Pixel Scroll 8/25/22 Eats, Scrolls And Athelas

(1) RHYSLING REVAMP SURVEY REPORT. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA) surveyed members about potential changes to their Rhysling Award. See their feedback here: “Rhysling Revamp” at the SPECPO blog. From the introduction:

The Rhysling Awards are in their 45th year of recognizing excellent speculative poetry, presented by The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA). Leaders have been monitoring the Rhysling Anthology as it grew along with membership numbers. The anthology has ballooned from 42 poems in 2002 to 180 poems in 2022. Continued growth would result in an anthology that is not feasible to print or read.

Here’s an excerpt from the survey results.

CATEGORIES

A continual discussion point among members is the question of “double dipping” on awards. Most respondents support that Elgin-length poems not be considered for the Rhysling (64%). A slight majority agree at setting a maximum line length for the Rhysling (53%), which would be consistent with considering extra-long poems being only eligible for the Elgins. On the other side of the spectrum, there is generally support (49%) for Dwarf Stars to be the only award that can catch the 1-10 line poems. Only 25% of respondents disagreed about keeping Dwarf-Stars-eligible poems out of the Rhyslings.

There was very little support for adjusting the length definitions, but lots of ambivalence showing in the swell of neutral responses (44%).

(2) CHICON 8 POCKET PROGRAM. In a manner of speaking. The 392-page Pocket Program is now available on the Chicon 8 website. There are two versions, (1) a single page version best viewed on phones and tablets, and (2) a two-page version which is best for printing.

(3) ALERT: FAUX CHICON 8 MERCHANDISE. The Worldcon committee issued a heads up that some t-shirt sites are selling Chicon 8 branded merchandise and saying they are official. They are not.

“Our only official site for Chicon 8 merchandise at this time is Redbubble. If you buy from anywhere else, it does not benefit the convention. Please shop wisely!”

(4) THE OTHER WORLD. This World Fantasy Award winner’s new book isn’t genre, but when speaking about her research she says things like this — “So I went on this fantastic two-week trip into a time and place that doesn’t really exist now.” “Sofia Samatar Brings a Second Coming” at Publishers Weekly.

Sofia Samatar has a way with a sentence. No matter what she’s writing—whether it’s short stories, like her quietly devastating Nebula- and Hugo-nominated “Selkie Stories Are for Losers,” or novels, like her World Fantasy Award–winning debut, A Stranger in Olondria—her work has a way of pairing the mundane and sublime with casual aplomb.

Her latest, The White Mosque (Catapult, Oct.), is a mosaic memoir that juxtaposes history, culture, religion and regionalism, tracing the journey of a group of German-speaking Mennonites into the heart of Khiva in Central Asia—now modern-day Uzbekistan—on a quest that promised no less than the second coming of Christ.

Samatar’s own journey to the site where the group’s church once stood started in 2016, when her father-in-law gave her a book titled The Great Trek of the Russian Mennonites, by Frank Belk. “This guy, who’s sort of a cult leader, predicts Christ is returning, and these people just uproot their lives to follow him,” she says, speaking via Zoom from her office at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., where she’s an associate professor of English. “Of course, nothing happens. But they stayed for 50 years, until they were deported by the Bolsheviks.”

Samatar, the child of a Black Somali Muslim and a white Mennonite, became obsessed with the story…. 

(5) CON OR BUST. Dream Foundry, which previously announced that Con or Bust is “folding into our (dragon) wing,” shared the program’s new logo designed by Dream Foundry contest winner Yue Feng.

Applications for grants are open, and they’ve already begun reviewing and issuing grants. If you want to help creatives and fans of color have access to conventions and other opportunities, donate here. To stay in the loop on Con or Bust news, sign up for the program’s quarterly newsletter.     

(6) BACK TO THE MOON. This NASA promo about the Artemis mission dropped yesterday. “Artemis I: We Are Ready”.

The journey of half a million miles – the first flight of the Artemis Generation – is about to begin. The uncrewed Artemis I mission will jump-start humanity’s return to the Moon with the thunderous liftoff of NASA’s powerful new Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft. This critical flight test will send Orion farther than any human-rated spacecraft has ever flown, putting new systems and processes to the test and lighting the way for the crew missions to come. Artemis I is ready for departure – and, together with our partners around the world, we are ready to return to the Moon, with our sights on Mars and beyond.

(7) WHERE’S THE LOOT? [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber looks at the problems game designers have giving users rewards.

Most games interface short, mid- and long-term rewards that trigger at different times.  the short-term rewards often take the form of sensory feedback; the bright ‘ding’ when you get a coin in Super Mario, an enemy’s head exploding in a shower of gore in Grand Theft Auto.  These get boring after a while–behavioural psychologists learned that repeating the same rewards generates diminishing returns.  So developers offer midterm rewards:  new levels, items, skills, characters, locations or narrative beats.  The longterm rewards are often related to social competition and prestige, such as difficult high-level team challenges or rare cosmetic items which players can show off to their friends.

