Pixel Scroll 6/19/22 She Filed Me Into A Scroll! (I Got Better!)

(1) HARASSMENT CAMPAIGN. [Item by Meredith.] Someone(s) used the names and email addresses of several members of sf/f fandom including Paul Weimer, Patrick S Tomlinson, John Scalzi, and Adam Rakunas to send racist abuse to a black author (@fairyfemmes) through the contact form on their websites (where the email address can be entered manually). The author originally believed it was real, but is now wanting to know who is behind it. They’ve taken their account private.

John Scalzi tweeted:

Paul Weimer posted on Patreon about “The Trolls Harassing others in my name”.

The Trolls that have harassed me for years in my name have come up with a new and horrible trick–they are harassing others, in this case, a POC, and using my name to do it.  

So it’s a double whammy–to hurt someone else, and to blacken my name at the same time.

Patrick S. Tomlinson addressed a message sent under his name, and another from the person posing as Adam Rakunas.

(2) TONOPAH PROGRAM UPDATED. The most recent (June 19) Westercon 74 Program Schedule  version has downloadable PDFs of the Program Grid, which shows items by date/time/location. Click on the link.

(3) WISCON’S COVID OUTCOME. The “WisCon 2022 Post-Con COVID-19 Report” begins with a fully detailed account of the extensive COVID-19 safety measures instituted by the committee, then assesses the results. 

…Two weeks out from the end of the convention, we are stopping our case tracking efforts. While it’s impossible to say with any certainty whether some members arrived sick, contracted COVID-19 during travel to/from, or contracted COVID-19 at the con, we can, with much gratitude, report that we had a total reported count of 13 cases including one possible false positive, or 3% of our estimated 407 in-person attendance. That’s just about miraculous.

We want to especially extend our thanks to those who tested positive very soon after arriving and took the necessary measures to take care of themselves and keep those around them safe, up to and including leaving the convention entirely. We know it must have been so gut-wrenching and disappointing. Thank you….

(4) STOP DISCOUNTING CRAFTSMANSHIP. Mark Lawrence reacts to a viral tweet by someone who rates books highly for other things than good writing in “I don’t care how good a writer you are…”

…It’s as if people are celebrating the idea that writing doesn’t matter and that “good writing” is some form of intellectual elitism that doesn’t have anything to do with them. They’re death metal fans and they don’t care about opera.

But that is, of course, nonsense. It’s akin to saying “I don’t care how good a brain surgeon you are, as long as you get this tumour out.” “I don’t care how good a mechanic you are, as long as you fix my car.” Sure, the end is the thing that’s important to you … but the end is generally strongly correlated with the means….

(5) SCARE PALS. Adrienne Celt advises New York Times Magazine readers that “You Need a Horror Movie Friend for a More Frightening, Less Lonely Life”.

… A lot of people hate horror movies, but I don’t. In fact, I frequently find myself strong-arming my friends and loved ones into watching something scarier than they would prefer, just for the company. It’s a difference of philosophy as much as a difference in taste. Horror deniers often claim there’s nothing emotionally valuable in the experience of being frightened. I disagree. When I first watched “The Last Unicorn” (a horror movie masquerading as a children’s cartoon) at age 8, the image of a naked harpy devouring a witch was burned into my brain, but so was the realization that the conditions that created the harpy also allowed for the unicorn. The existence of horror is inevitably proximate to the existence of wondrous possibility.

Meeting another person who loves horror as much as I do, then, is like meeting a fellow traveler from my home country while stuck somewhere distant and strange….

(6) A LOT TO LIKE. Rich Horton continues his project of filling in the historic blank spaces with “Hugo Nomination Recommendations, 1954” at Strange at Ecbatan.

… This was a remarkable year for SF novels, and the five that I list as nominees — the same list the Retro Hugo nominators picked — are all certified classics in the field. There some impressive alternate choices too — among those I list, Leiber’s The Sinful Ones (an expansion and in my opinion an improvement on his 1950 short novel “You’re All Alone”) is a personal favorite. In my Locus article I picked The Caves of Steel as the winner, but I’m really torn. Nowadays I might lean to either More Than Human, or to the Retro Hugo winner, Fahrenheit 451….

(7) REREADING PRATCHETT. Nicholas Whyte discusses “Mort, by Terry Pratchett” at From the Heart of Europe.

…You’ve read it too, so I won’t go on at length. It is as funny as I remembered. I was pleasantly surprised on re-reading by the breadth and depth of references to classic (and Classical) literature. The main driver of the Sto Lat subplot, the rewriting of history and destiny, is actually more of a science fiction trope, rarely found in fantasy (and the description of it is fairly sfnal). And Death’s slogan resonates still for me, 35 years on.

THERE’S NO JUSTICE. THERE’S JUST ME.

(8) A VISION FOR SF. Pop quiz: What editor’s name immediately comes to your mind when you read the statement that Astounding shaped modern science fiction? My guess is it won’t be the name that came to Colin Marshall’s mind when he wrote this post for Open Culture: “Revisit Vintage Issues of Astounding Stories, the 1930s Magazine that Gave Rise to Science Fiction as We Know It”.

Having been putting out issues for 92 years now, Analog Science Fiction and Fact stands as the longest continuously published magazine of its genre. It also lays claim to having developed or at least popularized that genre in the form we know it today. When it originally launched in December of 1929, it did so under the much more whiz-bang title of Astounding Stories of Super-Science. But only three years later, after a change of ownership and the installation as editor of F. Orlin Tremaine, did the magazine begin publishing work by writers remembered today as the defining minds of science fiction….

(9) HAPPY 90TH. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, classical music critic Michael Andor Brodeur celebrates John Williams’s 90th birthday with recommendations about his orchestral music to try (ever heard his flute concerto or his violin concerti?) “Composer John Williams being feted with performances at Kennedy Center”.

… For “John Williams: A 90th Birthday Gala,” conductor Stéphane Denève will lead the NSO in a sprawling celebration of Willams’s famed film music. Special guests cellist Yo-Yo Ma, filmmaker Steven Spielberg and German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter will cue up selections from some of Williams’s most beloved scores, including “Close Encounters,” “E.T.,” “Harry Potter,” “Indiana Jones” and “Schindler’s List.” The program will also highlight Williams’s most recently lauded work, the score to Kobe Bryant and Glen Keane’s Oscar-winning 2017 short film “Dear Basketball.

A pair of companion concerts flanking the gala celebration will focus on two of Williams’s best-known scores — representing a fraction of his 29 collaborations with Spielberg. (Their latest project, “The Fabelmans,” is due out in November). Steven Reineke will conduct the composer’s scores for “E.T.” and “Jurassic Park” on June 22 and 24, respectively. (The NSO will also perform Williams’s score for “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” with a screening of the film at Wolf Trap’s Filene Center on July 29.)

Taken together, the birthday party is three days of music that will hit all the subconscious buttons that Williams has wired into our collective memories over the past five decades — a rich catalogue of instantly identifiable melodies, moods and motifs that can conjure entire worlds with the stroke of a bow.

The party, however, conspicuously forgot to invite Williams’s concert music — the province of his output that truly opened my ears to his compositional mastery. (It also leaves out selections from “A.I. Artificial Intelligence,” a deep cut that represents some of his best work with Spielberg, but that’s another story.)

I get it. We have come to equate Williams with Hollywood so closely that it can be hard to fathom him freed of cinema’s frame.

But in Williams’s many concertos, chamber works and solo pieces, his familiar compositional voice is fully present, albeit put to completely different use. His connections to multiple classical traditions register more clearly: his Berg-ian penchant for darkness and dissonance, his Copland-esque ease with evoking natural grandeur, his inheritance of gestures from Debussy, Wagner, Tchaikovsky and Korngold.

Here are some of my favorite Williams works that have nothing to do with the movies — and have a lot more depth than you might expect from a composer we associate with the silver screen….

One of the pieces Michael Andor Brodeur recommended of John Williams was his “Fanfare For Fenway” so here it is as Williams and the Boston Pops perform the world premiere at Fenway Park in 2012.

(10) THINK FAST. Deadline calls it “Zaslav’s First Movie Crisis: What To Do With Ezra Miller, The Erratic Star Of Warner Bros’ $200M ‘Flash’ Franchise Launch”

Even though it isn’t on the Warner Bros release calendar until June 23, 2023, The Flash is becoming Warner Bros Discovery CEO David Zaslav’s first movie crisis, because of the escalating coverage of incidents of volatile and odd behavior involving the film’s star, Ezra Miller.

Zaslav has made clear his desire to grow the DC Universe to MCU scale and has all the ingredients of a first foot forward in The Flash, including the return of Michael Keaton as Batman along with a reprise by Ben Affleck, a $200 million budget and a hot director in Andy Muschietti, who delivered the blockbuster It for the studio. The Warner Bros Discovery CEO exercised his well known penchant for micro-management by declining to greenlight Wonder Twins for being too niche. Zaslav will have to soon make a decision of what to do with the completed picture that is The Flash, and what to do with a young actor who appears to have serious off-set issues….

(11) VERTLIEB MEDICAL NEWS. Steve Vertlieb is home after his fifth hospital stay of the year. He brings everyone up-to-date in “Back To The Suture 3” on Facebook.

… Days upon days of antibiotic treatment were required before they dared to open the wound and clean out the bacteria. This additional procedure was accomplished on Monday, June 13th.

Consequently, I was admitted yet again to the cardiac unit where I remained for nine days more until my delayed and eventual release this afternoon. I’ve a “Wound V.A.C.” attached to my groin where it hangs rather uncomfortably, and shall continue to do so for, perhaps, the next week or two. I’m home once more, and praying that this is where I shall be permitted at long last to remain….

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

1956 [By Cat Eldridge.] Forbidden Planet debuted sixty years ago on this date in the United Kingdom. I had the extremely good fortune of seeing Forbidden Planet at one of those boutique cinema houses some four decades back. Great sound and print, and a respectful audience who were there to see the film so everyone paid attention to it. 

It was produced by Nicholas Nayfack who had no genre background and who would die of a heart attack, age forty-nine just two years later. It was directed by Fred Wilcox, best known for Lassie, Come Home. The script was written by Cyril Hume who had prior to this written scripts for two Tarzan films. It is said that is based off “The Tempest” as conceived in a story by Irving Block and Allen Adler. Huh. 

I’ll skip the cast other than Robbie the Robot. He cost at least one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars to produce, and was based off the design originating with ideas and sketches by production designer Arnold “Buddy” Gillespie, art director Arthur Lonergan, and writer Irving Block. Robbie was operated (uncredited at the time) by stuntmen Frankie Darro and Frankie Carpenter, both rather short actors. And his voice in the film was done in post-production by actor Marvin Miller. 

The budget was about two million of which it was later estimated that Robbie was actually well over ten percent of that because of the cost of Miller’s time which added considerably to his cost. It made two point eight million, so yes it lost money. 

So what did the critics think? Variety thought it had “Imaginative gadgets galore, plus plenty of suspense and thrills, make the production a top offering in the space travel category” while the Los Angeles Times thought it was “more than another science-fiction movie, with the emphasis on fiction; it is a genuinely thought-through concept of the future, and the production MGM has bestowed on it gives new breadth and dimension to that time-worn phrase, ‘out of this world.’” 

It has a most stellar eighty-five percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 19, 1915 — Julius Schwartz. He’s best known as a longtime editor at DC Comics, where at various times he was primary editor for the Superman and Batman lines. Just as interestingly, he founded the Solar Sales Service literary agency (1934–1944) where Schwartz represented such writers as Bradbury, Bester,  Bloch, Weinbaum, and Lovecraft which included some of Bradbury’s very first published work and Lovecraft’s last such work. He also published Time Traveller, one of the first fanzines along with Mort Weisinger and Forrest J Ackerman. (Died 2004.)
  • Born June 19, 1921 — Louis Jourdan. Fear No Evil and Ritual of Evil, two very low budget TV horror films in the late Sixties that don’t show up on Rotten Tomatoes, appear to be his first venture into our realm. And no, I can’t say I’ve seen either one of them. He’d play Count Dracula in, errr, Count Dracula a few years later which gets a most excellent seventy-eight rating at Rotten Tomatoes. And then comes the role you most likely remember him for, Dr. Anton Arcane in Swamp Thing which he reprised in The Return of Swamp Thing. (No, don’t ask what they got for ratings. Please don’t ask.) Definitely popcorn films at their very best. Oh, and let’s not forget he was Kamal Khan, the villain in Octopussy! (It’s Moore, again don’t ask.) (Died 2015.)
  • Born June 19, 1926 — Josef Nesvadba. A Czech writer, best known in his SF short stories, many of which have appeared in English translation. ISFDB lists a number of stories as appearing in English and two collections of his translated stories were published, In The Footsteps of the Abominable Snowman : Stories of Science and Fantasy and Vampires Ltd.: Stories of Science and Fantasy. Neither’s available from the usual suspects though Cora can read him in German. (Died 2005.)
  • Born June 19, 1947 — Salman Rushdie, 75. I strongly believe that everything he does has some elements of magic realism in it. (So let the arguments begin on that statement as they will.) So which of his novels are really genre? I’d say The Ground Beneath Her FeetGrimus (his first and largely forgotten sf novel), Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights and Haroun and the Sea of Stories which I essayed here. If you’ve not read anything by him, I’d start with The Ground Beneath Her Feet which is by far both one of his best works and one of his most understandable ones as well.
  • Born June 19, 1952 — Virginia Hey, 70. Best remembered  for her role as Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan in the fantastic Farscape series and playing the Warrior Woman in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. She’s also Rubavitch, the mistress of the KGB Head, General Pushkin, in The Living Daylights. She also had a brief appearance as a beautician in The Return of Captain Invincible, an Australian musical comedy superhero film. No, I’ve not seen it, so who has? 
  • Born June 19, 1957 — Jean Rabe, 65. She’s a genre author and editor who has worked on the DragonlanceForgotten RealmsRogue Angel and BattleTech series, as well as many others. Ok I admit to a degree of fascination with such writers as I’m a devotee of the Rogue Angel audiobooks that GraphicAudio does and she’s written at least five of the source novels under the house name of Alex Archer. She has won the Internation Assoication of Media Tie-In Writers’ Faust Award for Lifetime Achievement. 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark celebrates Fathers Day.
  • zach can foretell the present!

(15) OVERCOMER. [Item by Steven French.] Interesting interview with Sarah Hall, author of plague novel Burntcoat (not sure writing a book during the pandemic is quite comparable to what Sarah Connor did but ok …) “Sarah Hall: ‘I used to almost fear opening a book’”.

When did you begin writing Burntcoat?
On the first day of the first lockdown in March 2020, with notebooks and a pen, which I’d not done since my first novel, 20 years ago. It felt like a response to what was going on – this odd scribbling in the smallest room in the house, really early in the morning when it was quiet and eerie.

And you kept it up even while home schooling your daughter?
There was some part of me that thought: “This is just one more thing that’s going to make it difficult to work and I’m going to do it anyway.” I was anxious, but I’m a single parent and I go into, as I call it, Sarah Connor mode from The Terminator: it’s out there, here’s my child, what do I need to do? Get buff! I got pains in my hand because I wasn’t used to writing so much.

(16) WACKY WIKI. If for any reason you were wondering whether Vox Day’s Infogalactic is still around, Camestos Felapton permitted his eyeballs to be stabbed with its content in order to research this post: “Incredibly, Voxopedia is still running”.

(17) THE CENTER WILL NOT HOLD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, A.A. Dowd celebrates the 40th anniversary of E.T., saying the film “has the simplicity of a fable and the texture of ordinary American life.” “’E.T.,’ 40 years later, is still the most soulful of box-office sensations”.

… Not that the movie subscribes to the idea of adolescence as a carefree, unburdened time. By now, it’s conventional wisdom that “E.T.” grew out of Spielberg’s memories of his emotionally fraught teenage years. The director modeled his title character on a real imaginary friend he came up with to cope with his parents’ divorce. As written by Melissa Mathison, who combined elements from two scrapped Spielberg projects, the film became a melancholy fantasy deeply haunted by parental absence. At heart, it’s about a broken nuclear family trying to piece itself back together….

(18) WHO NEEDS SPECIAL EFFECTS? Gizmodo is delighted that “Doctor Strange 2 Gets a Dance-Heavy Blooper Reel Before Disney+ Drop”.

… Beyond that, it’s funny to watch the cast’s long capes and skirts get stuck in the scenery and have them try to fight off errant leaves as they wave their arms around doing pretend magic.

(19) A COMMERCIAL MESSAGE FROM OUR FUTURE ROBOT OVERLORDS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Estonian company Milrem Robotics has joined with a partner company (who supplied the 30 mm autocanon) to demonstrate what their “Type-X“ armored, uncrewed, AI-powered Robotic Combat Vehicle could do if outfitted as a tank. “Robot Tank Firing at Cars and Other Targets Is the Stuff of Nightmares” at Autoevolution.

The disastrous use of tanks by the Russians in Ukraine isn’t stopping defense contractors from researching such platforms, though. Of course, even if they look like traditional tanks, these new machines are as modern as they get.

Take the so-called Type-X Robotic Combat Vehicle, developed over in Europe by Milrem Robotics and Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace. That would be an autonomous, AI-governed, tracked vehicle that could become a common presence on the battlefields of tomorrow….

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Meredith, Lise Andreasen, Steven French, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 5/31/22 A Pixel Of Scrollsea

(1) BURKE FOLLOW-UP. Stephanie Burke told Facebook readers today her Balticon experience is exacting a physical toll. (For background, see “Balticon Chair Apologizes After Author Stephanie Burke Removed From Panels”.)

…Still no word but maybe today I can meet with both my psychiatrist and a lawyer because I think I am spent. I am fighting back a flare-up, I am ignoring the costochondritis pain in my chest, and I finally managed to get food down without fear of it coming back up. I think I’ll be good for now but this is still dangling over my head and freaking me out. I have ripped out so much hair on one side that I contemplated cutting it all off again. I just need to breathe deeply and take it moment by moment. The first step, the tests were negative. Remember that. The second step, get my meetings set, and the third step, don’t panic and do my best to carry on.

I love you, Loves. Thank you for keeping me sane. I think without your support I would have crumbled and given up. This is a style of attack that I’m unfamiliar with but with like most things, a Black girl’s tears won’t get you shit so you shake it off and move on. I can attempt to start to do that because of your belief in me. Thank you so very much….

(2) PANEL MODERATOR’S STATEMENT. Sarah Avery, moderator of the “Diversity Readers and Why You Need Them” which is the source of the complaint, made a statement in File 770 comments. (It’s also on Twitter: thread starts here.)

I was the moderator on that panel, and the first moment I heard about what happened to Stephanie was 30 minutes ago from a person whose only involvement with Balticon was as an attendee. I am Not Thrilled about having to go to Facebook and File 770 to get details about this situation. After searching my email inbox, spam, and incoming social media messages, I haven’t found any attempts to contact me from the people investigating the incident. It’s possible there have been attempts I haven’t found, or that the person investigating got my contact info wrong, but it’s not looking great at the moment.

Because I got stuck in traffic on the way into Baltimore, I was a little over 10 minutes late for a panel I was scheduled to moderate. That is mortifying and entirely on me. It is possible that whatever the complaint is about happened while I was not yet in the room.

I’ve been playing back my recollections of the panel from the moment I did arrive, trying to match things Stephanie said with the adjectives in her account of the accusations against her. As a white cishet woman, I know I am not optimally attuned to what is hurtful to all the kinds of people whose lives are unlike mine. (The reason I volunteered to moderate a panel on why writers need diversity readers is that I knew I specifically was a writer who needed them.) Until I can find out more about the contents of the complaint, I’m not able to make any kind of declaration on either the complainant’s assertions or Stephanie’s about the diversity readers panel.

I can say that nothing I saw or heard called for the way Stephanie was pulled out of an ongoing panel. That event shocks me.

(3) ONE AUTHOR’S THOUGHTS GOING FORWARD. Gail Z. Martin on Facebook criticized Balticon’s handling of the code of conduct complaint, and demanded conventions implement specified improvements if they expect authors to accept the risks of appearing on panels. The text of the post can also be read in the following tweet:

(4) WISCON COVID EXPOSURE REPORT. WisCon was held last weekend in Madison, WI and the committee is collecting and sharing reports of positive Covid tests from those who attended in person in this Google spreadsheet: “Possible exposure locations”. There are 10 positives listed to date.

Those who attended the convention in person are receiving email updates:

(5) MUSLIM SF CONSIDERED. “Emad El-Din Aysha on ‘Arab and Muslim Science Fiction’: ‘Our male heroes aren’t criticized for crying’” at Arablit.

What makes Arab and Muslim science fiction special?

EA: That’s the million-dollar question. I’d say we place the spirit center stage. We want to shelter it from corrupting influences, technological arrogance included, which is a Quranic injunction. Evil suggestions don’t just come from the devil; they come from within. And the world on the outside is perceived as mystical and miraculous.

