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

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

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

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

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with the FBI alleging he had “impersonated, defrauded, and attempted to defraud, hundreds of individuals” to obtain unpublished and draft works.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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First on the list —

10 – Quantum Leap Audiences Wanted A Happier Ending

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

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

(6) MEMORY LANE.  

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

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

SPOILERS HERE!

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

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

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

SPOILERS END HERE! 

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

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

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

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 7/11/22 Properly-Grounded Electronic Sheep May Safely Graze

(1) IT WON A HUGO; DOES THAT HELP? What does James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF panel think of C.J. Cherryh’s “Cassandra”?

July 2022’s entry in Young People Read Old Hugo Finalists is C. J. Cherryh’s 1979​ “Cassandra”. C. J. Cherryh should need no introduction. Over the course of nearly half a century, she has published dozens of books, and is still actively raking in award nominations and wins in awards as diverse as the Hugo [1], the Nebula, the British Science Fiction Award, the Nebula, and the World Fantasy Award. That said, if there is one thing this project teaches us, it is that all the accolades in the world do not necessarily translate into accolades from the Young People. Let’s see what they thought…. 

(2) JWST. NASA’s “First Images from the James Webb Space Telescope” begin with one unveiled by the President.

On Monday, July 11, President Joe Biden released one of the James Webb Space Telescope’s first images in a preview event at the White House in Washington. NASA, in partnership with ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency), will release the full set of Webb’s first full-color images and spectroscopic data during a televised broadcast beginning at 10:30 a.m. EDT (14:30 UTC) on Tuesday, July 12, from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Learn more about how to watch.

This first image from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe to date. Known as Webb’s First Deep Field, this image of galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 is overflowing with detail. Thousands of galaxies – including the faintest objects ever observed in the infrared – have appeared in Webb’s view for the first time. This slice of the vast universe covers a patch of sky approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length by someone on the ground. Learn more about this image here: NASA’s Webb Delivers Deepest Infrared Image of Universe Yet.

(3) WHAT I SAW ON MULBERRY STREET. “Some Surprising Good News: Bookstores Are Booming and Becoming More Diverse”. The New York Times says “More than 300 bookstores have opened in the past couple of years — a revival that is meeting a demand for ‘real recommendations from real people.’”

People told Lucy Yu it was a crazy time to open a bookstore in Chinatown. It was early 2021, and the pandemic had devastated the neighborhood, forcing dozens of stores and restaurants to close. The rise of anti-Asian hate crimes had shaken residents and local business owners.

But Ms. Yu believed that a bookstore was just what the neighborhood needed.

She raised around $20,000 on GoFundMe, enough to rent a narrow storefront — a former funeral supply store — on Mulberry Street in downtown Manhattan. A neighborhood grant gave her $2,000 for shelves and books. And in December, she opened Yu and Me Books, which specializes in titles by and about immigrants and people of color.

The store was profitable within four months, Ms. Yu said….

(4) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Gregory Frost and Daniel Braum on Wednesday, July 20 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Gregory Frost

Gregory Frost writes across the fantasy spectrum. He’s currently at work on a fantasy set in 12th Century Scotland, a supernatural western mashup set in 1858, and a hard sf story in collaboration with his late friend, the inestimable Bill Johnson. His previous collaborative story, with Michael Swanwick, won an Asimov’s Readers Award in the pre-COVID universe of 2015. Most days he’s accompanied by his cat.

Daniel Braum

Daniel Braum’s latest collection Underworld Dreams is full of stories that explore the tension between the supernatural and the psychological. His novella The Serpent’s Shadow and collection The Night Marchers and Other Strange Tales are out with Cemetery Dance eBooks. His novel Servant of the Eighth Wind is forthcoming from Lethe Press.

They are in-person at the KGB Bar. Masks welcome. KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003 (Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs).

(5) JANUARY FIFTEENTH. It’s Rachel Swirsky’s turn to present “The Big Idea” at Whatever:

What would it be like if the United States of America had Universal Basic Income?

Tens of thousands of questions.

What kind of Universal Basic Income? How would it come about? How would it be regulated? Dispersed? Who determines eligibility? Who determines amount? Are there restrictions for felons? Does it come along with other social services or replace those systems entirely? Is there a trial run? How long will it last? Can it be canceled? What institutional forces might try to influence the project or hijack it for themselves?

Beyond logistics–and there are so many logistics–lie the lives inflected by innumerable variations. How do you raise children who have their own universal basic income? How do these new assets affect people in institutional care? In prison? In the military with a foreign girlfriend overseas?

When I began writing January Fifteenth, I started with one question, and ended up with more tangled stories than I could write.

(6) KU DEAL ON AMAZON PRIME DAY. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Amazon Prime Day (July 12-13) offers include 2 months of Kindle Unlimited, normally $9.99/month or something like that, for $0.99/month — jumping back to the full rate after two months if you don’t explicitly cancel before then.

(Not sure whether you have to be an Amazon Prime member to get this, since I already am anyway.)

(7) ALWAYS BE CLOSING. Sophie Flynn shares a lot of tips that can help writers draw attention to their books. Thread starts here.

(8) THINKING MACHINES. In episode 19 of the Science Fiction 101 podcast, “Do As A.I. Say”, Phil Nichols and Colin Kuskie delve into their favorite sci-fi artificial intelligences.

We largely ignore ambulatory A.I., so you won’t find much talk of robots or androids here. Instead we try (but don’t always succeed) to discuss the type of A.I. that won’t chase you down a corridor or strangle you.

Among the works mentioned are some Star Treks; some Keith Laumer, AsimovClarke and Gerrold; and several classic movies that highlight our human terror at the thought that computers might one day take over….

(9) SOLVING AN ONLINE MYSTERY. The Artifice Girl premieres at the Fantasia International Film Festival on July 23.

When an internet vigilante develops a revolutionary new computer program to combat online predators, its rapid advancement leads to serious questions of autonomy, oppression, and what it really means to be human.

(10) BOMBADIL, A PERPETUAL QUESTION. “Who is Tom Bombadil? In Search of the ‘One-Answer-To-Rule-Them-All'”: a profile of author C.R. Wiley at Front Porch Republic.

Who is Tom Bombadil? Readers of J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings, have been asking this question ever since the epic tome first appeared in print in 1954. Novice fans of the book as well as diehard veterans of Tolkien’s Legendarium are equally perplexed by this mysterious character. In their quest for answers, many have scrutinized every jot and tittle from Tolkien’s pen, but the esteemed author never reveals in the novel, in his letters, or in his other writings exactly who Tom is. Those who have only viewed Peter Jackson’s film trilogy (2001–2003) also wonder who this bewildering fellow is, since the director opted to exclude Bombadil from his big screen adaptation altogether. Jackson has stated the reason he cut Bombadil was because he felt that the character wasn’t essential to the basic plot of the story. Some readers of The Lord of the Rings agree – not only do they ask, “Who is Tom Bombadil?” but they also ask “Why is he there?”C. R. Wiley, in his accessible yet perceptive little book In the House of Tom Bombadil, argues that we need to change the way we approach the “who?” and “why?” of Tom Bombadil. Wiley suggests we need to grapple with the question, not as a modern scientist or as a Sherlock-like sleuth, but as a philologist steeped in medieval lore. This makes good sense given that Tolkien was a philologist and professor of Anglo-Saxon and Medieval English at Oxford University. His understanding and appreciation for languages and for the legends that grew from them helped shape every aspect of Tolkien’s Middle-earth mythology. If we are going to really understand Tom Bombadil, we must see him as an outworking of both Tolkien’s love of language and lore….

(11) MEMORY LANE

1942 [By Cat Eldridge.] I’m quite the fan of Dashiell Hammett, so I thought I’d take a look at the second filming of The Glass Key which happened eighty years ago. (This is an appreciation piece so this is not the date it premiered.) Why it was made a second time is simple: Paramount retained the rights to it and saw it as the vehicle to make Alan Ladd a star. They also considered it the first major film for Veronica Lake as well.

It has been just seven years since the first version had been done with George Raft playing Paul Madvig who Alan Ladd will play here. That film was quite successful, being one of Raft’s biggest box-office hits of the Thirties. Though critics one and all hated it. 

This version was directed by Stuart Heisler under contract to Paramount. All biographies of him say he was at best an uninspired director but he did a better job here according to critics than the 1935 director did. And critics really hadn’t been fond of Raft as Madvig. Stolid and boring got used a lot when describing Raft where Ladd was called cheerful. 

Of course it was a vehicle for Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake as one critic noted: “The Glass Key further increased the box-office pull of Paramount’s new team of Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake.” 

And another one echoed that: “The film is mostly done for entertainment purposes, as it lightly skips over the corrupt political process as merely background for the unlikely love story developing between the engaging Lake and the deadpan Ladd.”  

The two versions pretty much get the same rating at Rotten Tomatoes, the 1935 version gets sixty percent and the 1942 version gets seventy percent.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 11, 1899 E. B. White. Author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, both of which are surely genre. Along with William Strunk Jr. he’s the co-author of The Elements of Style English language style guide. In a survey of School Library Journal readers, Charlotte’s Web came in first in their poll of the top one hundred children’s novels. I know I saw the Stuart Little film. It was, errr, cute. (Died 1985.)
  • Born July 11, 1913 Cordwainer Smith. Pen name of Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger. Most of his fiction was set in The Instrumentality of Mankind series which I know I’ve read once and really did like at the time. His short story, “The Game of Rat and Dragon”, was nominated at NYCon II (1956), and The Planet Buyer was nominated at LonCon II (1965). The usual suspects are well stocked with his novels and short stories, and “Scanners Live in Vain”, a most excellent novella. It was nominated for a 1951 Retro-Hugo Award. (Died 1966.)
  • Born July 11, 1920 Yul Brynner. The Gunslinger in Westworld and its sequel Futureword.  He would also play Carson, a human warrior in the post-apocalyptic The Ultimate Warrior. Are we considering The King and I genre or even genre adjacent?  If we are, he played Prince Mongkut in the short-lived Anna and the King as well. Ok I’m declaring it genre as the Siam there is a fantasy Siam, not actual Siam. (Died 1985.)
  • Born July 11, 1925 David Graham, 97. The voice of Daleks in the early years of Doctor Who including two very non-canon films, Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.; his voice work made him a sought after worker and he’d be used on Thunderbirds, the rather excellent Asterix & Obelix Take On CaesarTimeslip, the superb Moomin, Stingray and even the recent Thunderbirds Are Go.
  • Born July 11, 1950 Bruce McGill, 72. His first role was as Director Eugene Matuzak in Time Cop. He later has got one-offs in Quantum Leap (twice), Babylon 5Voyager and Tales from the Crypt.  He’s in the first television remake of The Man Who Fell to Earth as Vernon Gage. If MacGyver counts as genre and I for one think that it should, he has the recurring role of Jack Dalton there. 
  • Born July 11, 1956 Amitav Ghosh, 66. Author of the absolutely brilliant The Calcutta Chromosome: A Novel of Fevers, Delirium and Discovery which won the Arthur C Clarke Award. Really just go read it and we’ll discuss it over a cup of chai masala. His newest work is Jungle Nama, a graphic novel with illustrations by Pakistan-born Salman Toor based on the medieval Bengali tale about the forest (Sundarbans) goddess, Bon Bibi. Seriously, I need to read more of his fiction. 
  • Born July 11, 1958 Alan Gutierrez, 64. An artist and illustrator, specializing in SF and fantasy cover art. His first professional sale was to the now defunct semi-professional Fantasy Book in 1983. He then began producing work for Baen Books, Tor Books,Pequod Press and other publishers. He has also painted covers for Analog Magazine, Aboriginal Science Fiction, Asimov’s Science Fiction, and other SF magazines. He’s been nominated for five Asimov’s Readers Awards and two Analog Awards as well. 
  • Born July 11, 1959 Richard James Bleiler, 63. Genres breed academics. One of them is this bibliographer of speculative fiction, crime, and adventure fiction. Among his papers are “The Fantastic Pulp Fiction of Frank Belknap Long” which appeared in Gary Hoppenstand’s Pulp Fiction of the ’20S and ’30S and “Forgotten Giant: A Brief History of Adventure Magazines” which was published in Extrapolation: A Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

(13) ROSWELL ANNIVERSARY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Dave Kindy has a piece on the 75th anniversary of the UFO incident in Roswell, New Mexico (which took place on July 8, 1947).  He interviews aerospace historian Roger Launius, who notes that in 1994 the Air Force said the “UFO debris” was part of a high-altitude balloon launched as part of Project Mogul, which was “designed to intercept Russian radio messages via high-altitude.”  Because Project Mogul was classified the Air force bungled its response to the incident and created UFOlogy. “Roswell ‘flying saucer’ report 75 years ago sparked UFO obsession”.

 The world was worrying about war when rancher W.W. Brazel walked into the sheriff’s office in Corona, N.M., on a hot, dusty day 75 years ago to report a “flying disk” he might have found on his property, about 100 miles northwest of Roswell Army Air Field.

The next day — July 8, 1947 — the public information officer at the base issued a news release stating the U.S. Army Air Forces had recovered a “flying saucer” at the ranch. While military brass quickly retracted the statement, it was too late: The legend of Roswell as the “UFO Capital of the World” was already soaring — much like the countless bright objects many Americans claimed to have seen in the sky that summer….

(14) DIGITAL IN 1982. “40 Years Ago, Disney’s Weirdest Failure Changed Sci-Fi Movies Forever” contends Fatherly.

…But even more groundbreaking than the idea was the unique approach to visual effects. While The Last Starfighter would push the boundaries of computer-generated special effects two years later, Tron’s method of integrating human performers with a mostly empty virtual world was simultaneously stunning and moody as hell. While Bridges, Cindy Morgan, Bruce Boxleitner, and David Warner were shot with old-school backlighting techniques, the fact that their vehicles (LIGHT CYCELES!) and surroundings would be all digital was pretty much brand new….

(15) MORE STYLISH THAN THE TARDIS? [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Jon Pertwee shows up on Blue Peter with Doctor Who’s Whomobile in this clip from November 1973 that dropped today.

Doctor Who star Jon Pertwee glides into the Blue Peter studio for a chat with Peter Purves about the Whomobile, the Doctor’s unique new mode of transport.

(16) HARLEY QUINN. HBO Max dropped a trailer for the third season of Harley Quinn today. It arrives on July 28.

The mayhem and madness continue in season three of this biting and uproarious adult animated comedy series. Wrapping up their “Eat. Bang! Kill. Tour,” Harley Quinn (Kaley Cuoco) and Poison Ivy (Lake Bell) return to Gotham as the new power couple of DC villainy. Along with their ragtag crew – King Shark (Ron Funches), Clayface (Alan Tudyk), Frank the Plant (JB Smoove) – “Harlivy” strives to become the best version of themselves while also working towards Ivy’s long desired plan of transforming Gotham into an Eden paradise.

(17) SPACEX SETBACK. “Starship Booster Explodes During SpaceX Ground Test” reports Gizmodo.

SpaceX is in the midst of preparing its Starship rocket for its inaugural orbital launch, but an apparent explosion of the Super Heavy booster during tests at the company’s facility in Boca Chica, Texas, may represent a serious setback.

The explosion happened around 5:20 p.m. ET, and it was as unexpected as it was severe. …

The Elon Musk-led company is currently testing Super Heavy Booster 7 at its Boca Chica facility, known as Starbase. The prototype booster, with its 33 Raptor engines, arrived at the launch mount in late June. A Starship second stage will eventually be stacked on top, forming a fully stacked Starship rocket. Musk was hoping for an orbital test flight of the system in July, but that seems unlikely given today’s events…. 

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele ask, “What If Hogwarts Were an Inner-City School?” in this clip from 2019.

An HBO documentary dives deep into the deplorable conditions at Vincent Clortho Public School for Wizards.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/24/21 So Good They Scrolled It Twice!

(1) THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES. Camestros Felapton’s Debarkle has reached its final chapter. The massive history of the Sad Puppies intertwined with right-wing political developments from 2014-2021 concludes with “Debarkle Afterword: Dramatis Personae” – very like the “where are they now?” credits at the end of based-on-a-true-story movies.

(2) ANGRY ROBOT BOOKS UNVEILS NEW LOGO. Angry Robot Books revealed their new logo, designed by Kate Cromwell, which comes as part of an overall rebranding including the launch of an upgraded website, enabling the direct sale of physical books.

AR Logo Icon

Formed in 2009, Angry Robot Books have undergone some key adjustments throughout the years but, since joining Watkins Media in 2014 and coming under the leadership of Associate Publisher Eleanor Teasdale in 2019, the award-winning science fiction, fantasy, and genre-boundary pushing company is thriving. This new logo represents the history of Angry Robot Books whilst simultaneously looking forward.

With initiatives such as Clonefiles – offering free ebooks to any independent bookshop physical purchase – Angry Robot Books have a cherished legacy of serving the book-buying public, and this new, upgraded website with physical sales capacity, deepens the direct connection between publisher and customer.

These developments come at an exciting time for Angry Robot Books as summer 2021’s runaway hit, The Coward by Stephen Aryan, is already in its third reprint and the October super-lead, Un-su Kim’s The Cabinet, continues to bask in reviews including selection for the Best Science Fiction of 2021 in The Washington Post. With 2022 books crossing geographical, figurative, mythological, and atmospheric borders, the future is bright for Angry Robot Books as highlighted in the recent survey of genre for 2022 at Library Journal which so prominently featured a range of the imprint’s titles and authors.

The new logo is part of the cover of R.W.W. Greene’s Mercury Rising, designed by David Leehy. The book will be released May 10, 2022.

Even in a technologically-advanced, Kennedy-Didn’t-Die alternate-history, Brooklyn Lamontagne is going nowhere fast. The year is 1975, thirty years after Robert Oppenheimer invented the Oppenheimer Nuclear Engine, twenty-five years after the first human walked on the moon, and eighteen years after Jet Carson and the Eagle Seven sacrificed their lives to stop the alien invaders.

Brooklyn just wants to keep his mother’s rent paid, earn a little scratch of his own, steer clear of the cops, and maybe get laid sometime in the near future. Simple pleasures, right? But a killer with a baseball bat and a mysterious box of 8-track tapes is about to make his life real complicated…

(3) LAST NIGHT ON RIVERDALE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Beware spoilers. Riverdale is going through a five-episode story arc when it is in the alternate universe “Rivervale.”  In this universe, Archie died as part of a pagan sacrifice.

“Rivervale” had a mention of Neil Gaiman.  Jughead in this universe is still a writer, but he discovers there is a secret apartment next to his apartment that is haunted.  Jughead and his girlfriend decide to turn the hidden apartment into a writing studio.  He says he wants the apartment to have “a Neil Gaiman nautical vibe,’” so he decides to decorate the window with ships in bottles. I dunno what Gaiman has to do with ships in bottles, and I’m sure Gaiman has nothing to do with Jughead’s making sure he chugs all the Scotch in the bottle before putting a ship in. The ghosts in the hidden apartment empower Jughead so he is able to “vomit out” the first draft of a novella in one night.  I’ll spare the details as to how Jughead’s typewriter gets as smashed as he does after downing a bottle of Scotch.

(4) ROONEY BOYCOTT OF AN ISRAELI PUBLISHER GAINS AUTHORS’ SUPPORT. China Miéville is one of the authors and publishing industry figures who have signed a letter endorsing Sally Rooney’s decision to turn down an offer with an Israel publishing house, describing it as “an exemplary response to the mounting injustices inflicted on Palestinians”.  Artists for Palestine UK organized the letter, and the complete text and a list of all signers is on their website: “Leading writers support Sally Rooney decision to refuse publication in Israel”.