Loot boxes lean into several of these techniques.  They have been employed in all manner of games ranging from FIFA to Star Wars, and they’re very profitable.  Yet they have also faced a backlash:  a recent report from consumer bodies in 18 European countries called them ‘exploitative.’  Although they have been banned in Belgium since 2018, most governments have been wary of legislation–the UK recently decided not to ban loot boxes after a 22-month consultation.  Still, some developers have heard gamers are unhappy–loot boxes were removed from Star Wars Battlefront 2 after an outcry and Blizzard recently announced they won’t feature in upcoming shooter Overwatch  2.”

(8) AGAINST ALL ODDS. The New York Times drills deep into one writer’s experience in “How to Get Published: A Book’s Journey From ‘Very Messy’ Draft to Best Seller”. The author’s novel The School for Good Mothers is set in the near future.

…“I’d like people to know that it’s possible for a debut author in her 40s, a woman of color, a mom, who led a quiet life offline with no brand building whatsoever to have this experience,” said Jessamine Chan.

And yet Chan’s “The School for Good Mothers” was published in January 2022 — and soared to the best-seller list, catapulting her to literary stardom. Last month, former President Barack Obama featured it on his summer reading list.

How does a debut novel go from a “very messy” draft on a writer’s desk to a published book, on display in bookstores around the country?

Here, we take you behind the scenes to see how a book is born — the winding path it takes, the many hands that touch it, the near-misses and the lucky breaks that help determine its fate.

(9) WHEATON SIGNING SCHEDULED. “Wil Wheaton presents and signs Still Just a Geek: An Annotated Memoir at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, CA on August 31 at 7:00 p.m.

From starring in Stand by Me to playing Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation to playing himself, in his second (third?) iconic role of Evil Wil Wheaton in The Big Bang Theory, to becoming a social media supernova, Wil Wheaton has charted a career course unlike anyone else, and has emerged as one of the most popular and well respected names in science fiction, fantasy and pop culture.

Back in 2001, Wil began blogging on wilwheaton.net. Believing himself to have fallen victim to the curse of the child actor, Wil felt relegated to the convention circuit, and didn’t expect many would want to read about his random experiences and personal philosophies.

Yet, much to his surprise, people were reading. He still blogs, and now has an enormous following on social media with well over 3 million followers.

In Still Just a Geek, Wil revisits his 2004 collection of blog posts, Just a Geek, filled with insightful and often laugh-out-loud annotated comments, additional later writings, and all new material written for this publication. The result is an incredibly raw and honest memoir, in which Wil opens up about his life, about falling in love, about coming to grips with his past work, choices, and family, and finding fulfillment in the new phases of his career. From his times on the Enterprise to his struggles with depression to his starting a family and finding his passion–writing–Wil Wheaton is someone whose life is both a cautionary tale and a story of finding one’s true purpose that should resonate with fans and aspiring artists alike. (William Morrow & Company)

(10) VIKING FUNERAL FOR BATGIRL? The Guardian hears “‘Secret’ screenings of cancelled Batgirl movie being held by studio – reports”.

The Hollywood Reporter confirmed with multiple sources that a select few who worked on the film, including cast, crew and studio executives, would be attending the screenings this week on the Warner Bros lot in California. One source described them as “funeral screenings”, as it is likely the footage will be stored forever and never shown to the public.

…The Hollywood Reporter reported there was a chance Warner Bros would make “the drastic move of actually destroying its Batgirl footage as a way to demonstrate to the IRS that there will never be any revenue from the project, and thus it should be entitled to the full write-down immediately.”

On Tuesday, in an interview with French outlet Skript, Batgirl directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah said they no longer had any copy of the film, recalling the moment they found they could not longer access the servers that held the footage.

…El Arbi said it was unlikely they’d have the studio’s support to release it in the future or that there could be an equivalent of “the Snyder cut” – Zack Snyder’s four-hour director’s cut of the DC film Justice League, which added an extra $70m to a $300m budget film.

“It cannot be released in its current state,” said El Arbi. “There’s no VFX … we still had some scenes to shoot. So if one day they want us to release the Batgirl movie, they’d have to give us the means to do it. To finish it properly with our vision.”

(11) TRANSFORMATIVE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT. Seekingferret posted a “Panel Report” from Fanworks where the topic was “Ethical Norms in Fanworks Fandom”.

… I presented three models for fandom’s approach to copyright- the It’s All Transformative model, the It’s Illegal but I Do It Anyway model, and the It’s Not Illegal Because the Copyright Holders’ Inaction is an Implicit License model, and then the audience argued with me for a while about whether the second two models are essentially the same, which was a good, clarifying argument to have….

Also of interest is the panel’s accompanying slideshow.

(12) WARNING. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Since, fan-wise, many cons use Discord… “Roblox and Discord Become Virus Vectors for New PyPI Malware” at The New Stack.