We have a lot in common with sci-fi from the Global South, too. Our concerns lie elsewhere, whether it’s turning the deserts green or maintaining family values, or honoring religion. As Arabs especially, we love gardens and vines and family get-togethers in our mini-utopias. As Muslims, we have a much more holistic vision of the future, of what the future should look like, with peaceful coexistence and a much more genteel attitude to everything, from mental and spiritual health, to alien contact and space exploration. Our heroes, while predominantly men, aren’t criticized for crying during profound moments and women are surprisingly well represented and proactive in our stories. There’s still room for improvement though.

Of course not all Arab and Muslim sci-fi is quite so benign and optimistic, especially post-Arab Spring, but you can still feel that positive force in the background, even as younger authors take on the mantle of alien invasion epics and dystopias. You find chivalry and redemption creeping in through the back door. Our humor is very tongue-in-cheek too.

(6) KENOBI STAR SUFFERS RACIST ATTACKS. The Hollywood Reporter tells how “‘Star Wars’ Defends ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ Star Moses Ingram From Vile Online Attacks: ‘Don’t Choose to Be Racist’”.

“There are more than 20 million sentient species in the Star Wars galaxy, don’t choose to be a racist,” began the message from Disney accounts. “We are proud to welcome Moses Ingram to the Star Wars family and excited for Reva’s story to unfold. If anyone intends to make her feel in any way unwelcome, we have only one thing to say: we resist.”

Ingram plays Reva Sevander, aka the Third Sister, who is hunting Obi-Wan Kenobi for Darth Vader in the new Disney+ series, shared on her Instagram stories several of the absolutely horrendous online messages aimed at her, some of which included the N-word.

“There’s nothing anybody can do about this,” Ingram said in a video after sharing the spewed venom she’s endured. “There’s nothing anybody can do to stop this hate. I question my purpose in even being here in front of you saying that this is happening. I don’t really know.”

She continued, “The thing that bothers me is this feeling inside of myself, that no one has told me, but this feeling that I have to shut up and take it, that I have to grin and bear it. And I’m not built like that. So, I wanted to come on and say thank you to the people who show up for me in the comments and the places that I’m not going to put myself. And to the rest of y’all, y’all weird.”

Around 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Ewan McGregor posted a message about the abuse via the Star Wars account, both about Obi-Wan Kenobi being the most-watched Disney+ original series premiere, but most importantly about the abuse Ingram has endured.

“It seems that some of the fan base has decided to attack Moses Ingram online and send her the most horrendous, racist [direct messages]. I heard some of them this morning, and it just broke my heart,” he said. “Moses is a brilliant actor. She is a brilliant woman. And she is absolutely amazing in this series. She brings so much to the series, she brings so much to the franchise. And it just sickened me to my stomach that this had been happening. I just want to say as the lead actor in the series, as the executive producer on the series, that we stand with Moses. We love Moses. And if you’re sending her bullying messages, you’re no Star Wars fan in my mind. There’s no place for racism in this world. And I totally stand with Moses.”

(7) COUNT THE CLOCK THAT TELLS THE TIME. Mad Genius Club’s Amanda S. Green offers “A Word or Two of Warning” about a defect in Kindle Direct Publishing’s countdown clock.

…Except, the change didn’t take. It didn’t take twice. Additional calls to KDP Support revealed the following:

  1. KDP knows there is a problem with the countdown clock. It does occasionally decide to take time away from the author
  2. KDP knows this but has not, so far at least fixed the issue
  3. KDP techs have no way to override the program, no matter what the reason. Once that timer starts, the software runs everything and humans are helpless. (Hmm, sounds like maybe they are sharing software and/or developers with FB. It worships the power of the ‘bot as well)
  4. And here’s the kicker. The only options you are given when you are at this point is to cancel the pre-order and hope Amazon will waive the penalty of no pre-orders allowed for a year (and there is no guarantee they will) or you can go ahead and upload the file, incomplete though it might be and, as soon as the book goes live, upload the correct file. 

As I later announced on my blog and social media, I chose the latter. Except I’m sure I did it in such a way Amazon won’t exactly appreciate. I uploaded the file with a disclaimer attached saying it is not the final file. That if you have bought the book and you see this particular page, you have the wrong file and this is how to get the correct file. I included instructions on how to download the correct file or contact me–and I set up a special email account for this purpose–in case it doesn’t work….

(8) ASIAN HERITAGE IN HORROR Q&A. “Asian Heritage in Horror: Interview with Angela Yuriko Smith” at the Horror Writers Association Blog.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?

Like many of us that are attracted to horror, it was real-life trauma. I saw and heard things no one else could as a child but the adults around me advised me to ignore it. It became a thing to not talk about because it made everyone around me uncomfortable. As an adult, I understand now what a creepy child I was but at the time it was frustrating. Horror stories were more real to me than daily life because they were populated with people like me in them. People heard disembodied voices, interacted with shadows, and saw people no one else could. They were often told, like me, it was just imagination but they knew—and I knew—these things were real. It made me feel less of an outsider to read these stories. I realized I wasn’t actually so weird, I was just in the wrong story.

(9) ALEX BROWN. Camestros Felapton continues his series of why-you-should-vote-for each Best Fan Writer finalist with “Alex Brown: Hugo 2022 Fanwriter Finalist”.

Alex Brown is an award-winning SF&F critic (2020 Ignyte Best Critic Award), librarian and fan writer who has written for Locus, Tor.com, NPR and Buzzfeed. They’ve also written two non-fiction books about the Napa Valley…. 

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1990 [By Cat Eldridge.] I saw Total Recall at a theater when it first came out and yes I really, really like it. 

It was directed by Paul Verhoeven, three years after he had done RoboCop. Though he didn’t get a Hugo nomination for that film, he’d get one for this film at Chicon V. (And Starship Troopers picked one up at BucConeer.) The screenplay was by Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusettand and Gary Goldman from a story by O’Bannon along with Ronald Shusett and Jon Povill. It was produced by Buzz Feitshans, who previously produced Conan the Barbarian, and Ronald Shusett.

As you know, it was based (rather loosely) upon Philip K. Dick’s “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” first published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in April 1966. Shusett was the first individual to option this story. 

Ok, this film is pure SF pulp. It’s not to be taken seriously, the setting is pure pulp, the characters are more fitting for a Thirties serial than the setting they are in and the script is at best just cobbled together. More than one review notes that it went through a lot of rewrites. 

The primary cast of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside and Ronny Cox are perfect for it. Schwarzenegger had long wanted to play the lead but studio politics kept him from doing so. Eventually it was OKed by a studio that had a studio that had, oh you get the idea.

To this day, no one knows how much it costs to produce but it’s thought to be at least eighty million dollars which was OK as it made a quarter of a billion dollars. Yeah it was a very popular film with the public. 

Now what did the critics think of it? It got a decidedly mixed reception. 

Rita Kempley at the Washington Post really didn’t like it: “Aside from a few terrific effects, ‘Total Recall’ is not good science fiction. Despite the big budget, it is a wasteland of latex prostheses, dreary sets and broken glass. Its main selling point — the story line — betrays the audience with its sheepish ending. And its star gives an unusually oafish performance, a cross between Frankenstein’s monster, a hockey puck with swollen glands and Col. Klink. Like Stallone, Schwarzenegger is a talking cartoon whose objective is to make violence fun. And they called Conan the barbarian.”

But Michael Wilmington at the Los Angeles Times was much kinder: “Verhoeven, working from an often-rewritten screenplay distantly based on Philip K. Dick’s brilliant 1966 short story ‘We Can Remember It for You Wholesale,’ keeps ringing these truth-or-illusion changes throughout the movie. And if they don’t always click, if the movie sometimes seems overwhelmed by its budget and its legendary third-act problems, it’s still entertainingly raw and brutal, full of whiplash pace and juicy exaggeration.”

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a most excellent seventy eight percent rating. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 31, 1895 George R. Stewart. As we have noted here, his 1949 novel Earth Abides won the first International Fantasy Award in 1951. That was a British award and the first one, this very one, was given at Festivention. Other genre works would include Man, An Autobiography and Storm which is at least genre adjacent. (Died 1980.)
  • Born May 31, 1914 Jay Williams. He’s best remembered for his young adult Danny Dunn SFF series which he co-authored with Raymond Abrashkin. Though Abrashkin died in 1960, Williams insisted HIS CO-author should continue to receive credit as co-author of all 15 books of this series. Though his first novel, The Stolen Oracle was a mystery for adults, he did write mysteries for young adults, such as The Counterfeit African and The Roman Moon Mystery, both written in the Forties. (Died 1978.)
  • Born May 31, 1930 Elaine Stewart. Born with the name of the of Elsy Henrietta Maria Steinberg.  She was Jane Ashton in Brigadoon which is surely genre. She also in The Adventures of Hajji Baba as Princess Fakzia. (Died 2011.)
  • Born May 31, 1950 Gregory Harrison, 72. I’m always surprised to discover a series didn’t last as long as I thought it did. He was Logan 5 in Logan’s Run which only lasted fourteen episodes. He was also in Dark Skies, twenty episodes before cancellation, as the voice of Old John Loengard, and had one-offs in Dead Man’s Gun (cursed object and that series actually lasted awhile), Touched by an AngelOuter Limits and Miracles.
  • Born May 31, 1961 Lea Thompson, 61. She’s obviously best known for her role as Lorraine Baines in the Back to the Future trilogy though I remember her first as Beverly Switzler in Howard the Duck as I saw Back to the Future after I saw Howard the Duck. Not sure why that was. Her first genre role was actually as Kelly Ann Bukowski in Jaws 3-D, a film I most decidedly did not see. If you accept the Scorpion series as genre, she’s got a recurring role as Veronica Dineen on it.
  • Born May 31, 1976 Colin Farrell, 46. I remember him first as Bullseye in the much dissed Daredevil film. (It wasn’t that bad.) He was in Minority Report as Danny Witwer, a film I’ve skipped watching. And I see he’s listed as being the third transformation of Tony in Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. H’h. Now he was Peter Lake in Winter’s Tale, a take off of Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin, a novel no film could do justice to. Oh, he’s Holt Farrier in Dumbo… Now I know he was Douglas Quaid / Agent Carl Hauser in the remake of Total Recall but as you know from the essay above I really, really like the original film so I’ve not watched it. So who here has seen it? 
  • Born May 31, 1979 Sophia McDougall, 43. She has a very well-crafted alternative history series, the Romanitas series, in which Rome didn’t fall and rules the world today. She has two SF novel — Mars Evacuees is sort of YA alien invasion novel; Space Hostages reminds me of a Heinlein YA novel. 
  • Born May 31, 1995 Jeremy Szal, 27. He says he was (probably) raised by wild dingoes. He writes about galactic adventures, wide-screen futures, and broken characters fighting for hope in dark worlds. He is author of the dark space-opera novel Stormblood published in February 2020 (more recently launched in the US), and is the first of a trilogy. His short fiction has appeared in Nature, Abyss & Apex, Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, Tor.com, The Drabblecast. He is the fiction editor for the Hugo-winning StarShipSofa, which once lead to Harlan Ellison yelling at him on the phone. He carves out a living in sun-bleached Sydney, Australia. He loves watching weird movies, collecting boutique gins, exploring cities, and dark humour. Find him at http://jeremyszal.com/ or @JeremySzal (By Jeremy Szal)

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Broom Hilda learns why a bar is popular with a certain kind of deceased customer.

(13) PINK CAT DISINVITED BY TORONTO COMIC ART FESTIVAL. Bleeding Cool reports the event addressed the controversies about its guest Pink Cat by rescinding the invitation: “Pink Cat Fight At TCAF – Saba Moeel & Toronto Comic Art Festival”.

Digital artist Saba Moeel creates her Pink Cat Daily comics on Instagram for around five years, with a following of around a quarter of a million people. Pink Cat is a human/cat hybrid that sports many tattoos, takes drugs, and talks in spiritual slang and punchlines, and is basically what if Tank Girl and Garfield had a kid and left her with a bunch of hippies. Pink Cat has been collected in comic book collections, but it’s not the physical manifestations of Pink Cat that are causing problems, it’s the digital. Of the non-fungible kind.

The committee announced its action here: “TCAF Statement Re: Pink Cat”.

TCAF is rescinding its invitation to Pink Cat, also known as Saba Moeel, due to code of conduct violations and the concerns expressed by the comics community.

TCAF initially extended a programming invitation to Moeel on the basis of their daily digital comics work on Instagram, and the personal importance that work had to one of our team members. At the time of this invitation, the organization was unaware of Moeel’s online conduct, plagiarism, or allegations of tracing. We apologize for programming and promoting this artist.

We made a mistake. As a promise to our community, we will use this as a learning moment as we move forward as an organization, and will re-examine the checks and balances we currently use to process our programming decisions.

Polygon’s coverage includes a response quote from the artist: “The Toronto Comic Arts Festival boots NFT artist: ‘We made a mistake’”.

The controversy around Moeel intensified when social media users went through her online history to find a history of tracing artworktweets disparaging community artistsappropriating Black culture for profit, and transphobic remarks. Polygon contacted Moeel for comment via Twitter; she replied with the following message.

“Yeah these guys invited me to disinvite me. They payed flight hotel etc, i didnt even know who they were. Very weird

“This isn’t my world, I’m a real life artist I don’t care about organizations or trade shows, I have my own following it’s not a cult following it’s mainstream. The LA times called me the Gen Z Garfield, we aren’t in the same league.”

(14) HANDMAID TURNOVER. “’The Handmaid’s Tale’ star Alexis Bledel leaving show before Season 5” reports USA Today.

Alexis Bledel has finished her telling of “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

The 40-year-old actress announced Friday that she’s exiting the futuristic dystopian Hulu series after the show’s fourth season, which aired last spring.

“After much thought, I felt I had to step away from ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ at this time,” Bledel said in a statement provided to USA TODAY by her representative. “I am forever grateful to (show creator) Bruce Miller for writing such truthful and resonant scenes for Emily, and to Hulu, MGM, the cast and crew for their support.” 

Hulu’s flagship drama is expected to return for a fifth season.

(15) PLANETARY INFLUENCES. “Jupiter and Saturn fight over Narnia” is the tagline for Michael Ward’s “The Last Battle, Revisited” at Plough.

…Lewis had a lifelong interest in medieval cosmology. In the Middle Ages, it was believed that Earth was stationary, surrounded by seven concentric “heavens,” each with its own planet which in turn had particular influences on Earth, affecting people and events in various ways. While we might consider this cosmological model entirely outdated, Lewis found some continuing importance in it. He described the planets as “spiritual symbols of permanent value” and wrote about them extensively. The best planet, according to medieval thought, was Jupiter, responsible for “heartsease” and prosperity, bringing about festivity and magnanimity in peaceable kingdoms. The worst planet was Saturn, sponsor of death, destruction, darkness, and disaster. The very word “disaster” means “bad star,” and Saturn was the most malignant of the wandering stars.

Lewis remarked that his own generation had been “born under Saturn,” doomed to experience an especially bleak period in history. Having endured the horrors of the Great War, some of his contemporaries had adopted a fixed attitude of pessimism and cynicism. They had come to believe that the universe was, in Lewis’s term, “Saturnocentric.” Hence the modernist tendency to focus on chaos and disorder, T. S. Eliot’s “heap of broken images” as he calls it in “The Wasteland.” Hence also the new impetus behind such artistic and philosophical movements as absurdism and nihilism. For how could there ever again be purpose and hope in the wake of the Battle of the Somme? On the opening day of that battle, July 1, 1916, almost twenty thousand British soldiers were killed and nearly forty thousand wounded. What further proof need there be that gallantry and patriotism are folly? The poet Wilfred Owen took aim at the schoolboy’s Horatian tag, dulce et decorum est pro patria mori (“it is sweet and seemly to die for one’s country”), calling it “the old Lie.”…

(16) MOUNTAIN HIGH. Read Kim Stanley Robinson waxing euphoric about the Sierras. It’s prose poetry – sparing that little bit for the groundlings. “Kim Stanley Robinson on Waking Up in the High Sierra” at Literary Hub.

When the sky gets light in the east I often wake. Pleased that day has almost arrived, I sometimes snuggle back into my sleeping bag for a last snooze; other times I put my glasses on and lie on my back and watch the stars wink out. The dawn sky is gray before it takes on the blue color. Sometimes peaks to the west of camp have a dawn alpenglow, more yellow than pink. It’s cold, but often I’m done with sleeping, and things are visible, and very likely I have to pee….

(17) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter was on Jeopardy! patrol tonight when this happened:

Category: Book of the Year

Answer: “Daybreak-2250 A.D.” is by prolific author Mary Alice Norton, better known to sci-fi fans by this first name.

No one could ask, “That name, Andre?”

(18) ANIMATED GREEN LANTERN. Here’s the trailer for “Green Lantern: Beware My Power”, a direct-to-video release, coming July 26.

Witness the action-packed induction of John Stewart to the Green Lantern Corps, and his first thrilling adventure alongside some familiar faces, when Warner Bros. Home Entertainment releases the all-new animated movie Green Lantern: Beware My Power on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack, Blu-ray and Digital on July 26, 2022.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Ib “Honest Trailers: Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” the Screen Junkies say that Ben Schwartz, who voices Sonic, has played so many characters that are blue that we should look for him in the AVATAR sequel. Also, the second act diversion into a Hawaiian-set rom-com is “the best Tyler Perry movie hidden in a video game project.”

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Hampus Eckerman, JeremySzal, Will R., Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Maytree.]

Pixel Scroll 5/30/22 Oh Filed Gruntbuggly, Thy Pixelations Are To Me

(1) WHAT’S SPACE OPERA, DOC? Grant Wythoff tries to learn how authors are defining it: “What Is Space Opera in the 2020s?” at LA Review of Books.

In an afterword to Far from the Light of Heaven, [Tade] Thompson asks himself if he’s writing space opera — “a conversation my editor, my agent, my cat and I had many times” — and if so, what would the tropes of that subgenre bring to his work. As a practicing psychiatrist who somehow manages another full-time career as a novelist, Thompson has shared in interviews that he’s fascinated by “flawed people in interesting circumstances.” So, when he chooses space as the setting for this story, it seems to be a choice that grants his characters unique affects and experiences that wouldn’t be possible elsewhere: a backdrop, albeit an incredibly detailed and vivid one. But Thompson also acknowledges the problematic roots of spaceflight among Nazi scientists and military weapons programs: “We can’t erase the murderous origins just because we can see the first sunsets from Mars.” And so throughout the work, you can feel the characters engaging with the ethically compromised origins of the space sublime. Again, from the afterword: “I try to lean away from aliens being Other because that’s tied up with colonialist thinking. It’s one of the reasons I tried to avoid empires and massive space battles. I just have people who want to survive in the wider universe.

(2) BITTER KARELLA. Camestros Felapton continues his series of why-you-should-vote-for each Best Fan Writer finalist with “Bitter Karella: Hugo 2022 Fanwriter Finalist”.

Bitter Karella is a game designer, comic writer, video making and social media satirist with an insightful perspective on horror, science fiction and fantasy (but in particular horror). Her break out hit has been the satirical Twitter account The Midnight Society (aka Midnight Pals), which imagines some of the great names of horror (from Edgar Allen Poe to Dean Koontz) as teenage campers who tell horror stories around a campfire….

(3) FUNDRAISER. And Bitter Karella is raising money to attend the Worldcon: “Send BitterKarella to Chicon 8!!” at itch.io. You can buy individual books, or a whole bundle of 8 books for $44.

Bitter Karella needs has been nominated for a Hugo Award for best fan writer and she wants to go to Chicon 8 in September to accept (or possibly lose) his award in person!  But it turns out that going to Chicon is, as we say here in the hellscape of nocal, hella expensive… so we’re raising money to cover trip expenses including con registration, plane fare, and lodgings! Just look at all this great merchandise you can get half off and know that you’re helping Bitter Karella get money!! Thanks for your consideration!

This includes the board for the Midnight Pals game, however, Karella wants you to know in advance, “This is a a joke and NOT an actual playable board game.” But it’s only a buck!

(4) ART BOOKS ON THE HORIZON. “Andrew Skilleter art book trilogy announced, encompassing Doctor Who and more” reports downthetubes.net.

ILLUMINART – The Doctor Who Art of Andrew Skilleter, offered in two editions, will showcase the work from a career of over fifty years in the publishing industry, spanning work for a huge range of publishers and publications, including Target Books and Doctor Who Magazine.

This new collection is the first volume of a trilogy, that will cover not only most of the artist’s Doctor Who art, but many unpublished and unseen commissions, his “Hidden Dimensions”, together with some
personally selected pieces from his extensive canon of work in other genres, such as Star Wars, Dan Dare, Gerry Anderson, BBC Video and Audio and much more.

Every picture tells a story and Andrew has quite a few to tell!

(5) CON COVID. Balticon yesterday reported they had a case of an attendee testing Covid-positive: “Covid Reports – Balticon 56”.

We wanted to let you know we’ve had one reported case.

