Pixel Scroll 6/22/22 Heigh-ho, The Battling Throg, The Frog Down In Valhalla, Oh

(1) HOW WRITERS GET UNPAID. Quenby Olson shows how a returned book costs her money on Amazon. Thread starts here.

Olson backed up the account with Vice’s article “TikTok Users Are Showing Readers How To Game Amazon’s Ebook Return Policy”.

A TikTok trend where users encourage others to purchase, read, and return Amazon ebooks within the company’s return policy window has irked independent authors, who claim to have seen dramatic spikes in their ebook return rates since the trend went viral.

The #ReadAndReturn challenge drew attention to Amazon’s Kindle return policy, which states that readers can “cancel an accidental book order within seven days.” But what’s been presented as a literary community “life hack” is hurting romance-fantasy authors like Lisa Kessler’s bottom line. 

“When you buy a digital book, if you read and return it, Amazon just turns around and gets the money back from the author, plus Amazon builds in a digital delivery fee and so Amazon is still getting that delivery fee but we get all the royalties taken back,” Kessler told Motherboard. 

Kessler, who self-publishes several book series, says that before the challenge, she would see on average one or two returns per month. But when she checked her Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) sales dashboard on June 1st, she says she was shocked to find a negative account balance….

(2) JUST A SECOND. The Fall of Númenor, a collection of Tolkien’s works about the Second Age of Middle-Earth, will be published by HarperCollins in November 2022. The book will appear after Amazon Prime releases the streaming series The Rings of Power, set during the Second Age of Middle-earth, in September 2022. “New Tolkien book: The Fall of Númenor to be published” at The Tolkien Society.

A HarperCollins press release included in the post explains that the volume is edited by writer and Tolkien expert, Brian Sibley, and illustrated by acclaimed artist, Alan Lee.

…Presenting for the first time in one volume the events of the Second Age as written by J.R.R. Tolkien and originally and masterfully edited for publication by Christopher Tolkien, this new volume will include pencil drawings and colour paintings by Alan Lee, who also illustrated The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and went on to win an Academy Award for his work on The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

J.R.R. Tolkien famously described the Second Age of Middle-earth as a ‘dark age, and not very much of its history is (or need be) told’. And for many years readers would need to be content with the tantalizing glimpses of it found within the pages of The Lord of the Rings and its appendices.

It was not until Christopher Tolkien presented The Silmarillion for publication in 1977 that a fuller story could be told for, though much of its content concerned the First Age of Middle-earth, there were at its close two key works that revealed the tumultuous events concerning the rise and fall of the island-kingdom of Númenor, the Forging of the Rings of Power, the building of the Barad-dûr and the rise of Sauron, and the Last Alliance of Elves and Men.

Christopher Tolkien provided even greater insight into the Second Age in Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth in 1980, and expanded upon this in his magisterial 12-volume History of Middle-earth, in which he presented and discussed a wealth of further tales written by his father, many in draft form.

Now, using ‘The Tale of Years’ in The Lord of the Rings as a starting point, Brian Sibley has assembled from the various published texts in a way that tells for the very first time in one volume the tale of the Second Age of Middle-earth, whose events would ultimately lead to the Third Age, and the War of the Ring, as told in The Lord of the Rings.

(3) BALTICON UPDATE. Balticon’s post-convention email dated June 17 included the following update about the Code of Conduct investigation that is addressing events reported by File 770 here, here, and here.

(4) LIBRARY E-BOOK RELIEF UNCONSTITUTIONAL. “In Final Order, Court Declares Maryland’s Library E-book Law Unconstitutional” reports Publishers Weekly.

In a June 13 opinion and order, Judge Deborah L. Boardman declared Maryland’s library e-book law “unconstitutional and unenforceable” all but ending a successful months-long legal effort by the Association of American Publishers to block the law.

“In its February 16, 2022 memorandum opinion, the Court determined that the Maryland Act likely conflicts with the Copyright Act in violation of the Supremacy Clause,” Boardman’s opinion reads. “Although neither AAP nor the State has moved for summary judgment on any claim, they agree a declaratory judgment may be entered… Therefore, for the reasons stated in the February 16, 2022 memorandum opinion, the Court finds that the Maryland Act conflicts with and is preempted by the Copyright Act. The Act ‘stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress.’”

… First introduced in January 2021, the Maryland library e-book law required any publisher offering to license “an electronic literary product” to consumers in the state to also offer to license the content to public libraries “on reasonable terms.” The bill passed the Maryland General Assembly unanimously on March 10, and went into effect on January 1, 2022.

In response, the AAP filed suit on December 9, 2021 arguing that the Maryland law was pre-empted by the federal Copyright Act. Just days after a February 7 hearing, Boardman agreed with the AAP and temporarily enjoined the law. Boardman’s order this week now permanently renders the law enforceable….

(5) CENSORSHIP CASE IN VIRGINIA. Publishers Weekly also reports, “Lawyers Say ‘Defective’ Virginia Obscenity Claims Should Be Tossed”.

First filed in May by lawyer and Republican Virginia assembly delegate Tim Anderson on behalf of plaintiff and Republican congressional candidate Tommy Altman, the suits allege that the graphic memoir Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe and A Court of Mist and Fury by bestselling author Sarah J. Maas—are “obscene for unrestricted viewing by minors.” On May 18, a retired local judge found there was “probable cause” for the obscenity claims and ordered the authors and publishers to answer the charges, raising the possibility that the court could bar the books from public display and restrict booksellers and librarians from providing the books to minors without parental consent.

But in filings late last week, lawyers for Kobabe and her publisher, Oni Press, and Maas and her publisher Bloomsbury, along with lawyers for Barnes & Noble, told the court the suits as filed are defective and the remedy sought unconstitutional.

“The petition and show cause order are facially defective because [the Virginia law] does not authorize a court to declare that the book is ‘obscene for unrestricted viewing by minors,’” reads a joint filing by Maas and Bloomsbury, explaining that the Virginia law “cannot constitutionally be the basis for the relief sought by petitioner as a matter of law.”

In separate filings, Kobabe and Oni Press also argue the law in question is misapplied and the complaint defective. “The statute permits the challenge of a book on the grounds that it is ‘obscene’ to the entirety of the community of the Commonwealth,” reads the brief from Oni Press lawyers. “Petitioner here attempts to redefine [the Virginia law] to have book declared obscene as it relates to one subset of the Community: minors in the Hampton Roads and Virginia Beach areas.”

Furthermore, lawyers for the authors and publishers argue that the books in question do not come close to meeting the standard for obscenity as established by the Supreme Court, which requires that materials, even if they contain explicit material, be found to lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. Thus, the relief requested by the plaintiffs would be “an unconstitutional restraint on free speech,” lawyers argue.

(6) THE MIGHTY NATALIE. “’Thor: Love and Thunder’: How Natalie Portman Grew Nine Inches Taller”Variety divulges the answer at the link.

…“I definitely got as big as I’ve ever been,” Portman explained for Variety‘s cover story. “You realize, ‘Oh, this must be so different, to walk through the world like this.’”

Portman means that quite literally. Along with getting her arms and shoulders as swole as humanly possible, Portman’s Mighty Thor also stands 6 feet tall — nearly 10 inches larger than Portman’s actual height.

… To date, no one has figured out how an actor can safely elongate their body, so director Taika Waititi and his crew needed to figure out how to get Portman to the proper height for scenes in which she walked with her co-stars. Their solution proved to be about as low-tech as a Marvel movie can get….

(7) KGB. The Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series will be changing its schedule to the second Wednesday of the month. The date change begins on September 14, 2022. Both the July and August readings will be on the third Wednesday as originally scheduled.

After more than twenty years of being held on the third Wednesday of every month, the Fantastic Fiction reading series, currently hosted by Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel at the KGB Bar in Manhattan, will be switching to the second Wednesday of the month, beginning in September, for the foreseeable future. Previously, the series was held on the third Wednesday of the month.

During the Pandemic, when Covid cases in New York City were dangerously high, hosts Ellen and Matt decided to go virtual (via YouTube) for the safety of all. This virtual period lasted for more than eighteen months, during which time Ellen and Matt were able to bring in guests, many of whom were unable to visit New York in person, from all over the world, including Pakistan, Barbados, the U.K., Australia, South Africa and elsewhere.

During this same period a younger crowd less fearful of Covid began to congregate in person at the KGB Bar during the series’ usual third Wednesday. When the Fantastic Fiction series finally returned to the KGB Bar in person in late 2021 and early 2022, the KGB Bar saw a significant drop in income. Because of this, the KGB Bar owner has asked Ellen and Matt to switch weeks for this “big earner/younger generation” that they wish to accommodate on the third Wednesday of each month.

(8) EAR TO THE GROUND. CSI Skill Tree is a series from the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University.The latest event in the CSI Skill Tree series on how video games envision possible futures and create thought-provoking experiences will streamed on Thursday, July 7, from 2:00-3:15 p.m. Eastern. The event is free and open to everyone—here is the registration link.

In this event, speculative fiction author Tochi Onyebuchi and composer/sound designer Amos Roddy will discuss how sound and music in games contributes to worldbuilding, storytelling, and immersion. They’ll look closely at Inside (2016), a moody adventure game with environmental puzzles and grim, industrial aesthetics.

Roddy’s other sound work in games is frequently for science fiction titles (most recently, Citizen Sleeper), and Onyebuchi is an incredibly talented SF storyteller. 

(9) AN IDEA THAT WHIFFED. Galactic Journey knows exactly what the public in 2022 wants to hear about the Worldcon – which is nothing good, of course – and presents: “[June 22, 1967] The Stench Arising from the World Convention” by Alison Scott.

…Here we are in 1967, and Ted White, from his lofty position of power as chairman of NyCon 3, this year’s World SF Convention, has decided that the time has come to expand the existing Best Fanzine Hugo. I think that many of we actifans would welcome additional awards for Best Fan Writer and Best Fan Artist. However, the NyCon 3 committee – and I think we must assume this is mostly Ted – decided to unilaterally create a new class of awards, the Fan Achievement Awards, by analogy to the Science Fiction Achievement Awards, and to nickname them the “Pongs”, by analogy to the “Hugos”….

