Pixel Scroll 4/18/22 You Get A File, I’ll Get A Troll, We’ll Head Down To The Pixel Scroll, Honey, Enemy Mine

(1) NEXT YEAR’S EASTERCON COMMITTEE PICKED. Conversation is the 2023 Eastercon – it will be held April 7-10. Where? “We don’t have a confirmed site yet,” they say. But somewhere in England. The convention website is here: Conversation 2023. And the guests of honor will be —

  • Zen Cho
  • Niall Harrison
  • Jennell Jaquays
  • Kari Sperring
  • Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • Ursula Vernon (T Kingfisher).

(2) EUROCON REPORT. Polish fan Marcin Klak writes about “Luxcon Eurocon 2022 – Convention From Behind the Mask” – a report that includes a photo of TAFF delegate “Orange Mike” Lowrey.

It was so good to see the people. I haven’t seen some friends for two and more years. Being able to greet them differently than on Zoom was great. Meeting some new people was also awesome. And last, but not least I had the opportunity to meet in person people whom I met online but haven’t yet seen in the real world – this was so cool. I had no idea how strongly I missed all of that. Don’t understand me wrong – virtual conventions are awesome. I appreciate them and think they were a blessing for those of us who attended them. Yet getting back to in-person conventioning was magical….

(3) SEPTEMBER SONG. Allen Steele told Facebook followers his email contained “A ROTTEN EASTER EGG”, and after being turned down as a Chicon 8 program participant he had much to say about the application process. He says he was “uninvited” after answering the questionnaire — because he claims they initiated the contact thus, in his view, issued an invitation. However, Chicon 8’s head of program says it was Steele who initiated things by filling in the form on the website requesting to be contacted.

When I opened my email this morning, here was what I found, printed verbatim. It came from a staff member for this year’s World Science Fiction Convention, an annual event I’ve attended — albeit infrequently in recent years — as a fan since 1973 and as a professional SF writer since 1989. I hadn’t yet decided whether to attend this year’s worldcon, but if I had, it would’ve been the fourth time I’ve been to one in Chicago (including once as a writer with a story on that year’s Hugo ballot).

“Dear Allen Steele.

“Thank you for reaching out to us with your interest in being on Program at Chicon 8: The 80th World Science Fiction Convention. We’re sending this email to inform you that we will not be extending you an invitation to participate as a panelist for the 2022 Worldcon in Chicago.

“Deciding who to invite as panelists is an ongoing multistep process that includes reviewing your program survey answers and the input of many members of the Chicon Program Team. As we have received requests from well over 1500 people, we cannot accept everyone, and so some difficult choices have to be made.

“Best,

“[NAME DELETED}

Head of Program for Chicon 8

My Pronouns: They/Them/Theirs”

This has really floored me, in a number of ways and for a number of reasons. First: I didn’t “reach out” to them. Instead, they reached out to me, in email I received in early March asking whether I would be interested in attending this year’s worldcon. Perhaps it was not technically an invitation, but in the past when I’ve received letters of this nature from worldcon committees, I’ve always felt it safe to assume that I was being asked to attend (for those who don’t know: this kind of invitation doesn’t include a free membership or having any of my hotel or travel expenses paid; it simply asks whether you would like to participate in panels, book signings, readings, etc.). So when I received it, I gave a positive response, assuming this was another worldcon invitation, something I’ve done dozens of times for dozens of years….

Steele also “joked” about pronoun preferences such as they/them/theirs.

Artist Bob Eggleton, in comments, made a suggestion in the spirit of Jon Del Arroz:

Chicon 8’s process for becoming a program participant is explained in detail here. After someone contacts the committee, this is the first of several things that happen —

    • Within a few weeks we will send you the program participant survey. This tells us who you are, and gives us an overview of what you hope to contribute to the program. Among other things, this survey will include the opportunity to (optionally): Suggest panel topics that you would like to see run at the convention. Propose workshops and presentations that you would like to conduct as solo or duo presenters.
    • Potential participants will be put through a vetting process to make sure that they are aligned with the values and principles set out in the convention code of conduct and anti-racism statement….

(4) THAT’S NOT STREAMING, IT’S A FLOOD. Ask.com wants to know “When Did It Become a Job to Be a Fan?” You might wonder after reading the previous item. But conrunning is not the focus of this article.

I never watched episodes three and four of Disney+’s The Book of Boba Fett. I read recaps and just tuned in for the juicy Mando-and-Baby-Yoda-filled episodes of the Star Wars show. I didn’t bother with HBO Max’s Peacemaker; James Gunn’s brand of humor and the absurdist violence in the DC Extended Universe’s (DCEU) The Suicide Squad wasn’t exactly my thing. And even though I have a soft spot for Oscar Isaac, I don’t know if I’ll ever finish watching the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) Moon Knight. 

There’s way too much stuff to watch to be able to stay on top of everything — just take a look at our selection of movie and TV releases for April — and yet I can’t help but feel like a failed pop culture writer and media critic for all the things I’m skipping. I should be watching — and probably enjoying — all of it. But, most of the time, these serialized shows and movies that are part of a larger universe feel like homework….

(5) CHINESE SF. The Shimmer Program has released New Voices in Chinese Science Fiction, a collaboration between Clarkesworld and Storycom, edited by Neil Clarke, Xia Jia and Regina Kanyu Wang , including eight stories from Chinese sf writers. Early bird copies of the anthology have been sent out to the Kickstarter backers and it will be made available for purchase in June.

Writers: Shuang Chimu, Liu Xiao, Yang Wanqing, Hui Hu, Congyun “Mu Ming” Gu, Liang Qingsan, Shi Heiyao, Liao Shubo

Translators: Carmen Yiling Yan, Andy Dudak, Rebecca Kuang, Judith Huang, Emily Jin

(6) LONG REMEMBERED THUNDER. “Prehistoric Planet” is a five-night documentary event coming to Apple TV+ May 23.

…This series is produced by the world-renowned team at BBC Studios Natural History Unit with support from the photorealistic visual effects of MPC (“The Lion King,” “The Jungle Book”). “Prehistoric Planet” presents little-known and surprising facts of dinosaur life set against the backdrop of the environments of Cretaceous times, including coasts, deserts, freshwater, ice worlds and forests. From revealing eye-opening parenting techniques of Tyrannosaurus rex to exploring the mysterious depths of the oceans and the deadly dangers in the sky, “Prehistoric Planet” brings Earth’s history to life like never before. 

(7) HALF A CENTURY OF SIMULTANEITY. Space Cowboy Books of Joshua Tree, CA has released the 50th episode of the Simultaneous Times podcast.

Stories featured in this episode are:

  • “RealView”- by Liam Hogan (music by RedBlueBlackSilver), read by Jean-Paul Garnier & Robin Rose Graves
  • “Psionic Thread” by Sam Fletcher (music by Phog Masheeen), read by Jean-Paul Garnier

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1997 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] On this date a quarter of a century ago on Canada’s Citytv (which is sometimes just called City), Lexx (also known as LEXX: The Dark Zone Stories and Tales from a Parallel Universe) premiered as a series of four films. The series follows a group of rather unique and sometimes dysfunctional individuals aboard the living craft Lexx as they travel through two universes and encounter various planets including an Earth that is decidedly not ours. 

It was created by Paul Donovan, Lex Gigeroff and Jeffrey Hirschfield, none of which had a background in the genre in any meaningful sense before this. Hirschfield wrote for three of the four seasons Lexx ran and voiced the character of the robot head 790. 

Now Lexx had a large cast including Brian Downey, Eva Habermann and Xenia Seeberg. Should you be so inclined, and I’m not saying saying that you should be, go ask Google for the uncensored versions of the City broadcast Lexx as regards Eva Habermann and Xenia Seeberg. Let’s just say that when it hit Syfy that network reduced it from a hard “R” to a very friendly “PG” rating in terms of both language and nudity. I’ve also heard that quite a bit of violence was also removed as well. Remember that I’ve mentioned previously that Syfy emasculated Fifties SF series when they ran there too.

It would run, including the original four films of ninety-three minutes in length, for five seasons with the four actual seasons ending with a total of sixty-one episodes with a conventional running time of between forty-five and forty-eight minutes. SyFy trimmed three to five minutes out of each of these episodes. 

Though the series was primarily filmed in Canada and Germany befitting it being a Canadian and German co-production, additional filming done on location in the British Virgin Islands. Iceland, Namibia, New Zealand, Thailand, and the United Kingdom. I need a guide to which scenes were filmed where. Seriously I do. 

Reception was decidedly mixed. The New York Daily News reviewer said she “can only imagine that the great SciFi channel must have been captured by idiot monsters from outer space and Germany” but the Independent got it spot-on when they noted that it is “extremely gory, not a little nasty and rather fun”.  Finally the TV Guide summed it up by noting it is “a siren of distinction for its black comedy, skewed take on the human condition and open sexuality.” 

It currently has a ninety-two percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 18, 1884 Frank R. Paul. Illustrator who graced the covers of Amazing Stories beginning with this cover for April 1926, as well as Science Wonder Stories and Air Wonder Stories from June 1929 to October 1940 and a number of others.  He also illustrated the cover of Gernsback’s Ralph 124C 41+: A Romance of the Year 2660 (Stratford Company, 1925), published first as a 1911–1912 serial in Modern Electrics. He was the Guest of Honor at the very first WorldCon, Nycon, in July 1939. He was inducted into Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2009. Stephen D. Korshak and Frank R. Paul’s From the Pen of Paul: The Fantastic Images of Frank R. Paul published in 2010 is the only work I found that looks at him. (Died 1963.)
  • Born April 18, 1930 Clive Revill, 92. His first genre role was as Ambrose Dudley in The Headless Ghost, a late Fifties British film. He then was in Modesty Blaise in the dual roles of McWhirter / Sheik Abu Tahir followed by The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes playing Rogozhin. A choice role follows as he’s The Voice of The Emperor in The Empire Strikes Back.  As for one-offs, he shows up in The Adventures of Robin HoodThe New AvengersWizards and Warriors in a recurring role as Wizard Vector, Dragon’s Lair, the second version of The Twilight ZoneBatman: The Animated Series in recurring role as as Alfred Pennyworth, Babylon 5Freakazoid in a number of roles, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and Pinky and The Brain… that’s not even close to a full listing! 
  • Born April 18, 1946 Janet Kagan. Another one who died way too young, damn it. “The Nutcracker Coup” was nominated for both the Hugo Award for Best Novelette and the Nebula Award for Best Novelette, winning the Hugo at ConFrancisco. She has but two novels, one being Uhura’s Song, a Trek novel, and quite a bit short fiction which is out in The Complete Kagan from Baen Books and is available from the usual digital suspects as everything else by her.  (Died 2008.)
  • Born April 18, 1965 Stephen Player, 57. Some Birthday honor folks are elusive. What I did find is awesome as he’s deep in the Pratchett’s Discworld and the fandom that sprung up around it. He illustrated the first two Discworld Maps, and quite a number of the books including the25th Anniversary Edition of The Light Fantastic and The Illustrated Wee Free Men. Oh, but that’s just a mere small taste of all he’s done, He also did the production design for the Sky One production of Hogfather and The Colour of Magic. He did box art and card illustrations for Guards! Guards! A Discworld Boardgame. Finally, he contributed to some Discworld Calendars, games books, money for the Discworld convention. I want that money.
  • Born April 18, 1969 Keith R. A. DeCandido, 53. I found him working in these genre media franchises: such as Supernatural, AndromedaFarscapeFireflyAliensStar Trek in its various permutations, Buffy the Vampire SlayerDoctor WhoSpider-ManX-MenHerculesThorSleepy Hollow,and Stargate SG-1. Now I will admit that his Farscape: House of Cards novel is quite fantastic, and it’s available from the usual suspects. He’s also written quite a bit of non-tie-in fiction.
  • Born April 18, 1971 David Tennant, 51. The Tenth Doctor and my favorite of the modern Doctors along with Thirteen whom I’m also very fond of. There are some episodes such as the “The Unicorn and The Wasp” that I’ve watched repeatedly and even reviewed over at Green Man.  He’s also done other spectacular genre work such as the downright creepy Kilgrave in Jessica Jones, and and Barty Crouch, Jr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. He’s also in the Beeb’s remake of the The Quatermass Experiment as Dr. Gordon Briscoe.
  • Born April 18, 1973 Cora Buhlert, 49. With Jessica Rydill, she edits the Speculative Fiction Showcase, a most excellent site. She has a generous handful of short fiction professionally published, and was a finalist for Best Fan Writer Hugo at CoNZealand and DisCon III, and has been nominated this year again at Chicon 8. Very impressive indeed! And of course she’s a member of our community here. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) COMICS FOR UKRAINE. Kurt Busiek is among the many stellar contributors to Comics for Ukraine: Sunflower Seeds, a benefit anthology edited by multi-Eisner Award-winner Scott Dunbier. The book will be full-color, 96 pages, 8×12 inches, and available in both hardcover and softcover editions.

Mark Evanier will be in the book, too:

Among the many writers and artists contributing to this effort are Sergio Aragonés and myself. We’re doing a new Groo story that will be included. You can see the whole list of contributors here and you can get your order in for a copy of this historic volume on this page.

There have been $28,808 of pre-orders, with 30 days to go. Order here.

A benefit anthology featuring an all-star lineup of comic book creators, with all proceeds being donated to Ukrainian refugees. Comics for Ukraine: Sunflower Seeds features an incredible roster of comics talent united under the mission of providing relief to the war-torn Ukraine, which has suffered attacks from neighboring Russia since late February. With the exception of hard costs (printing, credit-card fees, marketing) all of the funds raised by Comics for Ukraine: Sunflower Seeds will benefit the relief efforts in Ukraine in partnership with Operation USA. Since time of of the essence, if the campaign is successful, right after the campaign is over and payments have been collected by Zoop, all funds will be sent to Operation USA immediately.

(12) NO BRAINER? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] It’s apparently been a burning question for almost 2 decades. Is 28 Days Later a zombie movie or not? I mean, the revening hordes are not technically undead – type zombies, but they do act pretty much like one & spread the infection by biting their victims.

So, what does screenwriter Alex Garland say? But what about director Danny Boyle?  “28 Days Later writer settles long-running debate” at Digital Spy.

…The premise of 28 Days Later follows a pandemic caused by the accidental release of a contagious virus named The Rage, but the infected don’t die and then come back to life like a typical zombie.

However, they do exhibit zombie-like aggressive behaviour and spread the disease by biting victims, though, so that’s where the debate comes in….

(13) HE’S A BLOCKHEAD. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] News has broken that Jason Momoa will be trading in the ripped physiques of Aquaman and Duncan Idaho for the squared off physique of a lead character in a movie based on Minecraft. Or, at least, negotiations to that effect are nearing completion. “Jason Momoa to Star in ‘Minecraft’ Movie for Warner Bros.” says The Hollywood Reporter.

… Gaming movies have been on a hot streak in recent years, with 20th Century launching a hit franchise with Ryan Reynolds’ Free Guy last year, and Paramount finding success with its Sonic sequel earlier this month.

Momoa and Warners have Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom due out in March 2023. The film is the sequel to the $1 billion-grossing 2018 film Aquaman

(14) DROPPING THE HAMMER. Marvel Studios’ Thor: Love and Thunder opens in theaters July 8, 2022.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) on a journey unlike anything he’s ever faced – a quest for inner peace. But his retirement is interrupted by a galactic killer known as Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), who seeks the extinction of the gods. To combat the threat, Thor enlists the help of King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Korg (Taika Waititi) and ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who – to Thor’s surprise – inexplicably wields his magical hammer, Mjolnir, as the Mighty Thor. Together, they embark upon a harrowing cosmic adventure to uncover the mystery of the God Butcher’s vengeance and stop him before it’s too late.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Lindsay Ellis and Princess Weekes discuss “Why Magical Realism is a Global Phenomenon”.

Blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, magical realism in literature and other media combines fantasy elements with concrete realities to make statements about the world we live in. In this episode, we explore its roots, lay out the tenets of the genre, and discuss how it has flourished in Latin American Literature. Hosted by Lindsay Ellis and Princess Weekes, It’s Lit! is a show about our favorite books, genres, and why we love to read.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Rob Thornton, Bill, Will R., Nickpheas, 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 John A Arkansawyer.]

Pixel Scroll 2/20/22 Big Pixel In Little Scroll

(1) IN THE YEAR 2025. Kathy Bond, Seattle 2025 Worldcon Bid Co-Chair, has announced there will be a Seattle 2025 Bid Volunteer Meeting on Sunday, March 6, at 10:00 a.m. Pacific. A link to the Facebook event can be found here.

We’d like to invite the community to come find out more about the state of our bid and where we are looking for help. We are actively looking for volunteers from around the world so anyone should feel free to attend this on-line meeting. 

Their website link is — Seattle in 2025: A Worldcon Bid

(2) FUGITIVE DOCTOR GETS COMIC BOOK. “Fugitive Doctor Series Announced” reports Comicbook.com. FCBD 2022 Doctor Who #1 releases on Free Comic Book Day, May 7, and Doctor Who Origin #1 will follow on May 18.

The Fugitive Doctor will finally get the spotlight in a new Doctor Who series. Jo Martin’s mysterious incarnation of the Time Lord makes her comic book debut on Free Comic Book Day in Titan Comics’ FCBD 2022 Doctor Who #1. The familiar Doctor Who Comic creative team of writer Jody Houser and artist Roberta Ingranata tell a tale that offers a glimpse at the Fugitive Doctor’s earlier years. Titan Comics has since confirmed that FCBD Doctor Who #1 will lead into the next Doctor Who Comic miniseries arc. The story is titled Doctor Who: Origins, telling a new adventure set during the Doctor’s time working for the Division.

The Fugitive Doctor made her surprise debut in the Doctor Who episode “Fugitive of the Judoon.” The sudden appearance of a previously unmentioned regeneration upset everything fans thought they knew about the Doctor. The Fugitive Doctor’s debut set up the even bigger reveal in “The Timeless Children,” rewriting the Doctor’s origin story massively.

(3) LIBRARY LOVERS MONTH. Jason Aukerman tells subscribers to The Bradbury Beat:

…Public libraries helped Bradbury develop into one of the best known writers of our time, and he never forgot that his success was rooted in the book stacks—the contents of which were widely available to the public. Bradbury’s passion and support for public libraries never wavered. He frequently spoke at public library events, and he never charged those libraries for his services. For Bradbury, the debt he owed to the public library could never be repaid, but he spent his entire professional career trying….

(4) TALENT SCOUT. “Zoom PBS show: How the ’70s show from WGBH used kids’ input to make something beautiful” at Slate.

…ZOOM, which ran from 1972 to 1978, was a Boston show (produced by local affiliate WGBH), but it was distributed to around 200 PBS stations around the country, and won an Emmy award in 1973. Historian Leslie Paris wrote an online exhibit on ZOOM’s history for the American Archive of Public Broadcasting that went up earlier this year. In February and March of 1975, Paris said in an interview, if you go by Nielsen ratings, “more kids were watching ZOOM than watching Sesame Street” in major cities. “That makes sense,” she said, “because the age range of potential ZOOM viewers was larger than that of Sesame Street, so kids watched over a greater number of years.” In the archives of the show, Paris found mail from kids so young they had dictated letters to their parents, and also from teenagers who confessed they sensed that the show was now too young for them, but they just couldn’t stop watching….

At least one kid who sent in a story to ZOOM went on to be a writer. “The Color-Eyed Dragon,” a short story about a dragon who could change the color

of his eyes, and hides inside a traffic light to teach people a lesson about the value of his strange talent, was read out loud on the show in Season 2, Episode 3. The tale was sent in by young Jonathan Lethem, of New York City, who would later become . Jonathan Lethem….

(5) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1988 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Thirty-four years ago on this evening, Ray Bradbury Theatre’s “Gotcha” first aired on HBO. 

In the episode, a lonely man dressed as Oliver Hardy at a masquerade party meets a lonely woman dressed as Stan Laurel, it seems nothing short of a match made in heaven. But a game of Gotcha! may just test their new found romance a little too much. It was based off his short which was published in Terry Carr’s The Year’s Finest Fantasy, Volume 2 but the romance shown here wasn’t in that story. 

The cast was Saul Rubinek and Kate Lynch, and it was directed by Brad Turner who has done a lot of genre series work including seventeen episodes of The Outer Limits.

Reception for it is excellent. As Heroic Times, a review site, puts it: “The vast majority of episodes are just not very good. So much of what defines a great Ray Bradbury story, is the words, is the sublime, haunting use of language, and in this case a picture is decidedly not greater than the words. GOTCHA! is one of those exceptions, a good Ray Bradbury Theater episode. Some innovative and even stylish direction, complemented with an intriguing script and earnest performances really make this a quite engrossing and compelling watch.” 

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 20, 1906 Theodore Roscoe. A mere tasting of his pulp stories, The Wonderful Lips of Thibong Linh, which are sort of based on a member of the French Foreign Legion, was published by Donald M. Grant. The complete stories, The Complete Adventures of Thibaut Corday and the Foreign Legion, are available digitally in four volumes on Kindle. The Wonderful Lips of Thibong Linh only contain four of these stories. (Died 1992.)
  • Born February 20, 1912 Pierre Boulle. Best known for just two works, The Bridge over the River Kwai and Planet of the Apes. The latter was was La planète des singes in French, translated in 1964 as Monkey Planet by Xan Fielding, and later re-issued under the name we know. Obviously, the origin work for the film as well. (Died 1994.)
  • Born February 20, 1925 Robert Altman. I’m going to argue that his very first film in 1947, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, based off the James Thurber short story of the same name, is genre given its premise. Some twenty-five years later Images was a full-blown horror film. And of course, Popeye is pure comic literature at its very best. (Died 2006.)
  • Born February 20, 1943 Diana Paxson, 79. Did you know she’s a founder of the Society for Creative Anachronism? Well, she is. Genre-wise, she’s best known for her Westria novels, and the later books in the Avalon series, which at first, she co-wrote with Marion Zimmer Bradley then, after Bradley’s death, took over sole authorship. All of her novels are heavily colored with paganism — sometimes it works for me, sometimes it doesn’t. I like her Wodan’s Children series more than the Avalon material. 
  • Born February 20, 1954 Anthony Head, 68. Perhaps best known as Librarian and Watcher Rupert Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he also made an impressive Uther Pendragon in Merlin. He also shows up in Repo! The Genetic Opera as Nathan Wallace aka the Repo Man, in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance as Benedict, and in the awesomely great Batman: Gotham by Gaslight voicing Alfred Pennyworth.
  • Born February 20, 1964 Rodney Rowland, 58. His best-remembered roles to date are 1st Lieutenant Cooper Hawkes in Space: Above and Beyond and P. Wiley in The 6th Day. He’s also Corey Mahoney in Soulkeeper, a Sci Fi Pictures film. He’s got one-offs in X-FilesWelcome to ParadoxDark AngelSeven DaysAngelCharmed and Twin Peaks.

(7) TODAY IN SPACE.

February 20, 1962 — Astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. He made 3 trips around the earth in his Mercury-Atlas spacecraft, Friendship 7, in just under 5 hours.

He has an essay, “The Fireflies,” in Arthur C. Clarke’s The Coming of The Space: Famous Accounts of Man’s Probing of the Universe, first published in 1967.  The story behind those fireflies is detailed here. Also, “Astronaut John Glenn Was First Person to Eat in Space”.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Shoe has a gag in a bookstore.
  • Non Sequitur has a brilliant joke about public domain.

(9) PERSONAL BOOKS. There are shoutouts to Spiderman, Star Trek, Star Wars and “Samira Ahmed’s new run of Ms Marvel comics” in this week’s ‘books of my life’ in the Guardian: “Nikesh Shukla: ‘Reading Spider-Man made me feel less alone’”.

The books that changed me as a teenager
On my weekly trips to Calamity Comics in Harrow town centre I would sit at the back of the shop, reading Spider-Man comics. Peter Parker is me. I am Peter Parker. Which means I could be Spider-Man. Those comic books made me feel less alone.

(10) THE CLICKS OF YESTERDAY. What is John talking about? It’ll come back to you if you concentrate. Keep clicking your heels together til it does.

(11) LITTLE KNOWN FACTS. MSN.com calls this Reddit thread of mind-blowing science facts “the craziest thing you’ll read all week.” Or maybe it won’t be – you read the Scroll, after all! Here’s an example.

(12) OCTOTHORPE. Octothorpe 51 is up, which encourages us to “Make TAFF a Four-Way Tie”. (Enjoy Alison’s art below.)

John Coxon is a spoilsport, Alison Scott is promoting and Liz Batty might come to Eastercon. We listen to Become the Teapot and The Incomparable before discussing the now-available Game Hugo proposal (championed by Ira Alexandre). Listen here! 

(13) CAN OVERBOARD. Smithsonian Magazine chronicles how “After 25 Years at Sea, Shipwrecked Lego Pieces Are Still Washing Ashore on Beaches in England”.

…The Lego pieces aboard the Tokio Express were among 62 shipping containers that tumbled off the vessel. The ship was en route to New York after it loaded its cargo in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, when an unpredictable 28-foot wave smashed into a cargo ship 20 miles off the mainland, reports Jackie Butler for Cornwall Live. Other items swept to sea included 10,000 disposable lighters, superglue, and other hazardous chemicals. 

Ever since, collectors have gone out to look for “rare” pieces like octopuses and green dragons. Tracey Williams—a Cornwall local, beachcomber, and environmental campaigner—has documented the Lego spill for years on “Lego Lost at Sea” social media pages via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. More recently, she published AdriftThe Curious Tale of Lego Lost at Sea, a book detailing the Lego incident.

Though the wayward novelties may inspire wonder, the tiny bricks highlight plastic pollution’s impact on oceans. Out of the 4,756,940 Lego pieces on board, about 3,178,807 were light enough to float and are what is commonly found across 40 beaches in Cornwall, eported Mario Cacciottolo for the BBC in 2014. For example, small plastic flowers and mini diver’s flippers are regularly seen along the shores….

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

Pixel Scroll 2/11/22 They’re Creepy And They’re Scrolly, The Pixel Family

(1) EMPOWERING LIBRARIES. “Texas Book Ban Prompts School Librarians to Launch #FReadom Fighters” reports Publishers Weekly.  (The #FReadom website is here.)

In response to Texas Rep. Matt Krause’s published list of 850 books on race and sexuality that he targeted for their subject matter —many of which were pulled from school library shelves—a group of Texas school librarians has decided to push back. Last November, they orchestrated #FReadom Fighters, a social media campaign with the goal of supporting authors, teachers, librarians, and students in their pursuit of intellectual freedom. In a matter of months, the organization’s work has amassed thousands of supporters, both at the state level and across the country, and incited other likeminded groups to take action.

… On launch day, November 4, 2021, #FReadom Fighters garnered 13,000 tweets, much to the organizers’ surprise. “We had planned all this in secret, so we were amazed that this was happening even before starting a Twitter account,” Foote said. “We saw ourselves as a guerilla effort, serving as a rapid response team.” The @FReadomFighters Twitter account and website soon followed, updated with weekly and monthly action plans to support fellow librarians in their day-to-day operations. Ideas for #FReadom Fridays varied, from inviting authors to show letters they had received from readers about why their books were so powerful, to asking people to share books that had had an impact on them. A more recent prompt focuses on celebrating wins: sharing success stories of books that have been put back on shelves….

(2) THE BUZZ. Lightyear opens June 17.

“Lightyear” is the definitive origin story of Buzz Lightyear—the hero who inspired the toy—follows the legendary Space Ranger on an intergalactic adventure. “Buzz’s world was always something I was excited about,” said director Angus MacLane. “In ‘Toy Story,’ there seemed to be this incredible backstory to him being a Space Ranger that’s only touched upon, and I always wanted to explore that world further. So my ‘Lighytear’ pitch was, ‘What was the movie that Andy saw that made him want a Buzz Lightyear toy?’ I wanted to see that movie. And now I’m lucky enough to get to make it.”

(3) BRADBURY’S SUPER BOWL CONNECTION. A newspaper pitched Ray to contribute to its Super Bowl XXXV (2001) special section. Did he do it?

(4) HORROR THEATER 3000. Ursula Vernon livetweeted her experience watching the horror movie Midsommar. Thread starts here.

(5) THE OFFICE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Adela Suliman says Britain’s Science Museum has opened an exhibit called “Stephen Hawking At Work,” which features a preserved doodle-covered blackboard and the case that held his voice synthesizer. “’Stephen Hawking at Work’ exhibition in London displays his blackboard, glasses and other belongings”.

Hawking’s daughter, Lucy, said it was “wonderful to see my father’s working environment recreated.”

“It was such a unique and fascinating environment, and I am delighted his office has been recreated in order to inspire scientists of the future,” she said in a statement.

The blackboard in the exhibit illustrates Hawking’s playful sense of humor and was used during a “Superspace and Supergravity” conference in 1980. Delegates covered it in equations, cartoons and jokes about one another. Hawking had the souvenir framed and hung in his office.

Because even small vibrations could cause the blackboard to lose chalk, Juan-Andres Leon, curator of Stephen Hawking’s Office, said in an email, “the museum applied a starch-based material to stabilise the chalk dust and enclosed it in a frame.”

(6) RIGHTS AND WRONGS. Want to own the rights to The Lord of the Rings? Can you outspend Jeff Bezos? Meanwhile, other legal shenanigans are in progress reports Yahoo! “Lord Of The Rings Mod Hit With Takedown Just As Series’ Rights Are Up For Sale”.

The bigger news first: the Saul Zantz company has owned most of the rights to Tolkien’s works since the 1970s. Almost everything that has been made based on the books in the fields of “film, video games, merchandising, live events and theme parks” has had to be negotiated and paid for accordingly. Variety reported this week though that the company is moving to sell those rights, for a sum that’s expected to be around the $2 billion mark, with Amazon expected to be front of the line to make the purchase, which seems like an absolute worst-case scenario.

So it’s weird, then, that given the timing of that sale, Warner Bros.—who currently licenses the rights to Lord of the Rings video games—have chosen February 2022 to go after a prominent and highly-anticipated mod for the Total War series called Rise of Mordor.

This mod has been around for yearswe wrote about it in 2018!—and has quietly gone about its business with the assumption that, like its popular predecessor Third Age, nobody really cared. Only now somebody clearly does, because Rise of Mordor’s Mod DB page has been hit with a takedown notice (Third Age’s, however, remains)….

(7) MAIL FROM HELL. Yesterday, Brenton Dickieson celebrated “The 80th Anniversary of C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters” at A Pilgrim in Narnia.

… As I discuss it in detail here, it is a shocking beginning for the unprepared. Who is Screwtape? Who is Wormwood? Why is Wormwood being commended for encouraging connections with materialists (atheists? naturalist? worldly people?)? Why is he rebuked for using argument as a foundation for action?

The original Screwtape Letters were an extreme use of in medias res with the potential to leave the reader completely befuddled. We all “get” Screwtape now because the genre of demonic epistolary fiction is something we might expect. It is part of pop culture. Back then, though, it was entirely new. While the editor’s little note may prepare regular readers to expect a Christian academic, readers not expecting a new, satirical genre may well be surprised….

… I don’t know anyone who has catalogued the breadth of influence that Screwtape has had within popular culture as a whole. That Monty Python’s John Cleese narrated a Grammy-nominated audiobook of The Screwtape Letters is some indication of its impact….

(8) TWO DOZEN STORIES. [Item by Daniel Dern.] A free download of 24 stories is available: “Some of the Best From Tor.com 2021 Is Out Now!” Yes, you could find these one-by-one at Tor.com. This is easier.

This anthology features twenty-four of our favorite original stories published on the site in the past year.