Case A: – Received positive test results on Sunday 29 May 9:40 am

  • They are symptomatic
  • They are fully vaccinated and remained masked
  • They staffed the Discon Follow-Up Post-Con Fan Table
  • They are staying off-site
  • They did not attend other events
  • Close family members are still testing negative

(6) ABOUT PAYBACK. Lana Harper discusses how she wrote “a fantastical romance revolving around a mystery.” “Writing Genre: Bending Stories that Integrate Romance, Fantasy, and Mystery” at CrimeReads.

I’ve always had a weakness for stories that defy categorization, especially if they happen to include fantasy and romance. Sarah Gailey’s Magic for Liars is an excellent example; Tamsyn Muir’s captivating and beautifully strange Gideon the Ninth is another; Naomi Novik’s fabulous Scholomance series is a third. When I began writing Payback’s a Witch, I originally intended it to read as a more traditional rom-com, primarily a romance that just happened to revolve around two bisexual witches falling in love in a magical, Salem-inspired Halloweentown. The magic was initially intended to be a background element rather than a focal point of the plot. Something to add a little shimmer without detracting from the central romance.

The problem was, I’d forgotten that I was going to be the one doing the writing, and that I’m constitutionally incapable of stories that don’t feature Big Magic….

(7) WISCON 2023. Next year’s WisCon guests of honor. Thread starts here.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1992 [By Cat Eldridge.] This is an appreciation of Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book which came out thirty years ago. This is nor a critical look at a novel, but a fan looking at a book. So grab a cup of your favorite beverage and we’ll get started. 

As you know, Doomsday Book shared the Hugo at ConFranciso with Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep (Mike Glyer’s comments here about that shared Hugo would lead to Jo Walton writing An Informal History of the Hugos) and would also win a Nebula and a Locus Best SF Novel Award. It was nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature and an Arthur C. Clarke Award as well. Quite an honor indeed. 

It’s part of her excellent Time Travel series which all four parts would win the Hugo (including the novelette Fire Watch, and the diptych novels Blackout / All Clear) making her the first author to win Hugo awards for all works in a series. It was set fifty years in the future, a decent span of time but still one that feels conceivable. 

And I’m always fascinated by any SFF narrative set at a University as it’s hard to make that setting feel proper. Willis does in my opinion as one who spent too much time as an undergrad and grad student at various universities a spot-on job of capturing the feel of University culture. 

So why do I like this book? Because it handles time travel intelligently, something that is rare in SFF and the characters are all interesting. And I really love series, so I am very happy that it’s part of the Time Travel series. 

Given it deals with two serious Pandemics, it probably not the best novel to read right now…

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 30, 1908 Mel Blanc. Where to begin? Yes he delightfully voiced Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, and a multitude of other characters from the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons. Blanc made his debut in 1940 “A Wild Hare”. Did you know that he created the voice and laugh of Woody Woodpecker but stopped doing it after the first three shorts as he was signed then to an exclusive Warner contract? His laughs did continue to get used however. Blanc, aware of his talents, fiercely protected the rights to his voice characterizations contractually and legally. (Died 1989.)
  • Born May 30, 1914 Bruce Elliott. His fifteen stories in The Shadow magazine in the late Forties are generally held in low esteem by Shadow fans because of his handling of the character, best noted by the three stories in which the Shadow does not appear at all in his costumed identity. Oh the horror! He also wrote three genre novels — The Planet of ShameAsylum Earth and, errr, The Rivet in Grandfather’s Neck. And he had stories in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction including “Wolves Don’t Cry” and “The Last Magician”. (Died 1973.)
  • Born May 30, 1922 Hal Clement. Much to my surprise, his only Hugo was a Retro Hugo for a short story, “Uncommon Sense” which he got at L.A. Con III. He did get the First Fandom Award. My favorite novel by him is Mission of Gravity, and I’m also fond of The Best of Hal Clement which collects much of his wonderful short work. He’s reasonably well stocked at the usual suspects. (Died 2003.)
  • Born May 30, 1936 Keir Dullea, 86. David Bowman in 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequel, 2010: The Year We Make Contact. I know I saw 2001 several times and loved it but I’ll be damned if I can remember seeing 2010. He’s done a number of other genre films, Brave New WorldSpace Station 76, Valley of the Gods and Fahrenheit 451. And lest we forget he was Devon in “Cordwainer Bird’s” Starlost. 
  • Born May 30, 1948 Michael Piller. He was a writer and Executive Producer of The Next Generation, and co-creator of Deep Space Nine and Voyager. He’s likely best known for co-writing “The Best of Both Worlds” and the pilots of DS9 (“Emissary”) and Voyager (“Caretaker”). Post-Trek, he developed a series that last six seasons based off of Stephen King’s novel The Dead Zone, and he had a deal with WB for a series called Day One, a post-apocalyptic series based on the UK Last Train series. WB reneged on the contract. (Died 2005.)
  • Born May 30, 1952 Mike W. Barr, 70. A writer of comic books, mystery novels, and science fiction novels. He written Trek fiction for the first series in either comic book form or other media. My favorite work by him is for DC, the Camelot 3000 series. He wrote one episode of Batman: The Animated Series, “Paging the Crime Doctor”. 
  • Born May 30, 1953 Colm Meaney, 69. Best known for playing Miles O’Brien in Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. Other genre roles include an unnamed Cop at Tess’s in Dick Tracy, Seamus Muldoon in The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns, a recurring role as Chief Cowen on Stargate Atlantis and Father Francis on Tolkien
  • Born May 30, 1971 Duncan Jones, 51. Director whose films include Moon (2009) which won a Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation-Long Form and a BAFTA Award for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer, and Source Code (2011) which was nominated for both a Hugo and a Ray Bradbury Award. He also directed Warcraft (2016), the highest grossing video game adoption of all time. He is totally not best known for being David Bowie’s son. (Alan Baumler)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) UPROAR. [Item by Hampus Eckerman.] There’s a scandal brewing in the comics community. Turns out the Toronto Comics Art Festival has invited Pink Cat as a guest.

Apart from Pink Cat being an NFT artist and disliked for that, it seems like she is also accused of stealing other peoples art, tracing the outlines and making it hers.

Seems the festival has observed this and will give a response.

(12) WALKER Q&A. Sarai Walker discusses her “gothic ghost novel” The Cherry Robbers at CrimeReads. “Sarai Walker On Gothic Ghosts and Feminist Folk Tales”.

Molly Odintz: As a followup, is the gothic a particularly potent place for feminist stories?

Sarai Walker: There are so many powerful stories by women that could be described as feminist gothic, including classics like Jane Eyre and “The Yellow Wallpaper,” and also Southern Gothic fiction about women from authors such as Carson McCullers and Toni Morrison. So I think writers today can build on that legacy. The gothic is a powerful form for exploring trauma and what has been repressed, so that makes it ideal for telling feminist stories. Using the gothic form to tell a political story is what excited me as I wrote The Cherry Robbers, even though the story is wrapped up in a pretty and spooky package, which might not seem overtly political to readers. It works in a stealthy way….

(13) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter was tuned in to a wrong response on tonight’s episode of Jeopardy!

Category: The Animal in Its Logo

Answer: Paperback publisher Pocket Books

Wrong question: What is a penguin?

Right question: What is a kangaroo?

(14) RO, RO, RO YOUR BOT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] As labor shortages continue in many industries, more managers seem to be turning to robots to keep the ship of commerce moving forward. Robot/automation orders are said to be up 21% for the year 2021 & 40% for the first quarter of 2022. “Robot Orders up 40% As Employers Seek Relief From Labor Shortage” reports Business Insider.

…”The robots are becoming easier to use,” Michael Cicco, chief executive officer of industrial robot provider Fanuc America, told the Wall Street Journal. “Companies used to think that automation was too hard or too expensive to implement.”

But as robot usage climbs, some have expressed concern about the machines displacing human workers as the labor crisis eventually eases….

(15) LOGAN’S WORLD CONTINUES. Kwelengsen Dawn: Book Two of the Logan’s World Series by David M. Kelly (Nemesis Press) will be released on June 7.

When you lose everything you love, the whole world becomes the enemy.

After his planet was invaded by ruthless Corporate forces, engineer Logan Twofeathers is trapped on Earth by the authorities, who are more afraid of starting a war than helping their people. He may be safe, but many others are still missing.

After his planet was invaded by ruthless Corporate forces, engineer Logan Twofeathers is trapped on Earth by the authorities, who are more afraid of starting a war than helping their people. He may be safe, but many others are still missing.

When security tries to arrest him on trumped-up charges, he must find his own way to return to Kwelengsen. His only option is to seek out someone from his past–a borderline psychotic, who might just be crazy enough to help.

Now, he must draw on all his strength and resilience as he undertakes a precarious and violent journey into the unknown, with enemies lurking in every shadow. The outlook is bleak, and all he has is his grit and sense of honor. Will that be enough?

The battle is over. But the war is about to begin.

Available from Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.

(16) HOWDAH, STRANGER. Tom Scott visits Les Machines l’île in Nantes, France, where you can ride a giant mechanical elephant! “I rode a giant mechanical elephant. You can too.”

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I watched this video from Wendover Productions about the Galaxy’s Edge section of Disney World, which has lots of good background on the battle between Disney and Universal.  Disney nearly landed the Harry Potter rights in 2004 but balked at the cost and giving J.K. Rowling creative control.  But Rowling’s views were the right ones because the Harry Potter section of Universal is immersive in a way that no ride at Disney was at the time.  So they decided to outdo Harry Potter with Galaxy’s Edge. The goal is to attract Millennials who will post about thir experiences on social media, because a testimonial is more effective advertising than any ad.  Also there’s no humor in Galaxy’s Edge because humor works only once and the goal is to have people keep coming back and spending $$$$$. “How to Design a Theme Park (To Take Tons of Your Money)”.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/25/22 Never Gonna File You Up, Never Gonna Scroll You Down

(1) THIS PRESENT CENTURY. The “TIME100: The Most Influential People of 2022” doesn’t include sff text writers, however, it features an array of performers and filmmakers with genre resumes like (Artists) Simu Liu, Andrew Garfield, Channing Tatum, (Innovators) Taika Waititi, (Titans) Michelle Yeoh, and (Icons) Keanu Reeves, Jon Batiste.

As usual, the list is about influence, and not all influential people are wonderful – Vladimir Putin is on it.

(2) WRITER’S (LUCITE) BLOCK. Sarah Pinsker has posted her award acceptance remarks: “’Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather’ won the Nebula!” The excerpt is part of the lead-up, the remarks are at the link.

….As someone who has now accepted three Nebulas and a Hugo (the Hugos were in person, but I had an asymptomatic positive Covid test that week and stayed home) from this chair in my library, I can say there’s something weird about accepting an award live online. I’m a performer; I know how to channel energy. And yet, when they say my name, and the adrenaline hits while I’m trying to find the buttons to hit “accept promotion to speaker” and also remember to turn on my camera and mic, and also try to keep the dogs from barking as they feed off my excitement, there’s nowhere for the excitement to go. I can’t see other faces, so my excitement bounces off the computer and hits me square, telling me I should speed up instead of take a breath.…

(3) TOUR DE FORCE. An interview with Emily St. John Mandel at Bookforum Magazine: “Marquee Moon – Emily St. John Mandel talks about her postapocalyptic novel, which features a moon colony, time travel, and a book tour”.

There are all these disparate elements, but structurally and thematically it really coheres. I’m thinking of that early scene where Edwin is at home and criticizes British colonialism in India, which is somewhat the catalyst for his banishment. That has really compelling parallels to the moon colonies later in the novel. It’s not a perfect mapping, because there’s a difference between colonizing an inhabited land versus colonizing an uninhabited world, but how did it feel to raise those moral and ethical questions?

I started thinking about the simulation hypothesis, which is a big part of this novel. It is what it sounds like, for anyone who’s unfamiliar—the idea that perhaps we are all living in a computer simulation. And you can find very intelligent people who strenuously argue either side of that hypothesis. I thought that maybe there’s an interesting parallel between that idea and the tragedy of colonization, in the sense that the people who colonized the so-called New World did so in the grip of a false narrative. In Canada, where I’m from, it was a narrative of empty land, the idea that this is an empty country that’s there for the taking. Of course, it wasn’t empty—people lived there. There was something about establishing a country under fundamentally false pretenses that really reminded me in a strange way of this theory that we’re all living in a simulation. For me, there was a stronger parallel between those two things than between colonizing Canada and India versus colonizing the moon. Just because, to your point, they feel like such different circumstances. Nobody lives on the moon, so it’s fine…. 

(4) THE CAUSE. Tolkien sainthood advocate Daniel Côté Davis tells readers of The European Conservative “Why Some Catholics Think J.R.R. Tolkien Could Be a Saint”. It’s a Catholic church process, and the rest of the article focuses even more strongly on those requirements than this excerpt:

… Tolkien’s discussion of the Sacraments was not limited to the Eucharist, and Catholics can also find spiritual fruit in praying on his comments on Christian marriage. The comments are particularly poignant in the context of his love of Edith his wife. This love, along with that for Christ, animated his daily life. His love for he was so deep that the story that he felt was the very centre of his legendarium is based on their love story. Though not as widely-known as The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, the tale of Beren and Luthien, told both in chapter 19 of The Silmarillion and in the recently-published Beren and Luthien. The tale mythopoetically expresses a love stronger than death, and Tolkien’s children decided to adorn their parents’ shared grave with the names Beren and Luthien. Whilst maintaining this reverential romanticism, Tolkien did not, however, shirk from teaching the reality of the necessity to found love on the will, and within a lifelong purgative struggle for virtue…

(5) WISCON. In “WisCon is back, and taking a hard look at itself”, local publication Tone Madison profiles the convention.

Back for its 45th year, WisCon will return to hosting an in-person convention at the Madison Concourse Hotel this Memorial Day Weekend (May 27 to May 30). A staple of the feminist science fiction and fantasy community since 1977, the entirely volunteer-run convention has served as a crucial space for critical and invigorating thought around issues of gender, sexuality, race, disability, and more for decades….

… While the global pandemic alone brought enough change to the convention-planning landscape, the con’s governing nonprofit, the Society for the Furtherance & Study of Fantasy & Science Fiction, or SF3 for short, also experienced a complete leadership turnover in the fall of 2021….

… To ensure that anti-racist work… continues on an institutional level, the con has also allocated a budget for creating a BIPOC outreach committee to create whatever programming the committee’s members see fit. 

“One of the things that we the board have really championed is putting our money where our mouth is,” [SF3 secretary Essay] Manaktola says. “We [as in] the people who are running a con that has been racist. You know, not necessarily under our guidance, and not any more racist than the ambient culture around us, and hopefully less.” Organizers are hopeful that within its first year, the outreach committee will be able to develop a skeleton for a formal BIPOC Mentorship Program to draw in more young readers and fans of color to the con….

(6) THE NEXT ROSE. “‘I’m in awe’: trans actor Yasmin Finney on joining Doctor Who” – a Guardian profile.  

…Finney’s character is called Rose, which was also the name of the companion famously played by Billie Piper in the mid-00s. The relevance of this is currently unknown. What we do know is that Finney was recently spotted filming scenes alongside David Tennant, AKA the Tenth Doctor, and Catherine Tate, AKA the Tenth Doctor’s companion, Donna Noble. In other words, there are more than enough cryptic developments to keep Whoniverse obsessives in a tizzy until the end product finally airs in 2023.

Finney squirms at the mere mention of Doctor Who – and what little she has to say about her casting only confuses matters further. “I didn’t know for a long time,” she says over Zoom, through curtains of sleek blond hair, “but I did know. I don’t want to give too much away.” My chances of gleaning anything meaningful seem practically zero. Was it mere coincidence that Davies’ mid-00s Doctor Who collaborator Euros Lyn also directed Heartstopper? “That was a huge coincidence!” exclaims Finney, before admitting that, actually, Lyn did recommend her to producers who were “looking for a trans girl”. But she doubts Lyn knew the precise nature of the project under discussion….

(7) SHORT SFF. Gizmodo’s Linda Codega answers the question “Which Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazines Deserve More Love?” basically by saying they all do.

…So why aren’t more science fiction and fantasy readers reading short stories? I often find myself recommending SFF magazines to friends who are keen, avid, and voracious readers of science fiction and fantasy. Even fewer than readers are subscribers. A relevant example is that of Lightspeed, which, according to Locus Magazine’s State of Magazines in 2021, had 29,851 average monthly visitors, with 2,209 subscribers overall. Nightmare magazine, from the same report, had 13,651 visitors and only 1,477 ebook subscribers….

(8) NEAR MISS. [Item by Michael Toman.] Pace Jetboy: “I can’t die. I haven’t seen ‘Don’t Look Up’ yet!” “Asteroid four times the size of the Empire State Building barreling toward Earth on May 27” at MSN.com.

An enormous asteroid four times the size of the Empire State Building will make a close approach to Earth on May 27, according to NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS).

Fear not: the asteroid, named 7335 (1989 JA), will soundly miss our planet by about 2.5 million miles (4 million kilometers) — or nearly 10 times the average distance between Earth and the moon. Still, given the space rock’s enormous size (1.1. miles, or 1.8 km, in diameter) and relatively close proximity to Earth, NASA has classified the asteroid as “potentially hazardous,” meaning it could do enormous damage to our planet if its orbit ever changes and the rock impacts Earth….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1979 [By Cat Eldridge.] Forty-three years ago, the first and I’m going to argue only Alien film worth seeing premiered on this day. Alien was directed by Ridley Scott from a screenplay by Dan O’Bannon which in turn was based on a story by O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett. 

This was the first genre film by Ridley with his only previous film being The Duellists which is most excellent. (I should essay it.) Dan O’Bannon on the other hand was the writer of Dark Star, which had been directed and produced by John Carpenter and which had been co-written with him. He had also worked on Star Wars doing computer animation and graphic displays as well as miniature and optical effects unit. Shusett was the first to option Philip K. Dick’s “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” short story that became Total Recall.

Digression: I did see it at the theatre. It was a fascinating experience. Horrifying but fascinating. Yes it very much deserved the Hugo did it win at Noreascon Two.

It cost very little to produce, around ten million, and made at least a hundred million. Because it was so successful, it spawned it a lot of films that included three sequels, AliensAlien 3 and Alien Resurrection. (A fifth film is being talked about with Weaver coming back.) The Predator crossovers produced Alien vs. Predator and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. And then there’s prequel series of Prometheus and Alien: CovenantAliens is the only one of these I’ve seen.

So what the critics think?

Well Derek Malcom of the Guardian said when it came out that “Yet it does so, oddly enough, with a story that is basically just a mixture of The Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Thing from Outer Space. A dozen other 50s-sounding titles spring to mind – well, 60s at any rate. The point is the added 70s proficiency. You won’t see anything very original anywhere in the film, other than in the actual making of it. There, no holds are barred. Scott, a recruit from advertising, where instant atmospherics has to be the order of the day, manipulates his audience in a far stronger fashion than he managed with The Duellists. His combination of space fiction and horror story is no great shakes as a work of art. Artifice, however, it has in profusion.”

And the staff of the TV Guide in their retrospective look at it liked it as well: “There’s nothing terribly complex or original about the movie, but it is distinguished by its clever and innovative use of B-movie staples in a hi-tech setting. Coming into his own as a director on his second  feature, Ridley Scott wrings every possible ounce of suspense and atmosphere out of the proceedings. Swiss artist-designer H.R. Giger supplied the distinctive ‘bio-mechanical’ concepts for the film, which help make the alien one of cinema’s scariest creations: a nightmare synthesis of humanoid  form, insect-like appendages, and mechanized structure that is all the more effective for not being seen too clearly for most of the film.  The non-star cast acquits itself well, bringing an appealing quality to their characters. One of them, Weaver’s Ripley, would develop into one of the genre’s most memorable heroines through the subsequent sequels.”