P.S. Even at the time almost everyone said they hated the idea. That’s why in the end the NyCon 3 committee actually did call these added fan awards Hugos.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

1925 [By Cat Eldridge.] Let’s keep in mind that ninety-seven years ago when this first version of The Lost World premiered, A. Conan Doyle was very much alive. This is very important as he was involved in the film including writing the script from his novel and being involved in the production quite personally. Doyle said repeatedly that Challenger, not Holmes, was his favorite creation.

Directed by Harry O. Hoyt, The Lost World featured the amazing stop motion special effects by Willis O’Brien, the dinosaurs here being a great look at what he would do on King Kong in eight yers. Nine different types of dinosaurs were created including of course Tyrannosaurus. A very crowded plateau it was. Some of the dinosaur models made for this film were collected later by Ackerman.

It cost seven hundred thousand to make and grossed one point three million. Studios being relatively honest in those days, we can say it actually made money. 

Full early prints include an introduction by Doyle. Later prints removed this.  

The New York Times after seeing early reels of the dinosaurs said if these be “monsters of the ancient world, or of the new world which he has discovered in the ether, were extraordinarily lifelike. If fakes, they were masterpieces.” Contemporaneous reviews such as the LIFE one say the same thing: “In The Lost World, as it appears on the screen, the animals have been constructed with amazing skill and fidelity and their movements, though occasionally jerky, are generally convincing.” 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently have a sixty-nine percent rating for it.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 22, 1856 — H. Rider Haggard. Writer of pulp fiction, often in the the Lost World subgenre. King Solomon’s Mines was the first of his novels with Allan Quatermain as the lead and it, like its sequels, was successful. These novels are in print to this day. Haggard by the way decided to take ten percent royalties instead of a flat fee for writing, a wise choice indeed.  And let’s not forget his other success, She: A History of Adventure, which has never print out of print either. (Died 1925.)
  • Born June 22, 1894 — George Fielding Eliot. ISFDB has scant listings from him and Wiki is not much better but shows “The Copper Bowl”  in Weird Tales in the December 1928 issue and notes that thirty years later he has “The Peacemakers”  in the Fantastic Universe in January 1960 edition. Stitching this together using the EofSF, I’ll note he wrote Purple Legion: A G-Man Thriller, a really pulpish affair. As Robert Wallace, he wrote “The Death Skull Murders”, one of the Phantom Detective stories, a series that came out after The Shadow and ran for a generation. (Died 1971.)
  • Born June 22, 1936 — Kris Kristofferson, 86. He first shows up in a genre film, The Last Horror Film, as himself. As an actor, his first role is as Bill Smith in Millennium which is followed by Gabriel in Knights, a sequel to Cyborg. (A lack of name creativity there.) Now comes his role as Abraham Whistler in Blade and Blade II, a meaty undertaking indeed! Lastly I’ll note he voiced Karubi in Planet of the Apes.
  • Born June 22, 1947 — Octavia Butler. I think her Xenogenesis series is her most brilliant work though I’m also very, very impressed by the much shorter Parable series. I’m ambivalent on the Patternist series for reasons I’m not sure about. Her first Hugo was L.A. Con II (1984) for her “Speech Sounds” short story and she also got a Hugo for her “Bloodchild” novelette at Aussiecon Two (1985). DisCon III (2021) saw Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation with text by her obviously as adapted by Damian Duffy and illustrated by John Jennings pick up the Best Graphic Story or Comic Hugo. (Died 2006.)
  • Born June 22, 1949 — Edward M Lerner, 73. I’m here today to praise the Ringworld prequels that he co-wrote with Niven, collectively known as Fleet of Worlds which ran to five volumes. Unlike the Ringworld sequels which were terribly uneven, these were well written and great to read. I’ve not read anything else by him.
  • Born June 22, 1949 — Meryl Streep, 73. She’d make the Birthday list just for being Madeline Ashton in Death Becomes Her and her epic battle there with Goldie Hawn. She’s the voice of Blue Ameche in A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and a very real Aunt Josephine in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. She’s the voice of Felicity Fox in Fantastic Mr. Fox, based off the on Dahl’s 1970 children’s novel. She voices Jennie in a short that bring Maurice Sendak’s dog to life, Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life. She’s The Witch in Into The Woods. I think that’s it.
  • Born June 22, 1958 — Bruce Campbell, 64. Where to start? Well let’s note that Kage loved the old rascal as she described him, so I’ve linked to her review of Jack of All Trades. I personally liked him just as much in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and think it’s well worth checking out. I think his work as Ash Williams in the Evil Dead franchise can be both brilliant and god awful, often in the same film. Or the same scene. The series spawned off of it is rather good. Oh, and for popcorn reading, check out If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor, his autobiography. 
  • Born June 22, 1973 — Ian Tregillis, 49. He is the author of the Milkweed Triptych trilogy which is frelling brilliant. He’s contributed three stories to Max Gladstone’s The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, a  rather good serial fiction narrative (if that’s the proper term), and he’s got another series, The Alchemy Wars, I haven’t  checked out. He’s also a contributor to George R. R. Martin’s Wild Cards series which I’m beginning to suspect everyone has been involved in.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

Joel Merriner mashes up Gotham with Middle-Earth.

(13) THE READING LIFE. The Critic’s Paul Dean mourns the decline of the second-hand book trade in “Bookshops remaindered”.

At the Oxford Book Fair in April, the presence of a hundred exhibitors from all over Britain suggested that Covid had not killed off the antiquarian book trade. But those who buy antiquarian books are not necessarily interested in reading, any more than those who buy hundreds of cases of rare wines are interested in drinking.

The second-hand market — for immediate consumption rather than laying down — is a different matter, as Oxford itself sadly demonstrates. In the 1970s, Blackwell’s second-hand department occupied the whole of the top floor. By 2000, it occupied most of the third floor. Now it shivers forlornly in a few feet of the first floor.

Will Waterstones, Blackwell’s new owners, bother to keep it? One second-hand bookshop after another has closed in Oxford, leaving two admittedly excellent Oxfams, St Philip’s Books opposite the cathedral, a new small outlet in the Covered Market, and the ominously named The Last Bookshop in Jericho. Thornton’s and Robin Waterfield are much missed. The former still sells online, but, although I plead guilty to online buying, that is not the same. It is like eating the menu instead of the food….

(14) GETTING READY TO INTERACT WITH AI. “Soon, Humanity Won’t Be Alone in the Universe” says David Brin in his opinion piece for Newsweek.

…In 2017 I gave a keynote at IBM’s World of Watson event, predicting that “within five years” we would face the first Robotic Empathy Crisis, when some kind of emulation program would claim individuality and sapience. At the time, I expected — and still expect — these empathy bots to augment their sophisticated conversational skills with visual portrayals that reflexively tug at our hearts, e.g. wearing the face of a child. or a young woman, while pleading for rights… or for cash contributions. Moreover, an empathy-bot would garner support, whether or not there was actually anything conscious “under the hood.”

One trend worries ethicist Giada Pistilli, a growing willingness to make claims based on subjective impression instead of scientific rigor and proof. When it comes to artificial intelligence, expert testimony will be countered by many calling those experts “enslavers of sentient beings.” In fact, what matters most will not be some purported “AI Awakening.” It will be our own reactions, arising out of both culture and human nature.

Human nature, because empathy is one of our most-valued traits, embedded in the same parts of the brain that help us to plan or think ahead. Empathy can be stymied by other emotions, like fear and hate — we’ve seen it happen across history and in our present-day. Still, we are, deep-down, sympathetic apes.

But also culture. As in Hollywood’s century-long campaign to promote—in almost every film — concepts like suspicion-of-authority, appreciation of diversity, rooting for the underdog, and otherness. Expanding the circle of inclusion. Rights for previously marginalized humans. Animal rights. Rights for rivers and ecosystems, or for the planet. I deem these enhancements of empathy to be good, even essential for our own survival! But then, I was raised by all the same Hollywood memes….

(15) SPIDER-REX. “Spider-Rex Makes His Roaring Debut on Leinil Francis Yu’s New ‘Edge of Spider-Verse’ #1 Variant Cover” Marvel announced today.

The future of the Spider-Verse is here! Launching in August, Edge of Spider-Verse will be five-issue limited series that introduces brand-new Spider-heroes and redefines fan-favorites such as Araña, Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Gwen, and Spider-Man: India! Each thrilling issue will contain three stories crafted by Marvel’s biggest Spider talents including an overarching narrative by Dan Slott who will lay the groundwork for the epic conclusion of the Spider-Verse later this year. Edge of Spider-Verse #1 will see the debut of Spider-Rex in a story by hit Spider-Woman creative team, Karla Pacheco and Pere Perez. Fans can see this awesome and one-of-a-kind Spider-Hero in a brand-new variant cover by Leinil Francis Yu.

(16) WEIRD AL’S SONG FOR STAR WARS. There might actually be a few notes from it in this trailer, I’m not sure. “LEGO Star Wars Summer Vacation”, set shortly after the events of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, features the voices of “Weird Al” Yankovic, Yvette Nicole Brown, Kelly Marie Tran, Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams, and returning cast members from previous LEGO Star Wars specials, and includes “Weird Al’s” new original song, “Scarif Beach Party”.

(17) CAT NOT SLEEPING ON SFF. Enjoy this entertaining trailer for “Puss In Boots: The Last Wish”.

This Christmas, everyone’s favorite leche-loving, swashbuckling, fear-defying feline returns. For the first time in more than a decade, DreamWorks Animation presents a new adventure in the Shrek universe as daring outlaw Puss in Boots discovers that his passion for peril and disregard for safety have taken their toll. Puss has burned through eight of his nine lives, though he lost count along the way. Getting those lives back will send Puss in Boots on his grandest quest yet. Academy Award® nominee Antonio Banderas returns as the voice of the notorious PiB as he embarks on an epic journey into the Black Forest to find the mythical Wishing Star and restore his lost lives. But with only one life left, Puss will have to humble himself and ask for help from his former partner and nemesis: the captivating Kitty Soft Paws (Oscar® nominee Salma Hayek).

(18) SHOULD BE WORTH MORE THAN TWO POINTS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This Rube Goldberg machine by Creezy has been viewed nearly 10 million times, but not on File 770! “The Swish Machine: 70 Step Basketball Trickshot”.

