a trailer of this novel. Yes they did. Will Shetterly decided not to run for Governor and spent the money here instead. Or so he tells me. Emma plays the Seelie Queen. And the music is by Boiled in Lead.  See how many members of Minnesota fandom that you spot. 

You can watch it  here courtesy of Green Man who has exclusive online rights.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 16, 1876 David Lindsay. Best remembered for A Voyage to Arcturus which C.S. Lewis has acknowledged was a great influence on Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. His other genre works were fantasies including The Haunted Woman and The Witch. A Voyage to Arcturus is available from the usual suspects for free. And weirdly it’s available in seven audio narratives. Huh.  Seven? (Died 1945.)
  • Born July 16, 1882 Felix Locher. He is considered the oldest Star Trek actor of all time by birth year, appearing in “The Deadly Years” episode. Other genre appearances included Curse of the Faceless Man,  The Twilight ZoneFrankenstein’s Daughter, The MunstersHouse of the DamnedThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Mission Impossible. His entire acting career was from 1957 to 1969. (Died 1969.)
  • Born July 16, 1928 Robert Sheckley. I knew that his short story “Seventh Victim” was the basis of The 10th Victim film but I hadn’t known ‘til now that Freejack was sort of based off his Immortality, Inc. novel. I’ve read a lot by him with Bring Me the Head of Prince Charming (written with Zelazny) being my favorite work by him. Sheckley is very well stocked on the usual suspects. He had two Hugo nominations, at NYCon II (1956) for his “Spy Story” short story, and at Detention (1959) for his Time Killer novel. His Seventh Victim novel was nominated for a Hugo at the 1954 Retro Hugos at Noreascon 4. (Died 2005.)
  • Born July 16, 1929 Sheri Tepper. I think I’m going to single out her Marianne Trilogy (MarianneThe Magus and The ManticoreMarianne, the Madam and the Momentary GodsMarianne, the Matchbox and the Malachite Mouse) as her best work. Both the setting and the characters are unique, the story fascinating. She got the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 16, 1943 Steve Stiles. Fan artist who was nominated way too many times for Best Fan Artist to list here. He did win once at MidAmeriCon II (2016). I can’t begin to list everything he’s done, so I’m sending you to Mike’s eulogy here. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 16, 1951 Esther Friesner, 71. She’s won the Nebula Awards for Best Short Story twice with “Death and the Librarian” and “A Birthday”.  I’m particularly fond of The Sherwood Game and E.Godz which she did with Robert Asprin. NESFA presented her with the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction (“Skylark”) in 1994, a lifetime achievement award. She’s very well stocked at the usual suspects. L.A. Con III (1996) saw her nominated for a short story Hugo for “A Birthday” and she was Toastmaster at Millennium Philcon (2001). 
  • Born July 16, 1963 Phoebe Cates, 59. Ok, so her entire genre appearance credit is as Kate Beringer in Gremlins and  Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Yes I’ll admit that they’re two films that I have an inordinate fondness for that the Suck Fairy cannot have any effect upon them what-so-ever. Update: I’ve discovered since I last noted her Birthday that she was in Drop Dead Fred, a dark fantasy. She also stopped acting seven years ago. 
  • Born July 16, 1966 Scott Derrickson, 56. Director and Writer of Doctor Strange who also had a hand in The Day the Earth Stood Still (as Director), The Exorcism of Emily Rose (Director and Writer), Urban Legends: Final Cut (Director and Producer) and the forthcoming Labyrinth sequel (Director and Writer). His latest film is the supernatural horror The Black Phone based on the short story by Joe Hill.

(10) ORIGINS OF LIBRARY OF AMERICA. “Edmund Wilson’s Big Idea: A Series of Books Devoted to Classic American Writing. It Almost Didn’t Happen”. A 2015 post by National Endowment for the Humanities.

The nonprofit publisher Library of America has released almost two hundred seventy volumes of classic American writing. Its black dust jackets with an image of the author and a simple red, white, and blue stripe running below the author’s name, rendered in a fountain-pen-like hand, help give the clothbound volumes a timeless feel, as if copies might have been found in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s dorm room or Henry James’s steamer trunk. But the series is nowhere near that old. It began publication in 1982.It did, however, take a long time to become a reality.

Jason Epstein remembers the day he joined Edmund Wilson at the bar of the Princeton Club, in New York City, where, in the presence of numerous martinis, Wilson said exactly what he wanted the publishing industry to do: bring out a series of books that would be small enough to fit in the pocket of his raincoat and be filled with classic American writing.

(11) KNIGHTWHO? [Item by Francis Hamit.] Knightscope. Yeah, they look like Daleks.  Sheer coincidence.  Bill Li had never heard of Daleks when he started the company. A Knightscope robot is a supplement not a replacement for a human guard but does have some pretty neat features that humans can’t replicate such a license plate reading, 360-degree vision and other sensors.

Augment your existing security program at a fraction of the average rate for one 24-hour security post. Our Autonomous Security Robots (ASRs) are Made in the USA – Designed and Built in Silicon Valley by Knightscope – and offer security patrols as well as a physical presence that deliver real-time, actionable intelligence anytime and anywhere, giving you and your security team the ability to detect and react faster.

(12) WATCH ‘EM ALL. “Pokémon Fossil Museum Virtual Tour Lets You See the Japanese Exhibit For Yourself”IGN tells how to access it.

The Pokémon Company and Toyohashi Museum of Natural History have made it possible to see the Pokémon Fossil Museum without being anywhere near Japan. Pokémon fans can now take a virtual tour around the exhibit — which is open until November — to see the collection of real and Pokémon fossils, from a tyrannosaurus to a Tyrantrum.

Designed to teach children about fossils and dinosaurs, the exhibit includes models of Pokémon side-by-side with fossilised versions and information panels to educate amid the fun.

… Ancient Pokémon obtained through fossils have always existed in the games and anime, and just like the normal pocket monsters (Pikachu being the mouse Pokémon), they’re based on species in the real world.

(13) LIGHTS! CAMERA! TENTACLES! Apparently this genre-inspired ad campaign for a brand of rum ran several years ago. But it’s news to me! “Kraken Rum Bus” from Oink Creative.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Bill Higgins, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Francis Hamit, Michael J. Lowrey, 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 Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 7/8/22 Doctor Scroll In The Multipixel Of Madness

(1) IN SUIT OVER CONTROLLED DIGITAL LENDING PARTIES FILE FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT. This week both parties to the lawsuit over “controlled digital lending” — four publishers on one side and the Internet Archive on the other — filed motions for summary judgment Publishers Weekly reports: “Publishers, Internet Archive File Dueling Summary Judgment Motions in Scan Suit”. A motion for summary judgment asks the court to render a decision on the record already submitted.

The battle lines have now been drawn in a potentially landmark lawsuit over the scanning and lending of books. In a motion for summary judgment filed this week, lawyers for Hachette, HarperCollins, Wiley, and Penguin Random House argue that the Internet Archive’s controversial program to scan and lend books under an untested legal theory known as “controlled digital lending” is a massive piracy operation “masquerading as a not-for-profit library.” And in a dueling motion for summary judgment, the Internet Archive counters that its scanning and lending program does not harm authors and publishers and is a public good protected by fair use.

Copies of both parties’ motions are available online, the publishers motion here, and the Internet Archive’s motion here.

The publishers contend Internet Archive’s practices violate copyright law:

…Yet Internet Archive assumes that all “information should be free” and has searched for years to find a legal rationale for its radical infringements. Around 2018, it helped manufacture and market a theory called “controlled digital lending” or “CDL,” which was developed with no input from authors or publishers and without the imprimatur of Congress. Directly contradicting the idea that copyright protects a bundle of divisible rights, IA posits that it is lawful for a library to make digital copies of any print book it acquires and distribute that digital copy over the internet, without a license, as long as (a) the library uses digital rights management (“DRM”) technology to prevent additional copying, and (b) the library “only loan[s] simultaneously the number of [print] copies that it has legitimately acquired.” SUMF¶436. Regardless of whether it actually complies with CDL – and it does not – Internet Archive’s practice of CDL violates fundamental principles of copyright law, and undermines market incentives necessary to spur the creation of new works…

The Internet Archive’s motion gives this explanation of Controlled Digital Lending:

…CDL is fundamentally the same as traditional library lending; it’s just a better way of getting the book to the one patron who borrowed it. Because every book in the Internet Archive’s print collection has already been bought and paid for, everyone agrees the Internet Archive could loan those books by handing or mailing them to a patron.  The only difference is that the Internet Archive is loaning the books over the Internet.  Either way, the books on loan are not available to other patrons until they are returned….

The Electronic Frontier Foundation issued a press release supporting the Internet Archive’s motion: “Internet Archive Seeks Summary Judgment in Federal Lawsuit Filed By Publishing Companies”.

“The publishers are not seeking protection from harm to their existing rights. They are seeking a new right foreign to American copyright law: the right to control how libraries may lend the books they own,” said EFF Legal Director Corynne McSherry. “They should not succeed. The Internet Archive and the hundreds of libraries and archives that support it are not pirates or thieves. They are librarians, striving to serve their patrons online just as they have done for centuries in the brick-and-mortar world. Copyright law does not stand in the way of a library’s right to lend its books to its patrons, one at a time.”

(2) IT CAUGHT ON IN A FLASH. Space Cowboy Books presents an “Online Flash Science Fiction Reading” on July 19 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Register for free here.

Join us online for an evening of short science fiction readings with authors Douglas A. Banc, Ricardo Victoria, and Adele Gardner. Flash Science Fiction Nights run 30 minutes or less, and are a fun and great way to learn about new authors from around the world.

(3) MUSK TO TWITTER: EJECT! “Elon Musk tells Twitter he wants out of his deal to buy it” reports CNN.

Elon Musk wants to terminate his $44 billion deal to buy Twitter — the latest in a whirlwind process in which the billionaire Tesla CEO became the company’s biggest shareholder, turned down a board seat, agreed to buy the social media platform and then started raising doubts about going through with the deal. The next chapter in the saga is almost certain to be a court battle.

Musk claimed in a letter to Twitter (TWTR)’s top lawyer that he is ending the deal because Twitter (TWTR) is “in material breach of multiple provisions” of the original agreement, which was signed in April, according to a regulatory filing Friday evening.

Musk has for weeks expressed concerns, without any apparent evidence, that there are a greater number of bots and spam accounts on the platform than Twitter has said publicly. Analysts have speculated that the concerns may be an attempt to create a pretext to get out of a deal he may now see as overpriced, after Twitter shares and the broader tech market have declined in recent weeks. Tesla (TSLA) stock, which Musk was planning to rely on in part to finance the deal, has also declined sharply since he agreed to the deal….

(4) SOCIETY OF ILLUSTRATORS. An exhibit of top African-American artists in the comic book industry, “The Artist’s Experience: from Brotherman to Batman”, is being hosted by the Society of Illustrators through October 29.

The Society of Illustrators has announced a dynamic installation on display in the museum that delves between the pages of comic books and explores the artists’ process. “The Artist’s Experience: From Brotherman to Batman” on display from June 15 through October 29, 2022. The exhibit celebrates some of the top African-American artists in the comic book industry, and was co-curated by renowned culture journalist and writer Karama Horne (Marvel’s Protectors of Wakanda: A History and Training Manual of the Dora Milaje) and Eisner Award-nominated artist and writer Shawn Martinbrough (How to Draw Noir Comics: The Art and Technique of Visual Storytelling, Thief of Thieves, Red Hood), whose work will be featured along with over sixteen other talented artists.

