Nichelle Nichols (1932-2022)

Nichelle Nichols aboard the SOFIA flight in 2015.

Actress Nichelle Nichols, who played Star Trek’s iconic Lt. Uhura in the original series and in movies, died of natural causes on July 30 at the age of 89.

She began her career as a singer and stage actor in the 1961 musical Kicks & Co. She also appeared in the role of Carmen for a Chicago stock company production of Carmen Jones and performed in a New York production of Porgy and Bess. On the West Coast, she appeared in The Roar of the Greasepaint and For My People and the James Baldwin play Blues for Mister Charlie.  She toured as a singer with the Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton bands. Her first film role was as an uncredited dancer in Otto Preminger’s Porgy and Bess (1959.)

Nichols initially crossed paths with Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry when she was cast in a 1964 episode of his earlier TV series The Lieutenant, her first television role. The two had a fleeting romance that turned into a longtime friendship. She was brought in to audition for Star Trek (after the second pilot) – originally reading for Spock, as the Uhura character she would ultimately play had not yet been written.

However, by the end of the first season of filming the original Star Trek series, having been worn down by repeated slights and indignities and having been offered a role in a musical that would be Broadway bound, Nichols gave Gene Roddenberry her resignation. Roddenberry asked her to reconsider over the weekend, during which she met “her biggest fan,” Martin Luther King, at an NAACP fundraiser, who told her in no uncertain terms that she could not quit the show. 

“Yes, Ms. Nichols, I am that fan. I am your best fan, your greatest fan, and my family are your greatest fans…. We admire you greatly ….And the manner in which you’ve created this role has dignity….”

I said “Dr. King, thank you so much. I really am going to miss my co-stars.” He said, dead serious, “What are you talking about?” I said, “I’m leaving Star Trek,” He said, “You cannot. You cannot!”

I was taken aback. He said, “Don’t you understand what this man has achieved? For the first time on television we will be seen as we should be seen every day – as intelligent, quality, beautiful people who can sing, dance, but who can also go into space, who can be lawyers, who can be teachers, who can be professors, and yet you don’t see it on television – until now….”

I could say nothing, I just stood there realizing every word that he was saying was the truth. He said, “Gene Roddenberry has opened a door for the world to see us. If you leave, that door can be closed because, you see, your role is not a Black role, and it’s not a female role, he can fill it with anything, including an alien.”

At that moment, the world tilted for me. I knew then that I was something else and that the world was not the same. That’s all I could think of, everything that Dr. King had said:  The world sees us for the first time as we should be seen.

What is popularly believed to be TV’s first interracial kiss—between Nichols and William Shatner—also occurred on Star Trek, although earlier examples exist. 

She reprised her character in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (promoted to Lt. Cmdr.), Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (now a full Commander), Star Trek III: The Search for SpockStar Trek IV: The Voyage HomeStar Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

Nichols also voiced Lt. Uhura on Star Trek: The Animated Series. Her other voice work included the animated series Gargoyles and Spider-Man. She also voiced herself on Futurama.

Other film SF roles included Ruana in Tarzan’s Deadly Silence with Ron Ely as Tarzan, High Priestess of Pangea in The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space, Oman in Surge of Power: The Stuff of Heroes and Mystic Woman in American Nightmares. Nichols played a recurring role on the second season of the NBC TV drama Heroes

Nichols became the first African American to have her handprints immortalized at the TCL Chinese Theatre. The ceremony also included other members of the original Star Trek cast.

In 1976, along with the other cast members from the original Star Trek series, she attended the christening of the first space shuttle, Enterprise, at the North American Rockwell assembly facility in Palmdale, California. 

In response to her criticism of NASA’s lackluster efforts to include women and minorities in the Astronaut Corps, NASA contracted Nichols to undertake major recruitment blitz. The recruitment drive she led in 1977 drew applications from more than 2,600 women and minority astronaut hopefuls. Among those hired from the diverse applicants were two trailblazers: the first American woman astronaut to travel into space, Sally Ride, and the first African-American astronaut to do so, Guion “Guy” Bluford.

Asteroid 68410 Nichols is named in her honor.

Nichols was one of the original Trek cast who got a close personal look at The Final Frontier when she rode with the SOFIA telescope to the edge of space in 2015.

Surprisingly, this flight was made only months after she recovered from a stroke.

In 1994, Nichols published her autobiography Beyond Uhura: Star Trek and Other Memories. She also authored two sf novels, Saturn’s Child and Saturna’s Quest.

She was one of the women to whom Robert A. Heinlein dedicated his 1982 novel Friday. Paintings once owned by Robert and Virginia Heinlein and displayed in their home included a portrait of Nichols as Star Trek’s Lt. Uhura, by Kelly Freas.

Nichols married twice, first to dancer Foster Johnson — they were married in 1951 and divorced that same year. Johnson and Nichols had one child together, Kyle Johnson. She married Duke Mondy in 1968. They divorced in 1972. A brother, Thomas Nichols, died in the 1997 mass suicide of the Heaven’s Gate cult at Rancho Santa Fe, near San Diego.

In early 2018, Nichols was diagnosed with dementia, and subsequently announced her retirement from convention appearances, although that did not take effect until later. She participated in the San Diego Comic-Con in July 2018 where she received an Inkpot Award.

Nichols at Comic-Con.

She was the subject of a contested conservatorship proceeding between her manager, a friend, and her son. The conservatorship was finally granted to her son Kyle Johnson. Today he wrote on Uhura.com – Official Site of Nichelle Nichols:

Last night, my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and passed away. Her light, however, like the ancient galaxies now being seen for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from, and draw inspiration.

Hers was a life well lived and as such a model for us all.

I, and the rest of our family, would appreciate your patience and forbearance as we grieve her loss until we can recover sufficiently to speak further. Her services will be for family members and the closest of her friends and we request that her and our privacy be respected.

Live Long and Prosper.

Pixel Scroll 7/28/22 I Love Pixels. I Like The Whooshing Sound They Make As They Scroll By

(1) GRRM HAS COVID. Yahoo! reports “George R.R. Martin Caught COVID at Comic-Con, Is Quarantined With Sniffles ‘In a Four-Star Hotel’”. Martin speaks about it in a nine-minute video below. The precautions he was taking, discussed before SDCC at Not a Blog, such as sharply limiting his in-person appearances there, were not enough, it seems.

George R.R. Martin caught COVID during his trip last week to Comic-Con, the “Game of Thrones” author said Wednesday night in a YouTube video, and is quarantining in a Los Angeles hotel with mild sniffles.

“I’ve had worse colds, so I hope it will stay that way,” Martin said, with a barely detectable rasp in his voice. “After this quarantine period I will be able to get on with various things.”

Martin noted that he’d be missing a “House of Dragons” premiere event that night in North Hollywood, where HBO content chief Casey Bloys later told the crowd that Martin was absent because of a positive COVID test that morning.

“I wouldn’t worry too much about me, I seem to be fine,” said Martin, who seemed genuinely disappointed to be missing the various Los Angeles events he was in town for. “I will say, if you’re going to have to go and quarantine, a four-star hotel is a pretty good place to do it.”

(2) DREAMHAVEN. Artist Mark Bode posted a photo of the finished DreamHaven Bookstore wall mural on Facebook.

David Dyer-Bennet also has a gallery of photos he took of the wall on his Facebook page.

(3) RPG’S RACIST DESCRIPTIONS EXPOSED.  [Item by Cora Buhlert.] TheGamer reports the upcoming tabletop RPG Star Frontiers: New Genesis by TSR Hobbies (which is not the real TSR) contains some grossly – and I do mean grossly – racist content: “TSR’s Leaked Star Frontiers: New Genesis Playtest Contains Racist Descriptions”.

…The Star Frontiers: New Genesis playtest has been leaked by NoHateInGaming. They shared pictures from the game’s rules that detail a “Negro sub-race”, describing them as a “Tall thick bodied dark skinned brown-eyed race with large strength average intelligence ALL Attributes are in the 10+ range except intelligence which is maximum a +9”. That poor writing is all Star Frontiers: New Genesis, by the way.

This is a deeply racist characterisation of Black people, rooted in colonial eugenics. There are further causes for concern in the leaked images. The Nordic race – not marked as a “sub-race” – has “exceptional attributes and powers ALL attributes are in the 13+ range.”…

(4) SPSFC 2022 CALL FOR ENTRIES. The second annual Self-Published Science Fiction Competition is canvassing the world for entries. The posted deadline to submit books is July 31. Here are some of the requirements.

i) No book that was entered in a previous SPSFC can be reentered .
ii) The book must be #1 in a series or a stand-alone.
iii) The book must actually be self-published(*) by the start date, not something you’re considering self-publishing in future.
iv) It must be a sci-fi book. Underscored must. No pretending.

(5) THE NEW KRAZY KAT BOOK. [Item by Daniel Dern.] From Taschen, the publisher doing the Complete Little Nemo that I recently wrote about (“Finding A More Complete (Little) Nemo — Upcoming Bargain Book Alert, Plus A Few Snakes-Hands And Rabbit-Holes”), comes George Herriman: The Complete Krazy Kat in Color 1935-1944 (listing seen in the latest email from Bud’s Art Books, where it’s available for $185.)

A 632-page hardcover, “just a little smaller than the original published Sunday page size.” (11.8 x 17.3 in., 14.20 lb.) Includes “a 100-page illustrated introduction by Alexander Braun in a special carrying-case/box.” (See a 16-page slideshow of the art at the Taschen Books site.)

At this price — reasonable enough given the book size and contents — I’m going to pass at least for now (and I’m prepared to have missed my chance) (I’ve got enough Krazy Kat on hand, albeit in the less-than-humongous size), but other Filers may feel differently. (Is your credit card twitching at you, Chris B?)

Related trivia: Herriman is also known for — that’s how I learned about him, in fact — his illustrations for Don Marquis’ “archie and mehitabel” books (which in turn I learned about by listening to the late, great Jean Shepherd read from them in his 45-minute late-night shows, along with listening to his readings of Robert Service, and, of course, Shep’s own inimitable stories and meanderings.

(6) ARE THEY WATCHING THEIR SCALES? Tor / Forge Blog took their question straight to the internet authority: “What Burrito Would You Feed a Dragon? John Scalzi Answers!”

As an internationally renowned expert on burritos, I have been asked by the folks at Tor to essay perhaps the most important question of this or any other time in our shared cultural history:

What Burrito Would You Feed a Dragon?

And the answer is: Well, obviously, it would depend. Dragons come in all shapes and sizes and personal proclivities. It’s time to acknowledge that, just like people, they will have their own idiosyncratic tastes and preferences. Let me take five examples of dragons from history and literature and song, and suggest some possible burrito pairings….

(7) MASTERS IN BUSINESS ANNIHLATION. Cora Buhlert posted another “Non-Fiction Spotlight” today for Management Lessons from Game of Thrones: Organization Theory and Strategy in Westeros by Fiona Moore.

I’m continuing my Non-Fiction Spotlight project, where I interview the authors/editors of SFF-related non-fiction books that come out in 2022 and are eligible for the 2023 Hugo Awards. For more about the Non-Fiction Spotlight project, go here. To check out the spotlights I already posted, go here.

Tell us about your book.

Management Lessons from Game of Thrones takes a look at management theory through a Westerosi lens. I use characters, organisations, and events from the television series (primarily, though there’s some references to A Song of Ice and Fire in there as well) to explain the background and concepts of organisation theory, human resource management, strategy, and mergers and acquisitions (or, in the Westerosi context, weddings and warfare). I also look at how and why Game of Thrones is such a useful tool for management education, and suggest ways in which the reader can develop their own understanding of organisations through the use of SFF stories.

(8) BERNARD CRIBBINS (1928-2022). Bernard Cribbins, known best to fans for his work in Doctor Who playing Wilf, grandfather to Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble, died July 27. He was 93. That was just one of many iconic roles across a career that spanned seven decades. He appeared in The Railway Children, three films in the Carry On series, and the James Bond spoof Casino Royale. He performed a hit ’60s song “Right Said Fred”, and narrated The Wombles. His first brush with Doctor Who was in 1964, playing police constable Tom Campbell in the film Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 AD. He was appointed an Office in the Order of the British Empire for his services to drama in 2011. He wrote an autobiography, Bernard Who? 75 Years Of Doing Just About Anything, which was published in 2018.

His resume also includes this episode of Fawlty Towers with John Cleese.

(9) MEMORY LANE.  

1969 [By Cat Eldridge.] I’m very selective about what I think is great fiction by Niven and the Gil ”The Arm” Hamilton stories are I think among his best work. Mind you I was surprised how few actual stories there were in this series there was when I started writing up this essay!

As you most likely know, and I’m not doing a spoiler warning this time as I’m assuming most

 of you have read these, Gil ”The Arm” Hamilton developed telekinesis after losing his arm in an outer space accident after asteroid takes his arm off. While waiting for a transplant, he is in bar:

“Like an idiot I’d tried to catch it with my right hand.

And I’d caught it.

I’d never suspected myself of having psychic powers. You have to be in the right frame of mind to use a psi power. But who had ever had a better opportunity than I did that night, with a whole section of brain tuned to the nerves and muscles of my right arm, and no right arm?”

Gil is a Gold Skin, a UN cop. He gets the weird cases. The really weird ones. In the six stories here, we get locked room mysteries where a man dies by wired ecstasy, why the frozen almost dead are being killed off and turned into organs for the living, why organleggers are killing off their product, the mystery of who tried to kill the patchwork girl and in the longest story, we deal with the mystery of yet another locked room murder that takes place outside on a lunar crater. 

Gil is an interesting character who makes perfect sense as the police officer. I so wish that Niven had written a novel with him as the central character. That would also expand the universe that Niven created here which feels just a bit sketchy. 

The first story, “Death by Ecstasy” was published in 1969 in Galaxy with the last, “The Woman in Del Rey Crater” in Flatlander in 1995. Five of the stories can be found in Flatlander. The Long ARM of Gil Hamilton in 1991 included only “Arm”, “Death by Ecstasy,” and ”The Defenfeless Dead”.  