(19) REFERENCE DIRECTOR! [Item by Daniel Dern.] To help you decipher today’s Scroll title “Heigh-ho, The Battling Throg, The Frog Down In Valhalla, Oh” —

Throg is Frog Thor, The Frog Of Thunder, first introduced by Walt Simonson in 1986 (see “Thor Left Asgard’s Future to Marvel’s Strangest Thunder God”), although, Marvel being Marvel (sigh), there are now several variants and versions…

“Heigh-Ho etc” riffs on the Irish folk song “Heigh-Ho, The Rattlin’ Bog” popularized by The Irish Rovers and done by many others including Seamus Kennedy,

(20) AMATEURS DRIVING THE CHARIOT OF APOLLO. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] James Burke and John Parry tour an Apollo training facility, crash a “scooter” on the Moon and mispronounce “Houston” in this clip from the BBC show Tomorrow’s World in 1968.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. This is buzzzzzare! “Best-Case Scenario, Worst-Case Scenario and One with Bees” from Late Night with Seth Meyers.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/3/22 Click HERE For A Witty, Never-Before-Seen, Cleverly Referential Scroll Title, Generated Possibly By A Million Hamsters Running On Top Of Discarded BlackBerries

(1) A BIT OF HISTORY. The Finnish Postal Museum is looking for letters from Tove Jansson. “Have you received or are you in possession of a letter written by Tove Jansson?”

Tove Jansson (1914–2001) was a prolific letter writer all her life. She also wrote short stories and other texts throughout her life and became known for her books about the Moomins. She devoted the last decades of her life almost entirely to literature aimed at adults.

During Tove Jansson´s lifetime letters were a natural way for people to keep in touch as electronic media either did not exist or was expensive to use. When translations of the Moomin books were published in different parts of the world in the 1950s and 1960s, Tove Jansson’s number of contacts increased and her correspondence became international.

… In the first phase of this project, we will explore the kinds of letters in existence. We will then decide on the basis of the material whether it would be possible to produce an exhibition or publication of Tove’s letters….

(2) POD PERSON CAMESTROS. He speaks! Camestros Felapton was interviewed by Eric Hildeman of the Milwaukee Science Fiction League on their podcast Starship Fonzie, as he explains in “My Podcast Debut”. Camestros shyly says:

I haven’t listened to it yet because I then had a long day at work and also I find my own voice too weird. But if you want me to say “umm” and “ahh” and talk over the host too much (that’s what I recall of what I said) then now is your chance!

Does Camestros jump the shark? Find out here: Starship Fonzie #15.

(3) SF IN HUNGARY. [Item by Bence Pintér.] Csilla Kleinheincz, an influential author/translator/editor of Hungarian SFF, does a Q&A with Guest Editors Vera Benczik and Beata Gubacsi at SFRA Review: “Interview with Csilla Kleinheincz”.

Guest Editors: How does the Hungarian fantastic incorporate and/or subvert the themes and tropes of Anglo-American fantastic tradition? Do you think there’s a pressure to follow international trends?

Csilla Kleinheincz: …What Hungarian SF can offer is its own unique blend of the fantastic that could be written only by Hungarian authors, reflecting on our own cultural and historical influences and leaning on our own surroundings. Hungarian weird fiction is especially strong nowadays, perhaps because our history and our present are so rich in grotesque and dystopian elements and also because a small but very active creative community has formed around the main publisher of weird fiction, The Black Aether….

(4) PROFILE ON A HUGO FINALIST. [Item by Olav Rokne.] In their Special Issue on Contemporary African Literature, Open Country profiles Hugo finalist Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki. “Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki’s Curation of African Speculative Fiction”.

“A lot of people were pleasantly perplexed,” Ekpeki says of the initial reaction. “Almost every review had a phrase like ‘this is unusual speculative fiction based on unusual cultures,’ so they still find African speculative fiction unusual. There is still a lot of ground for us to cover, it would seem.”

(5) AND THE VOTERS SAY! When the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, NM reopens this weekend, here are what poll respondents picked as the “Upcoming Events” from 10 options offered by theater owner George R.R. Martin.

Thank you to the nearly 300 folks who voted in our audience poll to choose the movies for the Jean Cocteau Cinema’s grand re-opening weekend! Unveiling the top 5 films, the first films to play in the newly renovated theater, May 6-8th:

Spirited Away 
Beauty & the Beast (1946)
Forbidden Planet
War of the Worlds (1952)
Cabaret

All screenings will be seated FIRST COME, FIRST SERVED. Theater doors will open 20 minutes before showtime. Anyone who isn’t able to get a seat is most welcome to hang out with a cocktail in the lobby bar, or a coffee over at Beastly Books!  

(6) NOT QUITE TRUE NORTH. At Grimdark Magazine, Matthew John reviews “The Northman”.

The Northman is a film that should not exist–not at its scale, not in this day and age. It is an unflinching epic of fire and ice, of burning love and cold-served vengeance. It is a story rooted in legend, but most viewers will probably be familiar with the bones of this tale from Hamlet, the Lion King, or Conan the Barbarian. Our protagonist, Prince Amleth, must avenge the death of his father and rescue his mother from the clutches of his uncle (or so he thinks). How director Robert Eggers managed to convince a studio to pay northward of a hundred million dollars so he could adapt this legend into an R-rated, ultra-violent, artistic yet historically-accurate viking film is beyond this reviewer’s ken. But man…am I glad he did!…

(7) USE THE VOICE, LUKE. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] This tweet by Mark Hamill suggests that there will be a second season of Masters of the Universe: Revelation, which was probably the most pleasant TV surprise of the year for me last year: 

The fact that there may be a second season is itself another pleasant surprise, since I feared the show would fall victim to toxic fanboys complaining that Teela having muscles ruined their childhood or some such thing as well as to Netflix ditching its entire animation department to focus more on soap operas about rich people in pretty dresses.

(8) DEFLECTING THE CUT DIRECT. “Sony Refuses Chinese Demand to Delete Statue of Liberty from Latest ‘Spider-Man’” reports National Review, and the studio ultimately did not release the film in China.

Chinese authorities asked Sony to delete the Statue of Liberty from the climactic sequence of Spider-Man: No Way Home before distributing the movie in China, Puck reported on Sunday citing multiple sources.

The climactic sequence of the movie features an action sequence of over 20 minutes in which characters battle amid scaffolding around the Statue of Liberty.

When Sony refused to delete the statue from the movie, Chinese authorities asked if the company could diminish the statue’s presence. Sony considered the request, the sources told Puck, but ultimately decided against editing the movie and did not release it in China. It’s unclear whether Chinese censors blocked the movie’s release or if Sony preemptively opted against releasing it….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1956 [By Cat Eldridge.] Sixty-six years ago, Forbidden Planet opened in New York City in general release, following a March debut at a science fiction convention and a limited release elsewhere.  

It was produced by Nicholas Nayfack, and directed by Fred M. Wilcox. The screenplay was by Cyril Hume who had previously written several Tarzan films from a story by Irving Block and Allen Adler.  (A year later, he’d write The Invisible Boy (aka S.O.S Spaceship) which had Robbie the Robot as one of the characters. No, I’ve never heard of it. Here’s the poster for it.) 

It had a primary cast of Walter Pidgeon as Dr. Edward Morbius, Anne Francis as Altaira “Alta” Morbius and Leslie Nielsen as Commander John J. Adams. Les Tremayne was the Narrator. And no, I’ve not forgotten Robbie the Robot which had Frankie Darro as the Robot and Marvin Miller as the voice of the Robot. I could write an entire essay on Robbie the Robot and if I remember correctly I have.

Forbidden Planet was released to film theaters during 1972 as one of MGM’s Kiddie Matinee features with some six minutes of film cut to make it receive a “G” rating from the MPAA, including a Fifties-style nude scene of Anne Francis swimming sans a bathing suit. (It’s debatable if she was actually nude.) 

So what was the reception for it upon its release? Well it turned a very modest profit of eight hundred thousand over its budget of two million. 

Critics were generally impressed with it. The New York Times critic said he “had a barrel of fun with it. And, if you’ve got an ounce of taste for crazy humor, you’ll have a barrel of fun, too,” while Variety proclaimed “Imaginative gadgets galore, plus plenty of suspense and thrills, make the Nicholas Nayfack production a top offering in the space travel category.”

And let’s give the Los Angeles Times the last word: “a more than another science-fiction movie, with the emphasis on fiction; it is a genuinely thought-through concept of the future, and the production MGM has bestowed on it gives new breadth and dimension to that time-worn phrase, ‘out of this world.”

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a spectacular eighty-five percent rating. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 3, 1928 Jeanne Bal. In Trek’s “The Man Trap” episode, she played Nancy Crate, a former lover of Leonard McCoy, who would be a victim of the lethal shape-shifting alien which craves salt. This was the series’ first-aired episode that replaced “The Cage” which the Network really didn’t like. She also had one-offs in Thriller and I-Spy. (Died 1996.)
  • Born May 3, 1939 Dennis O’Neil. Writer and editor, mostly for Marvel Comics and DC Comics from the Sixties through the Nineties, and was the Group Editor for the Batman family of titles until his retirement, which makes him there when Ed Brubaker’s amazing Gotham Central came out.  He himself has written Wonder Woman and Green Arrow in both cases introducing some rather controversial storytelling ideas. He also did a rather brilliant DC Comics Shadow series with Michael Kaluta as the artist. A police procedural series from Matt Reeves was in development, to be set in the same continuity as The BatmanGotham Central was very seriously being considered as the name for the series. It unfortunately will not happen. (Died 2020.)
  • Born May 3, 1949 Ron Canada, 73. He’s one of those actors who manages to show up across the Trek verse, in this case on episodes of Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager. He also showed up in the David Hasselhoff vanity project Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD as Gabe Jones, and had further one-offs on The X-FilesStar Gate SG-1ElementaryGrimm and The Strain. He has a recurring role on the Orville series as Admiral Tucker.
  • Born May 3, 1958 Bill Sienkiewicz, 64. Comic artist especially known for his work for Marvel Comics’ Elektra, Moon Knight and New Mutants. His work on the Elektra: Assassin! six issue series which written by Frank Miller is stellar. Finally his work with Andy Helfer on The Shadow series is superb.
  • Born May 3, 1965 Michael Marshall Smith, 57. His first published story, “The Man Who Drew Cats”, won the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Story. Not stopping there, His first novel, Only Forward, won the August Derleth Award for Best Novel and the Philip K. Dick Award. He has six British Fantasy Awards in total, very impressive indeed. 
  • Born May 3, 1985 Becky Chambers, 37. My last encounter with her was the most excellent The Galaxy, And The Ground Within. Her Wayfarers series won the Best Series Hugo at Dublin 2019: An Irish Worldcon. A Closed and Common Orbit was a finalist at WorldCon 75 for Best Novel but lost out to another exemplary novel, N. K. Jemisin’s The Obelisk GateRecord of a Spaceborn Few would be on the ballot at Dublin 2019 but lose out to yet another exemplary novel, Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Calculating Stars. (A digression: The Wayfarers are the best series I’ve listened to in a long time.) “To Be Taught, if Fortunate” was a finalist at ConZealand in the Best Novella category but lost out to “This Is How You Lose the Time War” by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone.
  • Born May 3, 1986 Pom Klementieff, 36. In the MCU film universe she plays Mantis and first she’s up in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, but then is in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: End Game and two films in production, Thor: Love and Thunder and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Plus forthcoming on Disney +, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. It’s amazing what a pair of very, very cute antennae will do! (Also been in Black Mirror, Westworld, and voiced characters on The Addams Family.)