If you can communicate on it, you can abuse it. This was proven again recently when a hacker using the name “scarycoder” uploaded a dozen malicious Python packages to PyPI, the popular Python code repository. These bits of code pretended to provide useful functions for Roblox gaming community developers, but all they really did was steal users’ information. So far, so typical. Where it got interesting is it used the Discord messaging app to download malicious executable files.

(13) BOOK PORN. [Item by Bill.] Whenever I see a photograph on the web that has a bookshelf in the background, I spend way too much time trying to figure out what the books are.  For example: 

Blogger Lawrence Person has posted photos of his SF book shelves, and there are a lot of titles I’d love to have in my own collection.  A few years old, but perhaps worth a look ….  “Overview of Lawrence Person’s Library: 2017 Edition”. He provides regular updates to the collection (see the “books” tag).  

(14) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1989 [By Cat Eldridge.] Thirty-three years ago, the first installment of the Bill & Ted franchise, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure premiered.

Starring William “Bill” S. Preston Esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan, portrayed by Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves as, and not giving a frell about spoilers here, time travelling slacker high schoolers assembling the ultimate history report. And let’s not forget Rufus as portrayed by George Carlin. I met him some forty years ago — a really neat gentleman. 

Stephen Herek directed here. He had previously written and directed the horror/SF Critters film. Nasty film it was. Chris Matheson who wrote all three of the franchise films co-wrote this with Ed Solomon who co-wrote the third with him and, more importantly, was the Men in Black writer.

By late Eighties standards, it was cheap to produce costing only ten million and making forty in return. Critics for the most part were hostile —- the Washington Post said “if Stephen Herek has any talent for comedy, it’s not visible here.” And the Los Angeles Times added, “it’s unabashed glorification of dumbness for dumbness’ sake.” 

It spawned not one but two television series named – oh, guess what they were named. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, an animated series that started out on CBS and ended on Fox, lasted twenty-one episodes over two seasons, and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, the live version, lasted but seven episodes on Fox. Evan Richards and Christopher Kennedy played Bill and Ted.

DC did the comic for the first film, Marvel for the second. It did well enough that it led to the Marvel series Bill & Ted’s Excellent Comic Book which lasted for just twelve issues. And there was a sort of adaptation of the animated series that lasted for a year by Britain’s now gone Look-In Magazine.

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a most bodacious seventy-five percent rating.

(15) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 25, 1909 Michael Rennie. Definitely best remembered as Klaatu in The Day the Earth Stood Still. He would show up a few years later on one of The Lost World films as Lord John Roxton, and he’s got an extensive genre series resume which counts Lost in Space as The Keeper in two episodes, The Batman as The Sandman, The Time TunnelThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Invaders. (Died 1972.)
  • Born August 25, 1913 Walt Kelly. If you can get them, Fantagraphics has released the complete Pogo in twelve stunning hardcover editions covering up to 1973. Did you know Kelly began his career as animator at Walt Disney Studios, working on DumboPinocchio and Fantasia? Well he did. (Died 1973.)
  • Born August 25, 1930 Sean Connery. Worst film? Zardoz. Best film? From Russia with Love very, very definitely. Best SF film? Outland. Or Time Bandits you want to go for silly. Now remember these are my personal choices. I almost guarantee that you will have different ones. (Died 2020.)
  • Born August 25, 1940 Marilyn Niven, 82. She was a Boston-area fan who now lives in LA and is married to writer Larry Niven. She has worked on a variety of conventions, both regionals and Worldcons.  In college, she was a member of the MITSFS and was one of the founding members of NESFA. She’s also a member of Almack’s Society for Heyer Criticism.
  • Born August 25, 1947 Michael Kaluta, 75. He’s best known for his 1970s take on The Shadow with writer Dennis O’Neil for DC in 1973–1974. He’d reprise his work on The Shadow for Dark Horse a generation later. And Kaluta and O’Neil reunited on The Shadow: 1941 – Hitler’s Astrologer graphic novel published in 1988. If you can find them, the M. W. Kaluta: Sketchbook Series are well worth having.
  • Born August 25, 1955 Simon R. Green, 67. I’ll confess that I’ve read pretty much everything he’s written except that damn Robin Hood novel that made a NYT Best Seller. Favorite series? The NightsideHawk & Fisher and Secret History were my favorite ones until the Ismael Jones series came along and I must say it’s a hell of a lot of fun as well.  Drinking Midnight Wine and Shadows Fall are the novels I’ve re-read the most. 
  • Born August 25, 1958 Tim Burton, 64. Beetlejuice is by far my favorite film by him. His Batman was, errr, interesting. Read that comment as you will. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is definitely more Dahlish than the first take was which I think is a far better look at the source material, and Sleepy Hollow is just too damn weird for my pedestrian tastes. (Snarf.)
  • Born August 25, 1970 Chris Roberson, 52. Brilliant writer. I strongly recommend his Recondito series, Firewalk and Firewalkers. The Spencer Finch series is also worth reading. He won two Sidewise Awards, first for his “O One” story and later for The Dragon’s Nine Sons novel. He’s had five Sidewise nominations. 

