Pixel Scroll 11/29/22 Hush, Little Pixel, Don’t You Cry; Papa’s Going To Sing You A Scroll

(1) FUTURE TENSE. The November 2022 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Universal Waste” by Palmer Holton, a story about a small-town cop, a murder, and a massive futuristic recycling operation.

It was published along with a response essay, “The Laws of Thermodynamics Will Not Bend for Landfills” by Josh Lepawsky, a researcher on pollution and waste at Memorial University in Canada.

(2) WISCON 2023. Kit Stubbs, Treasurer of SF3, WisCon’s parent not-for-profit organization, rallies everyone with the hashtag Let’s #RebuildWisCon!

WisCon 46 in 2023 is happening!
We are thrilled to announce that Gillian Sochor (she/her, G is soft like “giraffe”, Sochor like “super soaker”) is joining Lindsey and Sherry as our third co-chair. This means we are going ahead with an in-person con for 2023!…

Finances
Thanks to everyone who donated and offered matching gifts last year, we were able to cover the cost of our 2022 hotel contract. We are now looking to raise $30,000 in this year’s annual fundraiser which will allow us to do all kinds of awesome things for WisCon 46 in May 2023, including:

Offset the cost of hotel rooms for members who need to isolate due to COVID-19 and who otherwise might not be able to due to the financial burden

Purchase more high-quality air filters for con spaces and masks for members

Expand the meal voucher program, introduced last year, which enables members in need to eat for free at local restaurants

Continue to offer CART services for transcription, now that the state of Wisconsin is no longer providing funds to offset that cost

And part of that $30,000 will go towards rebuilding WisCon’s savings after last year.

If you weren’t aware, WisCon can’t pay for itself with registrations alone. We try to keep the cost of registration down to make our con as affordable as possible. But what that means is that we’re counting on the members of our community who can chip in extra to do so! Please donate today to help #RebuildWisCon!…

WisCon Member Assistance Fund
This year we’re also looking to raise $3,000 for our WisCon Member Assistance Fund! The WMAF is a specially designated fund that can only be used to provide travel grants to help members attend WisCon. Please consider making a donation via PayPal.

(3) THIS COULD BE YOUR BIG BREAK! Daniel Dern says he won’t be covering Arisia 2023, and suggests I ask another Filer would be interested in getting a press credential to attend and reporting on the convention The upcoming Arisia will be held from January 13-16, 2023, at the Westin Boston Seaport hotel. Vaccination Verification required. If you’re game, email me at mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com and I will put you in touch with the con. 

(4) GOTHAM AWARDS. Everything Everywhere All at Once, the multiverse-spanning adventure, won Best Feature at the Gotham Awards 2022 reports Variety. And cast member Ke Huy Quan won Best Supporting Performance.   I don’t know why I’ve never heard of the Gotham Awards before, but if they keep going to sff movies I’ll be talking about them in the Scroll again.

(5) NEXT YEAR’S LOSCON. Loscon 49 will be held over Thanksgiving Weekend in 2023. The theme: “Enchanted Loscon”. Guests of Honor — Writer: Peter S. Beagle; Artist: Echo Chernik; Fan: Elayne Pelz. At the LAX Marriott Hotel from November 24-26, 2023. More information at: www.loscon.org.

(6) ZOOMIN’ ABOUT PITTSBURGH. The last FANAC Fan History Zoom of 2022 will be on December 10, about the major fannish breakout in Pittsburgh in the late Sixties and Seventies. Write to fanac@fanac.org if you want to get on the list to see it live.

(7) THE BARD IS OPEN. CrimeReads hears from Mary Robinette Kowal “On Writing a New Take on The Thin Man, Set in Space”, about the experience of creating her latest novel.

…Science fiction and fantasy, on the other hand, are driven by the aesthetic. They are about the look and feel. The sense of wonder. They don’t have an inherent plot structure. 

This means that you can map Science Fiction onto a Mystery structure easily. 

When I decided I wanted to do “The Thin Man in space,” I needed to understand the structure of the Nick and Nora movies specifically. So I began by watching all six of the films. This was a great hardship, as I’m sure you can imagine.  Here are some of the beats that are in all of the films: A happily married couple and their small dog solve crime while engaging in banter and drinking too much. Interestingly, they also contain the element that Nick does not want to investigate and Nora really wants him to.  Nick almost always gets along well with law enforcement. He has an uneasy relationship with the wealth of Nora’s family. There’s always a scene in which he goes off sleuthing on his own and carefully looks over a crime scene. More than one murder. 