The Guardian’s article includes this background coverage:

Rooney turned down an offer to sell Hebrew translation rights in her new novel, Beautiful World, Where Are You, to the publisher Modan, which had published her previous two books, and which had put in a bid. The bestselling Irish novelist said last month that she supported the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement (BDS), which works to “end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law”, and that she did not feel it would be right to collaborate with an Israeli company “that does not publicly distance itself from apartheid and support the UN-stipulated rights of the Palestinian people”.

While two Israeli book chains subsequently announced that they would pull Rooney’s books from their shelves, the novelist’s move has now been backed by 70 writers and publishers…

(5) SAVING THROW. “Thanksgiving” at Tablet Magazine is new seasonal fiction from Elizabeth Bear set in a near-future, climate-changed world. The ending reminds me slightly of the key to world peace from the end of Stand on Zanzibar.

… Kids these days can’t imagine how we lived without reality filters, without ambient power transmission, without biosphere impact laws. They get along fine without frogs, however, which is something I can’t manage.

Most of them never really missed a frog. They never had the opportunity. They have never really missed Vanuatu, or Cape Cod, or a sequoia. Just as I never missed a dodo, an ivory-billed woodpecker, the American chestnut. If I had grandkids—let’s say, my abstract, intellectual grandkids—they would not miss rhinos or sugar maples or coffee. Except in that same abstract, intellectual fashion. They would not give a damn about vanilla, sequoias, or ash trees except as historical curiosities similar to the aurochs, the cave bear, and dinosaurs…

(6) NPR’S PICKS OF 2021. NPR has put up its massive list of “Best Books 2021: Books We Love”. It’s sortable by category – this is the button to pull out the 48 “Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Speculative Fiction” titles. The tool will also take you back to any of their annual selections since 2013.

(7) HELP KEEP THEM AFLOAT. The magazine Mermaids Monthly is running a Kickstarter to finance its second year: “Mermaids Monthly Year 2”. They have raised $4,212 with 35 days to go.

Our campaign goal for Mermaids Monthly 2022 is $33,000. This is a little bit higher than Mermaids Monthly 2021 because it covers some needs that the original team didn’t know about! In addition to covering the cost of content for 12 digital issues, the $33,000 will pay for one additional staff member for more coverage, as well as things like alt text generation, sensitivity readers, the submission system (Moksha), and international money transfer fees for paying our contributors who live outside the U.S.

(8) FIRST FOUNDATION. Cora Buhlert was on the Light On Light Through podcast to discuss Foundation — both the books and the TV show — with Paul Levinson and Joel McKinnon: “Foundation 1st Season: Cora Buhlert, Joel McKinnon, and Paul Levinson discuss”.

 There’s also a video version on YouTube:

(9) MIQUEL BARCELÓ (1948-2021). Miquel Barceló, the founder of Ediciones Nova, a Penguin collection dedicated to science fiction, died November 22. The Wikipedia sums up his career:

…He worked as an editor for Ediciones B, where he directed the NOVA collection, specialized in science fiction tales and novels, and writing introductory articles for the books published in the collection.

His last academic position was as a professor at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) where he promoted the creation of the UPC Prize, the most important prize in Spanish science-fiction. He directed and coordinated the UPC Doctorate program on Sustainability, Technology and Humanism. He also kept a monthly column for the computer magazine “Byte” and contributed to several publications on Astronomy and Artificial Intelligence.

In 1996 the Spanish Association of Fantasy and Science Fiction awarded a lifetime achievement award to Barceló….

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1974 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-seven years ago in the USA on this date, Murder on the Orient Express was first shown. Based off the Agatha Christie novel, the script was by Paul Dehn, who wrote the Bond film Goldfinger. It was directed by Sydney Lumet who direct Network, which is at least genre adjacent, isn’t it? It was produced by John Brabourne and Richard Goodwin who would go on to produce two more Christie films, Death on the Nile and The Mirror Crack’d

Oh, and it has an absolutely stellar cast of Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Martin Balsam, Ingrid Bergman, Jacqueline Bisset, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Wendy Hiller, Anthony Perkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Rachel Roberts, Richard Widmark and Michael York. You can see the trailer here.

Critics loved it with Roger Ebert’s comments being typical with him saying it provided “a good time, high style, a loving salute to an earlier period of filmmaking.” The box office was amazing as it made thirty six million dollars on a minuscule budget of one point two million dollars.  Christie who died fourteen months after this was made said that this film and Witness for the Prosecution were the only movie versions of her novels that she liked.

Now you’re going to get your Obligatory Science Fiction connection to use the old rec.arts.sf.written newsgroup term. The Twelfth Doctor would riff off this story including the train setting in the “Mummy on the Orient Express” episode though the murderer there was decidedly not human. 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a most excellent seventy-eight percent rating. 

It would have three more versions over the decades, a 2001 TV film version, a 2010 episode of the Agatha Christie’s Poirot series, and a 2017 film with Kenneth Branagh as the Belgian detective. Branagh narrates the movie tie-in audiobook. 

I just purchased this poster for my apartment as it is one of my favorite films. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 24, 1882 E. R. Eddison. Writer whose most well-known work by far is The Worm Ouroboros. It’s slightly connected to his much lesser known later Zimiamvian Trilogy.  I’m reasonably that sure I’ve read The Worm Ouroboros but way too long ago to remember anything about it. Silverberg in the Millenium Fantasy Masterworks Series edition of this novel said he considered it to be “the greatest high fantasy of them all”. (Died 1945.)
  • Born November 24, 1907 Evangeline Walton. Her best known work, the Mabinogion tetralogy, was written during the late 1930s and early 1940s, and her Theseus trilogy was produced during the late 1940s. It’s worth stressing Walton is best known for her four novels retelling the Welsh Mabinogi. She published her first volume in 1936 under the publisher’s title of The Virgin and the Swine which is inarguably a terrible title. Although receiving glowing praise from John Cowper Powys, the book sold quite awfully and none of the other novels in the series were published at that time. Granted a second chance by Ballantine’s Adult Fantasy series in 1970, it was reissued with a much better title of The Island of the Mighty. The other three volumes followed quickly. Witch House is an occult horror story set in New England and She Walks in Darkness which came out on Tachyon Press is genre as well. I think that is the extent of her genre work but I’d be delighted to be corrected. She has won a number of awards including the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature, Best Novel along with The Fritz Leiber Fantasy Award,  World Fantasy Award, Convention Award and the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. (Died 1996.)
  • Born November 24, 1926 Forrest J Ackerman. It’s no wonder that he got a Hugo forfor  #1 Fan Personality at Philcon II and equally telling that when he was handed the trophy by Asimov, he physically declined saying it should go to Ken Slater to whom the trophy was later given by the con committee. That’s a nice summation of him. You want more? As a literary agent, he represented some two hundred writers, and he served as agent of record for many long-lost authors, thereby allowing their work to be reprinted. He represented Ed Wood! He was a prolific writer, more than fifty stories to his credit, and he named Vampirella and wrote the origin story for her. Speaking of things pulp which she assuredly is, he appeared in 81 films and as himself in over one hundred documentaries and programs which I’ll not list here. Eclectic doesn’t begin to describe him. His non- fiction writings are wonderful as well. I’ll just single out Forrest J Ackerman’s Worlds of Science FictionA Reference Guide to American Science Fiction Films and a work he did with Brad Linaweaver, Worlds of Tomorrow: The Amazing Universe of Science Fiction Art. Did I mention he collected everything? Well, he did. Just one location alone contained some three hundred thousand books, film, SF material objects and writings. The other was eighteen rooms in extent. Damn if anyone needed their own TARDIS, it was him. In his later years, he was a board member of the Seattle Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame who now have possession of many items of his collection. Not that he didn’t have problems around fans as Mike reported here. (Died 2008.)
  • Born November 24, 1948 Spider Robinson, 73. His first story “The Guy with the Eyes” was published in Analog February 1973. It was set in a bar called Callahan’s Place, a setting for much of his later fiction.  His first published novel, Telempath in 1976 was an expansion of the novella “By Any Other Name”. The Stardance trilogywas co-written with his late wife Jeanne Robinson.  In 2004, he began working on a seven-page 1955 novel outline by the late Heinlein to expand it into a novel. The resulting novel would be called Variable Star. Who’s read it? He won the Astounding Award, and has three Hugos: the first at SunCon for his “By Any Other Name” novella, the second at IguanaCon II for “Stardance that he wrote with Jeanne Robinson and the the at ConStellation for the “Melancholy Elephants” short story. 
  • Born November 24, 1957 Denise Crosby, 64, Tasha Yar on Next Gen who got a meaningful death in “Yesterday’s Enterprise” after getting an earlier truly meaningless one. In other genre work, she was on The X-Files as a doctor who examined Agent Scully’s baby. And I really like it that she was in two Pink Panther films, Trail of the Pink Panther and Curse of the Pink Panther, as Denise, Bruno’s Moll. And she’s yet another Trek performer who’s popped doing what I call Trek video fanfic. She’s Dr. Jenna Yar in “Blood and Fire: Part 2”, an episode of the only season of Star Trek: New Voyages as Paramount was not amused. 
  • Born November 24, 1957 John Zakour, 64. For sheer pulp pleasure, I wholeheartedly recommend his Zachary Nixon Johnson PI series which he co-wrote some with Larry Ganem. Popcorn reading at its very  best and I see GraphicAudio has done full cast audio performances of them which should be a real hoot. It’s the only series of his I’ve read, so anyone else read his other books? 
  • Born November 24, 1957 Jeff Noon, 64. Novelist and playwright. Prior to his relocation in 2000 to Brighton, his stories reflected in some way his native though not birth city of Manchester. The Vurt sequence whose first novel won the  Arthur C. Clarke Award is a very odd riff off Alice in Wonderland that he describes as a sequel to those works. Noon was the winner of an Astounding Award for the Best New Science Fiction Writer.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Calvin and Hobbes discuss what they learned from science fiction.
  • Shoe has an awful, genre-related pun. How can you resist?

(13) ON THE LINE. “Another Look At Bill Mauldin” in The Comics Journal, a review of Drawing Fire: The Editorial Cartoons of Bill Mauldin, says that the artist needed real-life experiences to generate effective drawings.

…Mauldin’s drawing style for the wartime cartoons was wonderfully evocative of the ambiance of the dogface’s life. He drew with a brush, and his lines were bold and fluid but clotted with heavy black areas, clothing and background detail disappearing into deep trap-shadow darkness that gave the pictures a grungy aspect that approximated visually the damp and dirty feelings bred by the miserable field conditions of a soldier’s life on front lines everywhere. Willie and Joe looked like they needed a bath, and so did many of their readers…

(14) MOVIES FOR A NEGLECTED HOLIDAY. That’s Connie Willis calls this list of movies for Thanksgiving Day, published on her Facebook page. (And Connie summons all her panache to explain why Miracle on 34th Street is on it.)

Poor Thanksgiving! It gets short shrift all around. Not only is it completely upstaged by Christmas, but now Black Friday means that Thanksgiving only gets a single day, and in the last few years (interrupted only by the Pandemic), Black Friday starts Thursday afternoon so you don’t even have time to do the dishes before Thanksgiving’s over and it’s on to the Christmas spending frenzy.

The same is true for movies. Hallmark devotes an entire month to Christmas movies and there are dozens of other new and old classics to watch, but there are hardly any Thanksgiving movies, and the ones there are always seem to involve a person who’s terminally ill. (Don’t believe me? How about STEPMOM, FUNNY PEOPLE, and ONE TRUE THING, to say nothing of THE BIG CHILL, in which the person’s already died?) Movies like that are the last thing we need in this Pandemic-That-Never-Seems-To-End.

So here’s a list of some cheerful Thanksgiving movies to watch in the ninety seconds or so between Thanksgiving dinner and Black Friday…

(15) LISTEN UP. “Doctor Who teases animated lost story The Abominable Snowmen”Radio Times has something else for us to be thankful about.

…As fans are well aware, 97 episodes of Doctor Who have been lost to time due to a since-scrapped BBC policy that saw them deleted from the broadcaster’s archives.

This has proved particularly damaging to Patrick Troughton’s time as the Second Doctor, given that almost half of his adventures in the role are incomplete.

The good news is that all of the affected episodes still exist in audio form thanks to recordings made by fans, which have been a great help in reconstructing them in the medium of animation….

(16) IT DOESN’T AGE LIKE WINE. “The Halo 3 Game Fuel fandom is dying”Polygon fosters that strange sensation called nostalgia for something you never experienced…

Two years ago, YouTube user xKorellx poured a bit of history down the drain. In a first-person video, they gently cradle a can of Mountain Dew Game Fuel in their palm. Swirls of orange and blue energy surround the Mountain Dew logo, and alongside it, a close-up image of Master Chief sprinting forward like he’s going to bust out of the can and into your pathetic reality. The vivid branding hasn’t faded in 10-plus years since Halo 3 Game Fuel left stores, but the can’s structural integrity is … compromised.

The silver top of the can is bloated and uneven. It looks to be moments from exploding. It has been deemed unfit for drinking or display. Solemn guitar music swells. xKorellx cracks the tab one-handed and pours the yellow-orangish liquid into the sink.

Today, a sip of that liquid will cost you anywhere between $35 and $80….

(17) WHAT COLOR BOOK COMES AFTER BLUE? “The Pentagon Forms New Department to Watch and Study UFOs” reports Vice.

The Pentagon announced the formation of the Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group (AOIMSG), a successor to the U.S. Navy’s Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force. The group study Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon (UAP), the U.S. military’s name for UFOs.

According to the Pentagon’s press release, “the AOIMSG will synchronize efforts across the Department and the broader U.S. government to detect, identify and attribute objects of interests in Special Use Airspace (SUA), and to assess and mitigate any associated threats to safety of flight and national security.”

UFOs have been an obsession of the Pentagon (and broader society) for decades. In the 1950s and 60s, the U.S. Air Force’s Project Blue Book studied the phenomenon. In the preceding years, tales of strange lights in the sky captivated the world. Interest in UFOs waxed and waned over the years but exploded again recently when U.S. Navy pilots began giving interviews on high profile programs like 60 Minutes about the strange things they’d seen in the sky….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Movie Criminal Tutorial” on Screen Rant, written by Seb Decter, Tyler Lemco, Jr. plays movie crime consultant John Doe, Jr.  Doe’s father, John Doe, committed the crimes that led to the 1960s movie The Italian Job, and inspired the younger Doe to allegedly pursue a life of criminal activity.  Doe says it helps to have a wide network (he knows Pajamas Sam, Pajamas Freddy, and Sam The Fish), always talk through a Pringles can on the phone so no one can recognize your voice, and come up with an original tool when you’re whacking somebody (he likes a computer mouse).

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

Pixel Scroll 9/12/21 The Old File-Hidden-In-The-Pixel-Scroll Trick

(1) THE TROUBLE WITH KIBBLES. With Camestros Felapton 63 chapters into Debarkle, a chronicle of how the Sad/Rabid Puppies were the sff genre’s reflection of broader right-wing movements, John Scalzi shares his own retrospective “Thoughts on the ‘Debarkle’” at Whatever.

1. It really does seem like so long ago now. The nonsense the Sad/Rabid Puppies (henceforth to be referred to as “the Pups”) perpetrated is largely contained in the years of 2014 – 2016, and while that’s not actually all that long ago — a mere five years since MidAmericon II, where new Hugo nomination rules were ratified to minimize slate nominating, and NK Jemisin won the first of her three consecutive Best Novel Hugo Awards — it feels like a distant memory now, a kind of “oh, yeah, that happened,” sort of event.

There are reasons for that, but I think the largest part has to do with the fact that the Pups, simply and bluntly, failed at every level that was important for their movement. The bifurcated goals of the Pups were to champion science fiction with a certain political/cultural point of view (i.e., largely white, largely conservative), and to destroy the Hugos by flooding the nominations with crap. They did neither very well. Toward the former, the material they slated was largely not very good, and with respect to the latter, the Hugos both still persist and remain a premier award in the field.

Their strategy was bad because it was addressing a problem that largely did not exist and was arrived at in a backward fashion, and their tactics were bad because they exploited loopholes and antagonized everyone who was not part of their clique, activating thousands of dormant Hugo voters against them. They were routed through a simple mechanism for which they had not accounted (“No Award”), and once their slating tactic was blunted by a nomination rule change, they flounced entirely.

When your only track record is that of complete failure, it’s not surprising you don’t have much of an impact….

John Lorentz says in a comment there:

As the 2015 Hugo Administrator, I can tell you that five years (or six years since it affected me directly), is not nearly enough to for me to forget it.

I used to enjoy administering the Hugos (I’ve done it four times)–2015 was a shit show that destroyed any joy I had regarding the Hugos. in the long run, the Puppies didn’t affect the field, but they sure affected me.

Also:

It was, however, the only thing I’ve ever been involved with that has show up both as a question on Jeopardy and a song on Doctor Demento.

So there’s that.

(2) WHOSE FAULT? Paul Weimer finds more than he expected, as he explains in his review for Nerds of a Feather: “Microreview [book]: Fault Lines by Kelly Jennings”.

…Like that original story, and like the other stories in that anthology by other authors, the central characters in the universe that Jennings has constructed here and the central characters are women (and note the name of Velocity’s ship). Given the preponderance of men as leads of a lot of space opera to this day, Jennings’ work is a refreshing rebalancing of that. The novel is a two-hander, with Velocity Wrachant, captain and owner of the Susan Calvin, and Brontë, a young woman who is far more than she first appears.

The story’s point of view focus on both Velocity and Brontë, although we do not see the latter’s point of view until her hijacking, and even then, it is initially months in the past. I didn’t like her at first: after all, she HAD hijacked Velocity’s ship, and I thought at first that the flashbacks from her point of view were merely to flesh her out and give us perspective and point of view to sympathize with her, however grudgingly so. As the back half of the narrative continued to build and events in the present continued, I saw the careful crafting of plot, and the central mystery at the heart of Fault Lines….

(3) HANNA MEMORIES. Joseph Nicholas penned The Guardian’s “Judith Hanna obituary”.

During her 30 years of working for a range of campaigning bodies and NGOs, my wife, Judith Hanna, who has died aged 67 of liver cancer, saw concern about the environment go from a fringe issue for community activists to a mainstream subject with a professionalised career structure.

Her life and career embodied the principle of “being the change you want to see”, through such local activities as organising annual seed swaps, promoting community gardens, calling for traffic calming measures in residential streets and, at national level, working for nuclear disarmament and better public transport. In her final role, as a social evidence principal specialist at Natural England, she promoted the now widely accepted health benefits of everyday contact with the natural world….

(4) BOLTS FROM THE BLUE. In the Future Tense newsletter, Torie Bosch says “We need a Muppet version of Frankenstein”.

On Aug. 30, my heart broke a tiny bit.

That day, the Guardian published a remarkable interview with Frank Oz, Jim Henson’s longtime collaborator and the puppeteer behind Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, and other classic Muppets. Oz hasn’t been involved with the Muppets since 2007, three years after Disney purchased the franchise. He tells the Guardian: “I’d love to do the Muppets again but Disney doesn’t want me, and Sesame Street hasn’t asked me for 10 years. They don’t want me because I won’t follow orders and I won’t do the kind of Muppets they believe in. He added of the post-Disney Muppet movies and TV shows: “The soul’s not there. The soul is what makes things grow and be funny. But I miss them and love them.” As a lifelong Muppets fan, I have to agree: There were delightful moments in the Muppet reboots of recent years, but they were a little too pale, the chaos and the order a little too calculated.