(16) COMICS SECTION.

(17) HORROR WRITERS HAVE OPINIONS. Midnight Pals did a sendup of John Scalzi and his purchase of a church building. And his burritos. Can’t overlook those. Thread starts here.

(18) SPACE OPERA. “Friday’s Rag Tag Crew: Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky”, a review by Camestros Felapton.

… I found myself in the mood for a big space opera the other day and with the novel also being a Dragon Award finalist, it seemed like a natural choice. I wasn’t wrong in my initial assessment. It is in many ways a more conventional space opera than the books I’d read. Humanity is a spacefaring species with its own factions, in a galactic society with a range of aliens. There’s hyperspace (or rather “unspace”), a cosmic threat, mysteriously vanished advanced civilisations, space spies, space gangsters, badass warriors and epic space battles. This is all good but if you are hoping for the millennia-long deep dive into the evolution of a sapient spider civilisation this book doesn’t have anything like that. Which is fine because that gives Tchaikovsky more space and time to attend to a cast of characters….

(19) A CITY ON A HILL. Paul Weimer reviews Stephen Fry’s Troy at Nerds of a Feather: “Microreview [book]: Troy, by Stephen Fry”. There may be surprises in store for some readers – at least there were for Paul.

…In any event, Fry is here to help you. He starts at the beginning, as to how Troy was founded, and why, and brings its history up to date as it were. The delight in the depth of research and scholarship he brings is tha there is a fair chunk here I didn’t know about. Fun fact, the Trojan War is not the first time that Troy gets attacked in its mythological history, and you will never guess who did it before the Greeks got it into their heads to take back Helen, nor why…. 

(20) GOING PUBLIC. “Tom Lehrer: The Public Domain Tango”, a Plagiarism Today post from 2020.

…However, it seems likely that Lehrer may be set for yet another major revival as news spread yesterday that Lehrer, now 92, had released his lyrics and much of his music into the public domain. This has already sparked a great deal of interest in possible covers and recreations of his most famous songs.

Note: It’s worth stating that the declaration deals with his compositions and his lyrics, not the recordings. Those are most likely not owned by Lehrer.

However, the statement isn’t wholly true. Tom Lehrer didn’t actually release his songs into the public domain. While it may be pedantry given that there is no practical difference, the lengths Lehrer had to go to release what he did in the way that he did only further highlights Lehrer’s genius and is well worth exploring.

If this is truly to be Lehrer’s final musical act, it makes sense to see it for both the effort it took and the intellect required to conceive of it….

(21) AI GIVES ASSIST TO MUSIC VIDEO. [Item by Dann.] Someone recently made a video using the lyrics to “Renegade” by Styx.  The lyrics were fed, line by line, into AI art software to create the images used in the video.

While the lyrics aren’t explicitly genre centered, the AI created several images that evoked sci-fi/fantasy themes.  The rhetorical progeny of Edgar Allen Poe shows up a few times as well. “Renegade – Styx – But the lyrics are Ai generated images”.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part I Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George says the producer in the seventh Harry Potter film mourns when several beloved minor characters die.  He is bored by the very long camping scenes (where the characters camp and camp and camp some more” but gets excited when Harry Potter gets to duke it out with Voldemort only to discover that this is the end of Part I and we have to wait for Part II.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/20/20 Obi-Wan Said, Padawan, You’re Gonna Drive Me To Stalking If You Don’t Stop Flying That Millennial Falcon

(1) THE DOCTOR AND ROSE. Bustle previews a new installment of David Tennant Does A Podcast With…Billie Piper.

…Tennant met Piper 15 years ago on the set of Doctor Who. He entered in her second series and it’s hard looking back to imagine it as anything other than an immediate success. However, Piper said that when Dr Who was brought back to our screens with Christopher Eccleston in the leading role, that wasn’t the case. “When we started making it, everyone said it was going to be a failure. So you just didn’t imagine it being on for longer than three months,” she said. “Imagining that 15 years later, it’s still probably the biggest job you will have ever done and you’ll still be talking about it and going off and meeting people and, you know, celebrating it… That was a big reach.”

… Thinking about whether the reboot would be popular wasn’t the only thing on Piper’s mind. Doctor Who was the first big acting role she got after leaving the music world. “I wanted to prove myself as an actress; to myself, family, and this dream I had,” she said, “people don’t greet you with open arms when you’re trying new things, especially in this country. The attitude is very much ‘let’s see it then.’” Piper and Tennant made such a lasting impact on the series they’ve bot returned for guest appearances in Doctor Who.

Listen to the full conversation between Tennant and Piper at the link.

(2) THE ANCESTORS. Vulture’s Lila Shapiro profiles Rebecca Roanhorse and challenges to her as an “OwnVoices” writer in “The Sci-Fi Author Reimagining Native History”.