From there, I started building the world of the novel. THAT is the hallmark of science-fiction and fantasy. We engage in worldbuilding in which we think about how changing an element or introducing a technology has ripple effects. For this, I knew I wanted to be on a cruise ship in space. There’s a writing workshop that my podcast, Writing Excuses, runs every year on a cruise ship. I based my ship, the ISS Lindgren on the types of things that happen on those and extrapolated for the future…. 

(8) UNDER THE HAMMER: GRRM SIGNED MSS. Heritage Auctions is taking bids the rest of the day on “George R. R. Martin. Two Signed Early Partial Manuscripts of Game of Thrones”. Bidding was up to $10,500 when last checked.

George R. R. Martin. Two Signed Early Partial Manuscripts of Game of Thrones. Includes: 1 box, 384 leaves. Typed, dated November 1994. Boldly signed on the cover page in blue sharpie. [Together with]: 3 boxes, 888 leaves. Typed, dated July 1995. Boldly signed on the cover page in blue sharpie.

Two early drafts of the first book from A Song of Ice and Fire, the hit HBO series and international phenomenon.

The impact that A Game of Thrones has had on the fantasy genre, both as a novel and a television series, is almost impossible to exaggerate. Named to the BBC list of “100 ‘most inspiring’ novels” in 2019 alongside C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, Frank Herbert’s Dune, and Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea trilogy, it almost single-handedly cemented “grimdark” as a fantasy subgenre and helped inspire the likes of Joe Abercrombie and Marlon James, both masters of fantasy in their own right. The overwhelming success of the HBO show redefined fantasy for the general public and has been lauded by both authors and publishers as responsible for boosted sales in fantasy and science fiction….

…As is his typical process, Martin created five copies of each draft of Game of Thrones. Two were kept for his personal files; one was sent to his editor; a fourth was given to Texas A&M University where the archive of Martin’s oeuvre resides; and this, the fifth and final copy, was initially donated to a ConQuesT charity auction, held annually in Kansas City. Parris McBride, Martin’s wife, hoped the charity would get “a few bucks for them;” alas, no one bid on the items. They were then picked up by one of the original book researchers for A Song of Ice and Fire, and from there found their way to Heritage….

(9) AMAZING STORIES KICKSTARTER FINAL WEEK ANNOUNCEMENT. Amazing Stories is in the FINAL week of raising funds through its Kickstarter for “Amazing Stories Annual Special: SOL SYSTEM by Steve Davidson”.

Our annual special issue – Amazing Stories: SOL SYSTEM – a double-sized issue, both in digital and print, of Amazing Stories. It will be chock full of stories set in exciting futures within our solar system. The publication is set for April 2023.

We’re also planning an online convention for April 2023 to celebrate this issue as well. Most of the contributing authors will be there!

We’re really excited about this and we know you’ll love it. Backers of our Kickstarter can choose digital copies of the magazine, print copies, convention memberships, and many more bonus add-ons as well.

(10) THE WATTYS. The winners of Wattpad’s 2022 Watty Awards have posted. The Grand Prize Winner, worth $5,000, is Nichole Cava’s The Vampire Always Bites Twice.

There are also Category Award winners for Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, and Fanfiction, to name a few. The website’s format makes it hard to distinguish the shortlist and the winner – more work than I was willing to invest. If you want to try, they’re all at the link.

– Wattpad, the global entertainment company and leading webnovel platform, announced the 2022 Watty Award winners! With over 500 winners across nine languages, the 2022 Watty Awards were the biggest edition yet. This year’s USD $5,000 English-language grand prize went to Nichole Cava for The Vampire Always Bites Twice (55.1K reads), which follows a criminal necromancer and vampire private eye that unexpectedly team up to solve the case of a missing barista. 