But I think that there’s a way to bring the Muppets back, one that could also—and here comes the Future Tense agenda—help spark smart  discussions about scientific ethics, especially around what it means to be human and how to approach innovation responsibly. We need Frank Oz to helm a Muppet Frankenstein….

(5) I AM THE FIRE. Brain Pickings’ Maria Popova discusses “Einstein’s Dreams: Physicist Alan Lightman’s Poetic Exploration of Time and the Antidote to the Anxiety of Aliveness”.

“When you realize you are mortal,” the poet, painter, and philosopher Etel Adnan wrote while regarding a mountain, “you also realize the tremendousness of the future.” A decade earlier, shortly before a heart attack severed her life-time, Hannah Arendt observed in her superb Gifford Lectures lectures on the life of the mind that our finitude, “set in an infinity of time stretching into both past and future, constitutes the infrastructure, as it were, of all mental activities.” While Arendt was composing these thoughts and silent cells were barricading one of her arteries, Ursula K. Le Guin was composing her novelistic inquiry into what it means to live responsibly, observing: “If time and reason are functions of each other, if we are creatures of time, then we had better know it, and try to make the best of it.” A generation before her, Borges had formulated the ultimate declaration of our temporal creatureliness, declaring: “Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire.”…

(6) SCANNERS IN VAIN. Tony Lewis, reporting on behalf of the NESFA Press in Instant Message #979, told about some problems encountered with their republication of Zenna Henderson’s Ingathering: The Complete People Stories collection.

An Amazon customer who bought our Ingathering ebook reported 58 typos in it. Amazon took down the book, which had been on sale for a year, until we could fix the typos. A number of NESFA Press proofers have spent the past three weeks going over the Ingathering ebook. We have found more than 400 typos, nearly all caused by unproofed OCR used to create the ebook. We also found that approximately 20 of those 400+ typos existed in the original hardcover. This proofing project is expected to be finished the week after the August Business Meeting.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1976 — Forty-five years ago at MidAmeriCon where Wilson Tucker was the Toastmaster, Roger Zelazny would win the the Best Novella Hugo for “Home is The Hangman”. It was published in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, the November 1975 issue. The other nominated works were “The Storms of Windhaven” by George R. R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle, “ARM” by Larry Niven, “The Silent Eyes of Time” by Algis Budrys and “The Custodians” by Richard Cowper. It would also win a Nebula Award. It’s in one of the three stories in My Name is Legion which is available from the usual digital suspects.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 12, 1897 — Walter B. Gibson. Writer and professional magician who’s best known for his work creating and being the main writer of the pulp character The Shadow. He used the pen-name Maxwell Grant, wrote 285 of the 325 Shadow stories published by Street & Smith in The Shadow magazine of the Thirties and Forties. He also wrote a Batman prose story which appeared in Detective Comics #500 and was drawn by Thomas Yeates. (Died 1985.)
  • Born September 12, 1914 Desmond Llewelyn. He’s best known for playing Q in 17 of the Bond films over thirty-six years. Truly amazing. Live and Let Die is the only one in the period where Q was not in it. He worked with five Bonds, to wit Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan. Other genre appearances include The Adventures of Robin Hood, the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr HydeThe Curse of the Werewolf and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. (Died 1999.)
  • Born September 12, 1921 Stanislaw Lem. He’s best known for Solaris, which has been made into a film three times. The latest film made off a work of his is the 2018 His Master’s Voice (Glos Pana In Polish). The usual suspects have generous collections of his translated into English works at quite reasonable prices. (Died 2006.) [Note: In three instances “L” has been substituted because WordPress doesn’t support the correct special character.]
  • Born September 12, 1922 John Chambers. He’s best known for designing Spock’s  pointed ears, and for the prosthetic make-up work on the Planet of the Apes franchise. Some of those character creations, including Cornelius and Dr. Zaius from the Planet of the Apes series, are on display at the Science Fiction Museum. He worked on the MunstersOuter LimitsLost in SpaceMission Impossible, Night Gallery and I-Spy along with uncredited (at the time) prosthetic makeup work on Blade Runner. (Died 2001.)
  • Born September 12, 1940 John Clute, 81. Critic, one of the founders of Interzone (which I avidly read in digital form) and co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (with Peter Nicholls) that I use every day for these Birthdays, and of the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (with John Grant) as well as writing the Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Science Fiction. All of these publications won Hugo Awards for Best Non-Fiction. And I’d be remiss not to single out for praise The Darkening Garden: A Short Lexicon of Horror which is simply a superb work.
  • Born September 12, 1942 Charles L. Grant. A writer who said he was best at what he called “dark fantasy” and “quiet horror”. Nightmare Seasons, a collection of novellas, won a World Fantasy Award, while the “A Crowd of Shadows” story garnered a Nebula as did “A Glow of Candles, a Unicorn’s Eye novella. It would also be nominated for a Hugo at SunCon. And the “Temperature Days on Hawthorne Street” story would become the Tales from the Darkside episode “The Milkman Cometh”.  The usual suspects have an outstanding selection of his works including Nightmare Seasons and Shadows, another excellent  collection. (Died 2006.)
  • Born September 12, 1952 Kathryn Anne Ptacek Grant, 69. Widow of Charles L. Grant. She has won two Stoker Awards. If you’re into horror. Her Gila! novel is a classic of that genre, and No Birds Sings is an excellent collection of her short stories. Both are available from the usual suspects.  
  • Born September 12, 1962 Mary Kay Adams, 59. She was Na’Toth, a Narn who was the aide to G’Kar in the second season of Babylon 5, and she would show up as the Klingon Grilka in the episodes “The House of Quark” and “Looking for par’Mach in All the Wrong Places” in Deep Space Nine. Her first genre role is actually an uncredited role in The Muppets Take Manhattan. No idea what it is. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) SHORTS SUBJECT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna has a piece about the “masterpieces” John Oliver is lending to museums in return for a $10,000 grant.  He talks to the heads of the Judy Garland Museum and the Cartoon Art Museum and how the Garland Museum said they could only accept the paintings if the mousehood of the “vermin-love-watercolor-on-paper” drawing by Brian Swords of nude cartoon mice was covered up. “John Oliver is helping museums through the pandemic — by lending them rat erotica”.

Melanie Jacobson was on the hunt for covid-relief cash in October when she happened to flip to HBO. As fortune would have it, “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver was announcing a contest to offer financial help to museums in need. The catch was, they had to be willing to exhibit his freshly acquired collection of three “masterpiece” paintings: a still-life of ties,a portrait of TV host Wendy Williams eating a lamb chop, plus— his “pièce de résistance” — amorous rats in the buff.Jacobson is a board member for theJudy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minn. — right where a star was born. Her catch was, the institutionshares a building with the very G-rated Children’s Discovery Museum, which meant that “I knew we would not be able to show the rat painting with certain private parts,” she said by phone this week.

So with blessing from board leadership, Jacobson submitted a proposal to the “Last Week Tonight” contest with one stipulation, she recalled: “I’m going to have to put pants on the rat.” ….

(11) NOT FOR MUGGLES. Thrillist wants to be sure you’re getting enough genre-related calories. “Dairy Queen Secret Menu: You Can Get a Butterbeer Blizzard Inspired by Harry Potter”.

We’re still flying high off the news of Dairy Queen’s fall Blizzard lineup. After all, the Pumpkin Pie is back, folks. But it’s not the only flavor on our radar as of late. In fact, DQ employee-slash-TikToker @thedairyqueenking shared a secret menu item that’s going to wow Harry Potter fans.

The soft serve insider took to the video-sharing platform with the chain’s hush, hush Butterbeer Blizzard, which boasts vanilla syrup, butterscotch syrup, Butterfinger pieces, and a healthy swirl of whipped cream topping, mirroring the fan-favorite beverage from the books….

(12) A SCRAPBOOK OF CASES. In an article composed of various incidents and testimonies, The Guardian wonders whether it is time to take reports about UFOs and aliens more seriously: “’What I saw that night was real’: is it time to take aliens more seriously?”

…But Nick Pope, a former UFO investigator for the Ministry of Defence, is not convinced and thinks that Godfrey is genuine. “He had a lot to potentially lose by coming out with this and yet stuck to his guns.”

Doesn’t a hallucination explain what he saw? “I get that people do have hallucinations, but they tend to be the result of either mental illness or some sort of hallucinogenic substance, and this guy was on duty and was, by all accounts, rational. And so those explanations don’t seem to apply – I’m stumped when it comes to that particular case. Ask yourself: how many times have you been tired and come to the end of a long day? We’ve all been in that situation, and we don’t suddenly construct bizarre narratives about spacecraft and aliens.”

Is it time to start taking these stories more seriously? “I’m not saying that I believe it’s literally true that these are alien spaceships,” says Pope. “But at the very least, these people who were previously disbelieved and ridiculed should be listened to and given a hearing….

(13) SWORD & SOUL. Flecher Vredenburgh takes “A Look at Milton Davis’ Changa’s Safari and the rest of the series at Goodman Games.

I started my blog, Stuff I Like, nearly eleven years ago with a plan of writing about swords & sorcery. When I reviewed “The City of Madness” by the late and greatly-missed Charles Saunders, I discovered he had co-edited a new story collection called Griots (2011). I bought it and found it to be one of the best batches of fantasy stories I’d read in years. It introduced me to the term sword & soul, as well as some very good writers, such as Carole McDonnell, P. Djeli Clark, and Milton Davis himself….

(14) CLASH OF THE TITANS. In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport says the battle between Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos over NASA contracts is getting increasingly personal, with Musk’s SpaceX ahead on technical issues but Bezos fighting back not only on NASA contracts awarded to Space X but also trying to block Space X’s plan to build thousands of small satellites for Internet communications. “Elon Musk is dominating the space race. Jeff Bezos is trying to fight back”.

For years, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk have sparred over the performance of their rockets and space companies in a simmering feud that flared during a fight over who could use a NASA launchpad and which company was the first to successfully land a rocket.

But now the two billionaires, among the world’s richest men, are waging an increasingly bitter battle that pits two enormous business empires in clashes that are playing out in the courts, the Federal Communications Commission and the halls of Congress in what’s become one of the greatest business rivalries in a generation….

(15) THE MEANING OF NONLIFE. The New York Times’ Brian Ng considers, “Could Robots From Boston Dynamics Beat Me in a Fight?”

…Boston Dynamics has uploaded videos like this for more than a decade, cataloging the progress of its creations as they grow more lifelike, and more unsettling. One of its models is a robotic dog called Spot, with four legs and, sometimes, a “neck” topped with a camera “head” — an android’s best friend.

Although the company maintains that its creations are research projects, it does sell Spot and has leased one to the N.Y.P.D. It could have been used to accomplish tasks too risky for a living being, such as delivering food in a hostage situation or checking areas with high amounts of radiation. But its appearance accompanying police officers during an arrest in public housing sparked enough public backlash for its trial to be prematurely terminated. People found the robodog both wasteful and chilling, especially in the possession of the institution most likely to use force against them. It surely didn’t help that the robodog looked quite similar to the horrific killer machines in an episode of the show “Black Mirror” called “Metalhead” — probably because the show’s creator Charlie Brooker, who wrote the episode, was inspired by previous Boston Dynamics videos.

We can ask the same question of the Atlas: What is it for? The video only shows us what it can do. For now, the robots don’t want anything; apart from not falling over, they await a reason for being. The company says the goal is to create robots that can perform mundane tasks in all sorts of terrain, but the video contains no such tasks; we see only feats of agility, not the routine functions these robots would be back-flipping toward. Through this gap enter the tendrils of sinister speculation…..

(16) BOOKS IN SIGHT. Marie Powell’s adventures in castle-hopping across North Wales resulted in her award-winning historical fantasy series, Last of the Gifted. Spirit Sight (Book 1) and Water Sight (Book 2). An omnibus volume of the two books is coming out in October. And the audiobook of Spirit Sight is available from Kindle, Amazon.ca, Audible, and Apple.

Two siblings pledge their magic to protect their people from the invading English, with the help of the last true Prince of Wales—after his murder.

Welsh warrior-in-training Hyw can control the minds of birds and animals.

His sister Catrin can see the future in a drop of water.

Now Hyw and Catrin must stretch their gifts to stand between their people and the ruthless army of Edward I (a.k.a. Longshanks). When the prince is slain, Hyw’s gift allows him to meld with the prince’s spirit, to guide them in fighting back against the English invaders.

This award-winning medieval fantasy combines magic, mythology, and historical legends with the realities of 13th Century Wales.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, Joyce Scrivner, Cora Buhlert, Ruth Berman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jim Janney.]

Pixel Scroll 9/10/21 It Was A Pixel Scroll Of Rare Device

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman offers listeners a chance to feast on Indian food with Veronica Schanoes in episode 153 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Veronica Schanoes

Award-winning writer Veronica Schanoes and I shared Indian food though there were hundreds of miles between us — hers from Brooklyn, New York’s Masala Grill, me from Hagerstown, Maryland’s Sitar of India.

Veronica Schanoes has published fiction in the magazines Lady Churchill’s Rosebud WristletSybil’s Garage, and Fantasy; the anthologies The Doll CollectionQueen Victoria’s Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp FantasyThe Mammoth Book of Cthulhu: New Lovecraftian Fiction; and online at Strange Horizons and Tor.com. Her novella “Burning Girls” was nominated for the Nebula Award and the World Fantasy Award, and won the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novella in 2013. Her first scholarly monograph, Fairy Tales, Myth, and Psychoanalytic Theory: Feminism and Re-telling the Tale, was published by Ashgate in 2014. Her collection Burning Girls and Other Stories was published earlier this year.

We discussed what it’s been like trying to write her first novel during a pandemic, why she can only read Jane Yolen’s intro to her new collection half a page at a time, how she makes sure her fairy tale-inspired fiction works even for those who don’t catch the allusions, the joy which comes from putting the right words in the right order, how Kelly Link convinced her she should take herself seriously as a writer, whether research inspires stories or stories inspire research (and how writers make sure they don’t force readers to suffer for that research), the way fairy tales take place “outside of historical space-time,” the importance of Joe Strummer and the Clash, and much more.

(2) MODERN THOUGHT. S.E. Lindberg interviews pulp scholar and sword-and-sorcery author and editor Jason Ray Carney at Black Gate. “Sublime, Cruel Beauty: An Interview with Jason Ray Carney”.

What is this concept of Modernity, and why did it haunt/inspire you to write a thesis on it?

Modernity is one of those concepts with a rich intellectual history, and people spill a lot of ink over it, but it is not very complicated (in my opinion): sometimes around the 1780s, the world changed. Feudalism gave way to democracy. New technologies upset how human economies and cities were organized. Religious belief waned and changed. We stopped believing (for the most part) in the supernatural. Let me cite Max Weber again: with modernity, the world became “disenchanted.” This, of course, is only part of the story. Though this story is myopic in its Eurocentrism, it is not less valid for its narrow purview. The story of modernization outside of Europe can be told, but it will be different, with maze-like branching conversations that posit multiple “modernities.” Anyway, modernity really intrigues me.

(3) VINDICATION. In “confirmation”, former Hugo Awards administrator David Bratman tells how he once found himself at loggerheads with Locus’ Charles N. Brown.  

When I was administrator for the Hugo Awards in 1996, one of the Best Novel finalists* was Remake by Connie Willis. By that time, SF novels were tending very long, but Remake was short. Though published as a standalone volume, it made a small one.

Charles Brown of Locus,** the newsletter of the SF field, insisted to me that Remake was under 40 thousand words and thus, by Hugo rules (which were shared in this respect by most other awards in the field), it fell in the Novella category, not Novel. And indeed, in the Locus awards it was put in the Novella category, which it won (not surprisingly, being one of the longest in the category as well as being by Connie Willis)….

The rest of the analysis is at the link.

(4) FICTION IN TRANSLATION. Jennifer Croft argues “Why translators should be named on book covers” in The Guardian.

“Translators are like ninjas. If you notice them, they’re no good.” This quote, attributed to Israeli author Etgar Keret, proliferates in memes, and who doesn’t love a pithy quote involving ninjas? Yet this idea – that a literary translator might make, at any moment, a surprise attack, and that at every moment we are deceiving the reader as part of an elaborate mercenary plot – is among the most toxic in world literature.

The reality of the international circulation of texts is that in their new contexts, it is up to their translators to choose every word they will contain. When you read Nobel laureate Olga Tokarczuk’s Flights in English, the words are all mine. Translators aren’t like ninjas, but words are human, which means that they’re unique and have no direct equivalents. You can see this in English: “cool” is not identical to “chilly”, although it’s similar. “Frosty” has other connotations, other usages; so does “frigid”. Selecting one of these options on its own doesn’t make sense; it must be weighed in the balance of the sentence, the paragraph, the whole, and it is the translator who is responsible, from start to finish, for building a flourishing lexical community that is both self-contained and in profound relation with its model….

(5) MARTIN ON MALTIN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to this 2018 podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Floyd Norman, a pioneering Black animator and cartoonist (Maltin on Movies: Floyd Norman).

Norman started working for Walt Disney in the mid-1950s, and remembers being at Disneyland during its opening week (but not opening day, a legendary disaster). He recalls what it was like producing feature-length animation before computers and how everyone involved in animated film “worked like Marines” until the job was done, although Walt Disney insisted everyone leave the studio at 9 to spend some time with their families. People who remember the “string of pearls” sequence in Mary Poppins should realize that was a sequence that stressed out the animators.

Norman talked about how he was hired and quit Disney several times, and was involved in developing the stories for PIxar’s Toy Story 2 and Monsters Inc.  He also self-published his own books of cartoons, including one entirely devoted to making fun of Disney CEO Michael Eisner, who Norman thinks a major egotist.  Norman says Eisner didn’t mind the criticism, “as long as the book was about him.”

This may be too DIsney-centric for some but I enjoyed this episode.

(6) CHECK IT OUT. The New Yorker’s Daniel A. Gross analyzes “The Surprisingly Big Business of Library E-books”.

The sudden shift to e-books had enormous practical and financial implications, not only for OverDrive but for public libraries across the country. Libraries can buy print books in bulk from any seller that they choose, and, thanks to a legal principle called the first-sale doctrine, they have the right to lend those books to any number of readers free of charge. But the first-sale doctrine does not apply to digital content. For the most part, publishers do not sell their e-books or audiobooks to libraries—they sell digital distribution rights to third-party venders, such as OverDrive, and people like Steve Potash sell lending rights to libraries. These rights often have an expiration date, and they make library e-books “a lot more expensive, in general, than print books,” Michelle Jeske, who oversees Denver’s public-library system, told me. Digital content gives publishers more power over prices, because it allows them to treat libraries differently than they treat other kinds of buyers. Last year, the Denver Public Library increased its digital checkouts by more than sixty per cent, to 2.3 million, and spent about a third of its collections budget on digital content, up from twenty per cent the year before….

(7) UP ALL NIGHT. It so happens the only time I ever watched Adult Swim was sitting in a hospital waiting room after driving someone to ER — but that’s not a knock, what I saw was pretty amusing. The New York Times celebrated the program block’s 20th anniversary with an oral history: “Adult Swim: How an Animation Experiment Conquered Late-Night TV”.