…Roanhorse is speaking from her home in Santa Fe, overlooking the Sun and Moon mountains. She lives there with her husband, a Diné (or Navajo) artist, and their 12-year-old daughter. She rarely speaks with her birth mother. “I’m sure some people may come home and find joy,” she said, “but that has not been my experience.” Her new book, Black Sun, is an epic set in an imaginary world inspired by the indigenous cultures of North America as they were before European explorers invaded the shores of the continent. Her work has been embraced by the literary world and often appears on lists of the best “OwnVoices” fantasy novels. (The phrase, which originated in 2015 as a Twitter hashtag and has since turned into a publicity tool, signifies that the author shares the same background or experiences as the characters they write.) And since entering the scene a few years ago, she’s already received many of the genre’s most prestigious awards. Black Sun, which was published on October 13, was one of the most eagerly anticipated titles of the fall. Some have compared it to the monumental achievements of N.K. Jemisin and George R.R. Martin. Screen adaptations of several projects are already underway.

But within Native communities, the book’s reception has been mixed. Although Roanhorse has many Native fans who have hailed her work as groundbreaking and revelatory, she also has a number of vocal detractors. Not long after her debut, Trail of Lighting, was published, a group of Diné writers released a letter accusing her of cultural appropriation, mischaracterizing Diné spiritual beliefs, and harmful misrepresentation. They took issue with Roanhorse’s decision to write a fantasy inspired by Diné stories, since she is only Diné by marriage, and wondered why she hadn’t written about her “own tribe,” referring to the Ohkay Owingeh people of New Mexico. Some have even expressed doubts about Roanhorse’s Native ancestry and her right to tell Native stories at all.

At a time when the publishing industry is throwing open its doors to authors who traditionally faced barriers to entry, the controversy over Roanhorse’s work reveals a fault line in the OwnVoices movement. Native identity is exceptionally complex. It consists of hundreds of cultures, each of which has its own customs. Further complicating all this is the fact that Roanhose grew up estranged from Native communities, an outsider through no choice of her own. This complexity is reflected in her writing — both her debut and her latest work concern protagonists who are at odds with their communities. “I’m always writing outsiders,” she says. “Their journey is usually about coming home, and sometimes they wished they’d stayed away.”

(3) MEET MR. SCIENCE. At Black Gate, Doug Ellis browses a pamphlet sent to drum up advertising for Analog in the early Sixties: “A Man of Science: A Study of the Readership of Analog Science Fact-Fiction. (Scans of the pamphlet can be read at the link.)

… The report discusses how Mr. Science’s income is about double that of Mr. Average’s, and that 38.4% of Mr. Science have had graduate study, compared to 2.3% of Mr. Average. It discusses various professional societies Mr. Science belongs to, and the credentials of some of its authors. It also spends two pages touting the background and editorship of John Campbell….

(4) A CLOSE SCRAPE. “NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Successfully Touches Asteroid” reports the space agency. Still awaiting word on sample quality as of this PR.

NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft unfurled its robotic arm Tuesday, and in a first for the agency, briefly touched an asteroid to collect dust and pebbles from the surface for delivery to Earth in 2023.

This well-preserved, ancient asteroid, known as Bennu, is currently more than 200 million miles (321 million kilometers) from Earth. Bennu offers scientists a window into the early solar system as it was first taking shape billions of years ago and flinging ingredients that could have helped seed life on Earth. If Tuesday’s sample collection event, known as “Touch-And-Go” (TAG), provided enough of a sample, mission teams will command the spacecraft to begin stowing the precious primordial cargo to begin its journey back to Earth in March 2021. Otherwise, they will prepare for another attempt in January.

… All spacecraft telemetry data indicates the TAG event executed as expected. However, it will take about a week for the OSIRIS-REx team to confirm how much sample the spacecraft collected.

(5) LEHRER GOES PUBLIC. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Tom Lehrer has put all his lyrics in the public domain: Songs and Lyrics by Tom Lehrer. The site includes lyrics and sheet music, but, alas, no recordings.

My rough quick count shows about 45 songs I’m familiar with (including several from The Electric Company, of which at least four are on a Lehrer multi-CD compilation and on Spotify), although some posted include revisions and/or private versions (and, according to a separate list poster, not all known revisions/updates). Also about 60 songs that I’ve never heard of.

By the way, the home page advises: “Note: This website will be shut down on December 31, 2024, so if you want to download anything, don’t wait too long.”

As noted, some of the Electric Company songs are on (free) Spotify. And elsewhere, like YouTube (search “Tom Lerher Electric Company”). (And see http://www.tomlehrer.org/covers/electric.html for related info.)

I also recommend the (PBS) Tom Lehrer Live In Copenhagen concert, from decades ago, it shows what a great (IMHO) performer he is – available here at the Internet Archive.

(6) THE VERDICT ON CATS. John Hodgman ruled on a thorny issue in the February 16 New York Times Magazine.