… Also featured are Eisner Award-winning artists Afua Richardson (Black Panther World of Wakanda, HBO’s Lovecraft Country), Alitha Martinez (Batgirl, World of Wakanda) and John Jennings (Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower), as well as veteran artists Larry Stroman (Alien Legion, X-Factor) and Darryl Banks (Green Lantern).

Artwork from award-winning artist Ronald Wimberly, founder of the experimental art magazine THE LAAB (whose Prince of Cats graphic novel is currently being adapted to film by Spike Lee), Khary RandolphJamal Igle, Micheline Hess, Sanford Greene, Eric Battle, Marcus Williams, Chuck Collins, Damion Scott and Robyn Smith will all be on display, as well.

(5) TOLL ON LIBRARY WORKERS. “Groundbreaking Study Explores Trauma, Stress in Frontline Library Workers”Publishers Weekly gives an overview.

The 2022 Urban Libraries Unite Trauma Study draws upon a wide-ranging literature review, survey responses from more than 435 urban library workers (conducted between August and September 2021), focus groups, and a two-day forum. The final report paints a vivid picture of the difficult working conditions facing many urban librarians and library workers, as well as a promising framework through which the library community can begin to address its needs.

“It is clear that there is a crisis of trauma in urban public libraries and the evidence for this is so overwhelmingly compelling that it seems likely that trauma impacts work in libraries of all types across the profession,” reads the report’s conclusion. “It is also clear from the literature search and the conversations that created this report’s conclusions that the library profession is starting to wake up to this deeply corrosive crisis.”

The report describes a range of violent or aggressive patron behavior toward library workers, including racist and sexist verbal abuse, harassment, physical assault including having guns and other weapons brandished, and drug and alcohol issues including overdoses. In addition, library workers reported significant instances of “secondary trauma” from constant interactions with community members (including children) struggling with poverty, homelessness, mental illness, or drug abuse….

(6) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to join David Gerrold for a breakfast buffet on episode 175 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

David Gerrold

Now it’s time for breakfast with David Gerrold, who I first encountered when I was 12, because I saw the Star Trek episode scripted by him, “The Trouble with Tribbles,” when it first aired in 1967. And they say 12 is the Golden Age of science fiction, right?

But David is so much more than that famed episode. He’s the author of more than 50 books, hundreds of articles and columns, and numerous hours of television. His TV credits include episodes from Star Trek (such as the aforementioned “The Trouble With Tribbles” and “The Cloud Minders”), Star Trek Animated (“More Tribbles, More Troubles” and “Bem”), Babylon 5 (“Believers”), Twilight Zone (“A Day In Beaumont” and “A Saucer Of Loneliness”), Land Of The Lost (“Cha-Ka,” “The Sleestak God,” “Hurricane,” “Possession,” and “Circle”), Tales From The Darkside (“Levitation” and “If The Shoes Fit”), Logan’s Run (“Man Out Of Time”), and others.

His novels include When HARLIE Was One (which I believe was the first prose of his I read, at age 17), The Man Who Folded HimselfThe War Against The Chtorr septology, The Star Wolf trilogy, and The Dingilliad young adult trilogy, the Trackers duology, and many more. The autobiographical tale of his son’s adoption, “The Martian Child,” won the Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette of the Year and was the basis for the 2007 movie, Martian Child.  He was the 2022 winner of the Robert A. Heinlein Award, which was presented during Balticon.

We discussed what he means by “humility in the face of excellence,” the curse of fame and why J. D. Salinger may have had the right idea, how the more you know the slower you write, the challenge of living up to having won the Heinlein Award (and why Heinlein once called him “a very nasty man”), the scariest story he ever wrote, how Sarah Pinsker helped him understand what he really felt about Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” the kind of person he might have been had he not moved to L.A. as a kid, the fannish way he found out he’d been nominated for a Hugo Award, how it feels to already know what the headline of his obituary will be, and much more.

(7) TOM FABER ON VIDEO GAMES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber recalls seeing Braveheart with his cousin, who asked, “Where are all the wizards?”

On surveying my collection of fantasy movies and video games the next day, I realized that almost all of them were set in a place that resembled 13th-century Scotland, from Lord Of The Rings to Skyrim to Game Of Thrones.  Given that fantasy is the only genre that gives writers unlimited creative licence to dream up the wildest worlds, why do we see the same tired cliches again and again?…

…This is finally starting to change with the emergence of game developers outside the conventional industry hubs who are weaving new fantasies from the threads of their own history and myths.  Earlier this year, Mexican studio Lienzo released Aztech:  Forgotten Gods, which imagines a sci-fi world in which the Aztecs were never conquered.  Rafi:  An Ancient Epic incorporates Hindu mythology and draws inspiration fro the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Maori developer Naphtali Faulkner created the stylish Umurangi Generation, a photo game set in a near-future New Zealand. Meanwhile, Aurion:  Legacy of the Kori-Odan and the ambitious upcoming game The Wagada Chronicles both explore complex African mythologies.

(8) NOT JUST ANY STREAM. “Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London novels are set for TV adaptation” – the Guardian tells about the deal.

A new partnership will bring together all nine of the novels, plus the accompanying short stories, novellas and graphic novels, for the screen.

Rivers of London is part urban fantasy, part police procedural, centring on detective constable Peter Grant. A newly graduated police officer from London, he is recruited in the first book by wizard and inspector Thomas Nightingale to the Folly, a police unit working on supernatural crimes, after an encounter with a ghost….

(9) DIRDA ON BOOKS OF INTEREST TO FANS. Michael Dirda reviews three volumes of Folio Society collections of Marvel comics and three volumes of Penguin Marvel collections. He also reviews a book called Cosplay which is a history of cosplayers going back to Worldcon masquerades. “Marvel comics in updated editions from Penguin and Folio, reviewed” in the Washington Post.

…All this past spring, then, I was eagerly looking forward to recapturing some of that ancient enchantment by immersing myself in six colorful volumes of Marvel superhero comics: three Penguin Classics collections of the early adventures of Spider-ManCaptain America and Black Panther, and three Folio Society best-of collections devoted to Spider-Man, Captain America and Hulk.

For fans, both series are desirable and contain little overlap. The general editor of the Penguin editions, Ben Saunders, a comics scholar from the University of Oregon, provides historical background on how Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and others co-created these modern legends. Contemporary writers such as Qiana J. Whitted, Gene Luen Yang, Jason Reynolds and Nnedi Okorafor contribute additional introductions or winningly personal forewords. Appendixes feature recommended reading lists and sometimes supplemental essays, such as Don McGregor’s memoir of how he wrote the multi-issue “Panther’s Rage,” which supplied some of the plot elements to the “Black Panther” movie. Each of these collectible Penguin hardbacks runs to roughly 350 pages and is priced at $50. Paperback editions cost $28.

The Folio Society volumes cost $125 apiece, but for purists they offer a slightly more authentic reading experience….

…At least, I continue to be childishly delighted by adult cosplay, the practice of dressing up as a favorite fictional or cinematic character. As our troubled superheroes know, donning a mask can be liberating, a way of releasing one’s deeper self. Appropriately, Andrew Liptak’s opens his chatty “Cosplay: A History” by looking at costume balls, historical reenactors, Halloween and the tradition of masquerade night at science-fiction conventions. Still, his heart really belongs to the Star Wars franchise.

(10) R. C. HARVEY (1937-2022). Cartoonist Robert C. Harvey, a respected comics historian and columnist, died July 7. His autobiographical intro at The Comics Journal sums up an incredible career.

Harv’s first foray into expository text was with a column in the fondly recalled Menomonee Falls Gazette (a weekly newspaper of comic strips) in the fall of 1973. A couple years later, he launched his Comicopia column in No.130 of the Rocket’s Blast – ComiCollector, which, by then, had been taken over by James Van Hise from Gordon Love, the founder. For RB-CC, he created a mock comicbook superhero, Zero Hero.

In March 1980, Harvey abandoned early columns and started writing for The Comics Journal, with a new effort, The Reticulated Rainbow, starting in No. 54 and continuing regularly under various titles for an insufferably long time. By the time he was in his eighties, Harv’d become, probably, the Journal contributor with the greatest longevity.

Bob also was a longtime contributor to Jud Hurd’s Cartoonist PROfiles magazine, The Thompson’s Comics Buyer’s Guide, Hogan’s Alley, and Nemo, the Classic Comics Library, among others. He also contributed to the early version of the scholarly comics publication Inks. The R.C. Harvey archives for The Comics Journal can be accessed here, and his recent Humor Times columns are here.

Harvey has written or collected and edited thirteen books on comics and cartooning, including his Milton Caniff: Conversations (2002) from the University Press of Mississippi, followed by a full biography of Caniff, Meanwhile… A Biography of Milton Caniff, Creator of Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon (2007) published by Fantagraphics. His most recent book is Insider Histories of Cartooning: Rediscovering Forgotten Famous Comics and Their Creators (2014) from UPM. A complete list of his books appears at his website.

Harvey still has two books scheduled to be released this Fall. He annotated the current Fantagraphics Complete Pogo series giving context to references in Walt Kelly’s comic strip, Volume Eight will arrive with R.C.’s contribution. He has also wrote and assembled The Art and History of Popeye due later this year.

(11) LARRY STORCH (1923-2022). Actor Larry Storch died July 8 at the age of 99. His most famous role was the scheming Corporal Agarn of F Troop (1965-1967). His genre work included co-starring with Bob Burns (who wore a gorilla costume) and Forrest Tucker on the Saturday morning children’s show The Ghost Busters. Storch appeared in more than 25 films, including The Monitors (1969, based on a Keith Laumer novel), and Without Warning (1980). He voiced characters in animated shows such as Merlin the Magic Mouse and Cool Cat. In Journey Back to Oz he voiced Aunt Em and Uncle Henry’s farmhand Amos.

(12) KAZUKI OBITIARY. Yu-Gi-Oh! creator Takahashi Kazuki hwas found dead at sea says Deadline. He was 60.

Takahashi Kazuki, the creative force behind manga trading card and Japanese entertainment franchise Yu-Gi-Oh!, has been found dead, according to local public broadcaster NHK.

It was reported Takahashi, whose real name is Kazuo Takahashi, was discovered floating while in snorkeling gear in near Okinawa Prefecture in Japan on Wednesday. A coast guard is looking into the cause of death.

Takahashi began as a manga artist in the 1980s and found success in 1996 when he created manga comic series Yu-Gi-Oh! and began serializing it in Weekly Shonen Jump magazine. He later outlined the rules for an accompanying trading card game.

The franchise grew to span several TV shows, manga spin-offs and video games and is now one of the highest-grossing of all time….

(13) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

2003 [By Cat Eldridge.] Some amazingly strange series come out of Canada. So it is with the Alienated series that debuted nineteen years ago this day on the Space network in Canada. It lasted for two seasons and a mere twenty-two episodes.

I’ve no idea who created it since, in true Heinleinian fashion, the serial numbers seem to have been completely filed off. 

It was a comedy centered on a stereotypical suburban family living in Victoria, British Columbia who undergo strange and often overtly sexual changes (all nudity was pixillated) after being abducted by aliens. The mother was played by Sarah-Jane Redmond best remembered  as Lucy Butler on the Millennium series and the father was played by Johnathan Whittaker who later shows on up The Expanse as Sec-Gen Gillis.

I think it was, to say the least, not aimed at all at being tasteful based on episode titles of the likes of “Where’s the Vagina?”, “Hard to Keep a Good Man Down” and “Where’s the Saltpeter?”. I have no idea what time of the evening it was broadcast in but I’m betting it was later on.

