Pixel Scroll 12/12/19 You Ain’t Nothin’ But A Time Lord

(1) MONSTER PRICE. Bernie Wrightson’s original wrap-around cover artwork for Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley sold at auction today for $1 million dollars. The catalog description at the link claims —

…It can also easily be said that the 1983 Marvel publication of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein is arguably the finest illustrated book of the second half of the 20th century. Originally written in 1818, the novel was later painstakingly illustrated over the course of nearly a decade by pen and ink master Bernie Wrightson. We are proud to offer here, what we consider the finest fantasy ink drawing of the 20th century, if not of all time….

(2) UNCERTAIN FUTURE. Editor Alex Shvartsman’s foreword in Future Science Fiction Digest issue 5 explains why it contains only about 20% of the wordage of previous issues – the launch funding from its Chinese partner has run out.

As Future SF enters its second year, we do so without a safety net.

Our first year’s run was sponsored by the Future Affairs Administration. Together we were able to publish a considerable amount of excellent international fiction, and we thank FAA for their help and support as the magazine launched and found its footing. While FAA is still considering their options regarding any future partnerships with us, at this moment they’re not affiliated with the magazine.

So, what does it mean for Future SF going forward? We aren’t going away, but we have to considerably scale back until we secure alternate funding, or follow the path of many other e-zines in our field and slowly build up a subscription and patron base.

I’m currently talking to the FAA, as well as to a couple of other companies, to see if we can work out another sponsorship or partnership. But even if that proves successful, it is a temporary solution. Only a substantial base of subscribers can ensure stable funding in the long term….

(3) IN TIMES THAT CAME. The Bookseller points to a realm of publishing where change is happening almost quicker than it can be predicted: “Voicing a revolution”.

“Voice tech” will be the next revolution. It’s hard to imagine in today’s text- and screen-based society, but voice recognition apps such as search, device control, shopping and social media will replace screens. It’s already here: only five years after inception, half of citizens in the developed world (47%) owns a smart speaker. How odd we were, the next generation will think, for our incessant tapping on little screens. Wearable tech such as Amazon’s Echo Loop (a small ring enabling you to whisper demands into your palm, and cup your ear for Alexa’s answer) gives a glimpse of the shape our future, with virtual assistants always at our disposal. No need to pull out your phone, even for a phone call. Audiobooks will be a beneficiary of the new generation of voice apps as spheres of our lives transition and we get used to the ease and convenience of voice, and brands have to offer aligned products. Audiobooks are part of the fabric of a healthier technology on the go, where screens play a small role. 

Every book published will be available as an audiobook. AI-driven Text-to-Speech apps for audiobook production will leap forward. The AI narrator could be a sampled actor, or a “designer voice” to match the book or brand….

(4) DOUBLE YOUR READING PLEASURE. Cora Buhlert suggests great holiday gifts for the sff readers of 1964 at Galactic Journey: “[December 11, 1964] December GalactoscopE”.

Personally, I think that books are the best gifts. And so I gave myself Margaret St. Clair’s latest, when I spotted it in the spinner rack at my local import bookstore, since I enjoyed last year’s Sign of the Labrys a lot. Even better, this book is an Ace Double, which means I get two new tales for the price of one. Or rather, I get six, because one half is a collection of five short stories.

First on her list —

Message from the Eocene by Margaret St. Clair (Ace Double M-105)….

 (5) FOR 10 YEARS WE’VE BEEN ON OUR OWN. At Nerds of a Feather, Adri Joy and Joe Sherry find nine books worthy of listing as the best of the past 10 years – plus six honorable mentions: “Adri and Joe Talk About Books: The Best of the Decade”. First up —

Range of Ghosts, by Elizabeth Bear (2012): Elizabeth Bear is something of a chameleon of a writer. Whether it is near future cyberpunk thrillers, urban fantasy, alternate historical vampire fiction, espionage, space opera, steampunk, a Criminal Minds meets the X-Files mashup, or epic fantasy – Bear can write it all.

Eschewing the trappings of the stereotypical European setting, Range of Ghosts is silk road epic fantasy – meaning that the novel has a more Mongolian flavor and has an entirely different cultural grounding than what is so often considered “traditional epic fantasy”. Bear pulls no punches in delivering a full realized and top notch epic with rich characterization and incredible worldbuilding. The magic and religion and battles of Range of Ghosts is handled with a deft touch and the best thing is that all of this is set up for something far larger. Range of Ghosts is Elizabeth Bear at the height of her considerable powers. (G’s Review) (Joe)

(6) THOSE OLD FAMILIAR HAUNTS. Emily Littlejohn, in “The Elements of the Haunted House: A Primer” on CrimeReads, says that haunted house mysteries work if they’re in the right place and have ghosts who are appealing but who didn’t die too young or too old.

…Of course, not all ghost stories feature a malevolent spirit intent on wreaking havoc on the living; there are some lovely novels that feature ghosts that are sad rather than mad, more unsettled than vengeful. Those books can be enjoyed in the bright light of day, perhaps with a nice sandwich and a glass of lemonade. But if you like your haunted houses a bit darker, a little less safe, read on for this writer’s perspective.

If I were to write a haunted house novel, I know where I would start: the setting. The canon practically demands a stately manor from the pages of a historical register or an architectural study, all turrets and gables and perhaps a few strange windows that seem a little too much like eyes. Long hallways, flickering light from an early electric bulb or a candle, rooms with furniture shrouded in sheets . . . and nooks, so many nooks, to hide in.

(7) ANCIENT ART. “44,000-Year-Old Indonesian Cave Painting Is Rewriting The History Of Art”NPR says they know because they analyzed the calcite “popcorn” on a pig. (Say that three times fast.)

Scientists say they have found the oldest known figurative painting, in a cave in Indonesia. And the stunning scene of a hunting party, painted some 44,000 years ago, is helping to rewrite the history of the origins of art.

Until recently, the long-held story was that humans started painting in caves in Europe. For example, art from the Chauvet Cave in France is dated as old as 37,000 years.

But several years ago, a group of scientists started dating cave paintings in Indonesia — and found that they are thousands of years older.

“They are at least 40,000 years old, which was a very, very surprising discovery,” says Adam Brumm, an archaeologist at Australia’s Griffith University. He and his colleagues used a technique called uranium-series analysis to determine the paintings’ age. The oldest figurative painting in those analyses was a striking image of a wild cow.

These works had been known for years by locals on the island of Sulawesi — but Brumm adds that “it was assumed they couldn’t be that old.”

Since that big reveal, Brumm’s team — which he led with archaeologists Maxime Aubert and Adhi Agus Oktaviana — has been searching for more art in these caves. In 2017, they found something breathtaking — the massive hunting scene, stretching across about 16 feet of a cave wall. And after testing it, they say it’s the oldest known figurative art attributed to early modern humans. They published their findings in the journal Nature.

The BBC adds details: “Sulawesi art: Animal painting found in cave is 44,000 years old”.

The Indonesian drawing is not the oldest in the world. Last year, scientists said they found “humanity’s oldest drawing” on a fragment of rock in South Africa, dated at 73,000 years old.

…It may not be the oldest drawing, but researchers say it could be the oldest story ever found.

“Previously, rock art found in European sites dated to around 14,000 to 21,000 years old were considered to be the world’s oldest clearly narrative artworks,” said the paper in Nature.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 12, 2014 Bill The Galactic Hero premiered. Directed by Cox and a lot of friends, it likewise had a cast that was rather large. Yes it’s based on Harrison’s novel. Cox got the rights just after Repo Man came out. Costing just over a hundred thousand to produce, it got generally positive reviews and currently is not available anywhere for viewing. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 12, 1893 Edward G. Robinson. His very last film was Soylent Green in which was he was Sol Roth. He shortly before that played Abraham Goldman in “The Messiah on Mott Street” on Night Gallery, and he shows up uncredited as himself in the “Batman’s Satisfaction” episode of Batman. (Died 1973.)
  • Born December 12, 1944 Ginjer Buchanan, 75. Longtime Editor-in-Chief at Ace Books and Roc Books where she worked for three decades until recently. She received a Hugo for Best Editor, Long Form at Loncon 3. She has a novel, White Silence, in the Highlander metaverse, and three short stories in anthologies edited by Mike Resnick. And she’s a Browncoat as she has an essay, “Who Killed Firefly?” in the Jane Espenson edited Finding Serenity: Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon’s Firefly.
  • Born December 12, 1945 Karl Edward Wagner. As an editor, he created a three-volume set of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian fiction restored to its original form as it was originally written by Howard.  He is possibly best-known for his creation of Kane, the Mystic Swordsman.  (Died 1994.)
  • Born December 12, 1946 Josepha Sherman. Writer and folklorist who was a Compton Crook Award winner for The Shining Falcon which was based on the Russian fairy tale “The Feather of Finist the Falcon”. She was a prolific writer both on her own and with other other writer such as Mecedes Lackey with whom she wrote A Cast of Corbies and two Buffyverse novels with Laura Anne Gilman. I knew her personally as a folklorist first and that she was without peer writing such works as Rachel the Clever: And Other Jewish Folktales and  Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood that she wrote with T K F Weisskopf.  Neat lady who died far too soon. Let me leave you with an essay she wrote on Winter for Green Man twenty years ago. (Died 2012.)
  • Born December 12, 1949 Bill Nighy, 70. Yes he shows up as Dr. Black on Who in an Eleventh Doctor story, “ Vincent and the Doctor”. He’d make a fine Doctor, I’d say. He’s done a lot of other genre performances from the well-known Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and Slartibartfast in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, to the blink and he’s gone as he was as the ENT Doc in Curse of the Pink Panther.
  • Born December 12, 1961 Sarah Sutton, 58. She’s best known for her role as Nyssa who was a Companion to both the Fourth and Fifth Doctors.  She reprised the role of Nyssa in the 1993 Children in Need special Dimensions in Time, and of course in the Big Finish audio dramas. She’s in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
  • Born December 12, 1966 Hiromi Goto, 53. Winner of the Otherwise Award for The Kappa Child. She followed that with two more SFF novels, The Water of Possibility and Half World, though it’s been a decade since the latter came out. Systems Fail, the 2014 WisCon Guest of Honor publication, highlighted her work and that of .K. Jemisin. Hopeful Monsters, her collection of early genre short fiction, is the only such work available digitally from her.
  • Born December 12, 1970 Jennifer Connelly, 49. Her first genre outing wasn’t as Sarah Williams in Labyrinth, but rather in the decidedly more low-budget Italian horror film Phenomena.  She goes to be in The Rocketeer as Jenny Blake, and Dark City as Emma Murdoch / Anna, both great roles for her. I’m giving a pass to the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still which she was involved in and not saying anything about it. Alita: Battle Angel in which she’s Dr. Chiren scores decently with audiences. 
  • Born December 12, 1976 Tim Pratt, 43. I think his best work was his very first novel which was The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl but there’s no doubt that later work such as The Constantine Affliction, Bone Shop and The Stormglass Protocol are equally superb. That’s not to overlook his short fiction which if you’ve not tried it you should, and I’d recommend Little Gods as a good place to start. 
  • Born December 12, 1981 C.S. E. Cooney, 38. She won the Rhysling Award for “The Sea King’s Second Bride” and a World Fantasy Award for her Bone Swans collection. She has what appears to be a very short novel out, Desdemona and the Deep, published by Tor.com. The latter and her collection are available digitally on Apple Books, Kindle and Kobo. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) WATCHMEN. In the LA Times, Lorraine Ali and Robert Lloyd dissent from praise the show has generally received: “Commentary: More manipulative than meaningful, ‘Watchmen’ has a ‘Lost’ problem”.

LLOYD: Lorraine, you steal thoughts from my head. (Are you Dr. Manhattan?) Yes, “Lost” is what I thought of too, though the apparent randomness of a polar bear on a tropical island was much more interesting than when they got around to an explanation. There’s an effective trickery when it comes to coincidence — they’re always spooky on some level — and “Lost” got a lot of mileage from repeating the same essentially meaningless sequences of numbers all over the damn place. (Fans spent an enormous amount of time puzzling the show out, even as, fundamentally, there was no puzzle.) In “Watchmen” it’s clocks and eggs and such, and a narrative that leans heavily on dark secrets and (not always) amazing reveals for its dramatic effects: X is the Y of Z!

It works on some primal level, yet it still feels more manipulative than meaningful to me. “Watchmen” is a lot tighter than “Lost” was, though; the circular systems have been obviously worked through in advance, where “Lost” was a festival of retconning.

(12) SEEKING TOMORROW. Steven Cave says, “The Futurium needs a bolder vision to show that we, technology and nature are one,” in his Nature review, “Lost in the house of tomorrow: Berlin’s newest museum”.

Thirty years ago, the future became passé. When the Berlin Wall fell in late 1989 and the communist regimes that hid behind it collapsed, political scientist Francis Fukuyama called the event “the end of history”. But he also cast it as the finale of the future: the end of imagining how things might be different. The utopian visions driving both communism and fascism had been discredited and defeated. They were to be replaced by an eternal ‘now’ that, in Fukuyama’s words, saw “Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government”.

… Overall, the Futurium succeeds best as a showcase for the shiniest aspects of the present. In this way, it resembles other tech-engagement centres, such as Science Gallery Dublin and its six sister venues around the world, or Tokyo’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. But it claims to be something more: a place for co-imagining alternative futures. To succeed, it will need to be bolder. Even though the Berlin landscape is dotted with monuments to failed ideologies, such as the Stasi Museum, history did not end when the wall fell. To imagine new futures, this museum must free itself from the conceptual frameworks of the past.

(13) STARBEGOTTEN. The Parker Probe’s investigation of the Sun takes scientists “A step closer to the Sun’s secrets”.

Although the Sun is quite near to us compared with other stars, it has always kept intriguing and fundamental scientific secrets from us. For instance, we still don’t know how the solar corona — the Sun’s outermost atmosphere — maintains temperatures in excess of one million kelvin, whereas the visible surface has temperatures of just below 6,000?K 

(14) AN OLD SELFIE. “Stonehenge 1875 family photo may be earliest at monument” – see that and many more photos shot at the ancient monument.

An 1875 photograph of a family dressed in finery enjoying a day out at Stonehenge may be the earliest such snap taken at the monument.

English Heritage asked people to send in their pictures to mark 100 years of public ownership of the stones.

After sifting through more than 1,000 images historians said they believed the photograph of Isabel, Maud and Robert Routh was the oldest.

It will be part of a new exhibition of personal photos titled Your Stonehenge.

…The exhibition shows how photography has changed – illustrated by “the way that people pose” and how “their faces have got closer to the camera until they are taking a picture of themselves more than they are of Stonehenge”, said Ms Greaney.

(15) WAY DOWN YONDER. Lots of juicy detail in BBC’s report — “Denman Glacier: Deepest point on land found in Antarctica”.

The deepest point on continental Earth has been identified in East Antarctica, under Denman Glacier.

This ice-filled canyon reaches 3.5km (11,500ft) below sea level. Only the great ocean trenches go deeper.

The discovery is illustrated in a new map of the White Continent that reveals the shape of the bedrock under the ice sheet in unprecedented detail.

Its features will be critical to our understanding of how the polar south might change in the future.

It shows, for example, previously unrecognised ridges that will impede the retreat of melting glaciers in a warming world; and, alternatively, a number of smooth, sloping terrains that could accelerate withdrawals.

“This is undoubtedly the most accurate portrait yet of what lies beneath Antarctica’s ice sheet,” said Dr Mathieu Morlighem, who’s worked on the project for six years.

(16) STEAL ME. Plagiarism Today tells how artists are “Battling the Copyright-Infringing T-Shirt Bots”.

…The exploit was actually very simple. Many of these unethical shops use automated bots to scour Twitter and other social media looking for users saying they want a particular image on the t-shirt and then they simply grab the image and produce the t-shirt, site unseen.

The artists exploited this by basically poisoning the well. They created artwork that no reasonable person would want on a shirt sold on their store and convinced the bots to do exactly that.

(17) OPENING A GOOD VINTAGE. Joe Sherry does a fine retrospective of this Connie Willis book at Nerds of a Feather: “The Hugo Initiative: Doomsday Book (1993, Best Novel)”. It tied for the Hugo, but Joe, by not saying which of the two books was really the best, avoids the mistake Your Good Host once made that launched a thousand ships Jo Walton into orbit. Sherry’s conclusion is:

…The thing about Doomsday Book is that it works. It is a masterful piece of storytelling that perhaps shouldn’t work as well as it does almost three decades later. It’s good enough that I want to read Fire Watch and the other three Oxford Time Travel novels sooner rather than later(though perhaps not specifically for The Hugo Initiative). The novel is a softer form of science fiction that uses time travel in a way that makes sense. No paradoxes, there is risk, and maybe don’t visit a time and place with bubonic plague. And really, who doesn’t want to read a novel where the protagonist is surrounded by bubonic plague and renders as much aid as she can?

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Vacation on Vimeo, Andrey Kasay looks at vacations that went out of control.

(19) VIDEO OF SOME OTHER DAY. The Mandalorian CHiPs intro. Think of Ponch and Jon long ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Contrarius, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel “Houndog” Dern.]

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #47

Who Watches The Watchmen?  Part Two: Episodes 4-6

By Chris M. Barkley:

BEWARE, SPOILERS AHOY!

“I’m in. All the way! Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock…”

– Will Reeves, Episode Four

  • Episode 4: “If You Don’t Like My Story, Write Your Own.” Written by Damon Lindelof and Christal, Directed by Andrij Parekh.
  • Episode 5: “Little Fear of Lightning.” Written by Damon Lindelof & Carly Wray, Directed by Steph Green.
  • Episode 6:  “This Extraordinary Being.” Written by Damon Lindelof & Cord Jefferson, Directed by Stephen Williams.