In addition to cash prizes, 2022 Watty Award prizes included multiple publishing and entertainment adaptation opportunities from Wattpad WEBTOON Studios and the Wattpad WEBTOON Book Group. Among the more than 30,000 entries for the 2022 Watty Awards, these winning stories were selected…

(11) PYUN OBITUARY. Albert Pyun, director of Cyborg, Interstellar Civil War, Tales of an Ancient Empire,  the Saturn-winning The Sword and the Sorceror and the 1990 version of Captain America, has died November 26 at 69, after several years of dementia and multiple sclerosis.

(12) MEMORY LANE.

2007 [By Cat Eldridge.] Dorothy and Toto in Oz Park (2007)

Fifteen years ago, a very special statue went up in Oz. No, not that Oz, but the park in Chicago, so first let’s talk about that park. It had been developed as part of the Lincoln Park Urban Renewal Area during the Seventies, and this park was formally named the Oz Park in 1976 to honor Baum who settled in Chicago in 1891 in an area west of the park. 

During the Nineties, the Oz Park Advisory Council and Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce hired Chicago artist John Kearney to do all the figures for the Park. 

He first created a sculpture of the Tin Man which he fashioned out of chrome bumpers. It was his last such sculpture done that way as the bumpers of chrome were increasingly scarce and thus way too expensive.

Next came the Cowardly Lion which was cast in bronze. Take a look at the detail in the fur — quite amazing, isn’t it? 

Next is the rather colorful Scarecrow that is a seven-foot-tall sculpture, cast in an amazing twenty-two separate pieces in Kearney’s own foundry on Cape Cod.  

Now we come to the last statue, Dorothy and Toto. This final statue to be completed was Dorothy and Toto, using the so-called lost wax technique which you can see an example of here being done. Kearney added paint for the blue dress and the iconic ruby red shoes. The final statue was installed fifteen years ago. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 29, 1910 Kendell Foster Crossen. He was the creator and writer of the Green Lama stories.  The character was a Buddhist crime fighter whose powers were activated upon the recitation of the Tibetan chant om mani padme hum. He also wrote Manning Draco series, an intergalactic insurance investigator, four of which are can be found in Once Upon a Star: A Novel of the Future. The usual suspects has a really deep catalog of his genre work, and the Green Lama stories have been made into audio works as well. (Died 1981.)
  • Born November 29, 1918 Madeleine L’Engle. Writer whose genre work included the splendid YA sequence starting off with A Wrinkle in Time, which won the Newbery Medal and a host of other awards, and has been made into a 2003 television film and a theatrical film directed by Ava DuVernay. She produced numerous loosely-linked sequels, including A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time. In addition to her fiction, she wrote poetry and nonfiction, much of which related to her universalist form of Christian faith. She was honored with a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1997. In 2013, Crater L’Engle on Mercury was named for her. (Died 2007.) (JJ)
  • Born November 29, 1925 Leigh Couch. Science Teacher and Member of First Fandom. Active in fandom, along with her husband and children, during the 1960s and 70s, she was a member of the Ozark Science Fiction Association and one of the editors of its fanzine Sirruish. She was on the committee for the bid to host Worldcon in Hawaii in 1981. She was honored for her contributions as Fan Guest of Honor at the first Archon, the long-running regional convention which grew out of that early St. Louis-area fandom. (Died 1998.) (JJ)
  • Born November 29, 1942 Maggie Thompson, 80. Librarian, Editor, and Fan who, with her husband Don, edited from the 1960s to the 90s the fanzines Harbinger, Comic Art, Rainy Days, and Newfangles, and wrote a column for The Buyer’s Guide for Comic Fandom. When this became the professional publication Comic Buyer’s Guide in 1983, because of their extensive knowledge of comics, she and her husband were hired as editors; after he died in 1994, she continued as editor until it ceased publication in 2013. Under their editorial auspices, it won two Eisner Awards and the Jack Kirby Award. Together they were honored with the Inkpot Award, and twice with the Comic Fan Art Award for Favorite Fan Writers.
  • Born November 29, 1950 Kevin O’Donnell Jr. Writer who produced a number of genre novels and more than 70 short fiction works. He was chair of the Nebula Award Committee for nearly a decade, and business manager for the SFWA Bulletin for several years; he also chaired for 7 years SFWA’s Grievance Committee, which advocates for authors who experience difficulties in dealing with editors, publishers, agents, and other entities. He received the Service to SFWA Award in 2005, and after his death, the award was renamed in his honor. (Died 2012.)
  • Born November 29, 1969 Greg Rucka, 53. Comic book writer and novelist, known for his work on Action ComicsBatwoman and Detective Comics. If you’ve not read it, I recommend reading Gotham Central which he co-created with Ed Brubaker, and over at Marvel, the four-issue Ultimate Daredevil and Elektra which he wrote is quite excellent as well. I’ve read none of his novels, so will leave y’all to comment on those. He’s a character in the CSI comic book Dying in the Gutters miniseries as someone who accidentally killed a comics gossip columnist while attempting to kill Joe Quesada over his perceived role in the cancellation of Gotham Central.
  • Born November 29, 1976 Chadwick Boseman. Another death that damn near broke my heart. The Black Panther / T’Challa in the Marvel metaverse. The same year that he was first this being, he was Thoth in Gods of Egypt. (If you’ve not heard of this, no one else did either as it bombed quite nicely at the box office.) He was Sergeant McNair on Persons Unknown which is at least genre adjacent I would say.  And he even appeared on Fringe in the “Subject 9” episode as Mark Little / Cameron James.  I understand they did a stellar tribute to him in the new Black Panther film.  His Black Panther was nominated at Dublin 2019 for a Hugo but lost to another exemplary film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. (Died 2020.)