Critics, the few who actually bothered with reviewing it, found it entertaining. It never got a proper wrap-up as it was cancelled in the way so many of these low rated series are — in the middle of the night when no one is looking.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 8, 1914 Hans Stefan Santesson. Trifecta of editor, writer, and reviewer. He edited Fantastic Universe from 1956 to 1960, and the US edition of the British New Worlds Science Fiction. In the Sixties, he edited a lot of anthologies including The Fantastic Universe OmnibusThe Mighty Barbarians: Great Sword and Sorcery Heroes and Crime Prevention in the 30th Century. As a writer, he had a handful of short fiction, none of which is available digitally. His reviews appear to be all in Fantastic Universe in the Fifties. (Died 1975.)
  • Born July 8, 1933 — Michael Barrier, 89. One of the few actors not a regular crew member on the original Trek who shows in multiple episodes under the same name. He was DeSalle in “The Squire of Gothos”, “This Side of Paradise” and “Catspaw”. While he has the same name each time, he does not have the same shipboard job as he serves as a navigator in the first episode, a biologist in “This Side of Paradise” and assistant chief engineer in “Catspaw”. 
  • Born July 8, 1942 — Otto Penzler, 80. He’s proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City who edits anthologies. Oh does he edit them, over fifty that I know of, some of genre interest including The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories, Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! and The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories which an original Lester Dent story in it. Back in the Seventies, with Chris Steinbrunner, he co-wrote the Encyclopedia of Mystery and Detection for which they won an Edgar Award.
  • Born July 8, 1951 Anjelica Huston, 71. I’m going to single her out for her performance as The Grand High Witch of All The World, or Eva Ernst in The Witches, a most delicious film. She was also wonderful as Morticia Addams in both of the Addams Family films, and made an interesting Viviane, Lady of the Lake in The Mists of Avalon miniseries. 
  • Born July 8, 1955 Susan Price, 67. English author of children’s and YA novels. She has won both the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Prize for British children’s books. The Pagan Mars trilogy is her best known work, and The Sterkarm Handshake and its sequel A Sterkarm Kiss, will please Outlander fans.
  • Born July 8, 1958 Kevin Bacon, 64. The role I best remember him for is Valentine “Val” McKee in Tremors. He also played Jack Burrell in Friday the 13th, David Labraccio in the most excellent Flatliners and Sebastian Caine in Hollow Man

(15) TUTTLE’S PICKS. “The best recent science fiction and fantasy – review roundup” by Lisa Tuttle in the Guardian. Covers The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia; Thrust by Lidia Yuknavitch; The Ballad of Perilous Graves by Alex Jennings; Life Ceremony by Sayaka Murata and Old Country by Matt and Harrison Query

(16) SUPER-PETS CASTING. “The Good Place star confirmed as Wonder Woman in new DC movie”Digital Spy knows her name.

DC has got itself a new Wonder Woman, with The Good Place‘s Jameela Jamil confirmed as the voice of Diana Prince’s super alter-ego in DC’s League of Super-Pets.

(17) BIG NUMBERS. “Six Flags Magic Mountain to debut record-breaking Wonder Woman coaster”KTLA has details.

WONDER WOMAN Flight of Courage will take riders on a thrilling adventure for the very first time next Saturday, July 16.

Riders will reach speeds of up to 58 mph and can expect a steep climb up a 131-foot hill, an intense 87-degree drop and three inversions (like a loop) along the coaster’s 3,300-foot track.

Before boarding, those waiting in the Greek-inspired ride queue will be treated to immersive storytelling and a deep dive of the comic book heroine’s history and greatest accomplishments…

(18) IT WILL TAKE YOU THERE. “‘Portals will be as important as the car’: the architects exploring gateways to new dimensions” at the Guardian.

…The examples range from the rabbit-hole in Alice in Wonderland and the wardrobe in the Narnia books, to Dr Who’s Tardis, Back to the Future’s DeLorean and Platform 9¾ in Harry Potter, via all manner of holes, mirrors, cracks, bridges and “energy frames” found in sci-fi and fantasy fiction. Their timeline tells an eye-opening story, charting the explosion of portals after the second world war, marked by the likes of The Sentinel by Arthur C Clarke (which formed the basis of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey), the Wayback Machine in Peabody’s Improbable History, and the tollbooth from the 1961 book The Phantom Tollbooth, written by architect Norton Juster.

The following period, leading up to the cold war and the space race, saw portals take the form of massive energy-intensive machines and weapons built in the battle for world domination. They highlight the 1960s TV series The Time Tunnel, where thousands of people work under the desert surface on a secret megastructure, which would allow the US military to travel in time, noting how its iconic spiral design went on to inspire countless portals in future stories. The period after the cold war, meanwhile, saw portals serve more satirical and comical roles in lowbrow sci-fi and family movies – such as the phone booth in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, or the people-eating television in the 1980s body horror film Videodrome.

They found one of the most recurring types of portal to be the “portable hole”, first featured in the Looney Toons cartoon The Hole Idea in 1955, in which a scientist demonstrates his device for rescuing a baby from a safe, cheating at golf and escaping from housework. It later appears in the Beatles’ film Yellow Submarine, in the form of the Sea of Holes, as well as in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, reaching a hole-studded peak in the 1985 Marvel cartoon character, Spot – whose body is covered in portals…

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Stranger Things Season 4 Pitch Meeting”, Ryan Geroge, in a spoiler-packed episode, says the villain this season is a guy who is bald, strong, doesn’t have a nose, and is clearly not Voldemort,  Also several characters manage to remain alive by not explicitly dying in front of the camera during their death scenes.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, 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 Lise Andreasen.]

Pixel Scroll 6/3/22 Pixeled Like Your Soul, I’d Rather File Than Watch Disco’s Control

(1) BLUE PLAQUE SPECIAL. Radio Times reports “Verity Lambert, Doctor Who’s original producer, honoured with blue plaque”.

Some major names in the history of British television gathered on Sunday 29th May to honour the pioneering producer Verity Lambert, as Doctor Who’s very first director Waris Hussein and former showrunner Steven Moffat jointly unveiled a blue plaque on the wall of Riverside Studios in Hammersmith.

As the first ever female producer in the BBC drama department, Verity made a name for herself launching Doctor Who in 1963. Across a long and prestigious career, she produced dozens of successful and fondly remembered programmes, such as Take Three Girls, Budgie, The Naked Civil Servant, Rock Follies, Edward and Mrs Simson, The Flame Trees of Thika, Minder and Jonathan Creek. She died in 2007.

(2) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Karen Heuler and Sam. J. Miller in person at the KGB Bar on Wednesday, June 15 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Masks Strongly Encouraged.

  • Karen Heuler

Karen Heuler’s stories have appeared in over 120 literary and speculative magazines and anthologies, from Conjunctions to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction to Weird Tales, as well as in a number of Best Of anthologies (and in one of Ellen Datlow’s anthologies!). Her latest novel, The Splendid City, has just been published by Angry Robot Books. It’s a tale about stolen water, an exiled witch and her gun-wielding cat, and a city run by a self-declared President who loves parades. She has a literary short-story collection about dementia coming out in August, and Fairwood Books will publish A Slice of the Dark, a SF/F mix, this coming November.

  • Sam J. Miller

Sam J. Miller’s books have been called “must reads” and “bests of the year” by USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, NPR, and O: The Oprah Magazine, among others. He is the Nebula-Award-winning author of Blackfish City, which has been translated into six languages and won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Sam’s short stories have been nominated for the World Fantasy, Theodore Sturgeon, and Locus Awards, and reprinted in dozens of anthologies. He’s also the last in a long line of butchers. He lives in New York City, and at samjmiller.com

KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003 (Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs).

(3) PAUL WEIMER. Camestros Felapton continues his series of why-you-should-vote-for each Best Fan Writer finalist with “Paul Weimer: Hugo 2022 Fanwriter Finalist”.

Paul Weimer is a fan, a photographer, a podcaster, a review, a critic, a traveller and did I mention that he is a fan? A prolific reviewer and a frequent guest on numerous podcasts, Paul does not literally know everybody in science fiction but I like to imagine that he does. These days you are most likely to find paul at the Nerds of a Feather fanzine blog or on the Skiffy and Fanty podcast or among the webpages of Tor.com….

(4) HOW THE WEST WAS WON. Clarion West invites everyone to support the students coming to this year’s workshop by chipping in to pay for things on their Summer Workshop Wish List.

If you’d like to help the workshop’s students be more comfortable in our new facilities where they’ll be eating, sleeping, and living story for six weeks this summer, there are ways for you to help

The Summer Workshop needs items large and small for the students every year—from coffee to whiteboards and beyond. This year we especially need additional safety supplies to be as safe as we possibly can during the pandemic and to meet our COVID protocols. If you’d like to help out, you can purchase items from our Amazon Wish List.

Thank you so much for helping support our students and our workshop!

(5) DEVOLVER NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber reviews the games of “tastemaking indie publisher Devolver Digital.” WASD was a game fair held recently in London.

Every year, a few Devolver titles inevitably make their way to year-end best-of lists.  ‘That success gives us the mandate to take risks and do some really interesting, off-the-wall games,’ says Graeme Struthers, head of publishing.  At WASD, this reputation attracted a constant stream of excited gamers to their booth of playable demos.  I sampled new releases Trek To Yomi, a moody samurai game in grainy monochrome inspired by classic Kurosawa films; Card Shark, a beautifully illustrated tale of cheating your way to the top of 18th-century French society using only a deck of cards; and Terra Nil, a ‘reverse city builder’ that asks you not to pave over the wilderness with motorways but instead restore the countryside to its former glory…

….Many of Devolver’s best releases take a received idea about games on their head and encourage players to look at the medium from a new perspective.  Often this means casting the player as a character they never thought they would inhabit. In Ape Out, you play an escaped gorilla whose every movement triggers a crash of cymbals or a snare-hit, creating a jazz score as you go.  The highlight of Devolver’s upcoming roster at WASD, Cult Of The Lamb, casts players as a sacrificial lamb which escapes from the altar and starts building its own cult in revenge.

(6) SIDE BY SIDE BY CYBERMEN. Radio Times tries to read the tealeaves of the Doctor Who multiverse: “Could Yasmin Finney’s new Rose be the key to Doctor Who’s own multiverse?”

Jodie Whittaker’s exit coming a year ahead of Doctor Who’s 60th anniversary means fans are expecting something massive in the next 12 months. Alongside the high-profile returns of David Tennant and Catherine Tate as the Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble, Heartstopper’s Yasmin Finney is paving the way for diversity. Details about these returns and debuts are sketchy, but Finney’s role as “New Rose” could have us opening the doors to the multiverse….

… When Whittaker’s Thirteen escaped a possible-future version of a nuclear-ravaged Earth in Orphan 55, she told us. “The future is not fixed, it depends on billions of decisions and actions, and people stepping up.” This was teased years earlier when the Doctor-lite Turn Left explained how drastically things can change with a simple decision. Ten’s iconic episode featured Donna being manipulated by a Time Beetle, and although ‘Donna’s World’ was erased from existence, it’s got us thinking about how many others there are. 

Doctor Who has long established that N-Space is the Prime Universe in canon, but over the past 60 years, we’ve learned about a lot more. Across various media, the Doctor has visited an alternate Earth populated by the vampire-like Haemovores, the many alternate realities that have been conquered by Cybermen, and even one with Tardis Tails – an anthropomorphic cat version of the Doctor….

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1969 [By Cat Eldridge.] On this date in 1969, the first incarnation of Star Trek came to an end. Its “five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before” would last just three years and seventy-nine episodes before ending with the “Turnabout Intruder”. 