As I entered the middle passage of the Watchmen mini-series, I was literally on pins and needles wondering if Damon Lindelof and company were going to serve up more narrative curve balls. Needless to say, I was NOT disappointed…

In the fourth episode, we are introduced to Lady Trieu (Hong Chau), the mysterious Viet-American billionaire who swept up Adrian Veidt’s assets after his disappearance. In the opening moments, she commits a rather shocking piece of extortion (that was chillingly reminiscent of some of the shenanigans they used to pull on J.J. Abrams’ Fox series, Fringe) just before a spacecraft crash lands on their property.

Meanwhile, Angela (Regina King) finds her hijacked car but unfortunately for her, so does Laurie (Jean Smart), who impounds it and finds her grandfather’s fingerprints inside. What Laurie doesn’t find are a bottle of pills in the glove compartment that he apparently left for Angela to find. Angela takes them to the only person she truly trusts, Looking Glass (Tim Blake Nelson), so they can be independently analyzed by his ex-wife.

While disposing of the evidence of her grandfather’s stay in her police hideout, Angela spies a masked vigilante tailing her. She gives chase but her prey proves to be a bit too slippery for her to catch. 

It turns out there’s another connection with the car that leads Laurie, Petey and Sister Night directly to the immense Millenium Clock project complex. They meet with the mysterious Lady Trieu and her daughter, Bian, who both pledge their full cooperation in the investigation. Trieu also passes along a message to Night from her grandfather in Vietnanese, which she coldly deflects.

Trieu and Will have a plan in motion; they want Angela to be a part of it, but Will insists that his granddaughter must figure out what’s going on on her own. Otherwise, he reasons, she won’t accept the truth directly from him. Trieu disagrees, saying family entanglements may endanger their agenda. Will reaffirms that he is in, no matter what may come.

Meanwhile, Adrian Veidt continues to test the limits of his virtual prison by catapulting the corpses of his clones slaves up in the air to an unknown void…

Episode Five gave us the inside story on how Wade Tillman (Tim Blake Nelson) became the sardonic Looking Glass, the human lie detector. When the infamous giant squid was teleported into New York City in 1985, Tillman was a teenager working as a Jehovah’s Witness in neighboring Hoboken, New Jersey amusement park when it happened. While he survived the attack, he was psychologically traumatized.

As a Tulsa cop, he uses his keen powers of observation to interrogate suspects and solve crimes. But those powers are of little use in his personal life; he’s divorced, lives alone, has trouble connecting with people on a personal level and seems to spend a great deal of time studying and/or living in fear of the next “squid attack’ from another dimension.

Wade is also under pressure at work; Chief Crawford’s murder remains unsolved and Laurie Blake has taken control of the force for the forseeable future. She is also pressuring Wade for information about Angela, whom she strongly suspects knows more about the murder than she’s telling.

One of those things is a bottle of pills that Angela desperately wanted analyzed. His  ex-wife Cynthia informs Wade that the pills are Nostalgia, a pharmaceutical memory aid that has been outlawed due to its dangerous side effects. (It also turns out to be a drug that was invented and marketed by Lady Trieu’s corporation!)

Wade’s cover identity is market research consultant and his public service hobby is helping people who are still traumatized by the 1985 attack or the infrequent “squid drops” that keeps the populous on edge.

When Wade meets Renee (Paula Malcolmson), a new member of the support group, he is initially smitten with her until he spots a clue that indicates she may be a member of the 7th Kalvary. He trails her to a warehouse but turns out to be a trap; Wade is confronted by Senator Joe Keen, Jr. (James Wolk) who is seemingly using the 7th Kalvary as a front for his presidential aspirations. He offers Wade a choice, either watch a video revealing the truth about the ‘alien invasion” or have his life ruined by his operatives.

Keen also wants Angela served up to Laurie and out of the way while the 7th Kavalry’s plan, involving an elaborate teleportation system, goes operational.

In deep despair over his newfound knowledge, Wade tells Angela about Nostalgia in the presence of one of Laurie’s surveillance bugs and she openly admits her grandfather’s involvement in Crawford’s death. When Laurie immediately moves in to arrest her, Angela swallows all of Will’s pills…

Using a powerful trebuchet and wearing a primitive pressure suite, Adrian is launched into the air…and onto an airless moon. He rearranges the numerous corpses of his clone servants into a distress message that may (or may not) be observed by an orbiting satellite. But just as he rejoices in triumph, he is pulled back into his virtual prison by the Game Warden, who arrests him, promising “no mercy” in violation of the rules of confinement.

In Episode Six we take a deep dive into the life of Angela’s grandfather, William Reeves (Jovan Adepo) via the Nostalgia pills she ingested during her arrest. He was the little boy who rescued a child from the Tulsa massacre. In 1938 New York, that child grows up to be his wife, June (Danielle Deadwyler).

Will was inspired by watching silent movies a distant relative, the famed US Marshal Bass Reeves, to become a policeman. But, unlike the movies, life proves to be more complicated. Hired in a move to mollify black activists, he encounters racism from his fellow officers and the public at large.

When Will catches wind of a conspiracy run by the KKK and some NYPD officers in his own precinct, he’s nearly lynched and warned not to “mess in white people’s business”.

Enraged, Will dons a dark hood and becomes Hooded Justice, the first of the many masked vigilantes of the Watchmen universe.

Disguising himself with white makeup (in a similar manner as Angela does with her Sister Night identity), he continues to investigate the Klan and their insidious plans to kill or destroy the lives of African-Americans.

Will heeds a call to join the Minutemen, a group of masked adventurers sanctioned by the authorities, but is disheartened when their leader, Captain Metropolis (Jake McDorman) belittles his pursuit of racists in favor of criminal masterminds.

Several years later into his police career, Will discovers that the Klan is testing a mind control device on black movie audiences in order to cause widespread riots and mayhem. When he discovers their warehouse, he brutally murders the Klansmen, takes a prototype of the device and burns the base to the ground. In doing so, he becomes the very antithesis of the fictional movie version of Bass Reeves, who once intoned,  “There will be no lynching today! Trust The Law!” to moviegoers.

However, his efforts have a price; June, bitterly aware of his vigilante activities, leaves him and takes their young son back to Tulsa.

A flashforward shows Angela exactly how Chief Crawford was killed; Will, using a modified version of the mind control device, forces him to hang himself…

And when Angela awakes from her coma, she is surprised to be in the company of, and treatment, of Lady Trieu…

The pleasures of re-watching HBO’s Watchmen (and what will make it eminently so in the future) is seeing the various references to the past of the origin comic AND our own past intertwined with narrative. I can pluck three from Episode Six alone:

For instance, Bass Reeves was quite real, the first black deputy U.S. marshal west of the Mississippi. His exploits were so remarkable that they may have inspired Fran Striker and George W. Trendle in the creation of the Lone Ranger in 1933. In a fairer, better world, Bass Reeves would be a better known and loved than a fictional white character.

The immigrant newsstand owner recounts the origin of Superman in Action Comics to Will Reeves, who almost instantly connects with the tale of an alien baby sent to another world to escape his planet’s destruction. 

Fred T., the racist grocery owner who clashes with Will early on in his policing life, could be modeled on the life of Fred Trump, the father of our current chief executive, who was also known to be a not very pleasant person.

Another thing I found admirable about Watchmen was Damon Lindelof’s dedication to making this production as diverse as possible. A majority of the writers (ten of the fourteen) were people of color and three women directed episodes.

Besides being a top-flight piece of entertainment, Watchmen is also a reaction against the willful erasure of the more violent aspects of American history, race relations, colonialism, political hegemony and policing. Heady stuff, to be sure. But so was Alan Moore’s source material.

It’s quite clear to me after six episodes that the narrative strands of the main characters; Angela Abar, Laurie Blake and Adrian Veidt, are slowly being drawn together.

Of the three, I feel emotionally invested in Angela’s story the most; she is learning about her family legacy in a very hard way. Her neat and tidy life of black and white, good and evil has been upended in the most unusual manner. And while she has acted in her own self interests in the protection of her family and herself, we can see the toll it’s taking on her through the sheer acting prowess of Regina King. Jean Smart and Jeremy Irons may delight us by chewing the scenery around the edges of the story but Ms. King’s performance is the living, beating heart of this epic. And I hope the Emmy Award nominators remember that going into the new year.

Also, I must highly commend the original score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, which I neglected in my previous review of the first three episodes. It’s a fantastical, electronic wonderland that invokes thrills, whimsy and dread in all the right places.

Watchmen also features a remarkable number of period pieces from several musical eras, from the Inks Spots, Eartha Kitt and Billie Holiday to Devo, Howard Jones and the Beastie Boys. A weekly updated list of the music being used can be found at:

https://www.menshealth.com/entertainment/a29516167/watchmen-season-1-soundtrack-songs/   

As for me, I don’t know how Damon Lindelof and company are going to pull off this feat of narrative derring-do in the final three episodes.

In an interview published online in Gen Mag (which can be read here) before Watchmen’s premeire, Damon Lindelof made the following statement: “I envision myself holding two stacks of plates each in my outstretched arms and we’re putting plates on both sides to find the perfect balance, but in finding that balance, plates are fucking breaking, man. You can’t play this game and not break stuff. But I hope when plates break, it’s not irreparable. Talk to me in a few months and then we’ll have a conversation about whether it was worth it.”

In three more weeks we’re all going to find out if this ambitious, audacious and totally unauthorized endeavor is going to pay off. Stay tuned…

Pixel Scroll 11/22/19 The Pixels Scrolled Too Greedily And Too Deep

(1) NYT’S PICKS OF THE YEAR. The editors of The NY Times Book Review choose the best fiction and nonfiction titles this year in “The 10 Best Books of 2019”. Ted Chiang’s collection Exhalation is one of them:

Many of the nine deeply beautiful stories in this collection explore the material consequences of time travel. Reading them feels like sitting at dinner with a friend who explains scientific theory to you without an ounce of condescension. Each thoughtful, elegantly crafted story poses a philosophical question; Chiang curates all nine into a conversation that comes full circle, after having traversed remarkable terrain.

The nonfiction selections include Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham.

(2) GENESIS. sisterMAG’s “The Beginnings of Science Fiction” leads off:

The beginning of modern science fiction lies in the age of Industrial Revolution, when the significance of science and technology steadily increased….

Daring, aren’t they?

(3) HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LID. This week, The Full Lid turns 3! Alasdair Stuart’s preview of The Full Lid 22nd November 2019 hits the highlights:

To celebrate we’ve got thematically resonant Lego, some thoughts about Gary Oldman and Jackson Lamb, a look at Karen Gillen’s extraordinary directorial debut and an advanced review of Ryan Ferrier and George Kambadais’ excellent horror noir comedy, I Can Sell You A Body.

(4) THEY CALL THE WIND ANYTHING BESIDES MARIA. NPR speaks to the air apparent: “Disney Animation Chief Jennifer Lee Is The Queen Behind Elsa And Anna”.

In a windowless room at Walt Disney Animation Studios in Burbank, Calif., supervising sound editor Odin Benitez plays different sound effects for the creative team of Frozen II. Directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck are commenting on the wind sounds.

Wind — like water, air, earth and fire — is important to the story in Frozen II. Playful “Gale,” as she’s called, swooshes around an enchanted forest carrying with her a flurry of leaves that fly around to flute-like sounds. Angry Gale is loud and gusty and, at times, sounds almost like a “backwards inhale,” Lee says approvingly.

As Benitez plays different sounds, Buck and Lee talk about the importance of this anthropomorphic wind. When she’s angry, Buck says “she blasts that tree limb away from Anna.” When Gale interacts with Elsa, who has the power to make ice and snow, they need a sound that implies Gale is saying “You’re the magic,” Lee says.

Getting the sound effects for this short scene just right is a team effort, as is every other aspect of an animated Disney movie. “You go shot by shot, moment by moment, frame by frame, and discuss everything from the emotion to the effects to the camera,” Lee says.

Lots of make-believe Elsas and Annas are about to finally get their wishes when Frozen II hits theaters this weekend. The first Frozen melted young hearts around the world when it was released in 2013 — up until this year, it was the highest-grossing animated film worldwide. (The 2019 remake of The Lion King now holds the top spot.)

Also remarkable: Jennifer Lee co-directed and wrote the screenplays for both Frozen and Frozen II. She has since been named the chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios — the first woman to hold such a position.

(5) CREATING. A New York Times Q&A with artist Jim Kay: “How a Harry Potter Illustrator Brings the Magical to Life”.

When you’re drawing imaginary creatures that doesn’t exist, how do you make them look real?

You’re trying to get people to buy into an alternative world. The more you can seat it in apparent reality, the better it works.

On a more practical level, it’s much easier to draw if you have something in front of you. If it doesn’t exist, I make it. If there isn’t something in the wild or it’s not in a museum, I’ll try to make it out of clay or plasticene. I’m not one of those illustrators who can pull stuff out of my head, I’m afraid. I’m not that good.

“It’s much easier to draw if you have something in front of you. If it doesn’t exist, I make it,” Kay said.

(6) COLBERT AND PETER JACKSON. The comedy continues!

Stephen Colbert’s epic quest to become The Newest Zealander takes him to Peter Jackson’s top-secret Wellington studio, where Colbert convinces Jackson to direct a new trilogy centered around his character from “The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug.” Watch as the two debut the trailer for Stephen Colbert presents Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings series’ The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’s “The Laketown Spy” is Darrylgorn in Darrylgorn Rising: The Rise of Darrylgorn The Prequel to Part One: Chapter One.

(7) POLLARD OBIT. Actor Michael J. Pollard, best known for his work in the movie Bonnie and Clyde, died November 20 at the age of 80. As the Washington Post summed up: “The film remained the pinnacle of Mr. Pollard’s screen career, even as he continued working in dozens of films over the next five decades, playing all manner of eccentrics and creeps.” His TV work included episodes of Lost in Space, Star Trek, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., and Superboy (“Mr. Mxyzptlk”), The Ray Bradbury Theater, and Tales from the Crypt.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

The first ever product to be purchased using a bar code was a 10-pack of Juicy Fruit gum at a Marsh supermarket in Ohio on June 26, 1974.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 22, 1968 Star Trek’s “Plato’s Stepchildren” featured what is said to be the first interracial kiss in prime time television in the kiss between Kirk and Uhura. Memory Alpha disputes this with a listing of previous kisses.
  • November 22, 1989 Back to the Future II premiered. Starring Michael J. Fox,  Christopher Lloyd and Lea Thompson, the critics gave it a mix response but it holds a solid 65% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • November 22, 1996  — Star Trek: First Contact premiered. Starring the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Alice Krige, this film did well at the box office and currently holds an 89% approval among viewers at Rotten Tomatoes. It was Jonathan Frakes first directing effort. 
  • November 22, 1999 Donkey Kong 64 was released, an adventure platform video game for the Nintendo 64 console.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 22, 1932 Robert Vaughn. His best-known genre work was as Napoleon Solo in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. with other genre work being  in Teenage Caveman, Starship Invasions, The Lucifer Complex, Virus, Hangar 18, Battle Beyond the Stars, Superman III,  C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D. (seriously who penned that title?), Transylvania Twist and Witch Academy. God, did he do some awful films. Oh, and he wrote the introduction to The Man from U.N.C.L.E. series companion that came out a generation after the series aired. (Died 2016.)
  • Born November 22, 1940 Terry Gilliam, 79. He’s directed many films of which the vast majority are firmly genre. I think I’ve seen most of them though I though I’ve not seen The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, Tideland, The Zero Theorem or The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. I’ve seen everything else. Yes, I skipped past his start as the animator for Monty Python’s Flying Circus which grew out of his for the children’s series Do Not Adjust Your Set which had staff of Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin.  Though he largely was the animator in the series and the films, he did occasionally take acting roles according to his autobiography, particularly roles no one else wanted such those requiring extensive makeup.  He’s also co-directed a number of scenes.  Awards? Of course. Twelve Monkeys is the most decorated followed by Brazil with two and Time Bandits and The Fisher King which each have but one.  My favorite films by him? Oh, the one I’ve watched the most is The Adventures of Baron Munchausen followed by Time Bandits.
  • Born November 22, 1943 William Kotzwinkle, 76. Fata Morgana might be his best novel though Doctor Rat which he won the World Fantasy Award for is in the running for that honor as well. And his short stories are quite excellent too.  Neither Apple Books or Kindle we particularity well stocked with his works. 
  • Born November 22, 1949 John Grant, 70. He’d make the Birthday list solely for being involved in the stellar Hugo Award winning Encyclopedia of Fantasy which also won a Mythopoeic Award.  And he did win another well-deserved Hugo Award for Best Related Work for The Chesley Awards for Science Fiction and Fantasy Art: A Retrospective.  Most of his short fiction has been set in the Lone Wolf universe, though I see that he did a Judge Dredd novel too. 
  • Born November 22, 1958 Jamie Lee Curtis, 61. Can we agree that she was the best Scream Queen for her film debut in the 1978 Halloween film in which she played the role of Laurie Strode? No? Well that’s my claim. She followed up with yet more horror films, The Fog and Prom Night. In all, she’s the only character that survives. She would reprise the role of Laurie in four sequels, including Halloween H20,  Halloween: Resurrection, Halloween II and Halloween III: Season of the Witch.  She shows up in up of my fav SF films, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as Sandra Banzai but you’ll need to see the director’s extended version as she’s only there in that version.   Is True Lies genre? Probably not but for her performance, Curtis won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and the Saturn Award for Best Actress. Damn impressive I’d say. No, I’m not listing all her films here as OGH would likely start growling. [*growl*] Suffice to say she’s had a very impressive career.
  • Born November 22, 1967 Mark Ruffalo, 52. Dr. Bruce Banner and The Hulk in the MCU film franchise. (Some silly SFF sites only credit him as the former saying the latter is all CGI.) He was The Boyfriend in Where the Wild Things Are, and was in the most excellent Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as Stan. Early on, he played two different roles in the Mirror, Mirror horror anthology series.
  • Born November 22, 1979 Leeanna Walsman, 40. Spoiler alert. She’s best known as the assassin Zam Wesell from Attack of The Clones.  Being Australian, she’s shown up on Farscape, a Hercules series (but not that series), BeastMaster and Thunderstone series and Spellbinder: Land of the Dragon Lord
  • Born November 22, 1988 James Campbell Bower, 31. He‘s best recognized  for his roles in the Twilight franchise, the young Gellert Grindelwald in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Jace Wayland in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and playwright Kit Marlowe in the short-lived series and highly fictionalised Will.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Not SF (except for the talking rat!) but I think a lot of Filers will understand the sentiment in today’s Pearls Before Swine.