It gets a ninety four percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes, not at all surprising to me. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 25, 1913 Carl Wessler. Animator during the Thirties working on Musical Memories and other theatrical cartoon shorts for the Fleischer Studios, and a comic book writer from the Forties though the Eighties for including Charlton Comics, DC, EC Comics, Harvey Comics and Marvel. He also worked for editor-in-chief Stan Lee at Marvel’s 1950s forerunner, Atlas Comics. (Died 1989.)
  • Born May 25, 1935 W. P. Kinsella. Best known I’d say for his novel Shoeless Joe which was adapted into the movie Field of Dreams, one of the few films that Kevin Costner is a decent actor in, ironic as the other is Bull Durham. Kinsella’s other genre novel’s The Iowa Baseball Confederacy and it’s rather less well-known than Shoeless Joe is but it’s excellent as well. He also edited Baseball Fantastic, an anthology of just what the title says. Given that he’s got eighteen collections of short stories listed on his wiki page, I’m reasonably sure his ISFDB page doesn’t come close to listing all his short stories. (Died 2016.)
  • Born May 25, 1939 Ian McKellen, 83. Best known for being Magneto in the X-Men films, and Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. I’m fairly sure his first genre role was as Dr. Faustus in an Edinburgh production of that play in the early Seventies. He also played Macbeth at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre during that period. He’d played Captain Hook in Peter Pan at The Royal National Theatre, and was the voice of the Demon in The Exorcist in the UK tour of that production. Of course, he was Dr. Reinhardt Lane in The Shadow, The Narrator in Stardust, Sherlock Holmes in Mr. Holmes, Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast and finally he’s  the Gus the Theatre Cat in the best forgotten Cats
  • Born May 25, 1944 Frank Oz, 78. Actor, director (including The Dark Crystal, Little Shop of Horrors and the second version of The Stepford Wives), producer and puppeteer. His career began as a puppeteer, where he performed the Muppet characters of Animal, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, and oh so patriotic Sam Eagle in The Muppet Show, and Cookie Monster, Bert, and Grover in Sesame Street. Genre wise, he’s also known for the role of Yoda in the Star Wars franchise though he no longer performing him. An interesting Trivia note: he’s in the Blues Brothers as a Corrections Officer, and is the Warden in Blues Brothers 2000.
  • Born May 25, 1949 Barry Windsor-Smith, 73. Illustrator and painter, mostly for Marvel Comics. Oh my, his work on Conan the Barbarian in the early Seventies was amazing, truly amazing! And then there was the original Weapon X story arc involving Wolverine which still ranks among the best stories told largely because of his artwork. And let’s not forget that he and writer Roy Thomas created Red Sonja as partially based on Howard’s characters Red Sonya of Rogatino and Dark Agnes de Chastillon. 
  • Born May 25, 1950 Kathryn Daugherty. Yes, another one who damn it died far too young. I’m going to let Mike do her justice, so just go read his appreciation of her here including her scoffing at the oversized “MagiCon” pocket program and the pineapple jelly beans she was responsible for. (Died 2012.)
  • Born May 25, 1966 Vera Nazarian, 56. To date, she has written ten novels including Dreams of the Compass Rose, what I’d called a mosaic novel structured as a series of interlinked stories similar in tone to The One Thousand and One Nights that reminds me more than a bit of Valente’s The Orphans Tales. She’s the publisher of Norilana Books which publishes such works as Catherynne M. Valente’s Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress anthologies,and Tabitha Lee’s Lee’s Sounds and Furies.  She has two Nebula nominations, one for her “The Story of Love” short story and another for her “The Duke in His Castle” novella. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows two monsters squaring off – one with an obvious weapon, and the other – it will come to you.  

(12) DOOM PATROL. “’One Of The Things They Definitely Are Is Queer’: An Interview With Rachel Pollack” in The Comics Journal.

To fast-forward, the story is that you took over writing Doom Patrol after meeting Tom Peyer at a party.

Tom and I both wrote introductions for the Omnibus volume. I wrote mine first and then I saw his and corrected mine. Because I did not remember all the details of how we met. I vaguely thought that Neil Gaiman, who I had met at a writers conference, had invited me to this event. It turned out that Neil was there, but we were both there because it was a reception for the Science Fiction Writers of America. He introduced me to Stuart Moore and I was gushing to Stuart about how much I liked Vertigo – it wasn’t even Vertigo yet – but particularly Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol. That it was such an incredible brilliant thing. He said, well the editor is right here, which was Tom Peyer. So I was gushing to Tom and I said – and I wasn’t trying to get a job – “I’m not looking to write a monthly comic but if I ever was interested, Doom Patrol was the only thing I could imagine writing.” He said, “Actually, Grant’s leaving in a few months, why don’t you send me a sample script?” In his introduction he wrote that he was desperate to find somebody. I’m not sure why. But that’s why he responded to me. He sent me one or two of Grant’s scripts I could look at for reference. Neil sent me one of his scripts, I recall. Maybe I looked at an Alan Moore script, or maybe that was later. But I got a sense of how people do it and what I wanted to do. And the script that I sent him was the first story. He liked it enough that he said it should be my first issue. I wrote it based on what he told me [about how] Grant was going to end it, and where I would want to go with it. Basically I just had them move to Rhinebeck. [laughs] I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to move the cast who are weird super cool wild strange superheroes to some nice little village in upstate New York. [laughs]

Pollack also discusses working with editor Lou Stathis, somebody I met when he first got in fandom but only today did it occur to me to check if he has a Wikipedia entry – he does, and it’s quite a good one.

(13) 3 FREE MONTHS OF APPLE+ TV, [Item by Daniel Dern.] Good news, you can enjoy Ted Lasso. So-so news, you can watch Foundation. “Apple Subscriptions Are Free Right Now, so Go Watch Severance, Already” urges The Inventory.

… The idea of paying for yet another streaming service is exhausting, I get it. So how about this: How about you don’t pay for it?… 

The article sends you to a Best Buy site. The fine print says, “After free trial, plan automatically renews at $4.99/month until cancelled.”

(14) VARIABLE STAR. Jesse Hudson makes an interesting observation in his “Review of The This by Adam Roberts” at Speculiction.

Adam Roberts is that maddening sportsman who has trophies on the shelf to show he is a winner but doesn’t always show up to play. With an irregular training scheme and dynamic mentality, he instead depends on innate talent to win matches. Naturally, this results in inconsistency; he’s not always a threat for the podium. For the reader, this means they never know what they are going to get with Roberts—certainly one type of appeal. With 2022’s The This we get the chance to A) test the accuracy of Google’s search algorithm, and B) answer the question: has Roberts once again channeled his innate talent to make a run for the winner’s circle, or is it just another quiet bowing out in the group stage?…

(15) MINI-REVIEW OF DOCTOR STRANGE AND THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Our local SF group has been to see Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. In case anyone has not yet seen it, here is a more-or-less-spoiler free mini-review.

Action and spectacle from start to finish, director Sam Raimi takes viewers on a relentless ride.  As Bond was once accused: ‘all this running around. It’s so exhausting.’ Best bits include the death of Picard and an appearance of the cybermen…. What’s not to like, if you have the stamina.

Also trailer here.

(16) PHONE HOME? The headline oversells the story, however, the information is of interest: “Astronomer may have detected the source of the famous extraterrestrial ‘Wow!’ signal” at MSN.com.

Astronomers may have found the source of the ‘Wow!’ signal, an enigmatic radio transmission from space that some believe could have originated from an alien world.

The signal – a 72 second-long radio burst that was 20 times stronger than its background emissions – was first detected in 1977, stopping at just over a minute because that is the longest duration that the Big Ear radio telescope was able to observe. Scientists believe it is likely that the signal would have lasted longer.

Drawing attention to the mysterious transmission on a printout, astronomer Jerry R. Ehman circled it and jotted down ‘Wow!’ next to it. Since then, it has become of primary interest in the search for extraterrestrial life, although it has never been heard since.

… Focusing on G- and K-type stars – which are very similar to our own Sun – Caballero identified one, known as 2MASS 19281982-2640123, which appears to be the most likely source of the signal – 1,800 light-years from Earth.

“Despite this star is located too far for sending any reply in the form of a radio or light transmission, it could be a great target to make observations searching for techno-signatures such as artificial light or satellite transits”, Caballero writes.

Out of the 66 stars identified, two other stars, with temperatures and brightness very similar to our Sun, were also highlighted as worth investigating, as well as 14 more with a potentially similar temperature but unknown brightness. Caballero suggests, though, that since all these stars are located in the same part of the sky, the entire area is an ideal source for techno-signatures and should be explored.

Caballero’s findings appeared May 6 in the International Journal of Astrobiology….

(17) DRAW A LINE THROUGH THEM. “The end of men: the controversial new wave of female utopias” is discussed by Sandra Newman in the Guardian.

All the men are gone. Usually this is conceived as the result of a plague. Less often, the cause is violence. Occasionally, the men don’t die and the sexes are just segregated in different geographical regions. Or men miraculously vanish without explanation.

Left to themselves, the women create a better society, without inequality or war. All goods are shared. All children are safe. The economy is sustainable and Earth is cherished. Without male biology standing in the way, utopia builds itself.

I’m describing a subgenre of science fiction, mostly written in the 1970s-90s. It was once so popular it was almost synonymous with feminist SF. In 1995, when the Otherwise Award, a literary prize for “works of science fiction or fantasy that expand or explore one’s understanding of gender”, gave five retrospective awards, four of the works were set in such worlds: Suzy McKee Charnas’s Motherlines and Walk to the End of the World, and Joanna Russ’s The Female Man and When It Changed. The fifth was Ursula K Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, about a world whose inhabitants are all of the same sex.

Recently there has been a revival of the genre in radically different form, with titles including Lauren Beukes’s 2020 novel Afterland, Christina Sweeney-Baird’s 2021 thriller The End of Men, and my own new release, The Men. I think the way that these contemporary novels diverge from their earlier counterparts tells us something useful about gender politics in the 21st century. Part of the story, too, is a growing opposition to the basic premise, a conflict in which my novel has been recently embroiled….

(18) YES, SEX REX EVERYTHING. “’Prehistoric Planet’ shows another side to fearsome predator Tyrannosaurus Rex: The tender lover” at MSN.com.

…Working with producer Jon Favreau and the team that created the photorealistic visual effects used in  films like “The Lion King,” the series shows the period’s now-extinct creatures as if a film crew was shooting them 66 million years ago. 

Famed British naturalist commentator David Attenborough adds to the natural history heft with his narration, illuminating the T-Rex courtship ritual. The scene begins with an older male T-Rex, injured after battling a Triceratops, meeting a female at a river bed.

The meeting could lead either to fight or fancy. But the male shows a courtship posture and  utters a low-frequency vocalization to the receptive female. This behavior, like many of the “Prehistoric Planet” dinosaur depictions, is derived from phylogenetic bracketing – studying the extinct dinosaur’s living family tree, from birds to crocodiles and alligators.

“We’ve got scientific reasons for being very confident for this behavior,” says Naish. “We discussed this behind the scenes in the most detailed way, preparing for this. So in terms of exactly what to show, we knew exactly what was happening. And it’s the first time people will see this type of behavior realistically, from a natural history background.”…

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] So who DOES put all the arrows back in the slots…? Ryan George considers, “The Guys Who Set Up Ancient Booby Traps”.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/15/22 Is That A Real Pixel, Or Is That A Sears Pixel

(1) WISCON NEWS. Today’s “#SaveWisCon Update” has its ups and downs:

We are making AMAZING progress on our work to #SaveWisCon, thanks to your help!

      • We have now raised just over $32,000 in donations of which $30,000 will be matched, for a total of $62,000 raised to support WisCon! This is absolutely incredible, and we are so grateful for everyone who contributed and helped spread the word.
      • 70 people have completed our Volunteer Interest Form to help out with pre-con volunteering. Thank you all!
      • We’ve gained 252 new email newsletter subscribers since November, which is helping us make sure everyone gets the latest con news and updates. Not getting the newsletter? You can sign up here.
      • We have a total of 418 registrations (in-person and online). Our goal is 1,000! Please registerand tell your friends about WisCon, too.

PLUS we are receiving a total of $5,500 in grants from:

We deeply appreciate their support and encourage everyone to learn more about these excellent organizations.

Thanks to your donations and these grants, we’re at roughly $67,000 in total funds raised!

Is this the end of #SaveWisCon fundraising? Are we just done now, forever?

Well…probably not, y’all, for a couple of reasons…

The two main reasons are: (1) It’s “basically impossible” for them to book enough rooms to meet their contract so they will owe a big penalty. That’s an effect of the pandemic and people’s assessment of the risk of in-person events. (2) They have sold only a fraction of the 500 online memberships that are an expected revenue source.

(2) NOT A SWEET SOUND IN THEIR EARS. Appropriate to April 15, the usual income tax filing day in the U.S. (although not in 2022, when it’s April 18), the SFWA Blog posted this: “SFWA Alert: Tax Guidance for Audible/ACX Royalties Reporting”.

…Audible/ACX’s New Tax Reporting Policy: What Authors Should Know

As of January 1, 2021, authors who publish their own audiobooks on ACX and use ACX producers must now declare the producers’ portion of the royalties as income and then deduct those payments as business expenses when they file their taxes.  This is because Audible/ACX now reports all of the net earnings from ACX audiobooks on the authors’ 1099-MISC forms, including the earnings it paid over to producers, as the authors’ royalty earning. It has also stopped issuing 1099-MISCs to producers and instead now issues 1099-Ks to producers that meet the income threshold.

With these new accounting practices, Audible/ACX is treating the payments it makes to voice actors, audiobook producers, and studio pros (collectively referred to as Producers in the agreements) as part of the royalties payable to the authors (referred to as Rights Holders in the agreements)—on the notion that it is the authors, not Audible/ACX, who hire the Producers and owe the Producers a share of their own royalties as compensation for recording the book. The new structure makes clear that Audible/ACX is limiting its role to that of a third-party payment settlement service, even though it makes the Producers’ services available to their authors, sets the terms of that engagement (a 50/50 royalty split), and is the one to send payment to the Producers….

(3) MOURNING STAR. [Item by Andrew Porter.] Last night’s episode of Young Sheldon starts with the momentous news, related by the young version of Sheldon Cooper, that Isaac Asimov has died. (Which happened in 1992.) His parents are monumentally dismissive, but others not as much. I can honestly state that more Asimov works are mentioned there than on any other TV show, ever.

All I can say is, hilarity ensues!

It’s Series 5, Episode 18, “Babies, Lies and a resplendent Cannoli,” with the description on my TV, “Sheldon copes with the death of a hero; Missy wants to babysit; Georgie struggles with a big secret.”

Likely available On Demand.

(4) THE ANSWER IS 47. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Sarah Hemming reviews The 47th, a Shakespearean pastiche by Mike Bartlett about the 2024 presidential election which is playing at the Old Vic Theatre (oldvictheatre.com) through May 28. (I reviewed Bartlett’s previous near-future Shakespearean pastiche, King Charles III, here in 2017 “King Charles III”: A Review”.)

(5) RINGO AWARDS 2022 NOMINATIONS OPEN. The Mike Wieringo Comic Book Industry Awards return for their sixth year on Saturday, October 29, 2022 as part of The Baltimore Comic-Con. The Ringo Awards include fan participation in the nomination process along with a jury of comics professionals. Fans are welcome to nominate until June 30 at the website here.

Fan and Pro Nominations: Fan and pro-jury voting are tallied independently, and the combined nomination ballot is compiled by the Ringo Awards Committee. The top two fan choices become nominees, and the jury’s selections fill the remaining three slots for five total nominees per category. Ties may result in more than five nominees in a single category. Nominees will be listed on the ballot alphabetically. Nomination ballot voting is open to the public (fans and pros) between April 15, 2022 and June 30, 2022.

Final Ballot Voting: After processing by the Ringo Awards Committee and Jury, the Final Ballots are targeted to be available to comic creative professionals for voting on August 31, 2022 and will be due by September 28, 2022 for final tallying. Presentation of the winners will occur at the Baltimore Comic-Con on the evening of Saturday, October 29, 2022.

(6) NO VIVIAN IN 2022. The Romance Writers of America have postponed the next Vivian Award to 2023. The announcement was made last October – but it was news to me. The decision came in the aftermath of RWA rebranding its annual award (formerly the Rita), and the organization’s decision to rescind one of the inaugural Vivian Awards.

In an effort to provide the VIVIAN Task Force the time needed to thoroughly examine the 2021 VIVIAN contest, the RWA Board has approved the task force’s recommendation to postpone the 2022 VIVIAN Contest. This postponement will give the task force time to conduct a thorough analysis of the inaugural contest and make recommendations for changes to be implemented for the 2023 contest period. Under normal circumstances, our contest period begins in October with marketing and advertising campaigns followed by the recruitment and training of judges and accepting contest entries. However, the Board recognizes that the VIVIAN Task Force needs more than a couple of weeks to break down all aspects of the contest to identify areas of strengths and weaknesses outside of those revealed this year.

(7) LANGELLA OUT OF USHER. Yahoo! reports“Frank Langella Fired From ‘Fall of the House of Usher’ After Netflix Investigation”.

Veteran actor Frank Langella has been fired from Mike Flanagan’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” following a Netflix investigation that found Langella acted inappropriately on set, a source close to the production confirmed to TheWrap on Wednesday evening.

Netflix had no comment on the situation and a rep for Flanagan did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

TMZ reported on Tuesday that Netflix was looking into allegations that the 84-year-old had been accused of sexual harassment, including making inappropriate comments to a female co-star on the set of the limited series….

(8) OH GIVE ME A HOME, WHERE THE PORTAL HAS COME. A new sf western begins today on Amazon Prime: Outer Range.

Outer Range centers on Royal Abbott (Josh Brolin), a rancher fighting for his land and family, who discovers an unfathomable mystery at the edge of Wyoming’s wilderness. A thrilling fable with hints of wry humor and supernatural mystery, Outer Range examines how we grapple with the unknown. At the onset of the series, the Abbotts are coping with the disappearance of daughter-in-law Rebecca. They are pushed further to the brink when the Tillersons (the gaudy owners of the neighboring profit-driven ranch) make a play for their land. An untimely death in the community sets off a chain of tension-filled events, and seemingly small-town, soil-bound troubles come to a head with the arrival of a mysterious black void in the Abbotts’ west pasture. Wild revelations unfold as Royal fights to protect his family; through his eyes, we begin to see how time contains secrets held in the past and unsettling mysteries foreshadowed.

(9) CHRISTINE ASHBY OBIT. Australian fan Christine Ashby, the 1976 Down Under Fan Fund delegate, died at her home on March 29. She was 70 years of age. In 1976 DUFF she attended that year’s Worldcon, MidAmeriCon. Her trip report, The Flight of the Kangaroo, was published about a decade later.

(10) ESSAY: JO WALTON’S SMALL CHANGE TRILOGY. [By Cat Eldridge,] Doing alternate history right is always hard work, but Jo Walton’s  the Small Change books consisting of  Farthing, Ha’penny and Half a Crown get it perfectly spot on. Set as you know in Britain that settled for an uneasy peace with Hitler’s Germany, they are mysteries, one of my favorite genres. And these are among my all-time favorite mysteries of this sort. 

The audiobooks are fascinating as befitting that there being shifting narrators with Peter Carmichael whose presence in all three novels is voiced by John Keating, and Bianco Amato voicing David Kahn’s wife in Farthing, but Viola Lark being played by Heather O’Neil in Ha’penny and yet a third female narrator, Elvira, is brought to life by Terry Donnelly in Half a Crown

Now I’m fascinated by what awards they won (and didn’t) and what they got nominated for. It would win but one award, the Prometheus Award for Best Libertarian SF Novel for Ha’Penny which is I find a bit odd indeed given there’s nothing libertarian about that novel. 

Now Half a Crown wracked an impressive number of nominations: the Sidewise Award for Best Long Form Alternate History, Locus for Best SF Novel, Sunburst award for a Canadian novel, and this time deservedly so given the themes of the final novel a Prometheus Award for Best Libertarian SF Novel.

Farthing had picked up nominations for a Sidewise, a Nebula, Campbell Memorial, Quill where Ha’Penny only picked a Sidewise and Lambda.

Not a single Hugo nomination which really, really surprised me. 

There is one short story set in this series, “Escape to Other Worlds with Science Fiction” which you can read in her Starlings colllection that Tachyon published. It is is a fantastic collection of her stories, poems and cool stuff! 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 15, 1918 Denis McLoughlin. No, he didn’t do any genre work that you’d know of. (And I’m not interested in it anyways. This is not about a genre artist.) His greatest fame came from work doing hard-boiled detective book covers produced for the London publishing house of Boardman Books spanning a career that lasted nearly eight decades with other work as well. And oh what covers they were!  Here’s is his cover for Adam Knight’s Stone Cold Blonde, and this is Henry Kanes’…Until You’re Dead. Finally let’s look at his cover for Fredric Brown’s We All Killed Grandma.  He was in perfect health when he took a revolver from his extensive collection of weapons and committed suicide. No note was left behind. (Died 2002.)
  • Born April 15, 1922 Michael Ansara. Commander Kang  in Trek’s “The Day of The Dove” as well as a lot of other genre work including a recurring role as Kane on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, multiple roles on I Dream of Jeannie andmyriad voicings of Victor Fries / Mr. Freeze in the Batman series. (Died 2013.)
  • Born April 15, 1926 Jerry Grandenetti. In my opinion, his greatest work was as the illustrator who helped defined the look of The Spirit that Will Eisner created. He also worked at DC, mostly on war comics of which there apparently way more than I knew (All-American Men of WarG.I. CombatOur Army at War, Our Fighting Forces and Star Spangled War Stories) though he did work on the House of Mystery and Strange Adventures series as well. (Died 2010.)
  • Born April 15, 1933 Elizabeth Montgomery. She’s best remembered as Samantha Stephens on Bewitched. Other genre roles included being Lili in One Step Beyond’s “The Death Waltz” which you can watch here. She also had one-offs in The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and voicing a Barmaid in the “Showdown” episode of Batman: The Animated Series. (Died 1995.)
  • Born April 15, 1959 Emma Thompson, 63. Professor Sybill Trelawney, Harry Potter franchise. Men in Black 3 and Men in Black: International as Agent O, I am LegendNanny McPhee and the Big BangThe Voyage of Doctor Dolittle as Polynesia, the extraordinary Tony Kushner derived HBO series Angels in AmericaBeauty and the Beast as Mrs. Potts, the castle’s motherly head housekeeper who has been transformed into a teapot, BraveBeautiful Creatures and Treasure Planet voicing Captain Amelia. 
  • Born April 15, 1974 Jim C. Hines, 48. [Item by Paul Weimer.] Writer, and blogger. Jim C. Hines’ first published novel was Goblin Quest, the tale of a nearsighted goblin runt and his pet fire-spider. Jim went on to write the Princess series, four books often described as a blend of Grimm’s Fairy Tales with Charlie’s Angels. He’s also the author of the Magic ex Libris books, my personal favorite, which follow the adventures of a magic-wielding librarian from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, who happens to have the same pet fire-spider lifted from the Goblin novels as his best friend. He has two novels in his Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse series. Jim’s novels usually have the fun and humor dials set on medium to high. Jim is also an active blogger on a variety of topics and won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer at Chicon 7.
  • Born April 15, 1997 Maisie Williams, 25. She made her professional acting debut as Arya Stark of Winterfell in Game of Thrones. She was Ashildr, an immortal Viking woman of unique skills, the principal character of “The Girl Who Died”, “The Woman Who Lived”, “Face the Raven” and “Hell Bent” during the time of Twelfth Doctor. She was also Lucy in the Netflix SF iBoy. She is set to star as Wolfsbane in the forthcoming Marvel film New Mutants, due for release sometime, well who knows, as it keeps getting delayed. 