In order, the stories are “Death by Ecstasy”, “The Defenseless Dead”, “ARM,” “The Patchwork Girl”, “Flatlander” and “The Woman in Del Rey Crater”. 

The “ARM” story was nominated for the Best Novella Hugo at MidAmeriCon (1976). 

It’s available from the usual suspects for very reasonable prices, and in trad paper edition in English and German editions. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 28, 1866 Beatrix Potter. Probably best known for Tales of Peter Rabbit but I’d submit her gardening skills were second to none as well as can be seen in the Green Man review of Marta McDowell’s Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life. Those skills are reflected in her fiction. (Died 1943.)
  • Born July 28, 1928 Angélica Gorodischer. Argentinian writer whose Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was got translated by Ursula Le Guin into English. Likewise Prodigies has been translated by Sue Burke for Small Beer Press. She won a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. You can read Lightspeed Magazine’s interview with her here. (Died 2022.)
  • Born July 28, 1931 Jay Kay Klein. I’ll direct you to Mike’s excellent look at him here as I can’t add anything to what he says. I will note that Klein was a published author having just three stories, “Century of Progress”, “ Mass Communication “ and “On Conquered Earth”, the first two in Analog, the latter in If. I don’t think any have been republished. (Died 2012.)
  • Born July 28, 1941 Bill Crider. Primarily a writer of mystery fiction, his extensive bibliography includes three stories in the Sherlock Holmes metaverse: “The Adventure of the Venomous Lizard”, “The Adventure of the St. Marylebone Ghoul” and “The Case of the Vanished Vampire”. He also wrote a Sookie Stackhouse short story, “Don’t Be Cruel” in the Charlaine Harris Metaverse. His “Doesn’t Matter Any Matter More” short story won a Sidewise Awards for Alternate History and his “Mike Gonzo and the UFO Terror” won a Golden Duck Award. (Died 2018.)
  • Born July 28, 1955 Dey Young, 67. One of those performers who appeared in multiple Trek series. She was in Next Gen’s “The Masterpiece Society” as Hannah Bates, in Deep Space Nine’s “A Simple Investigation” as Arissa and in Enterprise’s “Two Days and Two Nights” as Keyla. She’s got minor roles in Running ManStrange Invaders and Spaceballs as well.
  • Born July 28, 1966 Larry Dixon, 56. Husband of Mercedes Lackey who collaborates with her on such series as  SERRAted Edge and The Mage Wars Trilogy. He contributed artwork to Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons & Dragons source books, including Oriental AdventuresEpic Level Handbook, and Fiend Folio
  • Born July 28, 1968 Rachel Blakely, 54. You’ll most likely know her as Marguerite Krux on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World as that was her longest running genre role. She was briefly Alcmene on Young Hercules, and played Gael’s Mum on The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. And showed as Penelope in the “Ulysses” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Shoe has a plan for surviving the zombie apocalypse.

(12) AND THE LAW WON. AudioFile Magazine’s “Behind the Mike” features “Author Jim Butcher on narrating The Law, the new Harry Dresden book.

Author Jim Butcher made the right choice in performing his latest work himself. It’s a masterpiece. He said that his usual narrator, James Marsters, has nothing to fear, but Butcher’s first attempt at narration is an unqualified success. He has a great speaking voice and truly relates to his characters. The emotion he puts into the work comes across in the wide variety of characters, who include an elderly magician/lawyer, a stupidly stubborn antagonist, and various creatures that inhabit the world of wizard/private investigator Harry Dresden. The brief work is a delight from start to finish, and Butcher’s youthful satisfaction comes across on every page. This may be Butcher’s first attempt at performing his own work, but let’s hope it won’t be his last.

(13) LEAVE THE WALLET, TAKE THE CANNOLI. “William Shatner leaves wallet at Fruit Barn in Gilroy” and thereby makes the news in SFGate.

Last Wednesday, in Gilroy, 91-year-old legendary “Star Trek” actor William Shatner lost his wallet while shopping at the Fruit Barn, a decades-old side-of-the-road market located at 2918 Pacheco Pass Highway, according to ABC7

Shatner reportedly bought four baskets of cherries and $2 of corn.

“I thought about putting a sign up, ‘William Shatner was here,'” Gary Tognetti, owner of B&T Farms, told ABC7 in jest.

Tognetti then enlisted the help of his friend Officer Mark Tarasco, of the Gilroy Police Department, to contact Shatner to return his wallet…. 

There’s a shot of the wallet in this ABC7 Los Angeles news video. John King Tarpinian says the leather looks like ostrich to him.

(14) LOVECRAFT’S LEGACY. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The latest episode of the Unknown Worlds of the Merril Collection podcast focuses on H.P. Lovecraft and his legacy and features an interview with Lovecraft specialist Scott Dorward: “Beyond Lovecraft”.

(15) FRESH EYES, OLD FICTION. At the So I’m Writing a Novel podcast, Oliver Brackenbury runs a variation on James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF project and hands several sword and sorcery stories ranging from classic to modern to a youngish (i.e. under 30) fantasy reader. One of the stories happens to be one of Cora Buhlert’s: “Fresh Blood and New Thunder! Bringing New Readers to Sword & Sorcery, with Sof Magliano”.

Among other things, we discuss the work of Robin Hobb, the dilution of the term “sword & sorcery” and other branding issues, living in a character’s head, struggling to connect with Tower of the Elephant, reading trope-setting classics as a contemporary reader, connecting more with emotion-driven sword & sorcery, backfiring magic, quick-moving plots and pacing, how Sof felt S&S has a unified feel and how it differs from the broad trends of contemporary fantasy…

(16) MY BEAUTIFUL BALLOON. Space Perspective is offering balloon flights to “the edge of space”.

Spaceship Neptune is the first carbon-neutral way to space. Lifted by our SpaceBalloon™—a technology used for decades by the likes of NASA—we take Explorers on a leisurely flight, spending hours at the edge of space.

The balloon flight is to an altitude of 100,000 ft., or 30 kilometres. The accepted international definition of the edge of space is the von Kármán line at 100 kilometres. But not to quibble; 30 km is way up, and the relaxed 6 hour flight will give plenty of time to enjoy the view.

(17) IT’S AN HONOR JUST TO BE FOSSILIZED. “Ukrainian leader’s name is bestowed on a newfound ancient marine invertebrate”Nature has the details.  

Scientists who discovered an ancient ocean-dwelling invertebrate with ten arms have named it in tribute to a man with only two: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Distant cousins of starfish, marine animals called feather stars have a central disc with featherlike arms that can regrow when they get torn off by predators. Mariusz Salamon at the University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland, and his colleagues discovered an exquisitely preserved fossilized feather star in what is now Ethiopia.

Near the base of its central disc, which measures about 8 millimetres in diameter, it has a series of claw-like appendages for attaching itself to surfaces. Some of its arms show evidence of regeneration — probably a response to damage by predators, the researchers say.

The newfound species, Ausichicrinites zelenskyyi, lived roughly 150 million years ago and is named after two people: palaeontologist William Ausich, for his work on fossil feather stars and related animals, and Zelenskyy for “his courage and bravery in defending free Ukraine”, the authors write.

(18) CALL TO ACTION. SYFY Wire introduces “Samaritan trailer: Sylvester Stallone is a washed-up hero”.

…Now believed dead by most of the general public, this hollow shell of a man gets a chance to relive the glory days when his young neighbor, Sam Cleary (Javon “Wanna” Walton), works out his true identity and attempts to coax the bitter man out of retirement. The hero once known as Samaritan doesn’t have much a choice in the matter when unsavory parties (like Pilou Asbæk’s central villain) start to wreak havoc throughout the city he once swore to protect….

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

Pixel Scroll 7/25/22 Pixel 10-10 Whose Gracious Presence Illuminates The File Like The EdgeScroll Of A Knife

(1) BLACK MALE HEROES MIA. The Wakanda Forever trailer debuted at Comic-Con. Steven Barnes offered this reaction on Facebook.

There are three different, easily observable facts that I cross reference for my comments on WAKANDA FOREVER:

1) At this point in the MCU (movies and Disney+) they killed the only fully functional black male hero. Leaving ZIPPO. In comparison, every white hero has had relationships and sexual chemistry with a woman.

2) No dramatic network hourlong series had ever lasted more than two seasons with a black lead (name coming first in the credits) until about 2006, THE UNIT.

3) No film that earned over 100 million domestic ever had a black male star in a love scene until 2015, CREED.

##

Yes, I connect these. Yes, I connect this with core human tribalism: there is nothing special, positively or negatively, about white people. But yes, they are the dominant group and therefore their money and decisions have disproportional impact.

And those white people, forced to admit I’m right about 2 or 3, tend to deny that any specific film was influenced by these factors. Unless they can, I conclude that they have a convenient blindness, and discount their opinions.

That’s it, right there. Unless one can disprove one of these three, you have nothing.

Barnes followed up with this analogy:

Imagine if Gal Gadot had died right after making WW, and they decided not to recast, and made the sequel about Steve Trevor and his male friends. Precisely how happy do you think women would be about this?

(2) CLIP JOINT. Gizmodo says this is a list of “All The Trailers Released At Comic Con 2022”. I probably don’t need to fill the Scroll with even more trailers than I already have, however, if you’re interested you can check for the ones I missed.

The 2022 San Diego Comic-Con was held in person last week for the first time since 2019, and exhibitors made up for the long time away with a huge number of new movie and TV show trailers. The big comic book movie news came when Marvel returned to Hall H and debuted trailers for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and She Hulk: Attorney at Law; A Guardians of the Galaxy 3 and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantamania trailer were also shown, but only those at Hall H were able to see it. DC struck back with new trailers for Shazam! Fury of the Gods and Black Adam.

But of course, Comic Con has gotten a lot bigger than just comic books: By our current count, more than 35 trailers were released during the four day festival from studios including Universal, Paramount, Amazon, Fox and Disney….

(3) TANGLED UP IN BLUE. DreamHaven Books showed Facebook readers how much progress has been made on their new wall mural.

(4) THE VIEW FROM SPACE. In “There Is No Final Frontier” Publishers Weekly talks with William Shatner about his memoir Boldly Go: Reflections on a Life of Awe and Wonder coming in October.

You write that when you went to space, “there was no mystery, no majestic awe to behold… all I saw was death. I saw a cold, dark, black emptiness.” How surprised were you by that?

I was struck dumb. I was absolutely gobsmacked because I’ve been amazed by the miracles of space for a long time. And I saw none of that in that blackness. All I saw was what I described in that quote. And it came as a shock because I had just been looking at Earth as we were leaving it, and I was thinking, my God, look how beautiful it is….

(5) US IN FLUX. Last month ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination launched the 2022 summer season of Us in Flux, a series of short fiction and virtual events about reimagining and reorganizing communities in the face of transformative change.

Today CSI published the second story in the series: “University, Speaking,” by Phoebe Wagner, “a lyrical piece about how we might reimagine universities as radically open to their communities, better attuned to addressing local challenges.”

On Thursday, July 28, at 12:00 p.m. Pacific, they will host a virtual conversation with Phoebe and Punya Mishra, director of Arizona State University’s Learning Futures initiative, about the story and the task of redesigning educational institutions in the midst of crisis. Learn more and register here.

(6) DOES MOORCOCK NEED THE MEDAL? Christopher Neely has created a petition at Change.org calling for a “Michael Moorcock Nobel Prize IN Literature”.

There’s a kind, old English man that did everything the hard way and has given our culture iconic fiction, journalism, fantasy, and the foundation for a whole school of thought for both an entire branch of theoretical physics and one of the most successful entertainment franchises of the last two centuries.  And he’s still alive. He coined the word Multiverse almost 60 years ago. His characters are Iconic to the point that these attributes of humanity, story arc, and plot have become tropes in several genres of the literary world. He did it first, from steampunk, to his influence on cyberpunk with JerryCornelius. His alternate history writings alone are worthy of required reading for every thinking adult. He is an international treasure that transcends time and genres.  His contributions to music, art, and literature can hardly be overstated. He may very well be the most prolific original creator who’s works have ever been recorded. 

(7) A NAME TO CONJURE WITH. The Ringer explains how he’s building his brand in “Jordan Peele Exists in a Space of His Own”.

…Just three movies into his directing career and a mere five years since moving from one side of the camera to the other, Peele has become the rarest of Hollywood anomalies: a filmmaker whose byline alone puts asses in seats. The Nope trailer—and in fact the entire marketing campaign for the movie, including the first poster, an intriguingly cryptic tease in its own right—is built around the assumption that audiences will not only recognize Peele’s name but be instantly enticed by it. His credit in big white letters is an invitation to step once more into the mind behind Get Out and Us—though, in a true testament to Peele’s fame, neither of those movies is even mentioned in the trailer. “From Jordan Peele” is enough.

There are plenty of directors who qualify as household names, recognizable to the average moviegoer. But in contemporary Hollywood, how many of them are treated like the actual draw of a project, more crucial to its appeal than the stars, the IP, or the premise? Even Steven Spielberg, probably the most famous filmmaker alive, isn’t assumed to be an attendance magnet….

(8) DAVID WARNER (1941-2022). Actor David Warner died July 24 at the age of 80. He performed many genre roles among his over 200 movie and TV appearances, including Time After Time, Tron, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Time Bandits, The Man With Two Brains, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Twin Peaks, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, The Lost World, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Lois & Clark, Babylon 5, Pooh’s Grand Adventure, Planet of the Apes, Doctor Who, and Mary Poppins Returns. He also was Ra’s-Al-Ghul in three series.

(9) MATT KING OBIT. Meow Wolf Co-Founder and Senior Creative Director Matt King died two weeks ago according to the Santa Fe Reporter, which did not specify the date. He was 37 years old. The Meow Wolf “art collective” in Santa Fe got their start with a $3.5 million investment from George R.R. Martin, and many of their “immersive installations” are sf related. 