(12) SPOILER TOY WARNING. “Bootleg Baby Yoda Merchandise Bountiful as Fans Clamor For New ‘Star Wars’ Character” says The Hollywood Reporter.

Star Wars fans have made it clear: Baby Yoda (or whoever the cute little tyke actually is) is a massive hit. In fact, there is such a clamoring for the breakout star of Disney+ series The Mandalorian that bootleg merchandise has flooded the Internet, as nothing officially licensed has been released as of Friday. 

A quick search on eBay for Baby Yoda results in a plethora of items, including shirts, mugs and stuffed toys. “He protects. He attacks. He also takes naps,” a shirt reads. A coffee mug proclaims “Adorable he is. Protect him, I will.” 

(13) DOCTOR DOCTOR. “Doctor Who: Sheffield university honours cast and crew” – BBC has the story.

The cast and crew of a Doctor Who episode that was filmed in Sheffield have accepted honorary doctorates from one of the city’s universities.

The opening episode of series 11, The Woman Who Fell to Earth, featured Jodie Whittaker as the first female Doctor.

Chris Chibnall, showrunner and executive producer on the series, was awarded the honour of Doctor of Arts by Sheffield Hallam University.

He said it was a “massive team effort” and praised the people of Sheffield.

“From the moment we made the decision for the Doctor to fall out of the sky into the streets and homes of Sheffield in 2018, the residents and the city have treated us brilliantly, on screen and off.

(14) BEHIND THE GLASS. The Washington Post’s Sonia Rao interviews Tim Blake Nelson, who plays Looking Glass on Watchmen, and offers insights into his character and how the current version of Watchmen differs from Moore and Gibbons’s graphic novel: “‘Watchmen’ actor Tim Blake Nelson reflects on the ‘unspeakable trauma’ of Looking Glass’s youth”.

…“I can do what actors do, which is to use my imagination to trick myself into a reality, meaning that the mask is always reminding me . . . no one can really see what I’m doing with my face,” Nelson said. “If I play that reality, I get all the power and status that wearing a mask is meant to confer.

“There don’t need to be any histrionics, there don’t need to be any demonstrations of power. Everything can happen simply and quietly and with restraint, because the power is just there. What I’ve tried to do as a performer is just aggregate a stillness with Wade that I think is there in the writing.”

(15) [THERE WAS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE] AN EARTHSHATTERING “KABOOM!” “SpaceX Starship prototype blows its top”. BBC’s story includes a short video.

SpaceX’s Starship rocket prototype experienced a major failure during pressurisation testing on Wednesday.

A video from the scene in Texas showed the top part of the vehicle rupture.

Cryogenic propellants that were being loaded at the time dispersed across the Boca Chica facility in a huge cloud.

The US company bills Starship as an all-purpose transportation system of the future. It will be used to ferry people and cargo off Earth, and to destinations around the globe.

The Mk-1 prototype was due to begin practice flights to an altitude of 20km in the coming weeks.

In a tweet, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said that could no longer happen and the ship would be retired.

Development work is already being directed at another prototype, labelled the Mk-3.

(16) TASTY SCIENCE. “Antarctic Research Takes The Cake In These Science-Inspired Confections”NPR has the story with lots of cool [sic] pictures.

When Rose McAdoo got back to New York after spending several months working as a sous chef in Antarctica, her friends had questions. Are there penguins? How do you get supplies? Are you, like, on an iceberg?

McAdoo set about answering their questions the best way she knows how: with cake.

“Cake is my canvas,” she says. “It’s my way of making big ideas literally digestible.”

The result was a series of descriptive desserts McAdoo developed to tell the story of life and work at McMurdo Station, a U.S.-run research station in Antarctica. She’s says she chose projects that showcase the diversity of the research that’s happening on the continent. She is now releasing photographs of the cakes, and the stories and science behind them, on her Instagram page.

See whiskmeawaycakes on Instagram.

[Thanks to Rich Horton, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Rob Thornton, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern, Contrarius, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kyra.]

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #45

Who Watches The Watchmen? –  Part One: Episodes 1-3

**BEWARE SPOILERS**

By Chris M. Barkley:

WATCHMEN by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, 12 Issues, September 1986 – October 1987, omnibus edition DC Comics/Warner Books, 1987.

“This city is afraid of me…I have seen its true face”

-Rorschach

It is widely regarded that Jack Katz’s The First Kingdom (1974) and the late Will Eisner’s A Contract With God and Other Tenement Stories (1978) should be credited as being among the first great, modern graphic novels. 

Watchmen, by writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons is, without a doubt, acknowledged as the first masterpiece of this literary form.

This psychological and sociological deconstruction of the nature and mythology of superheroes has been a towering inspiration to nearly everyone who has aspired to work in the comics industry since its publication in the mid-1980’s.

I had the privilege of reading Watchmen in its original twelve issue run when it was first published. I vividly remember being very excited about reading this series. And I, as a jaded 30-year-old-reader, had not been taken by surprise by a graphic novel or comic book since I was nine years old and encountering the Fantastic Four and the Justice League for the first time.   

I was mesmerized as Ozymandias’ (Adrian Veidt) diabolical plan to unite the world by making it fearful of a faked alien invasion played out; the murder of a remorseful ex-hero Eddie Blake (The Comedian), the relentless and brutal investigation of his and other murders by Rorshach (Walter Joseph Kovacs), Doctor Manhattan’s (Jon Osterman) growing alienation from humankind and the personal struggles of Sally Jupiter (Silk Spectre) and Nite-Owl (Dan Dreiberg) and the eventual destruction of a good portion of New York City and a massive death toll., .

And the plan worked. Or did it?

A nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States was averted, and the surviving heroes, with the exception of Rorshach, agreed to keep silent. Doctor Manhattan kills Rorshach to ensure his silence. But knowing he might not be able to speak out, he cleverly planted a diary outlining most of plot with a tabloid newspaper. We, the readers, were left with an ironic, ticking time bomb waiting to go off…

Moore and Gibbon’s original contract with DC Comics stipulated that if Watchmen went out of print, the publishing rights and characters would revert back to them to do with them as they wished. But, not only a critical success but a big moneymaker for DC. Moore, citing this and other contractual disputes with DC, is totally estranged from the publisher and has repeatedly refused to have anything to do with Watchmen. And I don’t blame him a bit. If we were all moral and ethical people, we would boycott anything and everything Watchmen-related. 

Unfortunately, we are not very moral or ethical people. Are we?      


WATCHMEN (Director’s Cut: 3 Hours 2 minutes, 4/4 stars, 2009) with Malin Åkerman, Billy Crudup,Matthew Goode,Carla Gugino,Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Patrick Wilson. Screenplay by David Hayter and Alex Tse, based on Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, Directed by Zach Synder.

“People’s lives take them strange places. They do strange things, and sometimes they can’t talk about them… I know how that is.”.

Laurie Jupiter/Silk Spectre II

The film rights to Watchmen were immediately snatched up by renowned producers Lawrence Gordon and Joel Silver. They were the first of many who tried, and failed, to make a movie out of Watchmen. Several writers and directors were employed to give it a go, among them Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame, who exclaimed at one point it would be better as a mini-series and at another said the graphic novel was “unfilmable”.

In 2005, Gordon and a new partner, Lloyd Levin, tapped director Zach Synder, who had just completed the special effects historical epic, 300, to try to bring it all together. Synder and new screenwriter Alex Tse used elements of an earlier script by David Hayer, restored the Cold War setting of 1985 and an element involving Doctor Manhattan working on an energy conversion project backed by Adrian Veidt.

I saw the film when it premiered a decade ago but hadn’t seen it since then. I remember being impressed with it and thought was a very good adaptation. Looking back, I gave it three out of four stars (on the Leonard Maltin rating scale) because as good as it was, I found the underlying themes of the source material somewhat muted. 

To re-acquaint myself with the film, I purchased a copy of Zach Synder’s director’s cut (which has 24 minutes of additional footage) and found it that it was a more satisfying experience. Sure, it features extended action scenes but it also gives more nuance and character motivation to Laurie Jupiter (Malin Ackerman), her mother, Sally (Carla Gugino) and Nite-Owl (Partick Wilson). Their character arcs actually heighten the performance of Jackie Earle Haley’s Rorshach, whose contrasting performance as the hard ass, uncompromising vigilante burns even brighter. In a fairer world would he have been nominated for an Oscar and aced the winner Christoph Waltz (for Inglorious Basterds) for the award.

Synder and screenwriter Alex Tse received a lot of criticism for changing a vital element of the original story; the conspiracy behind faking the alien invasion. Instead, a subplot involving Doctor Manhattan and Adrian Veidt developing a new source of energy derived from his superpowers and Veidt framing him for a far more heinous crime, the utter destruction of several major global cities. While I thought this was a brilliant way to set the film apart visually from the graphic novel, other critics harped that it was either still too faithful version or or disagreed with the choices storywise. As for me, I think that; filmmakers have a better chance of producing more interesting and innovative art when they bring their perspectives and ideas to an adaptation than being a slave to the original material.

(To get an author’s first-hand perspective on how they viewed an adaptation of their own work, interested readers may want to hunt down David Mitchell’s essay on how his 2004 novel, Cloud Atlas, was handled by its three directors. It was originally published in the 2012 movie tie-in edition and, as of this post, is not available online.)

Watchmen was not the huge financial success Warner Brothers and DC Comics had hoped for at the box office, earning $185 million worldwide against an estimated budget of $138 million. Sales of various home video editions have been moderately good. In bookstores and online, the graphic novel spiked in advance of the film and did so again this past year upon the announcement from HBO that a limited series was in the works. 

Despite the failure of the film, DC embarked on a series of prequel stories called Before Watchmen in 2012, featuring individual characters from the novel.

Naturally, Alan Moore was very unhappy with these developments, stating in a 2012 interview on the Seraphemera (Books & Music) website:

“All the nasty comments that I was making when I was angry–about the comics industry not having had an idea of its own in the last 40 years…it would seem that DC are really going that extra mile in trying to prove me incontrovertibly right.”

and

“What the comics industry has effectively said is, ‘Yes, this was the only book that made us briefly special and that was because it wasn’t like all the other books.’ Watchmen was something that stood on its own and it had the integrity of a literary work. What they’ve decided now is, ‘So, let’s change it to a regular comic that can run indefinitely and have spin-offs.’ and ‘Let’s make it as unexceptional as possible.’ Like I say, they’re doing this because they haven’t got any other choices left, evidently.”     


WATCHMEN: White Rabbit, HBO, DC Comics, based on Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, with Regina King, Jean Smart, Don Johnson, Tim Blake Nelson,Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Andrew Howard, Jacob Ming-Trent, Tom Mison, Sara Vickers, Dylan Schombing, Louis Gossett Jr. and Jeremy Irons.

“I’ve got a nose for white supremacy and he smells like bleach.” 

Angela Abar/Detective Sister Night, Episode 1

  • Episode 1: “It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice”, Written by Damon Lindelof, Directed by Nicole Kassell
  • Episode 2: “Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship”, Written by Damon Lindelof & Nick Cuse, Directed by Nicole Kassell
  • Episode 3:”She Was Killed by Space Junk”, Written by Damon Lindelof & Lila Byock, Directed by Stephen Williams

Which brings us to Damon Lindelof’s “remix” of the original graphic novel for television.The veteran of high profile genre shows like Lost and The Leftovers, he turned the job down twice before accepting. He went in knowing that he would never get Alan Moore’s approval and that whatever may come, the die-hard fans of the graphic novel (or the film for that matter) would never be satisfied with the results.

Taking a deep creative breath, Lindelof took to Instagram and made the following statement: “I am compelled despite the inevitable pushback and hatred I will understandably receive for taking on this particular project. This ire will be maximally painful because of its source. That source being you. the true fans.”

He also said: “I’m a true fan, too. And I’m not the only one. What I love about television is that the finished product is not the result of a singular vision, but the collective experience of many brilliant minds.”

Among those brilliant minds is Watchmen’s original artist, Dave Gibbons, who signed on with Lindelof as a visual consultant. His contributions are immediately evident in costumes of the characters and the style and feel of the production itself. 

The story begins with one of the most stunning opening sequencing in the history of television; a brutal recreation of the ransacking, murderous rampage and destruction of the Black Wall Street of Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921. Emerging from the carnage, a young black child rescues an infant and flees the burning city.

We then shift ninety-eight years into the future and thirty four after the events depicted in the graphic novel. Loud rap music drones from of a pickup truck late at night. The middle aged driver become apprehensive when police lights signal for him to pull over and it appears he is a victim of racial profiling. And as the officer questions the driver in an antagonistic manner, it verifies these suspicions with one startling twist; the driver is white and the Tulsa cop is African-American and wearing a mask. When the cop is brutally assaulted and critically injured, it set in motion a series of events that will range far across this alternate universe.

And what a strange universe it is. Over the course of the first three episodes several several passing glances and easter eggs have revealed the following observations and easter eggs:

  • That actor Robert Redford has been President for decades. 
  • That African-Americans were granted some substantial reparations from the government over the years.
  • There are no cell phones or the development of any social media outlets. But electric cars seem to be a standard mode of travel.
  • Author/Attorney John Grisham was appointed to the Supreme Court and is retiring.
  • Masked vigilantes were banned in 1977 but apparently many persist in the practice.
  • A newspaper announces that Adrian Veidt (Ozymandias) has been officially declared dead.
  • Tiny squids fall from the sky on an irregular basis, a stark reminder that mankind is still living under a threat of an impending “invasion:’
  • A dramatization documenting adventures of the first vigilantes called “American Hero Story” is being promoted on television (a clear call out to the Tales of The Black Freighter comics in the original Watchmen AND to Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s American Horror Story).
  • And Doctor Manhattan has been spotted on Mars, puttering around building and deconstructing things on the surface and, presumably, keeping an eye on Earth.

Tulsa’s police chief, Judd Crawford (Don Johnson) quickly deduces that a white supremist group, the Seventh Kalvary, was responsible. Three years earlier, the force and their families had been targeted in a surprise attack that left them dead and the few that remained demoralized. In response, the state government funded a pilot project that allowed officers to mask themselves and detectives to don elaborate costumes to protect their identities. Unfortunately, as the first episode amply demonstrates, this habitually leads to the abuse of the civil rights of criminal suspects and innocent civilians alike.

Our main protagonist, Angela Abar, is a survivor of the attack and has adopted the guise of a mild mannered, civilian identity of a local baker. But, when she’s alerted via pager to an emergency, she swiftly enters the back room and, like Spiderwoman, the Green Hornet and countless other heroes, transforms herself into Sister Night; with a nun’s habit and balaclava clad, she is a total badass supercop.

Sister Night forcibly brings a suspect into Tulsa’s secret police facility where he is subjected to an interrogation by Detective Wade Tillman, aka Looking Glass (played a droll and sardonic Tim Blake Nelson), who wears a reflective mirror mask. After conducting a very strange method that seems imitate Bladerunner’s Voight-Kampff test, Tillman concludes that while the suspect may not have been directly involved with the attack, he definitely knows something. And Sister Night proceeds to beat the location of the Seventh Kalvary out of him.

Meanwhile, at an undisclosed location, we spy a man (Jeremy Irons) riding horseback through the countryside. (Although he isn’t identified, I immediately suspected this regal looking rogue to be Adrian Veidt. And I was right.) While he seems to be right at home, he gives the appearance of being preoccupied with writing a play called “The Watchman’s Son” and recruiting his servants, Miss Crookshanks (Sarah Vickers) and Mr. Phillips (Tom Mison) to help him bring it to life.

At first, I thought these might be androids, but no, after Mr. Philips is burned alive during the performance of the play, it’s revealed that there are multiple copies of him and Miss Crookshanks, clones, doing his bidding around the castle in various roles. And who knows, they might even be clones of himself!

It also becomes evident that while Veidt lives in relative comfort, he is not at liberty to leave the compound at any time. After another one of his Philips clones expires in a grisly manner during one of his experiments involving a primitive pressure suit and a trebuchet, it is evident that the World’s Smartest Man is trying to escape. And the person who is standing in his way is a mysterious character named “the Game Warden”, who sends Veidt a written warning that he suspects his current activities may be in violation of the terms of his imprisonment. And Veidt, being the person he is, doubles down on his efforts.        

Meanwhile, Sister Night and Chief Crawford lead a nighttime raid on the Kavalry’s remote safehouse, which, like the first two episodes, are thrillingly directed with precision and verve by Nicole Kassell. And while they succeed in breaking up the gang’s current plan, they don’t gain enough intelligence to know exactly what they’re up to. 