Question: My friend Abby insists that the movie CATS is good.  She has even persuaded our friends to perform a live version of it on her backyard on St. Valentine’s Day.  She says this is not a sarcastic bit.  Please order her to admit that this is some sort of joke.

HODGMAN:  I am truly impartial, as I have never seen either the film or the stage production of CATS.  However, I have processed enough of my friends’ trauma after they watched the recent movie to establish these principles:  1) There is no way Abby can actually replicate the C.G.I. strangeness of that movie unless her backyard is a literal uncanny valley; 2) Thus, Abby is simply putting on the stage version of CATS, which everyone seems to have liked, even without sarcasm; 3) People like what they like, and it’s not your job to police your friends’ Jellicle thoughts.  Happy Valentine’s Day.  Now and forever.

(7) HE’S DEAD, JAMES. ‘Tis the season – so James Davis Nicoll lists “Five SFF Books Built Around Dead People (Or Mostly Dead People)”. Was Miracle Max wrong when he said “If he were all dead, there’s only one thing you can do”?

Inherit the Stars by James P. Hogan (1977)

Charlie is an enigma: a human corpse found in a cave on the Moon. A missing man should be easy to identify, given how few humans have made it out into space. Inexplicably, all of them can be accounted for. So who is the dead man?…

(8) ANOTHER DAM BOOKSTORE. “A Surreal New Bookstore Has Just Opened in China”Architectural Digest takes a look inside.

…For a book lover, stepping into a bookstore is always exciting, but a new bookstore in China makes the experience absolutely spellbinding. Dujiangyan Zhongshuge, located in Chengdu, was designed by Shanghai-based architecture firm X+Living, which has created several locations for Zhongshuge. The two-story space appears cathedral-like, thanks to the mirrored ceilings and gleaming black tile floors which reflect the bookcases, creating a visual effect that feels akin to an M.C. Escher drawing. “The mirror ceiling in the space is the signature of Zhongshuge bookstore,” says Li Xiang, founder of X+Living. “It effectively extends the space by reflection.”

Upon entering, shoppers encounter C-shaped bookcases, which create a series of intimate spaces. In the center of the store, towering arches and columns take advantage of the full height of the space. These bookcases were inspired by the history and topography of the region. “We moved the local landscape into the indoor space,” says Li. “The project is located in Dujiangyan, which is a city with a long history of water conservancy development, so in the main area, you could see the construction of the dam integrated into the bookshelves.”

(9) FUTURE-CON. The success of their first event has encouraged Future-Con’s organizers to keep going. Thread starts here.