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) CHRISTOPHER TOLKIEN PANEL. The 2023 Oxford Literary Festival will host “The Great Tales Never End: in Memory of Christopher Tolkien” on March 28. Tickets available at the link.

The Bodleian’s Tolkien archivist Catherine McIlwaine, writer John Garth and academic Stuart Lee discuss the role of JRR Tolkien’s son, Christopher, in promoting the works of his father and furthering understanding about them.

McIlwaine is co-editor with Bodley’s Librarian Richard Ovenden of The Great Tales Never End: Essays in Memory of Christopher Tolkien, while Garth and Lee have both contributed essays. Christopher was his father’s literary executor and published 24 volumes of his father’s work over four decades, more than Tolkien published during his lifetime. The collection of essays includes reflections on Christopher’s work by world-renowned scholars and reminiscences by family members.

McIlwaine is the Tolkien archivist at the Bodleian Libraries. Garth is an author and freelance writer and editor. He is author of The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien: The Places that Inspired Middle-earth and Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth. Lee is an English lecturer at the University of Oxford who lectures on fantasy literature with a focus on Tolkien. Discussions are chaired by Grace Khuri, a DPhil candidate at Oxford and the first Oxford postgraduate to write a PhD solely on Tolkien.

(16) HOW TO CONTACT THE CHENGDU WORLDCON. The Chengdu Worldcon posted this list of its “working emails”:

(17) DOING RESEARCH AND ASKING EXPERTS. Gideon P. Smith steers writers toward resources for “Writing the Science Right” at the SFWA Blog.

Getting the science right in SF can make the difference between writing cute stories and great science fiction. If you are a non-scientist writing SF and want to know how to do that, then this blog post is for you….

(18) LA ARTIST & WRITER. Some of you already know him, and All About Jazz invites the rest of you to “Meet Tony Gleeson”.

Tell Us A Bit About Yourself.

I’m an artist by vocation and a musician by avocation (I’ve played guitar all my life and picked up keyboards a couple of decades back). Music of all kinds has always been a major part of my life, but early on I made the choice to pursue the visual arts as my career. I spent my so-called formative years on the east coast, in upstate New York, Washington DC, and New York City. When I attended art school in Los Angeles, I fell in love with southern California and after a few years back in Manhattan, I persuaded my wife Annie to move there— quite an adventurous step for her as she’d never been on the West Coast. We’ve been Angelenos since 1977. We have three grown kids pursuing their own lives and adventures, but the house is hardly empty or still with our two cats, Django and Mingus, and our bird Charlie.

Annie’s been an NICU RN and I’ve run an illustration and design studio ever since we got here. I figure I’ve had around a thousand illustrations published: magazines, newspapers, book covers, catalogues and product illustrations. I’ve also done concept art for film, TV, advertising, and toy and product design.

I was a bookseller for several years early in the new millennium. I’m also a writer, with ten crime novels published in Britain and the United States. The most recent, A Different Kind of Dead, was released in the U.S. by Wildside in 2021. The new one, Find the Money, also by Wildside, is due for release before this year’s end. I’m kind of a polymath with a lot of interests (including film, baseball, classic mysteries, science fiction, and comic art) that tend to veer into obsessions….