By all accounts, it was a minor miracle that Adult Swim ever made it off the drawing board 20 years ago. Money was next to nonexistent. The editor of Cartoon Network’s first original series worked from a closet. A celebrity guest on that series, unaware of the weirdness he had signed up for, walked out mid-taping.

In retrospect, it seems right that one of modern TV’s most consistent generators of bizarro humor — and cult followings — had origins that were, themselves, pretty freewheeling.

WILLIS The idea for “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” started with a [expletive] fast food restaurant that tried to use all the scraps of meat they weren’t allowed by the F.D.A. to put into a hamburger, wadded together. We saw Meatwad as this poor, neglected creature — I think his line in his first script was like [in Meatwad voice], “Please, God, kill me.” I did the voice, and I can’t tell you how many times people said, “I don’t understand what he’s saying; you need to recast him.” But we stuck to our guns. I always thought of it like Willie Nelson, who sings real quietly, and so everyone is on the edge of their seat trying to listen to what he’s saying. As a result, you’re more into it. At least, that was my excuse! [Laughs.]

(8) LIFE OF LEWIS. A trailer dropped for the C.S. Lewis biopic titled The Most Reluctant Convert: The Untold Story Of C.S. Lewis that arrives in theaters November 3.

(9) TIME HAS BEEN BROKEN. So they tell us. The new season of Star Trek: Picard premieres February 2022 on Paramount+.

(10) BUCKS AND BUCK ROGERS. Think of it as the military-industrial-entertainment complex: “The making of an Enterprise: How NASA, the Smithsonian and the aerospace industry helped create Star Trek” in The Space Review.

…At the end of WWII, 60–70% of the American aerospace industry was based in Southern California. The good climate and open land that helped draw aviation to the region also helped lure the motion picture industry. When Roddenberry began developing Star Trek, 15 of the 25 largest aerospace companies were located in the greater Los Angeles area. Many were situated close to Paramount’s Desilu Studios where the series was made.

Roddenberry drew upon the most current spaceflight technology then available to incorporate into Star Trek. He read, wrote, phoned and even dumpster-dived to get material for his new series.

A direct example of how the aerospace industry influenced Star Trek appears in the episode “The Trouble With Tribbles.” In this episode furry little creatures that “coo” and have a tremendous desire for eating and breeding overrun the Federation’s K-7 space station.

The principal elements of the K-7 as it is shown in the episode first appeared in a report done by Douglas Aircraft. The 1959 study outlined the operational requirements of an extendable orbiting space station. Constructed on Earth then launched atop a “Saturn-type missile,” the station was designed to automatically unfold in space into a donut-shape with a conical reentry vehicle at its center.[3]

Richard Datin, a model maker who helped build the original production model Enterprise, described how the K-7 design materialized. “I was told upon viewing the original model, and maybe by Roddenberry, that he obtained it [the Douglas space station model] from Douglas Aircraft whose main office was in nearby Santa Monica. Apparently, Gene had a following from people in the space industry, particularly Caltech in Pasadena.”

(11) MICHAEL K. WILLIAMS (1966-2021). Actor Michael K. Williams died September 6 at the age of 54 reports the New York Times.  While famous for his work in cop and crime series including The Wire and Boardwalk Empire, sff fans knew him as the lead in Lovecraft Country, and saw him in the 2014 RoboCop remake, The Purge: Anarchy (2014), and Ghostbusters (2016).

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1977 – Forty-four years ago this evening on CBS, Space Academy, a Filmation children’s series, first aired. (Jason of Star Command would come out of it.) It was created by Allen Ducovny who previously only done such animated shows as The New Adventures of Superman and Aquaman. The program starred Jonathan Harris in the lead role; co-starring were Pamelyn Ferdin, Ric Carrott, Maggie Cooper, Brian Tochi, Ty Henderson, and Eric Greene. There was a cute robot as well named Peepo. Would I kid you?  It would last for just fifteen half-hour episodes. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 10, 1914 — Robert Wise. Film director, producer, and editor. Among his accomplishments are directing The Curse of The Cat PeopleThe Day the Earth Stood StillThe HauntingThe Andromeda Strain and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Though not at all genre, he also directed West Side Story and edited Citizen Kane,  two exemplary accomplishments indeed. (Died 2005.)
  • Born September 10, 1937 — Spencer Milligan, 84. He’s best known for playing Rick Marshall, the father of Will and Holly Marshall, on the first two seasons of Land of the Lost. (He left because he didn’t get a cut of the merch sales.) Genre wise, he’d previously been in Woody Allen’s Sleeper as Jeb Hrmthmg, and later appeared in an episode of The Bionic Woman. That’s it.
  • Born September 10, 1952 — Gerry Conway, 69. He’s  known for co-creating  the Punisher (with artists John Romita Sr. and Ross Andru) as well as the first Ms. Marvel and scripting the death of the character Gwen Stacy during his run on The Amazing Spider-Man. He shares the story credit for Conan the Destroyer with Roy Thomas. At DC, he created a number of characters including Firestorm, Count Vertigo and Killer Croc. Not genre at all, but he wrote a lot of scripts for Law and Order: Criminal Intent, one of my favorite series.
  • Born September 10, 1953 — Stuart Milligan, 68. He first shows up as Walters on the Sean Connery-led Outland and a few years later we see him as a Police Sergeant on Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He’ll play Richard Nixon in Doctor Who for two Eleventh Doctor stories, “The Impossible Astronuat” and “Day of The Moon”. His latest genre role is in Wonder Woman 1984 as the U.S. President.
  • Born September 10, 1953 — Pat Cadigan, 68. Tea from an Empty Cup and Dervish is Digital are both amazing works. And I’m fascinated that she has co-written with Paul Dini, creator of Batman: The Animated Series, a DCU novel called Harley Quinn: Mad Love. Her only Hugo win was at LoneStarCon 3 for the “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi” novelette.  Her latest work is the novelization of the first-draft Alien 3 screenplay by William Gibson. She’s well stocked at the usual suspects. 
  • Born September 10, 1955 — Victoria Strauss, 66. Author of the Burning Land two novel series, and she should be praised unto high for being founder along with AC Crispin of the Committee on Writing Scams. She maintains the Writer Beware website and blog. 
  • Born September 10, 1959 — Nancy A. Collins, 62. Author of the Sonja Blue vampire novels, some of the best of that genre I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. She had a long run on Swamp Thing from issues 110 to 138, and it is generally considered a very good period in that narrative.  She also wrote  Vampirella, the Forrest J Ackerman and Trina Robbins creation, for awhile. 
  • Born September 10, 1968 — Guy Ritchie, 53. Director of Sherlock Holmes and its sequel Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, both of each I rather liked, and the live-action Aladdin. He did also directed / wrote / produced the rebooted The Man from U.N.C.L.E. which got rather nice reviews to my surprise as well as King Arthur: Legend of the Sword which apparently is quite excellent as audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a seventy percent rating. 

(14) FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD RECORD-SETTER. The Hollywood Reporter knows it’s worth a headline when “First Spider-Man Comic Book Sets Record for Biggest Sale Ever”.

The sale of Amazing Fantasy no. 15, featuring the first appearance of Spider-Man, has set the record for the most expensive comic ever sold.

The comic sold Thursday for $3.6 million as part of Heritage Auction’s Signature Comics & Comic Art auction being held Sept. 8 to 12.

The senses-shattering sale beat out the previous record, Action Comics no. 1, published in 1938 and featuring the first appearance of Superman, which sold privately for $3.25 million earlier this year.

(15) A SLEIGHLOAD TO ADD TO YOUR MT. TBR. SF² Concatenation has posted its list of “Forthcoming SF books in the run-up to Christmas UK SF book releases September – 31st December 2021” from the major UK imprints (available/or on order elsewhere from specialist bookshops). This is an advance posting (6th September) of the ‘forthcoming books’ sections’ of SF² Concatenation’s autumnal news page whose full edition will be posted September 15. 

With just 90, or thereabouts, shopping days to Christmas, time to see what SF will be published. The SF² Concatenation seasonal news page’s forthcoming books listings are an amalgamation of the titles in the catalogues sent by major UK publishers. 

As they these titles already in the catalogues, they can be ordered, or advance-ordered, now either from the publisher directly or – if you are outside the UK – from specialist SF bookshops and their related retail websites.

The books are listed alphabetically by author.

(16) SPEAKER FOR THE READ. The next episode of Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron is “You’re Not Ender Wiggins, and That’s Okay – A Show on Strategy, Leadership, and Modern Conflict by Way of Scifi.” Streams Saturday, September 11 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern via YouTube, Facebook Live, and Twitch.

Steven Leonard, Max Brooks, Major General Mick Ryan, and Jon Klug, join us to discuss strategy, leadership, and modern conflict from the perspective of science fiction.

One of the chapters in the book is called “You’re Not Ender Wiggins, and That’s Okay” (by Will Meddings). Be still, my heart.

(17) HUGE NEWS. A T-Rex might have made a nice snack for one of these: “Researchers Identify Dinosaur Species 5 Times Larger Than the T-Rex: ‘This Is Very Exciting’”Yahoo! News has the story.

Researchers have discovered a new species of dinosaur that loomed over Tyrannosaurus Rex.

The Calgary Herald reports that University of Calgary scientists helped identify the massive new species named Ulughbegasaurus, which roamed the earth as an apex predator 90 million years ago.

Researchers were able to identify the new species — which was five times bigger than the fearsome T-Rex — through the dinosaur’s fossilized jaw, which was likely first found by a Russian paleontologist during a dig in the 1980s.

…The researchers found that the dinosaur was between 7.5 to eight meters (24 to 26 feet) in length and likely weighed over 1,000 kilograms (2,204 lbs). At the time Ulughbegasaurus roamed the earth, the T-Rex wasn’t fully evolved and was much smaller in comparison, weighing less than 200 kilograms (440 lbs).

Comparing the two species, Zelenitsky said Ulughbegasaurus “was like a grizzly bear” if T-Rex had been a coyote….

(18) CUBE ROOTS. The New York Times shares scientists’ curiosity about a relic that lends itself to alternate history: “Did Nazis Produce These Uranium Cubes? Researchers Look for an Answer.”

The failure of Nazi Germany’s nuclear program is well established in the historical record. What is less documented is how a handful of uranium cubes, possibly produced by the Nazis, ended up at laboratories in the United States.

Scientists at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Maryland are working to determine whether three uranium cubes they have in their possession were produced by Germany’s failed nuclear program during World War II.

The answer could lead to more questions, such as whether the Nazis might have had enough uranium to create a critical reaction. And, if the Nazis had been successful in building an atomic bomb, what would that have meant for the war?

Researchers at the laboratory believe they may know the origins of the cubes by the end of October. For the moment, the main evidence is anecdotal, in the form of stories passed down from other scientists, according to Jon Schwantes, the project’s principal investigator.

The lab does not have scientific evidence or documentation that would confirm that Nazi Germany produced the black cubes, which measure about two inches on each side. The Nazis produced 1,000 to 1,200 cubes, about half of which were confiscated by the Allied forces, he said.

“The whereabouts of most all of those cubes is unknown today,” Dr. Schwantes said, adding that “most likely those cubes were folded into our weapons stockpile.”…

(19) THE TRUTH MAY BE OUT THERE, IT’S NOT HERE. Samantha Bee of Full Frontal shares“Sam Bee’s Not-Solved Mysteriez: UFOs” on YouTube.

Sam once again dons her trench coat to take one small step for man and one giant leap for a late night television host with an “Unsolved Mysteries” obsession. That’s right…she’s trying to figure out WTF is up with UFOs!

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

Pixel Scroll 6/25/21 Pixelin’ Files And Feelin’ Scrolly

(1) MORE CONTEXT FOR SFF HISTORY. Niall Harrison’s “Accelerated History: Chinese Short Science Fiction in the Twenty-First Century” at Vector notes that 2021 is the tenth anniversary of the publication of the translated Chinese short story that became the foundation for Clarkesworld’s ongoing collaboration with Storycom. And he has been inspired to work up a chronology of Chinese short sf in English, including a nifty diagram.

…What I hope that looking at the original chronology of stories does do, however, is provide another angle on the portrait of Chinese SF that has been presented to readers in English. To a limited extent it also makes it possible to contrast what was happening in English-language and Chinese-language SF at the same time; to think about the conscious and perhaps less-conscious choices made in the filtering process; and, most optimistically, to notice gaps, and provide a tentative framework within which future translations can be understood. In that spirit, in place of the original collections, I’ve organised my discussion into some rough periods, but I will revisit the books themselves at the end.

2. Liu Cixin Era

There’s nothing Liu Cixin likes more than a big picture, so let’s start there. With two single-author collections in the pile — The Wandering Earth (2013 / 2017 retranslations) and Hold Up The Sky (2020) — it’s not a surprise that he is the most-represented author, accounting for one-third of collected stories. In fact the skew is greater the earlier the period you look at. He accounts for over half of the 49 stories that first appeared before August 2011, and nearly three-quarters of the 28 stories that were first published in 2005 or earlier. In English, the story of Chinese SF in the early twenty-first century is overwhelmingly the story of Liu Cixin….

(2) BACK SPACE. James Davis Nicoll introduces Tor.com readers to “Five SF Travel Methods That Offer an Alternative to Starships”. (Holy cow, there’s a Langford novel on this list!)

Starships are all very nice—who among us has not wanted to own a Type-S Scout with the upgraded life support system?—but not all authors stick with that well-tested method of getting their characters from A to distant B. Ponder these five novels, each of which posits a new way of traversing the gulfs of space.

The Space Eater by David Langford (1982)

Project Hideyhole’s geniuses gave America Anomalous Physics. Anomalous Physics let Americans tweak the laws of physics to their taste. Thus, dimensional gates that facilitated an American colony on Pallas, a world that is many light-years from Earth. Thus, the inadvertent destabilization of six percent of the stars across the Milky Way and beyond. Thus, the inadvertent megamegaton explosion as Hideyhole stumbled across total conversion of matter to energy. Thus, the global thermonuclear exchange that followed thanks to the US assumption the explosion was a Soviet attack.

Having sat out WWIII, the EEC places very sensibly limits the use of AP. The problem is the American colony on Pallas, which has been isolated since WWIII. The Europeans detect that the Pallasians are dabbling in Anomalous Physics. Someone must be dispatched to convince Pallas to drop this research before more stars—stars like the Sun—are destabilized. The problem: a full-scale gate of the width needed for an adult male like unfortunate voluntold Forceman Ken Jacklin could well set off more novas. A smaller gate—1.9 cm, say—may be safe. The first step towards Pallas is going to be very, very hard on poor Forceman Jacklin, but this is a sacrifice his superiors are willing to make.

(3) YOUR TURN. Martin Morse Wooster got a kick out of a flash fiction story “Mozart Made A Tsunami, Most Likely By Accident” by Jeff Ronan at Sci Phi Journal. (Which really is too short to excerpt.)

(4) CUE THE SAND. From Yahoo! we learn that “DUNE Has a New Release Date!” But before that, Eric Diaz recaps the entire history of “cursed” efforts to bring this book to the screen.

When Does Dune Arrive In Theaters?

Dune was scheduled for release on December 18, 2020. And though the film will debut at the Venice Film Festival in September (via Variety), it won’t arrive in theaters until October 22, 2021 (this is delayed from October 1).

(5) UNDERGROUND ART. Two resources with images and histories about the artwork in Lewis Carroll’s books.

The Public Domain Review presents “Lewis Carroll’s Illustrations for ‘Alice’s Adventures Under Ground’ (1864)”.

“[W]hat is the use of a book”, asks Alice in the opening scene to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, “without pictures or conversations?” This question from Alice is at once a critique of her sister’s pictureless tome, and a paving the way for the delight of words and images to follow. Indeed, John Tenniel’s famous illustrations — for both the first edition of Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass — have become integral to how we experience the story, in both books and film. Tenniel, however, was not the first to illustrate the tale. That honor belongs to Carroll himself, whose original manuscript of the story (then titled “Alice’s Adventures Under Ground”) is littered with thirty-seven of his own sepia-ink drawings. It seems this entwining of word and image — so important to the published version — was there from the beginning….

“John Tenniel and his illustrations” at Alice-in-Wonderland.net.

…Carroll had Tenniel alter his illustrations several times, for example when he was not happy with Alice’s face – even when the woodblocks were already engraved, which meant also the woodblock had to be (partly) re-done.

That doesn’t mean Tenniel’s illustrations were exactly what Carroll described they should be. Tenniel had quite a lot of freedom to give his own interpretation to the illustrations. On several occasions, Carroll was very much willing to accept the artist’s ideas, and in the illustrations the typical style of Tenniel is recognizable. Tenniel had some freedom in selecting the scenes to be illustrated (Hancher), and when Tenniel complained about having to draw a Walrus and a Carpenter, Carroll was willing to change the characters of his poem for him….

(6) WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE EDITOR. E. Catherine Tobler, editor of The Deadlands, found she actually had to spell it out:

(7) JACKIE LANE (1941-2021). Actress Jackie Lane, who played the companion of the First Doctor Who, has died at the age of 79 reports Radio Times.

…The sad news was confirmed by Fantom Films on Twitter last night, with a post reading “It is with deep regret that we announce that actress and friend Jackie Lane has sadly passed away. We pass on our sympathies to her family and friends. Jackie was best known to Doctor Who fans as companion Dodo Chaplet. RIP 1941 – 2021″

… Another fan wrote, “Despite appearing on-screen for just 19 weeks in 1966 as a hastily developed & consistently underserved character who exited the series as strangely & suddenly as she arrived, it’s really heartwarming to see all the love for dear Jackie Lane on #DoctorWho Twitter tonight. RIP.”…

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2019 — In Dublin 2019, fifty-one years after she got her first Hugo at Heicon ‘70 for The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula Le Guin (who died in 2018) won her final Hugo for The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition. It was not awarded a Best Novel Hugo but instead was awarded Best Art Book with its illustrations being by Charles Vess who won Best Professional Artist that same year. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 25, 1903 — George Orwell. George Orwell, born Eric Blair in 1903. I’m not sure if Animal Farm counts as fantasy, but 1984 is clearly Science Fiction, and it may hold the record for the most neologisms added to English by a single SF book. Orwell was mostly known as a journalist and essayist, including his spats with H.G. Wells, most notably in “Wells, Hitler and the World State”. (Died 1950.) (Alan Baumler)
  • Born June 25, 1925 — June Lockhart, 96. Maureen Robinson on Lost in Space which amazingly only ran for three seasons. She has a number of genre one-offs including Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Greatest American Hero and Babylon 5. She appeared in the Lost in Space film as Principal Cartwright. 
  • Born June 25, 1935 — Charles Sheffield. He was the President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and of the American Astronautical Society. He won both the Nebula and Hugo Awards for his novelette “Georgia on My Mind” and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF Novel for Brother to Dragons which is an amazing read. Much of his fiction is in his Heritage Universe series; the linked short stories of space traveller Arthur Morton McAndrew are a sheer comic delight. (Died 2002.)
  • Born June 25, 1956 — Anthony Bourdain. That’s a death that hit me hard. Partly because he’s round my age, partly because, damn, he seemed so interested in everything that I couldn’t conceive him committing suicide. And yes, he was one of us with three works to his credit: Get Jiro! (with Joe Rose and Langdon Foss), Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi (with Joe Rose and Ale Garza) and Hungry Ghosts (with Joel Rose, Alberto Ponticelli, Irene Koh, Paul Pope). The first two are on DC, the latter‘s on Berger Books. I’m also going to strongly recommend, and it’s not remotely genre, note his Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations: Iceland Special Edition just because it’s so damn fun to watch complete with fermented shark. (Died 2018.)
  • Born June 25, 1960 — Ian McDonald, 61. Now here’s an author that I’ve read a lot of starting with his first novel, Desolation Road, and following through to his most recent, The Luna series. I do have favorites — the aforementioned Desolation Road and the other Mars novel, Ares Express, plus the India in 2047 series and The Dervish House are the ones I like the best. Chaga I think is the one I need to read again as I was annoyed by it the first time. 
  • Born June 25, 1981 — Sheridan Smith, 40. She makes the Birthday list for being Lucie Miller, a companion to the Eight Doctor in his Big Finish audio adventures starting in 2006 and running through at least this year. Her only video genre work was being in The Huntsman: Winter’s War as Mrs Bromwyn.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Farcus makes clear why a student is anxious about a visit to the principal.

