Pixel Scroll 10/10/22 I Demand Satisfaction. Pixels At Dawn

Illo by Joe Pearson

(1) ASKING ABOUT BRAIN-COMPUTER INTERFACES IN SF. Prof. Brendan Allison has a question, and File 770 has volunteered to try and crowdsource the answer:

I am an academic researcher in the field of brain-computer interfaces (BCIs). I’m writing a book chapter about BCIs in science fiction, called BCI-fi. Among other academic pursuits, I’m looking for the first reference to an artificial brain interface. It must involve a device. I’m just writing you as a way to research this question.   

The earliest reference so far was the first X-Men comic in 1963. Professor X can “interface” with psychic power – which doesn’t count – but also uses a brain interface to bolster that ability. Frankenstein does use a device to stimulate the brain, but that’s arguably not an interface.

Prof. Allison also sent links to recordings of two recent workshops about BCI-fi where one of the participants was Andy Weir. (“BCI Thursdays Next Generations: BCI-fi Part 1” and “BCI Thursdays Next Generations: BCI-fi Part 2”.)

In this two-part event, we will have prominent speakers within the BCI-fi community to discuss their contributions to BCI-fi, their favorite examples of BCI-fi including movies, books, and podcasts, and next steps to develop, foster, or publicize “good” BCI-fi. We will be joined by Dr. Brendan Allison (UCSD), Andy Weir (author of The Martian), Dr. Eric Leuthardt (Washington University in St. Louis), Stephen Hou (host of Neurratives podcast), Dr. Richard Ramchurn (University of Nottingham), Dr. Jane Huggins (University of Michigan) and Dr. Robert Hampson (Wake Forest University).

(2) IS THERE AN IDEAL LENGTH? “Novels versus novellas in Speculative Fiction” are debated at A Deep Look by Dave Hook.

Many argue that the perfect length for speculative fiction is the novella, or short novel. Some believe that this is long enough to tell a successful story while not longer than needed. It is said that this length allows for character development and change, and perhaps multiple plot lines, while short enough to be taut and not meander or bog down.

I don’t know if it’s true that the novella is the perfect length for speculative fiction, but it is certainly true that many great works of speculative fiction are novella length, whether works such as “The Times Machine” by H. G. Wells right up to modern fiction such as “A Spindle Splintered” by Alix E. Harrow….

(3) SFWA SF STORYBUNDLE SUBMISSION CALL. The Independent Authors Committee of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA) is open for submissions for their science fiction StoryBundle to be released next spring. Submissions will be accepted through October 31, 2022, at 11:59pm Eastern Time. The theme for the call is Space is Big. Really Big. They are looking for space opera and “other books that span large swaths of space.” Full guidelines for this submission call can be found here.

StoryBundles are curated collections of books offered at a discounted price. Proceeds go to the participating authors and StoryBundle, and a small cut is donated to SFWA. 

This is a great chance for independent and small press authors to gain more exposure and sell more books! Submissions of indie and traditionally published novels will be accepted, though publishers must give permission in writing. You do not need to be a SFWA member to apply! 

We welcome full-length science fiction novels of over 40,000 words. We ask that authors submit only one novel, and do not submit a novel that has appeared in any previous StoryBundle (SFWA or otherwise.) Please only submit novels that will be for sale by March 1, 2023. You must have full rights to enter your novel in the StoryBundle, and the novel must not be in Amazon’s KDP Select at the time that the StoryBundle is offered.  Participants will be notified by December 1, 2022, so that any books enrolled in KDP will have time to be brought out of exclusivity before the bundle is released on or about March 1, 2023.

Questions may be directed to [email protected]

(4) FUNDRAISING FOR THE THOMASES. The Gofundme for “Lynne and Michael Thomas”, who are facing the loss of their 19-year-old daughter Caitlin to medical complications from Aicardi Syndrome, had raised $58,486 when checked earlier today.  Jim C. Hines, who set up the appeal, explained what it’s for:

…I’ve spoken a bit with Michael. It sounds like the medical costs of Caitlin’s treatment are covered. End-of-life costs are another matter.

The goal of this fundraiser is to cover those end-of-life expenses, and to hopefully provide a financial cushion to allow the Thomases to spend their remaining time with Caitlin – and when the time comes, to grieve – without also having to worry about money. All donations will go directly to Michael and Lynne (with the exception of GoFundMe’s processing fee)….

(5) EKPEKI CROWDFUNDING. The Gofundme to “Send Oghenechovwe Ekpeki World Fantasy Con” has brought in $2,000 of its $4,000 goal as of this afternoon.  Jason Sanford outlined why it’s needed:

…A successful previous fundraiser brought Ekpeki to this year’s Worldcon, where he was a finalist for two Hugo Awards. However, his gruesome battle with the US embassy in Nigeria for a visa and exorbitant fees and repeated payments resulting from that (including last-minute changes to his international flights) resulted in costs far exceeding what that fundraiser brought in. So this new fundraiser would also mop up those expenses as well….

(6) NEVERTHELESS, A BRADBURY AND ASIMOV FAN. “Temple Grandin Is a Visual Thinker Who Hates Graphic Novels” according to a headline in the New York Times. Here’s an excerpt from their interview with Grandin.  

What kind of a reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you?

I was not able to read until I was age 8. Mother tutored me with phonics, and I quickly went from no reading to reading above my age level. My favorite books when I was in fourth grade were “Black Beauty,” “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” and a children’s book about famous inventors. I really related to Black Beauty’s pain when he was forced to pull a heavy carriage with his head held up by a bearing rein. The inventor book appealed to me because I loved to tinker with my kites to make them fly better.

What genres do you especially enjoy reading and which do you avoid?

I avoid romance novels. The books I really enjoy are either about animals or science fiction. I loved “Merle’s Door,” by Ted Kerasote. Many dogs today live really restricted lives and they have no normal dog social life. Another favorite is “The Soul of the Octopus,” by Sy Montgomery. It really made me think about consciousness. When I received a review copy of “A Dog’s Purpose,” by W. Bruce Cameron, I could not put it down. In the science fiction genre, I am a fan of Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov.

(7) PICK SIX. How long has this variation been around? A spinoff from Nerds of a Feather’s “Six Books” interview series is “6 Games With Aidan Moher”.

1. What game are you currently playing?

Appropriately, I’m splitting my time between a couple of JRPGs—one current, one retro.

On the big screen downstairs I’m about 60 hours into Xenoblade Chronicles 3 and still mildly obsessed. I really love a lot of creator Tetsuya Takahashi’s older games—especially Xenogears, which I just finished replaying—but bounced hard off Xenoblade Chronicles 2, so I was a little hesitant when they announced the third game. It’s exceeded all of my expectations, though, and is probably my favourite game in the series now—an improvement on the second game in pretty much every way. Vast world, memorable characters, and Takahashi’s typical zany JRPG plot is a drool-worth combination.

Upstairs in my CRT corner, I’m playing Paper Mario for the Nintendo 64 for the first time. I’ve enjoyed many other games in the series—including Sticker Star, which has a bad reputation—but the original slipped past me for a variety of reasons. It’s wild to go back to the very beginning and see all of the series’s trademarks right there, fully formed, polished, and perfectly enjoyable 20 years later. It’s genuinely funny, the combat is simple but engaging thanks to its timing-based mechanics, and it’s got some of the best graphics on the system.

(8) WAS THE ZODIAC KILLER A FAN? [Item by Susan de Guardiola.] There’s a new theory that the Zodiac killer was a fan, Paul Doerr.

The news reports on this are the first time I’ve ever seen fanzines, filk, D&D, SCA, Renfaires, etc. paired with a Zodiac killer theory.

The evidence is circumstantial, but there’s an awful lot of it.

Los Angeles Magazine devoted an article to the question “Has The Zodiac Killer Mystery Been Solved (Again)”, discussing author Jarrett Kobek’s books Motor Spiritabout the misbegotten hunt for Zodiac, and How to Find Zodiacabout Paul Doerr. 

… As he studied Zodiac’s cryptic letters, Kobek brought a writerly attention to bear. He zeroed in on the killer’s habit of quoting forgotten bits of cultural ephemera (the well-known call-outs to The Mikado and to the 1924 short story “The Most Dangerous Game,” as well as a telling reference to an obscure 1950s comic book, identified by an anonymous online researcher, Tahoe27, several years back). Running other apparent quotations through Google Books and the Internet Archive, Kobek formed a picture of the killer as a fan of pulp novels, comics, and other nerdy touchstones. Kobek knew a bit about the early years of the sci-fi and fantasy fandoms, how these nascent communities had begun taking shape around an array of obscure self-published zines. On a hunch, he did a quick web search of “fanzines” and “Vallejo.”…

Paul Haynes has published a long Twitter thread about Kobek’s evidence, now collected in three parts at Threadreader: Part I; Part II; Part III.

I don’t know if anyone who knew Paul Doerr is still around.

(9) THE CORFLU AUCTION IS NOW LIVE! The catalog for the Corflu Pangloss auction is now online at Corflu.org and eFanzines.com. Anyone can bid on those 80 lots, including non-members – the catalog has instruction on how to bid. See the Pangloss Fanzine Auction Catalog and Bid Sheet at the links.

Corflu has a long tradition of raising funds to support the convention by selling and auctioning off vintage science fiction fanzines before, during and sometimes after the convention. As Corflu is a convention devoted to fanzines and the fans who create them, it has always been a natural place to buy, sell or trade zines, and the live auction has often raised very impressive sums.

For the 39th issue of the convention, taking place October 21st to 23rd, 2022 in Vancouver, British Columbia, we have taken a new approach…  By creating this catalog of auction items and publishing it some weeks in advance of the convention, we hope to allow fans not attending Corflu Pangloss to participate. Anyone interested in buying is invited to send their bids by email to [email protected] by midnight, Pacific daylight time on October 22nd, 2022.

(10) MEMORY LANE.  

1992 [By Cat Eldridge.] “Relics” was the one hundred and thirtieth episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I found it to be one of the more fascinating episodes that series did and I’ll tell why in a minute, but first let’s talk about the usual details. 

Ronald Dowl Moore was the writer of this episode and he was best known fleshing out the Klingons. He also wrote the series finale here, “All Good Things…” which won the Hugo Award at Intersection.  And yes, he’s done a lot more Great Things than that but I have an understanding with OGH that I’ll try to keep things reasonably brief.

So why do I like it? Look there’s a Dyson Sphere being depicted as far as I know for the very first time on a video series! Y’all know what that is so you know why I’m so excited by this.

And then there’s the matter of the idea of the Enterprise in responding to a distress signal having the singular honor of rescuing Capt. Montgomery Scott! 

So how do the two connect? 

Well, the Enterprise, responding to a distress call discovers a Dyson sphere where they the distress call to the USS Jenolan, a Federation transport ship that has been missing for seventy-five years, which they find crashed on the sphere’s outer shell. And in the transporter buffer field, jury rigged to keep working, are two signals, two patterns, one degraded to be saved, the other that of Doohan. 

He bonds with Geordie which is fortunate as together they need to figure out how to get the Enterprise out of that damn Sphere. Afterwards he’s feeling like a relic but Picard cheers him up. As the Enterprise returns to its mission, the crew of the ship give Scott a shuttlecraft “on extended loan” to do whatever he wanted. 

I thought the writers did a nice job of making him a believable character, much more to be honest than the original series often did. And critics agreed as they’ve consistently voted this to be one of the best episodes of the series.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Born October 10, 1927 Dana Elcar. Most of you will remember him as Peter Thornton on MacGyver, but he has a long genre history including Russ in Condorman which was inspired by Robert Sheckley’s The Game of X. He also played Sheriff George Paterson in Dark Shadows, and showed up in 2010 as Dimitri Moisevitch. (Died 2005.)

Born October 10, 1924 Edward Wood Jr. Though known for Plan 9 from Outer Space, he did a lot of other bad genre films including Night of the Monster and Bride of The Ghouls. (Died 1978.)

Born October 10, 1929 Robin HardyWicker Man is the film he’s known for though he followed that up with The Wicker Tree, an adaptation of his Cowboys for Christ novel. Anyone seen it? (Died 2016.)

Born October 10, 1931 Victor Pemberton. Writer of the script for the “Fury from the Deep”, a Second Doctor story in which he created the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. He had appeared as an actor in the series, in a non-speaking role as a scientist in “The Moonbase” story. In 1976, he wrote the BBC audio drama Doctor Who and the Pescatons which I remember hearing. Quite good it was. (Died 2017.)

Born October 10, 1931 Jack Jardine. A long-time L.A. fan who was present at many West Coast cons and who shared the dais on panels with some of the major names in SF. Under the pen name Larry Maddock he wrote science fiction and mystery stories in the Fifties and Sixties. File 770 has more here. (Died 2009.)

Born October 10, 1941 Peter Coyote, 81. He actually did two genre films in 1982 with the first being Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann in which he appeared as Porter Reese and the second being E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial which he’s Keys, the Agent hunting E.T. down. Sphere in which he’s Captain Harold C. Barnes is his next SF outing followed by The 4400 and FlashForward series being his next major genre involvements.

Born October 10, 1947 Laura Brodian Freas Beraha, 75. While married to Kelly Freas, she wrote Frank Kelly Freas: As He Sees It with him along with quite a few essays such as “On the Painting of Beautiful Women or Ayesha, She Who Must Be Obeyed” and “Some of My Best Critics are Friends – or Vice Versa“. She’s credited solely for the cover art for the 1993 Easton Press interior art for The Left Hand of Darkness according to ISFDB. 

Born October 10, 1966 Bai Ling, 56. She’s Miss West in Wild West West and the Mysterious Woman in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, she has a major role as Guanyin in The Monkey King which aired on Syfy.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Annie has turned the “little orphan” into a time traveler!
  • Off the Mark shows “parts is parts” isn’t true if you’re Frankenstein.

(13) DRESSED FOR EXCESS. SYFY Wire shares a load of photos in the NYCC 2022 – Final Day Cosplay Gallery.

New York Comic Con saved some of its coolest news for the weekend this year, as studios dropped loads of fun facts and features surrounding The Winchesters, Marvel’s Moon KnightThe Walking Dead, and Back to the Future — just to name a few.

But the stage wasn’t the only place catching fans’ attention as the four-day event rolled on at the Javitz Convention Center: Down on the ground, the guests themselves kept the cosplay fit tight, lining the halls with creatively killer takes on Mysterio, Red Skull, Buzz Lightyear, Predator, and tons more….

(14) CRILLY Q&A. Stone Soup questions the writer about a new novel: “Exclusive Interview with Brandon Crilly: Catalyst”.

Catalyst features an incredible cast of characters with complicated, overlapping histories. One of these characters is a stage magician who performs illusory tricks in a world where “real” magic is very present. What made you decide to bring these two contrasting approaches to magic central to this character’s identity?

Thank you for that compliment! Catalyst actually went through several serious revision drafts, and originally Mavrin (my street magician) was much more skeptical and almost willfully dismissive of “real” magic. When I added magic-bestowing squid gods (the Aspects) literally in orbit around Aelda, that level of skepticism didn’t make as much sense – so instead, it became obstinance. Mavrin has a lot of issues with the Aspects and their worshippers, so becoming an illusionist is part of how he distances himself from both. “I can make my own magic, I don’t need you!” is probably percolating in his subconscious somewhere (even though he’s fifty and not, like fifteen). But thankfully, he can only stay obstinate and grumpy for so long….

(15) A MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. Nerds of a Feather’s Arturo Serrano, in “Review: Wolf at the Door by Joel McKay”, says the book does one thing well.

There’s danger in hosting a big social gathering. People you haven’t seen in years can still make your throat tighten. Various combinations of acquaintances can be in good terms with you but be mortal enemies to each other. You dread the thought of who may knock at the door next. Your pulse quickens and your survival instinct rings alarms urging you to flee. Once the tension reaches critical mass, too much honesty will rip someone’s heart. The exchange of bitter words becomes a series of rounds of mutual eviscerations. Arguments get heated until someone loses their head. A friend’s careless remark under too much alcohol may lead to you never seeing them again. At any moment, the air can get so heavy that some of those present will suddenly depart from your life.

In Wolf at the Door, by Canadian author Joel McKay, these emotions that tear people to pieces are materialized into tooth and claw….

(16) SOLAR POWER. “‘Eye of Sauron’: The Dazzling Solar Tower in the Israeli Desert” – the New York Times sees both sides.

…This is the great solar tower of Ashalim, one of the tallest structures in Israel and, until recently, the tallest solar power plant in the world.

“It’s like a sun,” said Eli Baliti, a shopkeeper in the nearest village. “A second sun.”

To backers, the tower is an impressive feat of engineering, testament to Israeli solar innovation. To critics, it is an expensive folly, dependent on technology that had become outmoded by the time it was operational.

…The tower is more than 800 feet high, one of the tallest structures in Israel. It’s visible even from space.

To some, it’s reminiscent of something out of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.”

“It’s the eye of Sauron,” said Uriya Suued, an engineer who lived in Ashalim until September.

Other times, the tower seems more like a gawky, gentle giant, awkwardly standing on the edge of a group photo. You can even forget it’s there — until you spot it hovering, almost comically, behind a garden wall or incongruously, even apologetically, over the swimmers in the village’s outdoor pool.

“A lighthouse without the sea,” said Ben Malka, who runs the pool….

(17) DEMONIC IMPRESSION. Netflix dropped a trailer for Wendell & Wild, the new film written by Henry Selick and Jordan Peele and directed by Henry Selick.

(18) GIBSON ADAPTATION. This trailer for The Peripheral Season 1 on Prime Video was unveiled at New York Comic Con. “On October 21, the future holds the key to saving the past.”

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Pitch Meeting: Don’t Worry Darling,” Ryan George, in a spoiler-packed episode, explains that Don’t Worry Darling “feels like a “go to the theatre film” and not something you stay home and stream. But it’s “a string of random occurrences for about 90 minutes with little or no information revealed.”  And then in the third act we learn the film is “like The Matrix with 10,000 times less kung fu.”

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, SFWA, Jerry Kaufman, Susan de Guardiola, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 9/10/22 The Risk of Repeating Scroll Titles is Real

(1) EKPEKI ALSO THREATENED BEFORE CHICON 8. Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki today said that he was the second person, in addition to Patrick Tomlinson, who received death threats about attending the 2022 Worldcon (see “Chicon 8 Reveals Anonymous Death Threats Were Made Against Two Program Participants”).