(11) AUTHOR PUSHES BACK. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] This isn’t SFF, but I think there is a lot of audience crossover. Luke Jennings, author of the novels that the TV show Killing Eve was based upon, speaks out regarding the controversial finale of the TV series (which killed off a major lesbian characters) and says that he does not feel bound to what the TV show has done: “’Villanelle will be back!’ Killing Eve’s author speaks out over the catastrophic TV finale” in the Guardian. Beware spoilers!

…When Phoebe Waller-Bridge and I first discussed Villanelle’s character five years ago, we agreed that she was defined by what Phoebe called her “glory”: her subversiveness, her savage power, her insistence on lovely things. That’s the Villanelle that I wrote, that Phoebe turned into a screen character, and that Jodie [Comer] ran with so gloriously.

But the season four ending was a bowing to convention. A punishing of Villanelle and Eve for the bloody, erotically impelled chaos they have caused….

(12) INCOMING. No one goes unsplattered in Raquel S. Benedict’s latest bid for attention, “The Sterility of Safe Fiction: Who Are We Protecting?” at Seize the Press. This circular accusation kicks off the piece:

…And yet an influential faction of authors, editors, publishers and critics within contemporary sci-fi and fantasy speaks as though safe is the greatest quality a work of art can aspire to. Fiction must be safe, they say. If it’s not safe, then it might cause harm. What kind of harm? Who are we harming? That’s not important. The important thing is to avoid harm by making your fiction as safe as possible. By making our fiction safe, we will make the sci-fi/fantasy community safe….

It’s an introduction, but not to what follows the immediate three-asterisk break. In the next section Benedict’s new topic is that there’s trouble my friends, right here in the sff genre, and apparently anybody who pays to attend one of the workshops in the field is to blame for whatever that ill-defined trouble might be. Benedict recites the dollar costs involved in attending Clarion West and the Odyssey Writing Workshop and judges:

…But those who can pay the gatekeeper get to determine what it means to be safe. And so our notions of safety are shaped by bourgeois sensibilities…. 

(13) SHOCKED, I TELL YOU. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] J.R.R. Tolkien’s grandson Simon tells BBC Live Breakfast in 2012 that his grandfather would not have liked any film that depicted his imaginary world and “my grandfather knew what an elf looked like, and it did not look like Orlando Bloom.”

(14) WEIRD TRAILER. Is the world ready for Daniel Radcliffe as…Weird Al Yankovic? Coming this fall to the Roku Channel. “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story”.

(15) MINI SERIES. According to Slashfilm, “Rebecca Romijn Insisted On Wearing A Starfleet Dress On Star Trek: Strange New Worlds”.

The original “Star Trek” series remains spellbinding for its forward thinking science fiction ideas. But it remains equally spellbinding for being a show so firmly entrenched in the ’60s that all female crew members on board the USS Enterprise wear short miniskirts while the men get to strut around in far less revealing uniforms. And while “Trek” has gone a long way in the decades since to make Starfleet uniforms work for all genders and body types (“The Next Generation” even featured male officers in the Starfleet minidress, or “skant,” uniform), that classic short-skirt look has at least one major fan: “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” star Rebecca Romijn. 

Una Chin-Riley, better known to Captain Christopher Pike and “Star Trek” fans as “Number One,” rocks the Starfleet dress look throughout the first five episodes of “Strange New Worlds,” with the tough-as-nails first officer of the Enterprise making a strong case for this seemingly outdated look to make a major comeback. And you can consider this mission accomplished for Romijn, who not only requested that Una wear a Starfleet dress, but that she actively wear it during action sequences…

(16) SCIENTIFIC OBJECTIVE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Scientists are describing a theoretical new telescope that could be used to image exoplanets. It would use the gravity of the sun as the objective lens.

Positioning the telescope proper in a line with the Sun and the exoplanet in question would take significant advances in space propulsion. The telescope would have to be positioned many times further away from the Sun than any of the planets & moved around to line up the shot. It would then need to be repositioned for the next planet of choice.

The paper, “Integral Field Spectroscopy with the Solar Gravitational Lens,“ was published in The Astrophysical Journal.

“Scientists describe a gravity telescope that could image exoplanets” at Phys.org.

In the time since the first exoplanet was discovered in 1992, astronomers have detected more than 5,000 planets orbiting other stars. But when astronomers detect a new exoplanet, we don’t learn a lot about it: We know that it exists and a few features about it, but the rest is a mystery.

To sidestep the physical limitations of telescopes, Stanford University astrophysicists have been working on a new conceptual imaging technique that would be 1,000 times more precise than the strongest imaging technology currently in use. By taking advantage of gravity’s warping effect on space-time, called lensing, scientists could potentially manipulate this phenomenon to create imaging far more advanced than any present today.

In a paper published on May 2 in The Astrophysical Journal, the researchers describe a way to manipulate solar gravitational lensing to view planets outside our solar system. By positioning a telescope, the sun, and exoplanet in a line with the sun in the middle, scientists could use the gravitational field of the sun to magnify light from the exoplanet as it passes by. 

(17) JUSTWATCH – TOP 10S IN APRIL. JustWatch – The Streaming Guide says these were the Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies and TV Shows in the US in April 2022.

Rank*MoviesTV shows
1Spider-Man: No Way HomeSeverance
2The BatmanMoon Knight
3Sonic the HedgehogHalo
4MoonfallFrom
5Ghostbusters: AfterlifeDoctor Who
6Venom: Let There Be CarnageOutlander
7DuneStar Trek: The Next Generation
8Spider-Man: Far From HomeThe Walking Dead
9Spider-Man: HomecomingStar Trek: Picard
10Spider-Man: Into the Spider-VerseGhosts

*Based on JustWatch popularity score

(18) YOU WILL BELIEVE A DOG CAN FLY. Just because they’re super – doesn’t make them heroes. In theaters July 29, “DC League of Super-Pets”.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Ghostwire: Tokyo,” Fandom Games says this game is very good at describing Japanese folklore, but “feels like an anime you really have to convince people to watch.”  SJWs will like the cat who runs a convenience store, but another plot point is a character who’s really constipated.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/3/22 Like, Totally, Recall It Wholesale

(1) PLEASE RELEASE ME. GameRant reminds us, “Weird Al Recorded New Music For Ill-Fated Star Wars Detours Series”.

… It’s been a pretty long existence, and one that most people still have yet to truly figure out. But luckily, at some point along the way, somebody discovered that adding Weird Al Yankovic to a thing, including Star Wars, is pretty much always a recipe for entertainment. Even if the rest of the project turns out to be a wide flat stinkum, the presence of the parody king is always a treasure in and of itself.

So thanks to some new discoveries regarding Yankovic, that makes it all the more tragic that Star Wars Detours will likely never truly see the light of day, even if fans still hear various teases about it potentially coming to Disney Plus. The animated comedy series from Robot Chicken creators Seth Green and Matthew Senreich may have been canceled before its release a decade ago, but somehow more info about it just randomly seems to keep surfacing. It’s like a really lethargic zombie whose return from the grave largely consists of the occasional gas release.

… The potential for hearing lost Weird Al music should be enough to inspire some steam behind the “release Detours, please” movement that isn’t really a movement….

(2) IN CASE YOU MISSED IT. Thomas Wagner of SFF180 does a roundup of yesterday’s most astonishing news item in “The Implosion of Silver Shamrock Publishing” on YouTube.

What the eff were they thinking? A racist book sinks an indie horror publisher, and Thomas offers up a post-mortem.

(3) MOSHE FEDER CHANGE OF E-DRESS NEWS. [Item by Moshe Feder.] I’ve owned the moshe.feder.name domain since the .name TLD was first promulgated in 2000. (Alas, it never won the popularity I expected. In all these years, I never met anyone else with a .name address.)

Now I’m letting it go, along with the associated moshe@feder.name e-mail address. If you’ve been using that address to write me, please switch to Mosaic@gmail.com, which I’ve had almost as long. 

In the unlikely event you ever have a problem with the Gmail address, my backup address is jophan@me.com.

Also, if you sent anything to the old address on March 26 or later, please resend it to the new address.

(4) VINTAGE PRATCHETT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Terry Pratchett defines fantasy, explains what he doesn’t like about Howard and Tolkien, and tells how his readers range 7 to 85 in this 1992 clip from the BBC that dropped today.

“I went from a kid to whom reading was something you did if there was nothing else to do, to a 40-book-a-day man!” – Terry Pratchett Linda Mitchell chats to Terry Pratchett, the prolific mind behind the beloved Discworld series of comic fantasy novels. What were his inspirations? Was he a bookish child? Is there an “average” Terry Pratchett reader? Where is all the sex? What is the secret to his success? And, speaking of success – how does it feel to be “Britain’s least famous best-selling author”? This clip is from Summer Scene, originally broadcast 21 July, 1992.

(5) MEMORY LANE.