Angela goes home only to receive a phone tip from a strange voice who tells her knows who she is and proceeds to demands she drive to a location in a field she knows well. Fearing that her identity and family has been compromised, she drives there only to find Crawford’s body hanging from a tree and a VERY elderly black man in a wheelchair (Louis Gossett, Jr.), proudly claiming to be the murderer.

This man, who calls himself Will, also claims to be Angela’s grandfather and to being 109 years old. Angela takes him to her bakery hideout, handcuffs him and takes a DNA sample to be tested and later is shocked to find out his claim is valid. Having kept Will out of the investigation of Crawford’s death, she decides to formally take him into custody as a material witness. But as she places him in her civilian car under the cover of darkness, a mysterious craft swoops in with an electro-magnetic grapple and spirits Will, and her car (!), away. A paper flutters down from the car; the tattered leaflet with the words “Look After This Boy” scrawled on the back, the same note that was placed in the pocket by the father of the boy who survived the 1921 Tulsa riots. 

The third episode introduces the audience to a middle-aged Laurie Blake (Jean Smart, who is equally snappy and ironically sad in her role) the second Silk Spectre and daughter of Sally Jupiter and Eddie Blake. A hard-bitten veteran of the FBI’s Anti-Vigilante Task Force, she also appears to be trapped in a life she doesn’t enjoy very much. It is heavily implied that her ex-husband, Nite-Owl, is languishing in prison for violating the 1977 federal anti-vigilante act and Laurie feels guilty for receiving a get out of jail free card in exchange for her services. 

Enter Joe Keene Jr., a US Senator from Oklahoma (and an aspiring Presidential candidate) who comes calling on Laurie to do him a favor; he has arranged with the Bureau to send her to Tulsa to investigate the death of Chief Judd Crawford, who he strongly suspects might not have been killed by the Seventh Kalvalry but by a masked vigilante. .Should Laurie succeed and he becomes President, he strongly suggests he just might pardon Daniel Dreiberg.

But Laurie doesn’t only pine for her ex-husband, in her spare time from the investigation, she also records phone messages beamed directly to Mars via special booths for her ex-boyfriend, Doctor Manhattan to “hear”.

As sad and lonely as Laurie seems, her demeanor in public is sharp and professional. In her interactions with Angela, Wade and her nerdy FBI partner Dale Petey (Dustin Ingram) she lets it be known that does not suffer fools gladly and that she has read all of the reports, seen all of the video and is as smart as a very sharp, venomous tack. And if anyone is hiding anything, she’ll be the one to suss it out. Wade seemingly bows to her authority but not Angela, who puts on a brave and defiant face. That’s because she has plenty to hide at this point, including finding evidence that Chief Crawford may have been on the take and is concealing her grandfather’s role in his death.

And at the end of the third episode, as Laurie completes her phone call to Mars that evening, pleading for a sign from Doctor Manhattan that he might still care for her or the human race. As she is walking to her car, a huge clue falls into her lap from the sky above. And as she looks to see where it came from, she catches sight of Mars, glowing ominously in the distance. We leave Laurie as she laughs maniacally at the night sky and the audience wondering what the hell is going to happen next.

I must admit that I have been fairly overwhelmed by what Damon Lindelof has done with this production of Watchmen. He clearly reveres the source material but is totally unafraid in taking it in unexpected and startling directions.

There has been some blow back from fans who have complained at great length that Lindelof has made Watchmen too “political”, which is laughable because a more discerning reader should have caught on to those themes in the very first issue back in 1986. 

Others have vociferously objected to Rorschach being held up as a modern-day symbol of white supremacy. Well, those people thought he was the “hero” of previous iterations of Watchmen, when in fact, he was a damaged human being who was given the worst aspects of Batman, which were then magnified to the nth degree. A nihilistic, psychotic and inflexible, Walter Kovacs was the perfect character for other nihilistic, psychotic and inflexible racists to glom onto as their object of adulation.

Furthermore, Lindelof and his crew of creators are daring the audience to immerse themselves in a world where they may have to either root for, understand or have empathy for people, especially police officers, who are going about their jobs and lives in a completely aberrant and disgusting manner as they try to grapple with forces and circumstances they are having a hard time comprehending.

Also, in an era where more television shows and films are telling more diverse stories, it is utterly refreshing to see a gerne-oriented show tackle racial and political issues head on for a mainstream audience. These are exactly the sort of entertainment vehicles we need more of in these confusing and turbulent times; confounding, controversial and profound, they excite the intellect and stir meaningful conversations about who we are and what we should be doing.

This past spring, I stated that I was only going to list HBO’s magnificent techno-horror miniseries Chernobyl as my lone entrant on my Best Dramatic Presentation-Long Form Hugo award ballot. Well, I think may have been a bit premature saying that; if Damon Lindelof and company can pull it off this daring adaptation over the remaining six episodes, I’ll be nominating Watchmen as well. 

And from what I’ve seen so far, I’ll be VERY disappointed if they don’t make it. But, after seeing the first three episodes of this series, I have a sneaking suspicion they will stick the landing, in the biggest way possible.

Pixel Scroll 11/5/19 The Void Pixel’s Tale

(1) 2019 WORLD FANTASY AWARDS PHOTO. Lee Whiteside took this picture of the winners and accepters at Sunday’s World Fantasy Awards ceremony.

Left to right: Kathleen Jennings (accepting for Best Novella winner Kij Johnson), Emma Törzs (Best Short Fiction co-winner as well as accepting for co-winner Mel Kassel), C. L. Polk (Best Novel), Tobias S. Buckell (Best Collection with Paolo Bacigalupi), Reiko Murakami (accepting for Best Artist winner Rovina Cai), Irene Gallo (Best Anthology) and Rajan Khanna (accepting for Scott H. Andrews, Special Award – Nonprofessional)

(2) WATCHMEN PODCAST. ScienceFiction.com alerts listeners when “HBO Launches ‘The Official Watchmen Podcast’”.

The Official Watchmen Podcast launches after the third episode of the series airs on November 3rd. Over three episodes, host Craig Mazin (HBO and Sky’s Chernobyl) discusses Watchmen with its Executive Producer and Writer, Damon Lindelof. Join Mazin and Lindelof as they divulge narrative choices, explore the show’s connection with the groundbreaking graphic novel, and how it reflects our modern times. Make sure to watch episodes one through three of Watchmen before listening. The Official Watchmen Podcast is produced by HBO in conjunction with Pineapple Street Studios.

(3) MAKE ROOM. If Marie Kondo didn’t get you started decluttering, maybe this post by Wil Wheaton will do it: “The Purge”. This excerpt is followed by a moving account of the emotional work he went through in the process.

…As I was cleaning up my emotional baggage, working on strategies to protect myself from my abusers, and practicing mindfulness daily, I realized that I had a ton of STUFF just sitting around my house, cluttering up my physical living space the way my emotional trauma and pain was cluttering up my emotional space. So I made a call, and hired a professional organizer to come to my house, go through all my bullshit with me, and help me get rid of all the things I didn’t need any more.

This process was, in many ways, a metaphor.

We spent several days going through my closets, my game room, my storage spaces in my attic and shed, and eventually ended up with FIVE TRUCKLOADS of stuff I didn’t need. Most of it was clothes and books and things that we donated to shelters, which was really easy to unload. I acquire T-shirts so much, I regularly go through my wardrobe and unload half of what I have, so it’s easy to get rid of stuff without any emotional attachments.

But there were some things that were more difficult to get rid of, things that represented opportunities I once had but didn’t pursue, things that represented ideas that I was really into for a minute, but didn’t see through to completion, things that seemed like a good idea at the time but didn’t really fit into my life, etc….

(4) AO3 TO THE RESCUE. Yahoo! will be closing downYahoo! Groups – at least as people are used to it — for good on December 14, by which point all uploaded content will be lost: “Yahoo is shuttering Yahoo Groups. Fandom will never be the same”.

The death of Yahoo Groups is a particular blow to text-based fan communities, which thrived on the platform in the 2000s. Yahoo message boards and email lists were crucial to the early days of fandom, both as a publishing platform and as a semi-private meeting place in the days before social media sites like Tumblr, Twitter, and Reddit. Yahoo Groups were particularly integral to Harry Potter and English-language anime fandoms, overlapping with the rise of Livejournal in the early 2000s. These fannish mailing lists were home to reams of fanfiction and in-depth commentary on pop culture, and spawned lifelong friendships (and, OK, the occasional deathly feud) within their communities.

AO3 has offered sanctuary to fanworks that are at risk because of the Yahoo Groups shutdown:

We have two processes in place — one to move fanworks from Yahoo Groups onto the Archive Of Our Own, and one to download and preserve messages and other content from Yahoo Groups in file systems so moderators and Yahoo Groups users have more than nine weeks to figure out how to preserve and possibly share that content.

Open Doors can only import fanworks archived in Yahoo Groups onto the Archive of Our Own with the consent of the moderator(s). If you are a moderator and would like to import fanworks from your Yahoo Group(s) to AO3, you are welcome to contact Open Doors via our contact form.

…If you’re a moderator who’d like to potentially import your group to the AO3, contact Open Doors and we’ll talk to you about options. For more updates on what’s happening, see announcements or check back on this page.

If you’d like to directly help rescue teams and you want to save only fandom groups, you can use this form to nominate fandom groups OR you can go directly to the public spreadsheet to find nominated groups that still need downloading. (General downloading instructions are here.) If you want to help save fandom groups and many other non-fandom groups, see Archive Team’s chrome extension. Both are worthy efforts and both face a hard deadline of Dec 14.

(5) CONZEALAND MINORS POLICY. Here are some features of CoNZealand’s “Minors Onsite Policy” for the 2020 Wordcon,

A minor is anyone under the age of 18. In New Zealand, the law requires that no minor under the age of 14 be left unattended. …

Overall Policy 

All Kid-in-tow and Child memberships must be tied to an adult membership. All minors under 16 should have a sticker on the back of their badge detailing up to two adults (over 18) who are responsible for them.  

Due to the nature of licensing and regulation in regards to child care in New Zealand, it will not be possible for us to provide child care at CoNZealand. Please refer to the links to nanny and babysitting services at the end of this document.

Memberships

There are three types of memberships for minors at CoNZealand:

  1. Kid-in-tow (no charge)—born in or after 2015 (generally 5 and under)
  2. Child ($105)—born in or after 2005 (generally 5-15)
  3. Young Adult ($250)—born in or after 2000 (generally 15-20)

These age groups do not exactly align with the differing expectations for supervision of minors. New Zealand law requires that no child under the age of 14 be left unattended. 

(6) ABOUT THE CAMPBELL AWARD. If you didn’t read it in August on Boing Boing, Locus Online has reposted Cory Doctorow’s opinion piece, “Jeannette Ng Was Right: John W. Campbell Was a Fascist”.

At the Hugo Awards ceremony at this summer’s Dublin Worldcon, Jeannette Ng was presented with the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Ng gave an outstanding and brave acceptance speech in which she called Campbell – the award’s namesake and one of the field’s most influential editors – a “fascist” and expressed solidarity with the Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters.

I am a past recipient of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (2000) as well as a recipient of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award (2009). I believe I’m the only person to have won both of the Campbells, which, I think, gives me unique license to comment on Ng’s remarks, which have been met with a mixed reception from the field.

I think she was right – and seemly – to make her re­marks….

(7) SOMETHING IN COMMON. BBC explains an award and poses a question: “Staunch Book Prize: Should writers ditch female victims?”

From the escapades of an intern-turned-spy in Turkey’s capital to the tale of a priest in 15th Century Somerset, there might not be an obvious connection between the novels shortlisted for this year’s Staunch Book Prize.

But they have one thing in common: none of them involve physical or sexual violence towards women.

The prize, which is in its second year, recognises thrillers in which “no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered”.

But while some commend it for challenging stereotypes, others accuse it of ignoring social realities.

Speaking to the BBC, shortlisted authors and other writers share their views on why female characters are so often the victims of violence – and whether that needs to change.

(8) GENTLEMEN, BE OBLITERATED. The Space Review’s article “Nuking the site from orbit: when the Air Force wanted a base on the Moon” mentions Heinlein’s 1940s vision of a moon base with atomic weaponry.

…The concept of the Moon as a strategic base apparently dates at least back to 1948 and an article by Robert S. Richardson titled “Rocket Blitz From the Moon” in the mass-market Collier’s magazine. The article was beautifully illustrated by famed space artist Chesley Bonestell. In one Bonestell painting a bullet-shaped rocket (illogically equipped with large aerodynamic fins) is blasting off from a lunar crater. Another rocket stands prepped in the background and a lunar base is tucked into the side of a mountain. In the next illustration—probably Bonestell’s most dramatic painting ever—Manhattan has been blasted with at least three atomic bombs.

Richardson’s article focused primarily on the physics of the Moon: the low gravity, the lack of air, the trajectory and velocity calculations for firing rockets at the Earth. Rather than advocate that the United States should build a lunar rocket base, Richardson warned that another country could undertake a secret project to develop a lunar base and achieve strategic surprise against the United States. He did not clearly explain why the Moon would be a good place for basing missiles other than its presumed safety from Earth observation, and he noted that it would take at least a day for a rocket to reach Earth with its warhead. Considering that there were other means of basing long-range strategic weapons that did not involve the massive cost of a space program and a lunar base, Richardson’s idea was fanciful at best. But Collier’s was a large circulation magazine, not a science fiction pulp, and this short article certainly reached a big audience and probably fired some imaginations.

Richardson was not the only person writing about the possibilities of using space as a platform for attacking Earth. Robert Heinlein co-wrote a non-fiction article in August 1947, also for Collier’s, called “Flight into the Future.” Heinlein and his co-author, US Navy Captain Caleb Laning, suggested basing atomic weapons in orbit, and Heinlein later used this idea in his book Space Cadet. The 1950 movie Destination Moon, which Heinlein co-wrote, also echoed a similar theme (see “Heinlein’s ghost (part 1)”, The Space Review, April 9, 2007). One of the characters in the movie explains why a lunar base is necessary: “There is absolutely no way to stop an attack from outer space. The first country that can use the Moon for the launching of missiles will control the Earth. That, gentlemen, is the most important military fact of this century.”…

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 5, 1938 Jim Steranko, 81. His breakthough series  was the Sixties “Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” feature in Marvel Comics’ Strange Tales and in the subsequent debut series. His design sensibility is widespread within and without the comics industry effecting even Raiders of the Lost Ark and Bram Stoker’s Dracula as he created the conceptual art and character designs for them. He was inducted into the comic-book industry’s Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2006.
  • Born November 5, 1942 Frank Gasperik. Tuckerized in as a character in several novels including Lucifer’s Hammer as Mark Czescu, and into Footfall as Harry Reddington aka Hairy Red,  and in Fallen Angels, all by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. He was a close friend of both and assisted Pournelle on his Byte column. To my knowledge, he has but two writing credits which are he co-wrote a story, “Janesfort War”, with Leslie Fish that was published in Pournelle’s War World collection, CoDominium: Revolt on War World, and “To Win the Peace” co-written with Leslie Fish which was published in John F. Carr’s War World: Takeover. He was a filk singer including here doing “The Green Hills of Earth”. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 5, 1944 Carol Anne Douglas, 75. Although she has two inarguably genre series In the  Delilah Street, Paranormal Investigator and the Sword and Circlet novels, I’m here to pitch to you her Social Justice Warrior credential series instead (and dissenters can now go elsewhere) in the form of her Midnight Louie series.  Each novel is told in part from the point of view of Midnight Louie, the cat himself in a style some say is like that of a Damon Runyon character.
  • Born November 5, 1949 Armin Shimerman, 70. Quark on Deep Space Nine. And Principal Snyder on Buffy the Vampire Slayer who if I remember correctly came to a very bad end.  He had the recurring role of Pascal on Beauty and the Beast. He also played Professor George Edward Challenger in the later Nineties Lost World film.
  • Born November 5, 1960 ?Tilda Swinton, 59. Her take as Rosetta/Ruby/Marinne/Olive in Teknolust might be the most weird genre role she’s done but I like her take as The White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as her best role to date. Mind you her Gabriel in Constantine was frelling strange…
  • Born November 5, 1961 Sam Rockwell, 58. First in our area of interest as the Head Thug in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I’ve got him next being Francis Flute in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, not a role I knew. Ahhh, Guy Fleegman on Galaxy Quest. And lastly, he was Zaphod Beeblebroxin The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. 
  • Born November 5, 1964 Famke Janssen, 55. Her first genre role was Xenia Onatopp in the Bond film GoldenEye and her longest running genre role was as Jean Grey / Phoenix (Dark Phoenix) in the X-Men film series. Counting horror which I do, she’s got a number of genre appearance including Lord of IllusionsThe WolverineHouse on Haunted HillDeep Rising and Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • Born November 5, 1970 Tamzin Outhwaite, 49. She was Detective Inspector Rebecca Flint on Paradox, a SF police series that ran for just five episodes and received really harsh reviews. Her only other SF role was as the Captain in an Eleventh Doctor story, “Nightmare in Silver” which was scripted by Neil Gaiman. 

(10) BE FREE! ABC news reports “Chicago book returns surge 240% after city eliminates fines”.

“Just by word of mouth and also on the library’s social media pages like Facebook, we saw a lot of patrons say, ‘Oh my God. This is so great. I’m gonna bring back my books. I’ve been hesitant to come back to the library because I owe these fines,'” Telli said.

Chicago became the nation’s first major city to forgo overdue fines, which went into effect Oct. 1 and erased all outstanding fees. Mayor Lori Lightfoot framed the policy change as her latest attempt to remove barriers that deter youth and low-income patrons.