…King was present at the first-ever Meow Wolf planning meeting in 2008 and throughout its earliest immersive installations and dance parties that took place in the shabby old warehouse on Hopewell Street, where the company began. At one point, Kadlubek reminisces, King worked three jobs to help keep the rent paid at a time when community donations were scant.

King was also pivotal in the 2016 opening of Meow Wolf’s flagship Santa Fe location, House of Eternal Return, as well as Las Vegas, Nevada’s Omega Mart and Denver’s Convergence Station. At the latter, Kadlubek says, King’s vision led to the much-ballyhooed Cathedral room, another room-sized piece dubbed Gremlin Symphony and other projects….

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1972 [By Cat Eldridge.] At the very first L.A. Con which was held fifty years ago at the International Hotel in Los Angeles with Charles Crayne and Bruce Pelz being Chairs, A Clockwork Orange wins the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. I know Mike was there. I believe it was his first Con. 

It was the overwhelming choice for that honor, garnering two hundred and eighty-five final ballots to the one hundred and forty-eight that the second-place finisher, Andromeda Strain, received.  

I recognized the entire ballot (which also included THX 1138, and I Think We’re All Bozos on This Bus — serious drug vibes there, eh?) with exception of Name of the Game: Los Angeles: A.D. 2017. When I asked Mike about that one, he said, “You mean that you don’t recognize it? Yeah, it was a TV show. I watched it (and as you know, in those days if you didn’t see it when it aired, you didn’t see it!) I suppose it was only nominated because it was sf and people ran out of better ideas to put on their ballots.” 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 25, 1907 Cyril Luckham. He played the White Guardian first in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Ribos Opperation”, part one, and then twice more in the two-part Fifth Doctor story, “Enlightenment”.  He was also Dr. Moe in the Fifties pulp film Stranger from Venus, and also showed up in The Omega Factor, A Midsummer Night’s DreamRandall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and Tales of The Unexpected. (Died 1989.)
  • Born July 25, 1910 Kendell Foster Crossen. He was the creator and writer of the Green Lama stories.  The character was a Buddhist crime fighter whose powers were activated upon the recitation of the Tibetan chant om mani padme hum. He also wrote Manning Draco series, an intergalactic insurance investigator, four of which can be found in Once Upon a Star: A Novel of the Future. The usual suspects have a really deep catalog of his genre work, and the Green Lama stories have been made into audio works as well. (Died 1981.)
  • Born July 25, 1921 Kevin Stoney. He appeared in three serials of the science fiction series Doctor Who over a period of ten years, playing Mavic Chen in The Daleks’ Master Plan during the time of the First Doctor, Tobias Vaughn in The Invasion during the time of the Second Doctor and Tyrum in Revenge of the Cybermen during the time of the Fourth Doctor. Other genre credits include: The Adventures of Robin HoodDanger ManThe AvengersThe PrisonerDoomwatchThe Tomorrow PeopleSpace: 1999, The New AvengersQuatermass, and Hammer House of Horror. (Died 2008.)
  • Born July 25, 1922 Evelyn E. Smith. She has the delightful bio being of a writer of sf and mysteries, as well as a compiler of crossword puzzles. During the 1950s, she published both short stories and novelettes in Galaxy Science FictionFantastic Universe and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her SF novels include The Perfect Planet and The Copy Shop. A look at the usual suspects shows two story collections but none of her novels. Interestingly, there are myriad stories by her offered up separately for sale. (Died 2000.)
  • Born July 25, 1937 Todd Armstrong. He’s best known for playing Jason in Jason and the Argonauts. A film of course made excellent by special effects from Ray Harryhausen. His only other genre appearance was on The Greatest American Hero as Ted McSherry In “A Chicken in Every Plot”. (Died 1992.)
  • Born July 25, 1948 Brian Stableford, 74. I am reasonably sure that I read and enjoyed all of the Hooded Swan series a long time ago which I see has been since been collected as Swan Songs: The Complete Hooded Swan Collection. And I’ve certainly read a fair amount of his short fiction down the years. His latest novel, Beyond the Mountains of Madness, just came out.
  • Born July 25, 1971 Chloë Annett, 51. She played Holly Turner in the Crime Traveller series and Kristine Kochanski in the Red Dwarf series. She was in the “Klingons vs. Vulcans” episode of the Space Cadets, a sort of game show. 
  • Born July 25, 1973 Mur Lafferty, 49. Podcaster and writer. Co-editor of the Escape Pod podcast with Divya Breed. She is also the host and creator of the podcast I Should Be Writing which won a Parsec Award for Best Writing Podcast. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of the Escape Artists short fiction magazine Mothership Zeta. And then there’s the Ditch Diggers podcast she started with Matt Wallace which is supposed to show the brutal, honest side of writing. For that, it won the Hugo Award for Best Fancast at Worldcon 76 (2018), having been a finalist the year before.  Fiction wise, I loved both The Shambling Guide to New York City and A Ghost Train to New Orleans with I think the second being a better novel. She has two nominations at Chicon 8, first for Best Semi Prozine as part of the Escape Pod team, second for Best Editor, Short Form with S.B. Divya. 

(12) ENJOY COMIC-CON’S SOUVENIR BOOK. Comic-Con International’s 2022 Souvenir Book is available as a free download should you be so inclined.

This year’s Souvenir Book is a downloadable pdf, filled with lots of full-color articles, including: centennial tributes to Charles Schulz, Stan Lee, Jerry Robinson, and William S. Gaines; a celebration of the 60th anniversary of Spider-Man; 50th anniversary articles on Funky Winkerbean, Ghost Rider, Kamandi, Swamp Thing, and Luke Cage; and 40th anniversary pieces on The Rocketeer, Groo, and Love and Rockets. Plus: a special look back at Comic-Con’s 1970s El Cortez years!

The cover, a salute to Dave Stevens’ Rocketeer, is by Comic-Con Special Guest Bill Morrison.

(13) FLIGHT PLAN. “Vibrators, Weed, Plants: What Can You Take on a Plane?” – the New York Times checked in with TSA.

Is my Harry Potter wand OK?

…Cremated human remains get a little more complicated, while cricket bats and cutting boards are best left in checked luggage. Musical instruments like violins are allowed after they undergo a T.S.A. screening, but for brass instruments, the suggestion is to check them. And if you’re a Harry Potter fan, fear not — wands are allowed on flights.

Despite the T.S.A.’s rules, there’s one item in particular that Ms. Farbstein said she still sees confiscated far too often: knives. “We see knives every day,” she said.

As many as four tons of different kinds of knives and large tools get confiscated at Newark Liberty International Airport in an average year, according to Ms. Farbstein. The T.S.A. then sends them off in bulk to the State of Pennsylvania, she said, which sells them for profit at a surplus store in Harrisburg.

Travelers should remember that knives of all kinds are not allowed on flights, said Ms. Farbstein.

(14) THEY KNOW HOW TO TWANG THEIR MAGIC PLONKERS. CBR.com presents its list of the “10 Strongest Students At Hogwarts, Ranked”.

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is one of the most acclaimed educational establishments in Harry Potter. Like Beauxbatons Academy and Durmstrang Institute, it forges young pupils into formidable witches and wizards. Hogwarts alumni include some of the greatest magic-users of the 20th century — Albus Dumbledore, Minerva McGonagall, Severus Snape, and Lord Voldemort, to name a few.

Starting at the bottom:

10. Vincent Crabbe Learns To Cast The Devastating Fiendfyre Curse

Along with Gregory Goyle, Vincent Crabbe spends most of his time as Draco Malfoy’s boneheaded minion. He fails his Fifth Year O.W.L. exams, indicating that he’s exactly as intelligent as he sounds. Crabbe may not exhibit the stereotypical Slytherin shrewdness, but he’s certainly capable of casting the darkest magic known to Wizardkind.

He learns a variety of jinxes and hexes from Alecto and Amycus Carrow, although it’s still not clear how he knows the devastating Fiendfyre curse. The very fact that Crabbe uses Fiendfyre sets him apart from the rest of his cohort, regardless of what happens to him in the end.

(15) CANNED ENGINEER. “Google Fires Engineer Who Claims Its A.I. Is Conscious” reports the New York Times. The decision was a no-brainer.

Google fired one of its engineers, Blake Lemoine, on Friday, more than a month after he raised ethical concerns about how the company was testing an artificial intelligence chatbot that he believes has achieved consciousness.

A Google spokesman, Chris Pappas, said Mr. Lemoine, a senior software engineer in its Responsible A.I. organization, “chose to persistently violate clear employment and data security policies that include the need to safeguard product information.”

The company, which denies that its chatbot language model is sentient, had placed Mr. Lemoine on paid leave in June. Mr. Lemoine confirmed his dismissal in a text message on Friday, and said he was meeting with lawyers to review his options. The firing was first reported by the newsletter Big Technology….

(16) A NOT ENTIRELY UNEXPECTED PARTY. [Item by Dann.] No idea about the veracity of the image but it did make me laugh. Found it on Facebook with all of the cautions that implies.  

(17) SAY THE MAGIC WORD. Shazam! Fury Of The Gods opens in theaters internationally beginning December 15 and in North America on December 21.

From New Line Cinema comes “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” which continues the story of teenage Billy Batson who, upon reciting the magic word “SHAZAM!,” is transformed into his adult Super Hero alter ego, Shazam.

(18) FLAME ON. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Tom Scott goes to a 400-year-old dragon-slaying festival in a small German village where the dragon is the world’s largest walking robot, built for 2.3 million euros. “A 400-year-old festival has the world’s largest walking robot”.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/22/22 And The Pixel That Was Planted In My Brain Still Remains, Within The Scrolls Of Filers

(1) BOT AND PAID FOR. In “Fandoms Can Do Bad All by Themselves”, Vice looks at reports about what percentage of social media support for the release of the Zack Snyder cut of Justice League came from bots, but concludes most of it was probably genuine.

According to a report in Rolling Stone, the very online campaign for the release of Zack Snyder’s cut of Justice League was a battle waged in no small part by bots. The report is gossipy fun and well worth reading in full—multiple sources tell reporter Tatiana Siegel that Snyder, discoursing on his enemies to a studio executive, said, “I will destroy them on social media,” and it gets more absurd from there—but the main impression the reader is left with is that the pro-Snyder movement was perhaps not quite as organic as it seemed. One interesting thing is that it’s not clear how much that would matter—the behavior of most fandoms when they’re incensed, after all, is not all that different from bots to begin with.

… The outlet commissioned reports from three different cybersecurity and social-media firms, and also quotes from reports that were commissioned by Warner Bros. According to reports commissioned by Rolling Stone, at least 13% of the accounts using the hashtags related to the Snyder fandom were deemed fake—much higher than the average of around 5%. Because people and bots using this hashtag would often target specific Warner Bros. executives with implied death threats, Rolling Stone reports, the studio hired cybersecurity firms to analyze its contents. While all acknowledge that any popular hashtag will have bot activity, at a few points in the article different people argue that if Snyder was scheming behind the scenes at the Warner Bros. studios, then these bots must have been under his control as well. (One site, forsnydercut.com, was at one point registered by an ad agency, but Rolling Stone was unable to establish a connection between Snyder and a person apparently behind the site, whom he denied knowing or hiring.)

While this report is full of juicy gossip surrounding Snyder’s behavior towards the people he felt had wronged him, it probably somewhat overstates the power of robot armies; whatever else Snyder was or wasn’t in control of, he certainly knew how to present himself to a fandom in order to garner its sympathy….

(2) LOVE NEVER FAILS. “Sarah Gailey On Loving Monsters” at CrimeReads.

Just Like Home is dedicated “to everyone who ever loved a monster.”

It is the easiest thing in the world to love a monster. It’s easy to love a monster because love isn’t a decision. It’s no one’s fault that love happens. Emotions, urges, and impulses are themselves beyond our ability to control. Love in its many forms wells up out of the human spirit irrepressibly. Like anger or sadness or the desire to kill, it arrives without invitation or intention. Action might spring from emotion—love might lead to an expression of affection, anger might lead to violence, a powerful impulse might lead to a monstrous act. But on its own, love is no different from any other feeling. To love a monster is easy, when the monster seems loveable.

It’s easy for a monster to seem loveable. All monsters partition other people into two categories—those who witness their monstrosity, and those who don’t. Maybe this is because the monster sees the world as divided into unequal parts, where some deserve to flourish while others deserve to be the targets of ungoverned impulse. Or maybe it’s because monsters want to be loved just as much as anyone else, and they understand that those who experience their ungoverned impulses aren’t likely to give them support, affection, admiration. Maybe it’s just another reflex, as unconscious as the way my voice slips into a slightly different register when I’m around trusted friends….

(3) AFROFUTURISM NEWS. In the Guardian’s interview with artist and filmmaker Edward George, he talks about Black cultural history, Tupac Shakur, the evolution of dub and his remarkable cinema essays with the Black Audio Film Collective: “Edward George: ‘You can’t have Afrofuturism without some ambience of a fascist thinking creeping in’”.

…Last Angel is not only a film about science fiction but, partly influenced by Chris Marker’s 1962 film La Jetée, it features a character called the “data thief” who travels back from the year 2195 to probe the failure of the Ghanaian revolution. If this all sounds hugely ambitious, Icarean even, that’s part of its appeal. It played a crucial role in popularising Afrofuturism – a term first coined by white theorist Mark Dery, and now used to describe countless exhibitions, film series and even films (such as the feudalism-romanticising Black Panther) in which the term is used breezily, a floating signifier for something to do with technophilia, empowerment, a vague and breezy form of utopianism. “Because of the ways it uses the archive, its montage, its commentary – the film has become a codex of futurity,” says George.