Of course, you can always read these—and all other—Tor.com stories  for free whenever you’d like, but starting today they will be available world-wide as a single, easy-to-read, FREE ebook, available from all your favorite vendors.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1970 [Item by Cat Eldridge]  Fifty-two years ago, Hammer Films’ Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed premiered. It was the fifth Hammer film that featured Baron Frankenstein. It was directed by Terrence Fisher from the screenplay by Bert Batt as taken from the story written by Anthony Nelson and Batt. It starred Peter Cushing, Freddie Jones, Veronica Carlson and Simon Ward. 

Critics say that it is one of the better Hammer films in quite some time with Variety saying that  it had “a minimum of artless dialogue, good lensing by Arthur Grant and a solid all round cast”, and Slant Magazine holding it to be “One of the finest of the seven entries in Hammer’s Frankenstein cycle.”

It holds a sixty-eight percent rating among the nearly three thousand who rated it over at Rotten Tomatoes. You can watch it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 11, 1908 Tevis Clyde Smith, Jr. He did several short stories with Robert E. Howard — “Diogenes of today”, “ Eighttoes makes a play” and “Red Blades of Black Cathay”. Donald M. Grant would publish them together in the Red Blades of Black Cathay collection. The title story originally appeared in Oriental Stories, an offshoot of Weird Tales. (Died 1984.)
  • Born February 11, 1910 L. T. C. Rolt. English writer whose enthusiasm for heritage railways is writ large in his 1948 Sleep No More collection of supernatural horror stories which tend to be set in rural railways. (Simon R. Green may be influenced by him in his Ghost Finders series which often uses these railways as a setting.) Some of these stories were adapted as radio dramas.  Sleep No More is available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 1974.)
  • Born February 11, 1926 Leslie Nielsen. I know, the comic, bumbling fool who delighted generations of film goers. But his first starring role was as Commander John J. Adams in one of the finest SF films of all time Forbidden Planet. I am most decidedly not a fan of his later films, but I think he’s brilliant here. (Died 2010.)
  • Born February 11, 1939 Jane Yolen, 83. Jane Yolen loves not-so-dark chocolate, so I send her some from time to time. She wrote me into a novel as a character, an ethnomusicologist in One-Armed Queen to be precise, in exchange for finding her a fairytale collection she wanted. Don’t remember now what it was other than it was very old and very rare. My favorite book by her is The Wild Hunt which she’s signed a copy for me, and I love that she financed the production of Boiled of Lead’s Antler Dance which Adam Stemple was lead vocalist on.
  • Born February 11, 1948 Robert Reginald. He’s here because of two Phantom Detective novels he wrote late in his career which are mostly popcorn literature. (The Phantom Detective series started in 1936 so he used the Robert Wallace house name.) He has two series of some length, the Nova Europa Fantasy Saga and War of Two Worlds. Much of what he wrote is available from the usual digital sources. (Died 2013.)
  • Born February 11, 1950 Alain Bergeron, 70. He received an Aurora Award for Best Short Story for “Les Crabes de Vénus regardent le ciel” published In Solaris number 73, and a Sideways Award for Alternate History for “Le huitième registre” (translated in English as “The Eighth Register” by Howard Scott).
  • Born February 11, 1953 Wayne Hammond, 69. He’s married to fellow Tolkien scholar Christina Scull. Together they’ve done some of the finest work on Tolkien that’s been done, including J. R. R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator, The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s CompanionThe Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book and The J. R. R. Tolkien Companion and Guide
  • Born February 11, 1982 Natalie Dormer, 40. Best known as being in Game of Thrones as Margaery Tyrell, though I’m more interested in the fact that she was in Elementary over three seasons as both Jamie Moriarty and Irene Adler. Anyone here watch this series? I’ve not but this sounds fascinating! 

(11) TRIVIAL TRIVIA. Thomas Edison was born this day in 1847. Edison’s film company produced the very first known feature adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

(12) A WEBB FIRST. “James Webb Space Telescope captures its first images of a star” and Yahoo! has a copy — see the image at the link.

The James Webb Space Telescope has finally captured its first image of a star — or rather, images. NASA has shared a mosaic of pictures (shown above) of a star taken using the primary mirror’s 18 segments. It looks like a seemingly random collection of blurry dots, but that’s precisely what the mission team was expecting. The imagery will help scientists finish the lengthy mirror alignment process using the telescope’s Near Infrared Camera, or NIRCam. The first phase is nearly complete as of this writing.

(13) HEVELIN FANZINES. A couple of years ago, Atlas Obscura signal-boosted a call for help with a fanzine transcription project: “Even More Ways to Help Librarians and Archivists From Home”. What’s their status today? They say they are 100% done!

First the 2020 excerpt:

What better time to zip into a happily unfamiliar realm? The DIY History project at the University of Iowa Library, which invites people to help transcribe digitized objects from the library’s special collections and other holdings, could use your help with its massive trove of science-fiction zines. Some date back to the 1930s; all were collected by the late James L. “Rusty” Hevelin. More than 10,780 pages of the Hevelin Fanzines collection have been transcribed so far, but there are still around 500 left to go. If you need a mental break from this planet and its familiar troubles, pop into this project and spend a little time somewhere else.

David Doering was one of the volunteers, so I checked with him and this is what I learned:

We completed the transcription of Rusty’s collection about two years ago. I don’t see any new additions to that collection. (And the numbers match what this article says: There’s 11285 pages transcribed. Which is 500 more than the articles 10,780.)

Now there are other (non-SF) works to possibly transcribe. You can find the landing page here: https://diyhistory.lib.uiowa.edu/

To be fair, there were pages that were not transcribed because the pages were (almost) unreadable due to mimeo ink fading.  I tried to noodle out the contents and made some progress, but some I just couldn’t get enough of an image to read the text. So if there’s someone out there who has great image restoration skills, there are probably a couple of hundred pages that were skipped due to readability.

Unfortunately, the software the U of Iowa used for this project would count a page as transcribed even if you wrote the obligatory note “Not transcribed due to legibility issues.” So all the zines show 100% transcribed when some were not.

(14) FYI. Behind a paywall, WIRED presents “Ada Palmer and the Weird Hand of Progress”: “The sci-fi author writes about the 25th century and teaches college students about the 15th. The past we think we know is wrong, she says—and so is the future.”

(15) ATTENTION SJW CREDENTAL OWNERS. Andrew Porter witnessed Jeopardy! contestants stumped by a science fictional item on tonight’s episode.

Category: I’m too sexy: a lyrical potpourri

Answer: …for this animal “who walks through walls” in a Robert A. Heinlein title.

No one could answer: What is a cat?

(16) FOURWARD MARCH. DC tells us about the four movies they’re bringing out this coming year: “DC – The World Needs Heroes”.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trallers: Tom Clancy’s Ranbow Six Extraction,” Fandom Games notes that this series is sf, because special forces are blasting “alien goo-boys.”  And if the going gets tough, the narrator reminds us that “There may be no ‘I’ in ‘team’, but there is an i in ‘I’m departing from this field immediately.’”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cliff, Hampus Eckerman, David Doering,Bonnie Warford, Daniel Dern, Michael J. Walsh, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 2/2/22 The Fay Wray Home Companion

(1) GAMES HUGO RESOURCES. If hard work makes a difference – and the example of Jared Dashoff’s efforts leading to the Best Series Hugo is already before us – Ira Alexandre is going to change some minds with the content of their ever-evolving Games Hugo website.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the exhaustive discussion on the “Games Hugo – FAQ”.

Would a medium-neutral award create such a broad spread that nominees cannot effectively be compared or get enough votes?

There are two parts to address: Comparing disparate works and having such a broad field that no productive consensus can be reached in terms of too wide a spread of votes.

…In terms of a lack of consensus, our research has shown that within each most common genre of games (video, analog, and interactive fiction) there is a strong drive towards consensus on what the “best games” of any given year are. Each year, across the five most major video game awards, about two dozen games are finalists in at least 5 categories (out of over 100 titles that are finalists in just one or more categories). These top two dozen games consistently take home 60% of the total possible honours every year….

How can Hugo voters evaluate games they can’t or don’t want to play?

For reasons of financial or logistical accessibility; lack of co-players; player ability/game difficulty; or frank preference, many WSFS voters will not want to or be able to play every finalist title. This is indeed a notable barrier in many ways unique to games.

While this is not an ideal solution, watching someone else play is a time-honoured means of experiencing video games, especially if one can influence the choices or gameplay….

(2) SCAN, SHRED, OR WHAT? Stuff gets a status report from New Zealand’s National Librarian about an unresolved hot-button issue: “’Help us’: The National Library’s unsolvable dilemma”. (See background in earlier post, “National Library of New Zealand Reconsiders Agreement with Internet Archive”.)

Rachel Esson has run out of ideas. “We’ve tried book fairs. We’ve tried donating.”

After plans to ship 600,000 rarely-used books overseas were halted after months of pushback from the book sector, the National Librarian has a plea to save the books from the pulping machine: “We really don’t want to recycle them… help us.”

Esson will not waver? on her view that the books from the Overseas Published Collection will be officially removed from the library – she just doesn’t know what to do with them after that.

… Esson says she’s in the process of setting up a dialogue with stakeholders after pressing pause on the ongoing saga at the end of last year.

She plans to ask the sector about their main concerns, and for their ideas, after the library was met with major resistance on plans to donate the books to the offshore Internet Archive, which is embroiled in a copyright lawsuit.

Esson will not reconsider keeping the rarely-used overseas books, which will make way for a larger Maori and Pacific collect. But sending them to the recycling bin is the library’s “absolute last resort”.

“People care so passionately. But the world’s moved on, and we don’t need to keep these,” she says. “It’s not good for New Zealand, and for us, to keep them. And they’re not being used. And they’re available elsewhere. All those arguments. We’ll find a way through, but I’m not sure that we can please everyone.”

(3) BUTLER IS CONSTANTLY RELEVANT. The Atlantic’s Lovia Gyarkye says “Octavia Butler’s Final Novel Shows Us How to Coexist”.

Octavia E. Butler spent most of her life excavating the past and observing the present to construct stories attuned to society’s woes and grim futures. She wrote about a Black woman in 1970s Los Angeles repeatedly transported to the antebellum South; about a teenage girl who establishes a religion to save her community from climate destruction; and about the alien colonization of Earth. She was obsessed with broad, gnarly themes: intimacy and sex, hierarchy and power, the link between ancestral knowledge and eventual survival. There is always, it seems, a Butler book for our times. And as the world plods through the third year of the pandemic, one of her most peculiar works might be the most resonant today.

Fledgling, the last novel Butler published before her death in 2006, is a propulsive story about Shori, an amnesiac 53-year-old Black vampire who must reconstruct her past after she wakes up shrouded in darkness, alone and with no memories….

(4) STEALTH ON THE SHELF. “An 8-Year-Old Wrote a Book and Hid It on a Library Shelf. It’s a Hit.” The New York Times interviews a trailblazer in self-published sff.

During his Christmas break, Dillon Helbig, an 8-year-old boy from Boise, Idaho, wrote a book that he wanted everyone to read.

He had spent a long time on it — four days to be exact — and filled 81 pages of an empty journal with a richly illustrated tale about how he gets transported back in time after a star atop his Christmas tree explodes.

But he did not have a book deal. (He’s only in second grade, after all.) So when his grandmother took him to the Lake Hazel branch of the Ada Community Library in Boise at the end of December, he slipped the sole copy of his book onto a shelf containing fiction titles….

…In his “Crismis” tale, Dillon, the protagonist and the author, goes on a time-traveling adventure after the star on the tree explodes.

“Santa comes,” he said, explaining the next part of the plot. After that, Dillon comes across five trees, and one of them “was like a tree portal.”

The portal takes him back in time to the “first Thanksgiving” in 1621, a date that he had to confirm with his mother, Ms. Helbig said.

“His imagination is just incredible,” she said.

Dillon has been writing “comic-style books” since he was 5, his mother said, but this one is certainly his most successful. The library gave him its first-ever “Whoodini Award” for best young novelist, an award they created for him….

(5) PULP EPICENTER. PulpFest 50 will be held in Pittsburgh from Thursday, August 4 through Sunday, August 7. The theme will be “Action for a Dime!” As for “Why PulpFest?” – let Sara Light-Waller explain it to you.

…Why PulpFest? It’s an immersion. As with any niche convention, you’re surrounded by people speaking the same language. There’s no need to explain about a popular author or artist when talking to vendors. They already know! And probably know much more about the subject than you do. You’re rubbing elbows with professionals in all fields, very bright and interesting people. The presentations are always inspiring and I learn a lot from them. And the chance to see original artwork is simply outstanding. There are things you can see in the original art that you just can’t make out in reproductions….

(6) WHAT’S NEXT AFTER WORDLE (WHICH I DON’T DO). [Item by Daniel Dern.] Dunno if I’m the first to come up with this. As just posted to my FB page:

I’m working on a math-oriented sequel to Wordle: Gödle.

(Probably a good home for it would be Amazon Prime?)

* With a tip of the hat to Fred Pohl’s The Gold At The Starbow’s End

(7) SLYTHERIN TO BEAM UP. “Starfleet Academy Series In Works For Expanded Star Trek Universe”Deadline has the story.

…A new offshoot, Star Trek: Starfleet Academy, is in development at CBS Studios and Alex Kurtzman’s studio-based Secret Hideout for the ViacomCBS streamer, sources said. Sharing a name with the late 1990s video game, the series is set among the college of cadets mentored for leadership roles in the United Federation of Planets space force.

We hear Absentia co-creator Gaia Violo is currently working on a take for the project. With the long-gestating Star Trek spinoff Section 31 starring Michelle Yeoh expected to get a pickup soon, Starfleet Academy is believed to be next in the Star Trek development pipeline behind it. It will be pitched to Paramount+ shortly, and the hope is to get it going in the next year, sources said….

(8) ONE TO SADDLE UP. And much sooner than that, you can view Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, which begins airing on Paramount+ beginning May 5.

(9) GO AHEAD AND TOUCH THAT DIAL. “Foundation TV Series Season 2 New Characters Announced” and Gizmodo’s Rob Bricken is grumpy.

Apple TV+’s loose adaptation of the classic Foundation sci-fi novels has just gotten a little looser. Ten new actors have been added to the cast to play 10 new characters on the show—and six of them appear to be very new, having not appeared in any of Isaac Asimov’s seven Foundation novels.

I’ve written off the TV series and thus refuse to get further upset about how it mangles the source material, but I think it is… interesting to see how much further Foundation is willing to deviate from its infamously difficult-to-adapt source material. Here are the actors, characters, and quick bios, all courtesy of Apple TV+…

(10) MOSES J. MOSELEY (1990-2022). Actor Moses J. Moseley died last week reports Deadline. The 31-year-old was best known for his appearances in six episodes of The Walking Dead. His other genre roles included The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (uncredited), Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories, Southern Fried Zombies, and an episode of TV’s Watchmen.

(11) RICHARD L. TIERNEY (1936-2022). Writer, poet and scholar of H. P. Lovecraft, Richard L. Tierney died February 1. Wikipedia finds him notable for his heroic fantasy, including a series of Red Sonja novels co-authored with David C. Smith. Some of his standalone novels utilize the mythology of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. He is also known for his Simon of Gitta series (which cross historical Gnosticism with Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos), his Robert E. Howard completions, and fiction utilizing such Howard-invented characters as Cormac Mac Art, Bran Mak Morn and Cormac Fitzgeoffrey.

(12) MEMORY LANE.

1939 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Eighty-three years ago on this date, the Buck Rogers serial, produced by Universal Pictures, first aired. It starred Buster Crabbe (who had previously played the title character in two Flash Gordon serials and would return for a third.) Buster was sometimes billed as Larry Crabbe as well as you will note in the poster below. 

I don’t think I need to say that it’s is based on the Buck Rogers character as y’all know that as created by Philip Francis Nowlan but for the sake of the few Filers who will nitpick if I don’t I will. 

It was directed by Ford Beebe was Saul A. Goodkind as written by Norman S. Hall, Ray Trampe  and Dick Calkins. It would run for twelve chapters of roughly twenty minutes each. 