Lightfoot is also making an effort to open libraries on Sundays. The mayor’s 2020 budget includes an $18 million property tax increase to honor her promise to establish Sunday hours at Chicago’s 81 libraries. Currently, the Harold Washington central library and three regional libraries are open 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

(11) NEVER? WELL, HARDLY EVER. Even Book View Café’s  Madeleine E. Robins will sometimes “RTFM*”.

I am, by nature, a dive-in-and-figure-it-out sort of technology user. This may come from my early days as a computer user, when my then room-mate and sometime business partner dropped a box on my desk and said “we’re doing a user’s manual for X Corp. Can you learn this” — this being PageMaker, the forerunner of InDesign, a page layout program–“by next week? I should have copy for you then.”

Reader, I did not rise up and slay him; I learned the program, eventually well enough that I taught classes in it. I still use those skills:  one of the things I do at my day job is to use InDesign to produce the posters, ads, and other marketing materials that the museum I work at needs for promotion….

(* Read the Fucking Manual.)

(12) PERFECTLY CLEAR. Will this New York Times opinion piece make it all better? Next question! “Martin Scorsese: I Said Marvel Movies Aren’t Cinema. Let Me Explain.”

…In the past 20 years, as we all know, the movie business has changed on all fronts. But the most ominous change has happened stealthily and under cover of night: the gradual but steady elimination of risk. Many films today are perfect products manufactured for immediate consumption. Many of them are well made by teams of talented individuals. All the same, they lack something essential to cinema: the unifying vision of an individual artist. Because, of course, the individual artist is the riskiest factor of all.

I’m certainly not implying that movies should be a subsidized art form, or that they ever were. When the Hollywood studio system was still alive and well, the tension between the artists and the people who ran the business was constant and intense, but it was a productive tension that gave us some of the greatest films ever made — in the words of Bob Dylan, the best of them were “heroic and visionary.”

Today, that tension is gone, and there are some in the business with absolute indifference to the very question of art and an attitude toward the history of cinema that is both dismissive and proprietary — a lethal combination. The situation, sadly, is that we now have two separate fields: There’s worldwide audiovisual entertainment, and there’s cinema. They still overlap from time to time, but that’s becoming increasingly rare. And I fear that the financial dominance of one is being used to marginalize and even belittle the existence of the other….

(13) ELRIC MEETS DUNGEON SYNTH. A Moorcock-obsessed United Kingdom musician who goes by the name Elric is working in the “dungeon synth” genre (an eerie combination of goth, classical, and folk tunes played on 80s synths). The releases are on Bandcamp and are named “Antihero”, “Stormbringer”, and “Elric of Melnibone”. They are all “name your price.” As Bandcamp said about one of the releases:

It’s safe to say that fantasy literature and role-playing games (the tabletop and the video variety) loom large in the world of Dungeon Synth, and Elric expertly combines both of them. Inspired by the chiptune soundtracks of games like Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana as well as (obviously) the fantasy novels of Michael Moorcock, Elric’s music is the perfect soundtrack to crawling through (16-bit) alcoves, searching for abandoned potions and treasure while trying to avoid the hungry ghouls hidden in the shadows.”

(14) DO ME A SOLID. “Searching For Solid Ice As Scientists Freeze In To Study A Warming Arctic” – BBC delivers lots of meaty detail and pictures.

High up in the Arctic Ocean close to the North Pole, a solitary ship floats in darkness, moored to an expansive piece of ice.

If all goes according to plan the ship will remain with that ice for an entire year, so that scientists on board can study the Arctic system and how it’s responding to climate change.

It’s a project called the Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC). But finding a piece of ice thick and stable enough to host the mission’s science and logistics is not easy, and there may be challenges for the ice and the scientists in the months ahead.

…The MOSAiC expedition – about a decade in the planning – is an international collaboration involving hundreds of scientists and almost 20 countries. Their goal is to better understand the changing Arctic and improve how it’s represented in climate models.

“We need this information because the Arctic is changing so rapidly, and it’s a place that we have not observed very well in the past,” says Matthew Shupe, an atmospheric scientist with the University of Colorado and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a co-coordinator for MOSAiC.

The last time scientists looked at the Arctic Ocean system so comprehensively was more than 20 years ago. But the Arctic has been warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world, and the picture there has changed dramatically.

That’s why these researchers want a year out in the ice: to get an updated look at how the physics, the chemistry, and the biology of this area work during all four seasons.

(15) BIG HOOCH. NPR finds “Climate Change Is Disrupting Centuries-Old Methods Of Winemaking In France”.

In France, climate change is already impacting one of the country’s most emblematic industries — winemaking. French vintners say heat, drought and erratic weather is altering the landscape and their centuries-old way of working.

Brothers Remi and Gregoire Couppé are fourth generation winemakers who craft a top vintage, grand cru St Emilion. In the last few years they’ve been confronted with some new challenges. Forty-four-year-old Remi Couppé says there’s no denying the weather is getting hotter and drier.

“Because of the grapes. They show us the change,” he says. “Especially in alcohol. The alcohol level has been getting higher in the last five years.” These days, the alcohol content by volume can reach 15%, he says; when he was a boy, “it was maximum 12 [% ABV]. It’s causing me some problems when I start the vinification process, because I have to use new yeast to avoid too much alcohol. It’s really new for me.”

The higher alcohol levels come from increased sugar in the grapes due to more sun and heat. What’s also new are some of the plants sprouting up between the vines. Couppé picks a flowery-looking weed, holding it up to the blazing sun. “This plant is from the south of Europe and I never saw it here in my life before four years ago.”

Couppé says you have to be careful when using the mechanized harvester now, because such plants can get mixed in and ad a taste to the grapes.

The brothers say in the past three years they’ve completely stopped a process called “stripping,” where most of the vine leaves are removed just before the harvest. Now they need the leaves’ shade to keep the grapes from burning on the vine. Couppé points to a shriveled, sun-exposed cluster of grapes next to the dark, plump ones still shaded by the leaves.

(16) OUTSIDE OPINION. BBC tells how “Voyagers shed light on Solar System’s structure”.

Data sent back by the two Voyager spacecraft have shed new light on the structure of the Solar System.

Forty-two years after they were launched, the spacecraft are still going strong and exploring the outer reaches of our cosmic neighbourhood.

By analysing data sent back by the probes, scientists have worked out the shape of the vast magnetic bubble that surrounds the Sun.

The two spacecraft are now more than 10 billion miles from Earth.

Researchers detail their findings in six separate studies published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

“We had no good quantitative idea how big this bubble is that the Sun creates around itself with its solar wind – ionised plasma that’s speeding away from the Sun radially in all directions,” said Ed Stone, the longstanding project scientist for the missions.

[Thanks to Daniel Dern, Lee Whiteside, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Rob Thornton, Cora Buhlert, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 11/3/19 When You’re At The Bottom Of A Pixel, It’s Time To Put Down The Scroll

(1) FAN NONPROFIT CALLS FOR SUPPORT. Con-or-Bust, the organization that helps people of color/non-white people attend SFF conventions, has put out a call for workers to keep it going. Their Twitter thread about what’s needed starts here.

(2) FRESH MONSTERS. “Creepy Stories (and More) from Victor LaValle and Benjamin Percy” on Lit Hub links to an episode of the Lit Hub podcast Fiction/NonFiction, which features interviews with LaValle and Percy and each author reading three excerpts from their fiction.

LaValle explains how devices like monsters make it possible to write about how something feels, rather than merely what happened; Percy discusses doppelgängers, and asks whether politically, the call is coming from inside the house.

(3) COMPLETING THE ARC. John Scalzi had a good time at the movies — “Terminator: Dark Fate Review” on Whatever.

…As I walked out of the film last night I posted a five word recommendation of this film: “It gets Sarah Connor right.” This actually matters because despite the name of films, the “Terminator” films are about Sarah Connor, and the arc of her life dealing with the terrible fate that life has dealt her: Victim to fighter to avenger. Sarah Connor is realistically (with the context of these films) damaged by this fate of hers; particularly in this film she’s a PTSD wreck. And, well, she would be, wouldn’t she. It’s important that the Terminator films show her this way. It’s for better or worse the grounding the films need to make every other absurd thing that happens in them function on the level of plausibility.

(4) NOT SO BLITHE SPIRIT. In “Like It or Not, Damon Lindelof Made His Own Watchmen”, Vulture’s Abraham Reisman gets showrunner Damon Lindelof to answer several ethical questions about Watchmen, including the morality of how he is making the series without Allan Moore’s and Dave Gibbons’s permission because the rights were supposed to revert to them if the comic books were out of print, and they’ve never gone out of print, and how Robert Redford is “in the series” as the perpetual president but the actual Robert Redford was neither approached or asked because he had retired before the series started production.

Does it keep you up at night? Or have you made your peace with it?
It wakes me up at night, but much less so now that it’s done. I’m about to say something very ridiculous, but in all sincerity, I was absolutely convinced that there was a magical curse placed upon me by Alan [Moore]. I’m actually feeling the psychological effects of a curse, and I’m okay with it. It’s fair that he has placed a curse on me. The basis for this, my twisted logic, was that I heard that he had placed a curse on Zack [Snyder]’s [Watchmen] movie. There is some fundamental degree of hubris and narcissism in saying he even took the time to curse me. But I became increasingly convinced that it had, in fact, happened. So I was like, “Well, at least I’m completely and totally miserable the entire time.” I should be!

(5) ALL ABOARD PULLMAN. The new BBC/HBO His Dark Materials mini-series starts Monday, November 4. The credits alone are enough to leave Io9’s Julie Muncy bowled over: “The Opening Title Sequence for His Dark Materials Is Stunningly Good”.

His Dark Materials is a sweeping fantasy epic, and it deserves a title sequence to match. Fortunately, thanks to HBO and the BBC, it’s got one. Today, BBC released the opening for the upcoming His Dark Materials TV show, and it absolutely lives up to the pedigree of the series. If you’re looking for something to build hype, this is it. I’m especially partial to the graphics at the end. Like, wow.

(6) HIS BARK MATERIALS. The previous item also reminded Daniel Dern of a photo he shot at Arisia 2016 of an “Armored polar bear” from The Golden Compass.

DanielDern-Arisia2016-DSC08657-DogCosplay

(7) NANOWRIMO AT 20. The New York Times celebrates the anniversary: “Ready. Set. Write a Book.” Article includes tips and tools.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the National Novel Writing Month project, which challenges people to write a 50,000-word novel in November. NaNoWriMo, as it is known, is a nonprofit that supports creative writing and education. Those who sign up for the group’s free annual event get community support, progress tracking and motivational advice to complete a book draft.

If you think you have a novel in you, here is a quick guide to digital tools to help you along your way.

(And if the thought of cranking out an average of 1,667 words a day in the NaNoWriMo challenge doesn’t fit in with your schedule or you need more prep time — don’t despair. You could write it at your own pace.)

(8) SLADE OBIT. Bernard Slade, who co-created The Flying Nun and wrote 17 episodes of Bewitched, has died at the age of 89 reports the New York Times. Outside of genre his successes were creating the 1970s television series The Partridge Family, and the Broadway play “Same Time, Next Year.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 3, 1954 — In Japan, Godzilla (Gojira) premiered. This is the very first film in the Godzilla franchise.  It was written by Honda, Takeo Murata, and Shigeru Kayama, and was produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka, with special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya.  It enjoys a 89% rating at Rotten Tomatoes among viewers and an even more impressive 93% among critics. It made almost nothing on its first run here on the States. 

And here is a good place to link to Funny or Die’s Rambo/Godzilla mashup (released in June).

  • November 3, 1967 — The Trek episode of “I, Mudd” first aired. Starring Roger C. Carmel as Harry Mudd with Richard Tatro as  Norman,  Alyce Andrece as Alice #1 through #250, Rhae Andrece as Alice 251 through 500 and, lest we forget, Kay Elliot as Stella Mudd. Written by Stephen Kandel as based on a story by Gene Roddenberry.  

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 3, 1921 Charles Bronson. He didn’t do he a lot of genre acting but I’ve got him in One Step Beyond as Yank Dawson in “The Last Round” and he’s in The Twilight Zone in “Two” as The Man opposite Elizabeth Montgomery as The Women. He was also in Master of The World which is  based on the Verne novels Robur the Conqueror and its sequel Master of the World. (Died 2003.)
  • Born November 3, 1932 Monica Vitti, 87. She’s best remembered in the English language movie going world for her performance as the lead agent in Modesty Blaise. It‘s rather loosely based upon the Modesty Blaise strip by Peter O’Donnell, who co-wrote the original story upon which Evan Jones based his screenplay. 
  • Born November 3, 1932 Jack Harness. Usually I’d give a précis of his fan bio based Fancyclopedia 3 and sources. Oh, this time you really need to go read the Fancyclopedia 3 write-up as the writer has detailed a true character among characters: Jack Harness (Died 2001.)
  • Born November 3, 1933 Aneta Corsaut. If you saw The Blob, the original Fifties version, she was Jane Martin. Her only other genre film work was as an uncredited tourist mother in Blazing Saddles. And unless I’m mistaken, she had no other genre series work at all though she was popular in Westerns. (Died 1995.)
  • Born November 3, 1933 Jeremy Brett. Still my favorite Holmes of all time. He played him in four Granada TV series from 1984 to 1994 in a total of 41 episodes. One source said he was cast as Bond at one point, but turned the part down, feeling that playing 007 would harm his career. Lazenby was cast instead. (Died 1995.)
  • Born November 3, 1933 Ken Berry. He’s making the Birthday Honors for Disney’s The Cat from Outer Space in which he was Dr. Frank Wilson. No, the cat wasn’t Goose. And he played seven different roles on the original Fantasy Island which well may be a record. Oh, he like pretty much everyone else was a guest performer on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. I know it’s not genre, I just find that amusing. (Died 2018.)
  • Born November 3, 1952 Eileen Wilks, 67. Her principal genre series is the World of Lupi, a FBI procedural intertwined with shapeshifters, dragons and the multiverse. Highly entertaining, sometimes considered romance novels though I don’t consider them so. The audiobooks are amazing as well! 
  • Born November 3, 1953 Kate Capshaw, 66. Best known as Willie Scott in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (which I’ll confess I’ve watched but a few times unlike the first film which I’ve watched way too much), and she was in Dreamscape as well. She retired from acting several decades ago.
  • Born November 3, 1953 Adam Ant, 66. He actually has a decent genre acting history having been on the Eighties Amazing Stories, in Out of Time (a time travel film), Love Bites (oh guess), Tales from The Crypt, voiced a role on Batman: The Animated Series and Cyber Bandits. Oh and voicing Sri Charge-A-Lot on The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries!
  • Born November 3, 1956 Kevin Murphy, 63. Best known as the voice and puppeteer of Tom Servo for nine years on the Mystery Science Theater 3000. He was also the writer for the show for eleven years. I’m surprised the series was never nominated for a Hugo in the Long Form or Shot Form. Does it not qualify?
  • Born November 3, 1963 Brian Henson, 55. Can we all agree that The Happytime Murders should never have been done? Thought so. Wash it out of your consciousness with Muppet Treasure Island or perhaps The Muppet Christmas Carol. If you want something darker, he was a puppeteer on The Witches, and the chief puppeteer on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And he voices Hoggle in Labyrinth.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) CARTOON-LIKE SCULPTURE. This towering figure sits in front of a new high-rise on the waterfront in Greenpoint, NYC.

(13) KEEPING AHEAD. Steven James advises authors “How to Write Crime Fiction Set in the Near Future” at CrimeReads.

2) Trust your reader’s imagination.

In my latest novel, Synapse, I refer to slates, which are basically the tablets of the future. Who knows what phones thirty years from now or even five years from now will be able to do? Don’t make the smartphones of the future too dumb. If you can imagine it, there’s probably some software engineer somewhere out there who’s thought of the same thing.

So, when it comes to technology don’t try to get so specific that the technology will be outdated by the time the book comes out.

Here’s a prime example: years ago when I was writing my book The Rook, I thought it would be cool if someone could look up a song online just by humming it and search using sound-based search algorithms rather than just text-based ones. Cutting-edge, right? Well, as I was writing the manuscript, that technology was released. If I’d included it in my book as something new or innovative, readers would have shaken their heads: “They’ve been able to do that forever.” It’s important to keep an eye on current trends and technological breakthroughs.

(14) FANTASTIC ART. CBS’ Sunday Morning paid a visit to “Art collective Meow Wolf”.

What is Meow Wolf? An art collective founded in Santa Fe, N.M., whose name came from words picked out of a hat, and which puts on immersive exhibitions that tantalize audiences with vivid visuals and storytelling that is magical, mysterious, or just downright weird. Their latest exhibit, called “The House of Eternal Return,” is contained in a former bowling alley purchased by one of the group’s benefactors, “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin. Conor Knighton reports.

(15) NEXT WEB. Looper sounds the alert: “Get ready for a Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse sequel”.

The news drop came after several days of teasing and a pair of cryptic tweets posted to the official Twitter account for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. On October 27, the account posted a GIF of a genetically modified spider silk-gliding down to the streets of New York and creepy-crawling toward the camera — a moment fans will remember from the aesthetically striking film. The post was accompanied by an emoji of a pair of eyes, often used to indicate that secrecy, sneaky behavior, or some kind of deceitful act is taking place. Then, on October 31, the Into the Spider-Verse Twitter page shared a hype-boosting warning: “Something’s up. Our Spidey sense is tingling. RT if yours is, too.”