Ekpeki wrote on Facebook:

Said participants were Patrick Tomlinson & myself. Been getting death threats before this, warning me not to attend Chicon 8 – Chicago Worldcon 2022. I was informed of the new threats & steps to keep things secure. Which was reassuring. I in turn did my panels and enjoyed the event immensely.

All in all, it was an amazing event, my 1st physical SFF con. Thanks to the organizers, volunteers, panelists, participants, all who donated funds & voices, to crowdfund, clamour, and ensure bigoted systems & persons did not prevail in this case. See ya’ll in perhaps another Chicon, WorldCon, soon, hopefully.

(2) ATTENTION FANZINE COLLECTORS. The “Massive Archive of Fanzines from the Golden Age” that belonged to the late Donald Day (1909-1978) is being offered for $150,000. If you can’t write the check, you can at least drool over the examples in the 77-page announcement. Where else will you see hand-stenciled cover art by Ray Bradbury? (Page 63.)

An immense archive of over 3,000 original fanzines and ephemera, mostly from the late 1930s to mid/ late-1950s– the years when scifi fandom was a close[1]knit group of correspondents, before the scifi boom expanded its audience. A small percentage of later fanzines (from mid ’50s to the 1970s) are included, but the collection is primarily rooted in the Golden Era of Science-Fiction, from the late 1930s and 1940s. This archive shows the highly-organized and sophisticated world of mid-20th century fandom fandom, made up of far-flung individuals who had found one another by reaching out to into the ether, united by their love of dreaming of the future, while using present day printing technology and speaking to each other through DIY-publishing. While mostly published in America, some fanzines hail from the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, and Mexico.

(3) TAKE I-5 TO D23. “’Indiana Jones 5′: Harrison Ford Shows New Footage at D23” reports Variety. The clip is not available online yet.

The king of adventure is back once again.

Indiana Jones 5” showed its first trailer on Saturday during the D23 Expo. Although it was not released online, Harrison Ford appeared onstage to speak about the footage, joined by director James Mangold and co-star Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

“Thank you for making these films such an incredible experience for all of us,” he said, looking quite emotional. “I’m very proud to say to say that this one is fantastic. [Points at Waller-Bridge] And this is one of the reasons.”

“‘Indiana Jones’ movies are about fantasy and mystery, but they’re also about heart,” he continued. “We have a really great story to tell, as well as a movie that will kick your ass.”…

(4) DID TOLKIEN KNOW? Jeff LaSala is hot on the trail of the answer to the question “Where in the World Is Galadriel in the Second Age? (And For That Matter, Where Is Celeborn?)” at Tor.com.

…It could be asked, who has it in for Sauron the most? Where? And with what? Was it the Lady of the Golden Wood, in the Lórinand Conservatory, with the Lead Pipe?…

(5) GAIMAN WILL PRESENT. “Art Spiegelman to Receive NBF Lifetime Achievement Award” at Publishers Weekly.

The National Book Foundation will honor Art Spiegelman with the 2022 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Spiegelman is the first comic artist to receive the DCAL medal, which will be presented to him by author Neil Gaiman at the National Book Awards Ceremony on November 16.

(6) YOU COULD BE MULTITASKING IN ENGLAND. [Item by Dave Lally.] The Science Museum in London will host “Science Fiction: Voyage to the Edge of Imagination” from October 6, 2022 through May 4, 2023. (Science Museum, Exhibition Road, London SW7 2DD, UK.) This major SF exhibition follows on from similar (and very successful) ones earlier in the UK (one in The British Library and then, a few years later, one in The Barbican Centre).

And if visiting the UK from overseas and between the Exhibition dates above, this Science Museum London event may be of interest. And one could ‘kill two birds with one stone’, by combining it with the annual UK National SF Con-Eastercon in NEC, Birmingham in April 2023 (*). You’ll be made very welcome. [ (*) UK annual National SF Con: Conversation 2023, the 2023 Eastercon. Fri 7 – Mon 10 April 2023 inclusive. Hilton Metropole Hotel, NEC (National Exhibition Centre), Birmingham B40 1PP, UK.]

[Nearest UK Rail Station: Birmingham International (“BI”) – NOT Birmingham New Street. Inter-City express trains (Avanti West Coast) from London Euston Rail Station (above London Tube Station: Euston). Journey time: ~ 1hr 35 min.] 

“If visiting but not during Eastercon, the UK-based, multi-Hugo Award winning sf-newszine Ansible usually carries a listing of many UK (plus other country) Cons. One could then combine such Con attendance with a visit to the Exhibition. (Ansible Editor is of course SF legend Dave Langford.)”

And the regular monthly London SF Meeting happens every 1st Thursday of the month: 1800->closing time. (total informality). Top Floor (private) Bar: THE BISHOPS FINGER (real/craft ales pub +hot food), West Smithfield, London EC1A 9JR. Overseas, passing-though/visiting fen, very welcome. Order food and drink downstairs on ground floor (bring your drink up with you — your food order is delivered to you upstairs later). 

(7) SHELVES FULL OF CRIME. Martin Edwards leads “A Deep Dive Into the History of Bibliomysteries” at CrimeReads. One example even bears a touch of sff.

…A later and more sophisticated variant on the same theme is to be found in John Franklin Bardin’s The Last of Philip Banter (1947). The eponymous Banter is an advertising man with marriage trouble and a drink problem. He finds a typed manuscript on his office desk, apparently typed by himself, which confuses past and future. It describes what is going to happen as though it had happened already. Then the “predictions” start to come true…

(8) GIBSON ADAPTATION. Ars Technica admires the way “William Gibson’s novel comes to vivid life in first teaser for The Peripheral”. The makers of Westworld are involved. Beware spoilers in article.

A young woman struggling to hold it together in small-town America finds herself witness to what may or may not be a murder in the first teaser for The Peripheral, a new Prime Video series based on William Gibson’s 2014 novel of the same name.

The YouTube blurb says:

The Peripheral centers on Flynne Fisher, a woman trying to hold together the pieces of her broken family in a forgotten corner of tomorrow’s America. Flynne is smart, ambitious, and doomed. She has no future. Until the future comes calling for her. The Peripheral is master storyteller William Gibson’s dazzling, hallucinatory glimpse into the fate of mankind — and what lies beyond. Flynne Fisher lives in the rural American South, working at the local 3D printing shop, while earning much needed extra money playing VR games for rich people. One night she dons a headset and finds herself in futuristic London—a sleek and mysterious world, alluringly different from her own hardscrabble existence. But this isn’t like any game she’s ever played before: Flynne begins to realize it isn’t virtual reality… it’s real. Someone in London, seventy years in the future, has found a way to open a door to Flynne’s world. And as utterly beguiling as London is… it’s also dangerous. As Flynne searches to discover who has connected their worlds, and for what purpose, her presence here sets dangerous forces into motion…forces intent on destroying Flynne and her family in her own world.

(9) MEMORY LANE.  

1977 [By Cat Eldridge.] Don’t worry if you never heard of this Saturday morning series that lasted one season forty-five years ago on NBC. Hardly anyone else did either as the ratings were truly awful. Space Sentinels was originally titled Young Sentinels, renamed for somewhat obvious reasons midway through its only season of thirteen episodes.

It was directed by Hal Sutherland who was an animator and painter who began his career at Disney in the Fifties working on Sleeping Beauty, Lady and the Tramp and Peter Pan

Now I’ve not a clue who created the series as no one claims credit for it. Hmmm. Create by numbers? 

It was produced by Filmation. Genre wise, they were busy doing such animated series as The New Adventures of Superman, The Adventures of Superboy, and the live action Fantastic Voyage.

Need I say that it had as characters two handsome males and one beautiful female? Seriously it did. Only this time she was black. And she was the field leader of the team. Could this be the influence of Star Trek? And two males who, like her, were supposed to be modeled on ancient Greek and Roman deities, though it was set millennia in the future and far, far away, competed for her favors. This being a children’s series nothing happened.

Remember that I mentioned they changed the name of the series? Oopsy. Unfortunately, the series was in the can and the dialogue could not be altered as this is pre-digital, so the characters are sometimes addressed as being the Young Sentinels but never the Space Sentinels.

It has no rating at Rotten Tomatoes. JustWatch says it is not streaming anywhere. It was released on DVD sixteen years along with all five episodes of The Freedom Force. It goes from fifty-five dollars upwards as eBay and Esty. 

In the image below, the three principal characters are on the left. Having not watched the series, I’ve no idea who the three characters are to the right but note the matching belts, a sure give-away! 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 10, 1898 Bessie Love. She’s best remembered for The Lost World, filmed in 1925, which was the very first screen adaptation of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novel and which he was involved in. She was Paula White. You know, the beautiful woman who must be there?  I can’t see checking IMDB that she did any other genre films. Did she? (Died 1986.)
  • Born September 10, 1951 Harry Groener, 71. One of those performers who shows up in multiple Trek series, in his case it was The Next Generation where he was Elbrun on the “Tin Man” episode, Voyager where he was The Magistrate on the “Sacred Ground” episode and finally he appeared on Enterprise as Nathan Samuels in two episodes, “Demons” and “Terra Prime”, and would have a novel written based around him, The Good That Men Do
  • Born September 10, 1952 Gerry Conway, 70. Writer who’s best known for co-creating with John Romita Sr. and Ross Andru the Punisher character and scripting the death of Gwen Stacy during his long run on The Amazing Spider-Man. (The Punisher comic is far, far better than any the three films is. I broke my vow of not watching anything I like and deeply regret it. I really mean that.) I’m also fond of his work on Weird Western Tales at DC. A truly odd and deeply entertaining series. 
  • Born September 10, 1953 Pat Cadigan, 69. Tea from an Empty Cup and Dervish is Digital are both amazing works. And I’m fascinated that she co-wrote with Paul Dini, creator of Batman: The Animated Series, a DCU novel called Harley Quinn: Mad Love. In many ways, it was better than the damn series is which I’ll discuss with anyone here. 
  • Born September 10, 1953 Amy Irving, 69. She has major genre credits, having her feature film debut in Brian De Palma’s Carrie in the Seventies followed by a lead role in two years later in The Fury, a supernatural thriller.  (I will confess that I’ve seen neither.) She’d play Katie in Rumpelstiltskin, before having the major role of the singing voice of Jessica in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? a few years later. Did you know there was a series called Twilight Zone: Rod Serling’s Lost Classics? She appeared in it.
  • Born September 10, 1955 Victoria Strauss, 67. Author of the Burning Land trilogy, she should be praised for being founder along with AC Crispin of the Committee on Writing Scams. She maintains the Writer Beware website and blog. 
  • Born September 10, 1959 Nancy A. Collins, 63. Author of the Sonja Blue vampire novels, some of the best of that genre I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. She had a long run on Swamp Thing from issues 110 to 138, and it is generally considered a very good period in that narrative.  I certainly enjoyed that period. She also wrote Vampirella, the Forrest J Ackerman and Trina Robbins creation, for awhile.
  • Born September 10, 1964 — Chip Kidd, 58. Graphic designer. And isn’t that an understatement. He did Batman: Death by Design which was illustrated by Dave Taylor, and there’s his amazing homage to Plastic Man with Art Spiegelman, Jack Cole and Plastic Man: Forms Stretched to Their Limits. He also created the Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton design for the original Jurassic park novel which was later carried over into the film franchise. Neat. Really neat.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) RACE IN TOLKIEN. [Item by Nick Hudson.] A paper by Charles Mills (influential philosopher, especially on race) on Tolkien, “The Wretched of Middle‐Earth: An Orkish Manifesto”, was just published posthumously after long being thought lost. It was probably written in the late 80s so dated as far as Tolkien scholarship goes, but it’s currently free to read.  Also, some background on the paper: “Introduction to Charles Mills’s ‘The Wretched of Middle‐Earth: An Orkish Manifesto’”.

(13) CHILLERCON. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] SF2 Concatenation has just advance Tweeted a convention report on Chillercon ahead of its seasonal edition. Ian Hunter reports on Chillercon UK. The event had been previously cancelled a number of times due to CoVID. 

There were almost 300 attending to see four guests of honour: Gollancz Editor Gillian Redfearn who was being interviewed by her husband, horror writer, Joe Hill; American horror writer, Grady Hendrix; author and critic, Kim Newman who is one of my favourite writers whose works adorn several shelves in Hunter Towers; and the film-maker, producer, director, and screenplay writer, Mick Garris, whose many credits include directing the TV versions of The Shining and The Stand, as well as directing other Stephen King “stuff”. There were also two special guests in the shape of writer M. R. (Mike) Carey, and actor Robert Lloyd Parry who did a reading and also performed on the Saturday night as M. R. James.

Chillercon 2022 guests.

(14) WHEN TOLKIEN MET THE QUEEN. The One Ring recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of J.R.R Tolkien receiving the OBE. (The photo at the link [left] is cropped to show Tolkien and a woman, which I guess we are supposed to think is him next to Queen Elizabeth when she was younger. However, the full photo [right] reveals we’re actually looking at Tolkien flanked by his son John and daughter Priscilla.)

September 8

50 years ago – in 1972 – Queen Elizabeth II appointed JRR Tolkien Commander of the Order of the British Empire “for services to English Literature.”

She was 11 when The Hobbit was published, and The Lord of the Rings hit bookstores two years into her reign.

Tolkien wrote to his publisher Rayner Unwin about the day, Letter 334 “But I was very deeply moved by my brief meeting with the Queen, & our few words together. Quite unlike anything that I had expected.”

After everything he had lived through, and all the fairy stories he had written, meeting the Queen was a special moment for him.

(15) TUNE TIME. Author Amy Sterling Casil sings as part of “Bruce & Amy – Guitar and Vocals”. Enjoy a video of them performing here.

Philly Meets LA! Bruce arranges songs and plays guitar, Amy sings – rock, country, blues/soul …

(16) HULKING OUT. SYFY Wire introduces clip: “Daredevil meets ‘She-Hulk’ in new trailer setting up Season 1”.

…Matt seems to be encouraging Jenn about being a hero in both the courtroom and on the streets, and if there’s anyone qualified to help her along that path, it’s Hell’s Kitchen hero turned legal expert himself. There also seems to be a bit of a … spark between the two. Just imagine it — Walters, Nelson & Murdock has a pretty nice right to it, right?

(17) RETURN TO SALEM. You ate the cereal:  now see the movie! Hocus Pocus 2 Official Trailer”.

(18) DISENCHANTED. This sequel to Enchanted is coming to Disney+ in November.

(19) LIVE ACTION LITTLE MERMAID. It’s been a busy weekend at D23, or had you noticed?

“The Little Mermaid,” visionary filmmaker Rob Marshall’s live-action reimagining of the studio’s Oscar®-winning animated musical classic, opens exclusively in theaters nationwide May 26, 2023. “The Little Mermaid” is the beloved story of Ariel, a beautiful and spirited young mermaid with a thirst for adventure. The youngest of King Triton’s daughters, and the most defiant, Ariel longs to find out more about the world beyond the sea, and while visiting the surface, falls for the dashing Prince Eric. While mermaids are forbidden to interact with humans, Ariel must follow her heart. She makes a deal with the evil sea witch, Ursula, which gives her a chance to experience life on land, but ultimately places her life – and her father’s crown – in jeopardy.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Nick Hudson, Rob Thornton, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Dave Lally, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jamoche with an assist from Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 8/31/21 The Pixelscroll Experiment

(1) FINAL GIRLS CONSIDERED. Stephen Graham Jones cheers on the “final girls” of slasher movies at CrimeReads: “Let’s All Be Final Girls”.

…Part of the final girl’s DNA, after all, is the scream queen, typified in Fay Wray’s performance in King Kong. She wasn’t necessarily the first of her kind, but talkies were relatively new in 1933, so her scream was especially loud—loud enough to carry across the whole century.

However, final girls may come from the tradition of scream queens, but that doesn’t mean scream queens are final girls themselves. Yes, scream queens are menaced by horror, and yes, they survive their ordeals, but what their screams tend to do, actually, is bring the men in to deal with this bully. These scream queens are, after all, “white women in peril,” usually from some “dark” monstrosity—a giant gorilla, say. Their main function in the story is to cringe and run, and be abducted. Scream queens are damsels, perpetually in distress.

The final girl is no damsel. She doesn’t scream to call a man in to help her. No, she takes this lumbering beast down herself….

(2) PAGES MISSING. Dean Wesley Smith’s and Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s WMG Publishing told Facebook readers their website is currently having major problems. Their ISP, Bluehost, is to blame – a company that no longer hosts File 770 I’m relieved to say.  

If you’ve tried going to the WMG website the past week or so, you’ll discover that it seems to no longer have any content. This is a result of an issue with our website hosting platform, Bluehost, that we are still trying to get them to resolve. They accidentally deleted it…all 1,500 or so pages of it (we have backups, of course, but they can’t seem to restore the site even using those…it’s a long, frustrating story). At this point, we have no idea how long our website will be down, so in this newsletter, all of the links we direct you to are external. Please send some positive tech vibes our way that Bluehost resolves this issue soon.

(3) HEARING FROM FRIENDS. Cora Buhlert’s Fancast Spotlight introduces listeners to the “Unknown Worlds of the Merril Collection” podcast hosted by Oliver Brackenbury.

Who are the people behind your podcast or channel?

I host, screenwriter Chris Dickie is the producer, and ultimately the Friends of Merril volunteer group are behind the show. The Friends of Merril are dedicated to spreading awareness of, and otherwise supporting, the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation & Fantasy – located on the 3rd floor of the Lillian H. Smith branch of the Toronto Public Library system. With over 80,000 spec fic texts going back over two hundred years, it’s a tremendous asset for writers, scholars, and readers, one I’ve benefited from greatly.

Why did you decide to start your podcast or channel?

Well, Chris had just joined the Friends and when I asked him if he had anything specific he’d like to try in promoting the Merril, he said he’d been wanting to try podcasting. I’d been wanting to create some kind of shareable promotional content for the Merril, and had plenty of experience with hosting from my old Youtuber days. So, we figured we’d give it a whirl and see if it helped spread awareness of the Merril!

As far as I can tell, it’s certainly helped spread the good word. But we can always do more!

(4) STRONG MUSEUM’S ERIC CARLE EXHIBIT. Eric Carle: A Very Hungry, Quiet, Lonely, Clumsy, Busy Exhibit opens at The Strong Museum in Rochester, NY on Saturday, September 18 and will be on display through January 2.