1999 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-three years ago, something that had been made into a film four times previously starting in 1925 (Doyle appears in preface to that film, though not all existing prints have him) was made into a series. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, often shortened to just The Lost World, premiered this day in syndication. 

It was based very loosely as you well know you on Doyle’s The Lost World novel and includes John Landis among its bevy of executive producers. The actual producer was Darrly Sheen who was the line producer on Time Trax and who did the same on several episodes of the Australian version of Mission: Impossible

Guess where this series was produced? It was done at Village Roadshow Studios, Oxenford, Queensland, Australia.  Other productions of note done there include Thor: RagnarokPirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge and Aquaman.

The initial cast was Peter McCauley as Professor George Edward Challeger, Rachel Blakely, as Marguerite Krux, Jennifer O’Dell as Veronica Layton, William deVry as Ned Malone and William Snow as Lord John Richard Roxton and Michael Sinelnikoff as Professor Arthur Summerlee.

They lived in a giant tree house, really they did, and had many a fantastical adventure, none of which I’d say had anything to do with The Lost World novel unless there’s reptile people in there that I missed when I read it. It lasted three seasons consisting of sixty-six episodes. It was cancelled when funding for another season fell through. It’s on Amazon Prime right now.

Personal opinion? It was fun and I certainly don’t regret the time that I took to watch it. It was quite pulpy (Doc Savage would have fit right in here) and as long as you don’t expect it to have anything to do with the novel, you could enjoy a Thirties-style concept updated to contemporary standards. 

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 3, 1783 Washington Irving. Best remembered for his short stories “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, both of which appear in The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. collection. The latter in particular has been endlessly reworked downed the centuries into genre fiction including the recent Sleepy Hollow series which so far I’ve managed not to watch. And a certain Johnny Depp film as well I believe. (Died 1859.)
  • Born April 3, 1927 Donald M. Grant. He was responsible for the creation of several genre small press publishers — Grant-Hadley Enterprises in 1945,  Buffalo Book Company in 1946,  Centaur Press in 1970 and Donald M. Grant, Publisher, Inc. in 1964. Between 1976 and 2003, he won five World Fantasy Awards including a Lifetime Achievement Award, and a Balrog Award as well. He wrote one genre novel, Act of Providence co-authored with Joseph Payne Brennan. (Died 2009.)
  • Born April 3, 1928 Colin Kapp. He’s best remembered for his stories about the Unorthodox Engineers which originally largely appeared in the New Writings in SF anthologies. I’d also single out his Cageworld series which is set in the future when humanity lives on nested Dyson spheres. Both series are available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 2007.)
  • Born April 3, 1936 Reginald Hill. Now this surprised me. He’s the author of the most excellent Dalziel and Pascoe copper series centered on the profane, often piggish Andrew Dalziel, and his long suffering, more by-the-book partner Peter Pascoe, solving traditional Yorkshire crimes which is on the Britbox streaming service. Well there’s a SF mystery in there set in 2010, many years after the other Dalziel and Pascoe stories, and involves them investigating the first Luna murder. I’ll need to read this one. There’s another with Peter Pascoe as a future European Pan Police Commissioner. Huh.  (Died 2012.)
  • Born April 3, 1946 Lyn McConchie, 76. New Zealand author who has written three sequels in the Beast Master series that Andre Norton created and four novels in Norton’s Witch World series as well. She has written a lot of Holmesian fiction, so I’ll just recommend her collection of short stories, Sherlock Holmes: Familar Crimes: New Tales of The Great Detective. She’s deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects.
  • Born April 3, 1962 James R. Black, 60. I’d like to say he’s best known for his leading role as Agent Michael Hailey on The Burning Zone but since it was short-lived and I’m not sure anyone actually watched it on UPN that might be stretching reality a bit. Prior to his run on that series, he’s got a number of one-offs including Babylon 5Deep Space 9, The SentinelSpace: Above and Beyond with his first genre role being Doctor Death in Zombie Cop.
  • Born April 3, 1970 Jo Graham, 52. Her first novel, Black Ships, re-imagines The Aeneid, and her second novel, Hand of Isis,  features the reincarnated main character of the first novel. If that‘s not enough genre cred for you, she’s written Lost Things, with Melissa Scott and a whole of Stargate Atlantis and Stargate SG-1 novels.

(7) TOLKIEN ON TV. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] J.R.R. Tolkien discusses why he wrote a “stupendously long” novel, his love of trees, and how hard it is to write Elvish in this excerpt from a BBC documentary in 1968.

J. R. R. Tolkien speaks to John Ezard about his extraordinarily popular Lord of the Rings series of fantasy novels. The author touches upon their genesis and themes, his fondness for invented languages – and how they are often misinterpreted.

(8) SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Three Normal Goths” on SNL explains how Goths are so normal that even their Goth dog is normal! “Please Don’t Destroy – Three Normal Goths”.

(9) VIDEO OF THE DAY. FirstShowing.net gives us reasons to “Watch: Dystopian Vending Machine Animated Short ‘Change Return’”.

How far are we from this kind of future? Much closer than you might think… Change Return is a funky animated short film made by filmmaker Robert Findlay and it’s only 5 mins long. Set in an underground city in the near future, where services such as healthcare and law enforcement are delegated to local vending machines, a man finds a crafty way to buy a cheap meal. That’s all you need to know going in…

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

Pixel Scroll 1/22/22 How Many Pixels To Babylon? Four-Score Pixels And Ten

(1) MORE AUTHORS EXIT FARPOINT OVER DEFICIENT COVID POLICY. Keith R.A. DeCandido announced that he is also out of Farpoint, as are authors Peter David, Kathleen David, David Mack, and Howard Weinstein. Details on his blog: “I will not be attending Farpoint 2022”.

…Farpoint, unfortunately, is sticking by their COVID policy, which is not to require proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test. They are requiring masks, at least, but given the contagiousness of the Omicron variant and how much more severe it is for unvaccinated, I don’t feel safe being around an indeterminate number of unvaccinated folks. (They’re also permitting guests to unmask while on panels, which strikes me as unnecessarily risky.)

After the really good experiences at Dragon Con and DisCon III (both much larger than Farpoint), who required proof of vaccination and all-masking all the time, I can’t understand why any convention wouldn’t require this much…. 

(2) MIDSOUTHCON. David Mack, who announced on January 18 that he withdrew from Farpoint due to its Covid policy, is also facing questions about MidSouthCon (March 25-27) in Memphis, TN, where he is scheduled to be one of the guests.  

MidSouthCon’s Covid-19 Policy requires masks, however, Tennessee state law prohibits them from requiring proof of vaccination or negative covid tests.

Our attendee’s health and safety is our priority. With that, we are following the guidance of our venue and our local, state, and federal authorities. 

1. Masks – per our venue, masks are required for all visitors/guests in all public space, which is any non-guest-room space. All convention attendees will be expected to adhere to this requirement.

2. Vaccinations – per a recent state law passed by our Tennessee legislature, government entities and private businesses in Tennessee are prohibited from requiring proof of vaccination or negative covid tests to employees, patrons, and visitors…

David Mack told File 770: “I and other guests and vendors of MSC are still discussing the matter with the concom. The MSC concom is scheduled to meet tomorrow, and I am told that they are aware of my post and my withdrawal from Farpoint.

“I hope that the MSC concom will choose to adopt the stricter standard of COVID screening for MidSouthCon. If not, I will have a difficult choice to make.

“However, until they’ve had a chance to discuss it and render some kind of decision, I have refrained from any public comment on their current COVID policy.”

(3) WEIRD ROLE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Friday night’s cold open for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert featured the news that Daniel Radcliffe will play “Weird Al” Yankovic in a streaming biopic. As one might expect, they played up the Harry Potter angle (which is the genre tie-in here). “Weird Al Yankovic Needed A Little Magic To Become Truly Weird”.

(4) FATE OF LOST DOCTOR WHO ANIMATIONS UP IN THE AIR. Radio Times initially reported that “Doctor Who animations of lost episodes ‘cancelled’” but has since learned that while BBC America has pulled out, BBC Studios is actively seeking another partner to work with on future productions.

The remaining Doctor Who animated specials, which have been restoring lost episodes for a new generation, have reportedly been scrapped by the BBC.

The latest entries in the series of releases include last year’s The Evil of the Daleks and Galaxy 4, following Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor and William Hartnell’s First Doctor respectively.

The collaborative project between BBC Studios and BBC America had made much progress towards giving die-hard Whovians a complete library of stories, but that looks as if it might now be cut short.

The Mirror reports that BBC America has pulled its funding from the project, meaning only the one story already in development will be released this year: The Abominable Snowmen (which recently dropped a teaser trailer)….

(5) UP CLOSE. A Tolkien language scholar assesses the differences between the verse from the 1977 translation by Bill Welden and Chris Gilson and the one used in the new Rings of Power trailer. “’Rings of Power’ Tengwar and Sindarin (Prime)” at Tolkniety.

(6) MARLON JAMES. The UC San Diego Library will host a Zoom webinar, “A Conversation with Marlon James,” on January 26 from 5:30-6:45 p.m. Pacific. Free and open to the public. Register here.

In 2015, James won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction for his novel “A Brief History of Seven Killings,” becoming the first Jamaican author to win the award. His 2019 fantasy novel “Black Leopard, Red Wolf,” the first installment in his planned Dark Star Trilogy, was named one of the Washington Post’s top 10 books of 2019 and received awards such as the 2020 Locus Award for Horror. Its film rights were purchased by Warner Bros. and Michael B. Jordan’s production company Outlier Society. The second book in the trilogy, “Moon Witch, Spider King,” will be published in February 2022. 

This virtual event will be moderated by Helen V. Griffith, Ed.D., executive director of The Preuss School UC San Diego.

(7) DON WILSON. Guitarist Don Wilson of The Ventures has died at the age of 88 reports Rolling Stone. The band is in Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but his passing is noted here because Wilson is credited with penning “Love Goddess of Venus,” from 1964’s The Ventures in Space….

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2010 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twelve years ago, a prequel of the rebooted Battlestar Galactica aired on Syfy. It came out right after the original Battlestar Galactica finished up and was followed by the Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome series. 

The show, like so many genre series, was shot in and around Vancouver, British Columbia. In addition, buildings from in the financial district of Dubai have been digitally added to the images of Caprica City to enhance its look. 