As I said Buck Roger was Larry “Buster” Crabbe with  Constance Moore was Wilma Deering, and Jackie Moran was “Buddy” Wade, an original character who was based on the Sunday strip character Buddy Deering.

It had a really small budget and re-used film footage from the futuristic Thirties musical Just Imagine

In 1953, it was edited into the film Planet Outlaws and twelve years it was edited again into Destination Saturn, not to stop there, the late Seventies saw the latter release of the latter as Buck Rogers. All three were feature films. 

Not surprisingly, you can watch it online — here is the first chapter. 

Buster Crabbe, Constance Moore, and Jackie Moran in Buck Rogers (1939)

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 2, 1933 Tony Jay. Oh, I most remember him as Paracelcus in the superb Beauty and the Beast series even it turns out he was only in for a handful of episodes. Other genre endeavors include — and this is lest OGH strangle me only the Choice Bits — included voicing The Supreme Being In Time Bandits, an appearance on Star Trek: The Next Generation as Third Minister Campio In “Cost of Living”, being in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (and yes, I loved the series) as Judge Silot Gato in ”Brisco for the Defense.” (Died 2006.)
  • Born February 2, 1940 Thomas M. Disch. Camp ConcentrationThe Genocides334 and On Wings of Song are among the best New Wave novels ever done.  He was a superb poet as well, though I don’t think any of it was germane to our community. He won the Nonfiction Hugo for The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of at Aussiecon 3, a critical but loving look on the impact of SF on our culture, and was nominated for a number of other Hugos for his short fiction. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 2, 1944 Geoffrey Hughes. He played Popplewick aka The Valeyard in the Fifth Doctor story, “The Trial of The Time Lord”. Intriguingly he was also the voice of Paul McCartney in Yellow Submarine which surely is genre. (Died 2012.)
  • Born February 2, 1947 Farrah Fawcett. She has a reasonably good SFF resume and she‘s been in Logan’s Run as Holly 13, and Saturn 3 as Alex. (Does anyone like that film?) She was also Mary Ann Pringle in Myra Breckinridge which might I suppose be considered at least genre adjacent. Or not.  Series wise, she shows up on I Dream of Jeanie as Cindy Tina, has three different roles on The Six Million Man, and was Miss Preem Lila on two episodes of The Flying Nun. (Died 2009.)
  • Born February 2, 1949 Jack McGee, 73. Ok, so how many of us remember him as Doc Kreuger on the Space Rangers series we were just discussing not long ago? I’ve also got him as Bronto Crane Examiner in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, as a Deputy in Stardust, Mike Lutz in seaQuest, Doug Perren in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a Police Officer on Person of Interest, to name some of his genre roles.
  • Born February 2, 1949 Brent Spiner, 73. Data on more Trek shows and films than I’ll bother listing here. I’ll leave it up to all of you to list your favorite movements of him as Data. He also played Dr. Brackish Okun in Independence Day, a role he reprised in Independence Day: Resurgence, a film I’ve not seen yet. He also played Dr. Arik Soong/Lt. Commander Data in four episodes of Enterprise.  Over the years, he’s had roles in Twilight ZoneOuter LimitsTales from the DarksideGargoylesYoung JusticeThe Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Warehouse 13. 
  • Born February 2, 1986 Gemma Arterton, 36. She’s best known for playing Io in Clash of the Titans, Princess Tamina in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Strawberry Fields in Quantum of Solace, and as Gretel in Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. She also voiced Clover in the current Watership Down series. 

(14) COMIC SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest work out their own Variety cliché headline.
  • Speed Bump has a “ripped from the headlines” version of “The Three Little Pigs.”

(15) THE PROOF IS IN THE READING. Ursula Vernon couldn’t stand it any longer. Thread starts here.

(16) TODAY’S BURRITO FILLING. There’s a review here with an award campaign wrapped around it: “Please give the German android gigolo movie a Hugo nod” urges the Hugo Book Club Blog.

…Despite an initial clinical detachment, Dr. Felser begins to be enticed by the android’s meticulous focus on being the ideal romantic partner. But she can’t fully buy into the experience because she knows that every perfect moment is the product of research, psychology, and algorithms. Simultaneously, she’s challenged emotionally by her ex-husband and his new girlfriend’s decision to have a baby together. This is all, of course, standard plot tension for a romance film.

What’s refreshing, for both AI and romance films, is that I’m Your Man feels like a deeply personal movie, comfortable both with its own awkwardness, and with tackling the difficulties of relationships and the contradictory desires of humans. This is not a movie that follows standard Hollywood narrative patterns, or focus-grouped easy satisfaction conclusions, but rather tells a story that one person wanted to tell. And it’s stronger for that. Writer-director Maria Schrader is probably best-known in North America for directing the Netflix drama Unorthodox, for which she won an Emmy…

(17) ARRIVAL. The New York Times’ Dennis Overbye philosophizes about “The James Webb Space Telescope and a Quest Every Human Shares”.

On Monday, NASA announced that the James Webb Space Telescope had reached the perch from which it could spend as much as 20 years in surveillance of the cosmos. It traveled about a million miles since launching on Dec. 25, and what a journey that has been.

The telescope was launched from French Guiana as a tightly wrapped package of wires, plastic and slabs of gold-plated beryllium. As it journeyed toward its destination, it had to unfold like a robot from the “Transformers” movies and shape-shift into, well, a telescope with a golden 21-foot-wide mirror gliding atop a silver sunshield.

There were 344 things that could have gone wrong during that month — what NASA calls “single point failures” — that would have doomed the mission.

The astronomers were on the edge of their seats.

And so were I and my colleagues. We knew that at any moment a call or a tweet saying something on the telescope had snagged or ripped or frozen, gone offline or just started sending gibberish would plunge us into a heartbroken crisis investigation: Interviewing disappointed and baffled astrophysicists, begging engineers for better explanations about tiny bits of metal or computer algorithms we’d never heard of, covering rounds of commissions, tiger team reports, congressional hearings and outside critics.

Everything about the Webb would be up for grabs: What shortcuts were taken during the decades of effort, by whom? Who had an idea or a suspicion that was ignored? What was the road not taken?

At the risk of jinxing the whole thing, not to mention my journalistic objectivity, I have to say I’m glad it didn’t happen that way. NASA did what it had to do.

And we as humans, temporary inhabitants of a dust mote, as Carl Sagan said, did what we had to do. The Webb telescope is designed to ferret out the very first stars and galaxies that lit up the foggy aftermath of the Big Bang and initiated the grand crescendo of evolution that produced us, among other things, as well as to search for clues to whether the conditions might be right for other creatures’ emergence, on nearby exoplanets….

(18) SYNCH OR SWING. A Boston Dynamics Robot dances to “BTS’ IONIQ: I’m On It” on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Deep Rock Galactic,” Fandom Games says this game lets you dig into the earth with your fellow dwarfs to fight bug monsters for a soulless corporation.  But make sure you’re playing this with friends, because there are “much cheaper and less sad ways to have a good time” than playing this game alone.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Olav Rokne, Cora Buhlert, Bill, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern, with an assist from a big monkey.]

Pixel Scroll 1/29/22 I Cast “Titlificus Uniquify” (With A Flick Of The Wrist)

(1) FUTURE BIRTH. [Item by Jen Hawthorne.] The Atlantic magazine ran an article surveying people’s attitudes toward the concept of artificial wombs.  The very first person to give an opinion cited Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga for her positive feelings toward the idea of artificial wombs.  “Liberation or Folly? Your Takes on Artificial Wombs”.

(2) UNREAL ESTATE. Camestros Felapton invites you to download the rules, the board, and the cards, and play “Timopoly”, the exciting game of genre domination!

Bored of the pandemic, Tim and I took a trip to an alternate universe. Sadly our holiday was ruined by persistent rain of venomous jellyfish. Stuck indoors, we played the local alternate universe board games (Scribble, Rusk, Eels & Ladles etc). Interestingly, this universe has no games based on attempting to control the property market of a huge city. Instead, the nearest equivalent is a game based on Tim’s attempts to manipulate the major literary award of the popular genre there known as Orbital Fiction.

Orbital fiction is all about stories set in orbit or on things in orbit or things trying to get into orbit. It’s very exciting and includes rockets, moons, planets and orbiting aliens. The major award is a trophy of a rocket that could fly into a big orbit, popularly known as the Huge-Orbit award (or just Huge-O for short).

Timothy’s cynical (and frankly corrupt) attempt to control these awards became such a cause célèbre that re-enacting the events became a popular board game.

(3) HOLLYWOOD IN NOLLYWOOD. BBC tweets about young Nigerian film-makers creating their own sci-fi cinema.

(4) IF A TRAIN LEAVES BALTIMORE. Ursula Vernon is working out some advanced series character math. Thread starts here.

(5) COMPREHENDING THE HOLOCAUST. An analysis of MAUS by Jeet Heer: “Maus in Tennessee” at The Time of Monsters.

I first became aware of Art Spiegelman’s Maus in the summer 1981 when I was 14 years old. Spiegelman had just started serializing the first chapters of his eventual graphic novel in the pages of RAW, a graphic art magazine he edited with Francoise Mouly. I saw a review of the first issue of RAW in The Comics Journal. I was intrigued by the excerpts The Comics Journal featured of Maus, an anthropomorphic account of the experience of Spiegelman’s father Vladek during the Holocaust told with the Jews as mice and the Nazis as cats. At the time, RAW was a little outside my price range (and carried an amusingly daunting blurb that it was “the graphix magazine of postponed suicides”). I was able to furtively look at some early issues at Pages, a Toronto book store, and  fully caught up with Maus by 1986, when the first half of it appeared in book form….

I shared the book with my school friend David Berman, whose father was a Holocaust survivor. David, not at all a comics person, was also very impressed by it, as were his parents. I remember David telling me how much the cantankerous relationship between Vladek and Art Spiegelman mirrored his own relationship with his father. One of the advantages of the book was it could be read by both young and old— later on, David’s nephews and nieces read the book as young teens

(6) SCOTCH EGG. News to me – the BBC has a feature an online Writers Room where you can read the scripts of various productions including Doctor Who. Learned this while reading an article in Scotland’s Daily Record: “Doctor Who fans find hidden Scots ‘Easter egg’ in released scripts from latest series”.

Doctor Who fans have found a hidden Scottish Easter egg in the latest script release from the legendary sci-fi telly series.

As Whovians eagerly await the next special, the BBC has released the scripts for Flux and Eve of the Daleks.

The scripts are available from the Script Library, and show fans the hidden writings behind some of their favourite episodes of the Tardis travelling drama.

In on particular episode Scots actors Peter Capaldi and Sylvester McCoy get special nods as part of the script.

In season 13’s first episode entitled The Halloween Apocalypse, the Doctor and Yaz are captured by Karvanista and face serious danger.

They escape via their trapeze skills, it is revealed their handcuffs were the property of the Doctor, who offered them up to their captor.

The handcuffs are voice activated, but that means the Doctor has to remember which voice was used.

The Doctor wonders: “Maybe I was Scottish when I set these up while trying to break free”, and then orders them to release in a Scottish accent….

(7) THE BARGAIN BIN CINEMATIC UNIVERSE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Austin McConnell had to quarantine, and thought he’d catch up with the MCU. But he hasn’t seen 13 of the MCU movies, so he decided to create his own “cinematic universe” using public domain comics of the 1940s.  SJWs will be thrilled to find that instead of Batman, McConnell’s universe has “Cat-Man.”  But who will survive when catman meets Man-Cat?

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1964 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Fifty-eight years ago, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb premiered. Starring a stellar cast of Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, James Earl Jones and Slim Pickens, it was directed by directed, produced, and co-written by Stanley Kubrick. 

It was not the original title as Kubrick considered Dr. Strangelove’s Secret Uses of Uranus as well as Dr. Doomsday or: How to Start World War III Without Even Trying, and the much shorter Wonderful Bomb.

The film is somewhat based on Peter George’s political thriller Red Alert novel. (Originally called Two Hours To Doom.)Curiously Dr. Strangelove did not appear in the book. This novel’s available on at usual digital suspects. And George’s novelization of the film is on all digital sources. If you purchase it, it has an expanded section on Strangelove’s early career. 

It would not surprisingly win the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at Loncon II in London in 1965 with The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao being the only other film on the final ballot.

The film was a box office success as it only cost one point eight million to make and it made nine point four million. Critics were universal in their belief that it was one of the best films ever done with Ebert saying it was “arguably the best political satire of the century”. At Rotten Tomatoes, it currently holds a ninety-four percent rating with over two hundred thousand audience reviewers casting a vote.  The studio on the other hand thought it was an anti-war film and distanced itself as far as it could from it. 

A sequel was planned by Kubrick with Gilliam directing though Gilliam was never told this by Kubrick and only discovered this after Kubrick died and he later said “I never knew about that until after he died but I would have loved to.”

The original theatrical trailer is here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 29, 1918 Robert Pastene. He played the title role in the first televised Buck Rogers series on ABC that also had Kem Dibbs and Eric Hammond in that role. 35 episodes were made, none survive. As near as I can tell, his only other SFF performance was on the Out There and Lights Out series. (Died 1991.)
  • Born January 29, 1923 Paddy Chayefsky. In our circles known as the writer of the Altered States novel that he also wrote the screenplay for. He is the only person to have won three solo Academy Awards for Best Screenplay. The other winners of three Awards shared theirs. He did not win for Altered States though he did win for Network which I adore. (Died 1981.)
  • Born January 29, 1940 Katharine Ross, 82. Her first genre work was as Joanna Eberhart in The Stepford Wives, scary film that. She shows up next as Helena in The Swarm and plays Margaret Walsh in The Legacy, both horror films. The Final Countdown sees her in the character of Laurel Scott.  And Dr. Lilian Thurman is her character in the cult favorite Donnie Darko.  I’m fairly sure that the only genre series she’s done is on The Wild Wild West as Sheila Parnell in “The Night of the Double-Edged Knife”, and she did an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents as well. 
  • Born January 29, 1945 Tom Selleck, 77. Setting aside the matter of if Magnum P.I. is genre, which some of you hold to be true, and in the twelfth season of Blue Bloods which is definitely not genre, he was Sgt. Jack R. Ramsay in Runaway which is most definitely SF.  He recently did some voice acting by being Cornelius, Lewis’ older self, in the animated Meet the Robinsons film, and he showed up as himself in the “What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?” of the Muppet Babies nearly forty years ago.
  • Born January 29, 1958 Jeph Loeb, 64. His first comic writing work was on the Challengers of the Unknown vol. 2 #1 in 1991 with Tim Sale. I’m pleased to say that it was in the DC Universe app so I just read it and it’s superb. He’d go on to win three Eisners for his work for Batman/The Spirit #1, Batman: The Long Halloween and Batman: Dark Victory. And he’s also a producer/writer on such genre series such as SmallvilleLostHeroes and Teen Wolf.
  • Born January 29, 1970 Heather Graham, 52. Best known SF role no doubt was Dr. Judy Robinson on the Lost on Space film. She played also Felicity Shagwell that year in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. And she was Annie Blackburn on Twin Peaks.
  • Born January 29, 1988 Catrin Stewart, 34. Jenny Flint in five episodes of Doctor Who. She was the wife of Madame Vastra and the friend of Strax, the three known as the Paternoster Gang, who appeared first during the Eleventh Doctor and last during the Twelfth Doctor. Big Finish has continued them in their audiobooks. She also played Stella in two episodes of the Misfits series, and was Julia in a performance of 1984 done at London Playhouse a few years back.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) GUINAN GENESIS. Slashfilm tells “How LeVar Burton Landed Whoopi Goldberg Her Role On Star Trek”.