“If you want to fetishise futurity less, you have to go back to the plantations and to the slaves themselves: a lot of the songs that they were singing were literally about a tomorrow. These were cast in the metaphysical language of the day – that of the Bible – which was an act of mastery in itself. More than that, look at Italian futurism in the early 20th century: it opened out on to all kinds of fascism. You can’t have futurity, or futurism, or Afrofuturism, without some ambience of a fascist thinking creeping in.”…

(4) FLINT FUNDRAISER ACHIEVES GOAL. The “Eric Flint” GoFundMe created to help pay the costs of memorial services raised $12,540. The organizer announced, “The family wants to thank you for your generosity. We have reached the goal and will be closing the campaign. Hug your loved ones today.”

(5) SFWA SPOTLIGHTS ROMANCE STEERING COMMITTEE. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA) announced that a SFWA Romance Steering Committee (RSC) was formed in Fall 2021.

The RSC will offer meaningful input and assistance in cultivating a positive trajectory for authors of stories that combine fantasy, science fiction, and romance in a way that encourages diversity, engagement, and quality, while also providing outreach and support resources for romance writers struggling with inclusion in the SFF community at large.

RSC resources that are already available, or will be soon, include:

  • The SFWA Discord channel #romantic-sff
  • Monthly posts in the Romancing SFF series on the SFWA Blog searchable here.
  • A Romancing SFF Meetup to be held in the fall.

The members of the Romance Steering Committee are Alexia Chantel, Claire Davon, Miranda Honfleur (co-chair), Victoria Janssen, Chelsea Mueller (co-chair), Abigail Reynolds, Katherine Ley, and R.K. Thorne.

(6) HOT ITEM. From AbeBooks “Most expensive sales from April to June 2022”, see the asbestos-bound copy of Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. The third-biggest sale of the quarter, it went for $22,500.

This is the famous asbestos-bound edition of Bradbury’s classic dystopian novel about the power of books. #83 of 200 signed and numbered copies. A regular signed first edition of Fahrenheit 451 sold for $12,000 via AbeBooks earlier in the year.

Sixth on the list was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland illustrated by Salvador Dali sold for $21,375.

(7) CYBER-GROUNDHOG DAY. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Sure, sounds useful, but also “Yet another ‘what could possibly go wrong,’ e.g., heists/capers, foreign invaders, alien invaders, and AI/cyber takeovers. E.g, Niven/Pournelle Oath of Fealty, probably also at least one PK Dick story. “Earthgrid Aims To Rewire the USA Using Super-Cheap Tunnel Tech” at Slashdot.

Bay Area startup Earthgrid says it’s developing a plasma boring robot that can dig underground tunnels 100x faster and up to 98% cheaper than existing tech, and it plans to use it to start re-wiring America’s energy, internet and utilities grids….

(8) SHATNER LENDING VOICE TO MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE. Yahoo! was a witness as “William Shatner crashes Comic-Con—and soon, Masters Of The Universe”.

He-Man and his friends will welcome a new addition to the follow-up to Netflix’s Masters Of The Universe: Revelation—an animated series set in outer space that, up until now, has been sorely lacking anyone who’s actually been in outer space. William Shatner made a surprise appearance at Thursday’s San Diego Comic-Con panel celebrating 40 years of Masters Of The Universe toys, films, and series, at which series creator Kevin Smith confirmed that Shatner will voice a mystery character in the upcoming Masters Of The Universe: Revolution.

The legendary Star Trek actor and actual astronaut arrived to deliver the news of his casting in the most conceivably Comic-Con way possible: his booming voice startling and delighting Hall H audience members before he emerged to join the panel. The 2022 edition of the convention is a busy one for Shatner, who was also on hand to preview a forthcoming documentary about his life produced by Legion M, the production company created and led entirely by fans. “San Diego Comic-Con has grown,” he quipped. “There’s something in the water. It used to be a little sleepy town!”…

There are more details about the panel in CBR.com’s article “SDCC: He-Man & the Masters of the Universe 40th Anniversary Panel”.

Cora Buhlert is keeping a sharp eye on these developments. She notes there will be another Masters of the Universe panel on Friday focused on the toys. Plus, says Cora, “Mattel has a huge toy display at the con, including a diorama featuring the massive Eternia playset, of which only a handful were produced in the 1980s. Apparently, the Eternia set will be crowdfunded, e.g. Mattel will be collecting preorders and only then go into production. There are a couple of videos about the Mattel display online. This one is pretty detailed and offers a good look at the Eternia diorama and the other toys announced.”

(9) BUHLERT’S NEW TOY PHOTO STORY. The previous item would have been the perfect lead-in to a new Masters of the Universe figure photo story, but that’s not the source of her latest, which is “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter”, an adaptation of a story by Robert E. Howard.

…For those who don’t know, “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter” is the second story about Conan of Cimmeria that Robert E. Howard ever wrote, ninety years ago now. It was rejected by Weird Tales and only published in altered form (with Conan renamed Amra) in the fanzine The Fantasy Fan during Howard’s lifetime. The original version did not appear until way after Howard’s death. You can read the Amra version here.

“The Frost-Giant’s Daughter” is set early during Conan’s career. Many believe it is the earliest of Conan’s chronicles adventures. I’m not entirely convinced by this, but Conan is definitely young in this story.

My adaptation differs from the original story in two aspects. For starters, I made it less rapey. Secondly, instead of the male pseudo-Viking companions from the original story, the companion I gave Conan is Valeria of the Red Brotherhood, pirate, mercenary, swordswoman and all around awesome character, whom Conan meets in the later story “Red Nails”.

So I present you: “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter” by Robert E. Howard, starring Conan of Cimmeria and Valeria of the Red Brotherhood…

(10) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to dig into dumplings with Patrick O’Leary in episode 176 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Patrick O’Leary

We discussed the way his new novel 51 is similar to The Great Gatsby, why he believes his books will crumble if he attempts to describe them, the perils and pleasures of pantsing (and how his stories often don’t get any good until the 15th draft), the tragedy of being an invisible creature, our mutual fears of what aging might bring, his love for Marvel Comics (and especially the Silver Surfer), how Laura Ingalls Wilder introduced him to literature, the way reading Kurt Vonnegut taught him there were no rules, the two science fiction greats who literally left him speechless, and much more.

(11) ALAN GRANT (1949-2022). Comic writer Alan Grant, best known for his work on Judge Dredd and Batman, died July 20 at the age of 73. 2000AD has a full profile of his career here.

…Grant was one of his generation’s finest writers, combining a sharp eye for dialogue and political satire with a deep empathy that made his characters seem incredibly human and rounded. Through his work he had a profound and enduring influence on 2000 AD and on the comics industry….

(12) MEMORY LANE.  

1922 [By Cat Eldridge.] One hundred years ago, Agatha Christie’s Secret Adversary was released in the United Kingdom by The Bodley Head. The novelintroduces Tommy and Tuppence who will be featured in three more novels and a collection of short stories. The five Tommy and Tuppence books would span Christie’s writing career.

The story here is that the Great War is over, and jobs are almost impossible to find, so childhood friends Tommy Beresford and Prudence “Tuppence” Cowley decide to start their own business as The Young Adventurers. In this novel, they are hired for a job that leads them into many dangerous situations, and meeting allies as well, including an American millionaire in search of his cousin.

The critics liked it. The Times Literary Supplement said it was “a whirl of thrilling adventures” and the Daily Chronicle was very happy with it: “It’s an excellent yarn and the reader will find it as impossible as we did to put it aside until the mystery has been fathomed.” 

It would be the second Christie work to be turned into a film as it would be made in Germany by the Orplid Film company in 1929 as a silent movie which ran for 76 minutes. Thought to be lost, it wasn’t and was shown at the National Film Theatre in 2001. 

The novel was adapted twice for television, in 1983 and in 2014. Significant changes were made to story. A graphic novel was done.  Several theatre productions were staged. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 22, 1882 Margery Williams. The Velveteen Rabbit (or How Toys Become Real) is the work that is by far her best known work. Is it genre? Sure. And it has been adapted as video, audio and theatre myriad times. One audio version was narrated by Meryl Streep with music by George Winston. (Died 1944.)
  • Born July 22, 1932 Tom Robbins, 90. Author of such novels as Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and Another Roadside Attraction. ISFDB lists everything he’s done as genre and who am I to argue with them on this occasion at least? Well I will. Now Jitterbug Perfumethat’s definitely genre! Cowgirls Get the Blues got made into a rather excellent film by Gus Van Sant and stars Uma Thurman, Lorraine Bracco, and Keanu Reeves. Interesting note: Still Life with Woodpecker made the long list at one point for the Prometheus Award for Best Libertarian SF Novel. 
  • Born July 22, 1941 Vaughn Bodé. Perhaps best known for the Cheech Wizard character and his art depicting erotic women. For our purposes, he’s a contemporary of Ralph Bakshi and has been credited as a major influence on Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings and Wizards. He’s been inducted into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. (Died 1975.)
  • Born July 22, 1944 Nick Brimble, 78. His first genre role was in Lust for a Vampire as the First Villager. He next shows up in Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound as The Monster.  He’s Sir Ectot in A Knight’s Tale which I really like be it genre adjacent or not. His lastest film genre role is as Dr. Zellaby in Soulmate, and he’s the voice of Owsla in the Watership series. 
  • Born July 22, 1959 Nigel Findley. He was a game designer, editor, and an author of science fiction and fantasy novels and RPGs. He was also part of the original Shadowrun RPG core group and has sole writing credit on both sourcebooks and Shadowrun world novels. Yes, I played Shadowrun, a most enjoyable experience. (Died 1995.)
  • Born July 22, 1972 Colin Ferguson, 50. Best known for being Sheriff Jack Carter on  Eureka. Damn I miss that series which amazingly won no Hugos. (I just discovered the series is on the Peacock streaming service which I subscribe to so I’m going to watch it again!) He’s also been in Are You Afraid of the DarkThe HungerThe X-FilesThe Outer Limits, the Eureka “Hide and Seek” webisodes (anyone seen these?) and The Vampire Diaries. Oh and he made a series of commercials for Maytag.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Last Kiss has genre-related advice for a foundering romance.

(15) COLBERT AT COMIC-CON. “SDCC: Stephen Colbert hosts Lord Of The Rings extravaganza”A.V. Club has the story.

Amazon spent nearly half a billion dollars on their new Lord Of The Rings series, and at least half of that must’ve gone into their Comic-Con panel. Led by a string accompaniment featuring series composer Bear McCreary, the panel kicked off with the music of Middle Earth to set the stage, and Late Show host Stephen Colbert on hand to speak elvish and keep things moving.

Prime Video played a room-wrapping trailer on screens all around Hall H, showing off the various peoples of Middle Earth. And all that’s before showrunner J.D. Payne taught us to say “Oh, shit” in Elvish—only to be challenged by Colbert. “Tolkien speaks the language of the soul,” said Payne. And he also speaks the language of debate.

… And finally, Colbert asked question that was on everyone’s lips: “Will there be Entwives?”

“Maybe you’ve seen them already,” McKay teased.

(16) RINGS TRAILER. Here’s the “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” trailer shown at San Diego Comic-Con. Begins streaming September 2 on Prime Video.

Discover the legend that forged the rings. #TheRingsOfPower Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power brings to screens for the very first time the heroic legends of the fabled Second Age of Middle-earth’s history. This epic drama is set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and will take viewers back to an era in which great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin, unlikely heroes were tested, hope hung by the finest of threads, and the greatest villain that ever flowed from Tolkien’s pen threatened to cover all the world in darkness. Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains, to the majestic forests of the elf-capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, to the furthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone.

(17) FREE READ. Cora Buhlert has a new flash story online at Wyngraf Magazine. This one is called “Demon Child” which she says “is a changeling story in reverse.” The first line is —

“I swear to you, this baby is a monster,” Sansavi said as she pushed the pram back and forth across the black bridge of Zairahm….

(18) A COMIC ABOUT MARTIANS IN PASADENA. NPR presents “NASA engineer Nagin Cox on Mars rover time”. “This comic, illustrated by Anuj Shrestha, is inspired by an interview with NASA engineer Nagin Cox from TED Radio Hour’s episode It Takes Time.

(19) ALTERNATE RACE TO MARS CONTINUES. “’For All Mankind’ Renewed for Season 4 at Apple”Variety reports from Comic-Con.

For All Mankind” has been renewed for Season 4 at Apple.

The announcement was made Friday as part of the show’s panel at San Diego Comic-Con. Production on the new season is scheduled to begin in August. Season 3 of the series debuted on the streamer on June 10.

“For All Mankind” is an alternative history series that explores what would have happened if the global space race had never ended. The series presents an world where NASA astronauts, engineers and their families find themselves in the center of extraordinary events seen through the prism of an alternate history timeline — a world in which the USSR beats the US to the moon.

In Season 3, the series moved into the early ‘90s with a race to a new planetary frontier: Mars. The Red Planet becomes the new front in the Space Race not only for the U.S. and the Soviet Union, but also an unexpected new entrant with a lot to prove and even more at stake. The characters find themselves going head-to-head as their ambitions for Mars come into conflict and their loyalties are tested, creating a pressure cooker that builds to a climactic conclusion….

(20) STRANGER CHICKEN. Adweek is fascinated when “KFC Releases ’80s-Style Horror Film With Killer Pizza”.

The phenomenon of Netflix series Stranger Things has produced a resurgence of interest in ’80s horror movies. Now chicken restaurant chain KFC is looking to tap into that interest from younger consumers by producing its own short film in Spain, featuring killer pizza.

The fast-food chain has released La Massacre—a 14-minute short film, which tells the often-told story of five teenagers who travel to a remote cabin in the woods to enjoy a weekend away. However, once they reach it, they are stalked and killed by a terrifying entity shaped like a pizza.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George notes the sixth Harry Potter movie begins with Harry Potter breaking Hogwarts security by reading a magic newspaper in a Muggle coffee shop.  But Dumbledore drags him back to Hogwarts so that he can begin his yearly ritual of “placing children in mortal danger.” The producer notes that at Hogwarts “they really don’t teach anything except how to die a horrible death,” so Harry and the gang “spend way too much time on teenage romance.”  But things are so lax at Hogwarts that Harry nearly kills Draco Malfoy until Snape saves him but Harry isn’t punished for this.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/27/22 I’ll File You, My Pretty, And Your Pixel Scroll Too

(1) NEED TO RELOAD. There will be no TitanCon in Belfast this year announced co-chair Samuel Poots.