Reception among critics was fantastic with Annalee Newitz  of io9.com saying that “Caprica may be starting off a little unevenly, but it’s packed with such a wealth of great ideas that you won’t want to miss a single episode.” And Kris King of Slant magazine stating that  “Caprica manages to take on some daring themes with that familiar dedication to character and plot.” 

Unfortunately, the ratings were less than great, and it was cancelled rather quickly and there were only nineteen episodes ever made. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an excellent eighty-eight percent. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 22, 1906 Robert E. Howard. He’s best remembered for his characters Conan the Barbarian and Solomon Kane, less so for Kull, and is widely regarded as the father of the sword and sorcery subgenre. His Cthulhu mythos stories are quite good. I believe all of these were publish in Weird Tales.  If you’re interested in reading him on your slate, you’re in luck as all the usual suspects are deep stockers of him at very reasonable prices. (Died 1936.)
  • Born January 22, 1925 Katherine MacLean. She received a Nebula Award for “The Missing Man” novella  originally published in Analog in 1971. She was a Professional Guest of Honor at the first WisCon. Short fiction was her forte and her two collections, The Diploids and Other Flights of Fancy and The Trouble with You Earth People, are brilliant. I can’t speak to her three novels, all written in the Seventies and now out of print, only Missing Man is available from the usual suspects, and I’ve not read it. (Died 2019.)
  • Born January 22, 1934 Bill Bixby. Principal casting in several genre series, first in My Favorite Martian as Tim O’Hara, a young newspaper reporter for the LA Sun who discovers that alien, and then as Dr. David Banner in The Incredible Hulk seriesand in both The Incredible Hulk Returns and The Death of the Incredible Hulk films.  He shows up in a number of other genre series including Fantasy IslandTales of the UnexpectedNight GalleryThe Ghost & Mrs. Muir and The Twilight Zone (original version). He also had the lead as Anthony Blake / Anthony Dorian in The Magician seriesbut as he was a stage illusionist, I couldn’t count it as genre… (Died 1993.)
  • Born January 22, 1940 John Hurt. I rarely grieve over the death of one individual, but I liked him. It’s rare that someone comes along like Hurt who is both talented and is genuinely good person that’s easy to like. If we count his role as Tom Rawlings in The Ghoul, Hurt had an almost fifty-year span in genre films and series. He next did voice work in The Lord of the Rings (1978) as the voice of Aragon, and later voiced General Woundwort in seven episodes of the Watership Down TV series.. He appeared as Kane, the first victim, in Alien (and had a cameo in Spaceballs parodying that performance.) Though not genre, I must comment his role as Joseph Merrick in The Elephant Man — simply remarkable. He had the lead as Winston Smith in 1984. He narrates Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound and will later be one of two of the narrators of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. That role is simply magnificent. Ok, I’m just at 1994. He’s about to be S.R. Hadden in Contact. Did you remember he played Garrick Ollivander in Harry Potter films? You certainly remember him as Trevor Bruttenholm in the Hellboy films, all four of them in total. He’s in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as Dr. Harold Oxley, one of the few decent things about that film. Series wise, he’s been around. I’ve got him in Spectre, a Roddenberry occult detective pilot that I’ve not seen. On the Merlin live action series, he provides the voice of the Great Dragon. It’s an amazing role for him. And fitting that he’s a dragon, isn’t it? And of course, he played The War Doctor. It, despite the brevity of the screen time, was a role that he seemed destined to play. Oh, for an entire series of stories about His Doctor! Big Finish, the audiobook company, had the singular honor of having him flesh out his character in a series of stories that he did with them just before his death. I’ve heard some, they’re quite remarkable.  If I’ve missed anything about him that you feel I should’ve touched upon, do tell me. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 22, 1959 Linda Blair, 63. Best known for her role as the possessed child, Regan, in The Exorcist. She reprised her role in Exorcist II: The Heretic. Right after those films she started she started starring in a lot of the really bad horror films. Let’s see… Stranger in Our HouseHell Night (fraternity slasher film),  GrotesqueWitcheryDead Sleep and Scream name a few. She even starred in Repossessed, a comedy parody of The Exorcist
  • Born January 22, 1965 Diane Lane, 57. I’ve got her as Ellen Aim In Streets of Fire which I count as genre. She’s Chief Judge Barbara Hershey in Judge Dredd, a film I’ll freely admit that I actually like because it catches the pop culture feel of the 2000 A.D. comics in a way the second film doesn’t. Next up for her is playing Mary Rice in Jumper. She’s been playing Martha Kent in the DC Universe films as of late. 
  • Born January 22, 1970 Alex Ross, 52. Comic writer and artist. His first work was as an artist was Terminator: The Burning Earth. My favorite work is Kingdom Come was written by Mark Waid and him and painted in him. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) LEARNED LEAGUE. N. says, “Learned League is fun!”

LL is a creed. An ideal. A Weltanschauung.

More specifically, it is an online trivia league, where members face one another head-to-head in a season. There is trivia. And there is defense. And there is crying. And there is more, here.

January 20’s “One Day Special” was “Robots in Pop Culture”. N. says, “A health ailment caused me to miss out on this one, but giving it a cursory glance, I would’ve gotten…4 to 5 of them right?”

Oh, I almost forgot this one from a day earlier: “One-Day Special: Nichelle Nichols”.

Today there’s a One-Day Special with questions on Doctor Who.

(12) BE FREE! Yes, these are the stories we scour the world for: “Robot vacuum cleaner escapes from Cambridge Travelodge” in BBC News.

A robot vacuum cleaner made a break for freedom after giving staff the slip at a Travelodge hotel.

The automated cleaner failed to stop at the front door of the hotel in Orchard Park in Cambridge on Thursday, and was still on the loose the following day.

Staff said it just kept going and “could be anywhere” while well-wishers on social media hoped the vacuum enjoyed its travels, as “it has no natural predators” in the wild.

It was found under a hedge on Friday.

(13) MEANWHILE…. [Item by Michael Toman.] Coming Soon From the Folks at The Asylum, the ones who brought you “Sharknado” and alla them sequels? “100 Flying Monkey Apocalypse?” With special thanks to Chris Marker, Terry Gilliam, Elizabeth Hand, Kij Johnson, and L. Frank Baum? “Police: Truck with 100 monkeys crashes, some of them missing”.

How many Other Filers do you know who would also stream or rent that particular flick? “Mockbuster Spec Script Scribes, Start Your Word Processors!”

The driver of a pickup transporting monkeys pulls a crate of monkeys off of state Route 54 at the intersection with Interstate 80 near Danville, Pa., Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, after the pickup and trailer were hit by a dump truck. They were transporting 100 monkeys and several were on the loose at the time of the photo.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers:  Five Nights At Freddy’s:  Security Breach,” Fandom Games says this latest addition to the Five Nights At Freddy’s franchise is so bad that it “sucks harder than a jet engine” and “there’s nothing you can get out of this experience that you can’t get out of a wiki article.”

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

A Star Wars Song Parodies Sampler: Because OGH
Asked For It [1]

[1] As in, in a comment back-and-forth in a previous scroll.

By Daniel Dern: In a comment to Item (7) “DANIELS OBIT. [Item by Danny Sichel.] Country singer Charlie Daniels — who wrote ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’” for “Pixel Scroll 7/6/20 Toss Me A Pixel Scroll, I Think There’s One In My Raincoat” I noted:

A quick site search suggests this hasn’t previously been “itemized”:

The Jedi Went Down to Tattooine

Followed by:

…there’s (unsurprisingly) no shortage of great Star Wars parodies — songs and otherwise. (Hmm, MAD did enough to put out a whole book MAD About Star Wars: Thirty Years of Classic Parodies  (includes covers and fold-ins!).

My favorites include Mark Jonathan Davis’s (aka Richard Cheese) The Star Wars Cantina

(here’s a version with lyrics scrolling)

And The Phantom Medley

— Somewhere I’ve got the CD (includes MP3 versions) of these & 6+ other Star Wars tunes he did. (Mike, happy to do an item or post with more, or we can just add thread.)

To which, in the subsequent comment, OGH said, “A post would be very welcome.” (Which, irrelevantly, calls to mind Ogden Nash’s very-short “Ode To A Baby”.)

So here, per this post’s title, is a bunch of additional Star War parodies, including a few I hadn’t known about. (Found, unsurprisingly, by simple dint of doing a web search (I use DuckDuckGo, BTW) on “Star Wars song parody” — also try using “parodies” for a slightly different yield.)

The videos follow the jump.

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 8/14/17 All These Scrolls Are Yours, Except Europa; Attempt No Pixelings There

(1) LITIGATING CLARKE’S LAW. N.K. Jemisin is interviewed by Joel Cunningham of the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog in “The Logistics of Throwing Mountains: N.K. Jemisin Discusses The Broken Earth Trilogy”.

The Broken Earth series seems to straddle a line between fantasy and hard science (e.g. the orogenes of the novels acquire their names from orogeny: a folding of the lithosphere that creates mountains, but functionally what they perform is magic). There’s a whole mess of science underpinning the magic. What kind of research did you undertake to make orogeny something done by orogenes. and not a flat, scientific term?

I did want to play around a bit with that corollary of Clarke’s law—the idea that any sufficiently systematized magic is indistinguishable from science. A few years back I wrote a blog post called “But but but—why does magic have to make sense?” in which I argued that the whole point of magic was to defy reasoning and repeatability and all the things that equal science.

But then I wanted to write a world that tries to make sense of it anyway, and partially succeeds. And we can see by the obelisks floating through the sky of the Stillness that at one point in the distant past, people did figure magic out to a much greater degree. At that point, is it still magic? Has it become science? That’s one of the concepts the series is chewing on.

Research-wise, I hung out in seismologist forums and follow a bunch of geologist accounts on Twitter, and read a lot of layperson-oriented articles. I also visit volcanoes whenever possible, because I’m fascinated by them. Awesome demonstrations of the Earth’s power and potential fury. On a research trip to Hawai’i a few years back, I visited four volcanoes in four days. That was fun.

(2)  CASTING NEWS. What a combination of actors and writers — “Michael Sheen, David Tennant to Star in Neil Gaiman’s ‘Good Omens’ at Amazon”.