The ratings for the series were never great and NBC responded by cutting the production each season from one ninety thousand the first season to the one eighty-five thousand the second season to the one hundred seventy-five thousand the last season. Assuming that there were salary increases which there were obviously were, this left little for special effects, costumes or anything else by the third season. And yes, it showed. 

It might have been a ratings failure in its first run but it thrived in syndication and spawned a vast franchise currently of ten television series (eleven if you include Short Treks which is remarkably good) with the latest being Strange New Worlds which I like quite a lot, and thirteen films. Not to mention novels, comics, action figures, games and toys. And decades of cosplayers. 

I’ve rewatched a lot of the series recently courtesy of Paramount + which is the home of it and everything else Trek. Some of the episodes are quite excellent, some are not bad and some are really execrable. I think it holds up fairly well all things considered. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 3, 1901 Maurice Evans. Ahhh the amazing work of make-up. Under the make-up that was Dr. Zaius in Planet of the Apes and Beneath the Planet of the Apes was this actor. Though this was his most well-known genre role, it wasn’t his only ones — he was in a Thirties Scrooge as poor man, on Bewitched as Maurice, Samantha’s father, on Batman as The Puzzler in “The Puzzles are Coming” and “The Duo Is Slumming”, in Rosemary’s Baby as Hutch, and finally in Terror in the Wax Museum as Inspector Daniels. Oh, and he showed up on Columbo as Raymond in “The Forgotten Lady”. No, not genre — but I love that series! (Died 1989.)
  • Born June 3, 1946 Penelope Wilton, 76. She played the recurring role of Harriet Jones in Doctor Who wherethey actually developed a story for the character. She was also played Homily in The Borrowers, Barbara in Shaun of the Dead, The Queen in Roald Dahl’s The BFG, Beatrix Potter in The Tale of Beatrix Potter, The White Queen in Through the Looking-Glass and Gertrude in in Hamlet at the Menier Chocolate Factory. 
  • Born June 3, 1947 John Dykstra, 75. He was one of the founders of Industrial Light & Magic. That means he’s responsible for the original visuals for lightsabers, the space battles between X-wings and TIE fighters, and much of the other Star Wars effects. Can’t list everything he later worked on, so I’ll single out his work on Battlestar Galactica, the sfx for Batman Forever and Batman and Robin, the visual effects on X-Men: First Class, and visual effects supervisor on Doolittle. I know the last is a shite of a film but the creatures aren’t. 
  • Born June 3, 1949 Michael McQuay. He wrote two novels in Asimov’s Robot City series, Suspicion and Isaac Asimov’s Robot City (with Michael P. Kube-McDowell) and Richter 10 with Arthur C. Clarke. The Mathew Swain sequence neatly blends SF and noir detective tropes – very good popcorn reading. His novelization of Escape from New York is superb. (Died 1995.)
  • Born June 3, 1950 Melissa Mathison. Another one who died far too young of cancer. Screenwriter for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Spielberg credits the line “E.T. phone home” line to her. (She’s Eliot’s school nurse in the film.) She also wrote the screenplays for The Indian in the Cupboard and BFG with the latter being dedicated in her memory. And she wrote the “Kick the Can” segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie. (Died 2015.)
  • Born June 3, 1958 Suzie Plakson, 64. She played four characters on the Trek franchise: a Vulcan, Doctor Selar, in “The Schizoid Man”(Next Gen); the half-Klingon/half-human Ambassador K’Ehleyr in “The Emissary” and “Reunion” (Next Gen); the Lady Q in “The Q and the Grey” (Voyager); and an Andorian, Tarah, in “Cease Fire” (Enterprise).  She also voiced Amazonia in the “Amazon Women in the Mood” episode of Futurama. Really. Truly. By the way, her first genre role was in the My Stepmother Is an Alien film as Tenley. She also showed up in the Beauty and the Beast series as Susan in the “In the Forests of the Night” episode.
  • Born June 3, 1964 James Purefoy, 58. His most recent genre performance was as Laurens Bancroft in Altered Carbon. His most impressive was as Solomon Kane in the film of that name. He was also in A Knight’s Tale as Edward, the Black Prince of Wales/Sir Thomas Colville. He dropped out of being V in V for Vendetta some six weeks into shooting but some early scenes of the masked V are of him. And let’s not forget that he’s Hap Collins in the Sundance series Hap and Leonard which is steaming on Amazon Prime. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows why it’s not easy for a monster to get a drink.
  • Breaking Cat News shows that the future is unequally distributed. 

(10) TANGLED WEB. BBC’s Tanya Beckett takes a closer look at how China’s increasing influence is affecting the movie-making process in Hollywood. “Why did China ban Spider-Man?” – listen in at BBC Sounds.

Ever since Hollywood entered the Chinese market in the early ’90s, the importance of Chinese audiences was apparent. Over recent years the Chinese market has grown in significance to the point of deciding whether a film is ultimately successful or not. Given the country’s importance to the overall profitability of Tinsel Town, it is of little surprise that their censors are able to increasingly demand changes to films that threaten the Chinese narrative. Despite this, the recent Sony/Marvel blockbuster Spider-Man did not appear to challenge Chinese values.

(11) PROJECTING. GameSpot calls these “The Very Best Sci-Fi Movies Of the 1980s”. Twenty films – but there are three I’ve never had a desire to see. Does it help balance things that I have watched this one so many times?

2. Ghostbusters (1984)

Much like another entry on this list, Back to the Future, Ghostbusters was almost a very different film with a very different cast. Luckily, though, the production ended up with the right team and script to truly capture a lightning ghost in a bottle. Ghostbusters tells the story of a trio of academics and inventors studying the paranormal, who go into the business of capturing and containing dangerous ghosts. It is, in essence, blue-collar sci-fi, with a heavy dose of comedy resulting from having three of the best comedy actors of the 1980s on the cast. Few movies are this rewatchable and this quotable.

(12) SPEAKING OUT. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna profiles Kristen Schaal, who is proud of her extensive voice work in animation (most recently in The Bob’s Burgers Movie) but also in BoJack Horseman and Toy Story. “Kristen Schaal of ‘Bob’s Burgers’ is the queen of quirky voice acting”.

… The Emmy-nominated actress aims to elude being pigeonholed, yet she’s well-aware that some casting directors now refer to a “Kristen Schaal type,” saying on Marc Maron’s podcast several years ago that their elevator-quick description of her as performer might well be: “She’s manic and a little crazy, coming out of that sweet face and voice.”

Whatever the alchemy within her artistry, there’s no doubting that Schaal has carved out an animation niche within her larger résumé: She is the queen of voicing the askew….

(13) AUTHOR’S PAPERS. This processing of Lawrence Watt-Evans’s papers reportedly is very recent.  UMBC is the University of Maryland (Baltimore County). “Lawrence Watt-Evans papers”. They were donated in 2017.

Abstract: The collection contains materials that cover Lawrence Watt-Evans professional career from 1974 to 2018. Included are manuscripts of his books, short stories, editorials, and comics and graphic novels; personal papers; correspondence with publishers, fellow authors, and fans; and convention memorabilia including programs and fliers.

Citation: Lawrence Watt-Evans papers, Collection 260, Special Collections, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (Baltimore, MD).

(14) PIZZA NIGHT ON THE ISS. Six of seven Expedition 67 crew members are pictured enjoying pizza during dinner time aboard the International Space Station. Clockwise from left are, Flight Engineer Denis Matveev, Commander Oleg Artemyev, and Flight Engineer Sergey Korsakov, all from Roscosmos; NASA Flight Engineers Kjell Lindgren and Jessica Watkins; and ESA (European Space Agency) Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti.

(15) WHERE TO GET BUTTERSCOTCH BEER. [Item by Andrew Porter.] Wand sold separately (and batteries not included!) “Flying Cauldron Butterscotch (non alcoholic) Beer – 12 Oz”.

The Art Of Magic Is Thirsty Work!

Flying Cauldron Butterscotch Beer (non-alcoholic) 

Last time around, you cleared our shelves of this irresistible soda within hours of our owls delivering the newsletter!

Flying Cauldron Butterscotch (non-alcoholic) Beer is another butterscotch flavored soda in our beverage lineup.  This is a fun, magical drink that is free of preservatives, free of caffeine, free of gluten & GMO’s.  Enjoy this drink in a frozen mug or drop in a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In The Mandrake, jointly made by 11 students at the Savannah College of Art and Design,  carrot farmer Mr. Rabbit is right to worry when a raccoon shows up with a strange plan.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Nancy Sauer, 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 Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 5/13/22 Make Room Party, Make Room Party

(1) COME THE MILLENNIUM. This year marks 60 years of the iconic Spider-Man. Marvel Comics will celebrate this milestone anniversary with a special issue honoring the comic that started it all, Amazing Fantasy. Arriving in August, Amazing Fantasy #1000 will be a giant-sized one-shot brought together by some of the industry’s most acclaimed creators.

Here’s just some of what fans can expect from this landmark issue:

  • Visionary writer Neil Gaiman’s grand return to the Marvel Universe
  • Emmy Award winning creator behind “Veep” and “Avenue 5” Armando Ianucci’s Marvel Comics debut
  • Spider-Man mastermind Dan Slott and superstar artist Jim Cheung team up to explore the enduring love between Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson in a story set in the far future
  • Acclaimed artist Michael Cho and novelist Anthony Falcone introduce a new Spider-Man villain
  • Ho Che Anderson crafts a horror-fueled Spidey adventure that cuts to Peter Parker’s core
  • Plus stories by Rainbow Rowell, Jonathan Hickman, and many more!

 “It’s Spider-Man’s 60th and we wanted to celebrate in style by inviting some of the greatest creative minds in the world to celebrate it!” Editor Nick Lowe said.

Join the industry’s top talent in celebrating Spider-Man’s birthday when Amazing Fantasy #1000 arrives in August. 

(2) THE SKY IS FALLING. Chillercon, the Horror Writers Association’s UK event, announced a change of venue after the ballroom ceiling collapsed in their planned facility. The con will still take place in Scarborough from May 26-29.

The convention received news this week that there has been a ceiling collapse in the Cabaret Ballroom of the Grand Hotel, one of our main programming rooms in that hotel, and asbestos has been discovered. The room has been closed off and the hotel declared safe to run by the relevant authorities, but for the last forty-eight hours the convention committee has been working with both hotels towards the best solution for both the ability of ChillerCon UK to run effectively and for the safety of our attendees, as obviously we are keen to ensure there’s no risk to anyone attending.

To that end, we are pleased to confirm that all programming and accommodation has now been moved to the Royal Hotel with immediate effect….

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to join John Appel for a dry-aged burger in Episode 171 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

John Appel

John’s debut novel Assassin’s Orbit, published last year, was a finalist for the 2022 Compton Crook Award. He’s a former US Army paratrooper, a long-time information security professional, a historical fencer, and a life-long gamer who’s written the occasional tabletop RPG adventure. He co-edited the anthology Skies of Wonder, Skies of Danger along with Mary Alexandra Agner. John’s also a graduate of the Viable Paradise workshop and a founding member of the Maryland Space Opera Collective writing group.

We met for lunch at the White Oak Tavern, which is in the Enchanted Forest Shopping Center in Ellicott City, Maryland, and if there was ever a proper place to record an episode of Eating the Fantastic, an Enchanted Forest certainly sounds like it.