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1979 — Forty one years ago, Robert Heinlein’s The Number of The Beast first saw publication as a serial staring with the October issue of Omni magazine which was edited by Ben Bova and Frank Kendig. New English Library would offer the first edition of it, a United Kingdom paperback, the following January. Fawcett Gold Medal / Ballantine would print the first U.S. edition, again a paperback, that summer. There would be no hardcover until twenty-years after it first came out when SFBC did one. It did not make the final voting list for Best Novel Hugo at Noreascon Two. It won no other awards. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 20, 1882 Bela Lugosi. He’s best remembered for portraying Count Dracula in the 1931 film franchise Drácula. He came to hate that he played that character feeling he’d been Typecast. Now tell me what’s your favorite film character that he played? (Died 1956.) (CE)
  • Born October 20, 1905 Frederic Dannay. One half with Manfred Bennington Lee of the writing team who created Ellery Queen.  ISFDB lists two Ellery Queen novels as being genre, And on the Eight Day and The Scrolls of Lysis, plus a single short story, “ A Study in Terror”. (Died 1982.) (CE) 
  • Born October 20, 1906 – Crockett Johnson.  Of this simple genius – that’s praise – I wrote here: Barnaby and Mr. O’Malley, Harold and the purple crayon, the geometricals.  A commenter mentioned Barkis.  Also there’s The Carrot Seed; more.  Fantagraphics’ fourth volume of Barnaby reprints is scheduled for 1 Dec 20.  (Died 1975) [JH]
  • Born October 20, 1923 – Erle M. Korshak, 97.  Sometimes known as “Mel”, hello Andrew Porter.  Here he is with other pioneers at Nycon I the 1st Worldcon.  Committee secretary, Chicon I the 2nd Worldcon.  His Shasta Publishers an early provider of hardback SF 1947-1957; after its end, EMK dormant awhile, then Shasta-Phoenix arose 2009 publishing classic SF art.  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  Barry Levin Lifetime Collector’s Award.  Announced as First Fandom Guest of Honor, Chicon 8 (80th Worldcon, 2022).  [JH]
  • Born October 20, 1934 Michael Dunn. He’s best remembered  for his recurring role on the Wild Wild West as Dr. Miguelito Loveless, attempting to defeat our heroes over and over, but he has had another appearances in genre television. He would be Alexander, a court jester, in the Trek “Plato’s Stepchildren” episode and a killer clown in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea “The Wax Men” episode. (Died 1973.) (CE)
  • Born October 20, 1937 – Betsy Haynes, 83.  Eighty novels of history, mystery, comedy, the supernatural.  In The Dog Ate My Homework a girl using a magic word can make things happen; to escape a test she says the school has been taken over by giant termites: suddenly she hears giant crunching steps.  Two dozen Bone Chillers by BH became a television series, some based on her books, some by other authors although BH appeared at the end of each saying Use your imagination.  [JH]
  • Born October 20, 1941 Anneke Wills, 79. She was Polly, a companion to the Second and Third Doctors. She was also in Doctor Who: Devious, a fan film in development since 1991 with live-action scenes mostly completed by 2005 but the film still not released I believe. You can see the first part here. (CE)
  • Born October 20, 1955 – Greg Hemsath, 65.  Active in Los Angeles fandom during the 1980s.  While rooming with local fan Talin, worked on The Faery Tale Adventure, a computer game for the Amiga; here is a map Greg and Bonnie Reid made.  Here is Talin in the “Dream Knight” vacuum-formed fantasy armor Greg helped with.  Remarks from Greg appear in Bill Rotsler fanzines.  Greg told Loscon XXVIII he was a past Guildmaster of the Crafters’ Guild of St. Gregory the Wonderworker.  Applying that title to Greg himself would be disrespectful, so I shan’t.  [JH]
  • Born October 20, 1958 Lynn Flewelling, 61. The lead characters of her Nightrunner series are both bisexual, and she has stated this is so was because of “the near-absence of LGBT characters in the genre and marginalization of existing ones.” (As quoted in Strange Horizon, September 2001) The Tamír Triad series is her companion series to this affair (CE) 
  • Born October 20, 1961 – Kate Mosse, O.B.E., 59.  Author of fiction, some historical; playwright, journalist e.g. The TimesThe GuardianBookseller; broadcaster e.g. Readers’ and Writers’ Roadshow on BBC Four.  For us, three Languedoc novels (she and husband lived there awhile), two more.  Co-founded the Women’s Prize for Fiction.  Officer of the Order of the British Empire.  First female executive director of Chichester Festival Theatre.  [JH]
  • Born October 20, 1966 – Diana Rowland, 54.  Marksmanship award in her Police Academy class.  Black Belt in Hapkido.  Math degree from Georgia Tech but has tried to forget.  Eight novels about Kara Gillian accidentally summoning a demon prince, and then what.  Six about white trash zombies.  A story in Wild Cards 26; half a dozen more.  [JH]
  • Born October 20, 1977 Sam Witwer, 43. He’s had many genre roles — Crashdown in Battlestar Galactica, Aidan Waite in Being Human, Davis Bloome in Smallville, Mr. Hyde in Once Upon a Time and Ben Lockwood in Supergirl. He has voiced Starkiller in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, The Son in Star Wars: The Clone Wars,  was the Emperor Palpatine in Star Wars Rebels. and also voiced Darth Maul in Star Wars: The Clone WarsStar Wars Rebels and Solo: A Star Wars Story. (CE)

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off The Mark shows why witches prefer cats.
  • Crankshaft knows who to call when you absolutely, positively have to have a facemask right away.

(13) SALADIN AHMED LEAVING MS. MARVEL. In January, writer Saladin Ahmed and artist Minkyu Jung will end their run on Magnificent Ms. Marvel with an oversized finale issue.

Since launching last year, Magnificent Ms. Marvel has been a revolutionary era for Kamala Khan, with surprising developments in both her personal life and burgeoning super hero career. Between saving the alien planet of Saffa to fighting against the mysterious and deadly entity known as Stormranger, Kamala Khan also teamed up with new allies to defend her home of Jersey City.

Ahmed and Jung will end this thrilling journey with an issue that sees Ms. Marvel facing down Stormranger with the help of new hero Amulet, all while confronting the ongoing drama surrounding her family and friends. The special giant-sized issue also happens to the be the 75th issue of Kamala Khan’s solo adventures and will be a worthy capstone to a run that has greatly enhanced the legacy of one of Marvel’s brightest stars.

Here’s what Saladin had to say about closing out his tenure on the title:

“Forget super heroes, Kamala Khan is just plain one of the most important fictional characters of her generation. I knew that was true even before I came to write comics. But meeting and hearing from fans since launching The Magnificent Ms. Marvel has made it clearer and clearer. Kamala means so much to so many! Muslim readers. South Asian readers. But also people of all ages and cultures from all over the world who want to root for a selfless, kindhearted (possibly slightly dorky) hero in this grim, stingy era.

“Minkyu Jung’s pencils and designs went effortlessly from the streets of Jersey City to the alien plains of Saffa to night sky battles, always maintaining the human emotion that drives this book. From homicidal battlesuits to awkward conversations, he constantly pushed our story in new visual directions. I can’t imagine a more perfect artist for this run, and I’m so happy we got to work together.