Michael Sheen and David Tennant have been cast in the lead roles in the Amazon series adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s “Good Omens,” Variety has learned.

The show is set in 2018 on the brink of an apocalypse as humanity prepares for a final judgment. But Aziraphale, a somewhat fussy angel, and Crowley, a demon, aren’t enthusiastic about the end of the world, and can’t seem to find the Antichrist. Sheen will play the role of Aziraphale, while Tennant will play Crowley. It will consist of six one-hour episodes.

…. Gaiman adapted all six episodes of the series and will also serve as showrunner. Following its exclusive launch on Amazon Prime Video, the series will also be broadcast on BBC in the U.K.

(3) BRADBURY LECTURE. The 4th Annual Ray Bradbury Memorial Lecture “Escape Velocity: Ray Bradbury and the American Space Program” will be presented by Jonathan R. Eller, Chancellor’s Professor of English and Director, Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, IUPUI on August 23, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. in the Central Library Riley Room at 40 E. St. Clair Street.

One of the reasons that Ray Bradbury remains one of the best-known writers of our time is that his dreams of reaching the stars became our dreams, too. The stories that grew into The Martian Chronicles and filled the pages of The Illustrated Man paved the way for his half-century relationship with NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and all the missions that took humans to the moon and launched unmanned craft to all the planets of our solar system.

(4) RUGS FOR THUGS. The Drum interviewed an Ikea marketer about “How Ikea responded to the news HBO’s Game of Thrones uses its rugs as costumes”.

Responding to the news, Ikea decked out some of its staff in the rugs in a real-time marketing stunt, jumping upon the Game of Thrones bandwagon in an organic way.

The Drum: Was the marketing team aware that Ikea goods were being used to furnish the show?

AF: We weren’t aware that Ikea’s rugs had been used in the show until the PR team spotted it in the news on Monday morning. Together with our PR agency, Hope & Glory, we quickly developed an idea that provided our ‘twinkle in the eye’ take on the news, it was low cost and could be pulled together in a couple of hours. As any PR professional will know, timing is of the essence when a story breaks and we wanted to be able to respond as quickly as possible.

We connected with the Ikea Wembley store and the deputy store manager walked the shop-floor identifying co-workers that looked the part to re-create the Game of Thrones look. Within a couple of hours we were in the rugs department with the co-workers, trying on the different rugs and generally having a bit of a laugh.

(5) RECORD HOLDER. After he saw this photo John Hertz asked, “What does Brother Davidson say about the last line of that Guinness certificate?”

Hugo Award Record

Steve Davidson replied, “The government of the United States has, in their lack of infinite wisdom, chosen NOT to give me exclusive control and ownership of the word ‘AMAZING’, more’s the pity.”

(6) SCIENCE IMAGINED. Nancy Kress analyzes the cultural impact of “The Science of Science Fiction:  The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”.

However, that the “science” the public learns from SF is debatable doesn’t strike me as the worst problem. That comes from another source: Writers and scriptwriters often make science itself the villain. A problem involving some scientific advance—cloning, nanotechnology, AI—is set up, and all the negative aspects of the tech are brought out, exaggerated, falsified, and blamed. I understand the impetus for this—I’m a writer, too!—which is to create the conflict necessary to drive any story. But the cumulative net effect is the impression that new science and its offspring, new tech, are invariably bad.

In the movie Ex Machina, robots turn murderous.

In countless SF stories, AI tries to take over and must be fought, shut down, destroyed.

Cloning produces not crops or food animals that can feed an ever-expanding population, but rather the oppressive (and ridiculous) one-world biological totalitarianism of Gattaca

(7) BOLOGNA OBIT. Actor Joe Bologna died August 13 at the age of 82. He was well-known for playing King Kaiser in My Favorite Year (1982). His genre work included The Big Bus (1976), and Transylvania 6-5000 (1985). He voiced characters in the animated Superman TV series (1997-1998), and Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006).

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

When first introduced to Eastern bloc fans at an Eighties Worldcon, they called them “the black cookies.” They’re a fan favorite, but Yahoo! claims “You Will Never Look at Oreos the Same Way Again After Reading These Facts”.

To date, Oreo has over 42 million Facebooks followers. In comparison, The New York Times has 13 million.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 14, 1975 The Rocky Horror Picture Show premieres.

Let’s do the Time Warp again!

  • August 14, 2009 District 9 premiered on this day.

(10) COMIC SECTION.

(11) W75’S CANCELLED LARP. Jaakko Stenros and Markus Montola tell the LARP community’s side of the story in “How Worldcon Banned a Larp”.

On Friday the discussion on the topic continued in social media, where misunderstandings spread fast. For example, one tweeter wrote that the “scenario is ‘you are in an old folks home, have Alzheimer’s, and think you’re one of your RPG characters, hilarity ensues’.” Afterwards some were under the impression that “hilarity ensues” was a quote from the program description when in fact it was an interpretation of a tweeter.

However, now there were people also defending A Home for the Old on Facebook and Twitter and criticizing the actions of Worldcon. Many Nordic role-players found the statement’s tone condescending and rife with cultural imperialism — of Anglo-Americans trying to ‘civilize the natives’ by instilling their moral conventions on a subculture they clearly failed to understand.

No benefit of the doubt was given, and there was an aura of assuming that the Nordic creators had obviously not thought about the implications of their little games — simply because the usual phrases relating to identity politics were not foregrounded in the blurb. The idea that a creative work can just be cast aside, censored, with no debate, based on rather flimsy basis, was found appalling by many Nordic people deeply invested in the role-playing culture. A Home for the Old, and by extension the Nordic role-playing culture, was cast as not worthy of debate.

(Finland has the highest incidence of Alzheimer’s in the world.)

All of this is in stark contrast with the Nordic and Finnish cultural context, where larps, role-playing games, and games in general, are considered valuable works worthy of analysis, criticism, respect, and debate. Role-playing is a form of artistic expression that continues to gain momentum and respect.

(12) CRITIC. Frans Mäyrä, Professor of Information Studies and Interactive Media, esp. Digital Culture and Game Studies in the University of Tampere, Finland, took offense at the decision: “LARP: Art not worthy?”

There will be no doubt multiple reactions coming in to this from experts of this field in the future. My short comment: this is an unfortunate case of censorship, based on cultural perception of play and games as inherently trivializing or “fun-based” form of low culture. It seems that for some people, there still are strict cultural hierarchies even within the popular culture, with games at the very bottom – and that handling something sensitive with the form of role-play, for example, can be an insult. Such position completely ignores the work that has been done for decades in Nordic LARP and in digital indie “art games” (and also within the academic traditions of game studies) to expand the range of games and play for cultural expression, and to remove expectation or stigma of automatic trivialism from the interactive forms of art and culture. The organisers have obviously been pressurised by some vocal individuals, but the outcome in this case was a failure to stand up, explain the value and potential of role-playing games, and Nordic LARP in particular to an international audience, and make a difference. A sad day.

(13) REMEMBER THAT MONEY YOU SAVED FOR A RAINY DAY? Here’s the outfit to spend it on – a bargain at only $20,000 — the “SPIDER~MAN 2 Original Movie Prop Signed by Stan Lee ~Trenchcoat Worn by Stan”. Rush right over to eBay!

This incredible SPIDER~MAN original movie prop features the trenchcoat that Stan Lee wore during the scene in which he saves a life. This is the ONLY time that Stan makes an appearance where he gets involved to save someone! Best of all it comes signed by Stan Lee. It comes with a COA from Sony/Columbia Pictures and Hollywood Vault who were the official auctioneer a few years ago

(14) HARDWARE FOR THE LONG HAUL. Marketplace explains why “NASA is testing supercomputers to send to Mars”.

Scientists in space have computers, but they don’t exactly look like the one you might be reading this on. Computers in space have highly specific functions. There is no consumer-grade Mac or PC up in space. A lot of that has the do with the fact that laptops in space degrade quickly out there.

But NASA wants to fix that problem by creating new supercomputers, developed in partnership with Hewlett Packard Enterprise. The technology is being tested on the International Space Station in hopes that the computer can withstand trips to Mars.

(15) YOUTUBE MUSICAL. Hamilton’s opening number — with the words changed to be about Game of Thrones.

(16) WEIRD AL. Last week’s crisis, this week’s filk: “Watch ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic Beg North Korea Not To Nuke Us On Last Week Tonight”.

After highlighting the accordion skills of North Koreans earlier in the show, Oliver introduced Yankovic to play a whole new polka song about all the reasons that North Korea should not nuke us. Tom Hanks figured heavily. Sample lyric: “Please don’t nuke us, North Korea / Right now, we’re all a little tense / Believe me, we don’t hate you / In fact, we really don’t even think all that much about you, no offense.”

 

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 2/4/16 “Who Nominated J.R.?”

John Hodgman

John Hodgman

(1) HODGMAN TO PRESENT NEBULAS. SFWA has picked comedian John Hodgman to emcee the 50th Annual Nebula Awards in Chicago at the SFWA Nebula Conference on May 14.

John Hodgman is the longtime Resident Expert on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and the host of the popular Judge John Hodgman Podcast. He has also appeared on Conan, The Late Late Show, @midnight, and This American Life. The Village Voice named his show Ragnarok one of the top ten stand up specials of 2013. In 2015, he toured his new show Vacationland. He has performed comedy for the President of the United States and George R.R. Martin, and discussed love and alien abduction at the TED conference.

In addition to the Nebula Awards, SFWA will present the Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, the Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book, the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award, the Kevin O’Donnell, Jr. Service to SFWA Award, and the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award.

(2) BYE BYE BABBAGE. Chris Garcia is mourning the withdrawal of the Babbage machine from exhibit from the Computer History Museum.

Babbage Difference Engine No 2

Babbage Difference Engine No 2

After eight years at the Computer History Museum (CHM), the Babbage Difference Engine No. 2 is bidding farewell and returning to its owner.

The Difference Engine No. 2 has had a wonderful home at the Museum. Our Babbage demonstrations have amazed more than 500,000 visitors, providing them with the unprecedented opportunity to see and hear the mechanical engine working—a stunning display of Victorian mechanics.

People will have to content themselves with CHM’s online Babbage exhibit.

Dave Doering said:

I figure they knew the price would one day come due for the chance to host it there for eight years. I mean, everyone today knows about “excess Babbage fees.”