Step into the pages of beloved author and illustrator Eric Carle’s Very series of picture books—including the iconic Very Hungry Caterpillar… Co-organized by Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA, Very Eric Carle is the first North American traveling exhibit for children inspired by the work of Eric Carle.

At this play-and-learn exhibit, visitors step into the pages of Eric Carle’s colorful picture books. His classic “Very” series, all illustrated in his hand-painted tissue paper collage technique, introduces five special insects who take journeys of discovery. Each story is a testament to Eric Carle’s love of nature, his respect for the emotional lives of children, and his recurring themes of friendship, creativity, and the power of imagination….

(5) RAY’S HOMETOWN GETS A CONVENTION. Wauke-Con, Waukegan’s First Comic Book Convention, will be held October 16-17 at the Ray Bradbury Experience Museum, located at lucky 13 N. Genesee, from 12-6 p.m. both days. 

(6) STAR SCRIPTURE. “Star Trek Series Bibles Released Through Official Website” reports Gizmodo. Links to the Bibles themselves are here.

Series bibles are a staple of television production. Part early pitch, part worldbuilding exercise, they form the fundamental basis for the earliest concrete visions for a TV show on the road to production. And now you can get a glimpse at the documents behind decades of Star Trek TV, giving access to some truly fascinating behind-the-scenes materials.

The series bibles for TNGDS9Voyager, and Enterprise have been floating around the internet in various iterations for a while, but in a new piece by Rob Wieland today, the official Star Trek website provided a fresh look at the foundations of the first four major Star Trek TV continuations. Thanks to these documents, fans can see how these iconic shows were first imagined, what changed on the road to the small screen, and what ideas were the ones writers decided were the most-thought provoking and exciting to sell these shows on to networks….

(7) PUPPIES: THE NEXT GENERATION. With Debarkle Chapter 60, Camestros Felapton some significant late arrivals to sf’s culture wars, Nick Cole and Jon Del Arroz: “Dramatis Personae — The Next Generation”.

…In February of 2016 former soldier, actor and writer Nick Cole[5] announced that he had been “banned by the publisher”. Cole had already published a few books with Harper Collins including a trilogy of post-apocalyptic books and a novel Soda Pop Soldier in which gamers fight a virtual reality war for corporations. It was the sequel (or rather prequel) to Soda Pop Soldier that led to the dispute. Cole had planned for the story to feature a Terminator-style AI rebellion and for motivation, he had decided that the AI at the source of the rebellion would deduce that humanity would kill it after watching a reality TV show in which a character has an abortion….

(8) FILE 007. The next James Bond movie, No Time To Die, comes to U.S. theaters on October 8.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1979 – Forty-two years ago on this date, Time After Time premiered. (It would lose out to Alien for Best Dramatic Presentation at Noreascon Two.)  It was directed by Nicholas Meyer who wrote the screenplay from a story by Karl Alexander and Steve Hayes, and produced by Herb Jaffe. The primary cast was Malcolm McDowell, David Warner and Mary Steenburgen. Reception by critics was unambiguously positive, the box office was good and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an excellent sixty-eight percent rating. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 31, 1914 — Richard Basehart. He’s best remembered as Admiral Harriman Nelson in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. He also portrayed Wilton Knight in the later Knight Rider series. And he appeared in “Probe 7, Over and Out”, an episode of The Twilight Zone. He showed up on The Island of Dr. Moreau as Sayer of the Law. (Died 1984.)
  • Born August 31, 1933 — Robert Adams. He’s remembered for the Horseclans series, his overall best-known works though he wrote other works. While he never completed the series, he wrote 18 novels in the Horseclans series before his death. (Died 1990.)
  • Born August 31, 1949 — Richard Gere, 72. He was Lancelot in First Knight, which starred Sean Connery as King Arthur, and he was Joe Klein in The Mothman Prophecies. That’s it for genre film work. First Knight for me is more than enough to get Birthday Honors, but he also was in live performances of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead in the Sixties. Though definitely not genre, one of my roles by him was as defense attorney Billy Flynn in Chicago
  • Born August 31, 1958 — Julie Brown, 63. Starred with Geena Davis in the cult SF comedy, Earth Girls Are Easy. She’s been in genre films such as The Incredible Shrinking Woman, Bloody Birthday (a slasher film), Timebomb and Wakko’s Wish. She’s had one-offs in Quantum Leap and The Addams Family. She’s voiced a lot of animated characters included a memorable run doing the ever so sexy Minerva Mink on The Animaniacs. She reprised that role on Pinky and The Brain under the odd character name of Danette Spoonabello Minerva Mink. 
  • Born August 31, 1969 — Jonathan LaPaglia, 52. The lead in Seven Days which I’ve noted before is one of my favorite SF series. Other than playing Prince Seth of Delphi in Gryphon which aired on the Sci-fi channel, that’s his entire genre history as far as I can tell unless you count the Bones series as SF in which he’s in “The Skull in the Sculpture” episode as Anton Deluca.
  • Born August 31, 1971 — Chris Tucker, 50. The way over the top Ruby Rhod in Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element, a film I really, really like. His only other genre credit is as a MC in the Hall in The Meteor Man. 
  • Born August 31, 1982 — G. Willow Wilson, 39. A true genius. There’s her amazing work on the Sasquan Hugo Award-winning Ms. Marvel series starring Kamala Khan which I recommend strongly, and that’s not to say that her superb Air series shouldn’t be on your reading list as well. Oh, and the Cairo graphic novel with its duplicitous djinn is quite the read. The only thing I’ve by her that I’ve not quite liked is her World Fantasy Award winning Alif the Unseen novel.  I’ve not yet read her Wonder Women story but should soon. Her Invisible Kingdom, vol 2: Edge of Everything is nominated at DisCon III for a Best Graphic Story Hugo.
  • Born August 31, 1992 — Holly Early, 29. She was Lily Arwell in the Eleventh Doctor story, “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe.” She was also Kela in Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands, Agnes in Humans, and Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

(11) HE LOST ON JEOPARDY! “Mike Richards is out as producer of ‘Jeopardy!’ and ‘Wheel’”AP News has the story.

Mike Richards is out as executive producer of “Jeopardy!”, days after he exited as the quiz show’s newly appointed host because of past misogynistic and disparaging comments.

Richards is also no longer executive producer of “Wheel of Fortune,” according to a memo to staff that was confirmed by Sony Pictures Television, which produces both of the shows.

“We had hoped that when Mike stepped down from the host position at Jeopardy! it would have minimized the disruption and internal difficulties we have all experienced these last few weeks. That clearly has not happened,” Suzanne Prete, an executive with the game shows, said in the memo.

…In her memo, Prete said she will work with Richards’ interim replacement, Michael Davies, until further notice. Davies produces ABC’s “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire.”

(12) STAY FROSTY. James Davis Nicoll helps Tor.com readers find “Five Chilly SF Stories to Help Beat the Summer Heat”, including —

Icerigger by Alan Dean Foster (1974)

Interstellar salesman Ethan Frome Fortune made one small mistake when he traveled to the desolate ice-world of Tran-ky-ky. He boarded the same starship as the fantastically wealthy and eminently kidnappable Hellespont du Kane, and du Kane’s daughter Colette. An attempted kidnapping ensues.

The kidnapping fails. A single kidnapper survives. He and his prospective kidnappee and several innocent bystanders (including Fortune) end up marooned on Tran-ky-ky.

The castaways are a diverse lot; at least one of them, adventurer Skua September, is suited to survival on a backward, frozen world. Other off-worlders could save them…if the stolen shuttle had not crashed on the other side of the world from the trading post.

Providentially, a nearby community of indigenes are willing to assist the odd-looking off-worlders. There is just one minor complication. Even now, a nomad horde is bearing down upon the town. Perhaps the off-worlders can help the desperate townsfolk repel the attack. If not, the humans will die alongside the townsfolk.

(13) PORTAL CREATOR. At The Walrus, Jason Guriel makes the case for “Why William Gibson Is a Literary Genius”.

…It’s been four decades since William Gibson’s short story “Johnny Mnemonic” appeared in the May 1981 issue of Omni magazine. He’d already published a couple of pieces, but “Johnny” was a landmark feat of fiction: in a matter of eight magazine pages, Gibson roughed out the contours of an entire world.

The world Gibson was building was a wormhole away from most science fiction—from space-opera optimism and the sort of intergalactic intrigue that’s settled by laser sword. Gibson’s heroes were hustlers, their turf the congested city. They used substances, skirted the law, and self-edited via surgery (see Molly’s nails). He provided more detail, the following year, in the story “Burning Chrome,” which coined the term cyberspace: a boundless 3-D grid, “an abstract representation of the relationships between data systems”—a kind of web. And then, in 1984, he went even deeper with Neuromancer. His zeitgeist-rattling debut novel was about a hacker for hire who navigated cyberspace using a modem and an Ono-Sendai Cyberspace 7 deck, a Gibson confection that rests on his hacker’s lap (and sounds a lot like a modern-day laptop)….

(14) DOUBLING DOWN. In “Tales Twice Told”, episode 60 of the Two Chairs Talking podcast, Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg discuss recent award winners, the nominees for the Short Story category of this year’s Hugos, and the books they’ve been reading. 

David was particularly impressed by “The End of the World is Bigger Than Love” by Davina Bell, winner of this year’s Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year for Older Readers: “Probably the best piece of SF I’ve read all year”.

(15) OLDER THAN YOU THINK. Smithsonian Magazine says archeologists have established “King Arthur’s Stone Is Older Than Stonehenge”.

Arthur’s Stone, an enigmatic rock burial in Herefordshire, England, is one of the United Kingdom’s most famous Stone Age monuments. Now, reports Carly Cassella for Science Alert, excavations carried out near the tomb—named for its supposed ties to King Arthur—have shed light on its beginnings, revealing that Neolithic people built it as part of an intricate ceremonial landscape.

“Although Arthur’s Stone is an iconic … monument of international importance, its origins had been unclear until now,” says dig leader Julian Thomas, an archaeologist at the University of Manchester, in a statement. “Being able to shine a light on this astonishing 5,700-year-old tomb is exciting and helps to tell the story of our origins.”

(16) METAVERSE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Dalvin Brown says for a Ready Player One-style metaverse to happen, tech companies not known for cooperation will have to work together and virtual reality headsets will have to be much more popular than they are now (the Entertainment Software Association says only 29 percent of America’s 169 million gamers have a virtual reality system). “What is the metaverse? Microsoft, Facebook want to build next version of the Internet”.

What is the metaverse?

The term was coined by writer Neal Stephenson in the 1992 dystopian novel “Snow Crash.” In it, the metaverse refers to an immersive digital environment where people interact as avatars. The prefix “meta” means beyond and “verse” refers to the universe. Tech companies use the word to describe what comes after the Internet, which may or may not be reliant on VR glasses.

Think of it as an embodied Internet that you’re inside of rather than looking at. This digital realm wouldn’t be limited to devices: Avatars could walk around in cyberspace similar to how people maneuver the physical world, allowing users to interact with people on the other side of the planet as if they’re in the same room.… But for a robust virtual universe, everyone needs to want and afford VR headsets. The technology would need to be stylish and minimal enough to interest more people and sophisticated enough to work seamlessly. That hasn’t happened yet.

Nimble wireless headsets, like Facebook’s Oculus Quest 2, take a hit on image quality, while bulky VR goggles, like the HTC Vive Pro 2, enable more computing power with their wires. Facebook’s Oculus Quest 2 is among the most affordable at $299, while the HTC Vive Pro 2 headset starts at $799 plus the cost of controllers.

(17) ANOTHER VERSE. When you’re a fan, it’s important to be able to tell your multiverse from your metaverse. “Marvel Comics Reveals 8 New Tentpole Titles”.

In celebration of Marvel’s Birthday today, Marvel Comics revealed its first look at eight new tentpole titles that will shape the future of the Marvel Universe in the months to come.

Here’s one of them —

Marvel Comics’ Avengers Forever pulls together archaeologist Tony Stark aka the Invincible Ant-Man and Avengers from across the multiverse to bring order to timelines where ‘hope’ is a four letter word. Jason Aaron and Aaron Kuder present an all-new series that will redefine the Avengers as…the Multiverse’s Mightiest Heroes.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Brian And Charles is a short film about a lonely farmer who decides to build a robot to be his friend and what happens when the robot starts having issues.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/24/21 We Can Scroll Where We Want To, We Can Leave Your Files Behind

(1) NOW PLAYING IN THE THEATER OF YOUR MIND. Pat Cadigan pointed Facebook readers to the 23rd Legion’s review of her forthcoming book: Alien – Alien 3: The Lost Screenplay by William Gibson by Pat Cadigan”.

… This story is gritty as all hell. Focusing largely on Hicks and Bishop after being “rescued” with Ripley and Newt in the Sulaco where they ended up at the conclusion of Aliens, this version of Alien 3 goes from “Ehhh, things might be ok.” to “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” to “Oh yeah, everything is totally screwed.”

We see a whole lot of evolution in the Xenomorphs in this story. Their adaptation and speedy evolution is both terrifying and, for franchise fans, fascinating given the total lore that already exists. These bugs are a total game changer when it comes to their propagation and swarm-like spread….

(2) THEY DID THE MONSTER STAMP. On September 24, 2021, in Topeka, KS, the United States Postal Service® will issue the Message Monsters stamps (Forever® priced at the First-Class Mail® rate) in four designs, “Message Monsters Ready to Bring a Smile to Your Mail”.

The U.S. Postal Service will celebrate Message Monsters with the most playful, customizable Forever stamp design ever. The four monster illustrations on this pane of 20 stamps invite interactivity with dozens of self-adhesive accessories on the selvage. The monster-ific accoutrements include cartoony voice balloons and thought bubbles with exclamations and salutations, hats and crowns, hearts, stars, crazy daisies and other fun flair.

Art director Antonio Alcalá designed the pane with original artwork by Elise Gravel, author and illustrator of popular children’s books.

(3) TUNE IN TO FM. But if you want to spend a lot more for monster art, Heritage Auctions can fix you up: “Basil Gogos Famous Monsters Cover Art from the Kevin Burns Collection” goes on the block November 5-7. Article by Joe Moe, well-known 4SJ batman.

In 1958, a monster magazine intended to be a one-off hit the newsstands – and sold out! This specialty mag was Famous Monsters of Filmland, and would go on to become the longest published, and one of the most influential entertainment periodicals, ever! Throughout the 1960s, publisher James Warren and editor Forrest J Ackerman’s FM did something no other magazine of the era had. It turned the spotlight from the stars in front of the camera to the artists behind the camera. The people who actually made the movie magic that captured the imagination of audiences. Basil Gogos’ vivid cover paintings became the freaky face of and “gateway” to the magazine. A magazine that was a vessel for the exciting, creative world kids dreamed of being a part of. Gogos created hallmarks of the “big bang,” that inspired legendary careers. A Basil Gogos FM cover painting is impossible to find…until now.

Basil Gogos’ (1929-2017) paintings brought black and white monsters to vivid, colorful life….

(4) SURPLUS TO REQUIREMENTS. Benjamin C. Kinney does an in-depth discussion of “Short Fiction Rejection Letters: Best practices and expectations” at the SFWA Blog.

…Most markets send form-letter rejections. These are typical and acceptable; other options take work, and more work per submission means slower responses. Vague rejection language like “it didn’t work for us” is common, and means exactly what it says. Form rejections can be brief, but the market’s staff should be aware of the emotional impact of words, and write a letter that feels supportive rather than dismissive.

Some markets use “tiered forms,” which means they have a handful of different form letters, and the choice reflects something about the staff’s reaction to your submission….

(5) PRESERVING FANHISTORY. The latest FANAC.org newsletter was distributed today. When it’s online the link will be here — F. A. N. A. C. Inc. (fanac.org). An excerpt:

Behind the Scenes or How the Sausage is Made:
     Finding Anne Steul: Anne Steul is not a familiar name to most of us. In June, Rob Hansen sent us a scan of Fantum 1, edited by Anne Steul, who he remarked had also organized the first German SF con with some help from Jim and Greg Benford. That led to an expansion of Anne Steul’s Fancyclopedia article, followed by more biographical data on her from Rob Hansen. We asked Thomas Recktenwald if he could tell us more. Thomas provided insight into why she left fandom, and a link to Rainer Eisfield’s book, Zwischen Barsoon und Peenemunde (Between Barsoom and Peenemunde) that had 10 pages on Anne Steul, and German fandom of the time, including bibliographic data and a photo. Next, Joe asked Jim and Greg Benford for additional info and Greg forwarded a few 2013 issues of CounterClock, a fanzine from Wolf von Witting published in Italy, that had articles on early German fandom. So now we have expanded our knowledge, added her Fantum, and added to the Fancyclopedia entry. And that’s how the Fan History sausage is made. As a result, Thomas Recktenwald is helping us add information about German fandom to Fancyclopedia. Thomas is a long-time contributor to The Fan History Project having provided many photos, fanzines and  recordings.

(6) DON’T IT JUST FRY YOUR SHORTS? [Item by Rob Thornton.] Here’s another “SF written by a mainstream writer” example. French guy writes a novel about “what if the Incas invaded Europe in the 16th century” and it is getting all the attention, including media deals. “How a French Novelist Turns the Tables on History” in the New York Times. (Registration required.)

…It’s an imaginary scenario — of the Incas of Peru invading 16th-century Europe, not the other way around, which is what happened in 1532 — that haunted and inspired Binet.

“There’s something melancholic in my book,” he said in an interview at his home last month, “because it offers the conquered a revenge that they never really had.”

The reality for the Incas, like many other Indigenous populations, was that they were killed and exploited, Binet added. “That’s what both fascinates and horrifies me: You can think what you like of the past but you can’t change it.”

Binet, 49, has made his name writing historical novels that blur the boundaries between fact and fiction. His debut “HHhH,” which was translated into 34 languages (including English in 2012), melded history, fiction and autobiography to explore the events surrounding the assassination of the Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich. He followed it up in 2015 with “The Seventh Function of Language,” a murder mystery set in the 1980s that poked fun at the posturing of Parisian intellectuals. The French magazine L’Express called it “the most insolent novel of the year.”…

(7) TGIFF FILM FESTIVAL. [Item by Darius Luca Hupov.] The second edition of “The Galactic Imaginarium” Film Festival will take place in hybrid format at location, in Romania and online (TGI Sci-Fi and Fantasy Film Festival), from September 15-19, 2021.