We discussed how pitching his debut novel as “Battlestar Galactica meets Golden Girls” got him an agent, why his background in table-top RPGs might be the reason he writes novels rather than short stories, how he deals with the “candy bar” scenes of his plots, the way critique groups and sensitivity readers can help make books better, how to juggle multiple viewpoints and still have them all be equally compelling, the political aspects of his novel which make it a different read than it would have been when it was first begun, his particular set of skills which helped bring fight scenes alive, and much more.

(4) BARRIERS REMAIN. Nalo Hopkinson is profiled by Silvia Moreno-Garcia for the University of British Columbia publication Beyond: “As publishing becomes more varied and diverse, challenges remain for writers of colour”.

…Hopkinson believes universities can help enrich the literary landscape by embracing genre fiction, looking at alternatives that deviate from traditional forms of learning and helping students develop a sense of belonging. For example, the traditional workshop model, where students sit around a circle discussing their stories, may be of little value to a student if they are the only writer of colour in a class.

“I encounter a lot of emerging writers who come from a marginalized community who feel that they won’t be welcomed,” she explains.

Hopkinson believes something that helped her become a writer was “middle class entitlement.” She grew up in a place where Black people were in the majority, where her father was a teacher and her mother a librarian and literature seemed an obtainable pursuit.

“There’s a certain type of entitlement because of that. Not wealth, but entitlement,” she says. “That sense of I have a right to be here.”

The hardest lesson for Hopkinson to teach is this self-empowerment….

(5) THE MEMORY LIBRARIAN. “Janelle Monáe: ‘Erasure is happening right under our noses’” the singer and author tells Christiane Amanpour at CNN Style.

…As Monáe wrote on Instagram in December, they have always used sci-fi and Afro-Futurism as “vehicles” for translating ideas into music, art and now literature. But the singer told Amanpour that they believe memory and history are under threat in today’s America.

“I think that there is definitely an agenda for erasure,” Monáe said, pointing to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signing the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which bans LGBTQ+ topics in elementary school classrooms, and Texas Governor Greg Abbott signing legislation that restricts how race and US history is taught in the state’s schools.

“These are real experiences for our ancestors, real experiences for us,” Monáe said. “And erasure is happening right underneath our noses. And it’s being done through lawmaking.”…

(6) VIDEO GAMES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber discusses TV adaptations of games.

What film directors seem to miss while adapting games for cinema is that games do not resolve around stories we are told but worlds we inhabit. They need to ask what it means for this story to be watched rather than played, and how it might have to change accordingly. In that respect, TV may prove a more natural fit. The length of a series creates space for the spreading storytelling style of games and their myriad characters. This breathing room should also allow showrunners to capitalise on the abundant lore and environmental detail of modern games, which assist in the trendy pursuit of ‘world building.’

Two TV shows that offer hope for the future are both animations. Castlevania, a vampire story based on a series of hit 1990s games, has become a surprise hit on Netflix since launching in 2017.  It is sharply written with mature themes and thoughtful plotting and paved the way for last year’s Arcane. Another Netflix show, Arcane digs into the origin stories of two heroes from the online battle arena game League Of Legends using striking animation that blends hand-painted textures with 3D graphics. Unlike other adaptations, Arcane forgoes fussy plot exposition in favor of character-driven drama and plays loosely with its source material, focusing on the complex relationship between two women and including action only where it meaningfully impacts the narrative.

(7) STURGEON SYMPOSIUM. The Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction is hosting the first annual Sturgeon Symposium on September 29-30 at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS. Here’s the call for papers. They are accepting proposals until June 30.

(8) TIME TRAVEL AND SEX. Nibedita Sen is interviewed by Sarah Gailey in “First Times” at Stone Soup.

First Times is structured unlike anything I’ve read before, using recursion in the narrative to expand and deepen the theme of the story. What inspired you to work in this particular structure? How did you approach storytelling in this medium?

A couple of things, actually – the most important of which is that this was my very first time (hah) writing interactive fiction. As such, I really wanted to keep the game as short and simple as possible, having been warned how easily the simplest-seeming idea can balloon once you actually get down to writing multiple branches of a narrative. Another piece of advice I was given, as a first time IF-writer, was to think about replayability – a game shouldn’t be a one-and-done (hah) kind of thing, but something a reader could go back to multiple times, discovering something new every time….

(9) FRED WARD (1942-2022). Actor Fred Ward has passed on at the age of 79. Detective Harry Philip Lovecraft in Cast a Deadly Spell, Earl Bassett in Tremors and sequels, and the lead in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. He was also in The Crow: Salvation, Invasion Earth (miniseries), had parts in episodes of The Incredible Hulk and The Hitchhiker. The New York Times tribute here comments:

…Mr. Ward was likely best known for his performances in “The Right Stuff,” the acclaimed 1983 adaptation of a book by Tom Wolfe, and “Tremors,” a monster movie that ascended to cult classic status since its release in 1990.

But his long career included a broad range of roles in which he applied a sometimes gruff but almost always grounded charisma to parts on film and TV: among other parts, a union activist in “Silkwood,” a detective in “Miami Blues,” Henry Miller in “Henry and June,” and a motorcycle racer in “Timerider: The Adventures of Lyle Swann.”…

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1994 [By Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-eight years ago, The Crow premiered. I saw it at the theatre and yes, I liked it quite a bit. I’m not a horror fan but I found this quite impressive.  I hadn’t realized until now that it was co-written by John Shirley along with David J. Schow but I’ll get back to that in awhile. 

It was directed by Alex Proyas who would later be nominated for a Hugo at Aussiecon Three (1999) for Dark City. (The Truman Show won that year.) And he’d also later direct I, Robot.

The Crow was produced by Jeff Most, Edward R. Pressman and Grant Hill. Most would produce the sequels, The Crow: City of AngelsThe Crow: Salvation and The Crow: Wicked Prayer. Pressman was the uncredited executive producer for Conan the Destroyer and Grant Hill was involved in the Matrix films plus V for Vendetta.

Of course the movie starred Brandon Lee, an actor who gave the film a certain tragic edge by dying. The other major roles were held by Ernie Hudson and Michael Wincott. Ernie you know, but Michael Wincott has largely played villains in such films as Alien Resurrection and The Three Musketeers (remember I hold them to be genre). 

So yes, it was written by John Shirley along with David J. Schow. Checking IMDB, I see Shirley has written far too many screenplays too list all of them here, so I’ll just note his work on Deep Space NineBatman Beyond and Poltergeist: The Legacy. Though definitely not genre, he also wrote one episode of the Red Shoe Dairies. Really he did.

The Crow did well at the box office making nearly a hundred million against twenty-four million in costs. 

So what did the critics think? Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribune had this to say: “What’s scary about The Crow is the story and the style itself: American Gothic, Poe-haunted nightmare, translated to the age of cyberpunk science fiction, revenge movies and outlaw rock ‘n’ roll, all set in a hideously decaying, crime-ridden urban hell.” And Caryn James of the New York Times said: “It is a dark, lurid revenge fantasy and not the breakthrough, star-making movie some people have claimed. But it is a genre film of a high order, stylish and smooth.”

It holds a most exemplary ninety percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 13, 1922 Bea Arthur. Really only one meaningful genre credit but oh but what a credit it is. She’s in the Star Wars Holiday Special as Ackmena. That character in the Star Wars canon was the nightshift bartender in Chalmun’s Cantina in Mos Eisley on Tatooine who joined the resistance. (Died 2009.)
  • Born May 13, 1937 Roger Zelazny. Where do I start? The Amber Chronicles are a favorite, as is the Isle of The Dead, To Die in Italbar, and well, there’s very there’s very little by him that I can’t pick him and enjoy for a night’s reading. To my knowledge there’s only one thing he recorded reading and that’s a book he said was one of his favorite works, A Night in the Lonesome October. No, I’ve not forgotten about his Hugos. Roger Zelazny would win his first Hugo for …And Call Me Conrad which would later be called This Immortal.  It would be the first of six Hugos that he would win and one of two for Best Novel, the other being for Lord of Light. His other four Hugos would be for the “Home Is the Hangman” novella, the “Unicorn Variation“ novelette, “24 Views of Mt. Fuji, by Hokusai” novella and “Permafrost” novelette. (Died 1995.)
  • Born May 13, 1946 Marv Wolfman, 76. He worked for Marvel Comics on The Tomb of Dracula series for which he and artist Gene Colan created Blade, and the Crisis on Infinite Earths series in which he temporarily untangled DC’s complicated history with George Pérez. And he worked with Pérez on the direct-to-DVD movie adaptation of the popular “Judas Contract” storyline from their tenure on Teen Titans. (I’m not going to list his IMDB credits here. Hell, he even wrote a Reboot episode!) 
  • Born May 13, 1949 Zoë Wanamaker, 73. She’s been Elle in amazing Raggedy Rawney which was a far better fantasy than Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone where she was Madame Hooch. And she was Cassandra in two Ninth Doctor stories,” The End of the World” and “New Earth”. 
  • Born May 13, 1951 Gregory Frost, 71. His retelling of The Tain is marvellous. Pair it with Ciaran Carson and China Miéville’s takes on the same legend taking an existing legend and remaking it through modern fiction writing. Fitcher’s Brides, his Bluebeard and Fitcher’s Bird fairy tales, is a fantastic novel though quite horrific.
  • Born May 13, 1964 Stephen Colbert, 58. Ubernerd who’s currently recovering from his third bout of Covid. He’s hosted charity showings of Tolkien. Genre credits a cameo as a spy in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the voice of Paul Peterson in Mr. Peabody & Sherman and the voice of President Hathaway in Monsters vs. Aliens

(12) THE SLEEPER SYMBIOTE CLAIMS A NEW HOST IN VENOM #11. This cover reveal is really only the first phase of Sleeper Agent’s look. They are symbiotes, after all. Pick up his debut issue when Venom #11 arrives in August.

Writers Al Ewing and Ram V and artist Bryan Hitch’s acclaimed run on Venom continues to reshape the symbiote mythos in each explosive issue! And luckily for Venom fans, the trio of superstar creators have no plans to slow down as the ongoing series enters its’ third terrifying arc this August in Venom #11. Kicking off a three-part story called “VENOMWORLD”, readers will see Eddie and Dylan Brock’s journey take a sharp turn as they deal with the shocking revelations of Venom #10. Dylan is still at the mercy of Bedlam while Eddie battles his way across the cosmos, discovering more about the symbiotes than ever before. And the hits keep coming as the Sleeper symbiote joins the fray with a deadly new look… 

(13) LIVE TWEETING. Cat Rambo did the Writers Corner Live show, talking about The Reinvented Heart with Mary Elizabeth Jackson. 

(14) BEWARE SPOILERS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Doctor Strange 2 writer Michael Waldron, in a spoiler-packed article, discusses his screenplay and the Star Wars film he is working on for Kevin Feige. BEWARE SPOILERS! “’Doctor Strange 2′ Writer on Wanda, Mr. Fantastic, ‘Star Wars’ Movie” in Variety.

SPOILER ALERT: This story discusses major plot points in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, currently playing in theaters. Do not read until you’ve seen the movie.

As an alum of “Community” and “Rick and Morty,” screenwriter Michael Waldron certainly knows outré, genre-hopping science fiction; with “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” Waldron found a kindred spirit in director Sam Raimi, who invented outré, genre-hopping horror with his “Evil Dead” trilogy.