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “How To Power Your House, With xkcd’s Randall Munroe” on YouTube, Randall Munroe offers all sorts of options for powering your house using the amount of space in a typical front yard.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Darrah Chavey, Daniel Dern, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

Pixel Scroll 10/27/19 We Keep Scrollin’ Most Of Our Lives, Filing In A Pixel’s Paradise

(1) A DRAGON POET. Maria Popova of Brain Pickings contemplates “Ursula K. Le Guin’s Playful and Profound Letter-Poem to Children About the Power of Books and Why We Read”.

…Most dragons don’t know how to read. They hiss and fume and guard their hoard. A tasty knight is what they need
For dinner (they spit out the sword),
Then go to sleep on heaps of treasure. They’ve no use for the written word….

(2) CLOUDY, WITH A CHANCE OF GENRE. Last night on Saturday Night Live there were three sketches with fantasy in them:

  • Spooky Song is about a ghost who really doesn’t want to explain the tasteless way in which he died.
  • Space Mistakes shows what happens when you make mistakes in space.
  • Dance Rehearsal asks, “What happens if you’re taking a dance class and your instructor is a werewolf?”

(3) ‘BOT AND SOULED. The LA Review of Books’ Patrick House considers the writing of robots in “I, Language Robot”.

I was hired to write short fiction at OpenAI, a San Francisco–based artificial intelligence research lab. I would be working alongside an internal version of the so-called ‘language bot’ that produces style-matched prose to any written prompt it’s fed. The loss that I feared was not that the robot would be good at writing — it is, it will be — nor that I would be comparatively less so, but rather that the metabolites of language, which give rise to the incomparable joys of fiction, story, and thought, could be reduced to something merely computable.

(4) PULLMAN’S RETORT. The author’s post appeared atLit Hub on October 8 and the link has made the rounds, but still may be news to some of us: “Philip Pullman on Children’s Literature and the Critics Who Disdain It”.

…The model of growth that seems to lie behind that attitude—the idea that such critics have of what it’s like to grow up—must be  a linear one; they must think that we grow up by moving along a sort of timeline, like a monkey climbing a stick. It makes more sense to me to think of the movement from childhood to adulthood not as a movement along but as a movement outwards, to include more things. C. S. Lewis, who when he wasn’t writing novels had some very sensible things to say about books and reading, made the same point when he said in his essay “On Three Ways of Writing for Children”: “I now like hock, which I am sure I should not have liked as a child. But I still like lemon-squash. I call this growth or development because I have been enriched: where I formerly had only one pleasure, I now have two.”

But the guards on the border won’t have any of that. They are very fierce and stern. They strut up and down with a fine contempt, curling their lips and consulting their clipboards and snapping out orders. They’ve got a lot to do, because at the moment this is an area of great international tension. These days a lot of adults are talking about children’s books. Sometimes they do so in order to deplore the fact that so many other adults are reading them, and are obviously becoming infantilized, because of course children’s books—I quote from a recent article in The Independent—“cannot hope to come close to truths about moral, sexual, social or political” matters. Whereas in even the “flimsiest of science fiction or the nastiest of horror stories . . . there is an understanding of complex human psychologies,” “there is no such psychological understanding in children’s novels,” and furthermore “there are nice clean white lines painted between the good guys and the evil ones” (wrote Jonathan Myerson in The Independent, 14 November 2001).

(5) GOALS AND PURPOSES. Robert J. Sawyer draws the title of his article in the July edition of Galaxy’s Edge, “What SFWA Was Supposed to Be”, from the contrast he perceives between founder Damon Knight’s stated purpose for the organization and the SFWA mission statement of 2018.

…Of course, times change; of course, publishing is different now than it was then. But in the thirty-six years I’ve been a member of SFWA, I’ve seen—and, indeed, foreseen—all the changes that people are talking about now and more (I was writing in 1998 as SFWA president about “the post-publisher economy”).

For instance, it used to be that giant print runs were required to get economical per-copy pricing; that’s no longer true. It used to be there were many thousands of bookstore accounts for publishers to service in North America; sadly, that’s no longer true. It used to be that audiobooks were only made in eviscerated abridgments and only of the biggest print sellers; wonderfully, that’s no longer true. And it used to be that the only effective way to publish a book was on paper. That’s no longer true, either (and I’ve got a bunch of my own older titles out in self-published e-book editions).

Whatever you might think of these changes, every single one of them came with enormous cost savings for publishers, but no portion of that was ever passed on to the authors. I remember at one convention this decade hearing the late David G. Hartwell brag that Tor, the publisher he worked for, had just had its best year ever, while one of his authors—with Hugos galore—confided to me that he didn’t know how he was going to heat his house that coming winter.

Among the most egregious things that have happened during my career: literary agents going from ten-percent commissions to a fifteen percent; publishers locking in a 3:1 split of e-book royalties—three dollars for them to every one for the writer; and publishers using print-on-demand and the mere notional existence of an e-book edition to keep from reverting rights to authors for titles the publisher is no longer promoting or selling in any meaningful quantity. SFWA rolled over on every one of these.

But never let it be said that SFWA is without achievements. They recently—and I’m not making this up—produced an official SFWA secret decoder ring. I didn’t pony up to get one; I doubt Damon Knight would have wanted such a thing, either.

(6) CHAPMAN OBIT. Scholar and regular attendee of the International Conference on the Fantastic Arts Edgar Chapman (1936-2019), a Professor Emeritus in the English Department at Bradley University, died October 11 at the age of 83. He authored numerous articles and books including The Magic Labyrinth of Philip Jose Farmer (1984) and The Road to Castle Mount: The Science Fiction of Robert Silverberg (1999). He also co-edited Classic and Iconoclastic Alternate History Science Fiction (2003).

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Don’t tell Harlan but Ray Bradbury gets credit for Terminator first.  Ray was on the Oscar nominating committee for documentaries, in 1977.  The next screening for the committee was listed as a muscle building movie, Pumping Iron.  Without even screening it the committee basically said NEXT.  Ray spoke up and said they had to screen it because his brother, Skip, was a body builder and worked out on Venice’s Muscle Beach.  After watching the documentary it was nominated.  Making the career for Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Heck, we got Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk, too. [Source: John King Tarpinian.]

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 27, 1967 Star Trek’s “Catspaw” was first aired. Written by Robert Bloch who said it was based on his 1957 story, “Broomstick Ride” published in Super Science Fiction. It was their Halloween episode.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 27, 1922 Ruby Dee. Her first genre role is in Cat People. No name there but she has the wonderful name of Mother Abagail Freemantle in The Stand series. (Died 2014.)
  • Born October 27, 1937 Steve Sandor. He made his first genre appearance on Trek playing Lars in the second season episode “The Gamesters of Triskelion”. He also did one-offs on Knight Rider, Fantasy Island and The Six-Million Dollar Man. He did a choice bit of horror in The Ninth Configuration. (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 27, 1938 Lara Parker, 80. Best known for her role as Angelique on Dark Shadows which aired from 1966 to 1971. She also played Laura Banner in The Incredible Hulk pilot, and Madelaine in the Kolchak: The Night Stalker “The Trevi Collection” episode. And she was on Galactica 1980 in “The Night The Cylons Landed” two-parter. 
  • Born October 27, 1939 John Cleese, 80. Monty Python of course, but also Time BanditsMary Shelley’s Frankenstein, two Bond films as Q and even two Harry Potter films as Nearly Headless Nick. He’s definitely deep into genre film roles. And let’s not forget he shows up as an art lover on the “City of Death” story, a Fourth Doctor story.
  • Born October 27, 1948 Bernie Wrightson. Artist with who with writer Len Wein, he’s known for co-creating Swamp Thing. He did a lot of illustrations from Cemetery Dance magazine to Stephen King graphic novels to DC and Marvel comic. Ell me what you liked about his work. (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 27, 1953 Robert Picardo, 66. He debuted in genre as Eddie Quist, the serial killer werewolf in The Howling. He’d be in Dante’s Explorers, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Small Soldiers and Innerspace. And then of course he played the role of the Emergency Medical Hologram (EMH) on Voyager. And even managed to show on on Stargate SG-1. Busy performer! 
  • Born October 27, 1963 Deborah Moore, 56. English actress and the daughter of actor Roger Moore and Italian actress Luisa Mattioli. She’s an Air Hostess in Die Another Day, a Pierce Brosnan Bond film. And she was a secretary in Goldeneye: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming. Her very first role was as Princess Sheela in Warriors of the Apocalypse.
  • Born October 27, 1970 Jonathan Stroud, 49. His djinn-centered Bartimaeus series is most excellent. Though considered children’s novels, I think anyone would enjoy them. I’ve also read the first two in his Lockwood & Co. series as well — very well done. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Shoe finds out why a character is not a Tolkien fan.
  • How To Cat hears Zarathustra speaking, if you know what I mean.

(11) PREFERRED HORROR. At IndieWire, “Quentin Tarantino, Guillermo del Toro, and 30 More Directors Pick Favorite Horror Movies”.

Quentin Tarantino, on “Audition”

Takashi Miike’s 1999 horror movie “Audition” is often cited as one of the most disturbing films ever made. Ryo Ishibashi stars as a widow named Shigeharu Aoyama who stages auditions for men in hopes of meeting a new husband or life partner. Aoyama falls for Asami (Eihi Shiina), but her dark past has unexpected and brutal consequences. Tarantino called the movie one of his favorites since he’s been a director, referring to it as a “true masterpiece” in a 2009 interview.

 (12) DIRECTOR TO VIDEO. “Fan Video Imagines Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in STAR TREK”Nerdist tell you where to find this micro-epic.

Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, a.k.a. “the 9th film from Quentin Tarantino,” made quite the splash upon release when it hit theaters this past summer. It had all of Tarantino’s signature trademarks — a couple of cranky male leads, excessive violence, and a rockin’ retro soundtrack. And it’s left QT fans salivating for whatever his 10th (and possibly final?) movie will be. Rumors abound that it could in fact be a Star Trek film. Leading many fans to ponder just what the heck a “Pulp Fiction-esque Star Trek” movie would even look like.

Well, one fan has combined the well known Quentin Tarantino sensibilities and aesthetics with some old school Star Trek footage, and the result is “Once Upon a Time in Star Trek.”

(13) A TREE GROWS IN ANAHEIM. The Orange County (CA) Register makes sure all the locals know: “History & Heritage: The Legend of the Halloween Tree “.

…Bradbury’s novel “The Halloween Tree” tells the story of a group of trick-or-treaters who learn about the origins of Halloween while on an adventure to find their missing friend. Bradbury dreamed of having a Halloween Tree at Disneyland park, and on the 35th anniversary of the novel, his dream was brought to life.

“I belong here in Disneyland, ever since I came here 50 years ago. I’m glad I’m going to be a permanent part of the spirit of Halloween at Disneyland,” the author said at the tree’s dedication. Bradbury would visit the tree before he passed away in 2012.

Today, the Halloween Tree delights guests of all ages and honors Bradbury’s many contributions to Disney. A plaque at the base of the tree commemorates the night of its dedication: “On the night of Halloween 2007, this stately oak officially became ‘The Halloween Tree,’ realizing famed author Ray Bradbury’s dream of having his symbol for the holiday become a part of Disneyland.”

(14) TANGLED UP IN BLUE. CNN finds the way to Sesame Street: “The entrance to this Pennsylvania house is monstrous. Cookie monstrous”.

In the words of Cookie Monster: “Home is where heart is. Heart where cookie is. Math clear: Home is cookie.”

For a Pennsylvania homeowner, Cookie Monster’s logic sounds just about right.

Lisa Boll from York County turned the entrance of her house into Cookie Monster. Literally.

(15) WATCHMEN. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt profiles Regina King, who plays Sister Night in Watchmen.  Betancourt discusses King’s background with showrunner Damon Lindelof and how she signed on  to the part because of Watchmen’s anti-racist themes. “‘Watchmen’ gives Regina King her first superhero role — and takes a bold look at race relations in 2019”.

Showrunner Damon Lindelof was planning to give the “Watchmen” story quite a twist — so he told King to use her unfamiliarity to her advantage. It’s a different approach compared with many actors who land superhero roles and are immediately handed a stack of comics.

“He didn’t want me to confuse how he saw this world,” said King, who worked with Lindelof on HBO’s “The Leftovers.” “He was right.”

“Because I did watch the film after [filming the pilot], and I would have been confused,” she added. “They stand on their own. They don’t even feel related to me in any way. Which I think is a great thing. I think that’s the beauty of Damon making the choice of using the [comics] as canon instead of trying to duplicate, from my understanding, something that was already great.”

(16) HEAVY LIES THE HEAD. Io9’s James Whitbrook says afterwards he was ready for Jedi chiropractic — “I Wore Hasbro’s Ridiculous New Star Wars Replica Helmet for a Day, and All I Got Was Some Neck Ache”.

One of the more expensive offerings Hasbro had for this year’s Triple Force Friday extravaganza was the latest helmet in its Star Wars: The Black Series line of “roleplay” items. Joining a line that already had everything from Darth Vader’s helmet to more Stormtrooper variants than you can shake an Incinerator Trooper at, the Luke Skywalker X-Wing Battle Simulation Helmet is a 1:1 replica of the same helmet worn by everyone’s favorite Rebel-turned-Jedi-turned-Milk-Swigging-Curmudgeon in both A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.

Packed with lights and sounds to replicate Luke’s experiences at the battles of Yavin and Hoth, the main draw is it’s…well, a Star Wars helmet you can put on your head.

(17) NO REMATCH! Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “MVPs of Horror: Simon Pegg on the existential terror of zombies and whether Chris Martin really cameos in ‘Shaun of the Dead'”, has an interview with Simon Pegg on the 15th anniversary of Shaun of the Dead where he reveals that Coldplay’s Chris Martin is not in the film and there will never be a sequel to Shaun of the Dead because “it’s a complete story:  it has a beginning, a middle, and an end.”

1. There’s a reason slow-moving zombies are terrifying.

When Romero was making his pioneering zombie favorites, the walking dead only moved at a slow and steady pace. But by the time that Wright, Pegg and Frost were making Shaun, zombies had acquired frightening busts of speed in films like 28 Days Later and Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake. Previously a zombie originalist, Pegg now says that’s he’s come around on their lightning-quick descendants. “I’m not the purist I used to be — I’ve seen fast-zombie things that I’ve enjoyed,” the actor says, pointing to the 2016 South Korean cult favorite Train to Busan. But there was never a world in which Shaun would have made the switch, and not just because they were trying to remain true to Romero’s vision. Pegg argues that quicker creatures would have undermined the dramatic metaphor of a person — and entire society — caught in the grip of stagnation, which runs beneath the movie’s comedy. “There’s something incredibly creepy about the shambling dead. They’re more of an effective metaphor for death when they just sort of come slowly. That’s what death is — death doesn’t always just run at you.”

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Lenore Jean Jones, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 10/25/19 Oh, Nicky, I Love You Because You Scroll Such Lovely Pixels

(1) $$$ FOR JANEWAY MONUMENT. ScienceFiction.com spotlights a fundraiser — “Fans Are Collecting Money To Dedicate A Monument To Captain Janeway”.

Fans of ‘Star Trek: Voyager‘ are hoping to raise money to erect a monument in honor of lead character Captain Janeway in her future hometown Bloomington, Indiana.  Kate Mulgrew portrayed the Captain for seven seasons on ‘Star Trek: Voyager’ from 1995-2001.  She is the only female starship captain to serve as the focus of a ‘Star Trek’ series.  The fictional character’s backstory included the fact that she was born and raised in Bloomington in the 24th century.

The Captain Janeway Bloomington Collective is raising funds to install a monument to the Star Trek: Voyager character in her “future” birthplace, Bloomington, IN. Donate between Oct. 22 – Dec. 22, and your contribution will be DOUBLED! www.janewaycollective.org/donate

(2) WRITERS, YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN. Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America responds to a ruthless business practice with a bromide: “SFWA Contracts Committee Advisory on No-advance Contracts”.

Recently, SFWA’s Contracts Committee was made aware of a situation in which a well-liked publisher canceled the publication of a number of books it had contracted to publish….

A publisher so well-liked that it cannot be named. (But see item #3 at the link).

And with this example of a ruthless business practice fresh in their minds what does SFWA advise writers to do?

Publishers of all sizes may find themselves unable to live up to their contractual commitments for a wide variety of reasons, some of which could not have been reasonably anticipated. Hence, the Contracts Committee urges writers to think carefully about signing a contract that provides no advance, or only a nominal advance, while tying up their work for a lengthy period of time.

So think carefully.

(3) LINE UP, SIGN UP, AND REENLIST TODAY. “Netflix’s ‘Space Force’ Enlists Noah Emmerich, Fred Willard And Jessica St. Clair”ScienceFiction.com has the story.

Netflix’s already-in-production comedy ‘Space Force’ has added three new cast members to an already impressive cast, fronted by Steve Carell and John Malkovich.  They will now be joined by Noah Emmerich, Fred Willard, and Jessica St. Clair.  Carell stars as Mark R. Naird, “a General tapped by the White House to lead a new branch of the Armed Forces with the goal of putting American ‘Boots on the Moon’ by 2024.”  Carell co-created the show with Greg Daniels (‘The Office’, ‘King of the Hill’).

Emmerich will portray the… *ahem* interestingly named Kick Grabaston, Naird’s old commanding officer, who is now the U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff.  Jealous of Naird’s new position, he does “everything in his considerable power to make Naird’s life difficult.”

(4) BUT IS IT ART? Cora Buhlert sums up the cinematic kerfuffle in “Old Directors Yell at Clouds – Pardon, Superheroes”.

…Because for all their flaws, today’s superhero movies are a lot more diverse in front and behind the camera, then the highly touted movies of the New Hollywood era, which were made by and for a very narrow slice of people. It’s no accident that directors, actors and characters of those movies are all white and male and either Italian-American or members of some other immigrant group (the characters in The Deer Hunter are all descendants of Russian immigrants). There are a lot of people who never saw themselves reflected in those movies – women, people of colour, LGBTQ people, people who are not American – and who likely never much cared for those movies either, because the big Scorsese or Coppola fanboys are mostly white dudes themselves.