…Goldberg explained:

“So when my friend LeVar Burton said, ‘I’m going to do the new Star Trek,’ I was like, ‘Wait, I want to be on it!’ And they were like, ‘Okay, chill!’ And then a year later I said, ‘LeVar what happened? Nobody ever called!’ and he said, ‘They didn’t believe you.’ So I said, ‘Let’s call them right now.’ And so we called Gene Roddenberry, and I said, ‘Can we have a meeting please, because I really want to be on this and if you’ll meet with me I’ll explain why I think it’s important.’ So they were all very skeptical.

I explained, I said you know there had never been any Black people in the future, and it was a huge deal for me [seeing a Black actor on ‘Star Trek’] because I’m a sci-fi kid, and it felt like you were talking to me and letting me know it was alright. And I’d like to do that for some other kids. Now, we all know there are Black people in the future now, but I’d like to carry this on. He said, ‘I can’t believe you felt like that, I didn’t know this.’ I said, ‘Well if you watch sci-fi from the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, you don’t see anybody.’

So he said okay, so he wrote my character, Texas Guinan, she’s based on – who had a great bar in New York in the ’20s – and she greeted everyone by saying, ‘Hello, suckers!’ So we couldn’t do that to the extraterrestrials. But that’s how I got on it, because I desperately wanted to, A.) thank him for giving that to me, because it was a big deal.”…

(12) FOR I AM WELSH, YOU KNOW. “Welsh town to retell tale of how it built Star Wars’ Millennium Falcon” — the Guardian has the story.

In a small Welsh town far, far away (perhaps), preparations are in hand to tell the story of how one of the most famous and beloved movie spaceships was secretly built in an old aircraft hangar.

A permanent exhibition is to open later this year explaining how the Millennium Falcon that appeared in the Star Wars film The Empire Strikes Back came to be constructed from wood and steel by engineers in Pembroke Dock, in south-west Wales.

Local craftspeople working under a veil of secrecy were ordered to refer to the ship as “Magic Roundabout” but, inevitably in a small town, word seeped out.

(13) THE OCEAN ATE MY HOMEWORK. Genre books weren’t involved – this time. “Cookbooks Sink to Bottom of Atlantic After Ship Incident” reports People.

At least two forthcoming cookbooks from acclaimed chefs are sitting on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean after a “wild and unfortunate” turn of events.

The publication dates for Mason Hereford’s Turkey and the Wolf: Flavor Trippin’ in New Orleans and food writer Melissa Clark’s Dinner in One have been delayed, both authors said, after containers containing printings of their books toppled into the sea.

Publishers Marketplace adds: “The cargo ship carrying the books from China was on a slow course in the Atlantic Ocean near Portugal, likely to delay docking in the US due to port congestion. A storm hit the ship in early January and caused a ‘stack collapse’ in which 65 containers went overboard–seemingly containing every copy of the two books–while 89 others were damaged.

(14) UH, YEAH. CBS News says “Weber grill maker apologizes for poorly timed meatloaf recipe”. Then again, Mr. Aday might have found it hilarious.

Weber picked the wrong day to suggest grilling meatloaf.

The outdoor grill maker apologized on Friday for sending a recipe-of-the-week email earlier that day featuring instructions on how to prepare “BBQ Meat Loaf.”

The email coincided with news of the death of Marvin Lee Aday, best known as rock superstar Meat Loaf….

 [Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Jen Hawthorne, Tom Becker, Mlex, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 1/18/22
21 Jaunt Street

(1) RED WOMBAT EXTRA! Ursula Vernon has launched a newsletter: Wombat Droppings – Issue #1.

Hello, friends and subscribers! I’m starting a newsletter, because Twitter is like drinking from a firehose, Patreon costs you money, and I rarely have the braincells to blog these days. (Plus, when all your presence is on someone else’s platform, they can delete you at any time and leave you floundering in the social void.)

I promise that if you subscribe, I will not bother you too much. Also, I have no intention of charging for this thing, although apparently “newsletter” now means “thing you charge money for” and I don’t know what to call a thing that used to be a newsletter but now isn’t? (Free newsletter? I dunno. May need to workshop that.)

Anyway, let’s give this a try and see what happens!

The theme of Issue #1 is “So I’ve Started GMing…”

…Our game hook is that all the players are interns from the Church of the Good Boy, an all-dog temple established in our previous campaign. So they are all dogs, except for the rogue, who has paperwork stating that he is a dog, despite suspiciously cat-like ears…

(2) PUBLISH LIKE A PIRATE DAY. This might be the topic of Red Wombat’s next newsletter:

(3) CSI SKILL TREE. The CSI Skill Tree series examines how video games “envision possible futures, build rich and thought-provoking worlds, and engage people as active participants in unfolding and interpreting stories.”

The next event in the CSI Skill Tree series will be on Wednesday, February 23, from 1:00-2:15 p.m. Eastern and feature Cloud Gardens, a 2020 gardening game about using plants to overgrow and transform abandoned post-industrial landscapes. The guest speakers are SFF author and translator Ken Liu and game designer Liz Fiacco, who has worked on titles including The Last of Us 2 and Pillars of Eternity. The event is virtual, free, and open to everyone. Here is the registration page.

The event is cohosted with Orion Magazine, a quarterly publication working at the convergence of ecology, art, and social justice, and attendees will receive a code for 20% off a subscription to Orion.

Join the Center for Science and the Imagination and Orion Magazine, an ad-free, quarterly print publication at the convergence of ecology, art, and social justice, for our latest event, featuring “Cloud Gardens,” a 2020 gardening game about using plants to overgrow and transform abandoned post-industrial landscapes. At once soothing and cryptic, “Cloud Gardens” uses pastel colors and calming music to raise questions about the boundaries we construct between organic and built environments, the human and the nonhuman, the sublime and the dystopian.

(4) RENEWED AND PRENEWED. “’Star Trek: Discovery,’ ‘Lower Decks’ Renewed at Paramount Plus”Variety has the story.

“Star Trek: Discovery,” “Star Trek: Lower Decks,” and “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” have all been renewed at Paramount Plus.

For “Discovery,” that means it will return for a fifth season. The show is due to resume its fourth season on Feb. 10. “Lower Decks” will now be back for a fourth season, with Season 3 of the animated comedy set to debut this summer.

“Strange New Worlds” has yet to debut its first season, which will drop on Paramount Plus on May 5. 

(5) MINUTES OF THE WORLD SQUEECORE CONGRESS. Sure, you could run your own Twitter search for the latest “squeecore” tweets – but these are curated tweets. You know, like a cooking show where the chef does marvels by adding pancetta or Calabrian chiles. (People are now looking around, asking, “So why don’t I see anything Mike added?”)

CAT RAMBO

LAURA DIAZ DE ARCE

SILVIA MORENO-GARCIA

NICK MAMATAS

DR. AMANDA DILLON

PAUL M. CRAY

3DPARTYINTERNET

MARIE BRENNAN

ANNA NICGIOLLAMHUIRE

ANDREW NETTE

(6) FOWL BAWL. Was it a slow news week? Having nothing more pressing to do, TIME Magazine ripped Donald Duck as one of the “Top 10 Worst Awards-Show Hosts” for his work on the 1958 Oscars.

We love classic cartoons as much as the next kid disguised as a grownup, but given the star power of the glittering 1950s, Donald Duck probably didn’t need to co-host the 30th Academy Awards. Bob Hope, Jack Lemmon, David Niven, Rosalind Russell and James Stewart also ran the 1958 show. Donald appeared on film rather than, as is preferable for most hosts, in person. Still, he wasn’t completely out of his element: 15 years earlier, his short Der Fuehrer’s Face won an Oscar.

(7) CHUCK SHIMADA OBIT. LASFS member Charles Shimada passed away peacefully in his sleep on December 26, 2021, Calvin Ogawa reported on Facebook. LA-area fans remember Chuck for doing a lot of the Audio/Video technical setup for many conventions over the years – including the 1996 Worldcon I chaired.

Much earlier, at the 1975 EquiCon, Chuck let me run the projector as we showed Star Trek episodes. These were Gene Roddenberry’s personal 16mm prints. And while I was rewinding one of them, I noticed to my horror that I had not closed the reel lock — the reel was starting to do a high-frequency wobble. What would happen when it reached the end? OMG! Was it going to fly off and unspool irreplaceable film all over the fans sitting in front of the projection stand? What would happen to my hand if I grabbed the reel to stop it spinning? I found out. Nothing, fortunately; film saved; I lived to volunteer another day.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1973 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-nine years ago, The Six Million Dollar Man premiered this evening on ABC. It was based on Martin Caidin’s Cyborg. Executive Producer was Harve Bennett, who you will recognize from the Star Trek films. It was produced by Kenneth Johnson who would later do The Bionic Woman spin-off and the Alien Nation film. 

Its primary cast was Lee Majors,  Richard Anderson and Martin E. Brooks. Majors had a successful second series shortly after this series was cancelled, The Fall Guy, about heart-of-gold bounty hunters. The Six Million Dollar Man would run for five seasons consisting of ninety-nine episodes and five films. The Fall Guy would run five seasons as well. 

Reception by media critics is generally positive. Phelim O’Neil of The Guardian says, “He was Superman, James Bond and Neil Armstrong all rolled into one, and $6M was an almost incomprehensibly large amount of money: how could anyone not watch this show?” And Rob Hunter of Film School Reviews states “The story lines run the gamut from semi-believable to outright ludicrous, but even at its most silly the show is an entertaining family friendly mix of drama, humor, action, and science fiction.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 18, 1882 A.A. Milne. Talking fat bears obsessed with honey. Bouncing tigers, err, tiggers. Morose, well, what is he? It’s certainly genre. And though it isn’t remotely genre, I wholeheartedly recommend Milne’s The Red House Mystery, a Country House Mystery that’s most excellent! (Died 1956.)
  • Born January 18, 1932 Robert Anton Wilson. I think I first encountered him in something Richard E. Geis wrote about him in Science Fiction Review in the Eighties. Schrödinger’s Cat Trilogy is just weird and might or might not be a sequel to Wilson’s The Illuminatus! Trilogy co-authored with Robert Shea. But the absolutely weirdest thing he did might be an interview titled Robert Anton Wilson On Finnegans Wake and Joseph Campbell. (Died 2007.)
  • Born January 18, 1933 John Boorman, 89. Director who’s responsible for one of the best SFF films ever done, Excalibur, and one of the worst, Zardoz. (He wrote the novel for that one as well.)  (I know some Filers like Zardoz. Oh well.)  He also directed the rather nifty Emerald Forest which Holdstock did a far better than merely good job of novelizing.
  • Born January 18, 1937 Dick Durock. He was best known for playing Swamp Thing in Swamp Thing and The Return of Swamp Thing and the following television series which ran for three seasons. His only other genre appearances were in The Nude Bomb (also known as The Return of Maxwell Smart) and “The First” of The Incredible Hulk. He shows up in Die Hard with a Vengeance in a subway scene. No, it’s not genre, I just like that film. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 18, 1953 Pamela Dean Dyer-Bennet, 69. Her best novel is I think Tam Lin though one could make an argument for Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary which Windling calls her favorite fantasy novel. Her Secret Country trilogy is also a great deal of fun to read. Much of her short stories are set in the Liavek shared universe created by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly. All of the Liavek anthologies are now available on all major digital platforms. According to the files sitting in my Dropbox folder, there’s eight volumes to the series. They’re wonderful reading. End of plug.
  • Born January 18, 1955 Kevin Costner, 67. Some of his genre films are Robin Hood: Prince of ThievesWaterworldThe Postman and the recent Dragonfly, but I really like his Field of Dreams — his acting in it as Ray Kinsella is quite excellent. Not quite as superb as he was as “Crash” Davis in Bull Durham but damned good. Bull Durham is one of my go-to films when I want to feel good. He also was Jonathan Kent in both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
  • Born January 18, 1964 Jane Horrocks, 58. Her first SFF genre role was Pattern in The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, scripted off the Joan Aiken novel. A year later, she showed up in the most excellent The Witches, scripted off the Raoul Dahl novel playing Miss Susan Irvine. She voices Black Widow / Mrs. Plum in Tim Burton’s The Corpse Bride, and voiced Hannah in the late Ninties Watership Down.

(10) IRISH COMIC NEWS AWARDS SHORTLISTS. Congratulations to James Bacon who has been nominated for the Irish Comic News’ ICN Awards 2021 in the Best Irish Writer (Non-Fiction) category for his work on File 770. (James also edits and writes for Journey Planet.) The complete list of nominees is here.

BEST IRISH WRITER (NON-FICTION)

As I mentioned in a year-end roundup, James uses his descriptive abilities and camera to allow Filers to accompany him to exhibits and events in vivid and enjoyable reports. 

His round table interview with N.K. Jemisin about her work on Green Lantern was great fun to read. And he constantly reviews comics from off the beaten track which deserve our attention. His work last year on File 770 was considerable —

I wish him and all other nominees the best of luck. 

(11) EFFICIENCY EXPERT. I can see that Michael Carroll’s sense of humor is part of his appeal – here’s how he introduces his list of Rusty Staples’ “Most Popular Posts of 2021!”

…As I promised in last year’s look back at the previous year, I ditched my plan to post at least one entry every week: doing so freed up a lot of time that I was able to divide between idly daydreaming about winning imaginary arguments with jerks, and needlessly wallowing in unwarranted self-pity. So, time well-spent, I think….

(12) MOON KNIGHT. Disney+ dropped a trailer for their new streaming series with Oscar Isaac yesterday. The series will premiere on March 30.

(13) THAT’S A LOT OF QUARTERS. “Microsoft acquires gaming giant Activision Blizzard for nearly $70 billion” reports CNN.

Microsoft on Tuesday announced plans to acquire Activision Blizzard in a blockbuster deal worth nearly $70 billion. It’s one of the biggest acquisitions in the tech industry in recent years, one that will boost Microsoft’s standing in the growing gaming industry but could be complicated by recent concerns about Activision’s toxic culture.

The all-cash transaction is valued at $68.7 billion, and Microsoft says it will make the company the third-largest gaming company by revenue, after Tencent and Sony.

Bobby Kotick, the controversial CEO of Activision Blizzard, will continue in his role, according to a press release detailing the announced acquisition. Activision employees had previously staged walkouts and called on Kotick to step down for having allegedly been aware of widespread harassment and discrimination problems at the company for years….

(14) DOCKING MANUVER. Here we are outside 104 E. Providencia Ave in Burbank in 1964. I hope somebody explained parallel parking to Mr. Sulu later!

(15) A ROBERT PICARDO APPEARANCE. Jonathan Cowie reports that at the last Novacon they screened a short film based on a story by Chris Priest – here is a trailer for it: The Stooge.

(16) A REAL INCENTIVE. JDA truly understands the audience for his comics.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Cath Jackel.] Here’s a BBC Reel about How to ride a pterosaur, according to science. Includes a saddle mockup inspired by How to Train Your Dragon.

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

World Fantasy Convention 2022 in New Orleans

World Fantasy Convention 2022 has named its Guests of Honor: Ginjer Buchanan, Victor LaValle, Jo Walton, Caitlín R. Kiernan, and Andrei Codrescu. The Toastmaster is Ursula Vernon. An artist Guest of Honor will be named later. Chaired by Tom Hanlon, the convention will be held in New Orleans, Louisiana November 3-6, 2022.

The event’s sponsor, the Louisiana Association for Literacy and the Fantastic, launched WFC 2022’s website and opened online registration early this week.

“While it’s been a challenge to organize and prepare for an event with a shorter time span than normal due to COVID, and Hurricane Ida didn’t help any,” said Hanlon, “we’re thrilled to have a committee with ideas and participation from New Orleans, throughout the South and across borders. We have an amazing committee who are working hard to ensure this year’s World Fantasy Convention exceeds our members’ expectations.” The event will be held at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans, located downtown within walking distance of many historical sites.

Although registration officially opened at the 2021 World Fantasy Convention in Montreal, this week’s website launch made online registration possible. Initial pricing is $150 US for attending memberships and $50 US for supporting membership. “We are planning to host a hybrid convention, with a strong virtual component,” says Hanlon. “Our initial price for virtual membership is $50, the same as a supporting membership.” The prices for attending and virtual memberships will increase on February 1, 2022, while the supporting membership will remain $50.