We’re very sorry to have to announce that Titan Con is cancelled this year.

I don’t need to tell you that the past few years have been enormously challenging for everyone and many of us are still processing our experiences. While finances are good, the humans and human resources needed to make Titan Con viable have been impacted.

In recent weeks, a number of committee members, including my co-chair, have had to step away due to personal reasons. I’m sorry to lose them, and am extremely grateful for their hard work, but understand it’s the best decision.

After taking stock of the situation with the committee and advisers, it’s clear we do not have the resources for this year’s already smaller con, and unfortunately have to cancel it. This was a very difficult decision and one the committee wished could be avoided, but there was simply no alternative.

A fresh start is called for.

We need to cancel, regroup, and consider our way forward carefully.

We’ll be recruiting some people to help us look at delivering a Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror convention with the best elements of our legacy events, while considering how to become sustainable going forward.

All current members will receive a full refund.

Thank you for your support and patience, and we hope to see you in the future to celebrate the wonderful media we are all fans of.

(2) MALIK Q&A. The Horror Writers Association Blog continues its “Asian Heritage in Horror” theme in an “Interview with Usman T. Malik”.

What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?

Don’t worry about pandering to western stereotypes or the market. Write your own darkness. Spill your own fears onto the page and the audience will follow.

(3) ABOUT THE BROKEN TRUST. Jake and Ron chat with author Juliette Wade about her projected five-book series, The Broken Trust on The Wrath of the iOtians podcast. (Also available on Spotify.)

Juliette Wade is a novelist … and after listening to this interview, you’ll understand why it’s a hard-earned and well-deserved title for this masterclass worldbuilder.

Her background is impressive. She is fluent in French and Japanese, has degrees in linguistics and anthropology, and also boasts a Ph.D. in education.

Juliette started writing fiction in 1999, and her short stories have been featured in Analog, Clarkesworld, and Fantasy & Science Fiction magazines. But she is perhaps best known for her projected five-volume Broken Trust series, whose latest volume, Inheritors of Power, was published earlier this year by DAW. Juliette’s specialty is sociological science-fiction, of which Broken Trust is one of our finest contemporary examples. Each stratum of Broken Trust’s complex caste system has its own vocation, ideals, manners, and culture, and naturally, they come into a devastating conflict. There’s a lot to discuss, so let’s dive in!

(4) JO FLETCHER NEWS. Publishers Lunch reports, “Publisher Jo Fletcher will leave the Quercus sci-fi, fantasy and horror imprint she founded 11 years ago on September 30. She will continue to edit some of her long-standing authors for the line.”

(5) WARNING LABEL. “’Stranger Things 4′ Warning Card Added Following School Shooting” reports Variety.

Netflix is adding a warning card to the “Stranger Things 4” premiere in light of the shooting on Tuesday at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, which left 21 people dead — including 19 children and two teachers.

The warning card, which will show up for viewers in the U.S. when the episodes launch on Friday, reads: “We filmed this season of ‘Stranger Things’ a year ago. But given the recent tragic shooting at a school in Texas, viewers may find the opening scene of episode 1 distressing. We are deeply saddened by this unspeakable violence, and our hearts go out to every family mourning a loved one.”

This warning will appear before the prior season recap that auto-plays at the beginning of “Stranger Things 4” Episode 1 for viewers in the U.S. only. Additionally, Netflix has also edited the description for the premiere to include the note, “Warning: Contains graphic violence involving children,” and added “disturbing images” to the show rating advisories….

(6) LIFT OFF. The New Yorker’s Neima Jahromi analyzes Disney World’s Starcruiser experience in “LARPing Goes to Disney World”.

In February, when it was cold and wet in New York, I rode a jitney under blue skies from the Orlando airport into Disney World. Before reaching the Magic Kingdom, the bus passed a range of gray crags perched on scaffolding—a sliver of Black Spire Outpost, which, in the “Star Wars” universe, is a settlement on a planet called Batuu. Nearby, the Millennium Falcon rested below a control tower built into the rock; Stormtrooper helmets were for sale at a sun-bleached military-surplus garage. Black Spire is also the destination of the Galactic Starcruiser, a spaceship that carries hundreds of interstellar tourists to and from the outpost, on what Disney calls an “immersive adventure.” The Starcruiser begins its journey floating in space, light-years from Batuu and Black Spire. In reality, the spacecraft is a massive brutalist building that sits beside a highway….

In one of the games —

In Calculations, written by Caro Murphy, a veteran larper with a side-swept cyberpunk haircut, Sinking Ship customers play a spaceship pilot delivering medicine to Mars, where colonists have been dying from an illness that causes “shortness of breath.” Murphy adapted the game from a nineteen-fifties sci-fi story by Tom Godwin.

(7) DIAL ‘M’ FOR MILKY WAY. No, E.T. should not be allowed to phone home. Vice looks at a scientific paper: “There Are 4 ‘Malicious Extraterrestrial Civilizations’ in Milky Way, Researcher Estimates”. The author, PhD student Alberto Caballero of Spain’s University of Vigo, readily admits he had to make a number of assumptions. Thus, it’s hard to put error boundaries on his conclusions. 

Stephen Hawking famously said sending messages from Earth into deep space could get human civilization destroyed: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”

Hawking’s words have often been used to discourage the practice of METI, which is Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence. But how many “malicious” alien civilizations are there? And what are the chances any message we sent into our own galaxy would be received by an evil alien civilization? There is precious little research on this topic, and very few scientists have even posited a guess.

new thought experiment attempts to at least venture a guess in hopes that other scientists will begin to take METI more seriously, and will try to determine how dangerous it actually is to try to contact alien civilizations.

According to this paper, which the author admits has “some limitations,” there are roughly four “malicious extraterrestrial civilizations” in the Milky Way, and we could likely send out 18,000 interstellar messages to different exoplanets in our galaxy and the probability of ensuring our own destruction would still be about the same as Earth being hit by a “global catastrophe asteroid.” 

(8) TWO SF ARTISTS REMEMBERED. “A Vision In Many Voices: The Art of Leo and Diane Dillon” at Unquiet Things.

It must have been fate. Born eleven days apart on opposite coasts, Leo and Diane met, competed artistically, and eventually fell in love while attending Parsons School of Design, each aspiring to a life of art. After their marriage in 1957, the artists initially pursued separate careers in illustration before recognizing their strengths were collaborative in nature. In an effort to work in a particular style that they both could master, they symbiotically and seamlessly melded their personalities and styles, employing pastels, colored pencil, watercolor, acrylic, stencils, typography, woodcut, pochoir, found-object assemblage, collage, and sculpture into an entity/partnership that they came to refer to as “the artist.”

Noted Leo on the gorgeously striking complexity of their distinctive decorative realism and unconventional techniques: “People often comment on the ‘Dillon style.’ I think that someplace, the two of us made a pact with each other. We both decided that we would give up the essence of ourselves, that part that made the art each of us did our own. And I think that in doing that we opened the door to everything.”…

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1998 [By Cat Eldridge.] Warning: there are lots of SPOILERS here. Go away now if you’ve not watched Babylon 5. Really I do mean it! 

Twenty-four years ago in the last season of Babylon 5, the “Meditations on the Abyss” episode aired. It has three story lines: a mission to the edge of Centauri space, Lennier both teaches and learns; John Sheridan struggles to keep the Interstellar Alliance together; a Drazi agents plant a bug in Londo Mollari’s quarters and faces the wrath of Vir Cotto which happens after Londo Mollari tells Vir Cotto he will have to be more careful if he wishes to be worthy of his new job as Centauri Ambassador to Babylon 5. 

Vir fascinates me. This episode, like so many involving him, upends the apparent light hearted nature of the character and show him to be something much more complex, more dangerous but good for the Empire in fact than Londo is as Londo has no sense of community and Vir does. Vir cares about the Centauri people in a way Londo doesn’t.

“I’d like to live just long enough to be there when they cut off your head and stick it on a pike, as a warning to the next ten generations that some favors come with too high a price. I want to look up into your lifeless eyes and wave like this.” – Vir telling Mr Morden what he wants.

And he gets to do just that. Wasn’t that absolutely thrilling to see Vir looking up at the head of Mr Morden on a stake in the capital city of a devastated Centauri Prime and waving at it? 

And he will become the Emperor of an Empire almost completely shattered after Londo is strangled by the blind G’Kar.  It not known how the Empire fares under him but it has to be better than it did under under previous Emperors. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 27, 1894 Dashiell Hammett. Yes, I know he’s written some genre fiction but I’m interested this time in his mysteries. He wrote The Maltese Falcon which was turned into the film you remember and another film a decade earlier. And of course there are Nick and Nora Charles in The Thin Man series that got turned in a six film series. Now my favorite character by him is the Continental Op in Red Harvest and The Dain Curse. And let’s not forget the Secret Agent X-9 comic strip which I think is genre, which artist Alex Raymond of Flash Gordon fame illustrated. (Died 1961.)
  • Born May 27, 1911 Vincent Price. Ok, what’s popping into my head is him on The Muppets in “House of Horrors” sketch they did in which he and Kermit sport impressive fangs. If I had to single out his best work, it’d be in such films as House on Haunted HillHouse of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum. Yes, I know the latter two are Roger Corman productions.  He also did a lot of series work including being Egghead on Batman, appearing in the Fifties Science Fiction Theater, having a recurring role as Jason Winters on the Time Express and so forth. (Died 1993.)
  • Born May 27, 1922 Christopher Lee. He first became famous for his role as Count Dracula in a series of Hammer Horror films.  His other film roles include The Creature in The Curse of Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, Kharis the Mummy in The Mummy, Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun, Lord Summerisle In The Wicker Man, Saruman in The Lord of the Rings films and The Hobbit film trilogy, and Count Dooku in the second and third films of the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Now interestingly enough, ISFDB lists him as being the co-editor in the Seventies with Michael Parry with a number of horror anthologies such as Christopher Lee’s ‘X’ Certificate No. 1From the Archives of Evil and The Great Villains. (Died 2015.)
  • Born May 27, 1929 Burnett Toskey, 93. A Seattle fan who was a member of the Nameless Ones and served them in various offices from the early Fifties to the mid Sixties. He was also the official editor of Spectator Amateur Press Society. His work on Cry of the Nameless won the Best Fanzine Hugo at Pitcon, a honor he shared with  F. M. Busby, Elinor Busby and Wally Weber. 
  • Born May 27, 1934 Harlan Ellison. Setting aside the “The City on the Edge of Forever” episode”, I think I best remember him for the two Dangerous Vision anthologies which were amazing reading.  His awards are far, far too numerous to recount here so I’ll need to do an essay on them. His Hugos alone are legion and that’s hardly all of the awards that he was honored with.  (Died 2018.)
  • Born May 27, 1935 Lee Meriwether, 87. Catwoman on Batman. (And if you have to ask which Batman, you’re in the wrong conversation.) Also she had a turn as a rather sexy Lily Munster on The Munsters Today. And of course she had a co-starring role as Dr. Ann MacGregor on The Time Tunnel as well. And yes, I know I’m not touching upon her many other genre roles including her Trek appearance as I know you will. 
  • Born May 27, 1951 Stepan Chapman. He wrote but one novel, The Trioka, a most excellent steampunk affair that won that the Philip K. Dick Award. He’s written a lot of short fiction, some of it collected in Danger Music and DossierThe Trioka is available for a reasonable price at the usual suspects. (Died 2014.)
  • Born May 27, 1967 Eddie McClintock, 55. Best known no doubt as Secret Service agent Pete Lattimer on Warehouse 13, a series I loved. He’s also in Warehouse 13: Of Monsters and Men which is listed separately and has the plot of ‘the Warehouse 13 operatives uncover a mysterious comic book artifact and must work together to free themselves from its power.’ He’s had one-off appearances in Witches of East EndAgents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Supergirl, but no other major genre roles to date.  

(11) HORSING AROUND WITH SHATNER. Tomorrow, May 28, the Hollywood Charity Horse Show is offering “An Evening with William Shatner”. One ticket is $400. Or buy a table for 10 and only pay – eh, $4,000.

6:00pm – 7:00pm Dinner.  During Dinner, Mr. Shatner will go around to each table and take a group shot  (Due to Covid restrictions individual photos are not possible.)

7:00pm – 8:00pm Mr. Shatner will  tell stories and answer your questions

(12) SCENES OF HORROR. Cora Buhlert has a new article up at Galactic Journey about a forgotten tragedy: “[May 26, 1967] Flames over Brussels: The À l’Innovation Department Store Fire”.

…The last time I was in Brussel in April, I stopped at the Standaard Boekhandel book shop directly across the street from À l’Innovation to pick up the latest comics. The venerable weekly comics magazine Tintin has launched a slew of new strips to keep up with the competition of Spirou and particularly the French comics magazine Pilote….

(13) BOOK REVIEW. Cora Buhlert also appears in The Dark Man: Journal of Robert E. Howard and Pulp Studies (12.2) with a review of The Weird Tales Story: Enhanced and Expanded by Robert Weinberg et al. The publication is a peer-reviewed scholarly journal devoted to the academic study of Howard’s literary works as well as the literary historical and print culture contexts associated with it. 

(14) DOZOIS AND ADLER TRANSCRIPT. The Eaton Collection shares a bit of history.

(15) AT THE HELM. Gizmodo asks the show creator about those odious comparisons: “Seth MacFarlane Interview: The Orville Versus Star Trek”.

…“I think it’s safe to say that we’re still occupying our own space this year,” MacFarlane told io9 over video chat at a recent Orville press event. “Certainly, the more that’s out there, you do start to become a little concerned that, you know, is it oversaturation? Is there a pocket where our show and only our show exists? And I think that is still very much the case.”