(12) HEROS AND STINKERS. Here’s a research project that will amuse (or bemuse) you: “All The Hobbits From Lord Of The Rings Ranked Worst To Best”. Looper ranks 18 of them.

… There are a lot of hobbits in “Lord of the Rings.” So many, in fact, that we’ve decided to round them all up into a good ol’ worst-to-best ranking. After all, what good is this iconic race of hole-dwellers if we can’t subjectively compare them to each other? Here are all of the hobbits who play at least a minor role in the story, ranked by a general conglomeration of heroics, accomplishments, humor, toughness, and overall importance to Tolkien’s world….

16. Ted Sandyman is a pathetic excuse for a Hobbit

…While he plays a similar part in the book, Sandyman’s role is a bit bigger on-page. He’s in a lengthy scene in “The Fellowship of the Ring” where he verbally spars with Sam, rebutting his romantic notions of the world. Then he reappears at the end of “The Return of the King,” where it’s revealed that he’s gone over to the dark side, helping Saruman’s minions overrun the Shire and turn it into an industrialized police state….

Ted Sandyman is eventually put in his place, but during his time in the story he proves to be nothing more than a troublemaking bully who runs at the first site of trouble. To the bottom of the list he goes…

(13) WE’RE DOOMED, DOOMED! [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] An analysis announced by Nature this week reveals that even if all the agreed actions from last November’s COP26 UN climate change summit were implemented global temperatures could not be kept below the target 1.5°C warming.

The researchers say that to meet this target we are going to have to actively remove carbon dioxide from the air.

Personally, having studied climate change for some decades now, I am all too aware of the difficulties. Indeed, back in 2009 I posted an online essay that concluded it would be difficult to keep warming below 2°C.

Since 2009, there has been a growing body of research pointing in the same direction, of which this Nature paper is but the latest.

Quantifications of the pledges before the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) suggested a less than 50 per cent chance of keeping warming below 2 degrees Celsius…

Limiting warming not only to ‘just below’ but to ‘well below’ 2 degrees Celsius or 1.5 degrees Celsius urgently requires policies and actions to bring about steep emission reductions this decade, aligned with mid-century global net-zero CO2 emissions.

(14) REPEAT AFTER ME. If you have eight minutes to spare you can watch a “Giant ‘Live Long and Prosper’ Supercut” with every appearance of the Vulcan phrase in every Star Trek series. Nerdist gives a rundown —

…This montage (which we first saw at Laughing Squid) includes all the times someone said that phrase, from the franchise’s first days to right now. Characters first told others to “live long and prosper” on the original cast’s show, animated series, and movies. Since then Star Trek characters in The Next Generation, First Contact, Voyager, Enterprise, Lower Decks, and Prodigy have said the phrase, too.

(Uh, can we go back and edit one into Deep Space Nine? Now that we know zero characters ever said the Vulcan salute, it seems weird, right?)

(15) MIXED MEDIA. Daniel Greene’s “Best of the Year 2021” rankings are unusual in that he includes written as well as filmed media, so there’s some nice shout-outs for several notable SF/Fantasy printed works in here.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The How It Should Have Ended gang takes on the Snyder cut in this video, which dropped Thursday. “How The Snyder Cut Should Have Ended”.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Jennifer Hawthorne, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Irwin Hirsh, Joyce Scrivner, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jeff Smith.]

Pixel Scroll 3/27/22 I Have A Master’s Degree – In Scrolling

(1) WHO SAID THIS JOB WAS EASY? Bad Writer by greybeardgames boasts (?) a recommendation from one of sff’s leading names:

“The most depressingly realistic writer’s life simulation I ever experienced” Lavie Tidhar, author of Maror, Hood, By Force Alone, Osama, Central Station, and others.

You play Emily, a struggling writer, trying to make it in the big bad world of short story publishing. You walk around your house, getting ideas, and writing stories. Try not to get too distracted, or you will get sad that you hadn’t written during the day. Get too sad, and it’s game over. She gives up and gets a new job doing something far less fun and stressful.

The game was created by author Paul Jessup, creator of haunted fantasies and weird futures. Only $2.99! Many find they prefer playing it to writing. Oops!

(2) WISCON NEWS. WisCon has set an in-person attendance cap of 600 as a safety measure. They’ve also given a status report about their GoHs: “In-person attendance cap, Guest of Honor updates, and more”.

Regarding our Guests of Honor:

  • We’re thrilled to confirm that Sheree Renée Thomas will be attending WisCon 2022 in person and will also be available to participate in virtual programming.
  • Unfortunately, due to family commitments and the ongoing pandemic, neither Zen Cho nor Yoon Ha Lee will be able to participate either physically or virtually in WisCon 2022.
  • We have yet to receive confirmation whether Rebecca Roanhorse will be able to participate virtually (for the second time) or physically.

The post also discusses major changes they’ve had to make in response to Covid or in response to the limited time and energy volunteers have to run events.

(3) LEGOLAND ADDS STADIUM. The LEGO® SoFi Stadium is now open at Legoland California Resort.

SoFi Stadium has “touched down” in Miniland USA! An architectural marvel that took a team of 25 dedicated Master Model Builders more than 6,000 hours and more than 500,000 LEGO® bricks to build, the final SoFi Stadium model stands at more than 30 feet long, 15 feet wide and over 4 feet tall. It’s currently considered the largest LEGO® stadium in the world. The massive LEGO structure joins other top Southern California attractions featured in LEGO form, including Griffith Park Observatory, Hollywood Bowl and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

The LA Times has more coverage: “A record replica of SoFi Stadium arrives at Legoland”.

…More than a dozen members of the park’s model shop team completed the final installation of the model, which took place over the course of four days, park representatives said.

Inside the stadium, model makers re-created the L.A. Ram’s starting roster for Super Bowl LVI, which they won in mid-February over the Cincinnati Bengals.

The scene will include “Minilander,” or Lego versions, of this year’s Super Bowl championship team, park officials said. There will also be an “audience” of 3,000 Lego people inside….

(4) REPORTING ON LOCATION. “Friendship in the Time Of Kaiju: A Conversation with John Scalzi” conducted by Arley Sorg at Clarkesworld Magazine.

Are kaiju something that you’re into, did you grow up watching Godzilla?

Some of my earliest memories of television are the Japanese kaiju movies. When I grew up in Los Angeles, I’d watch channel nine and channel eleven. They were independent stations at the time, and they would fill up their Saturday and Sunday afternoons with Japanese movies where these big monsters would stomp on things. When you’re seven or eight years old, and before the Star Wars era, all of it looked startlingly realistic. It was like, “This could be happening! What the hell’s going on in Japan, how do they live?” I think anybody who was my age growing up watching these things, it just sort of seeped into your bones.

(5) VIRGIL FINLAY ART SALE CATALOG. Doug Ellis shares his Finlay auction catalog – get an eyeful, then buy a wall-full!

For fans of the great Virgil Finlay, here’s my latest art sale catalog.  This one is devoted entirely to the art of Finlay, with over 50 originals.  Note that none of these are published pieces, but instead are personal pieces (including abstracts) and a few prelims.  None of this material has been at any convention, nor has it been in any prior catalog.  This material all comes from Finlay’s estate, and I’m selling it on behalf of his granddaughter.

And if you like Finlay art, I’ll have a few hundred other, similar pieces for sale at this year’s Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention (May 6-8, 2022 at the Westin Lombard Yorktown center) that has not been shown in any catalog either.

You can download the catalog (about 30 MB) through WeTransfer here.

(6) A WINK IS AS GOOD AS A NOD. In the Washington Post Magazine, Jason Vest profiles Rob Poor, whose eyeball was used for a retina scan Captain Kirk had to undergo in Star Trek Ii:  The Wrath Of Khan.  The scan seems routine today but Vest says this was “one of the earliest digitized photo images of living matter used in a major film” and Vest described how it happened. “William Shatner’s eyeball double in ‘Star Trek II’ tells how it happened”.

…Poor’s story illuminates not just how far our technology has come in the past 40 years, but also how the effects wizards working on “Star Trek II,” in swinging for the fences, helped lay the foundation for something we take for granted today: the digital cameras of our communicators (er, cellphones). As such, I asked Poor if he would be willing to revisit the tale of his role in a pioneering filmmaking moment and technological advance — and one that has seen him achieve on-screen immortality, if uncredited, as … William Shatner’s stunt eyeball….

(7) PKD AT THE MOVIES. “A Scanner Darkly Is the Best Philip K. Dick Film Adaptation, Not Blade Runner” contends CBR.com.

…The look of A Scanner Darkly is the first noticeable difference that sets it apart from other adaptations and is a crucial decision to pull off PKD’s vision. PKD’s themes of warping identities, hallucinations and false realities are often difficult to capture on film, and Linklater’s return to rotoscoping — an animation technique that traces over live-action cels which he also used in Waking Life — is a spot on visualization of these themes.

This is evidenced in the very first scene, which shows a frantic Charles Freck (Rory Cochrane) dealing with an infestation of imagined insects. The fact that the bug hallucinations look identical to the real world drags viewers into the uncanny valley, creating a simultaneously lifelike and artificial setting where it is difficult to know what is actually taking place.

In addition to the look of A Scanner Darkly, the film also avoids the most common missteps that other films have made when adapting PKD’s work. Featuring heroics without heroes, action without resolution and romance without lovers, PKD worlds are perhaps too incongruous for film, especially the bombastic style found in this era of the Hollywood blockbuster.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

1992 — [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Thirty years ago, Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories wins the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. The novel was published two years earlier and was his first novel since The Satanic Verses which as we all know resulted in that book being condemned by many Islamic clerics and Rushdie being condemned to death. Much of this novel can be considered a commentary upon what happened to him then. 

Haroun itself is “a sad city, the saddest of cities, a city so ruinously sad it had forgotten its name”. It will by the end of the stories have its name restored. A joyous event indeed. 

The New York Times review compared it to the work of Barrie, Beatrix, Potter and E. B.  White: “Salman Rushdie’s remarkable new children’s book belongs in this company. The only difference is that the experiences that lie behind ‘Haroun and the Sea of Stories’ are nearly as fantastic as anything in the tale. Before the fact, who could have believed that a world-famous spiritual leader would publicly exhort his millions of followers to murder a novelist in another country, and promise them eternal salvation should they succeed?”

The Kirkus review aimed at librarians was more literary in nature: “Memorable bedtime story targeted for an audience as large as a bull’s-eye on the side of a barn. The book is catalogued for January but will be shipped to bookstores in early November for Thanksgiving sales. Few readers will not find some tie between this story of a silenced father-storyteller and Rushdie’s death sentence from the Ayatollah Khomeini—but it’s a tie not stressed by the author. Perhaps the brightest aspect of the book is its bubbling good humor and witty dialogue, and then its often superb writing: ‘There was once, in the country of Alifbay, a sad city, the saddest of cities, a city so ruinously sad that it had forgotten its name. It stood by a mournful sea full of glumfish, which were so miserable to eat that they made people belch with melancholy even though the skies were blue.’” 

Befitting the literary nature of the book and its use of multiple languages, it was made into an audiobook which is read by Rushdie himself. I’ve heard it — it’s an extraordinary work indeed. 

Haroun and the Sea of Stories was adapted for the stage by Tim Supple and David Tushingham. It had its stage premiere in 1998 at the Royal National Theatre in London. It was also an opera, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, written by Charles Wuorinen in 2001 with libretto by James Fenton, which premiered at the New York City Opera in Fall 2004.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 27, 1892 Thorne Smith. A writer of humorous supernatural fantasy. He is best remembered for the two Topper novels — a comic fantasy fiction mix of plentiful drink, many ghosts, and sex. Not necessarily in that order.  The original editions of the Topper novels complete with their erotic illustrations are available from the usual digital sources. (Died 1934.)
  • Born March 27, 1942 Michael York, 80. I remember him in Babylon 5’s  “A Late Delivery from Avalon” episode as a man who believed himself to be King Arthur returned. Very chilling. I also enjoyed him as D’Artagnan in the Musketeers films and remember him as Logan 5 in Logan’s Run. So what on his genre list really impresses you? 
  • Born March 27, 1949 — John Hertz, 73. He’s an active fanzine fan who publishes Vanamonde. He’s also an experienced masquerade judge, convention art show tour docent, and teacher of Regency dancing. Winner of the Big Heart Award at the 2003 Torcon. With the help of the HANA (Hertz Across to Nippon Alliance) fan fund he attended Nippon 2007. He‘s a three-time Hugo finalist for Best Fan Writer. Four collections of his fanwriting have been published, West of the MoonDancing and Joking, On My Sleeve, and Neither Complete nor Conclusive.  (OGH)
  • Born March 27, 1950 John Edward Allen. One of the forgotten dwarfs of Hollywood, he stood but three feet and ten inches tall. English by birth and English in death as he was back there after an impressive career in Hollywood to die on his native soil. How impressive? Well given how hard it was for dwarfs to find work, pretty good as he appeared in Snow White LiveBuck Rogers in the 25th CenturySide Show (circus horror film), Under the Rainbow (see IMDB link here), Tales from the Darkside (as a goblin), Swamp Thing series (love that series), Superboy (as a carnival dwarf) and Snow White: A Tale of Terror. (Died 1999.)
  • Born March 27, 1952 Dana Stabenow, 70. Though better known for her superb Kate Shugak detective series of which the first, the Edgar Award-winning A Cold Day for Murder is a Meredith moment right now, she does have genre work to her credit in the excellent Star Svensdotter space series, and the latter is available at the usual digital suspects.
  • Born March 27, 1953 Patricia Wrede, 69. She is a founding member of The Scribblies, along with Pamela Dean, Emma Bull, Will Shetterly, Steven Brust and Nate Bucklin. Not to be confused with the Pre-Joycean Fellowship which overlaps in membership. Outside of her work for the the Liavek shared-world anthology created and edited by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly, there are several series she has running including Lyra (Shadow Magic)Enchanted Forest Chronicles and Cecelia and Kate (co-written with Caroline Stevermer). She’s also written the novelizations of several Star Wars films including Star Wars, Episode I – The Phantom Menace and Star Wars, Episode II – Attack of the Clones in what are listed  as  ‘Jr. Novelizations’.
  • Born March 27, 1969 Pauley Perrette, 53. Though she’s best known for playing Abby Sciuto on NCIS, a role she walked away from under odd circumstances, she does have some genre roles. She was Ramona in The Singularity Is Near, a film based off Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. Next up is the most excellent Superman vs. The Elite in which she voices Lois Lane. Let’s see… she had a recurring role on Special Unit 2 as Alice Cramer but I never watched that series beyond the pilot so I’ve no idea what that role was. 
  • Born March 27, 1971 Nathan Fillion, 51. Certainly best known here for being Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds in Firefly ‘verse, though the large viewing audience now know him as Richard Castle on Castle. An interesting case of just how much of a character comes from the actor I think. In both roles. In his case, I’d say most of it. He voiced Green Lantern/Hal Jordan in Justice League: DoomJustice League: The Flashpoint Paradox and Justice League: Throne of AtlantisThe Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen. Oh, and he appeared in a recurring role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer as Caleb.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) BAFFLING HALT. “NASA Criticized for Ending Pronoun Project” reports Scientific American.

In a move that has been widely criticized, NASA leaders recently terminated a test project that allowed employees at the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) to display pronouns in their official agency identifiers. The decision affected more than 100 employees who saw their stated pronouns vanish from communication platforms.

…Organized by a handful of management officials within GSFC, the pronoun-inclusive effort was “a tech demo”—a prepilot program, a Goddard employee says, that was a first step toward addressing concerns that included issues with removing deadnames from the agency’s IT system. (A deadname is the name a transgender or nonbinary person had before transitioning.) In searching for solutions, the GSFC team spoke with NASA Headquarters, as well as legal departments and employee resource groups at the agency. In other words, “this wasn’t a bunch of people going rogue,” says a scientist at GSFC.

During that process, the GSFC team identified an option that would let employees add their pronouns to their display names, which are used in electronic communications, including e-mail, contact lists, instant messaging platforms and Microsoft Teams environments. Usually, those identifiers include “[Last name],” “[First name]” and “[NASA Center-XXX],” where the “XXX” would be replaced by a three-digit organizational code. But by filling in an optional field that is typically used for nicknames, employees could add pronouns after their names. It was an efficient and inexpensive way to make a necessary change, employees say, and did not require any additional coding or IT investments….

(12) SIGNAL CLOSE ACTION. Someone asked a question. Martin Wisse answered, “My rightwing guilty pleasure: Honor Harrington” at Wis[s]e Words.

If you’re on the political left, what is the most right-wing artistic work that you enjoy and appreciate (in whatever way you understand that concept)? And if you’re on the right, the reverse?

And my mind immediately went to David Weber and his Honor Harrington series. Doing Horatio Hornblower in Space! series is already a pretty conservative concept, but Weber took it up to eleven, especially at the start….

(13) IF YOU LOOK UPON A STAR. The story follows this introduction — “Fiction: ‘A Tranquil Star’” by Primo Levi in The New Yorker.

Italo Calvino once referred to the novelist and memoirist Primo Levi as “one of the most important and gifted writers of our time.” An Italian chemist and Holocaust survivor, Levi was the author of fourteen books, including “The Periodic Table” and “Survival in Auschwitz.” Since Levi’s death, in 1987, The New Yorker has published eight of his works of fiction and poetry. In 2007, the magazine excerpted the title story from Levi’s posthumous collection “A Tranquil Star.” The tale describes, in vivid, granular detail, the life and death of a star called al-Ludra, as observed through the eyes of various astronomers. But it’s also a story about the fine boundaries of the spoken word. … To compose a narrative about a star—and to make it as relevant as any depiction of a notable figure or close acquaintance—is no small feat. Levi balances the astonishing with the wonted, tracing the minute details of matter that appears immutable, and yet, like our own history, is ever changing….

(14) A CUT ABOVE. Star Trek: The Motion Picture – The Director’s Edition is streaming April 5 on Paramount+.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Max Headroom chats with BBC presented Terry Wogan in this clip from 1985 that dropped this week.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/26/22 Comments Have Spoken, Like The First Filing; Pixels Have Woken, Like The First Scroll

(1) HOW THE WEB MAKES CRIMINALS OF US ALL. The Guardian tells about the revamped Tolkien Estate website in “Unseen JRR Tolkien paintings, photographs and video clips released”. (Andrew Porter reminds us that the artwork in the article is not new.)

Unseen photographs and paintings of JRR Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings fantasy books, have been released by the writer’s estate, along with draft manuscripts and letters.

Its website has been relaunched with new material, including sections on Tolkien’s calligraphy and a timeline of his life.

Audio recordings and video clips featuring both Tolkien, who died in 1973, and his son Christopher, who died in 2020, are among the new material.

The relaunch date of 26 February is significant in Tolkien lore because 26 February 3019 was the date in the Third Age when the Fellowship of the Ring was broken at Amon Hen and Frodo and Sam set out on their lonely and terrifying journey to Mordor.

Perusing the site’s “Frequently Asked Questions and Links” I discovered this jarring information:

Can I publish a Tolkien Fanzine?

The name TOLKIEN is a registered trademark and may not be used without permission. Unfortunately permission cannot be given for publications which use the name TOLKIEN or the Tolkien Estate’s Copyright Materials.

Are a lot of you faneds who don’t spell it T*****n hearing from lawyers?

(2) THEY’VE GOT THE DROP ON US. “Russia’s space chief responds to new sanctions by suggesting that the ISS would no longer be prevented from crashing into the US or Europe” – originally reported by Business Insider.

According to CNN, Biden further stated that the sanctions “will degrade (Russia’s) aerospace industry, including their space program.”… 

In response, Rogozin said on Twitter: “If you block cooperation with us, who will save the ISS from an uncontrolled deorbit and fall into the United States or Europe?” 