The festival will screen 66 short and feature films, in 4 categories: Science Fiction, Fantasy/Fantastic, Comedy/Parody (SFF) and Animation (SFF). The public will see the films at the local drive-in cinema (due to the pandemic restrictions) and online, at the festival streaming platform. Also, the program of the festival (panels, debates, presentations, workshops, contests, etc.) will be present online, on ZOOM and the Discord channel of the Festival (https://discord.gg/hgDjxCMT).

In the program you can meet our Special Guests:

  • Josh Malerman, the New York TImes best selling author of Bird Box and Goblin
  • Naomi Kritzer (won the Hugo Award, Lodestar Award, Edgar Award, and Minnesota Book Award)
  • John Wiswell, a Nebula winner, and a World Fantasy and Hugo finalist
  • Representatives from Seed&Spark, Mogul Productions, Storycom…

And many, many more. You can find more details and get an online General Access Ticket here.

(8) N3F’S FRANSON AWARD. Patricia Williams-King’s service to the National Fantasy Fan Federation has been recognized with the Franson Award by N3F President George Phillies:

The Franson Award was originally called the N3F President’s Award. It was renamed in honor of Donald Franson. This award started because past N3F Presidents have wanted to give a show of appreciation to people – even those who may have won the Kaymar Award, which you can only win once. Presidential Statement Patricia Williams-King has faithfully and energetically served the N3F for many years, most recently by maintaining the N3F Round Robin Bureau. Round Robin groups discuss a topic by circulating a papermail letter bundle from one member to the next. If one member of a group gafiates, the group stops functioning. The Bureau Head has the task of restarting groups, so to speak bringing them back to life. Through thick and through thin, in the face of great obstacles, personal and fannish challenges, and other hindrances to smooth operation, Patricia Williams-King gave us an N3F Bureau that largely continued to function. As your President, it is my privilege and honor to give a 2021 Franson Award to Patricia WilliamsKing. 

(9) MULTIVERSE NOW. “Strange New Spider-Man Trailer Drops And, Yes, Marvel Is Officially Going There” warns Yahoo!

The trailer for “Spider-Man: No Way Home” dropped on Monday — hours after a version leaked online — and it confirms months of rumors over the newest phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

They’re not waiting until next year’s “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” to open up the multiverse. 

In the trailer, Peter Parker accidentally messes up a Doctor Strange spell, creating a rift that brings out elements of previous Spider-Man film eras, which didn’t share much of a timeline… until now…

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1999 – Twenty-two years ago, the Compton Crook Award, Baltcon’s Award for the Best First Novel, went to James Stoddard for The High House. It is the first novel of his Evenmere trilogy that was continued in The False House and which was just completed in 2015 with his Evenmere novel.  It had been been published by Warner Aspect the previous year.  It would also be nominated for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature in the year the illustrated edition of Stardust would garner that Award. It was also nominated for a Locus Best SF Novel Award. If you’ve not read it, Stoddard has let us put the first chapter up at Green Man and you can read it here.

(11) TODAY’S DAY.

Shed a tear.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 24, 1899 Gaylord Du Bois. He was a writer of comic book stories and comic strips, as well as Big Little Books. He wrote Tarzan for Dell Comics and Gold Key Comics from the Forties to early Seventies.) He was one of the writers for Space Family Robinson which was the basis for the Lost in Space series. (Died 1993.)
  • Born August 24, 1899 Jorge Luis Borges. I’m reasonably sure my first encounter with him was at University with the assignment of The Library of Babel. I’m not deeply read in him but I also loved The Book of Imaginary Beings, and though not genre, recommend The Last Interview and Other Conversations for an excellent look at him as a writer. (Died 1985.)
  • Born August 24, 1932 William Morgan Sheppard. Best remembered I think as Blank Reg in Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future. Genre wise I’d add him being the Klingon Prison Warden In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Merrit in The Prestige, the rather scary Soul Hunter on Babylon 5 and a Vulcan Science Minister in Star Trek. He appeared in a seventies Broadway production of Sherlock Holmes though I can’t tell you who he played. (Died 2019.)
  • Born August 24, 1934 Kenny Baker. Certainly his portrayal of R2-D2 in the Star Wars franchise is what he’s best known for but he’s also been in Circus of HorrorsWombling Free, Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader series, The Elephant ManSleeping BeautyTime BanditsWillowFlash Gordon and Labyrinth. Personally I think his best role was as Fidgit in Time Bandits. (Died 2016.)
  • Born August 24, 1936 A. S. Byatt, 85. Author of three genre novels, two of which I’m familiar with, Possession: A Romance which became a rather decent film, and winning the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature for The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye, and one I’ve never heard of, Ragnarok: The End of the Gods,  but I’m actually much, much more fond of her short fiction. I’d start with the Little Black Book of Stories and Angels & Insects collections. 
  • Born August 24, 1951 Tony Amendola, 70. Prolly best known for being the Jaffa master Bra’tac on Stargate SG-1. He’s also had recurring roles as Edouard Kagame of Liber8 on Continuum and on Once Upon a Time as Pinocchio’s creator, Geppetto. His list of one-off genre appearances is extensive and includes AngelCharmed,  Lois & Clark, Space: Above and Beyond the Crusade spin-off of Babylon 5X FilesVoyagerDirk Gently’s Holistic Detective AgencyTerminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Alias, She-Wolf of London and Kindred: The Embraced. He’s also been a voice actor in gaming with roles in such games as World of Warcraft: Warlords of DraenorWorld of Warcraft: Legion and Workd of Final Fantasy. (CE)
  • Born August 24, 1957 Stephen Fry, 64. He’s Gordon Deitrich in V for Vendetta, and he’s the Master of Lakedown in The Hobbit franchise. His best role is as Mycroft Holmes in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows though he made an interesting narrator in the film version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and not to be overlooked is that he’s the narrator for all seven of the Potter novels for the UK audiobook recordings. Interestingly when first commissioned, the eleventh episode of Doctor Who’s second series with David Tennant was to be called “The 1920s”.  It was based on a script written by Stephen Fry. It was never produced.
  • Born August 24, 1958 Lisa A. Barnett. Wife of Melissa Scott. Some of her works were co-authored with her: The Armor of Light, Point of Hopes: A Novel of Astreiant and Point of Dreams: A Novel of Astreiant. They wrote one short story, “The Carmen Miranda Gambit”. (Died 2006.)

(13) D&D. The Kingfisher & Wombat party resume their adventures. Thread starts here.

(14) SERIOUS ABOUT SERIES. Electric Theist shares the fruit of their labors and rates the finalists “The Hugo Award for Best Series: 2021 Reviews”.

Reading the nominations for the Hugo Awards for Best Series takes dedication. I have read at least the first three books of every single one of the series and given the series a grade and review based upon that reading. If I have not read the entire series, I have noted it in my review of the series. I would love to talk about these series with you, dear readers, and want to know what you think about them. Which is your favorite? Have you read them all? This year’s nominations are a pile of excellent books, so it’s worth diving in.

(15) BABY STEPS. “Japan tests rotating detonation engine for the first time in space” reports Inceptive Mind.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has announced that it has successfully demonstrated the operation of a “rotating detonation engine” for the first time in space. The novelty of the technologies in question is that such systems obtain a large amount of thrust by using much less fuel compared to conventional rocket engines, which is quite advantageous for space exploration.

On July 27, the Japanese agency launched a pair of futuristic propulsion systems into space to carry out the first tests…

…The rotating detonation engine uses a series of controlled explosions that travel around an annular channel in a continuous loop. This process generates a large amount of super-efficient thrust coming from a much smaller engine using significantly less fuel – which also means sending less weight on a space launch. According to JAXA, it has the potential to be a game-changer for deep space exploration.

The rocket began the test demonstrations after the first stage separated, burning the rotating detonation engine for six seconds, while a second pulse detonation engine operated for two seconds on three occasions. The pulse engine uses detonation waves to combust the fuel and oxidizer mixture.

When the rocket was recovered after the demonstration, it was discovered that the rotary engine produced about 500 Newtons of thrust, which is only a fraction of what conventional rocket engines can achieve in space….

(16) ROLE PLAYING GAME. “Invasion of the Robot Umpires” in The New Yorker.

…Two years ago, DeJesus became the first umpire in a regular-season game anywhere to use something called the Automated Ball-Strike System. Most players refer to it as the “robo-umpire.” Major League Baseball had designed the system and was testing it in the Atlantic League, where DeJesus works. The term “robo-umpire” conjures a little R2-D2 positioned behind the plate, beeping for strikes and booping for balls. But, for aesthetic and practical reasons, M.L.B. wanted human umpires to announce the calls, as if playacting their former roles. So DeJesus had his calls fed to him through an earpiece, connected to a modified missile-tracking system. The contraption looked like a large black pizza box with one glowing green eye; it was mounted above the press box. When the first pitch came in, a recorded voice told DeJesus it was a strike. He announced it, and no one in the ballpark said anything.

…Baseball is a game of waiting and talking. For a hundred and fifty years or so, the strike zone—the imaginary box over home plate, seventeen inches wide, and stretching from the batter’s knees to the middle of his chest—has been the game’s animating force. The argument between manager and umpire is where the important disputes over its boundaries are litigated. The first umpires were volunteers who wore top hats, at whom spectators “hurled curses, bottles and all manner of organic and inorganic debris,” according to a paper by the Society for American Baseball Research. “Organic debris” wasn’t defined, but one wonders. A handful of early umpires were killed….

(17) A DIFFERENT KIND OF DOGSLED. “The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile Joins Lyft” reports Food & Wine. I’m wondering who would be the ideal convention GoH to be picked up by this ride.

…Starting tomorrow, your Lyft XL ride may send your jaw dropping to the ground when the driver arrives in… the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.

From August 25 to 27, Oscar Mayer and Lyft will be offering free Wienermobile trips in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Atlanta — which were chosen because they are “the nation’s hottest rideshare cities.” The brand says riders can simply request a Lyft XL and one of Oscar Mayer’s Hotdoggers — the name given to those who drive the Wienermobile — may show up in a 27-foot hot dog on wheels instead. (Assuming it hasn’t been pulled over on the way.)

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In Transformers: Dark of the Moon Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says in the third Transformers movie, Sam Witwicky may be “smelly, whiny, and stinky,” but he’s easily able to find a new supermodel to be his girlfriend and let him live in her apartment rent-free because he can’t find a job.  We also learn that Chernobyl happened because of a secret Transformers battle, which leads the producer to say that “the worst nuclear disaster in history was caused by Hasbro products.”

[Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Dann, Rob Thornton, Darius Luca Hupov, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ  for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 11/28/20 It’s Instant Scroll, Not Constantly Pixel

(1) GIBSON TOPS THIS LIST. The Times of London’s Simon Ings picked the five “Best sci-fi books of the year 2020” (behind a paywall). He rates William Gibson’s Agency the best of the year. The other four you’ll have to pay to find out.

(2) LOSCON ONLINE. This weekend’s Virtual Loscon 2020 Panel with Guests of Honor video is available, as are many more panels on Loscon’s YouTube channel.

Writer Guest Dr. Gregory Benford, our Artist Guest Jeff Sturgeon, and the Fan Guests of Honor Dennis and Kristine Cherry have all agreed to be there and look forward to next year. Hear from them in our deluxe virtual panel space this year, chatting with Loscon 47 chairman Scott Beckstead and Zoom Elf Susan Fox.

(3) BREEZYCON. Likewise, several of the panels from Breezycon, this year’s online replacement for Windycon, can be found at Windycon’s YouTube channel.

They include: Breezycon Opening Remarks, Software for your Home Rapid Prototyping Technology, 3D Printers and Lasers and CNC Mills, Oh My, Before Hastings, The Worldcon is Coming to Chicago, Ray VanTilburg Studio Tour, Characters Motivations in a Post Scarcity World, and Staying Productive as a Writer Through Lockdown (the last “About the experience of being a writer during the pandemic and its effects on one’s process and work” with panelist: Seanan McGuire and moderator: Evan Reeves.)

(4) WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR IDEAS? This time the author can tell you. “Owl Be Home For Christmas” – Diane Duane had to write it.

Sometimes work and life come at you fast, in tandem.

I was taking a break from work on Tales of the Five 3: The Librarian last week, and (as I do frequently during the day) having a look at Twitter, when something unusual came across my dashboard: this.

So: a status report. I’m well into the body of the story now. My estimate at the moment is that it will run about 20.000 words. (If I need more, I’ll take more: but I refuse to push a story into being longer than it needs to for mere length’s sake.)

My intention is to drop the story on both Amazon and at Ebooks.Direct in the early evening (7PM-ish US/EST) of December 2, 2020, to coincide with the lighting of the tree in Rockefeller Center. I’ll tweet the Amazon and EBD links then, and I’ll add purchase links / widgets on this blog post/page: so you might want to bookmark it. If you’re a Twitter user, you can also keep an eye on the #OwlBeHomeForChristmas hashtag there—I’ll use it to post the occasional update between now and Wednesday.

(5) AN INSIDE LOOK WITH JMS. J. Michael Straczynski has started a series of video commentaries about his Babylon 5 episodes for subscribers to his Patreon at the $10/mo and above level.

So despite my utter horror at the prospect of appearing on-camera, because there’s always someone, somewhere (usually in Bolivia) who points at the image and screams, “That’s him! That’s the guy that did it!”, I’ve begun doing exclusive video reactions/commentaries to Babylon 5 episodes for my Patrons at Starfury level or above.

The first to have gone up is “The Parliament of Dreams,” which — because I’m doing a commentary on the full episode, and can’t put that online, has to be done as a home-sync, meaning viewers cue up the episode at home — has gone over remarkably well.

The plan is to do commentaries that are not on the DVDs, but in some cases there will be the same episodes because time has lent a new perspective to the show as I look back on it. So they will be either new or very different from what came before.

Patrons get to vote on which episode I do next. The current poll is Infection, And the Sky Full of Stars, and Signs and Portents.

Should these continue to go well and not lead to unwanted visitations by Homeland Security, I will likely also start to do some on Sense8 and some of the movies.

(6) FAN FITNESS. “Stroll With the Stars: Home Edition Fall 2020” is another ingenious virtual workaround of a convention tradition.

We been Strolling With the Stars at Worldcon for over a decade now, giving fans a chance to spend some quiet time with their favorite authors, artists and editors, while getting some fresh air.

We still can’t meet in person right now… but we can do what we did in the spring, a daily series of short strolls-at-home here on Facebook Live. Tune in to see what’s up in the lives of some of your favorite sff creators… how they’re dealing with what has sadly become The New Normal.

Join us at 5PM EDT every day, beginning November 27! (Or if you can’t make it live, watch the video right here afterwards.)

  • Sunday, Nov 29 — Scott Edelman
  • Monday, Nov 30 — Gerald Brandt
  • Tuesday, Dec 1 — Toni Weisskopf
  • Wednesday, Dec 2 — Alex Dawson
  • Thursday, Dec 3 — Tom Doyle
  • Friday, Dec 4 —Jody Lynn Nye
  • Saturday, Dec 5 —John Kessel
  • Sunday, Dec 6 — Ellen Kushner
  • Monday, Dec 7 — Justin Barba
  • Tuesday, Dec 8 — Alma Alexander
  • Wednesday, Dec 9 — Steven H Silver
  • Thursday, Dec 10 — Lee Murray
  • Friday, Dec 11 — Brianna Wu  & Frank Wu
  • Saturday, Dec 12 — Dr. Lawrence M. Schoen
  • Sunday, Dec 13 — Gay & Joe Haldeman
  • Monday, Dec 14 — Kate Baker
  • Tuesday, Dec 15 — Sheila Williams
  • Wednesday, Dec 16 — Troy Carrol Bucher
  • Thursday, Dec 17 — TBD
  • Friday, Dec 18 — Catherynne Valente
  • Saturday, Dec 19 — Valya Dudycz Lupescu & Stephen Segal
  • Sunday, Dec 20 — James Patrick Kelly

(7) PHULISHNESS. ”The Myth and the Phule: Writing with Robert Asprin” – at the Mythaxis Review, Eric Del Carlo recalls the experience of collaborating with a legend.

Everyone in the French Quarter of New Orleans traded in bullshit. Not the tourists. Well, yes the tourists too. But whatever self-aggrandizing malarkey they brought to town was drastically upstaged by their stupidity, usually taking form as epic drinking fails.

But this guy… No. He’d been vouched for. He was who he said he was.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Asprin.” I shook his hand in the Quarter bar. He lived in the Quarter; I did too. Nothing to do at night but hit the bars.

It was a little of that slowed-down awe of a car accident. I had shelved this man’s books in bookstores I’d worked in. Now I was waiting tables in the tourist feeding frenzy of pre-Katrina New Orleans. I also wrote, in his same genres. Science fiction, fantasy. It was all I wanted to do with my life. But you don’t say that, not to a man who didn’t have to trade in the local currency of bullshit to amplify himself, who could just be who he was, indisputably. That I hadn’t read his immensely popular humorous Myth or Phule series didn’t matter. I understood his significance, his stature.

I started calling him Bob because everyone else did. Some Quarter bars were for locals, and my wife and I went to these, and Robert Asprin would be there, inhabiting a stool, dishing out jokes, witty banter, stories. I was most interested in the stories, anecdotes populated by other famous writers in the field. Harry Harrison. Spider Robinson.

It eventually came out to Bob that I wrote, that I had a good number of small press sales under my belt. Well, so what, compared to what he’d accomplished? But he expressed an interest. He himself had been out of the game for some while. Years. Writer’s block, issues with the IRS. Nonetheless we sat side by side at the bar—he with Irish whiskey, rum and Coke for me—and I enthused about the wonder of writing, the pure elation of putting words together….

(8) TWO HUNDED YEARS AGO. The New Yorker launched “A Quest to Discover America’s First Science-Fiction Writer”. Here’s their favorite candidate.

On November 22, 1820, the New York Evening Post ran a perfunctory book ad that was none too particular in its typesetting:

WILEY & HALSTED, No. 3 Wall street, have just received SYMZONIA, or a voyage to the internal world, by capt. Adam Seaborn. Price $1.