Saladin Ahmed says it best in the following tweet:

(5) POP! SIX! SQUISH! Eneasz Brodski mourns a convention experience in “Why Are Your So Bad?” at the Death Is Bad blog.

I had a saddening encounter this weekend. On a panel about civil verbal disagreement, an audience member asked what to do when people use terms that are viewed by one side in a debate as slurs (such as “climate-denier”) and was told that in such a case, rather than getting upset one should stay quiet and introspect on their situation and see if they can understand why the other party would say such things….

(I know that “climate denier” is obviously drastically different. No one’s ever been kicked out of their house or beaten to death for being a climate denier. But after a failed attempt using a more analogous example, I found this was the only one that could get my co-panelist to consider how someone from the outside would view her call to ponder “why am I so bad?” rather than anything remotely realistic.)

Importantly, afterwards the panelist told me privately that she didn’t mean to be unfair or anything. It’s just that the person who asked the question was a White Man, he obviously needed to reflect on himself. And implicit both in her words and the “you know…” look she was giving me was that white men can have no legitimate complaints about how they are treated, and that was the basis of her answer. They are a class that can only ever do violence, and no verbal abuse can be visited upon them that is not morally justified. The only thing she knew about the question-asker was that he was white and male and somewhere north of his 40s, and that was enough.

(6) CARRIE FISHER BIO ON THE WAY. “Author of unauthorized Carrie Fisher biography defends it against family disavowal”Entertaiment Weekly has statements from both sides.

A new biography on the late actress and writer Carrie Fisher is generating controversy ahead of its release next month.

On Thursday, Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd, and her father, Bryan Lourd, issued a statement disavowing Carrie Fisher: A Life on the Edge, by Sheila Weller. Set to be published through the Farrar, Straus and Giroux imprint Sarah Crichton Books, which falls under Macmillan — one of the Big 5 publishing houses in the U.S. — the book has generated strong buzz in the form of starred trade reviews and praise from award-winning writers including Rebecca Traister and David Maraniss.

Bryan Lourd wrote the statement. He calls the biography “unauthorized,” writing, “I do not know Ms. Weller. Billie does not know Ms. Weller. And, to my knowledge, Carrie did not know her.” He adds that Weller sold the book “without our involvement,” and that he has not read the book. “The only books about Carrie Fisher worth reading are the ones Carrie wrote herself,” he concludes. “She perfectly told us everything we needed to know.”

(7) HE’S DEAD JIM. The Guardian reports “Plan to exhume James Joyce’s remains fires international ‘battle of the bones’”. Seven cities claimed Homer dead, and all that.

… Joyce left Ireland in 1904 to live in Trieste, Paris and Zurich, never returning to his homeland after 1912. The writer had a complex relationship with the country, which in effect banned Ulysses over its “obscene” and “anti-Irish” content. He “decries Irish society’s conservatism, pietism and blinkered nationalism” in his writing, according to an essay from the Irish Emigration Museum curator Jessica Traynor. One of the characters in his novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man describes Ireland as “the old sow that eats her farrow”.

Although Joyce “couldn’t bear to live in Dublin”, Traynor continues, his “spiritual and artistic engagement with the city continued until the end of his life”. When he lived in Paris, his “favourite pastime was to seek out visitors from Dublin and ask them to recount the names of the shops and pubs from Amiens Street to Nelson’s Column on O’Connell Street”.

When Joyce died aged 58 after undergoing surgery on a perforated ulcer, Ireland’s secretary of external affairs sent the order: “Please wire details about Joyce’s death. If possible find out if he died a Catholic.” Neither of the two Irish diplomats in Switzerland at the time attended his funeral, and the Irish government later denied Barnacle’s request to repatriate his remains.

If the Dublin city councillors’ motion is passed, the next step will be to ask the Irish government to request the remains be returned before the centenary celebrations around the publication of Ulysses in 2022. A spokeswoman for culture minister Josepha Madigan told theJournal.ie it was “a matter in the first instance for family members and/or the trustees of the Joyce estate”.

(8) COLLECTIBLE FANZINES. PoopSheet Foundation has details about the sale of the “Steve Ogden Fanzine Collection on eBay”.

Some of you know fanzine publisher/collector Steve Ogden passed recently. Per his wishes, I’ve begun listing his massive collection which includes comic fanzines, sf fanzines, mini-comics, underground comix, comic books and more.

Here are the current auctions and there are many, many more on the way. Please add me as a favorite seller if you’d like to stay on top of the new listings.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

Science Fantasy was a British fantasy and science fiction magazine, launched in 1950 by Nova Publications. John Carnell edited the magazine beginning with the third issue, typically running a long lead novelette along with several shorter stories….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 25, 1909 Whit Bissell. You most likely know him as Station Manager Lurry on “The Trouble With Tribbles”,  but his major contribution to the SFF genre was being in all thirty episodes of The Time Tunnel as Lt. Gen. Heywood Kirk. He also did one-offs on The Invaders, I Dream of Jeannie, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Science Fiction Theater, The Incredible Hulk and The Outer Limits. And yes, in The Time Machine film. (Died 1996.)
  • Born October 25, 1940 Janet Fox. Author whose stories appeared in countless genre zines and anthologies between the Seventies and mid-Nineties.  Her long fiction, mostly the Scorpio Rising series, was done as Alex McDonough. She’s also known for the Scavenger’s Newsletter which featured a number of noted writers during its long run including Linda Sherman, Jeff VanderMeer and Jim Lee. (Died 2009.)
  • Born October 25, 1955 Gale Anne Hurd, 64. Her first genre work was as Corman’s production manager on Battle beyond the Stars. (A decent 42% at Rotten Tomatoes.) From there, we’ve such films as Æon Flux, the Terminator franchise, AliensAlien NationTremorsHulk and two of the Punisher films to name just some of her genre work. Have any of her films been nominated for Hugos? 
  • Born October 25, 1955 Glynis Barber, 64. Soolin on Blake’s 7 for a series. She also appeared in The Hound of the Baskervilles (Ian Richard and Donald Churchill were Holmes and Watson) and a Sherlock Holmes series I didn’t know about, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson starring Geoffrey Whitehead and Donald Pickering. 
  • Born October 25, 1971 Marko Kloos, 48. Lines of Departure was nominated for the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Novel on a slate organized by the Sad Puppies. In reaction to this, Kloos withdrew the novel from consideration for the award. He was subsequently honored by George R. R. Martin for this decision. And that gets him Birthday Honors. 
  • Born October 25, 1989 Mia Wasikowska, 30. She’s Alice in Tim Burton’s creepy Alice in Wonderland and equally creepy Alice Through the Looking Glass. Rotten Tomatoes gave the first a 53% rating and the second a 29% rating.

(11) THE BOX SCORE. The Hollywood Reporter hears cash registers ringing: “Box Office: ‘Joker’ Passes ‘Deadpool’ as Top-Grossing R-Rated Pic of All Time”. I didn’t know they kept statistics for this.

To date, Joker has earned $258.6 in North America and $529.5 million internationally. It is is expected to ultimately take in close to $900 million globally, with some thinking it has a shot at approaching $1 billion. The film is an enormous win for Warner Bros., particularly considering it faced security concerns ahead of its release and that it is not a traditional comic book movie. Ultimately, Joker is expected to turn a profit north of $400 million. Village Roadshow and Bron each have a 25 percent stake in the film.

The new record for Joker puts it atop an R-rated all-time list that, in addition to Deadpool, includes 2003’s The Matrix Reloaded ($738.6 million), 2017’s It‘s ($697 million) and 2003’s The Passion of the Christ ($622.3 million), not adjusted for inflation.

(12) YOUR MONEY’S NO GOOD HERE. However, one studio is strangling a traditional revenue stream. Vulture reports “Disney Is Quietly Placing Classic Fox Movies Into Its Vault, and That’s Worrying”.

Joe Neff knew there was trouble when the horror films started vanishing.

Neff is the director of the 24-Hour Science Fiction and Horror Marathons that happen every spring and fall at the Drexel Theater, an independent venue in Columbus, Ohio. For this year’s Horror Marathon, Neff wanted to screen the original 1976 version of The Omen and the 1986 remake of The Fly, two of hundreds of older 20th Century Fox features that became the property of the Walt Disney Corporation after its $7.3 billion purchase of the studio’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, was made official this past spring. In the preceding few months, Neff had heard rumblings in his Google group of film programmers that Disney was about to start treating older Fox titles as they do older Disney titles — making them mostly unavailable to for-profit theaters. More and more film programmers and theater managers were reporting that they had suddenly and cryptically been told by their studio contacts that Fox’s back catalogue was no longer available to show. Some got calls informing them that an existing booking had been revoked.

(13) WATCHMEN AND ITS DISCONTENTS. [Item by Olav Rokne.] A segment of the fan community is voicing grievances about HBO’s Watchmen series that they complain is “too political.” Their grievance is, of course, nonsense, and Alex Abad-Santos of Vox magazine delves into exactly why Watchmen is, and always has been, a seriously political (dare we even say anti-fascist?) work of fiction. “Some Watchmen fans are mad that HBO’s version is political. But Watchmen has always been political.”  

In Moore and Gibbons’ version of Watchmen, giving someone unrestrained authority is a recipe for disaster. Lindelof pushes that question further and glances into American history to draw on that same theme, but from the point of view of black men and women — people who have been ostracized, belittled, dehumanized. People who someone like Rorschach would have loathed.

(14) LET’S GET THIS STRAIGHTENED OUT. Gareth L. Powell will explain it all to you.

(15) FOR ALL MANKIND. WIRED braves the elements to take readers “Inside Apple’s High-Flying Bid to Become a Streaming Giant”.

More than 50 buildings and soundstages sprawl across the 44 acres of the Sony Pictures lot. That’s a lot of window­less oblongs, and even more distance between them. If you need to get from, say, the Jimmy Stewart Building to Stage 15, golf carts and Sprinter vans are the customary mode—even on sunny days. On a particular Saturday in February, while an atmospheric river settled over Los Angeles, those vehicles were a necessity. The downpour was bad luck for the dozens of journalists there that day, but it was also a touch allegorical. After what felt like years of anticipation, Apple was about to take us behind the scenes of a show it was making for its still ­mysterious, still unnamed subscription streaming service. We were going to find out if Apple, maker of so many devices that have redefined the way we consume content, could finally make content—good content—of its own.

After the journalists handed their phones to Apple staffers to be taped up with camera-blockings stickers, the vans shuttled the group to Stage 15. (The Sony complex is also home to HBO’s Insecure and Showtime’s Ray Donovan. Apple may have a near-trillion-dollar market cap, but it still leases soundstages like everyone else in Hollywood.) Dryness maintained, we walked into the control room of NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center circa 1969.

(16) THE NOTHINGULARITY. Vox makes a recommendation: “Zero Hours is a terrific fiction podcast about the end of the world”.

…But what feels like the end of the world happens millions of times a day on a more personal level. A marriage crumbles into ruin. Somebody loses their job. A child dies. Your favorite baseball team makes some boneheaded managing decisions and misses the World Series. You can’t find the chips you want. None of these is literally apocalyptic, but each one can be metaphorically so. Sometimes, that’s as bad as the real thing.

The space of the personal apocalypse is where the new audio fiction podcast Zero Hours thrives. It’s a seven-episode anthology series set across seven centuries and 594 years, beginning in 1722 and ending in 2316. (In between every episode, 99 years pass, so episode two takes place in 1821, episode three takes place in 1920, etc.)

Every episode depicts one of these smaller, personal apocalypses, but none of them actually end humanity (though the last takes place after we’ve gone extinct). The story is probably most similar to David Mitchell’s novel Cloud Atlas (and the subsequent film based on it), but really, it’s not quite like any other work of fiction.

(17) WHAT’S STREAMING? Zomboat! on Hulu.

In this British sitcom available on Hulu, a cheeky group of travelers flee a zombie-infested Birmingham, England, by canal.

Daybreak on Netflix, is a comedy that “revolves around cliquey teens in a post-apocalyptic Glendale, Calif., where a nuclear blast has transformed many grown-ups into zombie-like monsters.” (Hey, John King Tarpinian’s hometown!)

(18) NOT YOUR AVERAGE TAILORS. A company called Full Body Armors offers custom-fitted superhero outfits including Batman, Iron Man, and Deadpool.  “The Iron Man Mark 47 suit can include a motorized mask, a voice changer, and even an integrated cooling system.”  All for five thou a suit!

Even if you order today, The Wearable Armored Batsuit Costume Suit won’t arrive in time for Halloween. Or Christmas. Maybe for Martin Luther King’s Birthday.

(19) SJWCS’ REAL STORY. “Why do we think cats are unfriendly?” If you feed them, they will come. Maybe. Eventually.

Cats are the only asocial animal we have successfully domesticated. We’re disappointed that we don’t bond with them as easily as dogs. But are we just missing the signs?

Dogs seem almost biologically incapable of hiding their inner moods – shuffling, snuffling, tail-wagging clues to contentment, nervousness or sheer, unadorned joy. Despite what the famous painting might want to tell you, dogs would be terrible poker players. We pick up their cues all too easily.

Cats also have sophisticated body language – their moods are signalled through twitching tails, ruffled fur, and the position of ears and whiskers. A purr usually (but not always) signals friendliness or contentment. They’re a usually reliable method of working out if the cat is in friendly mode or best left alone.

…One clue to the cat’s image may come from how they were domesticated in the first place. It was a much more gradual process than that of dogs – and cats were very much in the driving seat. The earliest domesticated cats started appearing in Neolithic villages in the Middle East around 10,000 years ago. They didn’t depend on their early human hosts for food – they were encouraged to fetch it themselves, keeping crops and food stores safe from rats and other vermin. Our relationship with them was, from the outset, a little more at arms’ length than dogs, who helped us hunt and relied upon humans for a share of the spoils.

The cat that may be currently curled up on your sofa or glaring at you from its vantage point on top of the bookcase shares many of its instincts with that of its pre-domestic ancestors – the desire to hunt, to patrol territory, guarding it from other cat; they are much closer to their old selves than dogs. Our taming of cats has only partly removed them from the wild.

(20) THIS ONE’S REAL. Not a link to an Onion surrogate this time: “JK Rowling calls for end to ‘orphanage tourism'”.

JK Rowling has told young people not to become volunteers in overseas orphanages, because of the risk that they might be unwittingly supporting places that are cruel to children.

The Harry Potter author warned that children in orphanages in poorer countries often still had parents – but they had been separated by poverty rather than the death of their parents.

“Do not volunteer in orphanages. Instead, look at what drives children into institutions,” she told a conference in London.

The author set up a charity, Lumos, in response to cases of neglect in Eastern European orphanages, which is campaigning to remove children from orphanages and return them to their families.

It operates in countries including Moldova, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Colombia, Haiti, Ethiopia and Kenya.

(21) NOW IN PAPER. Well, yes, it is a commercial. But this is a pretty book! Star Wars: The Ultimate Pop Up Galaxy preview.

Presented in a dynamic 360-degree format that enables the action to be viewed from all sides, the book also opens up to form a displayable 3D diorama of the entire saga. Packed with amazing Star Wars moments and hidden surprises to discover, Star Wars: The Ultimate Pop-Up Galaxy represents a whole new level of sophistication and interactivity in pop-up books and is guaranteed to thrill fans of all ages. Matthew is the King of Paper Engineering and returns to the franchise with this new, deluxe pop-up.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Alan Baumler, Olav Rokne, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Watchmen Series Discussion Post (Here There Be Spoilers)

By Daniel Dern: Having (a) read Alan Moore & Dave Gibbon’s original WATCHMEN comic book  mini-series as it was coming out (and keeping up with the discussions on Usenet), (b) watched Snyder’s 2009 movie (see my write-up, “I Watched The WATCHMEN (Movie, That Is)’), and, (c) least importantly, read DC Comics Before Watchmen 37-issue prequel (and d) having, somewhere, a set of the original Watchmen pins), I can say with reasonable confidence that you don’t have to have read/seen any of these to watch HBO’s new Watchmen mini-series. At least, not as of Episode 1, which is all that’s been aired as I write this.

If you have read the original comics and/or seen the movie (particularly the former), you will spot, or know a little more about, some of the bits (although these will, presumably, be explained as in further episodes), e.g., (1) the little blue guy doing something on Mars, (2) the old rich white guy, (3) a cake that I think looked sort of like a squiddy monster, (4) the use of watch and watchmaker references and imagery.

On the other hand, at least so far, the “Rorschach” inkblot masks, and people wearing them, in HBO’s series may, for all I know/we might find out, have no relation to the original.

That said, one episode in, it’s incredibly well done. It slightly reminds me of the recent (still going, IIRC) Legion show in the way that many of the scenes don’t immediately make sense or fit together, although Legion went mind-bendingly over the top on this, while this is simply, “whoa” level.

This is an grim show so far — unsurprising given what the show is focusing on and how — and I don’t anticipate much if any cheerful parts, although hopefully there’s some glimmer or change or hope at the (very) end.

Now to wait for HBO/BBC’s His Dark Materials mini-series, premiering on HBO on November 4. The trailers look awesome. Very different from the Disney movie (just a comment, not a criticism — Disney’s looked spot on to how I “saw the book in my mind as read it”).