He added: There is also the option of dropping a 500-ton structure to India and China. Do you want to threaten them with such a prospect? The ISS does not fly over Russia, so all the risks are yours. Are you ready for them?” 

Rogozin also mentioned that the ISS’s location and orbit in space are controlled by “Russian Progress MS cargo ships.” 

NASA did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment made outside of normal working hours.

In a statement to Euronews, however, NASA said that it “continues working with Roscosmos and our other international partners in Canada, Europe, and Japan to maintain safe and continuous ISS operations.”

It added: “The new export control measures will continue to allow US-Russia civil space cooperation.”

(3) PURLOINED LETTER TECHNIQUE. Radio Times’ Sab Astley says this is the place to look for clues to Doctor Who’s next phase: “Doctor Who Russell T Davies teases from his book on writing”.

…Now, with Davies’ surprise return to Doctor Who looming, everyone is searching for potential clues as to RTD’s approach to his second run – and unusually, the acclaimed screenwriter might have already given us a pretty good idea of what he’s planning thanks to a little book called The Writer’s Tale.

The Writer’s Tale is a tome of correspondence between Davies and Doctor Who Magazine contributor Benjamin Cook, taking place over the pre-production of season 4 right up to the final shots of Tennant’s last special between 2007 and 2009…

The Next Doctor

14th Doctor speculation is currently at an all-time high, with names like Michael Sheen, Michaela Coel, T’Nia Miller and Olly Alexander mentioned. However, one name that hasn’t arisen, which might just be a strong contender to bet on: Russell Tovey.

Davies makes no secret of his love for Tovey, and in a discussion over potential 11th Doctor castings, RTD states that Tovey is “amazing – I think I’d make him the eleventh Doctor”. Since then Tovey has starred in Davies’ Years & Years, and currently all of his upcoming projects are in post-production – making it the perfect time for RTD to nab Tovey if he so wishes.

Alternatively, if we look at Davies’ choice of actors in the years since The Writer’s Tale, the choice becomes clear: Lydia West. She’s clearly a favourite of RTD’s, starring in both Years & Years and It’s A Sin, and could follow in Jodie Whittaker’s footsteps as a female Doctor (and the first ‘lead’ Doctor to be played by a Black actor, though Jo Martin’s Fugitive Doctor technically got there first).

Altogether, based on RTD’s creative patterns and the insight of The Writer’s Tale it seems Russell Tovey or Lydia West are strong options for the 14th Doctor. However, there is a third possibility – the return of David Tennant…..

(4) FUTURE TENSE. “Good Job, Robin”, JoeAnn Hart’s short story about love, earth, and eating crickets, is this month’s installment of Future Tense Fiction, a series from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination published on Slate.

Ahimsa waves an elbow at me, keeping her hands firmly cupped. “Isaura! Look!” She shouts to be heard over my earplugs, and I panic thinking she’s woozy again. But no, she only wants to show me something. I lean across the sorting table to look, and with a smile she opens her tawny hands like a flower, just enough so I can peek inside. Two stamens wiggle in the darkness.

Not stamens. Antennae. Out come the earplugs. “It’s just a cricket, Ahimsa. One of a billion crickets under this dome, every one of them chirping like an insect possessed.”…

Christy Spackman, an expert on the future of food, responds to JoeAnn Hart’s story in “Crickets could be the food solution that saves us all.”

…The first time I seriously considered crickets as the food of the future was in late 2015 during a presentation by undergraduates. Their policy proposal outlining how the adoption of insect protein in the Los Angeles Area could help insulate the region from some of the impacts of climate-change included a tasting of a recent-to-market, paleo-friendly, cricket-based protein bar. As I sunk my teeth into the slightly gummy, peanut-buttery bite being passed around the classroom, my mind flashed between the grim food futures presented in science fiction novels and the much smaller collection of hopeful fiction portrayals of delicious future feasts. What is it about our contemporary anxieties that makes it so easy to imagine such dystopic food futures?…

(5) HEAPS OF FUN. The New York Times’ A.O. Scott considers how successive American generations have different ways of arriving at the same destination — mortality: “Shelf Life: Our Collections and the Passage of Time”.

…The things you loved when you were young will never be able to make you young again. The reluctant acceptance of this fact is the source of nostalgia, a disorder that afflicts every modern generation in its own special way. Members of Generation X grew up under the heavy, sanctimonious shadow of the baby boom’s long adolescence, among crates of LPs and shelves of paperbacks to remind us of what we had missed. Just as baby boomers’ rebellion against their Depression- and war-formed parents defined their styles and poses, so did our impatience with the boomers set ours in motion. But I’m not talking so much about a grand narrative of history as about what Aksel might call the useless stuff — the objects and gadgets that form the infrastructure of memory….

Every cohort has these. A CD in a plastic jewel box is not intrinsically more poetic than a vinyl LP in a cardboard sleeve. On the internet and in television shows like “PEN15,” a robust millennial nostalgia fetishizes AOL chat rooms, Dance Dance Revolution, Tamagotchis and other things that I was already too old for the first time around. Gen Z will surely have its turn before long, even if its characteristic cultural pursuits don’t seem to be manifested in physical objects….

(6) SLF GRANT NEWS. The Speculative Literature Foundation has announced the final two winners of the SLF Convention Support Grants.

Over the course of the year we gave out $10,000, in grants of $500 – $1000 each, to science fiction and fantasy conventions.

These grants are intended to support conventions both in developing their online presences (through the purchase of tech, training costs, hosting costs, etc.) and making in-person gathering safer once it’s appropriate. Read on for more information about how each convention will use the funding.

WisCon is a feminist science fiction and fantasy convention held annually in Madison, Wisconsin. Founded in 1976 as the world’s first feminist speculative fiction convention, it has since grown into a robust and dedicated community of fans, artists, and scholars. The convention is hosted by the Society for the Furtherance and Study of Fantasy and Science Fiction a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization in Madison, Wisconsin, which aims to create a safe and inclusive environment for everyone.

WisCon will use the grant funds to cover the costs of equipment and equipment rental to make their con more accessible.

The Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird is a progressive speculative fiction conference that focuses on contemporary Weird fiction. The con actively seeks to create spaces that allow for the kinds of conversations and connections that chart the future of boundary-breaking speculative fiction, as well as being an inclusive, safe and welcoming place for women, LBGTQ+, and writers of color. To meet this mission, they consider each dimension of access (fiscal, disability, equity, etc) with care to inform every decision they make, from where programming is accessed to how it’s structured.

A key focus for their 2022 convention is making sure they have easily accessible virtual spaces, as well as safe future events during the pandemic, which includes travel, catering, and technology costs that they anticipate will increase significantly this year.

(7) GAIMAN ADAPTED. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Behind a paywall in the Financial Times, Nilanjana Roy reviews Chivalry, a graphic novel written by Neil Gaiman and drawn by Colleen Doran and based on a short story from Gaiman’s collection Smoke And Mirrors.

[Colleen Doran’s] stunning artwork turns Arthur’s knight into the kind of dashing, courtly hero who is obliged to seduce a maiden.  Doran’s illustrations, drawing from a soft palette of blues, pinks, and greens that flare unto sudden glorious bursts of crimson and gold at need, are what will make Chivalry a perennial Christmas gift.  Famous Authors are often at risk of having their old work briskly repackaged by clever marketing departments but Doran, a Gaiman fan since her youth has, for complicated rights reasons, waited over two decades to work on this short story…

,,,The question as to whether a single short story taken from a far more varied fantasy collection is satisfying as a standalone graphic novel remains.  Certainly,Gaiman and Doran’s book feels too slight on its own to measure up to the best of Gaiman’s output.  Still, Chivalry reminds you that, some days, all you need is to believe in impossible quests.

(8) UNDERSTANDING OCTAVIA BUTLER. “Black History Month: Octavia Butler’s sci-fi dystopia still relevant”USA Today profiles the author.

…Butler rose to prominence in the traditionally white bastion of science fiction. She was the first to write about prominent Black characters in science fiction settings, using dystopias, time travel and other tropes. 

Science-fiction author Nisi Shawl recalls meeting the “Kindred” author in 1999 during a convention in Seattle when she was tasked with writing a profile on Butler. The two became acquainted and a friendship later blossomed in 2002. 

“One thing that she really instilled in me was the idea that you should write about things that bring up strong emotions in you, things that you fear, things that you loathe, things that you cherish, but things that you are passionate about in one way or another,” Shawl tells USA TODAY, adding that Butler inspired her to write the short story “Momi Watu.” …

(9) MEMORY LANE.

2007 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Barbara Hambly, one of my favorite writers of horror, has won two Lord Ruthven Awards (1996 and 2007) given by the Lord Ruthven Assembly, a group of scholars specializing in vampire literature who are affiliated with the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts. 

Those Who Hunt in The Night, the first in the excellent John Asher series, won the Locus Award for Best Horror Novel.

I’m also very impressed of her two novelizations done for one of my favorite tv series, Beauty and the Beast and and Beauty and the Beast: Song of Orpheus as it’s hard to write material off those series that’s actually worth reading.  She wrote three Trek novels and several Star Wars too but I’ve not read them. 

And yes, there’s lots about her writing career I’ve not included here so feel free to tell me what you think I should have mentioned. 

Barbara Hambly

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 26, 1908 Tex Avery. An animator, cartoonist, director and voice actor beyond compare. Without him, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd and Porky Pig would not have existed. Avery’s influence can be seen in Animaniacs and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. (Died 1980.)
  • Born February 26, 1918 Theodore Sturgeon. Damn, I hadn’t realized that he’d only written six genre novels! More Than Human is brilliant and I assumed that he’d written a lot more long form fiction but it was short form where he excelled with more than two hundred such stories. I did read over the years a number of his reviews — they were quite good. (Died 1985.)
  • Born February 26, 1945 Marta Kristen, 77. Kristen is best known for her role as Judy Robinson, one of Professor John and Maureen Robinson’s daughters, in  the original Lost in Space. And yes, I watched the entire series. Good stuff it was. She has a cameo in the Lost in Space film as Reporter Number One. None of her other genre credits are really that interesting, just the standard stuff you’d expect such as an appearance on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
  • Born February 26, 1948 Sharyn McCrumb, 74. ISFDB lists all of her Ballad novels as genre but that’s a wee bit deceptive as how genre-strong they are depends upon the novel. Oh, Nora Bonesteel, she who sees Death, is in every novel but only some novels such as the Ghost Riders explicitly contain fantasy elements.  If you like mysteries, all of them are highly recommended.  Now the Jay Omega novels, Bimbos of the Death Sun and Zombies of the Gene Pool are genre, are great fun and well worth reading. They are in print and available from the usual suspects which is interesting as I know she took them out of print for awhile. 
  • Born February 26, 1957 John Jude Palencar, 65. Illustrator whose artwork graces over a hundred genre covers. In my personal collection, he’s on the covers of de lint’s The Onion Girl and Forests of the Heart (one of my top ten novels of SFF), Priest’s Four & Twenty Blackbirds and Le Guin’s Tehanu: The Last Book of EarthseaOrigins: The Art of John Jude Palencar is a perfect look at his work and marvelous eye candy as well.
  • Born February 26, 1958 Karen Berger, 64. She created the Vertigo imprint at DC,  and served as the line’s Executive Editor for a decade. Some of my favorite works there are Fables, Hellblazer, Preacher, 100 Bullets and V for Vendetta. She currently runs Berger Books, an imprint of Dark Horse Comics.
  • Born February 26, 1965 Liz Williams, 57. For my money, her best writing by far is her Detective Inspector Chen series about the futuristic city Singapore Three, its favorite paranormal police officer Chen and his squabbles with an actual Chinese-derived Heaven and Hell. I’ve read most of them and recommend them highly. I’m curious to see what else y’all have read of her and suggest that I read.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) 45TH BIRTHDAY ISSUE OF 2000 AD. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This week the 45th birthday issue of 2000 AD is out. It includes a zarjaz strip of the Command Module droids travelling through the thrillverse collecting 2000 AD characters to help Tharg compose a birthday hit single. It also features the start of a new Judge Dredd story that teases that the Judges are trying to silence someone who claims to have a secret concerning the truth of Judge Dredd!

Splundig!

(13) I SEE BY YOUR OUTFIT THAT YOU ARE A COWBOY. Kevin Standlee says Westercon 74 sent out the following announcement to its members today regarding COVID-19. The short version:

Vaccination required

Masks required

For the long version, click here – “COVID-19 Health and Safety Policy”.

As a reminder, the 2022 Westercon will be held in Tonopah, Nevada from July 1-4.

(14) PURINA BAT CHOW. “Doorbells, chicken and special edition biscuits: why are The Batman’s tie-ins such a joker?” asks the Guardian. “Someone on the merchandising team is working overtime to turn the serious new Robert Pattinson movie into Sonic the Hedgehog.”

…Then there is all the food. The Oreos we have covered; they have a picture of Batman’s face on them, because we all know that nothing is more delicious than wolfing down an effigy of agonising mental torment. Papa John’s is also in on the act. Its pizzas currently come in commemorative The Batman boxes (because who doesn’t love using used food receptacles as keepsakes?) and there is also a new side – black ghost chilli chicken wings – that also apparently have something to do with Batman. Meanwhile, in the US, Little Caesars has made a “calzony” (a kind of folded pizza) that’s shaped like the Batman logo, allowing customers to grab themselves a slice of gooey, unresolved trauma.

Caffè Nero has subverted the pattern a little by focusing on the Riddler. It has launched a new hot chocolate, with a mysterious new flavour. If you can guess the flavour – which is to say, if you can stomach spending your money on a product that for the purposes of suspension of disbelief was designed by a nightmarish BDSM goblin – you can win a trip to a theme park.

Again, I’m barely touching the sides here….

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Dream Foundry has shared the Flights of Foundry 2021 panel “Making Your Reader Hungry: Food in SFF” with Nibedita Sen and Shweta Adhyam, moderated by Cora Buhlert. (Watch the video at the link.)

For a long time, speculative fiction rarely engaged with food. Over on the science fiction side of the fence, protagonists lived on food pills or ordered “Tea, Earl Grey, hot” from the replicator, while fantasy characters subsisted on the ubiquitous stew and quaffed tankards of ale. However, this has changed in recent times and now detailed food descriptions are a lot more common in SFF. Nor are we just seeing only stereotypical western and American food anymore, but also dishes from non-western cuisines and food traditions. This panel will discuss how food is portrayed in science fiction and fantasy and how this parallels real world developments, whether it’s meal replacement products like the unfortunately named Soylent or trends like pandemic baking.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/30/21 I Can Scroll This All Day!

(1) WISCON CALLS FOR HELP. Kit Stubbs, Treasurer for SF3, WisCon’s parent not-for-profit organization, and WisCon 2022 co-chair, has written a long post – “Let’s Save WisCon!” – explaining that to survive the con needs an infusion of volunteers, and to raise a substantial amount of money (primarily because of commitments in its hotel contract).

…WisCon’s roots are grounded in white feminism, and WisCon continues to struggle with racism and with finding ways to center attendees of color who have been harmed. The Town Hall marks a key point in our antiracist work to bring WisCon, particularly as experienced by our attendees and volunteers of color, into better alignment with our values—even if this means that white attendees will have to sit with discomfort.

Working towards a more antiracist con is just one of the major challenges that we face. Unless we, the WisCon community, also take significant action this year in terms of finances and our volunteer pool, within the next few years we will no longer be able to run WisCon.

Why? What’s going on?

Right now, in addition to pushing harder on antiracism, WisCon is facing big challenges on two other fronts: money and labor.

TL;DR:

  • We don’t have enough funds to pay for what happens if we don’t fill our contracted block of hotel rooms, and we can’t afford to cancel the hotel contract. We need about $76k in additional income to our general fund by the end of WisCon 2022 to put the con back on solid financial footing.  Thanks to a generous donor, the first $5k we raise will be matched. Donate now to double the power of your donation!
  • We are in a volunteer shortage crisis. It takes a LOT of people to make WisCon happen, and we lack dozens of volunteers in key positions.
  • The Board of SF3 (WisCon’s parent nonprofit) and WisCon organizers are already starting to work on these challenges. There are many things, both large and small, that you can do to help!…

(2) OMICRON VS. DISCON. The Worldcon is two weeks away, so it’s of great concern to people planning to travel to the con that Biden administration officials are considering stricter testing requirements for all travelers to the U.S. amid omicron variant concerns: “Stricter coronavirus testing being weighed for all travelers to U.S.” reports the Washington Post.

The Biden administration is preparing stricter testing requirements for all travelers entering the United States, including returning Americans, to curb the spread of the potentially dangerous omicron variant, according to three federal health officials.

As part of an enhanced winter covid strategy Biden is expected to announce Thursday, U.S. officials will require everyone entering the country to be tested one day before boarding flights, regardless of their vaccination status or country of departure. Administration officials are also considering a requirement that all travelers get retested within three to five days of arrival.

In addition, they are debating a controversial proposal to require all travelers, including U.S. citizens, to self-quarantine for seven days, even if their test results are negative. Those who flout the requirements might be subject to fines and penalties, the first time such penalties would be linked to testing and quarantine measures for travelers in the United States.

The two testing measures are detailed in a draft public health order written by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that is under review by officials at the U.S. Health and Human Services Department and the White House. The self quarantine-related measures are not in that draft but could be added later if the proposals win broader sign-off, said the officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the order has not been finalized….

(3) DISCON III ATTENDING MEMBERSHIP PURCHASE DEADLINE. Meanwhile, DisCon III advises that people can pre-register for an Attending membership in the 2021 Worldcon up until December 8. After that, Attending memberships must be purchased in person at the Omni Shoreham.

Virtual and Supporting memberships will still be available to buy online after December 8th, right up to and during the convention.

The convention is hybrid with ten tracks of programming available for Virtual members, including concerts and the Hugo Awards ceremony. In-person Day Passes will be available on-site at the Registration Desk for those who cannot attend all five days. Complete membership information can be found here.

(4) 2023 SITE SELECTION DEADLINES. Be aware of the deadline that applies to whichever method you plan to use to vote in 2023 Worldcon Site Selection.

  • Paper ballots sent via mail must be received by December 7.
  • Emailed ballots (in one of the accepted formats, such as PDF) must be received by noon EDT December 14.
  • Voting continues in person at DisCon III until 6 PM EST on Friday, December 17, 2021.

(5) DISCON III GETS GOOGLE GRANT FOR PANEL CAPTIONING. DisCon III chair Mary Robinette Kowal underscored yesterday’s announcement about the availability of ASL and CART captions for the convention’s panel programs and events:  

(6) SFF IN INDIA. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, books columnist Nilanjana Roy, a mainstream novelist who has tried to write fantasy, discusses the rise of sf and fantasy in India.

I recently asked Samit Basu, an old friend and the author of 10 books, including the wildly popular Gameworld trilogy, about the boom in Indian SFF, especially dystopian fiction.  Indian SFF writers have one thing in common with their better-known Chinese peers, Basu explained.  ‘You can’t really talk about present-day society in an analytical or critical manner without some risk,’ he said, ‘but you can use technological and social metaphors to talk about the present in genre fiction.”…

…In this climate, SFF offers writers such as Praywag Akbar, whose 2017 novel Leila —which is set in the 2040s and features cities where communities are segregated by high walls–a little more leeway.  The legal scholar created an equally compelling dystopia in his 2020 novel, The Wall:  his protagonist Mithila steps into a world of failed revolutions where, briefly, ‘none could tell the difference between rebel and citizen.’  The story continues in a second volume called The Horizon, which was published this month.

(7) CRYPTO CRIME. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is from an article by Cristina Criddle behind a paywall in the Financial Times.

Star Wars Stormtrooper helmets by artists including Sir Anish Kapoor and David Bailey have been photographed and turned into non-fungible tokens and sold for millions of pounds without their consent.

Curator Ben Moore took photographs of some of the helmets from a project called Art Wars, created by more than 300 artists since 2013, and sold for them for cryptocurrency as NFTs on the trading platform OpenSea yesterday.

More than 1,000 ethereum (L 5m) had been transferred since the collection of 1,138 images was put on sale yesterday.  One NFT attributed to Kapoor sold for 1,000 ethereum.  Another work attributed to Bailey sold for 120 ethereum.

(8) SCHEDULE YOUR SMOFFING. SMOFcon Europe takes place December 3-5 in Lisboa, Portugal, and the convention’s Programme is now online.

(9) MARRIAGE IS WHAT BRINGS US TOGETHER. “Shatner beams down to Brunswick Trekkies’ wedding” at CentralMaine.com.

Region 10 School Board member Jim Grant and Amy Wells Grant were married in Ticonderoga, New York about two weeks ago, on a replica of the set “Star Trek.” Among those in attendance — the original Capt. Kirk.

…Positioned behind an altar that served as a prop on the original Star Trek set, Shatner delivered some opening remarks, and then recited his original lines from a 55-year-old wedding ceremony scene featured in the episode “Star Trek: The Balance of Terror.”