Together, Raimi and Waldron have made one of the most distinctive — and, for some, controversial — movies ever in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. To wit (the big spoilers start here): Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) goes full Scarlet Witch and brutally murders anyone who gets in the way of her mission to find a universe in which her sons from the 2021 Disney+ series “WandaVision” are still alive. It’s a heel turn that has shocked many — including Olsen — especially when Wanda decimates the Illuminati, the team of superheroes from an alternate reality that includes Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier (from 20th Century Fox’s “X-Men” movies), Anson Mount’s Black Bolt (from ABC’s “Inhumans” TV series), and John Krasinski’s Reed Richards, the first time the leader of the Fantastic Four has appeared in the MCU….

(15) IT WILL BECOME ROUTINE. “Huntsville International Airport becomes first commercial airport allowed to land a space vehicle” reports WAFF.

The Huntsville International Airport was approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to allow commercial space vehicles to land at the airport….

Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser is a space utility vehicle that is designed to transport crew and cargo to destinations such as the International Space Station.

Sierra Space was awarded six missions by NASA to resupply the International Space Station. The FAA could grant the Dream Chaser the option to land in Huntsville in 2023.

“This is a significant milestone for Huntsville International and for our community in the pursuit of landing a commercial space vehicle right here in Rocket City U.S.A.,” Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Port of Huntsville/Huntsville International Airport, Mark McDaniel, said in a statement. “That’s going to be an exciting day, not just for the Airport but also for the talented and dedicated partners in this effort.”

(16) EATING OUTSIDE THE BOX. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Marylou Tousignant says that May 11 was National Eat What You Want Day and recommended ten foods kids could try, including Japanese tuna eyeballs, Vietnamese coconut worms, and Marmite. “On Eat What You Want Day, try something new”.

… It’s easy to think of foods you love and want to eat. We decided to tinker with the idea and tell you about 10 unusual dishes from around the world that you may never have heard of. We’re calling it International Give It a Try Day….

She alerted me to all the damage Paddington caused in this commercial when he switched from marmalade to Marmite sandwiches! “Paddington Bear Marmite TV Commercial “.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Dan’l, Paul Weimer, 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 Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 5/7/22 Your Scroll, A Flame Of Pixel’s Desire

(1) BASFF 2022. Rebecca Roanhorse is the guest editor of Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2022.

(2) PRO TIP. What’s the best writing advice J. Michael Straczynski’s ever been given?

(3) COMPLAINT: JUSTIFIED OR UNJUSTIFIED? [Item by Anne Marble.] This review of the new alternative history novel The Peacekeeper: A Novel by B.L. Blanchard might make an interesting discussion. There’s also a three-star review showing the same confusion. (This is one of the First Reads book for this month on Amazon, so the potential reviewers probably come outside of SFF, but still… Why can’t people just Google?)

(4) VIDEO GAME NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber reviews Norco, a point-and-click adventure game with magical realist elements based on the personal experiences of lead developer Yuts, who grew up in Norco, Louisiana near “a Shell oil refinery that exploded during his childhood in 1988, damaging his house.”

Norco‘s writing nods to Southern Gothic authors such as William Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy alongside genre writers Raymond Chandler and William Gibson. Looking at a vehicle in your garden, you are told:  “This truck was your grandfather’s.  You remember hiding in his lap while he let you steer. The dead wasps that collected behind the seat. The smell of grease, whiskey and nicotine.’ This terse, stylish language is studded with sharply observed local vernacular and occasional bouts of impressionistic poetry whose adventurous metaphors only rarely stray into purple prose….

..If it all sounds sombre, the game leavens its storytelling with plenty of wackiness and wry humour.  There is a detective who wears clown make-up as a fashion choice.  A cat on a bookshop counter will, if stroked repeatedly, purr so ecstatically that it flies through the air, crashing through the ceiling.

(5) LIFEWRITING. [Item by Todd Mason.] Tananarive Due and Steve Barnes’s latest podcast features guest Patton Oswalt. All three are horror genre folks, among other things, including being screenwriters, and Harlan Ellison friends or acquaintances. “Lifewriting: Write for Your Life! Special Guest: Patton Oswalt!”

In this episode, Steve and Tananarive talk to comedian and actor Patton Oswalt about how horror helps us navigate difficult times, the horror-comedy connection, the late Harlan Ellison, and meditation as a tool for coping with stress.  

(6) GEORGE PERÉZ (1954-2022) George Pérez, the acclaimed comic book artist and writer known for his work on major DC properties, including Crisis on Infinite Earths and Wonder Woman, along with Marvel’s The Avengers, has died. The Hollywood Reporter noted his passing with a long tribute. He was 67.

Someone in touch with the family posted this emotional description about his last hours.  

To all of George’s fans and friends,

Constance here, with the update no one wants to read. George passed away yesterday, peacefully at home with his wife of 490 months and family by his side. He was not in pain and knew he was very, very loved.

We are all very much grieving but, at the same time, we are so incredibly grateful for the joy he brought to our lives. To know George was to love him; and he loved back. Fiercely and with his whole heart. The world is a lot less vibrant today without him in it.

He loved all of you. He loved hearing your posts and seeing the drawings you sent and the tributes you made. He was deeply proud to have brought so much joy to so many.

Everyone knows George’s legacy as a creator. His art, characters and stories will be revered for years to come. But, as towering as that legacy is, it pales in comparison to the legacy of the man George was. George’s true legacy is his kindness. It’s the love he had for bringing others joy – and I hope you all carry that with you always.

Today is Free Comic Book Day. A day George absolutely loved and a fitting day to remember his contributions to comics and to our lives. I hope you’ll enjoy your day today with him in mind. He would have loved that.

Please keep his wife Carol in your thoughts and again, I thank you for respecting her privacy. I remain available through the contact on the page.

George’s memorial service will take place at MEGACON Orlando at 6pm on Sunday, May 22nd. It will be open to all. Details to follow.

We will miss him always.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1997 [By Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-five years ago, The Fifth Element got its first theatrical exhibition at the Cannes Film Festival, an English-language French film directed by Luc Besson and co-written by Besson and Robert Mark Kamen from a story by Besson. 

Artists Jean “Moebius” Giraud and Jean-Claude Mézières, whose books Besson acknowledges are his inspiration for a great deal of the film, were hired for production design. The fabulous if admittedly over-the-top costume design was by Jean-Paul Gaultier who is not in the film. (I checked.) The filming took place in London and Mauritania when nothing in France was available. 

It is very much an adolescent fantasy, or fiction if you prefer, as he wrote it at sixteen though he was thirty-eight when it was actually produced. I love the cast which includes among many Bruce Willis, John Neville, Milla Jovovich, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm and, in a role for the ages, Maïwenn Le Besco. Look I love this film — the casting is great, the story works and I love the universe here. I’ve watched it least a half dozen times so far. 

The budget was close to ninety million but it made back over two hundred and sixty million. Quite impressive indeed.

So what did the critics think at the time? Let’s as usual start with Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Tribune: “’The Fifth Element,’’ which opened the Cannes Film Festival on Thursday, is one of the great goofy movies–a film so preposterous I wasn’t surprised to discover it was written by a teenage boy. That boy grew up to become Luc Besson, director of good smaller movies and bizarre big ones, and here he’s spent $90 million to create sights so remarkable they really ought to be seen.”

And let us finish with Marc Salov of the Austin Chronicle who obviously didn’t know how old Besson was he wrote the script: “The Fifth Element never takes itself too seriously. Oldman is hilarious as the effete, over-the-top Zorg; Willis plays essentially the same character he’s played in his last five films — ever the scruffy rebel; and Jovavich is gorgeous, charming, and thoroughly believable as Leeloo (thanks to some terrific post-English language skills). Even U.K. trip-hop sensation Tricky scores points as Zorg’s right-hand toadie. Although the film tends to suffer from a severe case of overt preachiness in the third reel (shades of James Cameron’s The Abyss), it’s still a wonderfully visual, exciting ride. Besson remains one of France’s great national treasures, and The Fifth Element is a surprising, delightful melange of old-school dare-deviltry and new-age sci-fi.” 

It has a very impressive eighty-six percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. It was nominated for a Hugo at BucConeer, the year Contact won. It is streaming on Amazon Prime and Paramount +.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 7, 1922 Darren McGavin. Oh, I loved him being Carl Kolchak on the original Kolchak: The Night Stalker — How many times have I seen it? I’ve lost count. Yes, it was corny, yes, the monsters were low-rent, but it was damn fun. And no, I did not watch a minute of the reboot. By the way, I’m reasonably sure that his first genre role was in the Tales of Tomorrow series as Bruce Calvin in “The Duplicates“ episode which you can watch here. (Died 2006.)
  • Born May 7, 1923 Anne Baxter. The Batman series had a way of attracting the most interesting performers and she was no exception as she ended playing two roles there, first Zelda, then she had the extended recurring role of Olga, Queen of the Cossacks. Other genre roles were limited I think to an appearance as Irene Adler in the Peter Cushing Sherlock Holmes film The Masks of Death. (Died 1985.)
  • Born May 7, 1931 Gene Wolfe. He’s best known for his Book of the New Sun series. My list of recommended novels would include Pirate FreedomThe Sorcerer’s House and the Book of the New Sun series. He’s won the BFA, Nebula, Skylark, BSFA and World Fantasy Awards but to my surprise has never won a Hugo though he has been nominated quite a few times. He has been honored as a Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 7, 1940 Angela Carter. Another one taken far too young by the damn Reaper. She’s best remembered for The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories where she took fairy tales and made them very, very adult in tone. Personally I’d recommend The Curious Room insteadas it contains her original screenplays for the BSFA-winning The Company of Wolves which starred Angela Lansbury, and The Magic Toyshop films, both of which were based on her own original stories. Though not even genre adjacent, her Wise Children is a brilliant and quite unsettling look at the theatre world. I’ve done several essays on her so far and no doubt will do more. (Died 1992.)
  • Born May 7, 1951 Gary Westfahl, 71. SF reviewer for the LA Times, the unfortunately defunct as I enjoyed it quite a bit Internet Review of Science Fiction, and Locus Online. Editor of The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Themes, Works, and Wonders; author of  Immortal Engines: Life Extension and Immortality in Science Fiction and Fantasy (with George Slusser) and A Sense-of-Wonderful Century: Explorations of Science Fiction and Fantasy Films. 
  • Born May 7, 1952 John Fleck, 70. One of those performers the Trek casting staff really like as he’s appeared in Next GenerationDeep Space Nine in three different roles,  Voyager and finally on Enterprise in the recurring role of Silik. And like so many Trek alumni, he shows up on The Orville.
  • Born May 7, 1969 Annalee Newitz, 53. They are the winner of a Hugo Award for Best Fancast at Dublin 2019 with Charlie Jane Anders for “Our Opinions Are Correct”. And their novel Autonomous was a finalist for the Nebula Award for Best Novel, John W. Campbell Memorial Award and the Locus Award for Best First Novel, while winning a Lambda Literary Award. Very impressive indeed. They are also the winner of the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for their best short science fiction, “When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis”. They are nominated again this year at Chicon 8 for a Best Fancast Hugo for their “Our Opinions Are Correct” podcast. 

(9) STRANGE HAPPENINGS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, David Betancourt interviews Benedict Cumberbatch and Elisabeth Olsen about Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, with Cumberbatch explaining that he thinks Stephen Strange is part of an ensemble and not necessarily the star. “Benedict Cumberbatch on Doctor Strange sequel: ‘It’s not all about him’”.

… Cumberbatch still gets opportunities to flex his own superhero muscles in the new film by playing multiple alternate universe versions of Doctor Strange. These include heroic, seemingly evil and zombielike versions of the superhero, who was created by the late Steve Ditko and Stan Lee and first appeared in Marvel Comics “Strange Tales” No. 110 back in 1963. Cumberbatch first dabbled with a Doctor Strange from a different world when he voiced the character in the animated series “What If…?” last year.