(11) HELP WANTED. Looking for work in England?“Cambridge to Hire Archivist to Catalog Stephen Hawking Collection” says Mental Floss.

… Last month, it was announced that the University of Cambridge—where Hawking got his Ph.D. and worked for decades—would house the archive in its library. Now, as BBC News reports, Cambridge is looking for an archivist to “arrange, describe, audit the physical condition, rehouse, and review” all 10,000 or so pages. Their main task is to digitize every document so researchers around the world can access them online.

Applicants should have archiving experience; and since they’ll be operating out of Cambridge University’s library, they also need to be allowed to live and work in the UK. The gig is set to last two years, and it’ll pay somewhere between £30,942 and £40,322 (about $43,000 to $56,000). If you’re an avid archivist who’d like to have a hand in preserving Hawking’s legacy, you can apply online here.

(12) HEAD’S UP. The New York Times reports “Discovery of ‘Dragon Man’ Skull in China May Add Species to Human Family Tree” (registration required.) And there’s “A Virtual Reconstruction of a New Homo species, H. longi” at YouTube.

(13) DRUMROLL, PLEASE. “UFO report: US intelligence community releases long-awaited report” at CNN. (And CNN has the full text here.) Don’t they release these things on Friday so nobody will be in the office the next day and have to take questions?

The US intelligence community on Friday released its long-awaited report on what it knows about a series of mysterious flying objects that have been seen moving through restricted military airspace over the last several decades.

In short, the answer, according to Friday’s report, is very little, but the intelligence community’s release of the unclassified document marks one of the first times the US government has publicly acknowledged that these strange aerial sightings by Navy pilots and others are worthy of legitimate scrutiny.

The report examined 144 reports of what the government terms “unidentified aerial phenomenon” — only one of which investigators were able to explain by the end of the study. Investigators found no evidence that the sightings represented either extraterrestrial life or a major technological advancement by a foreign adversary like Russia or China, but acknowledge that is a possible explanation….

(14) HARD TO BELIEVE? Chris Carter tells the New York Times: “I Created ‘The X-Files.’ Here’s Why I’m Skeptical of the New U.F.O. Report.” (Registration probably required.)

…The plot of “The X-Files” was built on a conspiracy theory: The government is lying to you about the existence of U.F.O.s and extraterrestrials. Do I believe the government lies to us? Absolutely. I’m a child of Watergate. Do I believe in conspiracies? Certainly. I believe, for example, that someone is targeting C.I.A. agents and White House officials with microwave radiation, the so-called Havana syndrome, and your government denied it.

Will the new report, or any government report, give us clear answers? I’m as skeptical now as I’ve ever been.

In 1996 I was invited to the clinic of the Harvard psychiatrist John Mack to witness the regression hypnosis of a self-professed alien abductee. I first met Dr. Mack, who studied and ultimately believed in alien abduction, when he came to Fox Studios to discuss his work. I had used a Roper survey he was involved in (a poll of 6000 Americans on their belief in the existence of extraterrestrials) to sell “The X-Files” as a TV show in 1992, and later read his book, “Abduction.” So I knew something about what I was going to see. I went in doubtful, unprepared for the drama of a woman sitting next to me in tears and in terror over the encounter with aliens that she described, on a beach in Mexico. The experience turned out to be powerful and not a little unsettling….

… But the prosecution raises a good question: Where is the Deep Throat of the U.F.O. world? Why no credible deathbed confessions? As Nobelist Enrico Fermi’s famous paradox asked, if aliens are out there, why haven’t we seen them? Could the government actually be telling the truth? That it really doesn’t know what to make of the phenomena? Or is the truth above top secret?…

(15) YOU’D BE INCONSOLABLE. Vice recommends to players of vintage games: “Don’t Piss Off Bradley, the Parts Seller Keeping Atari Machines Alive”.

Every old video game console dies eventually. Moving parts seize-up, circuit boards fail, cables wear out. If a user needs a replacement connector, chip, ribbon, gear, shell—or any of the thousands of other parts that, in time, can break, melt, discolor, delaminate, or explode—they’re usually out of luck, unless they have a spare system to scavenge.

But there is an exception to this depressing law of nature. In San Jose, on a side street next to a highway off-ramp, inside an unmarked warehouse building, is part of the world’s largest remaining collection of factory-original replacement Atari parts — a veritable fountain of youth for aging equipment from the dawn of the home computing and video gaming era. This is the home of Best Electronics, a mail-order business that has been selling Atari goods continuously for almost four decades.

But if you’d like to share in Best’s bounty, as many die-hard Atari fans desperately do, there’s a very important piece of advice you need to keep in mind: whatever you do, don’t piss off Bradley.

Almost everyone who spends enough time loving, collecting, and using Atari products eventually finds their way to the Best Electronics website. And many of them quickly develop strong feelings about Bradley Koda, Best’s proprietor, who, by outlasting most of his competition, has become a sort of one-man Atari-parts powerhouse….

(16) RUH ROH! Straight Outta Nowhere: Scooby Doo Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog is a straight-to-video feature.

An original animated feature so exciting it’s scratching at the door! Comedy is unleashed when Scooby-Doo, your favorite mystery-solving mutt, teams up for the first time with Courage the Cowardly Dog. The canine colleagues sniff out a strange object in the middle of Nowhere, Kansas, the backwoods hometown of Courage and his owners, Eustace and Muriel Bagge. Soon, the mysterious discovery puts them on the trail of a giant cicada monster and her wacky winged warriors. Fred, Velma, Daphne and Shaggy know that this job is too big for a flyswatter. They’ll need the help of the doggy duo to piece together the puzzle. Can Scooby and Courage overcome their jitters and defeat the insect army before the whole world bugs out? Try not to get scared. We double-dog dare you!

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, James Davis Nicoll, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little.]

Pixel Scroll 6/5/21 Scroll Up The Usual Pixels

(1) NEBULA MUSIC. The 56th Annual Nebula Award winners post is at the link. Below, you can watch host Aydrea Walden’s fantastic song referencing all 40 finalists, then hear the great acceptance speeches:

(2) DEBARKLE. Camestros Felapton’s history of the Puppy slates and how they illuminate right wing politics has reached the announcement of the 2015 Hugo finalists, which were overwhelmingly Puppy: “Debarkle Chapter 39: April — Part 1, the Finalists”.

…In the headline Best Novel category, the combined Sad and Rabid Puppy slates had won three of the five finalist positions but would have won four out of five if Correia had not withdrawn. The Sad Puppy nominated Baen book Trial by Fire by Charles E. Gannon and the Rabid Puppy nominated Baen book The Chaplain’s War by Brad Torgersen both fell a few votes short of being a finalist. The addition of Correia’s withdrawal meant that despite everything, once again no Baen novels were Hugo finalists. In an added irony, one of the two Tor published novels in the finalists was the Sad/Rabid Puppy nominated The Dark Between the Stars by Kevin J. Anderson.

In the next chapters, we will look at some of the immediate and later reactions to the Puppy sweep of the finalists. However, in this chapter, I want to concentrate on the shifting nature of the finalists.

In the days that followed many of the people co-opted by Torgersen and Day as nominees for their slates discussed their inclusion. Matthew David Surridge, a writer at The Black Gate fanzine and a nominee on both the Sad and Rabid Puppy slates for Best Fan Writer, explained that he had declined a nomination.

… Surridge had discovered accidentally that he was on the slates in February but thinking that it was unlikely that he’d be a finalist, he had ignored them. When contacted by the Hugo administrators, he declined. Surridge declining meant that Laura Mixon, author of the report on Requires Hate, became a finalist, which also meant that Best Fan Writer had one non-Puppy nominated finalist.

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman gets to break a 428-day streak with Karen Osborne in Episode 146 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Karen Osborne

Up until my meal with writer Karen Osborne on which you’ll be eavesdropping this episode, it had been 428 days since I’d last seen an unmasked face other than my wife or son. (Except on Zoom, that is.) Due to COVID-19, I hadn’t been able to pull off that kind face-to-face chatting and chewing since Episode 117, recorded in March 2020 with the Pulitzer Prize-winning Michael Dirda. I’m more thrilled that I can possibly convey to begin the slow crawl back to a new normal.

Karen Osborne was a Nebula Award finalist last year for her short story “The Dead, In Their Uncontrollable Power.” Her fiction has appeared in UncannyFiresideEscape PodRobot Dinosaurs, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Her debut novel, Architects of Memory, the first book of The Memory War series, was published in September 2020 by Tor Books, and its sequel, Engines of Oblivion, was published this past February. She’s the emcee for the Charm City Spec reading series, has won a filmmaking award for taping a Klingon wedding, and most importantly, accompanied me on the theremin during my late-night ukulele singalong when I was Guest of Honor a few years back at the Baltimore World Fantasy Convention.

We discussed her biggest surprise after signing with an agent for her first novel, how she was able to celebrate the launch of that debut book and a Nebula nomination during the COVID-19 lockdown, what you need to keep in your head to never go wrong about a character’s motivations, how the Viable Paradise writing workshop taught her to lean in on her weird, the favorite line she’s ever written, how she wrote fanfic of her own characters to better understand them, why she doesn’t want her daughter to read her second novel until she’s 13, the way Star Trek: The Next Generation changed her life, how the Clarion workshop taught her to let go of caring what other people think of her writing, what Levar Burton means to her childhood, and much more.

(4) NOW FOR ANOTHER MUSICAL NUMBER. Nerdist says the promise is finally fulfilled: “Starlight’s Ballad from THE BOYS Season 2 Gets Full Music Video”.

Season two of The Boys put star Erin Moriarty’s musical chops on display. The first episode of the bunch set the action at the funeral of deceased Seven fixture Translucent; the emotional, and highly publicized event gave Moriarty’s character Starlight a chance to sing her heart out. However, viewers of the Amazon Prime series only got a snippet of the ballad, titled “Never Truly Vanished.” Creative forces behind the program always intended to release a longer version by way of a formal music video.

Showrunner Eric Kripke made mention of these plans to CinemaBlend back in September, just after the season had dropped online. As with so many other productions, constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic waylaid said plans. But now that things are a bit safer in the macro, the The Boys team has come together to give us the music video once promised. Take a gander below at Starlight’s rendition of “Never Truly Vanished.”

(5) SORTED. Patrick Susmilch at Hard Drive says “Progress: We Finally Have a Female Orson Scott Card” – and it’s J.K. Rowling.

Young adult fiction fans are rejoicing as the literature world finally has a female equivalent to Orson Scott Card now that J.K. Rowling’s recent series of anti-trans tweets and a 3,600 word essay have given them an opportunity to be disappointed by a female author’s hatred. 

“I’m used to seeing tears on a reader’s face when I explain that the author of Ender’s Game believes that homosexuality is caused by child abuse,” said librarian Jennifer Kinsley, “but it’s a huge step forward to have to explain to young fans that their favorite female author believes that only women menstruate and that trans women are secretly trying to molest them in gender-neutral bathrooms.”…

(6) CENTER NAMES FELLOWS. Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination has announced its inaugural class of Applied Imagination Fellows, “who will work over the next year on projects to catalyze transformative change and advance visions of inclusive futures in partnership with communities around the world.”

Congratulations to Regina Kanyu Wang who is one of them:

So excited and honored to be part of the cohort! I am an imagination fellow of CSI@ASU this year!

I will create a series of video interviews with female science fiction authors, editors and fans, as well as scientists and entrepreneurs, from across China, both to foreground the creative vitality of women imagining and creating the future and to explore how these creators promote nondualistic thinking in their work, as a way to reframe conflicts and imagine a more inclusive, harmonious future. This will also be part of my PhD project at CoFUTURES, UiO.

(7) THE 50K FURSUIT. Here is an interesting confluence of fandom, tech and venture capital: “$50,000 FURSUIT: crypto-fueled bidding smashes auction record at The Dealers Den”Dogpatch Press has the story.

The new all-time fursuit auction record is worth a nice car or some people’s yearly income. (Highest commission is a different number.) It’s been 3 years since the last record by MixedCandy: A look at furry business with a $17,017 record fursuit auction price, July 2018.

Shifting winds of tech and business helped make this possible; it has to do with porn, politics, and payment providers. We’ll get into that… but I’m sure that wasn’t on the mind of Zuri Studios and Sabi, the owner/maker based in the Czech Republic with a fluffalicious folio of “god tier fursuits“.

Sabi just found out there’s no business like sew business.

…Tripling the record since 2018 gets steaming hot takes on social media. How can any suit be worth so much? 

Like any painting or original object, it’s because something’s rare and someone’s willing to pay. (Try offering less for this one!) The price isn’t just the worth of one costume; it’s for years of school and practice, growing clients and a business, and developing networks for knowledge, trade and materials. Fursuits aren’t art to hang on the wall, they’re eye candy you hug at cons. When live events thrive, it makes a market. But you don’t have to fight for this fursuit when there’s makers for many budgets, who share free DIY maker knowledge. Just remember it isn’t a get-rich business, one fursuit isn’t a goldmine, the market isn’t cornered, and it’s not a payday for a big corporation. There’s more room for makers to be pro-fans when one can get such a big reward.

But how does that kind of purchasing power come from furries?…

(8) HWA PRIDE. Horror Writers Association starts its Pride Month thematic posts with “A Point of Pride: Interview with Greg Herren”.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?

Horror is one of the few forms of art—regardless of form, whether it’s the written word or a visual medium—that can evoke a visceral reaction from the audience—physical, emotional, intellectual—and I’ve always thought that was impressive.

I’ve always loved being scared (which is weird, now that I think about it). When I was a kid, my grandmother introduced me to crime and suspense movies, and she also loved what she called (and I still call them this in my head) “scary movies”—I don’t think she ever called them horror—and I also loved the haunted houses at amusement parks. I’ve always, as long as I can remember, been partial to ghost stories more than anything else….

(9) APPROVAL RATING. [Item by Rich Horton.] I stumbled into a Twitter thread about yesterday’s episode of Mythic Quest, which showed C. W. Longbottom working for “Amazing Tales” in 1972, and winning a Nebula for “Best Debut Novel” (!) in 1973 for a novel he wrote that Isaac Asimov basically rewrote …  And the Nebula they used was a misprinted Nebula made in 2005 that they got from Steven Silver! Thread starts here. (Mythic Quest is an uneven show, but when it’s on, it can be wonderful!)

(10) KRAFT OBIT. David Anthony Kraft, who worked on The Defenders, Captain America and Man-Wolf early in his career, died of complications of the coronavirus on May 19. The New York Times tribute is here: “David Anthony Kraft, Comic Book Writer and Chronicler, Dies at 68”.

…Growing up as a boy in small-town North Dakota, David Anthony Kraft escaped into the world of comic books. He read issues of The Incredible Hulk hidden in his textbooks at school. He trudged through snow during brutal winters to buy the latest adventure of Thor.

When he was 12, he decided to write his own comics, so he installed a desk and a lamp in a closet at home. His stepmother soon found him scribbling away.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“I’m writing,” he said. “This is my office.”

“What makes you think you can be a writer?”

“I will be a writer. And I’m going to work for Marvel.”

At least in his retelling, so began the real-life superhero origin story of David Anthony Kraft.

Soon enough, he sold a piece to Amazing Stories. In his teens, he wrote tales for pulpy horror comics. He developed a correspondence with Marvel’s offices in New York, and he kept asking about job openings. When he was 22, they asked him to try out for a junior staff position, and he drove to the city on his motorcycle, arriving at Marvel’s Midtown Manhattan headquarters in 1974.

Mr. Kraft became one of Marvel’s writers during the 1970s and ’80s. He was known for his work on The Defenders and on titles like Captain America and Man-Wolf. He wrote nearly the entire run of The Savage She-Hulk….

(11) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1971 — Fifty years ago at Noreascon I, the Hugo for Best Short Story went to Theodore Sturgeon for “Slow Sculpture”. It was published in Galaxy, February 1970. Other nominated works were  “Continued on Next Rock” by R. A. Lafferty (Orbit #7, 1970) “Jean Duprès” by Gordon R. Dickson (Nova #1, 1970) “In the Queue” by Keith Laumer [Orbit #7, 1970] “Brillo” by Ben Bova and Harlan Ellison (Analog, August 1970). It is available from the usual suspects in his Slow Sculpture collection at a very reasonable price.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 5, 1844 — L. T. Meade. Author of series aimed generally at girls but who wrote several genre series as well, to wit Stories of the Sanctuary ClubThe Brotherhood of the Seven Kings and The Sorceress of the Strand. All of these were co-written by Robert Eustace. Meade and Eustace also created the occult detective and palmist Diana Marburg in “The Oracle of Maddox Street” found initially in Pearson’s Magazine in 1902. (Died 1924.) (CE)
  • Born June 5, 1928 — Robert Lansing. He was secret agent Gary Seven in the “Assignment: Earth” episode of Trek. The episode was a backdoor pilot for a Roddenberry series that would have starred him and Teri Garr, but the series never happened.  He of course appeared on other genre series such as the Twilight ZoneJourney to the UnknownThriller and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. (Died 1994.) (CE)
  • Born June 5, 1899 – Boris Artzybasheff.  Prolific graphic artist in and out of our field; two hundred covers for Time (one was Craig Rice – pen name of Georgiana Craig – first mystery-fiction writer shown there, 28 Jan 46).  Here is his cover for The Circus of Dr. Lao – he did its interiors too; here is The Incomplete Enchanter.  Here is a commercial illustration, “Steel”; here is Buckminster Fuller.  Don’t miss Artzybasheff in Vincent Di Fate’s Infinite Worlds.  Book of his artwork, As I See (rev. 2008).  (Died 1965) [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1908 – John Fearn.  British author of SF, crime fiction, Westerns; fairground assistant, cinema projectionist; wrote under two dozen names.  Two hundred books in our field, two hundred eighty shorter stories.  Guest of Honour at Eastercon 2.  (Died 1960) [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1931 – Barbara Paul, age 90.  She says, “I did not grow up reading science fiction…. I was one of those smug mundanes who thought ‘sci-fi’ was all death-rays and aluminum-foil spacesuits and Robby the Robot.  (Well, maybe sci-fi is, but not SF.)  It wasn’t until my son, eleven at the time, handed me a book of short stories by Robert Sheckley that I began to realize what I’d been missing.”  For us, six novels (I’m counting Liars and Tyrants and People who Turn Blue, which depends upon a psychic character), a dozen and a half shorter stories; more of other kinds e.g. detectives.  [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1946 — John Bach, 75. Einstein on Farscape (though he was deliberately uncredited for most of the series), the Gondorian Ranger Madril in the second and third movies of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Also a British body guard on The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. And he was the body double for shooting Saruman in place of Christopher Lee, who was unable to fly to New Zealand for principal photography on The Hobbit film series. (CE) 
  • Born June 5, 1953 — Kathleen Kennedy, 68. Film producer responsible for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, her first film, and later produced the Jurassic Park franchise.  She’s been involved in over sixty films, I’d say of which at least half are genre, starting with Raiders of the Lost Ark  as an associate to Steven Spielberg. Amblin Films with her husband and Spielberg has produced many of the genre’s best loved films. (CE) 
  • Born June 5, 1960 – Margo Lanagan, age 61. A dozen novels, six dozen shorter stories, in our field; among the two dozen contributors to “Celebrating 50 Years of Locus” in Locus 687.  Four Ditmars, six Aurealis awards, three World Fantasy awards.  Recent collection, Stray Bats.  [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1964 – P.J. Haarsma, age 57.  Author, photographer.  Co-founder of Kids Need to Read.  Four Rings of Orbis books, two Spectrum comics (with Alan Tudyk, Sarah Stone) in that world, and an electronic role-playing game.  Crowd-funded $3.2 million to start Con Man (television).  Redbear Films commercial production.  [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1976 — Lauren Beukes, 45. South African writer and scriptwriter.  Moxyland, her first novel, is a cyberpunk novel set in a future Cape Town.  Zoo City, a hardboiled thriller with fantasy elements is set in a re-imagined Johannesburg. It won both the Arthur C. Clarke Award and a Kitschies Red Tentacle for best novel. And The Shining Girls would win her an August Derleth Award for Best Horror Novel. Afterland, her latest genre novel, was on the long list for a NOMMO. (CE) 
  • Born June 5, 1980 – Timo Kümmel, age 41.  One novel, five dozen covers, twoscore interiors.  Here is The Time Machine of Charlemagne.  Here is Hello Summer, Goodbye.  Here is Exodus 33.  Here is The Eternity Project.  Here is phantastisch! 81.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump features a celebrity’s relative.
  • Macanudo describes a particular danger of witchcraft:

(14) DROP A DIME, YOU CAN CALL ME ANYTIME. The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd weighs in on the government’s UFO report: “E.T., Phone Me!”