As literary landmarks go, it’s not quite Emerson greeting Whitman at the start of a great career. But this humble advert may herald the first American science-fiction novel. Although one might point to the crushingly dull “A Flight to the Moon,” from 1813, that text is more of a philosophical dialogue than a story, and what little story it has proves to be just a dream. “Symzonia; Voyage of Discovery” is boldly and unambiguously sci-fi. The book takes a deeply weird quasi-scientific theory and runs with it—or, more accurately, sails with it, all the way to Antarctica.

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1948 – Seventy-two years ago this month, Against the Fall of Night by Arthur C. Clarke was first published in the short-lived Startling Stories zine which was edited by Sam Merwin, Jr.  Earle Bergey provided the cover illustration for this novel which has been continuously in print ever since in both in hard copy and now from the usual digital suspects, in three editions no less. A sequel novel was done in 1990 by him and Gregory Benford called Beyond the Fall of Night.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 28, 1685 – Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve.  She published La Belle et la Bête in 1740, the oldest known telling of Beauty and the Beast.  During her life she was known for other works, particularly The Gardener of Vincennes (1753).  In fact, you should pardon the expression, it’s complicated, as Brian Stableford discusses in NY Review of SF 338.  (Died 1755) [JH]
  • Born November 28, 1757 – William Blake.  Four dozen of his poems are ours; many of his graphics.  Here is The Ancient of Days.  Here is the demiurge Urizen praying.  Here is Jacob’s Ladder.  Here is The Raising of Lazarus.  (Died 1827) [JH]
  • Born November 28, 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. (Died 1859.) (CE)
  • Born November 28, 1946 Joe Dante, 74. Warning, this is a personal list of Dante’s works that I’ve really, really enjoyed starting off with The Howling then adding in Innnerspace, both of the Gremlins films though I think only the first is a masterpiece even if the second has its moments, Small Soldiers and The Hole. For television work, he’s done but the only one I can say I recall and was impressed was his Legends of Tomorrow’s “Night of the Hawk” episode.  That’s his work as Director. As a Producer, I see he’s responsible for The Phantom proving everyone has a horrible day.  (CE)
  • Born November 28, 1939 – Walter Velez.  A hundred sixty covers, half a dozen interiors.  Outside our field, album covers, commercial and fine art.  Here is Seetee.  Here is Lord Darcy.  Here is Demon Blues.  Here is How the Ewoks Saved the Trees.  Here is The Dual Nature of Gravity.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born November 28, 1952 S. Epatha Merkerson, 68. Both of her major SF roles involve robots. The first was in Terminator 2: Judgment Day as Tarissa Dyson; a year later, she had a recurring role as Capt. Margaret Claghorn in Mann & Machine. And she had a recurring role as Reba on Pee-wee’s Playhouse though I can’t remember if the consensus here was that it was genre or genre adjacent. (CE);
  • Born November 28, 1962 Mark Hodder, 58. Best known for his Burton & Swinburne Alternate Victorian steampunk novels starting off with The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack that deservedly garnered a Philip K. Dick Award. He also wrote A Red Sun Also Rises which recreates sort of Victorian London on a far distant alien world. Emphasis on sort of. And then there’s Consulting Detective Macalister Fogg which appears to be his riff off of Sherlock Holmes only decidedly weirder. (CE) 
  • Born November 28, 1979 – Sarah Perry, Ph.D., age 41.  For us three novels, one a Waterstones Book of the Year, another an East Anglia Book of the Year; one shorter story.  Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.  Outside our field, Naipaul Prize for travel writing.  [JH]
  • Born November 28, 1981 Louise Bourgoin, 39. Her main SFF film is as the title character of Adèle Blanc-Sec in The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec as directed by Luc Besson. Anybody watched the uncensored English version that came out on Blu-ray? She also played Audrey in Black Heaven (L’Autre monde), and she’s the voice heard in the Angélique’s Day for Night animation short. (CE) 
  • Born November 28, 1987 Karen Gillan, 33. Amy Pond, companion to the Eleventh Doctor. Nebula in both of the Guardians of The Galaxy films and in later MCU films, and Ruby Roundhouse in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Jumanji: The Next Level. Two episodes of Who she was in did win Hugos for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form), “The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang” at Renovation (2011) and “The Doctor’s Wife” at Chicon 7 (2012). (CE) 
  • Born November 28, 1988 – Daniel Cohen, 32.  Four novels; Coldmaker an Amazon Best-Seller.  Saxophonist. Has read The Old Man and the SeaThe Phantom TollboothThe Stars My Destination.  [JH]
  • Born November 28, 1992 – Shelly Li, 28.  Arriving from China and learning English, she had seven stories published in Nature, nine more, by the time of this interview during her freshman year at Duke.  [JH]

(11) KEEPING THE BLEEP IN TREK. At “Integrated Outtakes”, they “improve” Star Trek episodes by putting back the mistakes. The link is to a playlist. An example is embedded below.

Sometimes bloopers, when edited back into the finished episodes, can add a bit of humanity to characters. Sometimes they just add a bit of absurdity. Both are good.

(12) UTOPIA CANCELLED. “Amazon’s Utopia Canceled After One Season”. Vulture thinks the show was a little too spot-on.

Between the dark conspiracy theories, violence, global pandemic, and impending apocalypse, it would seem Amazon Prime Video’s Utopia was the wrong show at the exact wrong moment. That, or everyone just had a lot going on this fall. Either way, according to Deadline, the streaming platform has canceled the series, adapted by Gone Girl author and screenwriter Gillian Flynn from the 2013 British series of the same name, after one season. The show premiered on the service on September 25.

(13) YEP, I CLICKED. Jess Nevins shamelessly conflates the ideas of “fandom” and “science fiction fandom” to reassign sf fandom’s origins to the women readers of Wild West pulp magazines. (Thread starts here.) Did Gernsback imitate someone else’s successful magazine marketing idea? That doesn’t mean sf fandom wasn’t started through the efforts of Amazing. Nor should it be overlooked that the idea of “fandom” flows from a whole collection of tributaries (see Teresa Nielsen Hayden, below.)   

And Teresa Nielsen Hayden wades right in:

There’s a lot more to learn in TNH’s 2002 post “Lost fandoms” at Making Light.

(14) TITLE BOUT. What won the Diagram Prize? Let The Guardian be the first to tell you: “A Dog Pissing at the Edge of a Path wins oddest book title of the year”.

A Dog Pissing at the Edge of a Path has beaten Introducing the Medieval Ass to win the Diagram prize for oddest book title of the year.

Both books are academic studies, with the winning title by University of Alberta anthropologist Gregory Forth. It sees Forth look at how the Nage, an indigenous people primarily living on the islands of Flores and Timor, understand metaphor, and use their knowledge of animals to shape specific expressions. The title itself is an idiom for someone who begins a task but is then distracted by other matters.

Runner-up Introducing the Medieval Ass, sees the University of Melbourne’s medieval historian Kathryn L Smithies explore “the ass’s enormous socio-economic and cultural significance in the middle ages”. Other contenders included Classical Antiquity in Heavy Metal Music, Lawnmowers: An Illustrated History and The Slaughter of Farmed Animals: Practical Ways of Enhancing Animal Welfare.

… “I thought it would be a closer race, but A Dog Pissing is practically a perfect Venn diagram of an ideal winner,” said Tom Tivnan, the prize coordinator and managing editor of the Bookseller. He said it combined “the three most fecund Diagram prize territories: university presses (a tradition dating back to the first champ, 1978’s University of Tokyo-published Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice); animals (like 2012’s Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop or 2003’s The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories); and bodily functions (such as 2013’s How to Poo on a Date and 2011’s Cooking with Poo).”

Founded by Trevor Bounford and the late Bruce Robertson in 1978 ‘as a way to stave off boredom at the Frankfurt Book Fair,’ the Diagram Prize has had a home at the Bookseller and with legendary diarist Horace Bent since 1982. The winner is decided by a public vote.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers:  The Mandalorian” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies note that not only does The Mandalorian have enough comedians in supporting roles to be “the best alternate Saturday Night Live cast ever” but as a bonus you get Werner Herzog playing himself saying, “I see nothing but death and chaos.”

[Thanks to JJ, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Kathryn Sullivan, Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Lise Andreasen, Steven H Silver, Danny Sichel, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Glitter and Virtual Darkness: Not at the KGB Bar Reading Series Features Gibson and Rambo

By Mark L. Blackman On the night of Wednesday, November 18, the Fantastic Fiction at KGB Reading Series, hosted by Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel, presented authors William Gibson and Cat Rambo in YouTube livestreamed readings. This was the Series’ ninth virtual event. (Its longtime venue, the KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village, had shut down due to the pandemic, but the Soviet era-themed dive bar has sporadically reopened with limited capacity, and its fans are invited to help it out with donations.) The current setup, Kressel noted, offers the advantage of allowing readings from writers not living in or visiting New York; both readers were “in” from the West Coast (Rambo lives in Seattle and Gibson Vancouver). It has also enabled a larger audience than could have fit into the bar (at one point, 120 people were watching).

As the evening’s livestream began, Gibson and Rambo schmoozed with Datlow and Kressel about everything from what they were drinking (hydration is important) to the scary Michelin Man, Gene Wolfe’s role at Pringle’s (the logo character is probably based on him), Oreos, and the previous week’s tornado in New York.

The first reader, Cat Rambo, is the author of over 200 stories, among them the novelette Carpe Glitter, which received a Nebula Award earlier this year, and four novels, including the upcoming space opera, You Sexy Thing. She is a past President of SFWA, and, as it happens, was in that position when Gibson was named a Grand Master. She opened with a selection from Carpe Glitter – “seize the glitter.” A woman is cleaning out the home of her eccentric late grandmother (“Carpe glitter” is something the old lady used to say), a former stage magician and a hoarder. It is an inheritance that she chose (to her mother’s disappointment) over cash, excavating and treasure-hunting (a friend has referred to it as “urban archeology”) through rancid furs, piles of multiple copies of magazines with her old notices and her doll collection.

She then read a flash story (“one of my favorite forms”) that ran on Daily Science Fiction, “I Decline.” An old man turns down government-offered technology that can preserve – and even edit out – his memories. (The spoiler is in the title.)

A short break followed.

William Gibson is best known as the creator (or, at minimum, co-creator) of an entire subgenre of speculative fiction, Cyberpunk. He is the author of the award-winning Neuromancer, Count Zero, Mona Lisa Overdrive, Virtual Light, Idoku, Spook Country, and other novels, most recently Agency, a sequel to The Peripheral.

He offered “a blended reading,” selections from the latter two novels, both of which center around “The Jackpot,” a multicausal, slow, androgenic process over 40 years rather than a solitary apocalyptic event, described by one character as “seriously bad shit.” Climate change and too much carbon results in droughts and water shortages, and pandemics that lead ultimately to the death of 80% of everyone (in other words, as we’ve heard too often on the news this year, “a perfect storm”). There is nanotechnology and cheaper energy sources, but the world is run by hereditary oligarchs. The protagonist is reached by a posse from the 22nd century who tell her about it. From Chapter 79 of The Peripheral, “The Jackpot,” he turned to Chapter 75 of Agency, “Jackpot.” The novel is set in an alternate continuum in which Hillary Clinton won in 2016, but that, he said, “doesn’t have the effect it might have, doesn’t prevent the Jackpot from happening.” Here too the protagonist is contacted by people from the future. Gibson is currently working on Jackpot, the conclusion of the trilogy.

Datlow described both selections as “greatly depressing reads, but optimistic” somehow. The Peripheral, was published in 2014 and Agency, appeared in early 2020, effectively pre-Covid-19. Trump’s election caused him to rewrite large parts of Agency, but the Coronavirus hasn’t derailed it. Both novels refer to “the pandemics,” plural.

Datlow asked how the writers are faring during the Pandemic. Rambo is staying productive with co-writing sessions, while Gibson has been “doing domestic stuff,” and “watching and reacting, and taking the measure of the fuckedness quotient and applying some of it to Jackpot #3.”

A Q&A with the audience ensued. Asked what classic sf stands up or stands out, Rambo replied that she’d been reading a number of ’70s short stories, particularly from women writers. Gibson cited J.G. Ballard and Brunner (who “got it astonishingly right,” notably Stand on Zanzibar), and we can feel like we’re in 1984. How do they decide the genders of their protagonists? Rambo said that if she didn’t know, she would return to her “D&D roots” and roll dice. Gibson noted that he had male and female protagonists in the same book; there are maybe four female protagonists in Jackpot. When he started out, he consulted Joanna Russ’s circle about handling women characters. Females, he opined, “better comprehend their world.”

What about the current milieu do they find surprising? Rambo finds social media both “horrifying and fascinating.” The only social media Gibson does is Twitter (Rambo also is on Twitter). In a digression, he observed (to laughter) that one thing that we don’t see in zombie apocalyptic fiction in books, movies and tv is people calling zombies a hoax. Kressel likened our polarized world to China Miéville’s The City and the City, with people “literally living in two realities,” pretending the others don’t exist. What are Rambo and Gibson finding to be optimistic about? Rambo likes “the informal nature of things,” and hopes that sf conventions have “a strong virtual component going forward.”

Would Gibson ever write in anyone else’s world? No, he has “never understood the impulse to write fan fiction.” What are their research methods? Gibson “Google[s] blindly,” and Rambo also relies on Google or “a good university library.” She is currently reading Zelazny’s A Night in the Lonesome October, and Gibson recommended M. John Harrison’s latest.

After a brief and reluctant cameo by her cat Jack, Datlow concluded by announcing upcoming readers:

  • December 16: Priya Sharma and Justin Key
  • January 20, 2021: Lauren Beukes and Usman T. Malik
  • February 17: Kathleen Jennings and Shveta Thakrar

All dates are the third Wednesday of the month (“come rain or shine or Covid”).

Pixel Scroll 11/5/20 007 Of Nine

(1) TO PATREON, OR NOT TO PATREON. Artist Emily Hare gives creators a lot to think about in “Should You Start A Patreon Page?”

Where To Start

Here are some questions I think would be useful for someone starting their Patreon page to ask themselves: 

Do I have a consistent style or theme?

Do I have a project to share?

Am I comfortable being held accountable for my output?

Have I got an engaged online following (small or large)

Do you want this to be full time or part time?

Are you a good teacher?

1. I believe number 1 is an important one. If you have a recognisable look to your work or always choose specific themes (like I nearly always stick with fantasy and fairytale type things) then this will help enormously. People who are paying you regularly will want to be paying for the thing they sign up for. So for instance, if they sign up for cute fluffy bunny art and then when they’re signed up you occasionally post erotic horror for example, then they will not stay a patron unless they happen to be interested in both those things. This is a very silly and extreme example, but you get my meaning! This doesn’t mean that someone doing more than one thing can’t have success with Patreon, but it is going to be much harder. Know your audience and be aware of why they are following you. Humans like the familiar and predictable. We are creatures of habit!…

(2) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present William Gibson and Cat Rambo in a YouTube livestreamed reading on Wednesday, November 18, 2020, 7 p.m. Eastern. Link forthcoming.

William Gibson

William Gibson is the author of Neuromancer and other novels, most recently Agency, a sequel to The Peripheral. He lives in Vancouver, Canada.

Cat Rambo

Cat Rambo is the author of over two hundred stories and four novels, including upcoming space opera, You Sexy Thing, from Tor Macmillan in 2021. Her novelette Carpe Glitter won a Nebula Award earlier this year. She lives, writes, and teaches in Seattle.

(3) NATURALLY. “‘Some Version of the Apocalypse Is Inevitable’” – Kara Swisher interviews Jeff VanderMeer for an episode of the New York Times’ “Sway.”Transcript available.

Kara Swisher

This is a perfect way to get into your books because you sort of are creating your own Area X there, I guess.

Jeff Vandermeer

Well, people have varying ideas about what Area X is. At the end of the day, Area X is a very natural, nice, beautiful place as long as you don’t stay there too long. But I think what it is that in Area X, at least by the rules of that fictional construct, people who are more attuned to their environment and more already integrated with it have less of an issue. So it’s just like almost a metaphorical or a more direct embodiment of what we see in the real world because what is somebody — like a few streets down, I saw someone the other day doing something very disturbing. They were spraying herbicide across all their dead leaves under their pine trees. Well, they’re also increasing their own possibility of cancer. So by not living in harmony, they’re also killing themselves to some degree. So that’s kind of what I’m getting at in part there, but I also think that it’s important for Area X to have its own ultimately unknowable purpose to the point where, even though I know most of it, there are things I don’t know too.

(4) RECUSAL. Horror Writers Association President sends a message:

(5) SMILING IN THE PUBLIC EYE. Men’sHealth may not be known for its comedy, but they have unfurled “99 Star Wars Jokes That Would Even Make Darth Vader Laugh”. I don’t promise the other 97 are as good as these —

Why didn’t any of Luke Skywalker’s marriages last?
He always followed Obi-Wan’s advice: “Use divorce, Luke.”

What was Lando’s nickname before he became a skilled pilot?
Crashdo.

(6) A BIRD IN THE HAND. Heroes & Icons reminds fans that “The Original Romulan Bird Of Prey Model From Star Trek Was Trashed”.

“Balance of Terror” remains one of the most important episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series. After all, this was the tale that first introduced us to the Romulans. In the adventure, a Federation outpost located in the Romulan Neutral Zone comes under attack by a Romulan warship.

When filming began on “Balance of Terror,” producer Bob Justman placed a call to his ace up the sleeve — special effects designer Wah Chang. The uncredited artist was the brilliant creative mind behind the communicator, the Salt Vampire, the Tribbles and other iconic Trek costumes and props. Justman asked Chang to fabricate a new alien ship with a twist. He wanted something like a bird swooping down upon its enemy to wipe them out.

Chang did just that, decorating the underbelly of his Romulan Bird of Prey with a graphic fit for the hood of a vintage Pontiac Firebird. The model was put into action and became a vital part of the standout episode.

However, in a subsequent season, when another script called for the model to be pulled out of mothballs, a tragic fate had taken the bird from us.

Wah Chang was a non-union contractor. The Bird of Prey prop was returned to him after the production of “Balance of Terror.” Thinking it was a one-off use, Chang had disposed of the ship. After much back and forth, producers came to the revelation and determined the budget could not afford to rebuild the prop.

(7) HOLIDAY SPECIAL. Disney+ dropped a trailer for the Lego Star Wars Holiday Special.Begins streaming November 17.