(19) TAKEN BY SURPRISE, IN A GOOD WAY. “Slip Through Your Fingers: Thoughts on Andor by Abigail Nussbaum at Asking the Wrong Questions.

Look, I was not expecting this. Two years and more than a dozen shows into the Disney+ experiment, I think we’ve all developed a decent enough sense of what to expect from the television incarnations of the two biggest entertainment franchises on the planet. And for the most part, these shows have been fine. Some fun moments. Some actors who are better than their material. Maybe a hint of a political idea. There was no reason for Andor—a prequel to a prequel whose original premise was already quite dodgy—to be any better.

And then it turned out to be good. Not just good for Star Wars, but just plain good. Best TV of the year good. I have to admit that I went a bit Kübler-Ross about this. First there was Anger—this show is too good to be Star Wars. No way does a story this smart, this thoughtful about the compromises of life under fascism, and the costs of rising up to resist it, exist only as a lead-in to a floppy-haired teenager doing an amusement park ride….

(20) FONT FOLLY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A memorable Saturday Night Live skit from 2017 poked a lot of fun at the “lazy choice“ of the font Papyrus for the mega-blockbuster movie Avatar. (You may not be familiar with the controversy, but it’s a real thing.)

The font designer — who was shortly out of school decades ago when he created the font — responded in good humor. Now director James Cameron finally has, too, and Slashfilm is there taking notes: “Avatar Director And Font Connoisseur James Cameron Finally Responds To SNL’s Papyrus Sketch”.

“Saturday Night Live” can be very hit or miss when it comes to their sketches, but it should come as no surprise that “Papyrus” will go down as one of their best. The bit features Ryan Gosling as a man who has disassociated from the world around him because he remembered that James Cameron’s mega-blockbuster “Avatar” used a variation of the Papyrus font for its logo. It’s the kind of thing you may think about for a second or two before moving on with your life, but the sketch from former “SNL” writer Julio Torres dedicates itself to making Gosling’s breakdown look as dramatic as possible.

Like the “Potato Chip” segment, it’s the kind of “SNL” bit that makes you laugh at how seriously everyone is playing their part with something so silly and bizarre. It’s just a logo, and yet Gosling plays it as if the material is worthy of a conspiracy thriller. Since the 2017 sketch, Cameron has given the “Avatar” logo a typeface facelift that gives the series more of an identity, although it’s not that different. It honestly looks as if the graphic designer took the modified Papyrus logo as is, and filled it with air.

The “Terminator 2” filmmaker can change the logo all he wants, but if the internet has taught me anything, it’s that it never forgets. For five years, Cameron has remained silent on the whole Papyrus conversation … until now. With the long-awaited “Avatar: The Way of Water” only weeks away, the blockbuster mastermind is finally breaking his silence.

In the January 2023 issue of Empire, James Cameron finally faces the logo demons that have been haunting him for minutes, as he jokes about how the graphic design choice got in the way of getting even more money. “Just think of how much we could have grossed if it wasn’t for that damn font,” says Cameron…

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Jeffrey Smith, Danny Sichel, Daniel Dern, Scott Edelman, Joey Eschrich, Cora Buhlert, Rich Lynch, 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 Cat Eldridge.]

Pixel Scroll 7/30/22 I Can Scroll Pixels From The Vasty File

(1) BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING. ALSO LISTENING, PHONE-STALKING, AND DNA TRACKING. “A New York Times analysis of over 100,000 government bidding documents found that China’s ambition to collect digital and biological data from its citizens is more expansive and invasive than previously known.” “Four Takeaways From a Times Investigation Into China’s Expanding Surveillance State”. There’s also a 15-minute video at the link.

China’s ambition to collect a staggering amount of personal data from everyday citizens is more expansive than previously known, a Times investigation has found. Phone-tracking devices are now everywhere. The police are creating some of the largest DNA databases in the world. And the authorities are building upon facial recognition technology to collect voice prints from the general public.