This year’s WFC will be the second held in New Orleans. Hanlon also chaired the first one in 1994.

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 1/7/22 It’s All Fun And Games Till Someone Pixels A File

(1) WEBB SPACE TELESCOPE DEPLOYMENT WILL AIR. “NASA to Host Coverage, Briefing for Webb Telescope’s Final Unfolding” the space agency announced.

NASA will provide live coverage and host a media briefing Saturday, Jan. 8, for the conclusion of the James Webb Space Telescope’s major spacecraft deployments.

Beginning no earlier than 9 a.m. EST, NASA will air live coverage of the final hours of Webb’s major deployments. After the live broadcast concludes, at approximately 1:30 p.m., NASA will hold a media briefing. Both the broadcast and media briefing will air live on NASA TV, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.

As the final step in the observatory’s major deployments, the Webb team plans to unfold the second of two primary mirror wings. When this step is complete, Webb will have finished its unprecedented process of unfolding in space to prepare for science operations.

(2) KETTER INTERVIEWED ABOUT DREAMHAVEN BREAK-IN. The DreamHaven Books break-in reported in yesterday’s Scroll made local news on the Fox affiliate, who interviewed owner Greg Ketter: “Minneapolis comic store owner frustrated after continued robberies”.

(3) BEHIND CLOSED DOORS. “Golden Globes Will Not Be Livestreamed This Weekend” reports Deadline.

The controversy-plagued Golden Globes looks set to return this weekend, but no one will see it online or otherwise. “This year’s event is going to be a private event and will not be livestreamed,” an HFPA spokesperson said. “We will be providing real-time updates on winners on the Golden Globes website and our social media.”

…NBC revealed on May 10 that it would not air the Golden Globes this year due to the diversity issues involving the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

The network, in a statement at the time, said it continues to believe that the HFPA is “committed to meaningful reform” but “change of this magnitude takes time and work, and we feel strongly that the HFPA needs time to do it right.”

(4) LEVAR BURTON. A reminder that the LeVar Burton Reads podcasts are also available on Stitcher. The latest is “To Jump is to Fall” by Stephen Graham Jones.

“To Jump is to Fall” by Stephen Graham Jones

A spy narrates his thoughts as he jumps from an airplane and freefalls toward his government target.

(5) DISCON III PANEL VIDEOS. The recorded panels of the 2021 Worldcon, DisCon III, are now available to attending members and virtual members. The recordings should remain available through the month of January 2022.

1. Go to the DisCon III schedule page: 

https://discon3.org/schedule/

2. Use the Log In button in the top left corner of the page. 

3. On the convention schedule, look for items with a View Replay button.

(6) DISCON III ART SHOW. Lisa Hertel reported on Facebook that DisCon III’s art show sales were approximately $32,000 across 33 artists.

(7) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman worries that the Omicron surge will keep him away from future conventions, but that doesn’t erase the fun he had in D.C. where he recorded five episodes of his podcast, including “Breakfast on Eggs Benedict with Fonda Lee”.

Fonda Lee

Fonda Lee won both a World Fantasy Award and an Aurora Award for her novel Jade City, which was also nominated for Nebula, Seiun, and Sunburst Awards. That first installment of her Green Bone Saga, an epic urban fantasy, was followed by Jade War, which was nominated for both the Dragon and Aurora Awards. Jade Legacy, the third book in her series, was released in November of 2021. Her young adult novels Zeroboxer and Exo were both Andre Norton Award finalists. She holds black belts in karate and kung fu, which probably came in handy when it was time for her to write Shang-Chi for Marvel Comics.

Because Fonda is a fan of Eggs Benedict, we headed to the Lafayette restaurant in the Hay Adams Hotel, where I’d been informed by Tom Sietsema of the Washington Post we could find an excellent incarnation of that dish.

We discussed what it was like finishing the final book in her Green Bone Saga trilogy during the pandemic, her secret for keeping track of near 2,000 pages of characters and plot points, why every book project is terrifying in its own way, how much of the ending she knew at the beginning (and our opposing views on whether knowing the ending helps or hurts the creative process), the warring wolves inside her as she writes the most emotionally difficult scenes, why she starts to worry if her writing is going too smoothly, the framing device that became far more than a framing device, why her natural length for processing ideas is the novel rather than the short story, and much more.

(8) BEBOP PETITION REACHES 100K. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] According to Dazed‘s Günseli Yalcinkaya, the Change.org petition “Save the live action cowboy bebop” has now garnered over 100,000 signatures.

Following news of the cancellation, co-executive producer Javier Grillo-Marxuach took to Twitter to voice his disappointment: “I truly loved working on this. It came from a real and pure place of respect and affection. I wish we could make what we planned for a second season, but you know what they say, men plan, God laughs.”

…As petition numbers grow by the minute, perhaps it won’t be long until Netflix takes note and we can confidently say: See you soon, space cowboy.

(9) THE BOYS. Amazon Prime dropped a teaser trailer for The Boys – Season 3. Coming June 3.

The Boys is an irreverent take on what happens when superheroes, who are as popular as celebrities, as influential as politicians and as revered as Gods, abuse their superpowers rather than use them for good. It’s the powerless against the super powerful as The Boys embark on a heroic quest to expose the truth about “The Seven”, and their formidable Vought backing.

(10) MILLER OBIT. Wild Cards author John Joseph Miller died January 5 announced DreamForge Magazine.

We are deeply saddened to hear that John Jos. Miller passed away yesterday. Our deepest sympathies to John’s wife, family, and friends. We were fortunate to work with John on Ghost of a Smile in 2019 and Don’t Look Back in the recently released DreamForge Anvil Issue 6. He’s best known for his work in the Wildcard Series edited by George RR Martin. His last story with us, Don’t Look Back, is a Satchel Paige baseball story. John was a Fellow of the Society for American Baseball Research and was an authority on America’s Negro league baseball of the 20th Century. In his honor, read “Don’t Look Back” in Dreamforge Anvil Issue 6.

(11) WILLIAM CONTENTO (1947-2021). William G. Contento known for his annual bibliographical roundups of sff in the Eighties and Nineties (originally with Locus’ Charles N. Brown), died December 13, 2021. His family obituary is here.

…Bill retired in 2012. Bill’s obsession besides his family, was science fiction, a collector, an author and authority on anthologies and source material. Using his cataloging mind, his home computer and working with other collaborators who shared his passion Bill authored and coauthored at least 14 titles. Some of his reference works were more than 500 pages. Eventually he was able to put them on CDs. His indexes are linked by the Library of Congress, The British Library, MIT’s library to name a few. Google his name to see a list of all his labors of love….

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1961 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Sixty-one years ago, ITV first aired The Avengers. Original cast was Ian Hendry and Patrick Macnee. Hendry left after the first series; Steed than became the primary male character, partnered with a succession of female partners. The series would last for six seasons and one hundred and one episodes. We of course have our favorite female partner but that’s not for us to say here. After it ended in 1969, John Steed would be paired with two new partners on The New Avengers, a series that ran for two seasons in the mid-Seventies.  

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 7, 1899 F. Orlin Tremaine. He was the Editor of Astounding from 1933 to 1937. It’s said that he bought Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness without actually reading it. Later as Editor at Bartholomew House, he brought out the first paperback editions of Lovecraft’s The Weird Shadow Over Innsmouth and The Dunwich Horror. He wrote a dozen or so short stories that were published in the pulps between 1926 and 1949. (Died 1956.)
  • Born January 7, 1912 Charles Addams. Illustrator best known for the Addams Family which he first drew in 1932 and kept drawing until his death. Needless to say there have been a number of films using these characters of which The Addams Family is my favorite. Linda H. Davis’ Charles Addams: A Cartoonist’s Life is well worth seeking out and reading. (Died 1988.)
  • Born January 7, 1913 Julian S. Krupa. Pulp cover and interior illustrator from 1939 to 1971 who graced Amazing Stories and Fantastic. In the Thirties, he also contributed art to fanzines, including Ad Astra. His grandson said that “his Grandfather did all the illustrations for the training films for the first Nuclear Submarines and was a friend to Admiral Rickover. And then continued to do early training films for NASA.” (Died 1989.)
  • Born January 7, 1928 William Peter Blatty. Novelist and screenwriter best known for The Exorcist though he was also the same for Exorcist III. The former is by no means the only genre work that he would write as his literary career would go on for forty years after this novel and would include Demons Five, Exorcists Nothing: A Fable which he renamed Demons Five, Exorcists Nothing: A Hollywood Christmas Carol and The Exorcist for the 21st Century, his final work. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 7, 1955 Karen Haber, 67. Wife of Robert Silverberg. I fondly remember reading her Hugo-nominated Meditations on Middle Earth anthology, not to mention the three Universe anthologies she did with her husband which are most excellent. I don’t remember reading any of her novels but it’s hardly a certainty that I didn’t as even when my memory was a lot better than is now, I hardly remembered all the genre fiction I’ve read. So those you’ve read her, please tell me what she’s like. 
  • Born January 7, 1957 Nicholson Baker, 65. Ok ISFDB lists him as having two SFF novels, The Fermata and House of Holes. The Wiki page him lists those as being two out of the three erotic novels that he’s written. Not having read them, are they indeed erotic SFF? I see that ESF say they’re indeed SFF and yes are erotic. H’h. 
  • Born January 7, 1961 Mark Allen Shepherd, 61. Morn, the bar patron on Deep Space Nine. Amazingly he was in Quark’s bar a total of ninety-three episodes plus one episode each on Next Gen and Voyager. Technically he’s uncredited in almost all of those appearances. That’s pretty much his entire acting career. I’m trying to remember if he has any lines. He’s also an abstract painter whose work was used frequently on DS9 sets. For all practical purposes, this was his acting career. 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio might be a young Harryhausen.

(15) GET VACCINATED. GeekWire witnesses when “Mr. Spock beams down for vaccine-boosting billboard campaign”.

…The first round of the campaign, organized by Nimoy’s family and L.A. Care Health Plan with the blessing of ViacomCBS, has been in the works in Los Angeles since last May…

(16) BOWIE THE ACTOR. [Item by Alan Baumler.] BBC’s appreciation of the film roles of Davie Bowie, almost all genre. “The underrated genius of David Bowie’s acting”. For some reason, can’t quite put my finger on it, they kept casting him for roles playing someone out of place who did not quite fit in.

… It’s unsurprising that this most mercurial of artists, with his visual sensibility and many alter-egos, would be drawn to film. Yet, while Bowie’s legendary status in music is beyond question, quantifying his contribution to cinema as an actor is more complicated. In the three decades between The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) and The Prestige (2006), Bowie appeared in dozens of films but – despite that span of credits – only a few of these roles came close to making the most of his talent. When we leave aside the many cameos – of which the uncontested crème de le crème is Bowie solemnly adjudicating a runway walk-off in Zoolander – and the forgettable flops – the less said about Just a Gigolo, the better – we are left with only a handful of performances. Yet those acting roles that did manage to effectively exploit Bowie’s gifts are easily enough to secure his status as a cinema icon. When matched with an inventive director, Bowie could be an unforgettable screen presence….

(17) DEER DEPARTED. RedWombat’s Bambi rewatch thread starts here.

(18) WAVES OF SFF. Ron Jacobs reviews Dangerous Visions and New Worlds: Radical Science Fiction 1950-1985 in “Some Hazy Cosmic Jive” at CounterPunch.

…If the reader previously dismissed science fiction as juvenile or foolish, this introductory survey of its radical possibilities is heartily recommended. It could easily change your mind. If the reader is already familiar with this genre, this text will come as an intelligent and inspired discussion of the genre during one of its most creative and fertile periods. Visually delightful and intellectually astute, it should provide each and every reader with a list of books to add to their to-read queue.

(19) NOT JUST A PHASE. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Artist/illustrator Will Quinn did this piece based on the Saul Bass movie Phase IV (1974). It was riffed by Joel and the Bots in the television series Mystery Science Theater 3000 (1988-) in its KTMA season (1988-1989).

(20) WHERE IT’S AT. I always like to have a science item towards the end of the Scroll.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Live from 2011, “’Doctor Who on Holiday’ by Dean Gray”.

It combines Green Day’s “Holiday” with Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll Part 2” and “Doctorin’ The TARDIS” by The Timelords (better known as The KLF). “Doctorin’ The TARDIS” itself takes a sample from “Rock and Roll Part 2″.” From Wikipedia: “Dr Who on Holiday is the second track from the mash up album, American Edit created by Dean Gray (a collaboration of Party Ben and Team 9).

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Alan Baumler, Ben Bird Person, Scott Edelman, Will R., Rich Lynch, Nicki Lynch, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 1/3/22 Barsoomian Rhapsody

(1) AUTHORS CALL OUT DRASTIC PROBLEMS WITH KINDLE DIRECT PUBLISHING. Several indie romance authors recently found themselves banned by Kindle Direct Publishing with no real explanation, including paranormal and SF authors such as Ruby Dixon, author of Ice Planet Barbarians. She’s a successful writer who has been reviewed in mainstream media, so this was very odd. Even when Amazon reinstated the authors and their books, some say they had to fight to get their royalties restored as well.

Lexi Ostrow, another author who experienced this, blogged about it extensively. “The Story of Amazon & The Destruction of a career – USA Today Bestselling Author Lexi Ostrow” is the first of three posts.

… The last 30ish hours have been very hard for me. Somehow, I offended Amazon’s KDP system and my entire career has been taken down. This blog is my attempt to share only the facts, while leaving out any opinions and emotions. At present, 43 books have been unpublished, over $300 in advertising dollars on a new release from 12.20.21 are wasted, and over 700 reviews & ratings are now gone. All of this occurred just 24 hours after my latest release, which was the first release I’ve had since last Christmas, due to fighting a mystery illness and COVID parenting a toddler – writing took a backseat.

Please consider sharing this blog on your social media. I want to effect change within Amazon more than I want my career back. If enough of us make noise, it’s possible this can all be changed….

As I am human, my next course of action included breaking down. I have been a published author – indie house, small presses, and self – for just over 6 years. I have been included in or solo’d in 54 novels + the two preorders. 

Per the email, my books were gone. My reviews were gone. My royalties would not be paid – yes, you read that correctly, Amazon was going to keep money I made on all my BACKLIST titles because the preorder raised a flag. I also cannot create another KDP account to begin again (which is fair if I’d done what I was accused of doing or anything else).

I took to social media for help, because my account was blocked so I couldn’t “contact us” beyond a form fill and I wasn’t content with that. To see the Facebook post, click here.

Susan Lyn says she suffered the same fate: “Writing and Life”.

In unrelated yet just as devastating news, I seem to have angered the gods of Amazon and all books have been purged from the behemoth. They seem to be doing a massive author purge, some pretty big names have also been affected.

Never fear, I’m in the process of sending all of my previously published titles wide (to be available everywhere but Amazon) and will update links to where they are available.

Ruby Dixon’s books have since been reinstated.

Lexi Ostrow’s Amazon author page also shows her Kindle books are back, but it was a struggle every step of the way as she explains in two follow-up posts. “Amazon & The Destruction of a Career Part 2” on December 26 contains screenshots of more emails exchanged with the Amazon Content Review Team. “Amazon & The Death of a Career – the Finale” on December 29 says that when Amazon restored her books, they initially did not restore the royalties in her account. Later, Ostrow got a call from someone from KDP’s Executive Customer Relations that her royalties also had been restored. Ostrow’s final post includes these lessons learned:

What did I learn from the call?

  • The KDP content team has no phone access because “they aren’t client facing so it isn’t an issue”. I assure you, I let him know how very much it was/is an issue
  • Executives have no idea why the content team does what they do – AKA NO NOTES!!
  • He found me via Twitter, not via any of my emails or attempted calls.
  • The KDP content team is overseas and doesn’t interact with clients. I was very verbal that this is a problem.
  • I was told there would be an investigation into why I was ignored so many times and not given proper responses.
  • That while nice, I will never put all my eggs in one basket. While I will remain on Amazon for the exposure, I am 100% wide.
  • Our fight to fix this process is not yet done, but I’m still trying to understand what will help as a petition merely expresses a desire for something, but we all know Amazon KNOWS their policy is shit.