Not wanting to spoil what’s in store, MacFarlane didn’t get too into detail about what specifically sets The Orville apart from Star Trek this season. In more general terms, “It’s this genre that emerged in the 1930s of a ship in space, captained and crewed very much the same way that a sailing ship was,” he said. “It’s something that dates back a lot of decades. Star Trek was really the first to take it and turn it into something that really mattered and was a serious form of storytelling. You know, for us… sci-fi right now is very dark. It’s very dystopian. It’s very grim in a lot of ways. It’s very cautionary. And the optimistic, uplifting part of that genre is something we haven’t really seen in a while. So there was a pretty obvious open pocket for us to kind of slip into when we started. How we fit in now is—it’s really up to the audience, I think—what we’re bringing to the table in tone, in structure, in scope is in a class of its own. But that remains [to be seen], because the verdict [on season three] has not come in yet.”…

(16) GIVE A DOG A BAD NAME. James Davis Nicoll is happy to help.

(17) WE ARE NASA. People sent me links to this 3-year-old NASA video which has been the subject of several posts this week. Take a look.

We’ve taken giant leaps and left our mark in the heavens. Now we’re building the next chapter, returning to the Moon to stay, and preparing to go beyond. We are NASA – and after 60 years, we’re just getting started. Special thanks to Mike Rowe for the voiceover work.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers:  Evil Dead:  The Game,” Fandom Games says this move tie-in “fulfills a need you never knew you had: fighting with four Bruce Campbells.” The narrator suggests that someone convince Lucy Lawless to appear in a game with her Xena armor, “a move that would cause a majority of gamers to regress into puberty.”

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Andrew (not Werdna), Cora Buhlert, 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 Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 5/19/22 That’s Why I Called The Song Alice’s Pixel Scroll

(1) HWA RELEASES SOCIAL MEDIA STATS. The Horror Writers Association shared some numbers about their coverage of social media platforms.

a. Facebook page: 3713 followers 
b. Facebook group: 15.8K members
c. Twitter: 22.3K followers
d. Instagram: 3713 followers 
e. Slasher: 5500
f. Discord Server: 150 members – has same functions as HWA’s old message boards but is more secure.
g. TikTok: 108 followers

(2) NEW DELANY NOVEL. No indication that it’s sff that I’ve seen: “Samuel R. Delany to Publish Serial Novel in The Georgia Review. The first installment is out.

The Georgia Review is proud to announce that our Summer 2022 issue will begin our serial publication of This Short Day of Frost and Sun, a new novel by Samuel R. Delany. The novel begins on New York’s Upper West Side sometime in the early 1990s, and, in an embedded tale, moves to a millionaire’s estate somewhere in the Midwest, a residence called “Mapless.” 

Somone on Facebook asked how long the serial will run. Delany replied:  

It might take them as much as three or four years to finish up the whole thing. I’m fiddling with it as I feed them chapters.

(3) NEXT YEAR’S STOKERCON. The Horror Writers Association’s StokerCon® 2023 will be in Pittsburgh, PA from June 15-18. Michael Arnzen, Benjamin Rubin, and Sara Tantlinger will co-chair the event. Register here.

(Early Bird) Launch through September 30 – $150
October 1st through October 31st – $200
November 1st through December 31st – $250
January 1st through May 15th – $300
More info will be available in the coming months.

(4) BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE YIELDS GOOD SF TV? The LA Times interviewed several showrunners to learn “How science fiction is shaping prestige TV”.

With storylines rooted in the Cold War or climate change or any number of other deep-seated earthbound concerns, no fewer than four new series (and counting) are boldly proclaiming an emerging era of prestige science fiction this season.

Why this sudden surge?

“Science fiction has always flourished when things weren’t going too well, and right now, there’s just a ton of anxiety in the world,” says David S. Goyer, showrunner for the Apple TV+ series “Foundation.”

That anxiety is reflected in these wildly variegated, star-packed offerings: Goyer’s “Foundation,” starring Jared Harris, traffics in “Dune”-style interplanetary strife set 25,000 years in the future; folksy heartland drama “Night Sky” (May 20, Prime Video) features Oscar winners Sissy Spacek and J.K. Simmons as a couple who periodically visit a distant planet via the teleportation device ensconced in their backyard shed; time-travel western “Outer Range” (Prime Video) stars Oscar nominee Josh Brolin as a Wyoming rancher spooked by a giant hole on the edge of his property; and “The Man Who Fell to Earth” (Showtime) casts Oscar-nominated Chiwetel Ejiofor as a charismatic extraterrestrial.

And while “Star Trek” in all its versions has been a relatively constant presence on screens big and small since the mid-1960s, its presence in these current times is growing ever larger, adding to the mix the recently launched “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” (Paramount+), which follows Captain Pike (Anson Mount) and his USS Enterprise crew on fresh adventures. And there’s still more to come as Apple TV+ will be back in the space race soon with “Constellation,” featuring Noomi Rapace and Jonathan Banks.

The Envelope spoke to these showrunners about how they’re reshaping sci-fi TV amid troubled times….

(5) STILL GUESSING. “Doctor Who casts Heartstopper star Yasmin Finney for 60th anniversary”Radio Times declines to leap to any conclusion about the history of the character named Rose that this actor will play.

…However, Rose is also the title of Davies’ very first Doctor Who episode, where NuWho (and his own involvement in the series) all began. As he returns to take over the show again, it seems oddly appropriate for there to be another Rose in the mix – and given his heartbreaking parting from the original Rose, we might assume it’ll have some resonance for Tennant’s Doctor as well.

For now, it’s still unclear exactly what role Finney will play alongside Tate and Tennant, how many episodes (or specials) she’ll appear in, and whether she’s just a guest star or whether she’s here for the long haul. If she is a companion, Finney will be the first trans actor to hold that position in the TV series (though Rebecca Root has played a trans companion in audio dramas, and trans actors have appeared in episodes and spin-offs before)….

Similiarly: “Doctor Who casts new Rose but what’s her connection to Billie Piper?” at Radio Times.

This new version of Rose isn’t necessarily a multiversal revamp or reincarnation. She’s not necessarily Donna’s surprise daughter (though that would be cool, right?) or a herald for Billie Piper’s own comeback (though again, let’s not rule that one out).

For the last 17 years, that name has been a crucial motif in Doctor Who. And as Davies looks back for the 60th anniversary of the show, it might have just felt right to have a new Rose blooming for a new generation.

(6) ANOTHER HUGO-WINNING PRONOUN ANTAGONIST. [Item by Anne Marble.] I didn’t know Barry Longyear would use words like “woke” and complain about pronouns. Maybe Barry Longyear should be shipwrecked on another planet with an asexual pregnant alien… Then he might learn about his prejudices. Longyear’s May 17 Facebook post begins:

I usually shy away from this sort of nonsense, but after watching the news this morning, enough is enough.

Of all the cruel, pointless, wastes of time in existence, “woke” pronoun designation and enforcement is vying with CRT and the new college segregation to promote “racial harmony” for first place. Three Wisconsin middle school boys have been charged with sexual harassment for using “incorrect gender pronouns.” A student in rather crude terms, berated a boy for not using “they” and “them” when referring to that student….

(7) DEATH DID NOT RELEASE HIM. “Marvel Signs Deal to Insert CGI Stan Lee Cameos Into Future Films”Futurism has the story.

…What happens when a brand puts words in a dead guy’s mouth? And how come Marvel reversed course? In 2021, the company said the digitally-aged cameo of Lee they inserted into “End Game” would be his last.

And emotionally, it’s worth noting that the whole thing feels a little icky. Is it really what Lee would have wanted?

“Ghoulish behavior,” one fan wrote on Twitter. “Do not resurrect the man for further movie appearances as a CGI puppet, no matter what his estate is willing to sign off on.”

(8) OH, SNAP! Seems like death did not release Nick Fury, either. How did that happen? “Secret Invasion Taking Place ‘During The Blip’ Raises Obvious Question” and Bleeding Cool tries to find the answer.

…During Disney’s Upfronts on Tuesday, Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige brought out Jackson to help him promote the six-episode series. And that’s when things got interesting because while folks knew Secret Invasion would take place within the MCU timeline, Feige offered a bit more clarity that… caused a bit of confusion. While still engaging in the Marvel Studios’ policy of offering as few details as possible, did say that the series would take place “during The Blip, when half of the universe was decimated by Thanos and will explore the events that happened in that period.” So if that’s the case and it takes place between Avengers: Infinity War (especially that post-credits scene) and Avengers: Endgame, then we have a huge mystery in front of us. Because as far as everyone saw during that previously mentioned post-credits scene, Fury and Cobie Smulders‘ Maria Hill (who is also set to appear in the series) found themselves on the wrong side of Thanos’ finger-snap…

(9) VANGELIS (1943-2022). The Guardian reports Vangelis, composer of Chariots of Fire and Blade Runner soundtracks died May 17. His music was also associated with space exploration.

…A fascination with outer space found voice in 2016’s Rosetta, dedicated to the space probe of the same name, and Nasa appointed his 1993 piece Mythodea (which he claimed to have written in an hour) as the official music of the Mars Odyssey mission of 2001. His final album, 2021’s Juno to Jupiter, was inspired by the Nasa probe Juno and featured recordings of its launch and the workings of the probe itself in outer space….

Sultana Raza commemorated his passing in verse: “Cosmic Rainbow – Vangelis’ music inspired this poem”.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1983 [By Cat Eldridge.] Thirty-nine years ago, William Shatner got his very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It as the 1762nd such star. He’d actually also get a star on the Walk of Fame in Canada. 

It is said that hundreds of people attended Shatner’s dedication ceremony, including Leonard Nimoy. He gave a speech on the day, in which he said that Shatner was “a wonderful man and a great actor” before telling the crowd about the terrible jokes Shatner liked to play on him. 

Shatner also spoke, “This is my small ticket to the stars. All of the other accolades are so ephemeral one never has anything that’s truly concrete and this is the one exception.” 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 19, 1904 Anthony Bushell. He played Colonel Breen in the Quatermass and the Pit series. He showed in DangerInvisible Man and The Saint. (Died 1997.)
  • Born May 19, 1937 Pat Roach. He was cast in the first three Indy Jones films as a decided Bad Person though he never had a name. His first genre appearance was in A Clockwork Orange as a Milkbar bouncer but his first named role was being Hephaestus in Clash of Titans. He was of an unusually stocky nature, so he got cast as a Man Ape in Conan the Destroyer, and as Bretagne the Barbarian in Red Sonja. And of course he had such a role as Zulcki in Kull the Desttoyer. Oh, and he played a very large and mostly naked Executioner in the George MacDonald Fraser scripted The Return of The Musketeers. (Died 2004.)
  • Born May 19, 1944 Peter Mayhew. Chewbacca from the beginning to The Force Awakens before his retirement from the role. The same year he first did Chewy, he had an uncredited role as the Minotaur in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. He also shows in the Dark Towers series as The Tall Knight.  Can we say he earned a Hugo at IguanaCon II? I know I’m stretching it there. (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 19, 1946 Andre the Giant. Fezzik in The Princess Bride, one of my all-time favorite films. He had an uncredited role as Dagoth In Conan the Destroyer. He’s actually did a number of genre roles such as The Greatest American Hero with his American acting debut playing a Bigfoot in a two-part episode aired in 1976 on The Six Million Dollar Man titled “The Secret of Bigfoot”. He died at age forty-six of congestive heart failure in his sleep at a Paris hotel while there for his father’s funeral. (Died 1993.)
  • Born May 19, 1948 Grace Jones, 74. Singer, best known for a song about looking for a parking spot, but also acts. In addition to other genre roles, she was a companion of Conan in Conan the Destroyer and a Bond Girl in View to a Kill. (Alan Baumler) 
  • Born May 19, 1966 Jodi Picoult, 56. Her Wonder Women work is exemplary (collected in Wonder Women, Volume 3 and Wonder Woman: Love and Murder). She also has a most excellent two volume YA series called the Between the Lines Universe which she wrote with Samantha van Leer. ISFDB lists her Second Glance novel as genre but I’d say it’s genre adjacent at best. 

(12) WE INTERRUPT THIS SCROLL. John Scalzi has not been neglecting his Coca-Cola tasting duties – we just missed the coverage!

In February CNN Business featured another variation on the soft drink: “Coca-Cola Starlight: Coke’s new flavor is out of this world”. That week Scalzi obtained a can and shared his impression:

Then earlier this month he also wrote up another new limited edition flavor: Pixel Flavored! (How on earth – or off it – did we miss that?) “In Which I Try the Latest Coca-Cola Creations Flavor” at Whatever.

It is the Byte Limited Edition Pixel Flavored Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, which you cannot get in the stores; you have to order it off the Coca-Cola Web site, where it comes in a specialty boxed package (which you can see in the background) featuring two cans, a sticker and a QR card for a video game, all for $15 or thereabouts. Apparently only 25,000 of the boxes will be made. Well, okay; I bought two boxes, just in case I fell so in love with whatever “pixel flavored” tastes like that I needed to have a couple extra to string it out.

(13) MORE LOVE, MORE DEATH, MORE ROBOTS. And unrelated to beverages, About Netflix tapped John Scalzi for comments on “’Love, Death + Robots’: The Story Behind the Anthology Series’ First-Ever Sequel”.

How did it feel to return to these characters?

For me, the thing that was great is I wrote the characters because, years ago, a friend of mine kept poking me until I contributed to her anthology, Robots Vs. Fairies. I knocked it out in about an hour. The fact that something I did to keep my friend from annoying me has gone on to have such a long life – first in the book, then the first season, then being the only episode that is explicitly a sequel – just tickles me. And it thrills me, because the longer I’m with those characters, the more I love them….

(14) BRADBURY DNA. The Chicago Shakespeare Theater will be inspired by a bard from another world when they stage “It Came from Outer Space” from June 22-24.