Ego seems to be the common denominator among the variants — he never works well with others. But Cumberbatch says Strange has to learn to rely on someone other than himself.

“These parallel existences have a similarity about them but there’s also key differences,” Cumberbatch said. “It was a challenge … to create something that’s different but at the same time recognizably Strange. There’s an element of him that’s constant. But he’s still really injured by his ego and his arrogance and his belief that he has to be the one holding the knife. This film really undoes that logic and stress-tests him in a way that means his evolution is such that he can’t operate as a solo entity. He has to collaborate.”…

(10) THESE BOOTS ARE MADE FOR HAWKING. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Starfleet boots seen on the new series will be made available to the public and will retail for about $500 Cdn. “Vancouver designer’s boots on deck as official shoes of the Enterprise in new Star Trek series” reports CBC News. And there’s no stitching in them because in space no one can see a sewing machine!

Vancouver’s John Fluevog is joining the USS Enterprise this spring as Starfleet’s official bootmaker.

Fluevog, whose shoes have been worn by the likes of Madonna, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and even B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, designed footwear for the cast of the new series Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, which premieres May 5. 

He said he feels a sense of connection to Star Trek in that both his shoes and the series offer a sense of escapism….

(11) CASTING COINCIDENCE. “West Side Story Actor Brings His Talents To He-Man” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Boston Dynamics’s Spot is a hard-working robot but he still likes showing off his latest dance moves! “No Time to Dance”.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Rob Thornton, Lisa Garrity, Anne Marble, Todd Mason, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Thomas the Red.]

Pixel Scroll 4/24/22 Story Day, Sweepin’ Boredom Away, On My Way To Where Genre Fans Meet, Can You Tell Me How To Get? How To Get To Pixel Scroll Street?

(1) WRITING ADVICE. Cat Rambo advises “Write What You Love” in a guest post at Stone Soup.

…Write what you love is one of those pieces of writing advice that gets trotted around and may even seem the equivalent of the LIVE LOVE LAUGH plaque hanging in some existential AirBnb of the soul. It’s a piece of advice that is so basic, so simple that people ignore it, think it purely decorative.

But the thing about that sort of advice is that often it’s worth taking the time to look again. Sometimes they’re more like zen koans, or puzzle boxes that yield increasing levels of secrets the more you know about unlocking their depths.

Absolutely, write what you love, and know that there are a multitude of reasons for doing so….

(2) VIDEO GAME REVIEW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber reviews Tunic.

…There are many games that keep their secrets hidden, but few are brave enough to refuse to tell you how to play. In Tunic you will have to work out for yourself how to run or level up your skills, often learning that you had an ability or an access to a shortcut that you could have been using all along, had you known it was there. There is something profound about a game that doesn’t expect you constantly to acquire new moves, but asks you to look within and discover the true extent of your abilities.

This thoughtful ethos is threaded through every layer of Tunic, a passion project by Canadian developer Andrew Shouldice, who spent seven years making it, mostly alone. The result feels singular yet also indebted to gaming history. Its top-down perspective and endless waves of slashable monsters recall recent indie games such as Hades and Death’s Door, but deeper in this game’s DNA are more ambitious references: to the way Elden Ring plays with death and combat, the sophisticated meta-puzzles of Fez and the obscure secrets in classic Mario and Zelda….

(3) COULDN’T SPARE TIME TO BE TIME TRAVELER. Slashfilm remembers this lost opportunity: “The Star Trek Role That Was Actually Written For Robin Williams”.

…[Whoopi] Goldberg is also, it turns out, old friends with comedian Robin Williams, as she, Williams, and Billy Crystal were the three headliners of the comedy charity event Comic Relief. And this is where we talk about how Williams wanted to follow Goldberg and make an appearance on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

In 1991, when “Next Generation” was in its fifth season, the show’s writers wanted to include Robin Williams. Williams was always an outspoken Trekkie — he even made a reference to killing off Spock in an episode of “Mork & Mindy” — and the “Trek” writers were, in turn, big Robin Williams fans. Williams’ fast-talking, manic comedy wasn’t necessarily a good match for the normally staid, composed, mature tone of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” so the writers would have to create a new role — likely not a Starfleet officer — for Williams…

(4) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2014 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] One day the AIs are going to look back on us the same way we look at fossil skeletons on the plains of Africa. An upright ape living in dust with crude language and tools, all set for extinction. — Nathan, the programmer

Just eight years ago, Ex Machina premiered written and directed by Alex Garland in his directorial debut. He previously wrote and produced Dredd but let’s not hold that against him. Too much. This is a story that follows a programmer who is invited by his CEO to administer the Turing test to an intelligent humanoid robot.

It had a core cast of Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander and Oscar Isaac. 

It was made on a budget of just fifteen million, and it grossed thirty-six worldwide. Not bad at all. 

The reception was quite good. The critic at The Reader liked and said, “What’s amazing about Ex Machina is Garland’s precise control over the audience both visually and through a singularly perfect script. The characters and the audience are both captive, processing the slightest information as fast as they can.” Whereas Sunday People commented “Precision-tooled to perfection with sumptuously seductive design,it combines the brains of Blade Runner, the gloss of James Bond, and the sly satire of cult comic 2000AD.” Finally I’ll let NOW Toronto have the last word: “The film is at its best when the characters are simply talking to each other, creating a delicate, hypnotic back-and-forth between the humans and the new creature in their midst.”

Released on the US in 2015, it was nominated for a Hugo for MidAmericaCon which was the year The Martian won.

And yes, the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes really do like it giving an eighty-six percent rating. 

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 24, 1910 Albert Zugsmith. American film producer, film director and screenwriter who specialized in really low-budget exploitation films such as Sex Kittens Go to College and Female on the Beach through the Fifties and Sixties. So why am I giving him a Birthday, you ask?  Why it’s because he produced The Incredible Shrinking Man which won a Hugo at Solacon (1958). (Died 1993.)
  • Born April 24, 1925 Virginia Huston. Not a long genre history but an interesting one. Her first role was as Jane in Tarzan and the Jungle Queen (which was originally released as Tarzan’s Peril) and was advertised as being filmed on location in Africa. Next she was Lady Ellen Douglas in The Highwayman which is just genre adjacent, before being Carol Stratford in Flight to Mars. (Died 1981.)
  • Born April 24, 1930 Richard Donner. He’s credited in directing Superman which is considered by many to be the first modern superhero film. H’h. Well I’m instead going to celebrate him instead for ScroogedThe Goonies and Ladyhawke. Not to mention the horror he did — Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight and Bordello of Blood. Oh, and the first X-Men film which was superb. (Died 2021.)
  • Born April 24, 1936 Jill Ireland. For her short life, she appeared in an amazing number of genre shows. She was on Star Trek romancing Spock as Leila Kalomi In “This Side of Paradise” episode. She had five appearances on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well as being on Night Gallery, My Favorite MartianVoyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Voodoo Factor and the SF film The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything based on the 1962 novel of the same name by John D. MacDonald. (Died 1990.)
  • Born April 24, 1939 David L. Ross, 83. He appeared on Trek as mostly Lt. Galloway eight times though occasionally as Security Guard or Guard. Since one of his appearances was on “Trouble with Tribbles”, he also appeared on “Trials and Tribble-ations”.  His only other genre appearance was a one-one off on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in “The Hot Number Affair”. 
  • Born April 24, 1947 Michael Butterworth, 75. Author of, with Michael Moorcock naturally, two Time of the Hawklords novels, Time of the Hawklords and Queens of Deliria. He also wrote a number of Space 1999 Year 2 novels, too numerous to list here. He also edited Corridor8 magazine from 1971 to 1974. He also wrote a number of short fiction pieces including one whose title amuses me for reasons I’m not sure, “Circularisation of Condensed Conventional Straight-Line Word-Image Structures“. 

(6) SPECIAL DELIVERY. Cat Eldridge wrote about Ray Bradbury’s special citation from the Pulitzer Board in the April 16 Pixel Scroll (item #9). We ran a photo of his agent accepting the plaque, but I just rediscovered the video of it being delivered to Ray Bradbury during his 2007 birthday celebration at a Glendale bookstore.

Unable to travel to the East-coast to accept the special Pulitzer in person, author Ray Bradbury accepts it on a special 87th birthday celebration held on August 25, 2007, at “Mystery and Imagination Bookstore”, in Glendale, California. ‘Logan’s Run’ author, William Nolan, presents the award, and ‘Ocean’s 11’ author, George Clayton Johnson, waxes eloquently around the fond memories of Bradbury, his influences, and his work.

(7) DON’T LOOK. Moira Weigel, an assistant professor of communication studies at Northeastern University, tells readers “What You Don’t Know About Amazon” in an opinion piece for the New York Times.

…If you are reading this, there’s a good chance you’re an Amazon customer. And if you feel guilty about that, it is probably because you are thinking about the warehouse and delivery workers whose labor Amazon exploits, the small merchants whose successful products Amazon copies, the beloved local bookstores whose bottom lines they undercut. Or maybe you just think about all the boxes piling up by your door.

You should feel guilty. I do, anyway. Convenience is not a good reason to participate in exploitation or waste. But guilt is a weak political emotion. In my experience, it can easily lose out to the 3 a.m. realization that Baby Two has soaked through her sleepsack and we need more Huggies Overnites ASAP.

But a series of product safety cases that have been brought against Amazon over the past few years makes clear that its rewiring of retail poses risks to customers as well. Above all, the cases highlight a significant gap between how most people understand the world’s largest e-commerce company and what that company actually does.

Conversations about Amazon tend to emphasize the company’s omniscience — the cutting-edge technologies that it uses to gather data on its competitors and customers and to discipline its workers. But in reality, as the scholar Miriam Posner has written, supply chains that drive global capitalism depend on “partial sight.” Companies are able to get customers so many things so cheap and fast because they know only what they have to; toward everything else, they often turn a blind eye….

(8) SPACE CASE. In “Judge John Hodgman on a Deathbed Request”, the New York Times columnist arbitrates an issue with a Martian twist.

(9) SCI-FI IDEA FOR LA SMOG. [Item by David Doering.] I can go months without finding anything off the wall, now I find several in a week! 

Here’s a sci-fi idea to clean up the air of LA in 1954. Big tubes would suck in bad air and expel it in the mountains. Wow. I love the phrase “…would be discharged harmlessly…” 

(10) BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY. [Item by Daniel Dern.] These two renditions of Bohemian Rhapsody aren’t new – though they may be to you.

Via Open Culture: “1910 Fairground Organ Plays Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and It Works Like a Charm”.

First built in Paris by Charles Marenghi in 1910, the organ above quickly found a home in a Belgian restaurant. And there it remained for many years … until 1967, when it traveled abroad, to a Texas fairground. Imagine the culture shock it must have felt. But that’s not where it ends.

Nowadays, you can watch the 81-key organ play Queen’s 1975 hit “Bohemian Rhapsody,” quite different than whatever it was playing in Antwerp a century ago. Alexey Rom wrote the arrangement for the song, and programmed it using the strip of cards being fed through the instrument. Hopefully this isn’t the last stop on this organ’s grand journey.

“Literal Bohemian Rhapsody” visualized as a short live-action video via Uncrate:

You’ve belted it out in your car. Sang along during Wayne’s World. But have you ever really listened to the lyrics to “Bohemian Rhapsody”? Corridor turned the Queen classic into a shot film, resulting in a dark tale of drugs, crime, and a poor boy.