(2) WEBB TELESCOPE IN THE SHADE. Yahoo! reports:“NASA’s new space telescope ‘hunky-dory’ after problems fixed”.

NASA’s new space telescope is on the verge of completing the riskiest part of its mission — unfolding and tightening a huge sunshade — after ground controllers fixed a pair of problems, officials said Monday.

The tennis court-size sunshield on the James Webb Space Telescope is now fully open and in the process of being stretched tight. The operation should be complete by Wednesday.

… The sunshield is vital for keeping Webb’s infrared-sensing instruments at subzero temperatures, as they scan the universe for the first stars and galaxies, and examine the atmospheres of alien worlds for possible signs of life.

Getting the sunshield extended last Friday “was really a huge achievement for us,” said project manager Bill Ochs. All 107 release pins opened properly.

But there have been a few obstacles.

Flight controllers in Maryland had to reset Webb’s solar panel to draw more power. The observatory — considered the successor to the aging Hubble Space Telescope — was never in any danger, with a constant power flow, said Amy Lo, a lead engineer for the telescope’s prime contractor, Northrop Grumman….

They also repointed the telescope to limit sunlight on six overheating motors. The motors cooled enough to begin securing the sunshield, a three-day process that can be halted if the problem crops up again, officials said.

“Everything is hunky-dory and doing well now,” Lo said.

(3) HARD TO SWALLOW. Cora Buhlert reviews the opening episode of the new series: “The Book of Boba Fett finds itself a ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’”. Beware spoilers.

…“Stranger in a Strange Land”, the first episode of The Book of Boba Fett continues where both The Mandalorian and Return of the Jedi left off. Because the scenes of Boba Fett establishing himself as the premiere crime lord on Tatooine are interspersed with flashbacks of Boba Fett’s past, including his escape from the Sarlaac’s digestive tract….

(4) ROUTES. In San Marino, the Huntington’s “Mapping Fiction” exhibit will open January 15: “Exhibition to Explore the Construction of Fictional Worlds through Maps and Novels”.

On the occasion of the centennial of James Joyce’s Ulysses, “Mapping Fiction” includes works by Octavia E. Butler, William Faulkner, Jack and Charmian London, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Mark Twain, among others…

…Other featured objects in this section include an Arion Press artist book edition of Edwin A. Abbott’s satirical novella Flatland, a Romance of Many Dimensions; J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy; George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones; maps from the Octavia E. Butler archive related to her Earthseed novels; and a map for The Mortmere Stories of Christopher Isherwood and Edward Upward.

(5) CINEMATIC CLI-FI. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Sonia Rao interviews directors of films that deal with climate change.  Most of the films discussed, including Wall-E, The Day After Tomorrow, and Mad Max:  Fury Road–are sf.  Kim Stanley Robinson is briefly interviewed in the section on Mad Max:  Fury Road. “Climate change is the greatest threat to humanity. Here’s how filmmakers have tried to make sense of it all.”

… Things fall apart rapidly in “The Day After Tomorrow.” Soon after climate scientist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) says at a United Nations conference that climate change could lead to an ice age, a storm system develops and threatens to destroy the Northern Hemisphere. Jack’s son Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his friends seek shelter at the New York Public Library, where they burn books for warmth as snow mounts against the building’s outer walls.

Like its peers in the disaster genre, “The Day After Tomorrow” is consumed by the special effects involved in depicting calamity. Emmerich says his critics often forget that “when you make a movie, it has to be dramatic in a certain way.” People bought tickets to be stunned. This was the guy who made “Independence Day,” after all….

(6) TODD SULLIVAN. Space Cowboy Books presents an online reading and interview with Todd Sullivan author of the fantasy trilogy The Windshine Chronicles on January 25 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Free registration here.

(7) NIGHTMARES ALLEZ. Hear from the legendary director in the Maltins’ podcast: Maltin on Movies: Guillermo del Toro.

Guillermo del Toro is a sorcerer who places no limits on his imagination. His new film, Nightmare Alley, now playing in theaters, is an exquisitely rendered film noir that stands alongside his earlier work (The Devil’s Backbone, Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Shape of Water) with the promise of more to come—like his “take” on Pinocchio. Leonard and Jessie are longtime devotees and are thrilled to share this uniquely eloquent and passionate creator with all of you.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1993 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-nine years ago, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiered in syndication. The fourth spin-off of the original series (counting the animated run) was the first developed after the death of Roddenberry as created by Rick Berman and Michael Piller. It starred Avery Brooks, René Auberjonois, Terry Farrell, Cirroc Lofton, Colm Meaney, Armin Shimerman, Alexander Siddig, Nana Visitor and Michael Dorn. It would run for seven seasons and one hundred seventy-six episodes. It would be nominated for two Hugo Awards but wouldn’t win either of them. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 3, 1892 J.R.R. Tolkien. Yes, It’s the Birthday of J.R.R. Tolkien. I thought I’d do something different, so I asked Filers and other folk I knew what their favorite works by him were. 

Peter Beagle says:

‘You mean my favorite writing by Tolkien? Probably the story of Beren and Luthien, which I’ve always loved – or maybe the one now published as The Children of Hurin. One or the other.’

Cora Buhlert is one of three Filers who gave an answer:

‘The first Tolkien I actually read was The Hobbit, in an East German edition with the illustrations from the Soviet edition. I got it as a present from my Great-Aunt Metel from East Germany, who often sent me books for Christmas and my birthday. It’s still somewhere in a box on my parents’ attic. 

‘I liked The Hobbit a lot, but I didn’t know there were more stories set in Middle Earth, until several years later, when I spotted The Lord of the Rings at a classmate’s place and borrowed it from him. As a teenager, I had a thing for mythology and read my way through the Nibelungenlied, the Odyssey and the Iliad, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, etc… Lord of the Rings fit right into that context and I enjoyed it even more than I had enjoyed The Hobbit.

‘I didn’t read the essay “On Fairy Stories” until university, when I cited it in a paper I wrote for a class. Now I had been educated in an environment which considered the traditional Grimm’s fairy tales too brutal and unsuitable for children (luckily, my parents ignored that and told/read them to me anyway) and which viewed fantasy and science fiction or any kind of genre fiction as escapist trash and potentially harmful. I got regurgitated version of this from my teachers at school and in university I was exposed to the 1970s leftwing pop culture criticism where those ideas had originated. However, I didn’t believe that fairy tales were bad and that SFF was escapist trash, so I was thrilled to read “On Fairy Stories” and find that Tolkien, who surely was considered beyond reproach, agreeing with me.’ 

Lis Carey was our next Filer:

‘I think I have to say that The Hobbit is my favorite Tolkien. I really do identify with Bilbo’s desire to stay home, and enjoy his cozy hobbit hole and its comforts, in his comfortable, familiar neighborhood. Yet, against his better judgment, he is lured into going on an adventure (always a bad idea, adventures) with the dwarves, and finds out just how resilient he is, his unexpected bravery, his ingenuity when faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges (“…he was chased by wolves, lost in the forest, escaped in a barrel from the elf-king’s hall…”) (yes, I love The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins, too.) He finds resources in himself that he never suspected–and at the end, he still goes home, to deal with his annoying relatives and enjoy his home. None of this “and now I will abandon everything I ever cared about, to be a completely different person in a different life.”‘

It’s been a long time for Ellen Datlow: since she read his nibs. so she says:

‘I haven’t read him in so long I don’t remember–I loved all three of the LOTR trilogy and The Hobbit but don’t remember exactly why.’  

Pamela Dean says she “unreservedly loves The Lord of the Rings, the translation of ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,’ and ‘On Fairy-Stories’.” 

Once again, The Hobbit proves popular as Jasper Fforde says it’s:

The Hobbit, because it’s the only one I’ve read – I liked it a great deal but was never really into spells, wizards and trolls, so never took it any further.’ 

Elizabeth Hand gave a lengthy reply:

‘I’d probably have to say The Lord of the Rings, which I’ve read it countless times over the last forty years. It imprinted on me at such an early age — I had the good luck to read it as a kid in the 1960s, when it was still a cult novel, and you had a real sense that you were in some secret, marvelous group of insiders who had visited a place not everyone knew about. Maybe kids discovering it today still have that feeling, in spite of the success of the movies (which I love). I hope so. But I also find that, as I’ve gotten older, I’m far more drawn to reread other works, especially in The Complete History of Middle Earth and The Silmarillion (we have very long Tolkien shelves here). 

‘I love the Beren & Luthien material, and also the various accounts of Turin, which recently were republished as The Children of Hurin. The dark tone of all of it, the tragic cast and also the recurring motifs involving elves and mortal lovers — great stuff. It doesn’t serve the function of comfort reading that LOTR does, and because I’m not so familiar with the stories I can still read them with something like my original sense of discovery. 

‘The breadth and depth of Tolkien’s achievement really becomes apparent when one reads The Complete History — 13 volumes, including an Index. Every time I go back to them I think, I could be learning Greek, or Ancient Egyptian, something that has to do with the real world.  But then, I’m continually so amazed by what this one man came up with, the intensity and single mindedness of his obsession. And I get sucked into it all over again.’ 

Gwyneth Jones says her favorite work is The Lord Of The Rings:

‘Why — Because I read it when I was a child, in bed with bronchitis. My mother brought me the three big volumes, successively, from the library, I’d never met anything like it, and it was just wonderful entertainment for a sick child. I grew out of LOTR, but will never forget that thrill.  More why: I’ve never felt the slightest temptation to open the massive prequels and spin-offs of Middle Earth fantasy, I just don’t have that gene, and I feel the Tolkien industry doesn’t need my money. And the other works are either too scholarly, or everything about them is represented in LOTR anyway.  I admired ‘Tree and Leaf’ when I read it, long ago, but I’m not sure if I still would.’ 

OR Melling says:

‘As a child, I loved reading fantasy – CS Lewis, E Nesbit, JM Barrie and so on – but when the librarian offered me The Hobbit and said “it’s about little men with hairy feet” I recall giving her one of those withering looks only children can give. Why on earth would I want to read a book about men with hairy feet? I did finally read The Hobbit when I was 12, after I had read The Lord of the Rings, and discovered that my initial suspicion was correct. I did not like the book at all, particularly its depiction of the elves. This was a great surprise, of course, considering that I had absolutely fallen in love with The Lord of the Rings. It is still one of my favourite books to this day. Aside from The Silmarillion – which I endured like all faithful fans – I have not read any other of Tolkien’s works.’ 

Catherynne M. Valente picked The Silmarillion:

‘I love The Lord of the Rings. I was once a hardcore Sindarin-speaking LoTR geek, in the days of my misbegotten youth. It is a vast and important book. But I have to say that I feel the book is incomplete without The Silmarillion, which provides a depth and mythology, an understanding of the forces at work, a breadth and beauty that LoTR does not have on its own. I am one of the few who loves The Silmarillion for itself, devoured it in one sitting, had no trouble with the archaic language. It should get more love than it does.’ 

Our final Filer is Paul Weimer who states:

‘I am going to go with a sidewise choice.   While LOTR and the Hobbit are some of my earliest and most beloved of all SFF that I have ever read, the piece by Tolkien that comes back to my mind again and again is the story of Beren and Luthien.  We get the story in a number of ways and forms :the small fragments we see in Lord of the Rings (or the tiny bit in the movie), the longer tale told in the Silmarillion, and the alternate and evolving versions seen in the extended histories of Middle Earth and his letters,  In the end this love story between man and elf, mortal and immortal, is in many ways THE story of Tolkien, more than the story of a Hobbit, or of the One Ring. It is very telling that Tolkien and his wife’s gravestone name check themselves as Beren and Luthien.  It moved me the first time I read the full story, and it moves me still.’

For Jane Yolen, it’s The Hobbit:

‘While it’s true that The Lord of the Rings is his masterwork and The Hobbit his first attempt at writing (and that, some say witheringly, for children) I have to admit I adore The Hobbit. It has adventure, wonderful characters, fine pacing and spacing, some really scary bits (my daughter ran screaming from the room when the trolls grabbed the ponies, and she refused to hear the rest of it.) And if I could ever write a chapter as good as the Riddles in the Dark chapter I would never have to write again.’

(10) COMIC SECTION.

  • Bizarro stretches the truth in a comic way.  

(11) FLIPPED SCRIPTS. “Premee Mohamed on turning science fiction tropes on their head” is one of the segments on the January 2 edition of CBC’s The Sunday Magazine with Piya Chattopadhyay. Listen to the profile at the link.

(12) THE TIME OF HIS LIFE. People always want to know how a successful writer does things. John Scalzi obliges with an account of how he budgets his time: “In Theory, My Work Day” at Whatever.

Now that the holidays have been packed away and we are back into the swing of things, I know that some of you have had an interest in how I manage my work days. The answer to this varies, largely depending on whether I’m working on a novel or not. However, as it happens, I am working on a novel again, and also, I’ve decided to put a bit more structure into my day. So in theory, here’s how my work days should go in 2022….

(13) THE AMAZON PRIME DIRECTIVE. Jeff Foust reviews an Amazon Prime documentary about Shat’s space trip for The Space Review: “Shatner in Space”.

… There is not a lot of drama in the show itself. When winds force a one-day delay in the flight, Shatner briefly ponders if the universe is trying to tell him that he shouldn’t go, but the moment passes. There’s a brief hold in the countdown because of a software issue that threatens a scrub (“You’ve got to be [bleeping] kidding,” Shatner says in the capsule) but that, too, quickly passes. There’s some footage inside the capsule during the flight itself, although not much more than what was shown during and immediately after the flight….

(14) MALLEUS MALEFICARUM. “How do you spot a witch? This notorious 15th-century book gave instructions – and helped execute thousands of women”The Conversation has the story.

Books have always had the power to cast a spell over their readers – figuratively.

But one book that was quite popular from the 15th to 17th centuries, and infamously so, is literally about spells: what witches do, how do identify them, how to get them to confess, and how to bring them to swift punishment.

As fear of witches reached a fever pitch in Europe, witch hunters turned to the “Malleus Maleficarum,” or “Hammer of Witches,” for guidance. The book’s instructions helped convict some of the tens of thousands of people – almost all women – who were executed during the period. Its bloody legacy stretched to North America, with 25 supposed “witches” killed in Salem, Massachusetts, in the late 1600s.

(15) FUSION EXPERIMENT SETS RECORD. “China switches on ‘artificial sun’ that is five times hotter than the real thing” reports MSN.com.

A nuclear fusion reactor in China has set a new record for sustained high temperatures after running five times hotter than the sun for more than 17 minutes, according to state media.

The Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST), known as an “artificial sun”, reached temperatures of 70,000,000C during the experiments, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

The ultimate aim of developing the artificial sun device is to deliver near-limitless clean energy by mimicking the natural reactions occurring within stars.

“The recent operation lays a solid scientific and experimental foundation towards the running of a fusion reactor,” said Gong Xianzu, a researcher at the Institute of Plasma Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who led the latest experiment.

The EAST project, which has already cost China more than £700bn, will run the experiment until June….

(16) TRUTH. Via RedWombat.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Chris Barkley, Anne Marble, Olav Rokne, 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 Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 12/28/21 Journey To The Center Of The Ringworld

(1) LINDSAY ELLIS LEAVES TWITTER. Hugo-nominated video essayist and Astounding-nominated author Lindsay Ellis has announced her departure from Twitter as a result of dogpiling and other forms of internet abuse.

Newsweek connects some of the events leading up to this decision in “Lindsay Ellis ‘Omelas’ Meaning As Vlogger Quits YouTube Over ‘Raya’ Controversy”.

YouTuber Lindsay Ellis has quit social media months after she was at the center of a Twitter controversy over her criticism of the film, Raya and the Last Dragon.

On March 26 of this year, the film critic and content creator ignited a frenzy among movie fans when she compared the Pixar movie to Avatar: The Last Airbender.