“The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special” reunites Rey, Finn, Poe, Chewie, Rose and the droids for a joyous feast on Life Day. Rey sets off on a new adventure with BB-8 to gain a deeper knowledge of the Force. At a mysterious Jedi Temple, she is hurled into a cross-timeline adventure through beloved moments in Star Wars cinematic history, coming into contact with Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Yoda, Obi-Wan and other iconic heroes and villains from all nine Skywalker saga films. But will she make it back in time for the Life Day feast and learn the true meaning of holiday spirit?

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • November 1985 — Thirty-five years ago this month, Robert Heinlein’s The Cat Who Walks Through Walls: A Comedy of Manners was first published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons. (There’s a limited edition of fifty copies done at the same time.) The cover art for the trade edition is by Michael Whelan. It might be considered a sequel to The Number of the Beast. Or not. David Langford in his White Dwarf review said, “ it’s Heinlein self-indulgence time again.” 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 5, 1938 Jim Steranko, 82. His breakthrough series  was the Sixties’ “Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” featured in Marvel Comics’ Strange Tales and in the subsequent debut series. His design sensibility is widespread within and without the comics industry, affecting even Raiders of the Lost Ark and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, as he created the conceptual art and character designs for them. He was inducted into the comic-book industry’s Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2006. (CE)
  • Born November 5, 1940 – Butch Honeck, 80.  Sculptor.  Guest of Honor at Archon 27, Capclave 2004, DucKon 13, Lunacon 48, ConClave XXX.  Archon Hall of Fame.  Magic Mountain bronze (with wife Susan Honeck), 1987 Chesley for Best Three-Dimensional; see here.  [JH]
  • Born November 5, 1942 – Frank Gasperik.  Singer and storyteller.  With Leslie Fish a novella and a short story.  This FG memorial page from a Larry Niven Website produced by LN fans has a note by Jerry Pournelle, a portrait by Kelly Freas, and several links of which some worked when (4 a.m. PST, 5 Nov 20) I tried them; about filk music, see here.  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born November 5, 1944 Carole Nelson Douglas, 76. Although she has two inarguably genre series In the Delilah Street, Paranormal Investigator and the Sword and Circlet novels, I’m here to pitch to you her Social Justice Warrior credential series instead (and dissenters can now go elsewhere) in the form of her Midnight Louie series.  Each novel is told in part from the point of view of Midnight Louie, the cat himself in a style some say is like that of a Damon Runyon character. Great dearies, lovely premise. (CE) 
  • Born November 5, 1946 – Barry Gold, 74.  Famed among filkers, more widely active in Los Angeles fandom e.g. his 2017 Evans-Freehafer award (for service to LASFS the L.A. Science Fantasy Society, in his case over five decades).  With wife Lee Gold, Along Fantasy Way (Tom Digby Fan Guest of Honor Book for ConFrancisco the 51st Worldcon), Alarums and Excursions (role-playing-game apa), Xenofilkia (filkzine).  Both in the Filk Hall of Fame, Interfilk Guests at OVFF 16 (Ohio Valley Filk Fest), Featured Filkers at Boskone 44.  [JH]
  • Born November 5, 1949 Armin Shimerman, 71. Quark on Deep Space Nine. And Principal Snyder on Buffy the Vampire Slayer who if I remember correctly came to a very bad end.  He had the recurring role of Pascal on Beauty and the Beast. He also played Professor George Edward Challenger in the later Nineties Lost World film. (CE)
  • Born November 5, 1952 – Frankie Bailey, Ph.D., 68.  Professor, School of Criminal Justice, State University of NY at Albany.  Two novels for us; next door she has an essay in R. Lupoff’s One Murder at a Time, seven novels, shorter stories, nonfiction.  “The first speech I ever memorized was Patrick Henry’s fiery ‘Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death’ – which I later recalled with some irony when I learned the truth about the founding fathers and slavery.  However, I am still a proud Virginian.”  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born November 5, 1958 – Gary Farber, 62.  Indispensable outspoken fan in the 1970s-1990s; fanzine Drift (“Have you got Gary Farber’s Drift?”).  See him as he was then (YouTube; special bonus appearances by other well-known fans of the time).  Today by his own statement largely gafiated although occasionally appearing here.  [JH]
  • Born November 5, 1960 Tilda Swinton, 60. Her take as Rosetta/Ruby/Marinne/Olive in Teknolust might be the most weird genre role she’s done but I like her take as The White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as her best role to date. Mind you her Gabriel in Constantine was frelling strange… (CE)
  • Born November 5, 1961 Sam Rockwell, 59. First in our area of interest as the Head Thug in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I’ve got him next being Francis Flute in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, not a role I knew. Ahhh Guy Fleegman on Galaxy Quest. And lastly, he was Zaphod Beeblebroxin The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. (CE)
  • Born November 5, 1966 – Erik V. Olson, 54.  Chaired SMOFcon 21 (SMOF for “secret masters of fandom” as Bruce Pelz said a joke – nonjoke – joke; SMOFcon draws people who often do the work at SF conventions and want to do it better), Capricon 31.  See him in this story of how the (eventually successful) bid for Aussiecon IV the 68th Worldcon started (and note that the author K. Buehler, in much the same way, later chaired CoNZealand the 78th).  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) ALL IN COLOR FOR ALL THE MARKET WILL BEAR. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I saw Secret Origin: The History Of DC Comics, a 2010 documentary narrated by Ryan Reynolds and directed by Mac Carter.  This is a corporate history celebrating DC’s 75th anniversary.  Like a lot of corporate histories, the best part of it is the documentation. I didn’t realize so much footage of Siegel and Shuster from the 1930s survives.  The role of editors Mort Weisinger and Julie Schwartz is accurately described, including their origins in sf fandom of the 1930s.  There’s even an uncredited photo of L. Sprague de Camp.

Best line:  Neil Gaiman says that he told his high school guidance counselor, “I want to write American comics” and the counselor said, “Have you ever considered accountancy?”

I didn’t really learn anything from this documentary but I thought it was well-made and interesting and a good use of 90 minutes.

(12) PHONE HOME. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Saw it earlier today while there, took a picture of the cover, decided to borrow it… Hope Rides Again (Obama Biden Mysteries, #2)  by Andrew Shaffer:

“In the sequel to the New York Times best-selling novel Hope Never Dies, Obama and Biden reprise their roles as BFFs-turned-detectives as they chase Obama’s stolen cell phone through the mean streets of Chicago–and right into a vast conspiracy.”

(13) TALKING ANIMALS. Netflix dropped a trailer for Beastars Season 2.

Next year, BEASTARS returns with a brand-new season full of mystery, suspense, and never before seen beasts. Are you ready?

(14) KRAMER NEMESIS LOSES ELECTION. The Georgia county District Attorney who prosecuted Ed Kramer on various charges over the past decade, including child molestation, lost his re-election bid this week. (Kramer is a co-founder of Dragon Con, but has not been a co-owner since 2013.)

“After nearly 30 years in office, Danny Porter is out as Gwinnett County elects its first Black DA” reports the Gwinnett (GA) Daily Post.

DA Danny Porter had held the office for nearly 30 years, going back to 1992. His bid to serve one more term in the office came up short on Tuesday, however, after he was defeated by his Democratic challenger Patsy Austin-Gatson.

… Austin-Gatson, who is one of several Democrats and people of color who were ushered into office by voters on Tuesday, will make Gwinnett history as the county’s first Black district attorney.

The county also elected its first Black sheriff.

Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader, a co-defendant with Ed Kramer in a computer trespass case, had already been turned out of office by an election held in August

(15) POWER CHORD. “Great Scott! This Custom BACK TO THE FUTURE Bass Guitar Rocks” says Nerdist.

Back to the Future is, fittingly, quite timeless. It’s a perfect movie with an amazing premise. It also rocks. Not only does Marty bust out an amazing version of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” but the film features two of the best songs in the history of cinema: Alan Silvestri’s theme and Huey Lewis’s “Power of Love.” And we want to hear all three tracks performed with one of the coolest instruments ever made. Because great Scott! This Time Machine Bass guitar inspired by Doc Brown’s DeLorean is heavy.

And it was built to help out Michael J. Fox’s charity.

(16) ARCHEOMUPPETRY. “The Land of Gorch: The Forgotten Muppets Sketch That Ran During SNL’s First Season”. Forgotten is right. I watched that first season when I was in college, and sure don’t remember this.

When NBC executives decided to take a chance on Lorne Michaels’s live sketch comedy show in 1975, they were a little wary about what the budding young producer might actually end up airing. So they worked some safe territory into the contract—namely, Jim Henson and the Muppets.

Henson and Michaels shared a manager (Bernie Brillstein), and the collaboration seemed promising at first. Henson was looking to broaden his work beyond Sesame Street; and Michaels, already a Henson fan, “wanted as many different styles of comedy as [he] could possibly have.”

For his weekly sketch, Henson dreamed up “the Land of Gorch,” a mystical, craggy kingdom populated with creatures that scholar Jennifer Stoessner later described as “scaly, bloated, and licentious.” Among them were: the bombastic King Ploobis; his simpering wife, Queen Peuta, and their ne’er-do-well son, Wisss; a mistress named Vazh; a bumbling henchman named Scred; and the Mighty Favog, an omnipotent god-like oracle. Together, they tackled sex, drugs, and other adult themes.

Video linked from the article.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “STAR WARS Meets INDIANA JONES in Epic Fan Film”Nerdist points the way.

George Lucas drew upon two distinct styles of classic Saturday matinee serials when creating his two epics, Star Wars and Indiana JonesStar Wars’ inspiration is straight from the Flash Gordon outer space adventures, while mostly forgotten films like Secret of the Incas inspired Indy. Now, one fan has found a way to bring those two distinct worlds together. Filmmaker Phil Hawkins has created the most expensive fan film yet, with Star Wars: Origins. Blending the styles and storylines of both worlds, it’s the mashup you never knew you needed until now.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Nancy Collins, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Michal Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, N., John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Olav Rokne, Daniel Dern, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 7/18/20 Scrollhenge, Where The Pixels Dwell, Where The Filers Live, And We Do Live Well

(1) CLARION ZOOMS THROUGH THE SUMMER. Join the Clarion Conversations, a series of Zoom-based conversations about writing speculative fiction “with a just tiny fraction of the amazingly talented Clarion alumni, instructor, and broader community.” RSVP each conversation via the links below:

Editing Speculative Fiction and Poetry – July 22, 5pm PT / 8pm ET (register here)

This week, our guests are John Joseph Adams, Ruoxi Chen, and Brandon O’Brien, moderated by Theodore McCombs. We’ll be discussing the state of publishing speculative fiction and poetry and how these three editors approach their work.

Holly Black and Kelly Link in Conversation – July 29, 5pm PT / 8pm ET (register here)

For our final week, we’re thrilled to have the incredible Holly Black and Kelly Link in conversation about craft, community, surviving as a writer, and what Clarion has meant to them.

(2) GIBSON Q&A. CNET has questions: “Future shocks past and present: William Gibson on fiction’s fear of tech”.

…”In my early teens, I assumed science fiction was about the future,” Gibson says of his days reading writers like Robert Heinlein. “But it was about how the future looked to Robert Heinlein in 1942, which was very different to how the future looked to him in 1960. By the time I began to write science fiction, I took it for granted that what I was doing was writing about the present.”

(3) FROG FLAVORED CANDY? “A ‘Mandalorian’ PEZ Dispenser Gift Set Is Coming And It Will Be An Instant Collectable”Delish heralds the news.

…The Baby Yoda dispenser comes in a set along with a Mandalorian dispenser and grape, lemon, and strawberry PEZ candy. The new Harry Potter dispensers are already available on the PEZ site, but the Mandalorian candy set is not, so it’s unclear when exactly these will be available online or if they’ll be available in stores as well.

(4) MUSLIM SFF WRITERS PROFILED. Aysha Kahn of the Religion News Service has a piece about the rising number of Muslims writing sf and fantasy, citing the works of G. Willow Wilson, Saladin Ahmed, and S.A. Chakraborty. “Through sci-fi and fantasy, Muslim women authors are building new worlds”.

In the past few years, Muslim women have quietly taken the speculative fiction publishing industry by storm, earning rave reviews with fantasy and science fiction narratives that upend both the genre’s historic lack of diversity and popular depictions of women and Islam.

Last year alone, mainstream publishing houses released at least 13 fantasy and sci-fi books written by Muslim women in English, from Farah Naz Rishi’s debut “I Hope You Get This Message” to Karuna Riazi’s middle-grade novel “The Gauntlet.”

At least another dozen, including sequels to Hafsah Faizal’s instant New York Times bestseller “We Hunt the Flame” and Somaiya Daud’s award-winning “Mirage,” are in the works….

(5) LEADING WITH A TRAILER. Yahoo! Entertainment says a new series scored a two-fer: “The New Mutants gets a new trailer and a virtual Comic-Con panel”.

(6) LEWIS OBIT. Civil Rights legend Rep. John Lewis died died July 17 of cancer.

…His passion for equal rights was backed by a long record of action that included dozens of arrests during protests against racial and social injustice.

A follower and colleague of Martin Luther King Jr., he participated in lunch counter sit-ins, joined the Freedom Riders in challenging segregated buses and — at the age of 23 — was a keynote speaker at the historic 1963 March on Washington.

When Rep. John Lewis and Andrew Aydin wrote a graphic novel trilogy March about the Civil Rights Movement, Lewis went to Comic-Con to promote it.

All three March books were Eisner Award nominees — the second and third volumes won the award (2016, 2017). Lewis received San Diego Comic-Con’s Inkpot Award in 2017.

(7) SUSAN SHAW OBIT. The Guardian profiled technology preservationist Susan Shaw, who died June 13 at age 88.

Founder of the Type Archive dedicated to rescuing the remains of the letterpress printing industry

In 1970 the price of lead went through the roof, and the art, craft and industry of letterpress printing, essentially unchanged for five centuries, became suddenly vulnerable. Property speculators, rival technologies and alternative media all threatened a world dependent on precision engineering and subtle manual skill. To Susan Shaw, who has died aged 87, this was a challenge to which she devoted the rest of her life, and in 1992 she founded the Type Museum (now the Type Archive) in Stockwell, south London, to rescue the remains of the dying industry.

In that year, the Monotype Corporation, pioneers of the leading type-composition system, went into liquidation. Susan went to Salfords, near Redhill, Surrey, where the Monotype factory was, saw the size of the plant, and planned to take it over. She chatted up the owners of a 1900 industrial complex near her home in Stockwell, and persuaded them to sell it to a trust set up for the purpose, borrowing the money.

The main building had been a veterinary hospital, with floors solid enough to support circus elephants, and now heavier stuff. She next organised the transport of plant, keyboards, casting machines and associated equipment, together with all the records of the corporation worldwide, altogether several hundred tons. She called its transport and reinstallation Operation Hannibal, and an elephant became her trademark.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 18, 2006 Eureka premiered on the Sci-Fi Channel. In syndication, it was renamed A Town Called Eureka. It was created by Andrew Cosby who was responsible for the rebooted Hellboy film and Jaime Paglia who’s executive producer of the current Flash series. No, it doesn’t tie into the CW continuity but it did tie-in to the Warehouse 13 reality. It would last six seasons and seventy episodes with an additional eight web episodes forming the “Hide and Seek” story as well. The large ensemble cast included Colin Ferguson, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Joe Morton, Debrah Farentino, Jordan Hinson, Ed Quinn, Erica Cerra, Neil Grayston, Niall Matter, Matt Frewer, Tembi Locke and James Callis. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 18, 1896 – Otto Gail (rhymes with “pile”).  Science journalist and author; among the most popular German 1920s SF authors.  Member of the German Interplanetary Society, knew Oberth and Valier.  Five technologically realistic novels for us including juveniles, five nonfiction including a 20-booklet series.  (Died 1956) [JH]
  • Born July 18, 1913 Red Skelton. Comedian of the first order. The Red Skelton Hour ran for three hundred and thirty-eight episodes.  He’s here because ISFDB says he wrote A Red Skelton in Your Closet which was also called Red Skelton’s Favorite Ghost Stories. He also has cameos in Around the World in Eighty Days and Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, both of which I consider genre adjacent. (Died 1997.) (CE)
  • Born July 18, 1913 Marvin Miller. He is remembered for being the voice of Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet. He would reprise that role myriad times in the next few decades in such films and series as The Invisible Boy, the Lost in Space series and Gremlins. (Died 1985.) (CE) 
  • Born July 18, 1921 – John Glenn.  In fact he never liked science fiction, or what he knew of it, perhaps thinking, in a reverse of James Bond, “It lives better than it reads”.  First-rate US Marines pilot (6 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 18 Air Medals); first supersonic flight across the US; only person to fly in both the Mercury and Space Shuttle programs; six terms as US Senator (Democrat – Ohio); flew on the Discovery at age 77 to help study Space and human age.  NASA Distinguished Service Medal, US Astronaut Hall of Fame, Congressional Gold Medal, Presidential Medal of Freedom.  Memoir, John Glenn.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born July 18, 1938 Paul Verhoeven, 82. Responsible for Starship TroopersTotal Recall, Hollow Man and Robocop. He’s made the short list for the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation three times (Starship TroopersTotal Recall and Robocop) but was not won it. (CE)
  • Born July 18, 1943 Charles G. Waugh, 77. Anthologist who is amazingly prolific. I count over two hundred anthologies, most done with co-anthologists, and many done with Martin Greenberg. Oft times a third anthologist would be listed, i.e. Poul Anderson for Terrorists of Tomorrow, or Isaac Asimov for Isaac Asimov’s Wonderful Worlds of Science Fiction series. (CE)
  • Born July 18, 1950 – Jay Kinney, 70.  Bijou Funnies with R. Crumb, Jay Lynch, Skip Williamson.  Hasn’t published his fanzine in a while, but here is a cover for Chunga (L to R, Hooper, Byers, juarez); here is a wise comment; here is his Clinic of Cultural Collison (noting Vaughan Bodé, who died on this day, 1975; name shared by Tex Jarman’s Uncle Bodie); here is “Welcome to the Late Show” for the Eagles.  Letters in Banana WingsRaucous Caucus (Relapse has, alas, relapsed).  [JH]
  • Born July 18, 1963 – Sue Mason, 57.  Standing for TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) she called herself “gamer, filker, costumer, dealer, apahack” modestly omitting she’s among our best fanartists.  She won; we must’ve forgiven her.  Ten covers, two hundred interiors, for AttitudeBanana WingsBentoChallengerIdeaQuasiQuoteTwink.  Eight Nova Awards as Best Fanartist, two Hugos. Part of the PLOKTA Cabal (PLOKTA = Press Lots Of Keys To Abort, the Journal of Superfluous Technology).  Guest of Honor at Eastercon 55 (British nat’l convention), Minicon 38.  MC’d the Masquerade costume competition at Intersection the 53rd Worldcon.  Artwork for Aussiecon 4 the 68th Worldcon.  Doc Weir service award.  Rotsler Award, later judge.  [JH]
  • Born July 18, 1966 Paul Cornell, 54. Author of both the Shadow Police series and the Witches of Lychford novella series which are quite excellent as well as writing a lot of television scripts for Doctor Who, Primeval and Robin Hood. He was part of the regular panel of the SF Squeecast podcast which won two Hugo Awards for Best Fancast. And he scripted quite a bit of the Captain Britain and MI: 13 comic series as well — very good stuff indeed. (CE)
  • Born July 18, 1972 – Eve Marie Mont, 48.  Time-travel tales send highschooler Emma Townsend into worlds she met in fiction, A Breath of EyreA Touch of ScarletA Phantom Enchantment.  “I shouldn’t love Rochester [in Jane Eyre]… dark, arrogant, moody, mistakes in his life that are seriously hard to overlook….  I teach high school, and the teens I know are a far cry from the ones portrayed in the media….  It’s that sense of wonder and possibility in YA literature that really excites me.”  Sponsors her school’s literary magazine.  [JH]
  • Born July 18, 1982 Priyanka Chopra, 38. As Alex Parrish in Quantico, she became the first South Asian to headline an American network drama series. Is it genre? Maybe, maybe not, though it could fit into a Strossian Dark State. Some of her work in her native India such as The Legend of Drona and Love Story 2050 is genre as Krrish 3, an Indian SF film she was in. She’s got a major role in the forthcoming Matrix 4 film. (CE)
  • Born July 18, 1990 – Kyle Muntz, 30.  Five novels, poetry (is poetry fiction?), two shorter stories, dark-fantasy game The Pale City (also the name of his Website).  Sparks Prize.  Interviewed in Lightspeed.  Has read two translations of Tu Fu (or, if you prefer, Du Fu), ranks them well above Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  By turns impish and sinister.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) SUMMERTIME. Six critics lavish affection on “My Favorite Summer Blockbuster” in the New York Times. Lots of genre – you’re not surprised, are you? And it’s not all Marvel – though I was less impressed to see someone reach back in time for this film once I saw the call-out for its availability on the new Disney+ service.