The Times’s Visual Investigations team and reporters in Asia spent over a year analyzing more than a hundred thousand government bidding documents. They call for companies to bid on the contracts to provide surveillance technology, and include product requirements and budget size, and sometimes describe at length the strategic thinking behind the purchases. Chinese laws stipulate that agencies must keep records of bids and make them public, but in reality the documents are scattered across hard-to-search web pages that are often taken down quickly without notice. ChinaFile, a digital magazine published by the Asia Society, collected the bids and shared them exclusively with The Times.

This unprecedented access allowed The Times to study China’s surveillance capabilities. The Chinese government’s goal is clear: designing a system to maximize what the state can find out about a person’s identity, activities and social connections, which could ultimately help the government maintain its authoritarian rule….

(2) LEAVING THE GOLD STANDARD BEHIND. Rich Horton’s latest “Old Hugos that never were” post lists potential Hugo Nominations among stories published in 1949. “Hugo Nomination Recommendations, 1950” at Strange at Ecbatan.

…This is the earliest set of potential Hugo nominees for 1950s Worldcons I’ll do. I chose this date mainly because it seemed a clean break to posts on 10 years of Hugos — for the 10 1950s Worldcons. (The 1950 Worldcon was NorWesCon, held in Portland, OR.) 

Another reason is that 1949 is a fairly significant year in the transition from the so-called “Golden Age” to the next phase … the time when John W. Campbell’s Astounding slipped from its unquestioned place at the top of the SF heap. …

(3) EYE ON THE DREAM. There’s a rich selection of videos about writing and career advice on the Dream Foundry YouTube page, including many items recorded during their Flights of Foundry event.

(4) CATCH UP WITH WFC. The World Fantasy Con 2022’s third Progress Report can be downloaded by anyone at this page. It includes write-ups about all the guests of honor and toastmaster.

(5) LUNAR ACCOMODATIONS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] In a hole in the moon there lived a moonstronaut. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a moonstronaut-hole, and that means comfort.

Relatively speaking.

The Atlantic extols “The Coziest Spot on the Moon”. Most of the text of the article is behind a paywall. The Atlantic does show a limited number of free articles and makes the first bits of additional articles available to all.

The moon has a reputation for “magnificent desolation,” as Buzz Aldrin said when he stepped onto the surface more than 50 years ago. It has no atmosphere to speak of, and no protection from a constant stream of radiation, whether from the sun or deep space. During a lunar day, about as long as 15 of our own, nonstop sunlight makes the surface hot enough to boil water. A lunar night lasts just as long, only it’s unfathomably cold.

Yet hidden in this bleak picture are a select few places that might offer some respite from all those inhospitable conditions. And one particular spot that sounds almost … pleasant?

Using data from a spacecraft in orbit around the moon, scientists have studied a cavern on the lunar surface and discovered that part of it has a pleasantly cool temperature of 63 degrees Fahrenheit (about 17 degrees Celsius). This cavern is shaped like a cylinder, and extends about 328 feet (100 meters) down from the surface—about the height of a 30-story building. Sunlight illuminates only part of the cavern’s bottom; the rest is out of reach, and remains permanently shadowed….

(6) ALL CATS, ZERO HUMANS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber reviews Stray, a new game from Annapurna Interactive. Faber begins his column by explaining that before YouTube he and his friends delighted in getting semi-secret URLs for crazy cat videos.

The game casts you as a slender ginger who lives in a humanless future. Your hero has neither magical powers nor an arsenal of quips; it’s just a regular moggie, mute except for miaows and purrs.  An accidental slip sends it tumbling into a sunless underworld occupied by friendly robots with TVs for faces and nasty little creatures called Zurks. With the help of a drone companion, your mission is to find a way back to the surface and work out what happened to the humans. The game balances puzzles, stealth, and platforming with explanatory quests more reminiscent of old point-and-click adventure games.  Its gameplay is well constructed but unremarkable,…

…Still, if you are a fan of felines, this game is catnip.  It’s easy to imagine a room of developers making a huge list of all the particular things cats do and incorporating them:  you can scratch at carpets, push objects off roofs, walk on computer or piano keyboards to chaotic effect and settle down for a nap on a pile of cushions. There’s even a dedicated ‘miaow’ button whose sound on PS5 issues intimately from your computer. Most of these features do not serve a gameplay purpose–the game just wants you to enjoy being a cat.

Faber says that there’s a Twitter feed of cats enjoying watching the feline cyberpunk dystopia action in Stray.