A month after the controversy began Ellis discussed it in “Mask Off”.

Ellis explained her decision to leave Twitter in a post available to her Patreon subscribers. Newsweek has seen the post and says, “in it, Ellis discusses her difficult year following the Raya controversy and how she is exhausted by the barrage of criticism she faces online.”

While Ellis’ Patreon post is not for public quoting, one resource she repeatedly cites in it is Porpentine’s “Hot Allostatic Load” from 2015 at The New Inquiry, which is available online (excerpt below).

… This is in defense of the hyper-marginalized among the marginalized, the Omelas kids, the marked for death, those who came looking for safety and found something worse than anything they’d experienced before.

For years, queer/trans/feminist scenes have been processing an influx of trans fems, often impoverished, disabled, and/or from traumatic backgrounds. These scenes have been abusing them, using them as free labor, and sexually exploiting them. The leaders of these scenes exert undue influence over tastemaking, jobs, finance, access to conferences, access to spaces. If someone resists, they are disappeared, in the mundane, boring, horrible way that many trans people are susceptible to, through a trapdoor that can be activated at any time. Housing, community, reputation—gone. No one mourns them, no one asks questions. Everyone agrees that they must have been crazy and problematic and that is why they were gone.

I was one of these people….

Meredith also recommends reading Joreen’s 1976 article “Trashing: The Dark Side of Sisterhood”.

… What is “trashing,” this colloquial term that expresses so much, yet explains so little? It is not disagreement; it is not conflict; it is not opposition. These are perfectly ordinary phenomena which, when engaged in mutually, honestly, and not excessively, are necessary to keep an organism or organization healthy and active. Trashing is a particularly vicious form of character assassination which amounts to psychological rape. It is manipulative, dishonest, and excessive. It is occasionally disguised by the rhetoric of honest conflict, or covered up by denying that any disapproval exists at all. But it is not done to expose disagreements or resolve differences. It is done to disparage and destroy….

Today Kiva tweeted a thread on the theme that “social media is inherently unjust.” Thread begins here.

(2) ON THE WAY. “The Bat and The Cat Trailer” dropped yesterday. The Batman comes to theaters March 4.

Vengeance equals justice for both the Bat and the Cat.

(3) SOCKET TO ME. [Item by Andrew (not Werdna).] “How the AIpocalypse begins” or “I Always Do What Teddy Says” updated: “Alexa tells 10-year-old girl to touch live plug with penny” at BBC News.

Amazon has updated its Alexa voice assistant after it “challenged” a 10-year-old girl to touch a coin to the prongs of a half-inserted plug.

The suggestion came after the girl asked Alexa for a “challenge to do”.

“Plug in a phone charger about halfway into a wall outlet, then touch a penny to the exposed prongs,” the smart speaker said.

Amazon said it fixed the error as soon as the company became aware of it.

The girl’s mother, Kristin Livdahl, described the incident on Twitter.

She said: “We were doing some physical challenges, like laying down and rolling over holding a shoe on your foot, from a [physical education] teacher on YouTube earlier. Bad weather outside. She just wanted another one.”

That’s when the Echo speaker suggested partaking in the challenge that it had “found on the web”.

The dangerous activity, known as “the penny challenge”, began circulating on TikTok and other social media websites about a year ago….

(4) POWER POLL. Ursula Vernon polled Twitter readers about a question that may have been inspired by a discussion of editorial power making the rounds. (Or not!) There’s also plenty of comments from writers that follow this tweet.

(5) TWO-DIMENSIONAL SPACE. BoardGameGeek tells how you can “Bring Star Trek and Heroes of Might and Magic III to Your Tabletop” next year. Full game descriptions at the link.  These cards are from Missions.

U.S. publisher WizKids has been releasing Star Trek-themed games for years, and it will release two more such titles in 2022, both being themed editions of previously released games. Star Trek: Super-Skill Pinball makes that connection clear right in the title…

Star Trek: Missions uses the same game engine as Bruce Glassco‘s Fantasy Realms, with players building a hand of cards that will score points based on the composition of that hand….

(6) TRIBUTES TO TWO SCIENTISTS. The New Yorker is “Honoring the Legacy of E. O. Wilson and Tom Lovejoy”, two scientists who died very recently.

Over the weekend, two of the country’s leading naturalists, E. O. Wilson and Tom Lovejoy, died a day apart. Wilson, who was perhaps best known for his work on ants, was a pioneer in the field of conservation biology; Lovejoy was one of the founders of the field. The two men were friends—part of an informal network that Wilson jokingly referred to as the “rain-forest mafia”—and there was something eerie about their nearly synchronous passing. “I’m trying very hard not to imagine a greater planetary message in the loss of these biodiversity pioneers right now,” Joel Clement, a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, tweeted on Monday….

The Scientist ran this tribute to Wilson: “E.O. Wilson, Renowned Ant Researcher, Dies at 92”.

… In other work, Wilson performed a mass extinction study by removing insects from six mangrove islands in Florida via fumigation and documenting species recolonization and repopulation over two years. The observations, published in Ecology in 1970, provided insights into species extinction and conservation science.

Wilson is also credited with developing the field of sociobiology, which addresses the biological underpinnings of animal behavior, according to the Post. When he extended this thinking to humans in his 1975 book Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, which argues that people’s behavior is genetically determined, he incited much controversy, reports Reuters.

In the 1980s, Wilson pivoted his efforts to conservation biology, continuing to travel around the world and arguing that only by preserving half the Earth as wild will biodiversity be saved and mass extinction avoided, according to the Times…. 

(7) ANDREW VACHSS. The Official Website of Andrew Vachss reports he has died: “The loss cannot be measured and the debts can only be paid forward.” Vachss’ genre work includes some supernatural noir, the Cross series, and a Batman story.

Some of his most important work (non-sff) included writing about the realities about CASAs (“Court Appointed Special Advocate” volunteers), a program that wants to be “the child’s voice in court.”

Joe R. Lansdale mourned the death of Vachss, who felt like a brother to him. Lansdale linked to a published conversation they had about writing:

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1981 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty years ago, K-9 And Company: A Girl’s Best Friend first aired. It was a pilot for a proposed spin-off of Doctor Who. It features former Who series performers Sarah Jane Smith, an investigative journalist played by Elisabeth Sladen, and K9, a robotic dog voiced by John Leeson. Both characters had been companions of the Fourth Doctor, but they had not appeared together before. 

It was broadcast by BBC1 as a Christmas special long before the traditional Doctor Who Christmas specials which didn’t start until the Tenth Doctor, and it did not become a continuing series. It was created by John Nathan-Turner as written by Terence Dudley who had the Fourth Doctor story, “Meglos” and three stories for the Fifth Doctor. 

Despite not being picked up as a series, it had very good ratings as eight point four million viewers watched it. Under a different production team some twenty-six years later, the overall concept of a Sarah Jane and K9 series did eventually come to be as The Sarah Jane Adventures which would last five seasons. Though K9 would be used sparingly in the new series.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 28, 1913 Charles Maxwell. He makes the Birthday List for being Virgil Earp in the “Spectre of the Gun”, a not terribly good Trek story. (My opinion of course, yours may differ.)  He also appeared in My Favorite Martian in “An Old Friend of the Family” as the character Jakobar. His longest running genre role was as the Radio Announcer on Gilligan’s Island which he was largely uncredited for. Interestingly he had six appearances playing six different characters on the Fifties series Science Fiction Theatre. (Died 1993.)
  • Born December 28, 1922 Stan Lee. Summarizing his career is quite beyond my abilities. He created and popularized Marvel Comics in a way that company is thought to be the creation of Stan Lee in a way that DC isn’t thought of as having a single creator.  He co-created the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch and Ant-Man, an impressive list by any measure. And it’s hardly the full list. I see he’s won Eisner and Kirby Awards and he won a Hugo at Anticipation for Iron Man. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 28, 1932 Nichelle Nichols, 89. Uhura on Trek. She reprised her character in Star Trek: The Motion PictureStar Trek II: The Wrath of KhanStar Trek III: The Search for SpockStar Trek IV: The Voyage HomeStar Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Other film SF roles included Ruana in Tarzan’s Deadly Silence with Ron Ely as Tarzan, High Priestess of Pangea in The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space, Oman in Surge of Power: The Stuff of Heroes and Mystic Woman in American Nightmares.  Other series appearances have been as Lieutenant Uhura and additional voices in the animated Trek, archive footage of herself in the “Trials and Tribble-ations” DS9 episode and as Captain Nyota Uhura In Star Trek: Of Gods and Men which may or may not be canon.
  • Born December 28, 1934 Maggie Smith, 87. First genre role was as Theis in Clash of the Titans though she’s better known as Minerva McGonagall In the Harry Potter film franchise. She also played Linnet Oldknow in From Time to Time  and voiced Miss Shepherd, I kid you not, in two animated Gnomes films.
  • Born December 28, 1942 Eleanor Arnason, 79. She won the Otherwise Award and the Mythopoeic Award for A Woman of the Iron People and also won the Gaylactic Spectrum Award for Best Short Fiction for “Dapple”.  She’s a WisCon Guest of Honor. I wholeheartedly recommend her Mammoths of the Great Plains story collection, which like almost all of her fiction, is available at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born December 28, 1945 George Zebrowski, 76. He won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel for Brute Forces. He’s married to Pamela Sargent with whom he has co-written a number of novels, including Trek novels. 
  • Born December 28, 1970 Elaine Hendrix, 51. I found a Munsters film I didn’t know about (big fan I am, yes) and she’s Marilyn Munster in it: The Munsters’ Scary Little Christmas. She later is Gadget Model 2 (G2) in Inspector Gadget 2. (Anyone watch these?) And she’s Mary in the animated Kids vs Monsters. 
  • Born December 28, 1981 Sienna Miller, 40. The Baroness in one of the endless G.I. Joe films I’ve no attention ever of seeing, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra to be precise. More interestingly, she’s Victoria in the flawed but still worth seeing Stardust. (Go listen to Gaiman reading it for the best take on it — brilliant that is!) And she’s Darcy in Kis VukA Fox’s Tale, a Hungarian-British animated tale that sounds quite charming. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) SKY FIE. “Elon Musk sparks China fury as space station takes emergency measures to avoid collision” reports the UK publication Express.

SPACEX CEO Elon Musk faced the ire of Chinese citizens online after their space station was reportedly forced to take evasive actions to avoid collision with satellites.

Chinese citizens lashed out against the tech billionaire’s space ambitions on Monday after satellites from Starlink Internet Services, a division of Musk’s SpaceX aerospace company, had two “close encounters” with the Chinese space station. According to a document submitted by China to the UN space agency, the incidents occurred on July 1 and October 21.

In the papers, Beijing complained about how the near-miss incident “constituted dangers to the life or health of astronauts aboard the China Space Station”.

It said: “During this period, Starlink satellites launched by Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) of the United States of America have had two close encounters with the China Space Station.

 “For safety reasons, the China Space Station implemented preventive collision avoidance control on 1 July and 21 October 2021, respectively.

“For safety reasons, the China Space Station took the initiative to conduct an evasive manoeuvre in the evening of that day to avoid a potential collision between the two spacecraft.”…

(12) HE LOOKED. John Scalzi’s “Brief Review: Don’t Look Up” is at Whatever. Just quoting the first line here – don’t want my excerpt to bogart the post.

I liked it a lot, which is not surprising as it combines two of my favorite things — astronomy and satire — into one movie, and then also gives me an excellent cast and a pretty good script…. 

(13) ALTERNATE APOLLO. Jeff Foust reviews Chris Hadfield’s alternate-history novel: “Review: The Apollo Murders” at The Space Review.

… Such a book could easily go disastrously bad, but Hadfield pulls it off. He manages to find a balance between the narrative tension involved in a thriller, with multiple characters and plot lines coming together for the climax, with the technical details space enthusiasts will be looking for. Hadfield offers plenty of such details, whether it’s flying a Cessna or a high-performance jet or a lunar lander. He also mixes in actual historical figures among the fictional ones, like Gene Kranz, Alan Shepard, Sam Phillips, and Vladimir Chelomei (an author’s note at the end lists those actual figures.) Hadfield pays great attention to such details and others throughout the book; it might be overlooked or simply underappreciated by some readers, who simply want to get on to the next part of the plot, but such details never really drag the pace of the action….

(14) GILGAMESH GOES HOME. “Ancient Gilgamesh tablet returned to Iraqi National Museum”The National News has the story.

A rare antique clay tablet that bears a portion of the Epic of Gilgamesh was returned to Iraq from the US on Tuesday in a victory for the war-torn nation in its long-running struggle to repatriate stolen artefacts.

The 127mm by 152mm fragment dates back 3,500 to 4,000 years. It was part of a group of more than 17,000 artefacts smuggled from Iraq decades ago and illegally imported to nations around the world. The tablets and other objects were seized from the Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby company.

The chain of arts and crafts shops was forced by the US government to relinquish the items in 2017 and fined $3 million for failing to act on expert advice that the objects may have been looted or to declare their provenance to the authorities….

(15) RESISTANCE IS FUTILE. “Dave Eggers Created the Google-Amazon Mash-Up of Your Nightmares” – the New York Times’ Kara Swisher interviews the author of The Every.

kara swisher: One thing about this book, which is — it’s a little funnier than “The Circle,” which was a slightly more malevolent and menacing, although it’s the same company. Right? You seem to have gotten a little more of a sense of humor about it. One of the quotes was, “You’re disobedient and we strive to be too. Disobedient was a recently favored word replacing mutinous, which had replaced insurgent, which had replaced disruption, disruptor, which is, of course, the one they use now.”

david eggers: Yeah, I love the language of Silicon Valley. There’s always a word that is the word of the month or the word — and I can’t believe “disruption” is still out there. It’s been there for six, seven years or something and people are still using it. And everything for that period of time is measured against that word. Is it disruptive or is it not disruptive? Is this taco that I’m ordering, is that disruptive? I don’t know. And so — I had a lot of fun trying to think of not just the words that exist now but what would they invent or use in the future. And if you’re on the bleeding edge of that next word, the next “disruption,” you are seen as, I guess, a visionary in some way. But the words are kind of, they’re always — nouns used as verbs is always an easy thing to go for. But they’re always kind of awkward words. A little bit muscular but awkward and ungainly. And so it makes conversations so clunky and strange, almost like you’re talking in a second language in translation. Because so often you’re like, well, that word doesn’t at all belong there. It never meant that before, but here we are using it….

(16) THUMBS DOWN. Of course you want to know: “5 Worst Sci-Fi Movies Of 2021 (According To Rotten Tomatoes)”.

… Looking back at the 2021 releases, there were plenty of new sci-fi features released to keep audiences entertained. While some fantastic movies were offering fresh and fun takes on robot uprisings, anti-hero carnage, and anime endings, many fell short of the mark. This list looks back at the 5 worst sci-fi releases of the year according to Rotten Tomatoes featuring lackluster demonic possessions, bored Bruce Willis, and contrived romances….

Bliss (28%)

Directed by Mike Cahill and starring Owen Wilson as Greg and Salma Hayek as Isabel, Bliss follows recently divorced, Greg who happens to meet the strange and enigmatic Isabel at a bar. Isabel seems to know Greg and believes that the world they inhabit is a simulation. What follows is a messy mix of attempted mind-bending as Greg and Isabel begin to lose sight of what is real and what is fantasy. Bliss misses the mark with both its sci-fi and romance elements, leaving viewers wishing for an escape back to reality….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Matrix Resurrections Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George, in a spoiler-filled episode, had the writer say that the first three Matrix movies told a story that “was over.  It was done with.”  So in the fourth film,  Keanu Reeves plays a video game developer who has told the story of the Matrix in three video games and is forced to make a fourth one.  The film basically retells the story of the first Matrix movies with additions that are so confusing that the producer asks at the end of the pitch, “What was that about?”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Meredith, Todd Mason, amk, Jeffrey Jones, Anne Marble, Andrew (not Werdna), Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]