“Since the days of the first wooden vessels, all shipmasters have had one happy privilege, and that is uniting two people in the bonds of matrimony,” said Shatner, reading from the script. “And so, we are gathered here today with you, James, and you, Amy, in a sight of your fellows, in accordance with our laws and our many beliefs so that you may pledge your love to one another. Please kiss the bride.”…

(10) BIGGEST B.O. In case you’re curious, Yahoo! has a list of “The 10 highest-grossing movies of all time at the worldwide box office” (not adjusted for inflation.)

We turned to Box Office Mojo for its data on worldwide box office grosses to determine the top 10 highest-grossing movies in the world. Aside from Disney movies, the list also includes entries in Universal franchises like “Fast and Furious” and “Jurassic World.”…

(11) MEMORY LANE.

2004 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Seventeen years ago at Noreascon 4, Neal Gaiman wins the Short Story Hugo for “A Study in Emerald” which neatly merged the Holmesian and Cthulhu Mythos. It was first published in the Shadows Over Baker Street anthology as edited by John Pelan and Michael Reaves. Other nominated works were “Paying It Forward” by Michael A. Burstein, “Robots Don’t Cry” by Mike Resnick, “Four Short Novels” by Joe Haldeman and “The Tale of the Golden Eagle” by David D. Levine. You can read it at Gaiman’s site in its original wonderfulness here.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 30, 1835 Mark Twain. It’s been decades since I read it but I still know I loved A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. His other genre work, The Mysterious Stranger, in which Satan might be visiting us, went unpublished in his lifetime and it’s only relatively recently with the University of California Press editions of all his completed and uncompleted versions in one volume that a reader can see what he intended. Anyone here who’s read it? (Died 1910.)
  • Born November 30, 1906 John Dickson Carr. Author of the Gideon Fell detective stories, some of which were decidedly genre adjacent. The Burning Court with Fell is on this list as is his vampire mythos backstoried novels, Three Coffins and He Who Whispers. And I really should note his Sir Henry Merrivale character has at one genre outing in Reader is Warned. (Died 1977.)
  • Born November 30, 1945 Billy Drago. Best remembered, I think, as the evil John Bly in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. series. He was certainly booked in a lot of genre roles as he has appearances in Cyborg 2, Sci-Fighters, Supernatural and X-Files. He also played the demon Barbas in the original and definitely best Charmed series. He also was in Tremors 4: The Legend Begins, a film I’m sure no one was begging for. He was in the Masters of Horror “Imprint” episode, which Showtime pulled due to “disturbing content” which you can read about here. (Died 2019.)
  • Born November 30, 1950 Chris Claremont, 71. Writer in the comic realm. Best known for his astounding twenty-year run on Uncanny X-Men starting in 1976. During his tenure at Marvel, he co-created at least forty characters. Looking at his bibliography, I see that he did Sovereign Seven as a creator owned series with DC publishing it.  And then there’s the matter of Lucas providing the notes for The Chronicles of the Shadow War trilogy to follow the Willow film and then contracting our writer to make them exist.  Anyone ever encountered these?
  • Born November 30, 1955 Kevin Conroy, 66. Without doubt, best known for voicing Batman on Batman: The Animated Series which is my Batman. Justice League Action saw him reprise that role with the other characters often noting his stoic personality.  I’ve not seen it, but on Batwoman, he plays Bruce Wayne in the “Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part Two” episode.  Bruce Timm likes his work in the Batman 75th Anniversary Short Batman: Strange Days (here) which is interesting as he only says one word though he grunts nicely.  (CE)
  • Born November 30, 1955 Andy Robertson. A fan and editor who worked as an assistant editor on Interzone and contributed myriad reviews and interviews. He published some fiction and edited two anthologies based on the works of William Hope Hodgson’s Night Lands, Volume 1: Eternal Love, featuring tales set in Hodgson’s world, and William Hope Hodgson’s Night Lands Volume 2: Nightmares of the Fall. Alas, they never made into digital editions. (Died 2014.)
  • Born November 30, 1957 Martin Morse Wooster, 64. He discovered fandom in 1974 when he heard about “a big sci-fi con” in downtown Washington where admission was $10 at the door.  He had ten bucks, and so attended Discon II at 16.  A year later, he discovered fanzines through Don Miller, and discovered he liked writing book reviews.  He has been turning them out ever since.  In 1975, he was one of twelve founders of the Potomac River Science Fiction Society, which split from the Washington Science Fiction Association, and regularly attends PRSFS meetings to discuss books.  He has contributed to File 770 since 1978 – the first year it was published.

(13) NEW COMICS SUBSCRIPTION PLATFORM. “A New Publishing Platform for Comic Books Will Give Creators a Greater Stake” – the New York Times tells how.

Many comic book characters anchor global franchises, but their creators — or the writers and artists who helped make them popular — have not always shared in that success. Zestworld, a new subscription-based platform that is set to be introduced in early 2022, is hoping to change that.

Zestworld will allow comic book writers and artists to present new work and reap the benefits — and help monetize their creations if they are made into collectibles or adapted for TV, movies or other media. The creators will be stockholders in the company.

“In setting out to build this, we started with the problem statement that this industry is broken for creators; and it’s broken in publishing and TV and film; it’s also broken in events and collectibles,” Chris Giliberti, the founder and chief executive officer of Zestworld, said during a recent telephone interview. “We wanted to build something that’s useful across all areas of their business — anywhere they generate income.”

One investor in Zestworld is the venture capitalist firm Seven Seven Six, which was founded by Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit…. 

(14) WITH EVERY WORD, SHE DROPS KNOWLEDGE. Cat Rambo’s new book You Sexy Thing is out this month! She spent a few minutes with Rapid Transmission’s  Joseph Hurtgen and talked about her writing process, working with an editor, and her love for gaming: “Cat Rambo: You Sexy Thing”.

How has your work as an editor, including your time at Fantasy Magazine, informed your writing?

Certainly editing has made me a better writer, more attentive to the nuances of comma placement and sentence structure. But it’s also made the way I work with editors different, I think, or at least helped me advance more quickly to the point where I understand what a difference a good editor can make, and how awesome an ally they can be in producing something that you’re really proud of. For example, I had a story in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction earlier this year, “Crazy Beautiful,” that I absolutely love, and it was C.C. Finlay’s excellent edits that took it to the next level, in my opinion, including a major change that involved removing the vast majority of the quotes from art critics that I’d included and leaving only the Bob Ross quote that starts it off. Similarly, with You Sexy Thing, my editor, Chris Morgan caught all sorts of little snags and played a major part in making it the smooth read that it is (I think!)…

(15) TOPOLOGIC BOOKSTORES. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Hard to believe some of these aren’t (just) CGI. Either way, some are good candidates for my Zoom background library: “The world’s wackiest bookstore? Inside the amazing new Shenzhen Zhongshuge shop in China” – photos at Daily Mail Online.

Designer Li Xiang’s own website tells what it all symbolizes: “Shenzhen Zhongshuge”. (There’s also a large gallery of photos.)

…When I received the design assignment for Zhongshuge in Shenzhen last year, I had led the designs for several completed Zhongshuge across China. In the process of researching the cultural background of this city, I realized that I could design a space which could become a symbol of Shenzhen itself as an inclusive and vibrant city of migrants, paying tribute to all those who have struggled to make history in this city.

Thus, this retail space, which seems to have grown out of a giant art installation, was born. Straddling the earth and sky, it is examined as an otherworldly presence that creates a subtle experience of unease mixed with familiarity, making the space a proposition posing silent questions to the viewers….

(16) ARE THE SCARES THERE? The New York Times ponders the cultural question “When Is a Horror Movie Not a Horror Movie?”

A few days before Halloween, the @NetflixFilm Twitter account put out a call: “What movie isn’t technically a horror movie but feels like a horror movie to you?” Included was a photo of a freaky-eyed Gene Wilder in “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.”

Twitter being Twitter, some of the responses were flip, like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Cats.” But there were also heavy hitters like “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Parasite.” Children’s films, including “Pinocchio” and “Bambi,” made the cut. It just goes to show, horror is what scares you, not me.

Horror has always been an elastic and regenerative genre. It lifts from and melds with just about every type of cinema: comedy, sci-fi, action, romance, fantasy, documentary. Its flexibility extends as far back as the monstrous love story in “Bride of Frankenstein” (1935) and as current as the blood-drenched melodrama of “Malignant.”

But how do you know if you’re watching a horror movie when there’s no killer or monster, exorcism or blood? It’s a decades-old question that’s being asked about new films that blur the line between a movie with horror and a horror movie….

(17) WHAT’S THAT I SMELL? Aubtu introduces us to “Luxurious Perfumes Inspired By Disney Villains That Are Extremely Breathtaking”. (However, these appear to be designs, not products available for sale.)

…Today, we are honored to introduce to you some amazing artworks of Ruby Spark – a talented young artist who specializes in drawing and illustrating. Obsessed with the beautiful costumes of Disney villains, Ruby came up with a brilliant idea of designing perfume bottles based on these iconic outfits, and they are all not surprisingly extremely gorgeous and fascinating! 

#3 Yzma from “The Emperor’s New Groove”

(18) I NEVER DRINK…WINE. Could there be something you don’t know in this list of “20 Surprising Facts About ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’” from Mental Floss?

8. COPPOLA HIRED EIKO ISHIOKA UNDER THE EDICT THAT “THE COSTUMES ARE THE SETS.”

According to Coppola, the original amount budgeted for sets in Bram Stoker’s Dracula was a massive chunk of the film’s total cost—so much so that he worried he’d go over budget if he actually stuck to the elaborate set designs his original production designer planned. So, he hired different production designers, scaled down the sets, and brought in legendary art director Eiko Ishioka to transform his vision of Dracula into something different.

With Ishioka, who later admitted she’d never seen a Dracula film before working on Coppola’s project, the director crafted a philosophy that “the costumes are the sets,” putting all the focus on his actors and what they were wearing, with the sets themselves acting as mere backdrops for the performances. Inspired by everything from insects to symbolist painters to The Kiss by Gustav Klimt (which is homaged in Dracula’s final costume of the film), Ishioka set about crafting everything from a dress centered on snakes for Lucy Westenra to an insect-like straightjacket for Renfield. For Dracula’s first appearance as a vampire, she also ditched the classic cape in favor of a long, flowing crimson robe, which remains one of the film’s most famous visuals.

Ishioka won the Academy Award for costume design in 1993 for her work on Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This trailer from How It Should Have Ended about Venom;  Let There Be Carnage (with guest stars Spider-Man, Deadpool, and Baby Shark) dropped today/

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Nicholas Shectman, Olav Rokne, Daniel Dern, Joseph Hurtgen, James Bacon, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson, with dual credit to Daniel Dern for a similar suggestion.]

Pixel Scroll 10/6/21 Magical Mystery Scroll

A lot of catching up to do. Let’s get started!

(1) YOUNG PEOPLE. At Young People Read Old SFF, James Davis Nicoll turns his panel loose on a story that was heavy, deep, and real in 1971 and won Theodore Sturgeon his first Hugo late in his career.

Theodore Sturgeon was a widely beloved author whose work, I regret to say, never particularly appealed to me. Thus, aside from More Than Human, I am not widely read in his fiction. In particular, I have not read this specific story. Still, I do know something about ?“Slow Sculpture”, specifically that it won both a Hugo and a Nebula in a year when many observers might have expected some work from either Orbit 6 or Orbit 7 to win. Orbits 6 and 7 were remarkable anthologies, dominating award nominations in their years. For a story to edge out the Orbit stories, it must surely have been of remarkable quality. Right? And no doubt my Young People will as pleased to read ?“Slow Sculpture” now as reader were half a century ago. 

(2) SWECON GOING AHEAD. Fantastika, Swecon this year, has announced the con will run in Stockholm as planned November 19-21. No further postponement due to Covid restrictions is anticipated. (Fantastika was not held last year.) The con’s program is available.

(3) ASTRONOMICON CANCELS. On the other hand, the Astronomicon 13 (Rochester, NY) committee has decided to postpone until 2022 – due to Covid, and the loss of Canadian program participants.

With great sadness we must announce that due to the rise in Covid across the country and the border to Canada not being open yet, we must postpone Astronomicon this year.

Our tentative date for the con is November 4-6, 2022.

Most of our Guests of Honor and a good number of our program participants have signed on for 2022.

We want to bring you the Astronomicon that you deserve, and with the border being closed it causes us to lose between 10-15 program participants. That is unacceptable to us.

Join us next November for a great convention!!

(4) A TRAILER PARK IN WESTEROS. The Guardian’s Stuart Heritage frames the trailer for the forthcoming series: “Game of Thrones prequel: why we’ll all be hooked to House of the Dragon”.

…Set two centuries before Game of Thrones, it promises to chronicle the history of the fearsome House Targaryen. Until now, very little has been revealed about the series.

…But now things have changed. A first-look trailer has just been released and, although it is only 70 seconds long, the message couldn’t be clearer. If you liked Game of Thrones, you will like House of the Dragon. And if you didn’t like Game of Thrones, you will probably still watch House of the Dragon so that you can keep up with what everyone else is talking about.

(5) COUNTDOWN. The Horror Writers Association blog kicks off its “Halloween Haunts” series with “The Season Begins by Michael J. Moore”.

…In April, networks air “Halfway-to-Halloween” marathons, and time ceases to usher us away, as we begin to drift toward October.

Toward that shrieking, adolescent laughter. The sound of plastic wrappers, rustling as you walk. The smell of chocolate and caramel, and the feel of wooden doors against your bony knuckles. The shadows of monsters and superheroes, cast by the headlights of idling cars. Orange and black, yellow and green. The satisfaction of picking through your plunder at the end of the night.

This is the start of the holiday season. Not the 31st, but the first of the month. The morning the countdown begins. When slashers take over cable, and costumes go on display. Even non-horror-types catch the bug. Nostalgia beckons our inner children, inviting us to slip on a costume and knock on doors.

In October of 2019, I wasn’t ready for it to end, so I started writing a book centered around my favorite holiday. Then the pandemic struck, and lockdowns provided plenty of time to finish. My publisher, HellBound Books, has prepared it for release around that magical month this year….

(6) BREUER REMEMBERED. There will be a two-hour exhibition about “Amazing Breuer – Miles J. Breuer Czech Surgeon at the Birth of American Scientifiction” at the Consulate General of the Czech Republic in Los Angeles on October 14 starting at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. If you are interested in taking part, send an email to czechconsulatela@gmail.com.

The exhibition is organized to commemorate the 76th anniversary of a passing of the Czech-American writer Miles (Miloslav) J. Breuer, who died in Los Angeles on 14 October 1945.

This early Czech-American science fiction writer was the author of the novel “Paradise and Iron” (1930), one of the first modern science fiction tales to warn of the dangers of a technologically oriented civilization, depicting a humanity threatened by what we today call artificial intelligence, and the co-author (with Jack Williamson) of The Girl from Mars, a thin 24 page work that became the first book in the world to be formally titled as science fiction.

At the turn of the 1920s and 30s, Breuer’s readers viewed this author as a major star of the science fiction genre. Discovered by Hugo Gernsbeck, Breuer contributed to “The Amazing Stories” and other pulp magazines.

He was born in Chicago to the Czech parents. Writing as “Miloslav” – the Czech version of his name – Breuer had published numerous stories also in Czech language (which were subsequently published in English in early science fiction magazines). 

(7) WAR’S IMPACT ON TOLKIEN. Renowned mythopeoic scholar Janet Brennan Croft will discuss Tolkien’s war experience and how war is handled in his writing: “Date with History: J.R.R. Tolkien (Virtual)” for the First Division Museum.  Thursday, October 7 at 7:00 Central. Free. Register at the link.

One of the reasons J.R.R. Tolkien is such a popular author is that he can be read at many levels. For the reader willing to look deeper than the adventure-story surface, there are many important themes in his works. War is one of the themes that runs through all of Tolkien’s books, especially The Lord of the Rings. Particular motifs appear over and over again: the effects of war on individuals, families, and society, whether war can ever be justified, and if so, the proper conduct of war; close friendships among groups of men; the glory and horror of battle. The depiction of war and its effects were drawn from his own life; he served in the First World War at the Battle of the Somme, and two of his sons fought in the Second World War. Like all artists, he absorbed the materials of his own life into his art. This talk will explore his personal experience of war and how it manifested in his legendarium.

(8) NO ONE CAN TALK TO A HORSE, OF COURSE. In a guest post at A Pilgrim in Narnia, Daniel Whyte IV expects Netflix will court controversy by producing a series about one of the books it holds rights to: “There Are No Cruel Narnians: What The Horse and His Boy Can Tell Us About Racism, Cultural Superiority, Beauty Standards, and Inclusiveness”.

Any potential adaptation of The Horse and His Boy will be fraught with minefields. Houston Chronicle editor Kyrie O’Connor claims it isn’t far-fetched to see the fantasy as “anti-Arab, or anti-Eastern, or anti-Ottoman” and suggests a desire to “stuff this story back into its closet.” While Lewis’ Narniad is emotionally stimulating and spiritually moving, it can be overshadowed by issues that led another popular fantasy writer and academic—Philip Pullman of His Dark Materials fame—to call it “one of the most ugly and poisonous things I have ever read.” He wrote that in a 1998 Guardian article titled “The Dark Side of Narnia.” Imagine what will be said about Narnia over twenty-five years later if Netflix dares to adapt The Horse and His Boy. (And I say to Netflix, as Aslan says to Bree, “Do not dare not to dare.”)

Indeed, as author, editor, and (somewhat) defender of C.S. Lewis, Gregg Easterbrook, wrote in The Atlantic two decades ago (partially in response to Pullman’s criticisms):

“Although Narnia has survived countless perils, the Chronicles themselves are now endangered… What’s in progress is a struggle of sorts for the soul of children’s fantasy literature.”

If the struggle is as eschatological as Easterbrook posits—and if Lewis’ reputation is indeed growing “beyond the reach of ordinary criticism” as Pullman argued in his ’98 hit piece—then it’s worth taking the time to look seriously at what the Narnia chronicles tell us about Lewis’ personal views and about the messaging (if any) encoded in the books….

(9) MEMORY LANE

1995 – Twenty-six years ago at Intersection, the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form went to Star Trek: The Next Generation’s two-part series finale, “All Good Things…“.  (Other nominated works were The MaskInterview with the VampireStargate and Star Trek: Generations.) It was directed by Winrich Kolbe from a script written by Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga. The title is derived from the expression “All good things must come to an end”, a phrase used by Q during the story itself. It generally considered one of the series’ best episodes with the card scene singled out as one of the series’s best ever.  

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 6, 1942 Britt Ekland, 79. She starred in The Wicker Man* as Willow MacGregor, and appeared as a Bond girl, Goodnight, in The Man with the Golden Gun. She was also Queen Nyleptha in King Solomon’s Treasure based off the H. Rider Haggard novels. *There is only one Wicker Man film as far as I’m concerned. Whatever that thing was, it wasn’t Wicker Man. Shudder.
  • Born October 6, 1946 John C. Tibbetts, 75. A film critic, historian, author. He’s written such articles as “The Illustrating Man: The Screenplays of Ray Bradbury” and “Time on His Hands: The Fantasy Fiction of Jack Finney”. One of his two books is The Gothic Imagination: Conversations on Fantasy, Horror, and Science Fiction in the Media, the other being The Gothic Worlds of Peter Straub.
  • Born October 6, 1950 David Brin, 71. Author of several series including Existence (which I do not recognize), the Postman novel, and the Uplift series which began with Startide Rising, a most excellent book and a Hugo-winner at L.A. Con II.  I’ll admit that the book he could-wrote with Leah Wilson, King Kong Is Back! An Unauthorized Look at One Humongous Ape, tickles me if only for its title. So who’s read his newest novel, Castaways of New Mohave, that he wrote with Jeff Carlson?
  • Born October 6, 1952 Lorna Toolis. Librarian, editor, and fan Lorna was the long-time head of the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation, and Fantasy at the Toronto Public Library and a significant influence on the Canadian SF community. She founded the SF collection with a donation from Judith Merril. She was a founding member of SFCanada, and won an Aurora Award for co-editing Tesseracts 4 with Michael Skeet. (Died 2021.)
  • Born October 6, 1955 Donna White, 66. Academic who has written several works worth you knowing about — Dancing with Dragons: Ursula K. LeGuin and the Critics and Diana Wynne Jones: An Exciting and Exacting Wisdom. She’s also the author of the densely-written but worth reading A Century of Welsh Myth in Children’s Literature
  • Born October 6, 1955 Ellen Kushner, 66. If you’ve not read it, do so now, as her sprawling Riverside seriesis stellar. I’m reasonably sure that I’ve read all of it. And during the High Holy Days, do be sure to read The Golden Dreydl as it’s quite wonderful. As it’s Autumn and this being when I read it, I’d be remiss not to recommend her Thomas the Rhymer novel which won both the World Fantasy Award and the Mythopoeic Award. 
  • Born October 6, 1963 Elisabeth Shue, 58. Best known as Jennifer, Marty McFly’s girlfriend, in Back to the Future Part II and Back to the Future Part III, she also had roles in Hollow Man and Piranha 3D.
  • Born October 6, 1986 Olivia Jo Thirlby, 35. She is best known for her roles as Natalie in Russian SF film The Darkest Hour and as Judge Cassandra Anderson in the oh-so-excellent Dredd. And she was Holly in the supernatural thriller Above the Shadows.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) NATIONAL BOOK AWARD. [Item by Darrah Chavey.] The National Book Award Finalists were announced October 5. Finalists of genre interest include:

Fiction

  • Anthony Doerr, Cloud Cuckoo Land

Young Readers

  • Kyle Lukoff, Too Bright To See
  • Amber McBride, Me (Moth)

Translated Literature

  • Benjamín Labatut, When We Cease to Understand the World, translated by Adrian Nathan West

Winners will be announced November 17. Winners will receive $10,000 and a bronze sculpture.