(11) DASHCON. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] The convention in question is from quite a few years ago, but this post-mortem video is recent and might be interesting to the Filers. You could call it “How to NOT run a convention.” “Tumblr’s Failed Convention: The Story of Dashcon” as told by Sarah Z.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, David Doering, Jennifer Hawthorne, Chris Barkley, Rob Thornton, 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 Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 4/12/22 If I Could Godstalk To The Animals

(1) SPEAKER FOR THE REDSHIRTS. “The Big Idea: Wil Wheaton” is a discussion of Wheaton’s new book today at Whatever.  

… In Still Just A Geek, I write a lot about the child abuse, neglect, and exploitation I survived and still struggle with. It was incredibly challenging to revisit (and in the case of The Curse, relive) all of it. In the afterword, I wrote that I expected that doing that work would lead to a catharsis, but all it did was retraumatize me.

That was true, until I narrated the audiobook. Over the course of six or seven days, I said everything I wrote in the book out loud. I gave a voice to the child who was put to work against his wishes at seven years old. I gave a voice to the teenager who was abused by his father. I gave a voice to the young father and husband who was struggling to provide for his family while he also struggled to figure out what he was going to do with the rest of his life….

Click here to read an excerpt from Still Just A Geek

(2) THE LIST. While we’re talking about the struggle against things that make life hard, Tobias S. Buckell adds this question:

(3) ORIGIN OF THOUGHT SPECIES. In the LA Review of Books, Brian Attebery reviews a book that examines the question “Who Controls the Narrative?: On David M. Higgins’s ‘Reverse Colonization: Science Fiction, Imperial Fantasy, and Alt-Victimhood’”.

Both politicians and political scientists know the power of narratives: there is much talk about who controls and how to alter “the narrative.” But neither group tends to ask where these narratives are actually, you know, narrated. In his new book, Reverse Colonization: Science Fiction, Imperial Fantasy, and Alt-Victimhood, David M. Higgins offers a fascinating look into the process by which such stories are generated and transformed into cultural references and societal roadmaps.

Higgins examines a particular cluster of narratives about power and identity, a cluster that is nicely described in his title: stories that use the iconography of science fiction to express fear of the other and resentment of loss of power, thus giving a boost to a number of reactionary movements, from Brexit and the cult of Trump to anti-feminist internet trolldom. Higgins traces the origins of a set of powerful tropes in print science fiction from the 1960s and early 1970s; he then follows their spread through media and electronic culture as well as their uses in political rhetoric and advertising. His choice of decade might seem unnecessarily limiting — why not go back to the Gothic origins of science fiction or forward to survey the contemporary scene? — but it makes perfect sense as he guides us through the paranoid visions of Philip K. Dick, the heroic illusions of Frank Herbert’s Dune (1965), and the crumbling empires of J. G. Ballard, and then shows how these and their contemporaries provided the imagery, language, and narrative tropes that continue to mold behavior and set terms for debate….

(4) REPAYING IT FORWARD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber discusses why far too many gamers are trolls.

…Two-thirds of gamers have experienced toxic behaviour in online multiplayer games, according to a study from games company Unity.  Anyone who has played an online shooter will be familiar with the abuse that fills your headphones and can escalate from ‘noob’ to ‘kill yourself’ within seconds.

Online gaming forums too are hotbeds of vitriol.  ‘Hate raids’ on Twitch–where mobs of trolls target streamers from minority backgrounds with spam and hate speech–have become so prevalent that streamers boycotted the platform last September in protest.  Anti-Defamation League research shows that marginalised groups suffer worst and that online abuse can cause real world harm, with 44 per cent of players feeling emotionally affected by attacks and 11 per cent of them reporting depressive or suicidal thoughts as a result….

(5) WE INTERRUPT THIS NARRATIVE. For those who just tuned in and for whom it’s important to believe that a genre that didn’t have a name until a hundred years ago was knowingly practiced by writers since Roman times, Grunge’s Richard Milner offers, “The 1,800-Year-Old History Of Science Fiction Explained”.

… But yes, science fiction does indeed go back to the 2nd century CE. That doesn’t mean that ancient sci-fi features cell phones, rocket propulsion, and quantum tunneling. Rather, it means that the recognizably current sci-fi tropes — extraplanetary adventure, alien races, space flight, and the rest — were present even back then, albeit in a softer, more fantastical form…. 

(6) GILBERT GOTTFRIED (1955-2022). Comedian and voice actor Gilbert Gottfried died April 12 from Recurrent Ventricular Tachycardia due to Myotonic Dystrophy type II. Primarily thought of as a comedian/comic actor by (likely) most people, he did tons of voice work in genre TV and films, mostly animated.

He was the voice of the wise cracking parrot Iago in Disney’s iconic animated film Aladdin (1992), the video Aladdin 2: The Return of Jafar (1994), and many more Aladdin-themed projects over the years.

His live-action genre film and TV work included episiodes of Superboy, The Weird Al Show (as “Al’s imaginary friend Gilbert”), and the last three Sharknado films. He also did voice work in episodes of The Ren and Stimpy Show, Superman: The Animated Series as Mr. Mxyzptlk, and many other sff shows.   

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1979 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-three years ago, I was at University which is where I saw Mad Max in a lovely old theater near there. Not a packed house but a decent gathering if I remember this correctly many years on. 

It was produced by George Miller and Bryon Eric Kennedy (who’d go on to Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior with him. He died at age thirty three when the helicopter he was piloting crashed at Warragamba Dam in New South Wales, Australia). 

The screenplay was by Miller and James McCausland. It’s his only screenplay and he shows up in Mad Max as the bearded man in an apron. 

Need I say who played the lead character here? I think not.

So how was the reception? 

First, it cost virtually nothing to produce, less than a half million, and made at least a hundred million globally. It holds the Guinness World Record for the highest box office to budget ratio of any motion picture ever.

Second, critics liked it. Or despised it. Philip Adams in the Australian Bulletin said that it had “all the emotional uplift of Mein Kampf”. Ouch. Whereas David Nusair of Reel Film Reviews stated that “Gibson’s thoroughly charismatic performance, along with Miller’s treatment of the film’s few high-octane moments, goes a long way towards keeping things interesting for the majority of Mad Max‘s mercifully brief running time.” 

It get an excellent seventy percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

It was not nominated for a Hugo but its sequel, The Road Warrior (with the alternative title of Mad Max 2) was at ConStellation. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 12, 1884 Bob Olsen. He wrote twenty-seven poems and stories that were published in Amazing Stories in the late Twenties and early Thirties. He’s said to be one of the first authors to use the term “space marines”. A search of both print and digital publishers does not show any indication that any of his genre or mystery fiction is now in-print. (Died 1956.)
  • Born April 12, 1916 Beverly Cleary. One of America’s most successful authors, almost a hundred million copies of her children’s books have been sold worldwide since her first book was published over seventy years ago. Some of her best-known characters are Ramona Quimby and Beezus Quimby, Henry Huggins and his dog Ribsy, and Ralph S. Mouse. (Died 2021.)
  • Born April 12, 1915 Emil Petaja. He considered his work to be part of an older tradition of ‘weird fiction.’  He published thirteen novels and some one hundred and fifty short stories. His Otava series, published by Ace Books in the Sixties, is based on the Finnish national myth, The Kalevala. He was named the first ever Author Emeritus by the Science Fiction Writers of America. And he was chair of the Golden Gate Futurians, a club of writers and fans, hosting meetings at his home in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco. (Died 2000.)
  • Born April 12, 1921 Carol Emshwiller. I think her short stories are amazing and The Start of the End of It All and Other Stories collection won a World Fantasy Award. She’d later receive a Life Achievement honor from the World Fantasy Awards. I’ve not read her novels, so which would you recommend I read? Novel wise, she’s reasonably well stocked at the usual suspects but her collections are largely not there. (Died 2019.)
  • Born April 12, 1922 Vince Clarke. He first made acquaintance with fandom in the late Thirties, and was active as a fanwriter and editor from a decade hence including Science Fantasy News. He’d be the winner of the first TAFF in 1954 but didn’t take the trip. He worked on the 1957 Worldcon, Loncon I, and he was Fan Guest of Honor at the 1995 Worldcon, Intersection. He helped create the British Science Fiction Association. (Died 1998.)
  • Born April 12, 1936 Charles Napier. Well, let’s meet Adam on the Trek episode of “The Way to Eden”. Oh, that’s a horrible outfit he’s wearing. Let’s see if he had better genre roles… well he was on Mission: Impossible twice in a truly anonymous roles, likewise he played two minor characters on The Incredible Hulk and he did get a character with a meaningful name (General Denning) on Deep Space 9. I’m surprised to learn that he voiced General Hardcastle in the Superman and Justice League Unlimited series, and also voiced Agent Zed for the entire run of the Men in Black animated series.  (Died 2011.)
  • Born April 12, 1958 Elizabeth Klein-Lebbink, 64. A LA-resident con-running fan. She has worked on a variety of conventions, both regionals and Worldcons, frequently in the art shows. She has been a member of the Dorsai Irregulars. She is married to fellow fan Jerome Scott. Works for NASA where she’s co-authored papers such as “Measurements of Integration Gain for the Cospas-Sarsat System from Geosynchronous Satellites”.
  • Born April 12, 1968 Alicia Coppola, 54. She showed up on Voyager in the premier episode “Caretaker” as  Lieutenant Stadi. Depending on how you define genre, she was in National Treasure: Book of Secrets as FBI Agent Spellman, and had one-offs in Touched by an AngelThe Lazarus ManThe Burning ManThe SentinelProfilerThe Dead Zone and Teen Wolf. She was Dr. Ana Castillo in Blood & Treasure which surely is genre. 

(9) STRANGER THINGS. Season 4 is incoming. Variety sets the frame: “’Stranger Things 4′ Trailer Goes to War With Upside Down”.

The “Stranger Things” kids are all grown up and going to war with the monsters of the Upside Down in the official trailer for Season 4.

Set to a looping version of the pulse in Journey’s “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart),” the trailer sees Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Max (Sadie Sink) enter high school, while Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and Will (Noah Schnapp) are in California. As the friends navigate their different surroundings, a new supernatural threat surfaces, forcing them to once again confront the horrors of the Upside Down….

(10) RUN DON’T WALK TO YOUR NEAREST THEATER. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] This listicle of someone’s idea of the 15 “best” movie posters is a little over half genre. Maybe closer to 2/3 if you include all kinds of horror. YMMV. “These Are The 15 Best Film Posters Of All Time” at Buzzfeed. Images of the posters are at the link.

There have been many creative and eye-popping designs for film posters over the years, and a lot of them have become just as iconic as the films themselves. No matter how much they’ve told us about their respective movies, these posters made us want to line up and buy a ticket. These are the 15 Best Film Posters of All Time….

6. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

Behind the shot of Elliott flying on his bike in front of the moon, this poster is one of the most memorable images of Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi masterpiece. Invoking Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam,” this image is a marvelous display of a young boy’s first encounter with this magical little alien. 

(11) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Critical Role’s The Legend of Vox Machina,” the Screen Junkies say that, even though we live “in a world where the only thing more boring than someone telling you about their dreams is someone telling you about their Dungeons and Dragons campaign,” this Amazon series, which raised $1.3 million on Kickstarter, could be the first successful adaptation of a tabletop game since 1985’s CLUE.”  After noting numerous board game adaptations that were failures (remember the Tom Hanks cheesefest Mazes And Monsters) this series “has so much D & D in it you’ll feel like you’re eating lunch alone in the eighth grade again.”  But then voice actor Matthew Mercer shows up and Mercer and the narrator have an epic voice rap battle!

The link is here.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Chris Barkley, 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.]