Monica Castillo: ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’

Little was conventional about Robert Zemeckis’s 1988 film, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” which helped make it the highest-grossing film that summer and the year’s second top box office draw (behind “Rain Man”). This seedy drawing of Tinseltown took inspiration from film noir, and its story was set in the golden age of Hollywood studios, many of which were then in decline….

(12) COMPLAINT DEPT. But meanwhile, back in the U.K. — “‘Joker’ Tops U.K. List of Most Complained About Films in 2019, but Can’t Beat ‘The Dark Knight’”.

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has confirmed Todd Phillips’ R-rated comic book drama “Joker” was the most complained about movie in the United Kingdom last year. The BBFC’s annual report has “Joker” topping the list of most complained about films with 20 complaints filed in regards to the movie’s age 15 classification.

The majority of complaints against “Joker” argued the film should’ve received an age 18 rating due to “violence and tone,” while a select few said the BBFC should’ve banned the movie altogether. The BBFC defended the age 15 rating for “Joker” because the film “doesn’t dwell on the infliction of pain or injury in a manner that requires an 18.”…

(13) SPEAK, MEMORY. In “Sleeping Next To An Elephant”, The Hugo Book Club Blog weighs in on a Best Novel finalist.

It’s often said in Canada that living next to the United States is like sleeping with an elephant:  affected by every twitch and grunt. It’s a phrase that came to mind when reading Arkady Martine’s debut A Memory Called Empire, a sprawling and richly imagined novel about hegemony and loss of culture.

Set in the capital city of the vast Teixcalaanli interstellar empire, A Memory Called Empire follows Mahit Dzmare the new ambassador from the much smaller Lsel Stationer Republic as she investigates the murder of her predecessor and navigates a political crisis that could spell disaster for both nations.

Martine has delivered one of the most Asimovian science fiction novels we’ve read in recent memory, while making the narrative uniquely her own. 

(14) VIRTUAL STAGE PLAY. Otherworld Theatre, Chicago’s premier science fiction and fantasy theatre will present Of Dice And Men – A Play about Dungeons and Dragons on their YouTube page on July 31 and will remain available for free until August 14, at which point it will move to Otherworld’s Patreon page. Tickets are FREE and can be obtained from Eventbrite or by subscribing to Otherworld’s YouTube page here.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Let’s Work Together” on YouTube is a new collaboration between William Shatner and Canned Heat, which will be one track on a new blues album Shatner will release this fall.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/2/20 The Pixel-Hinged File

(1) WOULD YOU BUY IT FOR A QUARTER? “Royal Mint launches first-ever augmented reality dinosaur coins”.

Royal Mint have released some very special dino coins.

Not only do they have amazing pictures of dinosaurs on them but they also are the first-ever to use augmented reality (AR).

Royal Mint, which makes most of the the UK’s coins, used the latest colour printing techniques to vividly show the megalosaurus, iguanodon and hylaeosaurus on the coins.

It worked closely with experts at the Natural History Museum to try to bring the prehistoric creatures to life.

The coins feature the dinosaurs and show where and when the first fossil was discovered.

After receiving the coin, collectors can use AR to scan the packaging to unearth facts, clips and images about the prehistoric beasts.

(2) FUTURE TENSE. The May 2020 entry in the Center for Science and the Imagination’s Future Tense Fiction series is “Scar Tissue” by Tobias S. Buckell.

The evening before you sign and take delivery of your son, you call Charlie and tell him you think you’ve made a huge mistake.

“Let me come on over and split a few with you,” he says. “I haven’t seen the fire pit yet.”

It was published along with a response essay, “When the Robot You Consider Family Tries to Sell You Something” by John Frank Weaver, an attorney who works on AI law, and author of the book Robots Are People Too

… That’s the part that worries me, as artificial intelligence applications may be able to leverage the data to manipulate Cory and other people—just as technology, PR, and marketing companies try to do in our lives today.

(3) A BRAND NEW ENDING. OH BOY. “Missing The Jackpot: William Gibson’s Slow-Cooked Apocalypse” – Robert Barry interviews the author for The Quietus.

“There’s never been a culture that had a mythos of apocalypse in which the apocalypse was a multi-causal, longterm event.” William Gibson speaks in the whisper-soft drawl of a man who for a long time now has never had to speak up in order to be heard. Though a certain edge had crept into our conversation by this point, watching him stretch out on the leather chaise longue of this hotel library (“my second home,” he calls it, as we make our way up from the lobby), it struck me that few people are able to seem at once so apprehensive and yet so intensely relaxed about the prospect of the end of the world as we know it.

“But if we are in fact facing an apocalypse,” he continues, getting now into the swing of this particular riff, “that’s the sort we’re facing. And I think that that may be what makes it so difficult for us to get our heads around what’s happening to us.”

(4) X MAGNIFICATION. In his column for CrimeReads, “Chris Claremont And The Making of an X-Men Icon”, Alex Segura interviews Claremont on his creation of Jean Grey, the Dark Phoenix, and her role in the X-Men saga.

…Though Claremont accepts the thesis that Dark Phoenix is, in many ways, in tune with the femme fatale trope, he’s not sure it’s totally apt.

“I’m not sure I would consider her a femme fatale. That actually is more Mystique’s side of the ledger,” Claremont said, referring to the blue-skinned, shape-changing mutant villain he’d introduce a bit later in his run. But the writer cannot deny the influence he and initial X-Men series artist Dave Cockrum had in reshaping Jean Grey—moving her from soft-spoken B-list heroine to full-on goddess.

“The fun with Jean for example was that when I first took over X-Men, Jean was a relatively two-and-a-half-dimensional character,” Claremont said. “What you had there was essentially unchanged from what [X-Men co-creator] Stan Lee had introduced years before. And we wanted to, I think, rough things up a tad but in the process, explore her more.”

(5) SAY CHEESE. In the Washington Post, Lela Nargi reports on the U.S. Geological Survey’s Unified Geologic Map Of The Moon, in which the survey combined maps made during the Apollo missions with subsequent satellite photo missions to create “the definitive blueprint of the moon’s surface geology.” “A new map shows the moon as it’s never been seen”.

…The USGS, which released the map in April, makes a lot of maps of Earth. It is also the “only institution in the world that creates standardized maps for surfaces that are not on Earth,” says USGS research geologist James Skinner. That includes Mars and other planets and moons in our solar system.

The new moon map took more than 50 years to make. It started with six original maps collected from the Apollo missions to the moon in the 1960s and ’70s. The maps did a good job of showing the basic layout of the moon.

New technology has made it possible to create an updated map and “turn it into information scientists can use,” says Skinner.

(6) I WAS BORN UNDER A WANDERING STAR. James Davis Nicoll introduces us to lots of characters who can make that claim in “Planets on the Move: SF Stories Featuring World-Ships” at Tor.com.

Recently, we discussed science fiction stories about naturally occurring rogue worlds; there is, of course, another sort of wandering planet. That would be the deliberately-impelled variety, featured in stories in which ambitious travellers take an entire world along with them. This approach has many obvious advantages, not the least of which is that it greatly simplifies pre-flight packing….

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 2, 1950 Rocketship X-M premiered. The film was produced and directed by Kurt Neumann. The screenplay was by Orville H. Hampton, Kurt Neumann and Dalton Trumbo (of Johnny Got His Gun fame). It starred Lloyd Bridges, Osa Massen, John Emery, Noah Beery, Jr., Hugh O’Brian, and Morris Ankrum. It was shot on a budget of ninety-four thousand dollars. It was nominated for the 1951 Retro Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at the Millennium Philcon when Destination Moon won that Award. Fandom holds it in higher esteem than audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes do who give it a 16% rating! Oh, and it was the first SF film to use a theremin in the soundtrack. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 2, 1857 – Karl Gjellerup.  In The Pilgrim Kamanita, the Pilgrimmeets a strange monk who he does not know is Gautama Buddha.  In The World-Roamers, characters re-experience happenings of former eons.  In The Holiest Animal, the snake that killed Cleopatra, Odysseus’ dog, Jesus’ donkey, and others, meeting after death, choose as the holiest animal the Buddha’s horse – but he has vanished without a trace, to Nirvana.  Nobel Prize in Literature.  Translated into Dutch, English, German, Polish, Swedish, Thai.  (Died 1919) [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1899 – Lotte Reiniger.  Pioneer of silhouette animation.  Animated intertitles and wooden rats for Paul Wegener’s Pied Piper of Hamelin (1918); a falcon for Fritz Lang’s Nibelungen (Part 1 – Siegfried, 1924).  Her own Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926) is the oldest known surviving feature-length animated film.  Doctor Dolittle and His Animals, 1928.  Her early version of a mutiplane camera preceded Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks by a decade.  Great Cross of the Order of Merit of the Fed’l Republic of Germany, 1979.  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1915 – Lester del Rey.  Fan, pro, short-order cook.  Used many names, not least of which was Ramon Felipe San Juan Mario Silvio Enrico Smith Heathcourt-Brace Sierra y Alvarez-del-Rey de los Verdes.  Two dozen novels alone and with others; a hundred shorter stories (see the 2-vol. Selected Short Stories); half a dozen non-fiction books; Skylark Award, SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) Grand Master; translated into Croatian, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish; reviews for Analog, features editor for Galaxy; SF editor for Ballantine; with Judy-Lynn del Rey and after her death, Del Rey Books.  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1920 Robert A. Madle, 100. File 770 celebrates Bob’s big day in a separate post about his fannish career. And fanhistory website Fanac.org dedicated its splash page to a collection of pointers to the audio and video they have of Bob, such as a recording of his 1977 Worldcon Guest of Honor speech, as well as links to the fanzines he edited in the 1930s. (OGH)
  • Born June 2, 1921 Virginia Kidd. Literary agent, writer and editor, who worked mostly in SF and related fields. She represented R.A. Lafferty, Ursula K. Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, Judith Merril, and Gene Wolfe. She was married to James Blish, and she published a handful of genre short fiction.  Wolfe modeled Ann Schindler, a character in Castleview, in large part on Kidd. (Died 2003.) (CE)
  • Born June 2, 1929 Norton Juster, 91. Author of The Phantom Tollbooth, he met Jules Feiffer who illustrates when he was taking his trash out. There is of course the superb film that followed. And let’s not forget The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics, a work well worth an evening spent reading. (CE)
  • Born June 2, 1937 Sally Kellerman, 83. She makes the list for being Dr. Elizabeth Dehner in the superb episode of Trek “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. She also had one-offs on the Alfred Hitchcock HourThe Twilight ZoneThe Outer LimitsThe Invaders, and The Ray Bradbury Theater. She played Natasha Fatale in Boris and Natasha: The Movie. (CE)
  • Born June 2, 1948 – Leigh Edmonds.  Founder of ANZAPA (Australia – New Zealand Amateur Press Ass’n).  Melbourne SF Club Achievement Award.  First DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate, published Emu Tracks Over America.  First A-NZ Administrator of GUFF (Get-Up-and-over Fan Fund, or Going Under Fan Fund, in alternate years).  Helped organize 10th Australian natcon (i.e. national convention); Fan Guest of Honour (with Valma Brown) at 30th.  Two Ditmars for Best Fanzine, three for Best Fanwriter.  [JH] 
  • Born June 2, 1959 – Lloyd Penney.  Thirty years on Ad Astra con committees (Toronto); Chair 1993 & 1994. “Royal Canadian Mounted Starfleet” (with Yvonne Penney & others – and song) in Chicon IV Masquerade (40th Worldcon).  Also with Yvonne, Chairs of SMOFcon VI (Secret Masters Of Fandom, as Bruce Pelz said “a joke-nonjoke-joke”; con-runners’ con); CUFF (Canadian Unity Fan Fund) delegates, published Penneys Up the River; Fan Guests of Honor, Loscon XXXIV.  Prolific loccer (loc or LoC = letter of comment, the blood of fanzines); 5 FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards.  [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1963 – Katsuya Kondô.  Manga artist, character designer, animator, animation director.  His character designs are considered the epitome of the Studio Ghibli style.  Known for Kiki’s Delivery ServiceOcean Waves (both Ghibli); Jade Cocoon (PlayStation game); D’arc (2-vol. manga about Joan of Arc; with Ken’ichi Sakemi).  Recently, character design for Ronya, the Robber’s Daughter (Ghibli, 2014).  [JH]
  •  Born June 2, 1972 Wentworth Miller, 48. I’m including him here today as he plays Captain Cold on the Legends of Tomorrow which might one of the best SF series currently being aired. His first genre role was on Buffy and other than a stint on the Dinotopia miniseries, this role is his entire genre undertaking along with being on Flash. (CE) 
  • Born June 2, 1973 – Carlos Acosta.  Cuban director of Birmingham Royal Ballet; before that, 17 years at The Royal Ballet, many other companies.  Prix Benois de la Danse.  Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to ballet.   Besides dancing in many fantasies (Afternoon of a FaunApolloThe NutcrackerSwan Lake) – and finding time for a wife and three children – he’s written a magic-realism novel, Pig’s Foot.  Memoir, No Way Home.  [JH]

(9) A POEM FOR THE DAY. By John Hertz:

May didn’t do it.
A month whose name’s almost young
Dealt him out to us.
Lively-minded, he connects
Energizing give and take.

 __________

An acrostic (read down the first letters) in 5-7-5-7-7-syllable lines.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump has a joke about dragon housekeeping.
  • Cul de Sac tries to imagine what makes up the universe.
  • Frazz tells us how to recognize “literature” when we read it. 

(11) CLASSIC SFF ART. The host of Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations creatd a thread about the careers of artists Leo and Diane Dillon. It starts here.

(12) IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA. Lois McMaster Bujold has posted about her experiences at the online SFWA Nebula Conference, including the text of her Grandmaster award acceptance remarks which end —

… And, throughout it all, I have been endlessly supported by my agent, Eleanor Wood of Spectrum Literary Agency. We first met face-to-face at the Nebula weekend in New York City in 1989. The morning after _Falling Free_ won my first Nebula Award, we shook hands over a hotel breakfast in a deal I trust neither of us has had cause to regret. Though I don’t think either of us realized how long it would last, three decades and counting.

(13) HARE GROWTH. A new collection of shorts on HBO Max, Looney Tunes Cartoons, captures the look and feel of the originals. The New York Times article may be paywalled; here are the key points and cartoon link.

In “Dynamite Dance,” Elmer Fudd comes at Bugs Bunny with a scythe, prompting the hare to jam a stick of lit dynamite in Elmer’s mouth.

Over the course of the short animated video, the explosives get bigger and more plentiful, as Bugs jams dynamite in Elmer’s ears, atop his bald head, and down his pants. The relentless assault moves from rowboat to unicycle to biplane, each blast timed to the spirited melody of Ponchielli’s “Dance of the Hours.”

The short has the look, feel and unabashed mayhem of a classic “Looney Tunes” cartoon, circa the early 1940s. But “Dynamite Dance” is of much more recent vintage, one of scores of episodes created by a new crop of WarnerBros. animators over the past two years.

…“I always thought, ‘What if Warner Bros. had never stopped making “Looney Tunes” cartoons?’” said Peter Browngardt, the series executive producer and showrunner. “As much as we possibly could, we treated the production in that way.”

…The creators of the new series hope to do justice to the directors, animators and voice artists of the so-called Termite Terrace, a pest-ridden animation facility on Sunset Boulevard where many of the franchise’s most beloved characters were born.

“There was something about the energy of those early cartoons,” Browngardt said. “And those five directors: Frank Tashlin, Bob Clampett, Tex Avery before he left for MGM, Chuck Jones, and Friz Freleng. They literally invented a language of cinema.”

(14) EMPLOYEES ABOUT FACE AT FACEBOOK. NPR reports “Facebook Employees Revolt Over Zuckerberg’s Hands-Off Approach To Trump”.

Facebook is facing an unusually public backlash from its employees over the company’s handling of President Trump’s inflammatory posts about protests in the police killing of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis.

At least a dozen employees, some in senior positions, have openly condemned Facebook’s lack of action on the president’s posts and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s defense of that decision. Some employees staged a virtual walkout Monday.