A new musical comedy adapted from the ‘50s cult classic sci-fi film from Universal Pictures! Amateur astronomer John Putnam encounters an alien spaceship in the desert and becomes the laughingstock of his small town—until the extraterrestrial visitors make their presence known and he must convince the gathering mob that they have come in peace. A clever musical score and creative physical humor puts a new spin on Ray Bradbury’s flying saucer tale, examining society’s fear of outsiders as it simultaneously embraces the wonder of what lies just beyond the stars. Commissioned and developed by Chicago Shakespeare with Creative Producer Rick Boynton, the production reignites an artistic partnership with creators Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair, following the triumph of their Jeff Award-winning 2011 musical, Murder for Two, which went on to an acclaimed New York run.

(15) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter was planted in front of the TV tonight when Jeopardy! contestants stumbled over this genre item.

Category: Lit Bits

Answer: This book introduced us to the Eloi and Morlocks.

Wrong questions: What is “The Lord of the Rings” and “What is “War of the Worlds”?

Right question: What is “The Time Machine”?

(16) TIMES CROSSWORD PUZZLE. The answers to Thursday’s puzzle are hidden to avoid spoilers. Though we guess most Filers will get this four-letter answer pretty easily.

(17) ORION SHALL WRITHE. “In The Original ‘Star Trek’ Pilot, It Wasn’t Easy Being Green” explains H&I. It’s not a long anecdote, and would be spoiled by running enough of an excerpt to read coherently. So just click over and be entertained.

(18) NOT A FLOOR BUT A CEILING? Dr. Matt O’Dowd analyzes possible answers to a reciprocal of the usual assumption: “What If the Galactic Habitable Zone LIMITS Intelligent Life?” at PBS Space Time.

Our solar system is a tiny bubble of habitability suspended in a vast universe that mostly wants to kill us. In fact, a good fraction of our own galaxy turns out to be utterly uninhabitable, even for sun—like stellar systems. Is this why .. most of us .. haven’t seen aliens?

(19) NOT A FAN OF FOX. Screen Rant takes notes as “Star Trek Writer Hits Back At Controversial Fox News Op-Ed”. “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine writer Robert Hewitt Wolfe reacts to a Fox News op-ed that smeared the show as having suddenly adopted ‘woke politics.’”

(20) MEANWHILE, BACK IN FLORIDA. Reason brings you “Democratic Disney vs. Republican Disney”.

Tired of Disney not bending to their partisan sensibilities, two politicians update their theme parks.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George, in a spoiler-packed episode, says that when the writer tells the producer that Wanda has gone bad because she’s been “possessed by an evil book,” the producer says, “this is why I don’t read.”  But the producer discovers who to cast for cameos when the writer makes smirky faces to him.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Anne Marble, John Scalzi, Will R., SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]

Pixel Scroll 4/23/22 Our Exorcist Was Able To Dispossess Our Possessed Tesla Before It Got Repossessed

(1) VERTLIEB MEDICAL UPDATE. Please keep File 770 contributor Steve Vertlieb in mind on Monday, April 25 when he will be having major heart surgery. He explained to Facebook friends:

…With the impending replacement of not one, but both heart valves … Atrial and Mitral … as well as stopping the continuing dripping of blood into my heart cavity … and stitching back together a hole in my heart … I’m trusting in God, the fates, and the grateful prayer support of so many countless friends and loved ones to overcome this….

(2) DOUBLE-OH. Luke Poling looks at YA James Bond pastiches, including one where the teenage Bond fights a pirate named “Walker D. Plank.” “You Know, For Kids! The History of a Teenage James Bond” at CrimeReads. Even YA horror legend R.L. Stine has written one, Win, Place or Die.

When you think of the British agent with a license to kill, seducing his way around the world, keeping the rest of us safe, you likely don’t think of children. This is probably a good thing since the source novels are most definitely of their era, rife with casual sexism, racism, misogyny, homophobia and rape. While the films do a little better in some of these areas, they’re not exactly blameless.

It’s for these reasons that perhaps the idea of a teenage Bond isn’t something that instantly springs to mind as a great idea. Yet, as you’ll see, it’s been a long sought after market that the keepers of the Bond legacy have repeatedly tried to reach, with varying degrees of success….

(3) LE GUIN PRIZE DEADLINE. You have until midnight April 30 (Pacific time) to nominate for this year’s Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction. Click here for the nomination form and eligibility criteria. The winner will receive a $25,000 cash prize. The members of the 2022 jury are discussed here.

(4) THE FAN FROM UNCLES. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s tribute to Independent Bookstore Day includes “The return of the Uncles and other good news”.

…And Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s bookstore — the deeply beloved science fiction and mystery store owned by Don Blyly — has found a new home. The “uncles,” as the store is known, burned during the unrest that took place in Minneapolis following the murder of George Floyd. Now, two years on, the store will reopen at 2716 E. 31st St., just a half-block away from Moon Palace Bookstore….

(5) NOTHING IS CERTAIN BUT DEATH AND TAXONOMY. Rob Thornton has a question about something he noticed at the New York Times Book Review.

They said that the column by Amal El-Mohtar was about ”science fiction and fantasy” but said in a headline that Emily St. John Mandel’s new (and acceptable) novel was “speculative fiction.”

Is NYTBR trying to split the genre into “pulp” (genre) and “literary” branches?

(6) FAN DISSERVICE. Netflix’s financial setback, mentioned here the other day, was only to be expected says The Mary Sue: “No One Is Surprised That Netflix Lost 200,000 Subscribers in The First Quarter”.

In the first quarter of 2022 (Janurary 1 to March 31), Netflix lost a net 200,000 subscribers, making it the first time in over a decade that the streaming service didn’t grow in subscriptions. If this weren’t bad enough, the loss was on the backdrop of Netflix projecting a 2,500,000 subscriber gain. Thier stock dropped roughly 30% in the last 24-ish hours. While Netflix continues to provide a handful of favorably received properties like BridgertonThe CrownSquid Game, and more, this drop was bound to happen. Everyone has beef with the company.

Stacking controversies from platforming bigoted comedians like Dave Chappelle (proud TERF), pay disparities, choosing to cancel fan-favorite content over bland hate-watched content, region-locked content, creepy cover art changes, and consistently colorist casting choices regarding Black women haven’t helped. A whole wiki page (divided into five categories) exists documenting Netflix criticism. To be very clear, not all of these grievances are equal. However, it does show that many people have issues with the company and the content for a broad range of reasons.

(7) I’M NOT THE MAN THEY THINK I AM AT HOME. Short-lived CNN+ is shutting down at the end of the month — not fast enough to prevent Chris Wallace from annoying the world’s most famous sci-fi celebrity: “Shatner Jokes He’ll Kill Chris Wallace Over Rocket Man Clip” at Mediaite.

… Fans of Shatner are probably well-acquainted with Shatner’s dramatic interpretation of “Rocket Man” at the January 20, 1978. Saturn Awards, also called the Science Fiction Film Awards. For the uninitiated:

Mr. Shatner was a guest of Mr. Wallace on the latest episode of the CNN+ series Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace, and had a strange reaction to being confronted with the clip. He joked about torturing and killing Wallace for playing a very brief clip — then made the preposterous claim that he had been unaware the performance was being filmed at the time, even thought there were elements of the performance that couldn’t possibly have been incorporated in a non-televised setting:

MR. WALLACE: I want to explore these spoken word albums, and I get what exactly what you’re saying, it’s not quite singing. It’s not quite talking, but it’s you’re going to kill me for this. Nineteen…

MR. SHATNER: No, I would never kill you…. I’d torture you.

MR. WALLACE: …1978. I’m going to play… Here’s another spoken word album. Take a look. Okay.

MR. SHATNER: (video clip) Rocket Man. Burning out his fuse out here, a. I think it’s going to be a long, long time ’til touchdown bring me round again to find I’m not the man they think I am. Oh no, no, no. I’m a Rocket Man now.

MR. SHATNER: Now your audience is going to watch Chris die, as I kill you. (Wallace laughs) It was an award show…

(8) TOOL TIME. Christopher Barzak invites us to share “A Moment with Ellen Datlow” at Jenny Magazine, the Youngstown State University’s Student Literary Arts Association online literary magazine. In addition to talking about her professional work, Ellen answers questions what she collects. There are many photos of the items.

[CB] It made me wonder if you see the collecting and arrangement of these art objects as a curatorial process in the same way that you essentially collect and arrange stories for anthologies? Do the processes seem similar to you? At heart, is being an editor essentially being a collector or curator?

ED: Wow-you’re much more perceptive than I am. I’ve usually started collecting by discovering one weird/beautiful/perfect object, then deciding I want more of them or more like them. I love antiquing and going to yard/garage sales. The first tool I ever bought was something I found in London’s Jubilee market hall in Covent Garden. I had no idea what it was for and neither did the seller. I didn’t discover its use until more than twenty years after I acquired it, when Kaaron Warren and I collaborated on Tool Tales (a chapbook consisting of photographs of ten of my tools/odd objects and the micro fictions she wrote about each one. A reader was able to match the item on ebay: Antique Nipper- Tool-Pliers-Adjust-Teeth-Saw-Hacksaw.

I prefer to find objects randomly, in-person. I started collecting native American fetish animals while visiting the American Southwest, then alas, discovered ebay and started buying way too many fetishes that way. But it’s not as satisfying. …

(9) ART FOR NEW LOTR EDITION. Artist Alan Lee fills in Literary Hub readers about the challenges: “Alan Lee on Illustrating J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

…I was asked to produce fifty watercolors for the single-volume edition. The question of which episodes I should choose as subjects, which could have occupied me for a good part of the allotted time, was more easily settled; the color plates were to be printed on separate sheets and bound around alternating signatures of text pages, which meant that the illustrations would fall between every thirty-two pages of text.

This limitation turned out to be a blessing; it was important for me that every illustration should relate immediately to the text on the opposite page to create a harmony between story and image, and it also relieved me of the obligation to represent all the dramatic high points of the tale. This meant that I could concentrate more on scene setting and atmosphere building, and creating some quieter moments.

My feeling was that it would be better to add detail and color to those parts which the author had not described in great depth than to try to echo his powerful storytelling. That said, there are very few pages in The Lord of the Rings where nothing remarkable is happening! …

You can admire examples of Lee’s work in a promotional video from The Folio Society at the link.

(10) TODAY’S DAY.

April 23 is Impossible Astronaut Day

The unofficial annual holiday celebrates the day in 2011 when the first episode of the sixth season of the series was aired in the United Kingdom, United States, and Canada.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1974 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-eight years ago on ABC, Gene Roddenberry’s Planet Earth film first aired. It was intended to be a pilot for a new weekly television series but that was not to be. 

It was written by Roddenberry and Juanita Bartlett, who had this point had no genre experience but later on would be the Executive Producer on many episodes of The Greatest American Hero and even wrote a handful of them. 

It starred John Saxon as Dylan Hunt. Yes Dylan Hunt. If you remember, Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda series will be fronted by Kevin Sorbo playing Dylan Hunt. Roddenberry was famous, or infamous for reusing almost everything. The previous pilot was Genesis II, and it featured many of the concepts and characters later redeveloped and mostly recast in this film.

So how was it received? Comic Mix correctly noted I think that “As a concept, it’s not bad. The execution, from Samuel A. Peebles’ script on down, is where the pilot film gets into trouble. Peebles’ writing was stiff, and whatever rewriting Roddenberry did, didn’t help. The characters are types, never fully fleshed out, and Cord’s heroic role is blunted by his cold, aloof performance (making him better suited as Airwolf’s Archangel a few years later).” 

And Moria’s Reviews says of it that “Planet Earth tends to represent Gene Roddenberry at his preachy worst. Genesis II, when it came down to it, was only a variant on the basic premise of Buck Rogers (1939) about a man from the present-day waking up in the future and showing people how things should be done with a little 20th Century knowhow and individualism. That is to say, Genesis II was a Buck Rogers with Gene Roddenberry’s social utopianism added to the mix.”

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a thirty percent rating.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 23, 1879 Talbot Mundy. English-born, but based for most of his life in the States, he also wrote under the pseudonym of Walter Galt. Best known as the author of King of the Khyber Rifles which is not quite genre and the Jimgrim series which is genre, much of his work was published in pulp magazines. (Died 1940.)
  • Born April 23, 1923 Avram Davidson. Equally at home writing mystery, fantasy or science fiction, he wrote two splendid Ellery Queen mysteries, And on the Eighth Day and The Fourth Side of the Triangle. I’m fond of his Vergil Magus series if only for the names of the novels such as The Phoenix and the Mirror or, The Enigmatic Speculum. His only Hugo was at Solacon (1958) for his “Or All the Seas with Oysters” short story. During his tenure as editor of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (1962-1965) it won the Best Professional Magazine Hugo (1963) and was nominated twice more at Pacificon II (1964) and Loncon II (1965). He was honored with the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1986. (Died 1993.)
  • Born April 23, 1935 Tom Doherty, 87. Publisher of Ace Books who left there in 1980 to found Tor Books. Tor became a subsidiary of St. Martin’s Press in 1987; both are now divisions of Macmillan Publishers, owned by Holtzbrinck Publishers. Doherty was awarded a World Fantasy Award in the Lifetime Achievement category at the 2005 World Fantasy Convention for his contributions to the fantasy field. He also partnered in the founding of Baen Books.
  • Born April 23, 1939 Lee Majors, 83. Here for his role as Colonel Steve Austin in The Six Million Dollar Man. He reprised the role in The Bionic Woman.  Much later, he had a recurring role in Ash vs. Evil Dead as Brock Williams. In the new version of Thunderbirds Are Go, he voiced Jeff Tracy.  He shows up in Scrooged as himself.
  • Born April 23, 1955 Paul J. McAuley, 67. Four Hundred Billion Stars, his first novel, won the Philip K. Dick Award, Fairyland which I adore won a Arthur C. Clarke Award and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF Novel. His short story, “The Choice”, won a Sturgeon Award, and “Pasquale’s Angel” won a Sideways Award. He was Toastmaster along Kim Newman at Interaction.
  • Born April 23, 1956 Caroline Thompson, 66. She wrote the screenplays for Tim Burton’s Edward ScissorhandsThe Nightmare Before Christmas, and Corpse Bride. A stage version of the latter with director and choreographer Matthew Bourne was co-adapted with her this year. She also wrote the screenplay for The Addams Family. And she wrote the screenplay for the television film, Snow White: The Fairest of Them All.
  • Born April 23, 1962 John Hannah, 60. Here for being Jonathan Carnahan in The MummyThe Mummy Returns, and there was apparently a third film as well though let’s not talk about it please, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. In a more meaty role, he was the title characters in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and of late he’s been Holden Radcliffe on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series.
  • Born April 23, 1973 Naomi Kritzer, 49. I saw that her 2015 short story “Cat Pictures Please” had been a Hugo Award winner at MidAmeriCon II, so I went and purchased Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories off Apple Books so I could read it. It was superb as was Catfishing on CatNet which is nominated for a Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book at this year’s Hugos. It’s since been expanded continued in two more novels, Catfishing on CatNet and the Chaos on Catnet. DisCon III saw her nominated for two Hugos, one for her “Monster” novelette and one for her most excellent “Little Free Library” short story. She also picked up a nomination at Dublin 2019 for her “The Thing About Ghost Stories” novelette. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) SUMMERTIME. “Archie Comics Brings a Queer Character to Riverdale” reports the New York Times.