(3) ASTEROID BELT AND SUSPENDERS. The government of Luxembourg announced it will be investing in the as-yet-unrealized industry of asteroid mining in “Luxembourg Hopes To Rocket To Front of Asteroid-Mining Space Race”. An NPR article says there are both technical and legal hurdles to overcome.

First, of course, there are technical challenges involved in finding promising targets, sending unmanned spacecraft to mine them and returning those resources safely to Earth.

Humans have yet to successfully collect even a proof-of-concept asteroid sample. …

The second issue is a legal one. Asteroids are governed by the Outer Space Treaty, nearly 50 years old now, which says space and space objects don’t belong to any individual nation. What that means for mining activities has never been tested in international courts because, well, nobody’s managed to mine an asteroid yet.

But there’s a fair amount of uncertainty, as Joanne Gabrynowicz, a director at the International Institute of Space Law, told NPR’s Here & Now last February.

“Anybody who wants to go to an asteroid now and extract a resource is facing a large legal open question,” she said.

The U.S. passed a law near the end of last year, the Space Act of 2015, which says American companies are permitted to harvest resources from outer space. The law asserts that extracting minerals from an extraterrestrial object isn’t a declaration of sovereignty. But it’s not clear what happens if another country passes a contradictory law, or if treaties are arranged that cover extraction of minerals from space.

Luxembourg hopes to address this issue, too, with a formal legal framework of its own — possibly constructed with international input — to ensure that those who harvest minerals can be confident that they’ll own what they bring home.

(4) WRITERS WHO THINK UP STUFF. Steven H Silver points out, “Of the authors listed in 8 Things Invented By Famous Writers at Mental Floss, Heinlein, Wolfe, Clarke, Atwood, Carroll, Dahl, and arguably Twain are SF authors.”

  1. THE PRINGLES CHIP MACHINE // GENE WOLFE

Prior to beginning his contributions to the science fiction genre with The Fifth Head of Cerberus in 1972, Wolfe was a mechanical engineering major who accepted a job with Procter & Gamble. During his employment, Wolfe devised a way for the unique, shingle-shaped Pringles chips to be fried and then dumped into their cylindrical packaging. (Despite his resemblance to Mr. Pringle, there is no evidence the chip mascot was based on him.)

(5) POLAR BOREALIS PREMIERES. The first issue of R. Graeme Cameron’s semipro fiction magazine Polar Borealis has been posted. Get a free copy here. Cameron explains how the magazine works:

Polar Borealis is aimed at beginning Canadian writers eager to make their first sale, with some pros to provide role models.

In Issue #1:

  • Art by Jean-Pierre Normand, Lynne Taylor Fahnestalk, and Taral Wayne.
  • Poems by Rissa Johnson, Eileen Kernaghan, and Rhea Rose.
  • Stories by Christel Bodenbender, R. Graeme Cameron, Steve Fahnestalk, Karl Johanson, Rissa Johnson, Kelly Ng, Craig Russell, Robert J. Sawyer, T.G. Shepherd, Casey June Wolf, and Flora Jo Zenthoefer.

(6) A RATHER LARGE SCIENCE FAIR. The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair, to be held March 16-19 in Birmingham, “is the largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) for young people in the UK.”

Held at the NEC, Birmingham 16-19 March 2016, The Big Bang Fair is an award-winning combination of exciting theatre shows, interactive workshops and exhibits, as well careers information from STEM professionals.

We aim to show young people (primarily aged 7-19) the exciting and rewarding opportunities out there for them with the right experience and qualifications, by bringing classroom learning to life.

Having grown from 6,500 visitors in its first year (2009) to nearly 70,000 in 2015, The Big Bang Fair is made possible thanks to the collaborative efforts of over 200 organisations

(7) JUST NEEDS A LITTLE SMACK. Michael Swanwick, in the gracious way people do on the internet, expressed his bad opinion of the movie I, Robot (2004) in these terms:

Just watched I, ROBOT. I want to punch everybody involved in the face. Very, very hard. Dr. Asimov would approve.

[Okay, to spare people’s feelings, I want to punch THOSE RESPONSIBLE in the face. Still hated the movie.]

This ticked off Jeff Vintar, who wrote the original spec script and shared credit for the screenplay. Vintar posted a 1,200 word comment telling how his original script got turned into an “adaptation” and how these links of Hollywood sausage got made.

Having been one of the film’s biggest critics, I have watched over the years — to my surprise — as many people find quite a bit of Asimov still in it. I’m always glad when I read a critical analysis on-line or a university paper that makes the case that it is more Asimov than its reputation would suggest, or when I get contacted by a real roboticist who tells me they were inspired by the movie and went on to a career in robotics. And then of course there are the kids, who love it to death…

But I never go around defending the film or talking about it, because although I still believe my original script would have made a phenomenal ‘I, Robot’ film, there is no point. That any film gets made at all seems at times like a miracle.

But your stupid, yes stupid, ‘punch in the face’ post compelled me to write. I love Asimov as much as you do, probably more, because of all the time I spent living and breathing it. I also wrote an adaptation of Foundation that I spent years and years fighting for.

So, you want to punch me in the face? My friend, I would have already knocked you senseless before you cocked back your arm. I have been in this fight for more than twenty years. You’re a babe in the woods when it comes to knowing anything about Hollywood compared to me, and what it’s like fighting for a project you love for ten years, some for twenty years and counting.

Yet this exchange did not end the way most of these Facebook contretemps do.

Michael Swanwick answered:

I feel bad for you. That must have been an awful experience. But I spoke as a typical viewer, not as a writer. The movie was like the parson’s egg — parts of it were excellent, but the whole thing was plopped down on the plate. For my own part, I’d love to have the Hollywood money, but have no desire at all to write screenplays. I’ve heard stories like yours before.

Then Vintar wrote another long reply, which said in part:

Other writers are not our enemies. We are not fighting each other, not competing with each other, although that is a powerful illusion. As always the only enemy is weakness within ourselves, and I suppose entropy, the laws of chance, and groupthink. Ha, there are others! But I stopped throwing punches a long time ago. (Believe me, I used to.) You guys are great, thanks Michael….

And the love fest began.

(8) OGDEN OBIT. Jon P. Ogden (1944-2016), devoted Heinlein fan and member of the Heinlein Society, died January 27, Craig Davis and David Lubkin reported on Facebook. [Via SF Site News.]

(9) ALASKEY OBIT. Voice actor Joe Alaskey, who took over performing Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck after actor Mel Blanc died in 1989, himself passed away February 3. CNN reports the 63-year-old actor had been battling cancer.

Mark Evanier’s tribute to Alaskey on News From Me also tells about one of his vocal triumphs outside the realm of animation —

When [Jackie] Gleason’s voice needed to be replicated to fix the audio on the “lost” Honeymooners episodes, Joe was the man.

A few years after that, Joe was called upon to redub an old Honeymooners clip for a TV commercial. When he got the call, Joe assured the ad agency that if they needed him, he could also match the voice of Art Carney as Ed Norton. He was told they already had someone to do that — someone who did it better. Joe was miffed until he arrived at the recording session and discovered that the actor they felt could do a better job as Art Carney…was Art Carney. Joe later said that playing Kramden to Carney’s Norton was the greatest thrill of his life, especially after Carney asked him for some pointers on how to sound more like Ed.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

cranky-snickers_0

  • February 4, 1930 – The Snickers bar hits the market.
  • February 4, 1938 — Disney releases Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. (Did Disney miss a product placement opportunity by naming a dwarf Grumpy instead of Cranky?)

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY CLUB

  • February 4, 1976 – Sfera, the oldest SF society in former Yugoslavia, was founded.

[Via Google Translate] On this day in 1976, a group of young (and less young) enthusiasts launched as part of the astronautical and rocket club Zagreb “Section for science fiction”…

(12) TODAY’S BITHDAY BOY

(13) WEIRD AL CAST. “Weird Al” Yankovic will voice the title character in Milo Murphy’s Law, Disney XD’s animated comedy series, reports Variety.

The satirical songwriter will provide the voice of the titular character Milo Murphy, the optimistic distant grandson of the famed Murphy’s Law namesake. In addition to voicing the main character, Yankovic will sing the show’s opening theme song and perform other songs throughout the duration of the series….

“Milo Murphy’s Law” will follow the adventures of Milo and his best friends Melissa and Zack as they attempt to embrace life’s catastrophes with positive attitudes and enthusiasm.

(14) RABID PUPPIES. Vox Day posted four picks for the Best Fancast category today.

(15) SAD PUPPIES. Damien G. Walter japed:

(16) PUPPY COMPARISON. Doris V. Sutherland posted “2014 Hugos Versus 2015 Sad Puppies: Novellas”, the third installment, the purpose of which she explains in the introduction —

In this series on the Sad Puppies controversy, I have been comparing the works picked for the 2015 Sad and Rabid Puppies slates with the stories that were nominated for the Hugo in 2014. Were the previous nominees truly overwhelmed with preachy “message fiction”? What kinds of stories had the Sad Puppies chosen to promote in response?

Having taken a look at the Best Short Story and Best Novelette categories, I shall now cover the Hugo Awards’ final short fiction category: Best Novella, the section for stories of between 17,500 and 40,000 words in length. Let us see how the two sets of stories compare…

At the end of her interesting commentary, she concludes:

…Let us take a look through some of the previously-discussed categories. Aside from Vox Day’s story, only one of the 2014 Best Novelette nominees can be read as “message fiction”: Aliette de Bodard’s “The Waiting Stars,” which has an anti-colonial theme. I have also heard the accusation of propaganda directed at John Chu’s “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere”, a story about a gay couple. But once again, I see nothing clumsy or poorly-handled about de Bodard’s exploration of colonialism or Chu’s portrayal of a same-sex couple. So far, the accusation of preachiness appears to be based largely Rachel Swirsky’s “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love”, which has the straightforward message that hate begets hate.

None of these stories push a specific message as strongly or as directly as John C. Wright’s One Bright Star to Guide Them. This raises an obvious question: exactly which group is rewarding message fiction here…?

[Thanks to Gary Farber, JJ, David K.M. Klaus, Brian Z., Steven H Silver, Jumana Aumir, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Dave Doering for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]