…Who on Earth wanted a “Friends” reunion, and why in heaven’s name doesn’t anyone from the Biden White House return my calls?

We must consider the terrestrials in our midst who seem very extraterrestrial. Mitch McConnell and Marjorie Taylor Greene are in no strict sense earthlings.

And yet not since Michael Rennie’s Klaatu and his all-powerful robot, Gort, landed their flying saucer on the Mall in the 1951 movie “The Day the Earth Stood Still” has the capital been so riveted by the possibility of aliens hovering.

Carbon-based life-forms are eagerly awaiting a report by intelligence officials about aerial phenomena lighting up the skies in recent years, mysterious objects witnessed and recorded by Navy pilots.

After reading The New York Times story on what the report will say, Luis Elizondo, who once ran the Pentagon’s secret program on U.F.O.s, tweeted, “If The New York Times reporting is accurate, the objects being witnessed by pilots around the world are far more advanced than any earthly technologies known to our intelligence services.”

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that a government that couldn’t get it together to prevent a primitive mob from attacking the seat of government on Jan. 6 can’t figure out a series of close encounters.

Could it be that we are not the center of the universe? The truth, if it’s out there, certainly isn’t in the report.

As Julian Barnes and Helene Cooper wrote in The Times, intelligence officials said they have found no evidence that the mysterious sightings are alien spacecraft. But they have also found no evidence that they’re not.

(15) THE LEADER. If your eyeballs haven’t been abused enough already, Jon Del Arroz takes his victory lap on Vox Day’s blog: “JDA defeats Worldcon” [Internet Archive link].

… I followed Vox’s lead and decided to fight it with everything I had. We filed suit for defamation and have been engaged in a long court battle for nearly 4 years. Finally, WorldCon opted to settle and wrote me a formal, public apology and gave us financial compensation…

(16) FINE BY FEYNMAN. Priyamvada Natarajan reviews three science books for The New York Review of Books in “All Things Great and Small”.

…Three new books examine our current understanding of matter’s origin and qualities, and chronicle our continuing quest to probe beyond atoms. Neutron Stars: The Quest to Understand the Zombies of the Cosmos by Katia Moskvitch, a science writer, explores recent research into the super-dense remains of stars ten times more massive than our Sun, whose precise material composition has eluded us. The astrophysicist Katie Mack’s The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking) shows how the contents of our universe—matter and energy—determine its destiny and, ultimately, its demise. In Fundamentals: Ten Keys to Reality, the physicist Frank Wilczek, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2004, addresses new discoveries that are leading to a reassessment of the atomic hypothesis. He explains how notions of matter have changed over the past decades from “all things are made of atoms” to “all things are made of elementary particles”—the expanding list of which includes quarks, gluons, muons, and the recently discovered Higgs boson….

(17) HISTORIC PLAQUE. Via Alison Scott:

(18) A WHIFF OF THINGTIME. Atlas Obscura traces “How a Giant, Stinky, Delightful Corpse Flower Got to an Abandoned Gas Station” and interviews its keeper.

…Many of us doted on houseplants, but probably not the way that Solomon Leyva did. Leyva lives in AlamedaCalifornia, an island just west of Oakland, where he raises and sells cacti, succulents, and rare plants. One of Leyva’s pandemic-era pals was a titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum), a gargantuan plant better known as the corpse flower on account of the unmistakably unsavory stench of its blooms. The plant usually shows off like this only once every several years—and when it does, its glorious fringe wilts after just a day or two. So, when Leyva’s titan arum bloomed in May, he lugged it onto a wagon and rolled it to a patch of asphalt in front of an abandoned gas station, so human neighbors could come say hello….

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Omori,” which comes with a spoiler warning, Fandom Games argues that Omori’s creators succeeded in creating one of the most depressing video games ever, with “a fairly simple story that stretched out to 20 hours.”

[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Scott Edelman, Peer, Rich Horton, Patch O’Furr, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]

Pixel Scroll 5/25/21 I Have No Button But I Must Correct That Typo

(1) STAR WARS AT 44. On the “realio trulio” Star Wars Day, Craig Miller posted two excerpts from his book, Star Wars Memories, on Facebook. Here’s a quote from the first part:

SAYING YES TO “STAR WARS” (FOX’S MARKET RESEARCH)

It wasn’t an easy sell to get a studio to okay production on “Star Wars”. George Lucas had made the extremely successful “American Graffiti” for Universal Studios. He had a three-picture deal with them. “American Graffiti” was the first. They wanted him to make more films for their studio. The whole purpose of a multi-picture deal, of providing on-going office space and services, is because the studio is betting that the films you make will be profitable and they want you to make those movies for them.

They turned “Star Wars” down.

The Readers Report, while generally favorable, included the phrase “Do we have faith that Mr. Lucas can pull this off?”. Obviously, Universal didn’t….

(2) TUCKERIZED TITANS. A new Teen Titans Go! episode titled ”Marv Wolfman and George Perez” will air this Saturday at 9 a.m. Pacific, featuring animated versions of their namesakes voiced by themselves. Marv and George were the co-creators of Raven, Starfire, and Cyborg, who were added to Robin and the other Titans.

(3) CORA MAKES THE PAPER AGAIN. The second of Cora Buhlert’s two local papers, the Weser-Kurier, published its coverage of her latest Hugo nomination came out today: “Cora Buhlert aus Seckenhausen ist erneut für den Hugo Award nominiert” – behind a paywall, unfortunately.

Here’s a link to a scan of the print edition, where you can actually read the whole thing, though it’s still in German: “Neue Aussichten Auf die Rakete” (“New prospects for the rocket”).

 (4) CGI ZOMBIES. What, the studio wasn’t willing to hire real zombies? “Zack Snyder Breaks Down a Zombie Heist Scene from ‘Army of the Dead’” for Vanity Fair.

In this episode of ‘Notes On A Scene,’ Director Zack Snyder breaks down a zombie heist scene from ‘Army of the Dead.’ Zack guides us through the nuances and challenges of working with CGI zombies, and explains how he was able to edit Tig Notaro into his ‘Army of the Dead’ universe.

(5) IN CASE YOU WERE IN DANGER OF FORGETTING. Reddit’s u/caeciliusinhorto explicates a very sensitive bit of recent fanhistory: “Pounded in the Butt by the 2019 Hugo Award for Best Related Work, or Who Can Call Themselves Hugo Award Winners?” The lengthy analysis begins mysteriously —

Many months ago I found myself on r/fanfiction explaining the history of the AO3 tag “Serious Human Male/Handsome Gay Living Archive”, and made a mental note that it would make a good HobbyDrama post if I wrote it up more comprehensively….

— and ends a mere 2700 words later with a link to the Tingle-esque work involved.

(6) REAR GUARD ACTION. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Isaac Asimov, in his autobiography In Joy Still Felt, discusses a Star Trek convention he went to in New York City in 1975.

The climax of the convention came on Sunday the twelfth (January 12, 1975), when William Shatner (Captain Kirk) spoke before a superenthusiastic audience of more than four thousand, who filled the seats and aisles to capacity.  Shatner answered all questions with good humor and unpretentiousness and had everyone enthralled. When it was time to leave, he explained to everyone there was no way he could sign autographs for such huge a crowd and made ready to get off the stage.

At this point, the young man who organized the convention whispered in my ear, ‘Quick!  Get on the stage and hold the audience so that Shatner can get away.’

I said, ‘They’ll tear me limb from limb.’

But he was physically pushing me onto the stage while one of his henchmen was busily announcing me.

I started talking–babbling, rather.I waited for a mad, furious rush on the part of disappointed ‘Star Trek’ fanatics, but it didn’t come.  They seemed to be enjoying me, actually, and I was just beginning to relax and settle down when the organizer approached and said, ‘Shatner’s safely away.  Get off, so we can get on with the program.’  So I got off.

Talk about being used!

(7) CAN NEVER LEAVE WELL ENOUGH ALONE. James Davis Nicoll tells you about attempts to terraform Terra in “Five Stories About Alien Attempts to Reshape the Earth” at Tor.com.

All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka (Trans. Alexander O. Smith) (2004)

The aliens who dispatched the engineered lifeforms humans call Mimics did stop to consider the morality of xenoforming a world that might well be inhabited. But they concluded that xenoforming would be as ethically neutral as killing insects to make way for housing construction. No need to examine Earth before reshaping it.

Keiji Kiriya, human, thinks human needs are more important than alien schemes. Thus, his brief, glorious career in Earth’s defence forces. Thus his inevitable death the first time he encounters Mimics. His resurrection in the past—on the morning before the first battle—comes as an unexpected surprise. Alas, the results of the rerun battle are little better than the first. The same is true of the second. And the third…but by death 157, Keiji is getting the hang of the time loop in which he is trapped and well on his way to figuring out how he might save the Earth for humans.

(8) M.I.T. SF COURSE. MIT News discusses the aims of the institute’s sff course: “Inhabiting 21st-century science fiction”.

In March, literary heavyweights Kazuo Ishiguro and Neil Gaiman — a Nobel laureate, and the beloved author of “American Gods,” “Sandman,” and “Good Omens,” respectively — convened at an independent bookstore event to discuss genre and science fiction.

They arrived at twin conclusions: one, that rigid genre distinctions between literary works promote an unproductive and false hierarchy of worth, and two, that the 21st century is a very tricky time to attempt to define “science fiction” at all. Gaiman said that he increasingly feels genre “slippage where science fiction is concerned” because, he says, “the world has become science fiction.” The hacking exploits in William Gibson’s novel “Neuromancer” or the sequencing of an entire genome overnight no longer belong to the realm of fantasy.

For MIT students, the permeable relationship between reality and science fiction is often familiar territory. In their labs and research projects, students and faculty experience personally the process by which imaginative ideas turn into new techniques, possibilities, medicines, tools, and technologies. (And they learn that many such new realities actually have had their origins in speculative literature.)

Students in the MIT Literature course 21L.434 (21st Century Science Fiction), taught by Assistant Professor Laura Finch, also discover that science fiction is a powerful, useful way to think about and understand the world we currently inhabit…. 

(9) ROBOT CREDENTIALS. Katie Engelhart parses “What Robots Can—and Can’t—Do for the Old and Lonely” in The New Yorker.

It felt good to love again, in that big empty house. Virginia Kellner got the cat last November, around her ninety-second birthday, and now it’s always nearby. It keeps her company as she moves, bent over her walker, from the couch to the bathroom and back again. The walker has a pair of orange scissors hanging from the handlebar, for opening mail. Virginia likes the pet’s green eyes. She likes that it’s there in the morning, when she wakes up. Sometimes, on days when she feels sad, she sits in her soft armchair and rests the cat on her soft stomach and just lets it do its thing. Nuzzle. Stretch. Vibrate. Virginia knows that the cat is programmed to move this way; there is a motor somewhere, controlling things. Still, she can almost forget. “It makes you feel like it’s real,” Virginia told me, the first time we spoke. “I mean, mentally, I know it’s not. But—oh, it meowed again!”

She named the cat Jennie, for one of the nice ladies who work at the local Department of the Aging in Cattaraugus County, a rural area in upstate New York, bordering Pennsylvania. It was Jennie (the person) who told her that the county was giving robot pets to old people like her. Did she want one? She could have a dog or a cat. A Meals on Wheels driver brought Virginia the pet, along with her daily lunch delivery. He was so eager to show it to her that he opened the box himself, instead of letting Virginia do it. The Joy for All Companion pet was orange with a white chest and tapered whiskers. Nobody mentioned that it was part of a statewide loneliness intervention….

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • May 25, 1977 — On this day in 1977, Star Wars premiered. Later retitled as Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, it was written and directed by George Lucas. You know who the cast is so we’ll not list all of them here. Lucas envisioned the film as being in the tradition of Buck Rogers which he originally intended to remake but couldn’t get the rights to.  Reception by critics and fans alike alike was fantastic with IguanaCon II voting it the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo over Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It holds a stellar ninety-six percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 25, 1915 – DeeDee Lavender.  Four decades an active fan with husband Roy Lavender.  Together served a term as Secretary-Treasurer of the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n).  They’re in Harlan Ellison’s forewords to his collections I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream and Angry Candy; they knew Leigh Brackett & Edmond Hamilton, and were guests at the B&H homes in Ohio and California.  They were part of a Southern California fannish social group called the Petards, named by one of Rick Sneary’s famous misspellings, hoist for host.  Here she is with Roy at a Petards meeting in 1983, and thirty years earlier in New York (L to R, Bea Mahaffey, Hannes Bok, DeeDee, Roy, Stan Skirvin).  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born May 25, 1916 – Charles Hornig.  Published his fanzine The Fantasy Fan in 1933, thus First Fandom (i.e. active by at least the first Worldcon, 1939), and hired, age 17, by Hugo Gernsback to edit Wonder Stories.  Founded the SF League with HG; later edited Fantasy; also Future and Science Fiction (they eventually combined); SF Quarterly.  See his notes on Nycon I, the first Worldcon, here. (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born May 25, 1926 – Phyllis Gotlieb.  Prix Aurora for A Judgement of Dragons (note spelling; she was Canadian).  The Sunburst Award is named for her first novel.  A dozen SF novels, a score of shorter stories, eight poetry collections – the first being Who Knows One?  Among her husband’s Physics students was Cory Doctorow’s father.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born May 25, 1935 — W. P. Kinsella. Best I’d say known for his novel Shoeless Joe which was adapted into the movie Field of Dreams, one of the few films that Kevin Costner is a decent actor in, ironic as the other is Bull Durham. Kinsella’s other genre novel is The Iowa Baseball Confederacy and it’s rather less well known than Shoeless Joe is but it’s excellent as well. He also edited Baseball Fantastic, an anthology of just what the title says they are. Given that he’s got eighteen collections of short stories listed on his wiki page, I’m reasonably sure his ISFDB page doesn’t come close to listing all his short stories. (Died 2016.) (CE)
  • Born May 25, 1939 — Ian McKellen, 82. Best known for being Magneto in the X-Men films, and Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. I’m fairly sure his first genre role was as Dr. Faustus in an Edinburgh production of that play in the early Seventies. He also played Macbeth at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre during that period. He’d played Captain Hook in Peter Pan at The Royal National Theatre, and was the voice of the Demon in The Exorcist in the UK tour of that production. Of course he was Dr. Reinhardt Lane in The Shadow, The Narrator in Stardust, Sherlock Holmes in Mr. Holmes, Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast and finally he’s  the Gus the Theatre Cat in the best forgotten Cats. (CE)
  • Born May 25, 1946 — Frank Oz, 75. Actor, director including The Dark Crystal, Little Shop of Horrors and the second version of The Stepford Wives, producer and puppeteer. His career began as a puppeteer, where he performed the Muppet characters of Animal, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, and oh-so-patriotic Sam Eagle in The Muppet Show, and Cookie Monster, Bert, and Grover in Sesame Street. Genre wise, he’s also known for the role of Yoda in the Star Wars franchise. An interesting Trivia note: he’s in the Blues Brothers as a Corrections Officer, and is the Warden in Blues Brothers 2000. (CE)
  • Born May 25, 1949 — Barry Windsor-Smith, 72. Illustrator and painter, mostly for Marvel Comics. Oh, his work on Conan the Barbarian in the early Seventies was amazing, truly amazing! And then there was the original Weapon X story arc involving Wolverine which still ranks among the best stories told largely because of his artwork. And let’s not forget that he and writer Roy Thomas created Red Sonja as partially based on Howard’s characters Red Sonya of Rogatino and Dark Agnes de Chastillon. (CE)
  • Born May 25, 1950 – Kathryn Daugherty.  Engineer.  Married four decades to James Stanley Daugherty.  At Bucconeer the 56th Worldcon, headed Contents of Tables; a typo made it “Contests of Tables”: in each newsletter I announced “Today’s winner is the Picnic”, “Today’s winner is the Periodic”.  Chaired Westercon LIII, a hard one: it was at Honolulu, see my report here [PDF; p. 11]. Luckily not exhausted; she and JSD were Fan Guests of Honor at Baycon 2001, Loscon 36.  OGH’s appreciation here.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born May 25, 1953 – Stan Sakai, age 68.  Lettered Groo the Wanderer comics; since 1984, author of Usagi Yôjinbô comics about samurai rabbit Miyamoto Usagi, who has (wouldn’t you know it) crossed paths with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  The rônin life is hard.  During the most recent Year of the Rabbit (2011), the Japanese-American Nat’l Museum in Los Angeles had an Usagi Yôjinbô exhibit.  Parents’ Choice award, an Inkpot, six Eisners, an Inkwell, two Harveys, two Haxturs (Spain), a Plumilla de Plata (Mexico), a Cultural Ambassador award, and a Nat’l Cartoonists Society award.  [JH]
  • Born May 25, 1966 — Vera Nazarian, 55. To date, she has written ten novels including Dreams of the Compass Rose, what I’d called a mosaic novel structured as a series of interlinked stories similar in tone to The One Thousand and One Nights that reminds me more than a bit of Valente’s The Orphans Tales. She’s the publisherof Norilana Books which publishes such works as Catherynne M. Valente’s Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress anthologies,and Tabitha Lee’s Lee’s Sounds and Furies. (CE)
  • Born May 25, 1982 – Bertrand Bonnet, age 39.  Six dozen reviews in Bifrost (French-language prozine; European SF Society award for Best Magazine, 2016), of Blish, Herbert, Le Guin, Pohl (with and without Kornbluth), Resnick, Strugatsky, Tolkien (including the Letters, yay).  [JH]

(12) HIS SHIP CAME IN. “Working for Marvel Comics is a dream come true for Malaysian artist Alan Quah”, and it’s not a 9-to-5 job he says in a Yahoo! profile.