(13) THE MISSION. WisCon’s parent organization SF3 has posted a draft revision of its mission statement that emphasizes its opposition to white supremacy and racism generally: “SF3: Interim Mission, Vision, and Values”.

As noted in our Anti-Racism Statement, the SF3 Board is undertaking work to reexamine our organizational mission with the intent to eliminate white supremacy and build an organization and convention where all members can thrive and contribute. In connection to this work, we are sharing interim versions of a mission statement, organizational vision, and a clear statement of our community values which center inclusivity and explicitly reject racism and white supremacy.

These interim statements will guide our work over the next year, including community-wide conversations and strategic planning to develop a permanent and inclusive set of foundational documents for SF3 and its projects, including WisCon.

(14) CONNIE WILLIS’ CHRISTMAS STORY ANTHOLOGY. Steve Rasnic Tem posted a photo of the physical cover on Facebook. The book will be released October 26.

Library of America and Connie Willis present 150 years of diverse, ingenious, and uniquely American Christmas stories

Christmas took on its modern cast in America, and over the last 150 years the most magical time of the year has inspired scores of astonishingly diverse and ingenious stories. Library of America joins with acclaimed author Connie Willis to present a unparalleled collection of American stories about Christmas, literary gems that showcase how the holiday became one of the signature aspects of our culture.

Spanning from the origins of the American tradition of holiday storytelling in the wake of the Civil War to today, this is the biggest and best anthology of American Christmas stories ever assembled. From ghost stories to the genres of crime, science fiction, fantasy, westerns, humor, and horror, stories of Christmas morning, gifts, wise men, nativities, family, commercialism, and dinners from New York to Texas to outer space, this anthology reveals the evolution of Christmas in America–as well as the surprising ways in which it has remained the same.

(15) SHAT TALKS SPACEFLIGHT. Anderson Cooper went one-on-one with William Shatner about his upcoming flight on New Shepard Blue Origin.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chris Barkley, Lise Andreasen, Darrah Chavey, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Acoustic Rob.]

Pixel Scroll 5/11/21 Pixelai Filevanovich Scrollachevsky Is His Name. Hey!

(1) MACHADO ON BOOK BANS. Carmen Maria Machado has an op-ed in today’s New York Times: “Banning My Book Won’t Protect Your Child”.

… Book bans in America are nothing new. As long as there have been writers, there have been reactionaries at their heels. (Boston held its first book burning in 1650.) Today in the United States, books that feature characters who are Black, Latinx, Indigenous, queer or trans — or are written by authors who identify that way — frequently make up a majority of the American Library Association’s annual list of the top 10 books most often censored in libraries and schools. These book bans deprive students of a better understanding of themselves and one another. As a writer, I believe in the power of words to cross boundaries at a time of deep division. Now more than ever, literature matters.

Those who seek to ban my book and others like it are trying to exploit fear — fear about the realities that books like mine expose, fear about desire and sex and love — and distort it into something ugly, in an attempt to wish away queer experiences.

They do not try to hide their contempt, or their homophobia. They accuse teachers who want to assign my book of “grooming” students, language that’s often used to accuse someone of being a pedophile and a common conservative dog whistle when it comes to queer art. They want to shield their children from anything that suggests a world beyond their narrow perception.

As anyone can tell you — as history can tell you — this is ultimately a fool’s errand. Ideas don’t disappear when they’re challenged; banned books have a funny way of enduring. But that doesn’t mean these efforts are without consequences.

The high school seniors affected by this action are on the cusp of adulthood, if not already there. Soon, they will go into the world. They will date and fall in love and begin relationships, good and bad. I understand that for a parent, it’s almost unthinkable to imagine that your child could experience such trauma. But preventing children from reading my book, or any book, won’t protect them. On the contrary, it may rob them of ways to understand the world they’ll encounter, or even the lives they’re already living. You can’t recognize what you’ve never been taught to see. You can’t put language to something for which you’ve been given no language.

Why do we not see these acts of censorship for what they are: shortsighted, violent and unforgivable?

(2) WISCON PLANS. This year’s WisCon substitute, although still online, will be different from last year’s virtual convention: “Visioning WisCon”.  

This spring (unlike last spring) has gone fast, but we’ve found the time to be sad about the lack of a WisCon this year as much as we have been hearing you are missing it. But we looked at our energy levels (sadly low) and our virtual-event-expertise levels (also pretty low), and we had to conclude that we weren’t going to be able to do a second WisCONline.

… We will be asking folks to register, so we can send you the information you need to attend. Our base ticket price is FREE! Tickets priced at $10 help us make the next in-person convention happen; $60 tickets go to our Member Assistance Fund, helping folks attend in 2022; the $200 tickets help assure that WisCon can keep happening past 2022. The program space will be open 4pm to 11pm Central time, Saturday May 29 & Sunday May 30.

(3) WRITERS GETTING PAID – WE HOPE. At BookRiot, Sarah Nicolas takes a crack at answering “How Much Do Authors Make Per Book?”

…When I teach classes and am asked how much do authors make, people tend to be deeply unsatisfied with my “it depends” answer. There is no way to predict how much a book will make, but I spoke with 15 authors of all stripes to demonstrate the variety of options. I spoke with self-published authors and traditionally published authors who have made less than they spent on expenses, authors of both paths who easily make a living off their writing, and everyone in between.

While there are many author earning surveys done by a variety of organizations, they are self-reported and only reach the sphere of influence of the organization. Much like with this article, mega bestsellers -— think Stephen King or James Patterson — don’t participate in those surveys. I would also like to caution against reading any kind of “data” on author earnings from websites that are also trying to sell you author services. I ran across many of these in my research and the numbers they present are incredibly skewed and intentionally misleading.

Many of the quoted writers have not let their real name be used. But here’s one you’ll recognize:

…Popular science-fiction author Jim C. Hines has been publishing his income reports every year since 2007. He’s never hit a bestseller list, but his last five books have been lead titles for his publisher. He made $31,411 in 2020, including $13.5k from a Kickstarter. In 2016, he also published a survey of almost 400 authors’ income, which resulted in an average of $114,124, but a median of $17,000, meaning a handful of high-earning outliers were bringing that average up….

(4) HEAR FROM THE HISTORIC TRIMBLES. Fanac.org’s next Zoom fanhistory session will host An Interview with Bjo and John Trimble on May 22 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. For reservations, send an RSVP to fanac@fanac.org.

An Interview with Bjo and John Trimble. Bjo and John Trimble have had an enormous impact on fandom from the 1950s onward. They’ve pubbed their ish, and some of the zines are available on FANAC.org. Bjo created the convention art show as we know it today (pre-pandemic) with Project Art Show, and published PAS-tell to share info with interested fans everywhere. In LASFS,  Bjo had a large role in reviving a flagging LASFS in the late 50s. Her most famous contribution was the successful Save Star Trek campaign which resulted in a 3rd year of the original series. Bjo was one of the organizers of Los Angeles fandom’s film making endeavors.  John is a co-founder of the LASFS clubzine, De Profundis and an editor of Shangri-L’Affaires. Bjo and John were Fan Guests of Honor at ConJose (2002), and were nominated twice for Best Fanzine Hugos. Bjo was nominated for Best Fan Artist Hugo. They were also involved in the SCA and costuming, receiving a lifetime achievement award from the International Costumers Guild in 1992. In this interview, expect stories and anecdotes of Los Angeles fandom, how the art show came to be, Save Star Trek and more.  For reservations, send an RSVP to fanac@fanac.org.

(5) REASONS TO JOIN. “Recruiting the Millennials” on Facebook is a long post about what it takes to get people under the age of 30 interested in the Society for Creative Anachronism. Is any of the experience transferable to your activities?

…Gulf Wars is where I fell in love with the SCA. It got me hooked. I would meet people at Gulf Wars in 2013 who would quite literally change my life, and what got me addicted to the society, what finally set the hook, was being introduced to someone my own age. This seems like such a simple, easy arbitrary thing, but it mattered. You see, before I was introduced to someone my age the SCA felt intimidating, a bit unobtainable in it’s scope and culture. Seeing someone my own age thriving in the society, fighting, with a group of friends also within my age-group was welcoming and showed me that someone so comparatively young can come to fit in here.

Since those days I have made lots of friends my own age in the SCA, most tell a story not to dissimilar to my own. You see the antiquated recruitment methods of the SCA are simply not working. The old pitch “I get to hit my friends with a stick, and have a beer with them later.” is corny, it made me cringe when I first heard it and it makes me cringe now when I hear someone deliver it to someone new like it’s the golden ticket to a life-long member. I am a heavy fighter in the SCA, fighting was a huge draw for me. I grew up on video games and I wanted to be the hero of my own story. That journey is a hard one, and it takes time and dedication. Not everyone is going to have the discipline to stick with it to get to the level of fighting that they want out of themselves, and that’s ok. Some may join wanting to be a fighter, and end up taking up in metalwork or bardic. They may simply fall in love with the culture of the SCA, and do a little bit of everything, and that’s ok too….

(6) IN MEMORY YET GREEN. Coming to theaters July 30: The Green Knight.

An epic fantasy adventure based on the timeless Arthurian legend, The Green Knight tells the story of Sir Gawain (Dev Patel), King Arthur’s reckless and headstrong nephew, who embarks on a daring quest to confront the eponymous Green Knight, a gigantic emerald-skinned stranger and tester of men. Gawain contends with ghosts, giants, thieves, and schemers in what becomes a deeper journey to define his character and prove his worth in the eyes of his family and kingdom by facing the ultimate challenger.

(7) UP FRONT ADULTING. “Netflix Drops a New Red Band Trailer For Love, Death + Robots Volume 2” and SuperHeroHype points the way.

Last month, Netflix finally revealed the first look at the highly-anticipated second season of Love, Death + Robots. The trailer featured footage from brand new animated shorts. However, it didn’t exactly showcase the adult-oriented tone that the series was praised for when it debuted in 2019. Thankfully, Netflix has provided a simple fix to that problem. A new red-band preview for Love, Death + Robots Volume 2 has found its way online, this time offering a better look at what grown-up viewers can expect from the new season.

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • May 11, 1955 — On this day in 1955, Ed Wood’s Bride Of The Monster had its original theatrical premiere in Hollywood, California.  It was produced by Ed Wood and written as well by him with assistance by Alex Gordon. The film starred Bela Lugosi in his last film and Tor Johnson as well. Most critics panned it, though a few thought it was almost decent by his low standards. Not so with the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes who definitely didn’t like it at all and gave it a twenty-eight percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 11, 1899 E. B. White. Author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, both of which are surely genre. Along with William Strunk Jr. he is the co-author of the English language style guide The Elements of Style. (Died 1985.) (CE) 
  • Born May 11, 1904 – Salvador Dalí.  Two Basket of Bread paintings twenty years apart – The Persistence of Memory between them – show he could be realistic if he felt like it.  Having said “The difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad,” he told a group of Surrealists “The difference between me and the Surrealists is that I am a Surrealist.”  He put an unfolded tesseract in Crucifixion; created in 1950 a Costume for 2045 with Christian Dior; drew, etched, sculpted; illustrated The Divine Comedy and The Arabian Nights.  Memoir, The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí.  (Died 1989) [JH]
  • Born May 11, 1918 – Richard Feynman.  He had a gift for looking from the abstract to the concrete: hence Feynman diagrams; plunging a piece of O-ring material into ice water at a hearing on the Challenger disaster; winning a Nobel Prize and teaching undergraduates. Kept a notebook Things I Don’t Know About.  A curved-space lecture handout had a bug on a sphere: “the bug and any rulers he uses are all made of the same material which expands when it is heated.”  Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman reviewed by Alma Jo Williams in SF Review.  (Died 1988) [JH]
  • Born May 11, 1930 Denver Pyle. His first genre performance is in The Flying Saucer way back in 1950 where he was a character named Turner. Escape to Witch Mountain as Uncle Bené is his best known genre role. He’s also showed up on the Fifties Adventures of SupermanCommando Cody: Sky Marshal of the UniverseMen Into  SpaceTwilight Zone and his final role was apparently in How Bugs Bunny Won the West as the Narrator. (Died 1997.) (CE) 
  • Born May 11, 1935 Doug McClure. He appeared in Seventies SF films The Land That Time ForgotThe People That Time ForgotWarlords of the Deep and even Humanoids From The Deep. Genre-wise, he also appeared in one-offs in The Twilight Zone, Out of This WorldAirWolfAlfred Hitchcock PresentsFantasy Island and Manimal. (Died 1995.) (CE) 
  • Born May 11, 1952 Frances Fisher, 69. Angie on Strange Luck and a recurring role as Eva Thorne on Eureka. Have I mentioned how I love the latter series? Well I do! She’s also shown up on MediumX-Files, Outer LimitsResurrectionThe Expanse and had a role in the Watchmen series. (CE) 
  • Born May 11, 1952 Shohreh Aghdashloo, 69. Best known genre role is Chrisjen Avasarala on The Expanse series. (I’ve not seen it, but have listened to all of The Expanse series.) She also had a recurring role as Farah Madani on The Punisher. She was also in X-Men: The Last Stand as Dr. Kavita Rao, but her role as The Chairman in The Adjustment Bureau didn’t make it to the final version. She was Commodore Paris in Star Trek Beyond, and she had a recurring role as Nhadra Udaya in FlashForward. (CE) 
  • Born May 11, 1960 – Irwin Hirsh, age 61.  Early co-editor of Thyme.  Compiled The Incompleat Bruce Gillespie for the Bring Bruce Bayside Fund which brought Gillespie to Corflu 22 (fanziners’ con) and Potlatch 14.  GUFF delegate (northbound, Get-Up-and-over Fan Fund; southbound, Going Under Fan Fund).  Maintains an Australian Fan Funds Website.  [JH]
  • Born May 11, 1979 – Alice Lewis, F.N., age 42.  Made the logograph for First Night at Noreascon IV the 62nd Worldcon; you can see it on the First Night program sheet here.  Designed thirty NESFA Press books, like this (Tim Powers) and this (Roger Zelazny).  President of Harvard animé club while a senior there.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service).  Now designing for Viz Media.  [JH]
  • Born May 11, 1981 – Erin Hoffman, age 40.  Three novels, a score of shorter stories, half a dozen poems.  Co-edited The Homeless Moon.  Game designer.  She’s read Moby-Dick, two Austen novels, Treasure Island, four Shakespeare plays, Borges’ Ficciones, a Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, The Hunt for “Red October”.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) A VISIT TO MILLARWORLD. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt interviews Scottish comics writer Mark Millar, whose strips Kick-Ass and The Secret Service have become films and whose company, Millarworld, was bought by Netflix and whose new show “Jupiter’s Legacy” is the first part of his production deal.  Millar explains how Netflix’s deal with Marvel to develop second-tier superheroes broke down and how Netflix is counting on Millar to supply superheroes to compete with Disney Plus and HBO Max. “Mark Millar’s ‘Jupiter’s Legacy’ kicks off Netflix’s new superhero universe”.

… “I’ve always avoided having a job. Like most writers, the idea of a job horrifies me. They knew I was never a guy who was going to come in and sit at a desk all day,” he said of the company. But his new arrangement “basically makes me feel as if I’m still running my own show, which is a perfect environment. You don’t feel like you have a boss watching everything you’re doing. It’s a very relaxed and chill environment.”

On a normal work day in his native Scotland, Millar spends most of his morning and afternoon writing, while he waits for Los Angeles to reach a Zoomable hour for calls with producers. Millar was a huge fan of Netflix’s “Daredevil” and was thrilled to have its originalshowrunner, Steven S. DeKnight, on “Jupiter’s Legacy” (even though DeKnight eventually exited)….

(12) WELL SPOKEN. The Rite Gud podcast says it’s also important to “Talk Gud: A Dialog About Dialog”

In this irregular episode, audio gremlin Sid Oozeley talks shop with returning guest Mario Coelho about fantasy and science fiction’s long-standing vendetta against dialogue writing.

Why is it frequently so stilted and stiff? Why are American writers so averse to local flavor? Why do so many grown adults still try to write like Joss Whedon? Just how far off-topic can Sid take a conversation? What the hell is verisimilitude, exactly?

Our boys get to the bottom of all of this and more on this unusual episode of Rite Gud.

(13) COUNT TO 19. The Los Angeles Times discovers that “Dracula’s castle proves an ideal setting for COVID-19 jabs”.

At Dracula’s castle in picturesque Transylvania, Romanian doctors are offering a jab in the arm rather than a stake through the heart.

A COVID-19 vaccination center has been set up on the periphery of Romania’s Bran Castle, which is purported to be the inspiration behind Dracula’s home in Bram Stoker’s 19th century gothic novel “Dracula.”

Every weekend through May, “vaccination marathons” will be held just outside the storied 14th-century hilltop castle, where no appointment is needed, in an attempt to encourage people to protect themselves against COVID-19.

“We wanted to show people a different way to get the [vaccine] needle,” Alexandru Priscu, the marketing manager at Bran Castle, told the Associated Press….

Those brave enough to get a Pfizer vaccine shot receive a “vaccination diploma,” which is aptly illustrated with a fanged medical worker brandishing a syringe….

“Besides the diploma, people benefit with free entry to the [castle’s] torture rooms, which have 52 medieval torture instruments,” Priscu noted.

(14) OVERTIME. James Davis Nicoll names “Five SF Novels That Take the Long View of History” for Tor.com readers.

You might think that it would be hard to make such books interesting. (I don’t think that anyone has ever described The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire as a cracking thrill ride: “Could not put it down!”) The following five novels show that it is possible to write interesting works that take the long view….

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky (2015)

Doctor Kern did not personally terraform the nameless world twenty light-years from Earth but she plans to shape its destiny. Kern intends to seed what she dubs Kern’s World with monkeys infected with a nanovirus. The virus has been designed to force the monkeys along a deterministic path towards a new and better species, one far superior to disappointing humanity. Alas, her bold vision has failure points. Points which doom it.

The monkeys die on their way to the surface. The nanovirus, on the other hand, makes planetfall. Lacking its intended host, the nanovirus abandons Chordata in favour of Arthropoda. Kern’s World is ruled by generation after generation of very bright, surprisingly social spiders. Humans will one day make their way to Kern’s World, where they will either find some way to deal with the spiders or perish.

(15) THE RED, GREEN, AND BLUE PLANET. Adam Mann, in The New Yorker article “Is Mars Ours?”, asks “Should we treat other planets like natural resources or national parks?”

Last year, about a month into the pandemic, I reached for something comforting: the 1992 science-fiction novel “Red Mars,” by Kim Stanley Robinson. I’d first read it as a teen-ager, and had reread it a handful of times by my early twenties. Along with its two sequels, “Green Mars” and “Blue Mars,” the novel follows the first settlers to reach the red planet. They establish cities, break away from Earth’s control, and transform the arid surface into a garden oasis, setting up a new society in the course of a couple hundred years. On the cover of my well-worn copy, Arthur C. Clarke declared it “the best novel on the colonization of Mars that has ever been written.” In my youth, I considered it a record of what was to come.

It had been a decade since I’d last cracked open the book. In that time, I’d become a journalist specializing in space, covering its practical, physical, biological, psychological, sociological, political, and legal aspects; still, the novel’s plot had always stayed with me, somewhere in the back of my mind. It turns on a series of questions about what we owe to our planetary neighbor—about what we are allowed to do with its ancient geological features, and in whose interests we should be willing to modify them. In Robinson’s future, a disgruntled minority of settlers argue that humanity has no right to alter a majestic place that has existed without us for billions of years; they undertake ecoterroristic acts to undermine Martian terraforming efforts and, in the end, succeed in keeping parts of Mars a wilderness. I used to think it sensible that their opinion was relegated to the margins. Reading the novel again, I wasn’t so sure.

“It seemed to me obvious,” Robinson told me, over the phone this winter, when I asked him how he’d come to place that particular dilemma at the center of his trilogy…. 

(16) HONEST TRAILER. In “Mortal Kombat (2021),” the Screen Junkies say the new Mortal Kombat film is “a martial arts movie that takes itself way too seriously” and features “four real martial artists but you’d never know it from all the quick cuts.”

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, N., JJ, Michael Toman, Jeffrey Smith, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, James Davis Nicoll, Joe Siclari, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Acoustic Rob.]