Add your thoughts about the new Watchmen series in comments. *SPOILER WARNING*

Pixel Scroll 10/20/19 Recommended To All To Whom This Sounds Like A Recommendation

(1) NOW IT’S AN APOCALYPSE. The row started by Martin Scorsese’s remarks isn’t likely to subside anytime soon now that Francis Ford Coppola has been even more extreme in his supporting comments: “Coppola backs Scorsese in row over Marvel films”.

Francis Ford Coppola jumped into a controversy over the Marvel superhero movies Saturday, not just backing fellow director Martin Scorsese’s critique of the films but denouncing them as “despicable”…

“When Martin Scorsese says that the Marvel pictures are not cinema, he’s right because we expect to learn something from cinema, we expect to gain something, some enlightenment, some knowledge, some inspiration.

“I don’t know that anyone gets anything out of seeing the same movie over and over again,” the 80-year-old filmmaker said.

“Martin was kind when he said it’s not cinema. He didn’t say it’s despicable, which I just say it is.”

(2) CINEMA AND THE MCU. David Gerrold challenges those two notable filmmakers’ opinion:

I disagree with Scorsese. I disagree with Coppola. They are wrong to dismiss the Marvel Cinematic Universe as “not cinema.”

The final battle in Avengers Endgame was a masterpiece of cinema, ranking with the final battle in Seven Samurai.

Why do I say this?

Because we got to see people we had fallen in love with rise to the most courageous moments of their lives — and when that whole group of women warriors showed up, that was one of the most emotional moments I’ve ever seen in a movie. I cheered.

See, the thing about movies — yes, they’re art. There is true artistry in The Godfather and Apocalypse Now. Goodfellas is riveting, so is Casino.

But … I did not cheer any moment in any of those pictures. Was I emotionally involved? Yes. When the door closes on Kate’s realization that Michael has lied to her, that’s a powerful cinematic moment that resonates forever.

But do I come out of Scorsese and Coppola’s movies feeling cheered? No. Enlightened? Maybe a little. But never cheered.

And I think that’s part of their resistance to the Marvel films. A Marvel film is a good time. You experience a challenge, a triumph, a few laughs, and you end up feeling emotionally gratified, even exhilarated…

(3) KGB. Ellen Datlow has posted her pictures of the reading: “Fantastic fiction at KGB October 16 photos”.

A nice crowd showed up to hear Barbara Krasnoff and Nicole Kornher-Stace read from their new novels, despite a lot of rain.

Nicole Kornher-Stace and Barbara Krasnoff

(4) UNWONTED PERFECTION. You don’t remember typing that word? You thought you wrote another one? In fact, you’re sure of it? Granola Rolla, a Facebook friend, takes that sort of thing in stride:

Autocorrect is a poet, effortlessly, without pretense, never feeling like it should explain itself. I envy the confidence with which it edits poetry into my day. Also, I have disreputable gloves on my shopping list. I doubt they’ll be as useful for the housework as the disposable gloves I’d thought I wanted, but such a fun thing to ponder.

(5) IT’S TAKING A KIP. According to the Wall Street Journal, “The Phone Call Isn’t Dead, It’s Evolving”.

Talking was the most popular way to communicate via cellphone in the fall of 2012, with 94% of survey respondents having done so in the prior week, according to consumer-research firm MRI-Simmons. By the spring of 2019, talking had fallen to least popular, behind texting, emailing, posting to social media and using chat apps, with just 45% reporting doing it in the prior week. In other words, less than half had used their phone for an actual phone call.

Multiple people I interviewed said when the phone rings unexpectedly, they assume someone has died….

(6) CUT TO THE CHASE. Carlye Wisel, in “Disney Finally Released Details on Rise of the Resistance — and It’s Going to Be the Best Star Wars Ride Yet” in Travel and Leisure, says that Disney’s new Star Wars ride, which will open on December 5 at Disney World, will last 15 minutes, includes trackless technology, and promises to have humor in the grim battle between the Resistance and the First Order. (Article warns where the spoilers begin.)

With multiple ride systems — four to be exact — that guests will experience while traveling on this intergalactic journey, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance will be one of the longest Disney rides in existence, as guests find themselves being chased by Kylo Ren for 15 minutes.

The latest Star Wars ride will also function like all your favorite Disney attractions combined into one, channeling The Haunted Mansion, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, and famed overseas attractions like Mystic Manor for a thematic experience likely to exceed expectations, even for those who have already tried out other Star Wars rides. Paired with its special effects, projections, and blaster gunfire, Rise of the Resistance is shaping up to be a cinematic attraction so over the top, you won’t even be able to imagine what will come next.

(7) ESCAPING OBSCURITY. Slashfilm says tickets are available: “‘Roundtable’ Live Read: Brian K. Vaughan’s Unproduced Script to Be Read Aloud in Hollywood”. The show is November 2.

In the summer of 2008, Eisner and Harvey Award-winning comic writer Brian K. Vaughan (Lost, Y: The Last Man) sold a high-concept screenplay to DreamWorks called Roundtable. The movie never went into production, the script sat on a shelf collecting dust, and Vaughan went on to become the showrunner of the CBS TV series Under the Dome and continue his career in comics by writing things like the sci-fi/fantasy epic Saga. But now, eleven years later, Vaughan’s Roundtable script will finally see the light of day.

Sort of.

The Black List, the organization that publishes an annual list of the best unproduced screenplays in the industry, is sponsoring a live reading of the script for one night only in Los Angeles, and this sounds like a cool opportunity to experience a story that may otherwise languish in obscurity forever. Read on for the synopsis of Roundtable, and to find out how to get tickets to the show.

(8) CAN’T GET OUT. CBS Sunday Morning devoted a segment today to “Playing an escape room” (video).

Correspondents David Pogue, Martha Teichner and Nancy Giles, along with “Sunday Morning” intern Cory Peeler, face a difficult challenge: Find their way out of a room before a bomb goes off! It’s just one of many examples of the big business in escape rooms – immersive adventures in which people must solve puzzles in order to extricate themselves. Air Date: Oct 20, 2019

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 20, 1965 Village Of The Giants premiered.  It starred Tommy Kirk and Beau Bridges, and is very loosely based on Wells’s book The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth. It scores 20% at Rotten Tomatoes.
  • October 20, 1987 The Hidden premiered. Starring Kyle McLachlan with Claudia Christian in an interesting cameo as well, reviewers (76%) and audience.(72%) alike loved it at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 20, 1882 Bela Lugosi. He’s best remembered for portraying Count Dracula in the 1931 film franchise Drácula. Now tell me what’s your favorite film character that he played? (Died 1956.)
  • Born October 20, 1905 Frederic Dannay. Creator and writer, along with Manfred Bennington Lee, of Ellery Queen. Now I wasn’t going to say was he was genre but ESF does say he was because such genre authors such as Sturgeon penned Queen novels such as The Player on the Other Side. (Died 1982.)
  • Born October 20, 1916 Anton Diffring. A long career with many genre roles which I’ll note but a few of here. He was Fabian in Fahrenheit 451, Graf Udo Von Felseck of Purbridge Manor in The Masks of Deaths (a rather well-crafted Holmes film) and he played De Flores, a neo-Nazi in “Silver Nemesis”, a most excellent Seventh Doctor story. (Died 1989.)
  • Born October 20, 1934 Michael Dunn. He’s best known for his recurring role on the Wild Wild West as Dr. Miguelito Loveless, attempting to defeat our heroes over and over, but he has had another appearances in genre television. He would be Alexander, a court jester, in the Trek “Plato’s Stepchildren” episode and a killer clown in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea “The Wax Men” episode. (Died 1973.)
  • Born October 20, 1943 Peter Weston. He made uncountable contributions  in fan writing and editing, conrunning and in local clubs. He was nominated for a number of Hugo Awards but never won, including one nomination for his autobiography, Stars in My Eyes: My Adventures in British Fandom. Beginning in 1984 and for many years after, those Awards were cast by the car-parts factory which Weston owned and managed until he retired. (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 20, 1935 Leg Mailer, 85. He showed up in Trek twice first playing Bilar in “The Return of the Archons” and then being an Ekosian SS lieutenant in the “Patterns of Force” episode. And he Imperial Guard Number One in The Star Wars Holiday Special.  He had one-offs on The Greatest American Hero and the original Mission:Impossible, and he did voice work for An American Tail: Fievel Goes West. Note: until 1970, he used his birth name of Ralph Medina. 
  • Born October 20, 1937 Emma Tennant. To the Manor born and a lifelong supporter of Labour, ISFDB lists nine of her novels as being as SFF. As the Literary Encyclopedia  says “Her work is feminist, magical and wicked, and uses the fantastic and the Gothic to interpret and explore everyday women’s roles.“ I’ve not read her, so do tell me about her pleased if you’ve read her! (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 20, 1941 Anneke Wills, 78. In 1966, she took the role of Polly, a companion to both the First and Second Doctors. She was herself in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. She was also in Doctor Who: Devious, a fan film in development since 1991. You can see the first part here. 
  • Born October 20, 1946 Thomas Wylde, 73. He’s here because he’s got two stories in the Alien Speedway franchise, Roger Zelazny’s Alien Speedway #2: Pitfall and Roger Zelazny’s Alien Speedway #3: The Web. I’ve never heard of these. Anyone read them?  He’s also got two stories in L. Sprague de Camp’s Doctor Bones series as well. 
  • Born October 20, 1958 Lynn Flewelling, 61. The lead characters of her Nightrunner series are both bisexual, and she has stated this is so was because of “the near-absence of LGBT characters in the genre and marginalization of existing ones.” (Strange Horizon, September 2001) The Tamír Triad series is her companion series to this affair

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) UP ALL NIGHT. In the Washington Post Magazine, Mikaela Lefrak profiles Andrew Aydin, whose day job is working for Rep. John Lewis and whose night-time job was helping Rep. Lewis write the Eisner Award-winning March. “He’s a Hill staffer for Rep. John Lewis by day — and an award-winning graphic novelist by night”.

…While they were writing “March,” they would spend hours on the phone combing through Lewis’s memories of sit-ins at whites-only lunch counters and the Bloody Sunday attacks during the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery march. Occasionally they’d even fall asleep while still on the phone. “It reminded me of when sometimes Martin Luther King Jr. would call me late at night and he would fall asleep, and then I would fall asleep,” Lewis told me. “We’d talk and talk.”

Both men drew inspiration for the project from the 1957 “Montgomery Story” comic book that Lewis read as a teen. (It sold for 10 cents a copy.) They also looked to successful graphic memoirs like Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Home” and Art Spiegelman’s “Maus.”

(13) WATCHMEN. The New York Times James Poniewozik says Lindelof’s TV adaptation delivers “a mystifying world you want to spend time in.” — “Review: ‘Watchmen’ Is an Audacious Rorschach Test”.

Damon Lindelof’s entertaining comic-book rethink takes on the Big Bad of white supremacy, explosively and sometimes unsteadily.

Many a superhero origin story involves exposure to a volatile substance — something dangerous, radioactive, caustic — that can be powerful if mastered, ruinous if uncontrolled.

In HBO’s “Watchmen,” beginning Sunday, that fissile storytelling material is history: specifically, America’s legacy of white supremacy. The first episode begins with the 1921 riot in Tulsa, Okla., in which white mobs rampaged in the prosperous “Black Wall Street,” massacring African-Americans in the street and strafing them from above with airplanes. A small boy’s parents pack him onto a car that’s fleeing the mayhem, like Kal-El being sent from Krypton. But there is no Superman flying to the rescue.

With that opening, Damon Lindelof (“Lost,” “The Leftovers”) reframes the universe that the writer Alan Moore and the artist Dave Gibbons created in the 1980s comics series. Where Moore wrote an alternative history of Cold War America — a pre-apocalyptic dystopia in which masked vigilantes have been outlawed — Lindelof reaches back and forward in time to root his caped-crusaders story in a brutal American tragedy.

The choice invests this breathtaking spectacle with urgency. “Watchmen” is a first-class entertainment out of the box, immediately creating a sad and wondrous retro-futuristic world. It takes longer, though, to get a handle on the complicated and all-too-real material it uses as its nuclear fuel….

(14) TOPIC OF CONVERSATION. Also in the Washington Post Magazine, in the Date Lab column, Neil Drumming explained what happened when the Post arranged for Piotr Gregowski and Claire Wilhelm to go on a blind date. “Date Lab: He worried that he sounded a little too excited about a fantasy novel”.

Things picked up when Claire mentioned that she’d been reading The Name of the Wind. a fantasy novel from The Kingfisher Chronicles series by Patrick Rothfuss.  Piotr is, as he puts it, ‘a huge fantasy nerd.’ ‘He was very excited to talk about that,’ said Claire.  He taught her how to pronounce the name of the novel’s main character, Kvothe.  (It’s Ka-Voth-ee.)  Piotr loosened up considerably on the topic of fantasy fiction. ‘Probably too much for a first date,’ he told me.  He needn’t have been concerned; a self-proclaimed fantasy nerd herself, Claire described him as ‘just the right amount of nerd.’  ‘We had a lot in common,’ she said.

However…

“Claire told me she didn’t feel much of an attraction, either, but ‘I would maybe have gone out with him if he had asked.’  In the end, she  considers the date a success because ‘I got to talk about books I like.’

But they didn’t go out again.

(15) AFTER A DNA TEST. Severance recommends, “If you want to comfort someone who’s had a DNA surprise, avoid making these 10 comments.”

Until recently, most people likely haven’t encountered someone who’s been knocked off balance by a DNA test result, so it’s understandable they might not appreciate the magnitude of the impact. But it’s just a matter of time. Mind-blowing DNA revelations are becoming so common that some DNA testing companies have trained their customer service staff representatives to respond empathetically. While those employees may know the right thing to say, here in the real world the people around us often haven’t got a clue how it feels — like a punch to the gut.

If you’ve become untethered from your genetic family, you might get a second surprise: some of your friends and loved ones may be remarkably unsympathetic, often infuriatingly judgmental, and sometimes even hostile. It’s clear that although DNA surprises have become ubiquitous, social attitudes haven’t kept pace, and a stigma remains….

3. Blood doesn’t make family.

This tries to mollify us and discount our feelings at the same time. Blood is exactly what makes family, consanguinity being the first definition of kinship. Certainly there are also families of affinity, but the familial love we feel for them doesn’t alter the fact that our blood relatives exist and they matter to us.

(16) SOCIABLE SLIME. “‘The Blob,’ A Smart Yet Brainless Organism Fit For Sci-Fi, Gets Its Own Exhibit”NPR has the story.

A brainless, bright-yellow organism that can solve mazes and heal itself is making its debut at a Paris zoo this weekend.

At least so far, “the blob” is more benevolent than the ravenous star of its 1950s sci-fi film classic namesake.

Time-lapsed videos of the blob show a slimy organism rapidly multiplying in size. How fast exactly? The blob can sprint about four centimeters per hour, according to the Paris Zoological Park

The blob is neither animal, nor plant. And although Physarum polycephalum — Latin for “many-headed slime” — is classified as a type of slime mold, scientists now consider the creature unrelated to fungi.

…The slime mold, which lacks a nervous system, is capable of advanced decision-making, learning and long-term memory storage, according to Audrey Dussutour, who studies unicellular organisms with the French National Center for Scientific Research.

“It can find its way through a maze, it can construct efficient transport networks, sometimes better than us, actually,” Dussutour said in an interview with NPR’s Weekend Edition.

(17) THE LONG HAUL. “Qantas completes test of longest non-stop passenger flight” — note change in approach to jet lag.

Australian carrier Qantas has completed a test of the longest non-stop commercial passenger flight as part of research on how the journey could affect pilots, crew and passengers.

The Boeing 787-9 with 49 people on board took 19 hours and 16 minutes to fly from New York to Sydney, a 16,200-km (10,066-mile) route.

Next month, the company plans to test a non-stop flight from London to Sydney.

Qantas expects to decide on whether to start the routes by the end of 2019.

If it goes ahead with them, the services would start operating in 2022 or 2023.

…Passengers set their watches to Sydney time after boarding and were kept awake until night fell in eastern Australia to reduce their jetlag.

Six hours later, they were served a high-carbohydrate meal and the lights were dimmed to encourage them to sleep.

On-board tests included monitoring pilot brain waves, melatonin levels and alertness as well as exercise classes for passengers and analysis of the impact of crossing so many time zones on people’s bodies.

(18) USEFUL SJWC? BBC has video of “Mr London Meow: The therapy cat visiting hospitals”. Much better company than The Blob.

Mr London Meow is a therapy cat who goes into some of London’s hospitals to offer therapeutic care to patients.

At the Royal London in Whitechapel he is loved not just by the patients, but by the staff as well.

(19) ANOTHER POTTERVERSE INSIGHT NOBODY ASKED FOR. Don’t read this Clickhole post if you’re sensitive to insults against Italians. “Big Step Backward: J.K. Rowling Has Revealed That Dementors Are The Wizarding World’s Version Of Italians”.

Buckle up, Harry Potter fans, because J.K. Rowling’s latest bombshell about the series definitely isn’t doing anything for inclusivity: The bestselling author has revealed that Dementors are the wizarding world’s version of Italians.

(20) FOR YOUR VIEWING TERROR. Vogue nominates “The 40 Best Spooky Movies to Watch for Halloween”. Three of them are —

Halloweentown

A Disney Channel original movie from the era before they were all about tweens becoming pop stars. (Stream it on Hulu and Amazon.)

Sabrina the Teenage Witch

If you’ve been into the sexy new Sabrina show, revisit the quirky original. You won’t be disappointed. (Stream it on Amazon.)

Practical Magic

You’ll want to become a witch after watching this ’90s cinematic staple. Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman star as witchy sisters navigating love, death, and magic. (Stream it on Amazon.)

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Olav Rokne, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller with an assist from Anna NImmhaus.]