What is it like being a Marvel Comics artist? For Malaysian artist Alan Quah, it is nothing short of having a wish granted.

“It is a dream come true, because I collected Marvel Comics when I was really really young. When I became a teenager I drew comics for a living, then I left the [comics] industry for 15 years to venture into advertising. Then I came back and tried my luck drawing comics for the American market again,” said Alan Quah, who became a cover artist for Marvel Comics in late January this year.

The Petaling Jaya-based artist mainly does comic book covers for Marvel Comics in a work-for-hire agreement. In the United States, comics retailers may sometimes commission a cover for an issue of a comic. These covers are known as retailer exclusive variant covers. Comics retailers will liaise with Marvel Comics to determine the requirements and specifications of the cover art. Marvel Comics will then get in touch with Quah to create the artwork, along with all the relevant stakeholders.

Since joining Marvel Comics, he has worked on covers for the following titles: Alien, The Spider’s Shadow, Venom, and The Marvels (not related to the 1994 series Marvels, which was told from the perspective of man-on-the-street Phil Sheldon)….

(13) I KNOW — YOU’RE FROM THE SIXTIES! A teaser trailer for Last Night in Soho has dropped. Opens in theaters this October.

Edgar Wright’s psychological thriller about a young girl, passionate in fashion design, who is mysteriously able to enter the 1960s where she encounters her idol, a dazzling wannabe singer. But 1960s London is not what it appears, and time seems to fall apart with shady consequences…

(14) FASHION SHOW. Someone on eBay is selling this UFO-themed “Space Shopping” Hermes scarf.  They want $629 – but you can pay on monthly installments! This is not something to blow your nose on.

(15) IN THE BELLY OF THE BEAST. “Body of missing man found in Spanish dinosaur statue” – the BBC reports how he got there.

Spanish police are investigating the death of a 39-year-old man whose body was found inside a dinosaur statue.

Authorities were alerted on Saturday after a father and his son noticed a smell emanating from the papier-mâché figure in Santa Coloma de Gramenet, a suburb of Barcelona.

The father then saw the corpse through a crack in the Stegosaurus’ hollow leg.

Police said the man had been reported missing by his family, and no foul play is suspected.

Three fire brigade teams were called to scene after the body was discovered, and firefighters cut open the dinosaur leg to retrieve it.

Local media report the man – who has not been named – was trying to retrieve a mobile phone he dropped inside the statue. He then fell inside the decorative figure and was left trapped upside down, unable to call for help.

(16) IT MAY BE NEWS TO YOU. “Rachel Bloom sings Season’s of Love… in Klingon!” at the 2011 Worldcon.

Rachel Bloom’s performance at Renovation, the 69th World Science Fiction Convention. She was at the convention because her song “Fuck Me Ray Bradbury” was nominated for a Hugo award. Sorry about the poor lighting. The room was set up for a disco, and Rachel gave a short performance.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Pokémon Snap”, Fandom Games says that this Pokémon movie where you take photos instead of shooting people, is the gaming equivalent of “a little amusement park ride and some photos at the end.”

[Thanks to David K.M. Klaus, N., Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Tom Galloway, Cora Buhlert, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Cat Rambo.]

Pixel Scroll 5/17/21 I’m Going To Play Jenga With My Mount-To-Be-Read

(1) HOLMES BOOK BOUND FOR LUNA. Science fiction and fantasy author V.S. Holmes will be one of the authors whose debut novel is getting sent to the moon. The book, appropriately called Travelers, is the first book in Holmes’ archaeological sci-fi series and will be included on the Peregrine Moon Lander as part of the Writers on the Moon Time Capsule launching in the fall of 2021. (See the 125 writers and 8 stowaways on the Manifest.)

Holmes is an archaeologist by day and author by night, They also write with a disability and their works tend to have focus within the LGBTQ community. Despite the challenges, they have become an international bestseller as well as award winner. They also work as an advocate for disabled and queer representation in SFF worlds.

Travelers, first book in the Stars Edge series, tells this story:

No one fights dirtier than an archaeologist. Dr. Nel Bently has barely dug into Chile’s dry earth when her pristine site is vandalized. Her archaeologist’s dream of a ground-breaking project funded by a private patron turns into a nightmare: local activists Los Pobladores take issue with anyone brave–or stubborn–enough to set boots on their land. And foul-mouthed Nel is stubborn as they come. Despite the danger, Nel refuses to surrender her site to vandals. Easier said than done, however, with the greenest crew she’s ever trained, absurd radiocarbon dates, and angry militants who may actually have a point. When Los Pobledores land a blow that turns Nel’s world upside down, she realizes her mysterious benefactor is playing chess with their lives. Grief-stricken and angrier than ever, Nel is ready to fight dirty.

And the fourth novel in Holmes’ Stars Edge series — Heretics – was just released on May 8.

Hot-tempered Dr. Nel Bently is not cut out to save the world. After her last project ended in fire and death, Nel must put aside her distrust of just about everyone and embark on a lo-fi search for a deadly radio transmission.

Earth’s survivors are torn between the austere superpower of IDH and the high-tech grassroots Los Pobledores. At every turn more allies go missing and Nel questions where everyone’s true loyalties lie–and on which side Lin will fall when a line is finally drawn.

They need experts. They need firepower. But it looks like the only thing standing between Earth and devastation is Nel: archaeologist, asshole, and functioning alcoholic with anger issues.

(2) BLACK LITERATURE MATTERS. New York Society Library will host a livestreamed event “Black Literature Matters: 1960-Now” on Thursday, May 20 at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Free and open to the public – register at the link.

In this original series of live online events, Black writers from the 1700s to the present are re-examined to inspire understanding of race in our country today.

Black Literature Matters celebrates Black writers in four extraordinary evenings. This final event of the series showcases brief excerpts from the work of writers from 1960 to the present including Maya Angelou, Toni Cade Bambara, Octavia Butler (shown here), Pearl Cleague, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Angela Davis, Ernest Gaines, Alex Haley, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Haki Madhabuti, Terry McMillan, Toni Morrison, Lynn Nottage, Malcolm X, Sonia Sanchez, Gil Scott-Heron, Ntozake Shange, Danez Smith, Derek Walcott, Alice Walker, and August Wilson.

Head Librarian Carolyn Waters and Columbia University’s Dr. Farah Jasmine Griffin introduce the writers, their worlds, and their impact, with dramatic readings by actors Shontelle Thrash and Geoffrey D. Williams.

As New York City’s oldest cultural institution, we are honored to do our part to highlight the thousands of stories by African American writers contained within our building and acquired since the 1700s.

(3) PROFESSOR TIDHAR. Lavie Tidhar announced his new appointment as Visiting Professor and Writer in Residence at Richmond.

It’s official (here’s a short announcement) – I will be a Visiting Professor and Writer in Residence at Richmond, The American International University in London. I look forward to engaging with the university!

(For any Ted Lasso fans out there – yes, it’s that Richmond).

I taught Richmond’s undergraduate British Fantasy Fiction course several times in the past (a steep learning curve! And what led me to eventually write By Force Alone and The Hood) and have been involved in setting up the brand-new MA In Film: Science Fiction and Fantasy, which will run from this year. Depending on demand, I may also run a Creative Writing undergraduate course at some point.

(4) MULTIPLE FUTURES. April Yee’s review article for Salon, “In the latest wave of science fiction, authors of color take space to imagine multiple new societies”, looks at Brenda Peynado’s The Rock Eaters, E.C. Osondu’s Alien Worlds, and Izumi Suzuki’s Terminal Boredom.

Today writers are employing speculative fiction to pick apart the system built on racism – contemporary extractive capitalism – as well as the large-scale displacements resulting from imbalances in the safety and wealth of nations, or what we refer to as immigration. In lieu of epic series, many of these new releases come in the form of short story collections, which allow the imagination of a multiplicity of futures in order to reflect a multiplicity of readers. Three recent collections from writers with roots in Nigeria, Japan, and the Dominican Republic direct their slant lenses toward capitalism, patriarchy, and white supremacy….

(5) AT&T AND DISCOVERY MERGER PLANS. AT&T and Discovery Inc. have made it official, unveiling their plan to merge their media and entertainment assets in a deal that will bring together TV channels like CNN, TBS, TNT, HGTV, Food Network and Discovery Channel, the Warner Bros. film studio, and streaming services HBO Max and Discovery+. Details in The Hollywood Reporter: “WarnerMedia-Discovery Merger: AT&T and Discovery Detail Merger Terms”.

(6) A POWELL’S CONVERSATION. Powell’s Books presents Suyi Davies Okungbowa in conversation with S. A. Chakraborty on May 18 at 05:00 p.m. Pacific. Zoom webinar registration at the link.

From Suyi Davies Okungbowa, one of the most exciting new storytellers in epic fantasy, comes Son of the Storm (Orbit), a sweeping tale of violent conquest and forgotten magic set in a world inspired by the precolonial empires of West Africa. In the ancient city of Bassa, Danso is a clever scholar on the cusp of achieving greatness — only he doesn’t want it. Instead, he prefers to chase forbidden stories about what lies outside the city walls. The Bassai elite claim there is nothing of interest. The city’s immigrants are sworn to secrecy. But when Danso stumbles across a warrior wielding magic that shouldn’t exist, he’s put on a collision course with Bassa’s darkest secrets. Drawn into the city’s hidden history, he sets out on a journey beyond its borders. And the chaos left in the wake of his discovery threatens to destroy the empire. Okungbowa will be joined in conversation by S. A. Chakraborty, author of The Daevabad Trilogy.

(7) A LOOK AT LOKI. Disney + dropped this excerpt from Loki today: “’Introducing Agent Mobius’ Clip”.

(8) KAYE OBIT. Marvin Kaye (1938-2021), a mystery, fantasy, science fiction, and horror author and editor, died May 13. He was a World Fantasy Award winner and was a past editor of Weird Tales Magazine. His daughter, Terry Kaye, made this statement:

Well, there are really no words that I can put together at this moment in time, so this will be a relatively short post. More later as the memories come and the brain starts functioning again. It may be a while.

My dad, Marvin Kaye, passed away last night about 8:35 pm. He was in hospice care, calm and not suffering, and I will always be grateful that my vaccination date and subsequent cross-country slog got me to New York in time to see him, have him see me, and make a few final memories before his disease completely overtook him and his body shut down.

We will have a small ceremony for close/local friends this Sunday and then a larger, hybrid in-person and zoom memorial in the next several weeks. I will post more info about that as we know more.

I am beyond grateful for the love and support of my family and friends here in NYC, in LA, and everywhere in between. I’m not going to list all the names but you know. It’s like I am surrounded in a huge hug from all sides. I feel it all.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

1981 — In 1981 at Devention Two, The Empire Strikes Back which was released the previous year by Lucasfilm won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. Other nominated works were Lathe of Heaven, the Cosmos series, The Martian Chronicles and Flash Gordon.  It was directed by Irvin Kershner from the screenplay by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan with story by being George Lucas. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 17, 1918 – Darrell Richardson.  Baptist minister, authority on Frederick Faust (who wrote as “Max Brand”) and Edgar Burroughs, collector (30,000 books, 20,000 pulps).  Early member of Cincinnati Fantasy Group.  Co-founded Memphis SF Ass’n, who named their Darrell Award for Mid-South regional work after him.  Served as a director of the Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n; compiled two 1947-1948 indexes, one of authors, one of publications. Member of First Fandom.  Lamont, Phoenix awards.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1919 – Ronald Cassill. Professor at Brown University.  Two exhibits of his artwork in Chicago; two stories reprinted in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  O. Henry short-story prize, American Academy of Arts & Letters Award for Literature. Edited a Norton Anthology of Contemporary Fiction (2nd ed’n 1997), included Ursula LeGuin, Gabriel García Márquez, other SF. (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1936 – Lars Gustafsson, Ph.D.  Ahrvid Engholm thinks LG’s novel Bernard Foy’s Third Castling is SF, and AE is often right.  I haven’t found The Strange Animal From the Northin English; half a dozen others, as many books of poetry, are, though not SF.  Prix Int’l Charles Veillon des Essais, Gerard-Bonnier Prize, Goethe Medal, Thomas Mann Prize, Nonino Prize, Zbigniew Herbert Award.  See here.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1936 Dennis Hopper. I think his genre film would be Tarzan and Jane Regained… Sort of, an Andy Warhol film. Queen of Blood, a vampire thinly disguised as SF film, was his next genre film. My Science Project was his next outing before he took part in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. And now we get to the Super Mario Bros. where he played King Koopa. What a weird film that was! Of he followed that by being Deacon on Waterworld… And then doing Space Truckers. Ouch. He’s El Niño in The Crow: Wicked Prayer, a film I barely remember. His final role was voicing one of the animated wolves in Alpha and Omega. He was also in Blue Velvet but I’ll be damned if I can figure out how to call that genre. (Died 2010.) (CE) 
  • Born May 17, 1946 F. Paul Wilson, 75. I’ve read, let me check, oh, about half I see of the Repairman Jack novels. Anyone finished them off and should I do so? What else by him is worth my time? (CE) 
  • Born May 17, 1948 – Amanda Cockrell, age 73.  Professor at Hollins University.  Nine novels for us, about deer dancers, goddesses, horse catchers.  What We Keep Is Not Always What Will Stay named one of the best children’s books of 2011 by The Boston Globe.  [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1950 Mark Leeper, 71. As Mark says on his site, “In and out of science fiction circles Mark and Evelyn Leeper are one of the best known writing couples on the Internet. Mark became an avid science fiction fan at age six with TV’s “Commando Cody.” Both went to the University of Massachusetts in 1968.” And as OGH says here, their MT VOID fanzine is one of the longest published ones still going. (CE) 
  • Born May 17, 1954 Bryce Zabel, 67. A producer, director and writer. Genre wise, he’s been involved as a producer or director with M.A.N.T.I.S.Dark SkiesBlackbeardLois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and The Crow: Stairway to Heaven. Writing wise, he written for most of these shows plus the Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and Atlantis: The Lost Empire screenplays. (CE) 
  • Born May 17, 1954 Colin Greenland, 67. His partner is the Susanna Clarke, with whom he has lived since 1996. The Entropy Exhibition: Michael Moorcock and the British ‘New Wave’ in Science Fiction study is based on his PhD thesis. His most successful fictional work is the Plenty series that starts with Take Back Plenty and continues with Seasons of PlentyThe Plenty Principle and wraps up with Mother of Plenty. In the Eighties and Ninties, he was involved in the editorial work of Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction and Interzone. (CE)
  • Born May 17, 1958 – Dave Sim, age 63.  Perpetrator of Cerebus the Aardvark.  Three short stories, one cover, twenty interiors.  Harvey Award.  Canadian Comic Book Creator Hall of Fame.  [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1974 – Grace Lin, age 47.  Five novels for us, many others, aimed at children, which often happens with fantasy.  GL has helpfully been including Chinese matter – or energy – hmm – in English-language writing.  Graphics are easier – maybe – and you’ll see some at her Website; as it happens she is also a graphic artist.  She’s managed to make her signature block look like Chinese seal-writing; of course there are clouds and a dragon.  [JH]

(10) JEOPARDY! On tonight’s Jeopardy!, Andrew Porter saw a contestant have problems with this one:

Category: Essays

Answer: An essay that she wrote about marine life called “World of Waters” was published in 1937 as “Undersea.”

Wrong question: Who is Ursula Le Guin?

Correct question: Who is Rachel Carson?

(11) CHECK IT OUT. “First Look: DC’s Newest Library Is a Stunner” says Washingtonian.

The DC Public Library system has garnered a reputation for creating functional public buildings that are also beautiful spaces. The Southwest Library will join DCPL’s collection of recently revamped facilities, reopening on Saturday, May 15, with an $18 million building.

…Planked ceilings pay homage to the wooden canopy at nearby theater Arena Stage. A massive photo spanning the library’s two floors depicts the Potomac River in 1885, and it’s functional, too: Made of perforated metal with felt backing, the artwork helps absorb sound in the open space.

(12) TRYING TO IDENTIFY. CBS News’ Sunday Morning show did a segment on “UFO studies and the possibility of alien origin”; video at the link.

We’ve always been fascinated by aliens, and that’s putting it mildly. And mathematically speaking, aliens should exist.

“There are two trillion other galaxies we can see, each with a 100 billion Earth-like worlds,” said Seth Shostak , the senior astronomer at the SETI Institute. [SETI stands for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.] “100 billion, OK? It’s hard to believe they’re all sterile.”

Correspondent David Pogue asked, “I happen to know that this is sort of a trick question when people say, ‘Do UFOs exist?'”

“Well, I mean, obviously UFOs exist, ’cause that just means unidentified flying objects,” Shostak said. “But the real issue here is not that you see things in the sky, it’s what you claim they might be.”

Author and investigative journalist Leslie Kean said, “You just can’t assume if you see something in the sky that looks a little weird that it’s some kind of alien thing, which is what a lot of people assume. Most sightings that people have – Oh, I see something in the sky! – those kinds of sightings can usually be explained: The planet Venus, airplanes, comets, shooting stars, birds. Let’s say five to ten percent are the cases that any conventional explanation can be ruled out; those are the cases that are of interest.”

In 2017, Kean coauthored a New York Times story that revealed the existence of, believe it or not, a secret Pentagon program devoted to studying UFO sightings….

60 Minutes also did its own UFO segment: “UFOs regularly spotted in restricted U.S. airspace, report on the phenomena due next month”.

We have tackled many strange stories on 60 Minutes, but perhaps none like this. It’s the story of the U.S. government’s grudging acknowledgment of unidentified aerial phenomena— UAP—more commonly known as UFOs. After decades of public denial the Pentagon now admits there’s something out there, and the U.S. Senate wants to know what it is. The intelligence committee has ordered the director of national intelligence and the secretary of defense to deliver a report on the mysterious sightings by next month.

Bill Whitaker: So what you are telling me is that UFOs, unidentified flying objects, are real?

Lue Elizondo: Bill, I think we’re beyond that already. The government has already stated for the record that they’re real. I’m not telling you that. The United States government is telling you that. 

Luis Elizondo spent 20 years running military intelligence operations worldwide: in Afghanistan, the Middle East and Guantanamo. He hadn’t given UFOs a second thought until 2008. That’s when he was asked to join something at the Pentagon called the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, or “AATIP.”…

(13) A QUARTER CENTURY OF POKÉMON. The Week reports “Katy Perry released a new music video starring … Pikachu”.

In January, The Pokémon Company announced that it was teaming up with Universal Music Group artists to celebrate its 25th anniversary.

…On Friday, Katy Perry shared her own contribution to the anniversary celebrations: a video for her new single “Electric,” in which she travels back in time with her Pikachu to make her younger self enter a talent show. Though the song sounds like it belongs on a TJ Maxx playlist (“there’s no reason that this life can’t be electric!”), it’s at least more on-brand for Pokémon than Hootie and the Blowfish.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “In Pirates of the Caribbean At World’s End Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says that “physics and probability aren’t the thing” in this Pirates movie because “every time Jack Sparrow gets on a rope, he turns into Spider-Man.”