“Of course a hero’s myth becomes most fully realized when it is passed between storytellers, changing with each telling. We’ve brought Kamala face to face with new enemies and to new places in her personal life, sent her to space and to the edge of the law. Now others will tell her story their way. I can’t wait to see what that looks like.”

(14) LIVING IN THE PRESENT. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt interviews Star Trek: Discovery star Sonequa Martin-Green, who says she gave birth to her second child in July.  She promotes the series (where filming wrapped in March) as well as her appearance in the forthcoming Space Jam 2. “Sonequa Martin-Green stars in a future she hopes one day can be a reality”.

 .. The year 2020 and all that has come with it has been a monumental one for Martin-Green, who has become the face of the next generation of “Star Trek” storytelling while also strengthening her voice in support of the Black Lives Matter movement in a moment of American social awakening. She and her husband, “Walking Dead” actor Kenric Green, welcomed their second child, Saraiyah Chaunté Green, on July 19 (via a home birth that was planned pre-pandemic). Martin-Green describes 2020 as a “doozy” but says that, despite all its difficulties, it will always be highlighted by the birth of her daughter.

This year’s racial reckoning in America has weighed heavily on Martin-Green, an Alabama native, who says she is keenly aware of the “new” and in some cases “old” world that awaits her Black children.

“Being Black in America, but also being raised in the South — where racism is quite in your face, it’s not so subtle down there — I feel like this is a time of exposure and a time of enlightenment,” Martin-Green said.

(15) TAKE COVER. “Wear a Mask” parodies the “Be Our Guest” number from Beauty and the Beast.

(16) SPIRITS QUEST. Richard Foss will offer a free virtual talk for the Palos Verdes Library called “Imbibing LA: Boozing it Up in the City of Angels” on October 29 at 7 p.m. reports EasyReader News.

In the talk he explores the history of alcohol in Los Angeles, which the library describes as a “historical center of winemaking and brewing, a region where cocktails were celebrated by movie stars and hunted down by prohibitionists, and a place where finely balanced drinks and abysmal concoctions were crafted by bartenders and celebrities. This talk explores that lively history from the first Spaniards to the end of Prohibition.”

Foss says if you want to appreciate the skill and the artistry of a chef or a bartender or anyone else who is in the restaurant industry, “it helps to know the cultural background, and that’s one of the things that I try to do with this particular talk. It’s about the history of drinking in Los Angeles from the time of the Spanish on to the current era.”

…When not reviewing restaurants or giving talks about food history, Foss is busy curating an exhibition for the Autry Museum of the American West called “Cooking up a New West.”

It’s about the waves of immigration that came to California and how it changed the way America eats. “At the time I proposed this I didn’t think of it as remotely political but in the current environment anything that you do about the value immigrants have added to our culture has suddenly become more political than it used to be.”

The exhibit is expected to open in 2021.

Readers can register for “Imbibing LA: Boozing it Up in the City of Angels” here.

(17) SETTING THE BAR WHERE IT BELONGS. [Item by Dann.] I came across this via Grimdark Magazine: “Five Things Netflix Must Get Right For Conan”. I didn’t see any mention of this development until recently. FWIW, I think their points are pretty good. I would summarize them as:

  • Conan should be a character that demonstrates violence
  • Conan is more than a brooding hulk of muscles.  Get the character right by reflecting his humor and intelligence.
  • Get the casting right.  The lead actor has to be a physical specimen capable of presenting a broad array of emotions.
  • Respect and represent the source material.
  • This isn’t generic fantasy.  RE Howard created a complete alternative history and mythos.  Use that creation to tell better stories.

I’ve got a Kindle edition of the complete Conan stories by RE Howard.  I’ll read a story or two in between novels.  Too many times, it turns into a story or ten!

(18) HARRY POTTER AND THE LIBERATED TOME. MailOnline is hot on the trail: “Harry Potter and the £40k lost library book: Bosses at British reading centre want to reclaim book that went missing two decades ago… before selling for a fortune at US auction”.

… The book was one of three original editions of JK Rowling’s debut purchased by the city’s library in 1997. Only 500 hardbacks were ever printed.

In 2004, two were sold to raise extra money. It was then that staff discovered that the third was missing.

Its whereabouts remained a mystery until it appeared at Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas, being sold by a Californian owner. A Portsmouth City Library stamp inside the book appears to be from August 1997.

It went on to sell for $55,000 (£42,500), nearly three times its $20,000 estimate.

Portsmouth City Council library service says the book in question was not officially checked out.

Eric Bradley, Heritage Auctions’ public relations director, told the BBC: ‘If the Portsmouth library was interested in getting it back… I think it would set a precedent, because I think it would be the first time a library took a serious case to reclaim a Harry Potter book.’

(19) SECRET HISTORY. Is this how Europe got fractured?

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The Hobbit:  The Desolation of Smaug Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George explains the reason the hobbits can float down a raging river on barrels without the barrels filling up with water is that they’re on the river of questionable physics.”

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Jeffrey Smith, Dann, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel “Confuse The Force, Luke” Dern.]