The world of Riverdale, the comic book home of the redheaded Archie Andrews and friends, will expand in June with the introduction of Eliza Han.

The new character, created by the writer Tee Franklin and the artist Dan Parent, is queer and biracial. She meets the Riverdale gang in a summer special comic when she visits Harper Lodge, a cousin of Veronica — for whom she has romantic feelings, something Eliza has in common with Reggie Mantle. Oh, teenage love!

“The best Archie characters are the ones you can drop in and have them create a little fun chaos,” Mike Pellerito, the editor in chief of Archie Comic Publications, said in a telephone interview. “Eliza is another character that you can fall in love with very easily — and there’s a lot more to be revealed about the character besides her sexuality.”

Eliza also has a fuller figure, something new for Archie, Pellerito said, a move to have more characters people can relate to. “Body diversity is something we don’t tackle a ton of,” Pellerito said….

(15) CARTOONIST PROFILED. Eye on Design shows how “The Cartoonist Seth Has Built a Real Life Entirely Around His Fictional Work”.

…Inspired by The New Yorker cover artists of the mid-century, Seth made a name for himself with semi-autobiographical literary comics rendered in that classic style, most notably his Palookaville series, including It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken and the acclaimed Clyde Fans. Perhaps this encroaching modern world is what he’s guarding against in his own home in Guelph’s historic neighborhood, The Ward. Many curtains are drawn, and custom stained glass windows with the words Inkwell’s End and Nothing Lasts set in beautiful hues, with an illustration of the house—pull you deeper into this world as they seal off the one outside.

…The house. Seth sees it as an art project that’s not only directly connected to his work, but to the city of Guelph and the province that runs in his blood. For one, electrical towers are a running theme, depicted in the ironwork outside, in one of the stained glass windows, in the sculptures on the first floor, even in the shower tiles; Seth regards them as a central image of Ontario. Elsewhere, the nearby train bridge and the two towers of Guelph’s basilica can be spotted in cabinetry masterfully crafted by Seth’s father-in-law. 

His comic work lives and breathes here, too. For fans, it’s like walking into a museum of the creator’s mind. In the parlor alone there’s a light-up ceramic sculpture of Kao-Kuk, an Inuit astronaut from his book The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists. There’s a trio of nesting cookie jar sculptures of the titular character from George Sprott (1894–1975), a series he originally created for The New York Times Magazine; he removes the top of one to reveal a younger Sprott within, which is then removed to reveal Sprott as a child. There are dolls of all the characters from Wimbledon Green: The Greatest Comic Book Collector in the World….

(16) PLUS ÇA CLIMATE CHANGE. William McKibben’s doom-sounding article “The End of Nature” sounds like it could have been published this week, but The New Yorker first ran it in 1989.

…In other words, our sense of an unlimited future, which is drawn from that apparently bottomless well of the past, is a delusion. True, evolution, grinding on ever so slowly, has taken billions of years to create us from slime, but that does not mean that time always moves so ponderously. Over a lifetime or a decade or a year, big and impersonal and dramatic changes can take place. We have accepted the idea that continents can drift in the course of aeons, or that continents can die in a nuclear second. But normal time seems to us immune from such huge changes. It isn’t, though. In the last three decades, for example, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased more than ten per cent, from about three hundred and fifteen parts per million to about three hundred and fifty parts per million. In the last decade, an immense “hole” in the ozone layer has opened up above the South Pole each fall, and, according to the Worldwatch Institute, the percentage of West German forests damaged by acid rain has risen from less than ten per cent to more than fifty per cent. Last year, for perhaps the first time since that starved Pilgrim winter at Plymouth, America consumed more grain than it grew. Burroughs again: “One summer day, while I was walking along the country road on the farm where I was born, a section of the stone wall opposite me, and not more than three or four yards distant, suddenly fell down. Amid the general stillness and immobility about me, the effect was quite startling. . . . It was the sudden summing-up of half a century or more of atomic changes in the material of the wall. A grain or two of sand yielded to the pressure of long years, and gravity did the rest.”…

…Soon Thoreau will make no sense. And when that happens the end of nature, which began with our alteration of the atmosphere and continued with the responses of the planetary managers and the genetic engineers, will be final. The loss of memory will be the eternal loss of meaning…

(17) WHISKEY BRAVO TANGO. This is what Hollywood might call a successful product placement. “Fort Collins whiskey gets TV cameo, now has unexpected ‘Star Trek’ following” at Yahoo!

Two weeks ago NOCO Distillery founder and master blender Sebastien Gavillet was going about his normal life. Now he’s commissioning custom bottle corks affixed with Star Trek figurines.

Life — and, in Gavillet’s case, some opportune product placement — sure comes at you fast.

It all started April 6, when a bottle of the Fort Collins distillery’s “Bourbon II” whiskey appeared on the latest season of Paramount+ series “Star Trek: Picard.”

The bottle, which was shown during a bar scene in episode six, appeared on screen for a few seconds — just long enough for fans to pause and make out its name, batch, cask, bottle numbers, the distillery’s logo and hometown: Fort Collins, Colorado.

“I was floored,” said Gavillet, who woke up to a flurry of text messages and calls after the episode dropped on the streaming service.

NOCO Distillery had dipped its toes in product placement thanks to Mark McFann, a distillery customer and owner of Cast a Long Shadow, a Fort Collins-based product placement company that’s had placements in everything from “Avengers” movies to HBO’s “Westworld” and, now, “Star Trek: Picard,” McFann said.

Seeing it as an interesting marketing opportunity, Gavillet said NOCO Distillery also pursued small placements on Netflix’s “Lucifer,” the new Ben Affleck movie “Deep Water” and Peacock’s “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” reboot, “Bel-Air.”

While most of NOCO Distillery’s previous product placements were minor — “if you don’t know it’s there, you don’t really see it,” Gavillet explained — Bourbon II’s extended appearance on “Star Trek: Picard” was “very unique,” he said….

Those who want to order a bottle of the next run are invited to enter their contact info here: startrekpicard (nocodistillery.com).

(18) LANSDALE Q&A. Joe R. Lansdale talks Born for Trouble and more with Michelle Souliere of the Green Hand Bookshop in Portland, Maine. Born for Trouble: The Further Adventures of Hap and Leonard was released March 21.

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

“The Man Who Would Be Kirk” — Celebrating William Shatner’s 91st Birthday

By Steve Vertlieb: After interviewing William Shatner for the British magazine L’Incroyable Cinema during the torrid Summer of 1969 at “The Playhouse In The Park,” just outside of Philadelphia, while Star Trek was still in the final days of its original network run on NBC, my old friend Allan Asherman, who joined my brother Erwin and I for this once-in-a-lifetime meeting with Captain James Tiberius Kirk, astutely commented that I had now met and befriended all three of our legendary boyhood “Captains,” which included Jim Kirk (William Shatner), Flash Gordon/Buck Rogers (Larry “Buster” Crabbe), and Buzz Corry (Edward Kemmer), Commander of the Space Patrol. It’s marvelous how an ordinary life can include real life friendships with childhood heroes.

Steve Vertlieb, William Shatner, and Erwin Vertlieb.

Our interview with the beloved William Shatner for this Star Trek-themed issue is perhaps the first fan interview with Shatner ever published. My printed conversation with the iconic actor was conducted in July, 1969, while Star Trek was still airing Thursday nights in re-runs over the NBC television network. I gave Erwin and Allan a credit in the original piece. However, I wrote most of the questions for the actor, and conducted ninety percent of the in person interview.

The interview would be re-published three years later by America’s first and only bi-weekly “Monster Movie” tabloid, The Monster Times for their second issue in 1972, and inserted into Allan Asherman’s landmark book The Star Trek Compendium shortly after that. To reflect the transitory name value of a more established writer in those later publications, my original byline was altered in order to more prominently favor Allan’s deservedly popular reputation. He maintained that perception when he re-published the interview yet again in his own book, The Star Trek Compendium a few years later.

Pictured here is that iconic third issue of England’s legendary Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror fanzine, L’Incroyable Cinema Magazine, from 1969, published and edited by the late Harry Nadler and featuring a special Star Trek cover by iconic artist Eddie Jones.

Also pictured is the cover for The Monster Times 1972 Star Trek issue featuring my published 1969 interview with the actor.

I arranged for the interview when Shatner appeared at “The Playhouse in the Park” in a production of “There’s A Girl In My Soup,” co- starring Jill Hayworth. We spent an hour with Captain Kirk in his dressing room. When the interview ended, Bill invited the three of us to come and see the show. When the performance ended and Bill was preparing to leave the stage, he turned once more to his youthful interviewers, seated in the crowded audience, and waved a very personal goodbye. I was deeply touched by his most gracious gesture.

Born March 22, 1931, William Shatner continues to remain eternally young. Wishing the most beloved star ship captain in the universe a joyous Happy Birthday of interplanetary proportions.

DirecTV Drops Russia’s RT America in Response to Invasion, Sends Shatner Show Into Limbo

DirecTV has dropped RT America, the sister network to Russia Today, in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reports Deadline. The satellite service was one of the largest U.S. distributors of RT, the Kremlin’s notorious state-funded network, along with Dish Network and Roku. RT America’s offerings have included I Don’t Understand with William Shatner. The company that produces Shatner’s show said on Tuesday that it will suspend production.

In the U.S., the National Association of Broadcasters has called on stations to stop carrying Russian state-sponsored programming.

As a consequence of losing DirecTV’s business, RT America announced it was shutting down today. A CNN story says:

RT America will cease productions and lay off most of its staff, according to a memo from T&R Productions, the production company behind the Russian state-funded network, which CNN obtained.

Misha Solodovnikov, the general manager of T&R Productions, told staff in the memo that it will be “ceasing production” at all of its locations “as a result of unforeseen business interruption events.”

… The news would mean an effective end to RT America. The network, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s main mouthpieces in the US, was dropped earlier this week by DirecTV, dealing a major financial blow to it. The satellite carrier was one of the two major television providers in the US to carry the network.

Last July, William Shatner traded blows on Twitter with journalists who called him out for hosting his new show on the Kremlin’s notorious state-funded network, RT. But this week he pivoted to offer public support to the Ukraine. The Daily Beast has Shatner’s latest thoughts about RT America, his show landing there, and his tweets about Ukraine: “Dennis Miller Abandons His Show on RT, the Kremlin-Funded Network”.

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, comedian Dennis Miller and others will stop hosting shows on RT America, the Kremlin-funded cable network that the U.S. intelligence community has deemed a “state-run propaganda machine.”

Miller’s program, titled Dennis Miller + One, had run on the network since March 2020. But a source close to the Saturday Night Live alum confirmed to The Daily Beast that he will stop making the twice-weekly half-hour program. “He has no plans on going back,” a source told NBC News, which first reported the news of Miller’s show ending.

… Shatner unapologetically launched an RT America talk show last year, titled I Don’t Understand, despite widespread criticism. In recent days, however, he’s taken to social media to express some solidarity with Ukraine.

In one tweet, which Shatner’s representative said the star wanted to “share” with The Daily Beast, the 90-year-old actor said his “prayers are with the people of the Ukraine” and that the “brave people fighting an overwhelming force” reminds him of Nazis attempting to overthrow Stalingrad in World War II.

Following publication, Shatner provided The Daily Beast with a statement regarding his show’s production and its relationship with RT.

“Ora TV sold the show to RT America. I had no say in the matter. My talk show, ‘I Don’t Understand,’ is purely entertainment and about all the things I don’t understand which is everything because I am at a loss for most things,” he wrote. “It is informative, entertaining and totally, absolutely non-political. My contract for seventy half-hour shows this past year has been with Ora TV. Those seventy shows are in the pipeline and I have no voice in that matter as well.’

Shatner added: “I await with apprehension what will transpire but my total sympathy is with Ukraine. They are the historic change in the world today and I look at them with great admiration and pray that they will emerge victorious.

“As for RT America, my latest information is that all production from Ora TV shows to RT America has been suspended.”

[Thanks to Frank Catalano for the links.]

Pixel Scroll 1/3/22 Barsoomian Rhapsody

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ruby Dixon’s books have since been reinstated.

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

What did I learn from the call?

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

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

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

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

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

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

But there have been a few obstacles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

Peter Beagle says:

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

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

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

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

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

Lis Carey was our next Filer:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elizabeth Hand gave a lengthy reply:

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

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

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

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

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

OR Melling says:

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

Catherynne M. Valente picked The Silmarillion:

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

Our final Filer is Paul Weimer who states:

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

For Jane Yolen, it’s The Hobbit:

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

(10) COMIC SECTION.

  • Bizarro stretches the truth in a comic way.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(16) TRUTH. Via RedWombat.

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