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Title credit goes to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 5/5/21 Soon May The Filerman Come To Bring Us Books And Cats And Rum

(1) SPEAK FRIEND. Guy Gavriel Kay will deliver the 2021 J.R.R. Tolkien Lecture on Fantasy Literature, an annual lecture on fantasy literature held at Pembroke College, Oxford. The digital lecture will take place on Tuesday, May 11th, 6 PM BST (1 PM ET).

Kay has published fourteen novels which have been translated into 30 languages and have appeared on bestseller lists around the world. He is also the author of the poetry collection, Beyond This Dark House. His most recent work is A Brightness Long Ago.

Before beginning his career as a novelist, Kay was retained by the Estate of J.R.R. Tolkien to assist in the editorial construction of The Silmarillion, the first and best-known of the posthumously published Tolkien works. Called to the Bar of Ontario in 1980, he has also been principal writer and associate producer for the CBC’s award-winning crime-drama series, The Scales of Justice. 

Register to attend on Zoom, or watch the livestream on their YouTube channel. Zoom capacity will be limited but YouTube capacity is not. Both Zoom and YouTube will broadcast at the same time.

(2) WHEN EVERYONE GOES BLISSFULLY ASTRAY. Yahoo! reports two LOTR actors are starting a podcast in May. “’The Lord Of The Rings’: Dominic Monaghan & Billy Boyd Launch Podcast”.

The pair, who played hobbits Merry and Pippin in The Lord of the Rings, are launching a podcast about the hit film franchise.

The duo are launching The Friendship Onion with podcast producer Kast Media and the series will premiere on May 18. They will bring banter, stories and comedy to the podcasting space, each week digging into the latest in pop culture, put fans’ Lord of the Rings knowledge to the test, reveal exclusive stories from filming and maybe even welcome surprise drop-ins from famous faces.

Monaghan, who is also known for his role on Lost, played Meriadoc ‘Merry’ Brandybuck in the films, close friend to Frodo Baggins, and along with Peregrin ‘Pippin’ Took, played by Boyd members of the Fellowship of the Ring.

The Friendship Onion will be available weekly on Spotify and across all podcast platforms, including video simulcast episodes on YouTube….

(3) STRANGE AT ECBATAN THE QUIZ. Rich Horton has challenged readers with a 17-question quiz: “Quiz: Images of Aliens in SF”.

Following is a quiz I wrote for an online trivia league I am in. The subject matter is aliens in SF books, movies, TV, or comic books. Each question is accompanied by an image of the alien. The quiz ran over the weekend. Some of you may know the winner, David Goldfarb, who was prominent on the great Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.sf.written back in its glory days. Tom Galloway, another prominent fan known for his trivia knowledge, also did very well.

I need to thank Steven Silver and John O’Neill (as well as several members of the trivia league) for helping me improve the question set, including some excellent proposed questions.

I will post the answers in a day or two. If you want, you can post your guesses in the comments.

1. There are many aliens depicted in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This alien race may be hard to depict definitively, as they are shapeshifters, but they do have a typical form. They appeared in Captain Marvel in the MCU, and in the comics as early as an issue of Fantastic Four in 1962. What is the name of this alien raceClick here

2. What’s the common name for this cowardly species featured in many of Larry Niven’s Known Space stories? The name is perhaps ironic as this species doesn’t seem to have the appendages normally used by the human performers known by that name. Click here

(4) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Rebecca Roanhorse and Angela Slatter in a YouTube livestream on May 19 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Link to come – check back at the KGB site.

Rebecca Roanhorse

Rebecca Roanhorse is NYTimes bestseller and an award-winning speculative fiction writer. Her latest novel, Black Sun, was recently nominated for the Nebula award for Best Novel of 2020. She has short fiction published in Apex MagazineUncanny, and multiple anthologies. She has also written for Star WarsMarvel , and for TV. She lives in Northern New Mexico.

Angela Slatter

Angela Slatter in a multi-award-winning Australian writer of dark fantasy and horror. Her latest publications are the gothic fairytale novel All the Murmuring Bones from Titan, and the mosaic collection The Tallow-Wife and Other Tales from Tartarus Press. She has a PhD, teaches for the Australian Writers’ Centre, and is trying to finish a new gothic novel, Morwood.

(5) REHABILITATING “SOLO”. Mike Ryan, the senior pop culture reporter at UpRoxx makes a credible argument in favour of everyone’s most forgotten Star Wars movie: Solo. “You Know, ‘Solo’ Is Actually A Lot Of Fun”.

if you haven’t watched Solo in a while, away from all the drama and (maybe for you) bad lighting, give it another shot. It might just be the most pure fun Star Wars movie we’ve gotten from this era so far.

(6) SUE BURKE Q&A. Nerds of a Feather’s Andrea Johnson supplies the questions for “Interview: Sue Burke, Author of Immunity Index”.

NOAF: Secret sisters, a geneticist studying illegal technology, and a deadly virus. What inspired this story, and how did all those elements get into the story?

SB: The initial central question of the story is identity. What makes us the same and different? Some of it is genetics, and some of it is life experiences. What makes those differences stand out? People show their true nature in a disaster. Because the story is about genetics, I brought more genetics and more disaster into it. The elements posed a lot of questions, and the story resulted from one set of answers.

(7) ASIMOV’S SF EDITOR HAS THE ANSWERS. The Odyssey Writing Workshop shares “Odyssey Podcast #138: Sheila Williams”.

Award-winning editor Sheila Williams was a guest lecturer at the 2020 Odyssey Writing Workshop. In this excerpt from a question and answer session, she answers questions about her editorial process, story endings, and what differentiates a good story from a story that she buys.

Sheila is the multiple Hugo Award-winning editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine. She is also the winner of the 2017 Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award for distinguished contributions to the science fiction and fantasy community.

(8) COSINE COMING BACK. COSine, the Colorado Springs, CO convention, will be held in person once more next January 14-16.  

Last June we had to make the difficult decision to postpone COSine 2021. After that we put ourselves into suspended animation until such time as a vaccine for COVID was available and an appropriate supply of lemon-soaked paper doilies could be acquired.
 
Well, the doilies arrived, and most of us have aching arms, so it looks like we are on track for COSine 2022:

Guest of Honor: C.J. Cherryh
Artist Guest of Honor: Jane Fancher
Special Guests: Connie Willis & Courtney Willis

Our lowest rates for registration are available through the end of October, but if you want to sign up now, you can beat the Halloween rush! At the very least, please make sure that we are on your calendar.

(9) HORROR UNIVERSITY. It’s time to enroll for the virtual Horror University, part of the Horror Writers Association’s StokerCon coming May 20-23. See the session schedule at the link. One session, $55/members, $65/nonmembers; multiple-session discounts available.

Horror University is one of the most successful and popular aspects of StokerCon™. We are proud to present another great series of workshops for StokerCon™ 2021. Horror University furthers the Horror Writers Association’s focus on education with a curriculum run by some of the best and brightest in the horror field.

HORROR UNIVERSITY offers a series of 90 minute to two-hour workshops. They are not your typical workshop experiences—they are hands-on, intensive classes that include interactive activities and exercises. Workshop registration will open April 12. Workshops for this year’s Horror University will be virtual, part of Horror University Online. All HU courses will be run through the Horror University School on Teachable.com and require separate registration and additional payment as has been the practice at all past StokerCons.

All workshops are in Eastern Standard Time. Click the workshop titles in the table below for more detailed information about each workshop and instructor. Pricing is provided below.

(10) THEY DIDN’T ABANDON HOPE. Sarah Gailey’s new “Building Beyond” writing prompt is “See You In Hell”. Amanda Hamilton and Brendan Williams-Childs play along.

Hell is an urban metropolis in the middle of a sprawling agrarian underworld. You’ve just moved to a farm about six hours upstate from Hell.

Amanda Hamilton (she/her) is a chaos scheduler for her spouse, daughter and myriad pets. She’s also a fundraising professional, primarily focused on corporations and foundations these days. When not managing various and sundry to-do lists, she likes to read and nap and read some more.

Gailey: What is it about Hell that made you decide to move?

They always said that if you could make it in Hell, you could make it anywhere. Well, after a decade of (barely) making it, I was done…. 

(11) PREDICTING THE PRESENT. Salon did a Q&A with Andy Weir and put one of his quotes in a headline: “’I don’t want to be L. Ron Hubbard’: Andy Weir on writing escapism & new book ‘Project Hail Mary’”.

…At its core, science fiction as a genre reflects the fears, anxieties, politics, events, and mood of the present. Thus, the immediate question: What type of science fiction (and speculative fiction more broadly) will the Age of Trump and its aftermath produce?

In an effort to answer that question I recently spoke with author Andy Weir whose first best-sellling novel “The Martian” was adapted by Ridley Scott into a 2015 blockbuster feature film of the same title starring Matt Damon. Weir’s other work includes the novel “Artemis” and the beloved short story “The Egg.”…

What type of science fiction writing and other works – and creative arts more generally – do you think are going to come out of this moment?

My book “Project Hail Mary” was finished before the pandemic. The story involves an alien microbe. It may seem that “Project Hail Mary” is somehow-pandemic related, but that is just pure coincidence. Moreover, this microbe does not infect humans; it infects stars in outer space.

I honestly do not know what is going to come out of this.

I do not think that there is going to be quite as much disease-related science fiction, as one might suspect. We are all going through this pandemic, and when it’s over, it will be a common experience. It is not really something we are going to enjoy reminiscing about. We will never forget the experience with the pandemic, but it is not something we are going to want to mentally relive.

My instinct is that the pandemic experience is not going to impact science fiction very much because science fiction and fantasy are on a basic level about escapism. Spend some time in the world of this book so that you can enjoy yourself away from the world that you live in. The last thing anybody wants is for a book to drag them back to the world that they live in.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 5, 1856 – W.W. Denslow.  First illustrator of Baum’s Wizard of Oz; also illustrated Baum’s Father Goose and Dot and Tot of Merryland.  Designed the sets and costumes for the 1902 stage version of Wizard.  Illustrated Denslow’s Mother GooseDenslow’s “Night Before Christmas”, 18-vol. Denslow’s Picture Books.  Comic strip Denslow’s Scarecrow and Tin Man.  Newspaper reporter, editorial cartoonist, poster artist.  Designed books and bookplates.  (Died 1915) [JH]
  • Born May 5, 1907 – Pat Frank.  Wrote what I’ve long thought the best-made atomic-bomb-and-after novel Alas, Babylon; two more novels, one shorter story for us; two other novels; memoir; journalism.  Office of War Information overseas correspondent during World War II.  American Heritage Foundation Award.  (Died 1964) [JH]
  • Born May 5, 1942 Lee Killough, 79. Author of two series, the Brill and Maxwell series which I read a very long time ago and remember enjoying, and the Bloodwalk series which doesn’t ring even a faint bell. I see she’s written a number of stand-alone novels as well – who’s read deeply of her? (CE)
  • Born May 5, 1943 Michael Palin, 78. Monty Python of course. I’ll single him out for writing the BFA winning Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life and co-writing the BSFA winning Time Bandits with Terry Gilliam. And it might be at least genre adjacent, so I’m going to single him out for being in A Fish Called Wanda for which he won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. (CE) 
  • Born May 5, 1944 – Dave Locke.  Active fanziner, e.g. Awry; electronic zine Time and Again.  Loved by some, annoyed others (can this surprise you?), or both.  Among his best, What do birds of a feather do?  Dave Locke.  More here.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born May 5, 1944 John Rhys-Davies, 77. He’s known for his portrayal of Gimli and the voice of Treebeard in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, General Leonid Pushkin in The Living Daylights, King Richard I in Robin of Sherwood,  Professor Maximillian Arturo in Sliders, a most excellent Hades in the animated Justice League Unlimted series, Hades in Justice League and Sallah in the Indiana Jones films. Oh, and voicing Macbeth in the exemplary Gargoyles animated series too.(CE) 
  • Born May 5, 1957 Richard E. Grant, 64. He first shows up in our world as Giles Redferne in Warlock, before going on to be Jack Seward in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. On a lighter note, he’s Frederick Sackville-Bagg in The Little Vampire, and the voice of Lord Barkis Bittern in Corpse Bride. He breaks into the MCU as Xander Rice in Logan, and the Star Wars universe by being Allegiant General Enric Pryde in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. (CE) 
  • Born May 5, 1958 – Ingrid Nielson, age 63.  Drawings pp. 15, 21, Program Book for ConFederation the 44th Worldcon; see here (PDF).  Photo of her & Andre Norton here.  Moderated panel “ASFA [Ass’n of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists of America] and the Chesleys” at Chicon VI the 58th Worldcon.  2010 Chesley “for work on the Chesley Awards for 20+ years”.  [JH]
  • Born May 5, 1961 Janet Brennan Croft, 60. She’s published any number of works on library science, but she is concentrated her research on Tolkien, winning the Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Inkling Studies for War and the Works of J.R.R. TolkienTolkien on Film: Essays on Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the RingsTolkien and Shakespeare: Essays on Shared Themes and Language, and Perilous and Fair: Women in the Works and Life of J. R. R. Tolkien. I’d also like to single her work, Baptism of Fire: The Birth of the Modern British Fantastic in World War I. (CE)
  • Born May 5, 1963 – Michelle West, age 58.  Twoscore novels, fifty shorter stories (some as M. Sagara); book reviews for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction; interviewed in Challenging DestinyLightspeedNorthern Dreamers.  Within a 4-page single-space rejection letter from Lester Del Rey was a curmudgeonly line of encouragement, and off she went.  [JH]
  • Born May 5, 1975 – Tanya Tagaq, age 46.  Canadian Inuk throat singer.  Six albums; also collaborator with Kronos Quartet, Buffy Sainte-Marie (here is TT’s cover).  Polaris Prize, Canadian Folk Music Award, two Junos, Western Canadian Music Award.  Novel for us Split Tooth won Indigenous Voices Award.  [JH]
  • Born May 5, 1979 Catherynne M. Valente, 42. My favorite work by her? Oh, by far that’d be the two volumes of The Orphan’s Tales which I go back to fairly often — stunning writing. If you’ve not read them yet, here’s her telling “The Tea Maid And The Tailor” as excerpted from In the Night Garden which is from Green Man. (CE) 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur lives up to its name while depicting the first land-walking creatures.

(14) GETTING THE WORD OUT WITH PICTURES. [Item by Rose Embolism.] Jem Yoshioka, creator of the science fiction romance webcomic Circuits and Veins was tapped for the New Zealand Covid information campaign! The poster is seriously lovely!

(15) IF IT DIDN’T HAPPEN, IT’S NOT A SPOILER, RIGHT? In Brian Hiatt’s article for Rolling Stone, “Benedict Cumberbatch’s Dr. Strange Almost Appeared in ‘WandaVision’”, Kevin Feige explains that Dr. Strange was going to appear in the last episode of WandaVision but he thought having Dr. Strange show up “would take it away from Wanda” so Benedict Cumberbatch was written out of the script. This is a preview of a big oral history of WandaVision in Rolling Stone that has yet to appear.

The story of WandaVision‘s main character, Wanda Maximoff, a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch (played by Elizabeth Olsen), is set to continue in 2022’s Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, but the two projects were almost linked much more directly. As Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige reveals in Rolling Stone‘s upcoming, extensive oral history of WandaVision, Marvel struck a deal with Benedict Cumberbatch to appear in the final episode of the show as Dr. Strange. But late in the process, they wrote him out.

“Some people might say, ‘Oh, it would’ve been so cool to see Dr. Strange,’” says Feige. “But it would have taken away from Wanda, which is what we didn’t want to do. We didn’t want the end of the show to be commoditized to go to the next movie — here’s the white guy, ‘Let me show you how power works.’” That meant the Dr. Strange movie, too, had to be rewritten. In the end, Feige says, Marvel’s process is “a wonderful combination of very dedicated coordination, and chaos. Chaos magic.”… 

(16) WHAT A CROCK. BBC Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime brings you “Cookie Jar by Stephen King” in three parts.

After his mother’s untimely death, Rhett inherits a cookie jar which proves to have some very unusual properties…

‘I had sort of a peculiar childhood, because my mother was peculiar. Not outright crazy, but very, very peculiar. Stories were her way of staying sane… A way to cover that hole in reality the way you might cover a well with boards so no one would fall in. But her stories stopped working for her. Because the thing she was afraid of was in the house with her all along.’

From ‘The Bazaar of Bad Dreams’, Stephen King’s story adapted in three parts. Read by Colin Stinton.

(17) OUT TO LAUNCH. SpaceX posted about yesterday’s launch:

On Tuesday, May 4 at 3:01 p.m. EDT, SpaceX launched 60 Starlink satellites from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This was the ninth launch and landing of this Falcon 9 first stage booster, which previously launched Telstar 18 VANTAGE, Iridium-8, and six Starlink missions.

(18) BOARDING PARTY. Insider lets you “Watch Royal Marines Explore Storming a Ship at Sea With Jet Packs”.

The British military been exploring the possibility of boarding ships at sea with futuristic jet packs that let wearers fly over the water like Iron Man.

The “Jet Suit” was made by Gravity Industries. The company released a video Sunday that showed its operators wearing jet packs and working with the Royal Marines to launch from rigid inflatable boats and land aboard the Royal Navy Batch 2 River-class offshore patrol ship HMS Tamar.

(19) BAD LOOK? Politico has details as “Pentagon watchdog opens new probe into military’s handling of UFOs”.

…But one former top Pentagon intelligence official who has lobbied Congress to take more action on such sightings said on Tuesday that the IG’s involvement is a positive step to compel the military to take the issue more seriously.

“You are looking at how is it possible that restricted military airspace is being routinely violated for months and years and nobody is informed in the Defense Department or the Congress and there is a complete system breakdown,” said Christopher Mellon, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for intelligence. “That’s a valid thing for them to investigate.”

(20) RIDING ALONG. Sean D. serves up a “Microreview [Book]: Black Water Sister by Zen Cho” at Nerds of a Feather.

Our bodies can often seem possessed. To most people, that possession occurs in a metaphorical sense. Dogma possesses us, as it’s hammered down from society until it sticks, nailed down to our core whether we like it or not. And that dogma can deviate from what we want deep down, like how family values dictate who we can and can’t love. Black Water Sister explores that possession, and with clever skill, it combines it with literal possession. A family spirit inhabits the protagonist, while they’re dealing with family interference from all sides. It’s a compelling story that’s quality is heightened by witty dialogue, a pacey second half, and vibrant characters….

(21) NOT SF BUT WEIRD. The Canadian census has a soundtrack: “2021 Census soundtrack”.

As Canada’s statistical portrait, the census is a reflection of who we are and what makes us Canadian. Listen to our Spotify and YouTube playlists while you complete your 2021 Census questionnaire to experience the different facets of Canadian culture through the sounds of our celebrated musical talent. If these songs aren’t already among your favourite tracks, we hope that you have the opportunity to discover something new as you fill out your questionnaire online in May.

Get comfortable, press play, and let’s experience Canada’s musical talent together.

(22) BUTT OF THE JOKE. Left over from May the Fourth, the “R2-D2 & C-3PO 1980 Star Wars Anti Smoking PSA”.

R2-D2 and C-3PO from “Star Wars” in a 1980 anti-smoking public service announcement. Aired in 1984 on Milwaukee’s WVTV.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, James Davis Nicoll, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, and Rose Embolism for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]