“Mark is wrong, and I will endeavor in the loudest possible way to change his mind,” tweeted Ryan Freitas, director of product design for Facebook’s news feed.

“I work at Facebook and I am not proud of how we’re showing up,” tweeted Jason Toff, director of product management. “The majority of coworkers I’ve spoken to feel the same way. We are making our voice heard.”

(15) GOING DOWN. NPR presents excerpts of the resetting of Orpheus and Eurydice (and Tony winner for Best Musical of 2019): “Hadestown: Tiny Desk Concert” — long audio/video.

You can probably guess that we recorded the original Broadway cast of Hadestown before the coronavirus pandemic made live theater (live anything) an untenable risk. The reminders are everywhere — in the way 16 performers bunch up behind the desk, singing formidably in close proximity as a large crowd gathers just off camera — that this took place in the Before-Times. To be specific, on March 2.

We’d actually been trying to put this show together since the spring of 2019, when Hadestown was a freshly Tony-nominated hit musical. We hit several delays along the way due to scheduling issues, only to end up rushing in an attempt to record while playwright Anaïs Mitchell — who wrote both the musical and the 2010 folk opera on which it’s based — was eight months pregnant.

Thankfully, we captured something truly glorious — a five-song distillation of a robust and impeccably staged Broadway production. A raucous full-cast tone-setter, “Way Down Hadestown” lets Hermes (André De Shields, in a role that won him a Tony) and Persephone (Kimberly Marable, filling in for Amber Gray) set the scene before a medley of “Come Home With Me” and “Wedding Song” finds Orpheus (Reeve Carney) and Eurydice (Eva Noblezada) meeting and falling in love. “When the Chips Are Down” showcases the three Fates — spirits who often drive the characters’ motivations — as played by Jewelle Blackman, Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer and Kay Trinidad. And in “Flowers,” Eurydice looks back with regret and resignation on her decision to leave Orpheus for the promise of Hadestown.

(16) NO NOSE IS BAD NOSE. From the Harvard Gazette: “Loss of taste and smell is best indicator of COVID-19, study shows”.

MGH, King’s College London researchers use crowdsourced data from app to monitor symptoms in 2.6 million, study how the disease spreads

Though fever, cough, and shortness of breath are the symptoms most commonly associated with COVID-19 infection, a recent study in which 2.6 million people used a smartphone app to log their symptoms daily showed that the most oddball pair of indicators — loss of smell and taste — was also the best predictor, and one that scientists said should be included in screening guidelines.

…The scientists adapted a smartphone app that had been created by corporate partner ZOE, a health science company, for research on how to personalize diet to address chronic disease. The new program, a free download from the Apple or Google app stores, collects demographic and health background information and then asks how the participant is feeling. If they’re feeling well, that’s the end of the daily entry. If they’re not it asks further questions about symptoms.

(17) BLIT FOR ANDROID? BBC asks “Why this photo is bricking some phones”.

Dozens of Android phone owners are reporting on social media that a picture featuring a lake, a cloudy sunset and a green shoreline is crashing their handsets when used as wallpaper.

Several brands seem to be affected, including Samsung and Google’s Pixel.

The bug makes the screen turn on and off continuously. In some cases a factory reset is required.

The BBC does not recommend trying it out.

Samsung is due to roll out out a maintenance update on 11 June. The BBC has contacted Google for comment but not yet had a response.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. At Axios “Science fiction writers tell us how they see the coronavirus pandemic”.

  • Neil Gaiman, author of “Coraline”: “I think this period of time is going to be a fertile time for storytellers for decades and, I hope, centuries to come.
  • Lois Lowry, author of “The Giver”: “We’re at the part of the book where the reader is feeling a terrible sense of suspense.”
  • Nnedi Okorafor, author of “The Shadow Speaker”: “One thing I’ve felt since all of this has happened, is this idea of … oh my gosh, it’s finally happening.”
  • Max Brooks, author of “World War Z”: “Those big crises that affect us all have to be solved by all of us … it may not be some alpha male with a big gun or some clairvoyant wizard or someone with magical powers.”

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Darrah Chavey, Joey Eschrich, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, and Andre Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joseph Hurtgen.]

Pixel Scroll 4/24/20 Fillie And The Poor Gods Are Stalkin’, Bring A Pixel, Scroll Your Feet

(1) MURDERBOT SPEAKS. Tor.com readies us for the May 5 release of Martha Wells’ next Murderbot book by hosting a dialog between two important characters: “Feelings REDACTED: What Happens When Murderbot and ART Talk to Instagram”.

The pair talked love, hate, fanfiction, feelings, quarantine tips, lemon cake, human flesh, dogs, robot babies, and, of course, Sanctuary Moon….

What really happened on episode 231 of Sanctuary Moon?
MB: It was clearly a dream.
ART: You’re wrong.
MB: So when the Mech Pilot was attacked by his evil duplicate who tried to hit him with a giant hammer and then disappeared, you think that was supposed to be real?
ART: It was an artistic choice.

(2) TRAVIS MCCREA APOLOGIZES. In the aftermath of John Van Stry’s court victory over book pirate Travis McCrea, McCrea has tweeted an apology. Take it for what it’s worth. Thread starts here.

(3) FANFICTION ETIQUETTE. The Mary Sue built a good story around the author’s recent Twitter thread: “N.K. Jemisin Reminds Us of the First Rule of Fanfiction”.

No, the first rule of fanfiction is not “we don’t talk about fanfiction.” Many writers happily discuss reading and writing fic—as evidenced by N.K. Jemisin, the three-time Hugo Award-winning novelist, describing how she still writes and reads it herself. The first rule of fanfiction is “you do not try and get the original creator to read your fanfiction.” How quickly we forget our Internet history.

… In explaining how these things are, Jemisin is not discouraging fans from making their own fanworks centered around her creations. She just cannot be personally involved, and it’s a serious breach of fandom etiquette to ask.

(4) BRUCE PELZ WOULD HAVE LOVED THIS. Bob Byrne is passing the time with this inventive tribute to Rex Stout’s famous sleuth: “Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: 2020 Stay at Home – Days 5, 6, and 7”. Which means seeing everything from Archie Goodwin’s viewpoint. For example —

DAY SIX – 2020 Stay at Home (SaH)

It was a pleasant spring morning, so I took my delayed walk today. It was good to stretch the legs and breathe the freshest air I’ve inhaled since moving here many years ago. I was out for two hours, enjoying open space – and the absence of Nero Wolfe. I saw other people walking and jogging, mostly keeping the required distance. It’s going to take some time for me to get used to the lack of noise. The buzz of conversation and the traffic ruckus just aren’t there. It’s not bad – just different.

I wasn’t in the office when Wolfe got down from the plant rooms at 11, but he didn’t seem to mind. He was at his desk, reading a thick book about Huey P. Long. He acknowledged my arrival and resumed reading. That was fine with me. I let him know I would be in the basement for a while and departed.

We keep a small file cabinet down there, which contains files related to unsolved cases. I’ve never written one up, but yes, there were occasions when the great Nero Wolfe didn’t get the bad guy. Or at least, couldn’t prove the issue. I’ll admit, his batting average was much better than Ty Cobb’s, but still, it did happen. And it rankled me at least as much as it did him. I’m the one who gathers the clues. I can’t help thinking, on some of them, that if I’d gotten one more piece of something, it might have made all the difference….

(Heading explained: It was from Bruce Pelz I first heard of Nero Wolfe.)

(5) WHO WAS THAT MASKED FAN? The New Yorker chronicles “The Superfans Springing Into Mask-Making Action”.

In the pandemic economy, face masks are like bars of gold. Hoarders are hoarding them. Governors are bartering for them. Hospital workers desperately need them. New Yorkers, ordered by Governor Cuomo last week to cover their faces in public, are repurposing bandannas and boxer shorts. In Rosie the Riveter fashion, Americans with crafting skills—among them quilters, Broadway seamstresses, sportswear manufacturers, origami artists, and grandmothers—have sprung into action. But one group has special mask-making powers: cosplayers, the superfans who specialize in making and wearing costumes. Never has the ability to whip up a Spider-Man mask or a Stormtrooper helmet been so useful.

“Cosplayers have big hearts,” Monica Paprocki, a thirty-five-year-old accountant in Chicago, said. Paprocki, who runs the fandom site Geeks A Gogo, started cosplaying in 2014 and taught herself how to sew by watching YouTube videos. She dressed as Princess Jasmine at Wizard World Chicago in 2019, the year after her Phoenix Monster costume, from the board game Rising Sun, won the Golden Needle Award at a gaming convention in Indianapolis. “It had articulated wings that I controlled with a remote control,” she said. This June, she was going to dress as Buzz Lightyear at the Origins Game Fair, in Ohio, but it had been postponed until October. When she saw a Facebook group requesting homemade medical supplies, she recruited fellow-cosplayers. “Before everything closed down, I had a stash of cotton fabric and materials here in my house,” she said. “I work my regular nine-to-five job in accounting. Right after that, I start sewing.”

(6) BESTSELLERS TALK AMONG THEMSELVES. Via Shelf Awareness comes word that Stephen King and John Grisham will hold a free online conversation discussing their new books on Wednesday, April 29 at 7:00 PM Eastern.

“In lieu of admission, the authors hope attendees will consider donating to the Bookseller Industry Charitable Foundation. You can register at grishamking.eventbrite.com or watch on Stephen King’s YouTube channel. Questions for the authors can go use #AskKingandGrisham

(7) VALUE ADDED. “The Stockbrokers Of Magic: The Gathering Play for Keeps”WIRED tells how.

…A whimsical experiment in bartering kickstarted that evolution in 2010: A few years after the viral “one red paperclip” experiment—a Craigslister traded a single red paperclip for a series of increasingly valuable items until he managed to trade up for a house—a Magic player named Jonathan Medina embarked on a similar quest. Medina would trade from one random $4 pack of booster cards and keep trading up until he acquired one of the game’s legendary Power Nine cards— phenomenally rare cards widely considered very, very good. A pavement-pounding card trader, Medina blogged his experience in a widely read series of articles called “Pack to Power.” He would spend no money and, using just his wits, research, and networking skills, maneuver his $4 pack of cards into Magic wealth.

After opening his pack, Medina, in his words, began “hitting the streets to flip my cardboard.” By the time he’d traded with fellow players at gaming conventions and stores a total of 98 times, he had assembled an impressive binder stacked with valuable cards. It was at Gen Con, on a Saturday four months later, when Medina, groggy from playing Magic until five in the morning the previous night, handed over his binder in exchange for the $359.99 Mox Pearl card—a Power Nine.

“At the time, people were still trading based on nonmonetary metrics,” Medina says. “So when people read the small stories of the trades and looked at the math, they realized that they could be getting more out of their cards. This collective rise in awareness led to an interest in the financial side of the game. 

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 24, 1955 — The X Minus One radio program aired on NBC for the first time. Written by Ray Bradbury, “And The Moon Be Still As Bright” is the tale of Mars expedition which finds the Martians extinct due to chickenpox brought to them by previous expeditions. The crew save one decide to destroy all Martian artefacts. Ernest Kinoy wrote the script from the story by Bradbury, and the cast included John Larkin and Nelson Olmstead.  The show would run from now until January 8, 1958 with many of coming from well-known SF authors including Anderson, Pohl, Asimov, Blish, Leiber, Heinlein and Simak to name just a few. You can hear this episode here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 24, 1930 Richard Donner, 90. He’s credited in directing Superman which Is considered by many to be the first modern superhero film. H’h. Well I’m instead going to celebrate him for ScroogedThe Goonies and Ladyhawke. Not to mention the horror he did — Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight and Bordello of Blood. Oh, and the first X-Men film which was superb. 
  • Born April 24, 1936 Jill Ireland. For her short life, she chalked up in an amazing number of genre show roles. She was on Star Trek romancing Spock as Leila Kalomi In “This Side of Paradise” episode. She had five appearances on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well as being on Night Gallery,  My Favorite MartianVoyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Voodoo Factor and the SF film The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything based on the 1962 novel of the same name by John D. MacDonald. (Died 1990.)
  • Born April 24, 1946 Donald D’Ammassa, 74. Considered to be one of the best and fairest long-form reviewers ever. His Encyclopedia of Science Fiction covered some five hundred writers and as can two newer volumes, Encyclopedia of Fantasy and Horror Fiction and Encyclopedia of Adventure Fiction are equally exhaustive. I can’t comment on his fiction as I’ve only ever encountered him as a reviewer.
  • Born April 24, 1947 Michael Butterworth, 73. Author of, with Michael Moorcock naturally, two Time of the Hawklords novels, Time of the Hawklords and Queens of Deliria. He also wrote a number of Space 1999 Year 2 novels, too numerous to list here. He also edited Corridor magazine from 1971 to 1974. He also wrote a number of short fiction pieces including one whose title amuses me for reasons I’m not sure, “Circularisation of Condensed Conventional Straight-Line Word-Image Structures“. 
  • Born April 24, 1950 Michael Patrick Hearn, 70. Academic who has some of the best annotated works I’ve had the pleasure to encounter. I wholeheartedly recommend both The Annotated Wizard of Oz and The Annotated Christmas Carol, not to overlook Victorian Fairy Tales which is simply the best collection of those tales.
  • Born April 24, 1953 Gregory Luce, 67. Editor and publisher of both the Science Fiction Gems and the Horror Gems anthology series, plus such other anthologies as Citadel of the Star Lords / Voyage to Eternity and Old Spacemen Never Die! / Return to Earth. For a delightful look at him and these works, go here. Warning: really cute canine involved! 
  • Born April 24, 1955 Wendy S. Delmater, 65. She was nominated at Sasquan for a Best Semiprozine Hugo for editing the exemplary Abyss & Apex webzine. It’s particularly strong in the areas of speculative poetry and small press genre reviews. She herself has written a lot of genre centered essays, plus a handful of genre stories and poems. 
  • Born April 24, 1983 Madeline Ashby, 37. California-born Canadian resident writer whose Company Town novel created an entire city in an oil rig. Interestingly In 2013, she was a finalist for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer but recused herself on the grounds that her pro  career started with her ‘09 publication of a short story in Nature, so  her eligibility period had expired in ‘11. And her Machine Dynasties series is simply brilliant, and resonates with the later Murderbot series.

(10) HAPPY BIRTHDAY HUBBLE. “Hubble telescope delivers stunning 30th birthday picture”

It’s 30 years ago to the day that the Hubble telescope was launched – and to celebrate its birthday, the veteran observatory has produced another astonishing image of the cosmos.

This one is of a star-forming region close to our Milky Way Galaxy, about 163,000 light-years from Earth.

The larger object is the nebula NGC 2014; its companion is called NGC 2020.

But astronomers have nicknamed the scene the “Cosmic Reef” because it resembles an undersea world.

(11) AND IN MOTION. Hubble’s 30th anniversary image has been turned into a 3D “spaceflight” experience.

Experts created this visualisation showing the Giant Red Nebula and its smaller blue neighbour, which lie in a satellite-galaxy of the Milky Way.

(12) IN ONE SITTING. “The chairs of Blake’s 7” is a vast collage of furniture and show highlights assembled by the author of the Watching Blake’s 7 blog:

…So, here is a compilation all the identifiable seating seen in Blake’s 7.  In addition, I have thrown in a handful of tables, desks, lamps and other things that showcase how bloomin’ stylish Blake’s 7 was, and how the BBC props store contained a wealth of magnificent design artefacts.

First on the list —

Folding chair
Fred Scott, for Hille International
1960’s
Seen in ‘Animals’

Let’s start with one of the most beautiful moments in Blake’s 7, and a reminder of the sheer effort to get the series broadcast on time and on budget.  Sure, Avon slips at the end of this shot, and there’s no time for a retake, but let’s not forget the attitude in which he knocks the chair over.   I’m delighted to report that Fred Scott designed something robust enough to withstand the dirtiest ‘Dirty Harry’ kicking seen on screen up to that point.  Chair vandalism, or quality control?  You decide.

(13) SACRILEGE! The Chewie Millennial System: “Library books rearranged in size order by cleaner”.

A well-meaning cleaner who took the opportunity to give a locked-down library a thorough clean re-shelved all of its books – in size order.

Staff at Newmarket Library, Suffolk, discovered the sloping tomes after the building underwent a deep clean.

James Powell, of Suffolk Libraries, said staff “saw the funny side” but it would take a “bit of time” to correct.

“It looks like libraries will be closed for a while so we’ll have plenty of time to sort the books out”, he said.

“The cleaner is lovely and does a great job in the library. It was an honest mistake and just one of those things so we would never want her to feel bad about it,” he added.

(14) RIGHTFUL PREY. Let Atlas Obscura show you the elusive “Fremont Troll”.

AN 18-FT. tall troll made of cement clutches an old VW car underneath an overpass in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. The car is an actual Volkswagen Beetle encased in concrete, which used to be red and bear a California license plate.

The Troll was constructed in 1990 after winning a Fremont Arts Council competition for designs to improve the freeway underpass, which then was a dumping ground….

(15) A MOBY FILE. “Oregon Park Rangers Decided to Bury a Perfectly Dead Whale Instead of Blowing It Up” grumps the Willamette Week. Tagline: “Do we really want to live in a state that won’t explode giant animal carcasses when given the chance?”

… On Saturday, the carcass of a 40-foot grey whale washed up on the shore of the Sand Lake Recreation Area north of Pacific City. For longtime Oregonians, news of a dead whale appearing on a local beach should ring a few alarm bells…

… In case you don’t know the story, in November 1970, a sperm whale of roughly the same size washed up on the beach in Florence, Ore. Local officials considered several methods of disposing the body, like dragging it out to sea. Ultimately, they went with the most exciting option available—blowin’ it up real good.

It was a bit of a disaster. The dynamite blew chunks of whale flesh 800 feet in the air, raining viscera down on bystanders and destroying a car in the adjacent parking lot. 

Which gives everyone on the internet an excuse to repost one of the most viral videos of all time:

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “No Maps For These Territories:  A William Gibson Docufilm” on YouTube is a 2000 documentary, directed by Mark Neale, of conversations held with Gibson during his book tour for All Tomorrow’s Parties.  It includes interviews with Bruce Sterling and Jack Womack and Gibson remembering that when he read “Burning Chrome,” one of the first cyberpunk stories, at Denvention II in 1981, he had an audience of four.

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