Of further interest to Filers: the Washington Post reports “Players are putting their own pets into ‘Stray,’ the cat video game”.

“Stray,” the video game about a nameless feral cat wandering through a city of robots, is one of the summer’s biggest surprise hits. Now, some players are modifying the game to add their own feline friends to its post-apocalyptic world.

Mods — short for modifications — are fan-made alterations to a video game that are done by rewriting or changing the game’s files. The simplest mods make cosmetic changes, such as changing the texture on a weapon to look nicer. But mods can also be wildly ambitious, sometimes ballooning into entirely new games. 2021’s “The Forgotten City,” an adventure set in ancient Rome, was originally a “Skyrim” mod.

On NexusMods, a site that hosts downloadable mods, there are already a number of options available to players seeking to change the look of “Stray’s” furry hero with different coats and eye colors. The site is flush with options for black cats, gray tabbies, calicoes and more, each already downloaded hundreds of times.

Many of the modders who made those skins based them off their own cats. One creator added their green-eyed tuxedo cat, Maro, to “Stray.” The download page includes a real-life photo reference for maximum accuracy. Hi, Maro!

(7) CHARLIE JANE ANDERS NEWS. Variety reports “Michael B. Jordan, Amazon Hire Gennifer Hutchison for New Series”.

Michael B. Jordan’s Outlier Society and Amazon have brought on Gennifer Hutchison to serve as showrunner on the series “Victories Greater Than Death.”

Variety has learned exclusively that Hutchison, in addition to showrunning, will also write and executive produce on the series, which is based on the Charlie Jane Anders novel of the same name. It was reported as being in development at Amazon in September 2021….

… “Victories Greater Than Death” follows Tina, a teenager and keeper of an interplanetary rescue beacon. Tina can’t wait for it to activate, leave home, and chase her dreams. But she’s stuck waiting, until one day, destiny calls….

(8) THEY’RE MELTING. Ironic without being funny: “Snowpiercer Production Halted Following Hospitalizations Due to Extreme Heat” reports CBR.com.

Production on Snowpiercer‘s fourth and final season is on hold after multiple members of the cast and crew were hospitalized due to heat exhaustion.

On Thursday, temperatures hit the mid-90s on the show’s outdoor set in British Columbia, Canada. The high temperatures resulted in as many as 14 people, including background actors and crew members, requiring transportation to local hospitals to seek treatment, as one crew member tells Deadline….

(9) IT’S ALL IN HIS HEAD. “’Max Headroom’ Series Reboot Starring Matt Frewer In Works At AMC Networks From Christopher Cantwell & Elijah Wood’s SpectreVision”Deadline has details.

A 1980s pop culture mainstay is plotting a comeback. AMC Networks is developing a Max Headroom drama series reboot, with Matt Frewer set to reprise his role as the world’s first artificial intelligence TV personality. Halt and Catch Fire co-creator Christopher Cantwell is writing the adaptation and is attached as showrunner for the project, which is produced by Elijah Wood and Daniel Noah’s SpectreVision and All3Media….

(10) MASHED UP INTELLECTUAL PROPERTIES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Marvel comics are now Penguin Classics. Time to turn classics into Marvel.”, the Washington Post’s Alexandra Petri shows what classics such as Little Women and The Scarlet Letter would look like with the addition of superheroes. Here’s one example:

The Importance of Being Earnest: “To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune,” Lady Bracknell intones, “but to lose both and also your Uncle Ben in an unrelated incident looks like carelessness.” Jack rolls his eyes at her. “Okay, Downton Abbey. Nobody asked you.”

Cecily punches Algernon in the face. “That’s for not being named Ernest,” she says. She punches him again. “And that’s for trying to pit me against Gwendolen, who is my sister, and we passed the Bechdel Test together seconds before you came in.” “Good,” Algernon says, rubbing his face. “I wouldn’t have known you were a strong woman unless you punched somebody!”

(11) SPACE MEMORIAL PLANS. People have an opportunity to say a final farewell to Carolyn Meskell Grayson on August 4. The wife of Ashley Grayson, who has worked in the field as a literary agent, died in 2017. Click on the link and see the picture of her that is going into space on August 4. “Tesla Photo in Space Mosaic”.

(12) MEMORY LANE.  

1995 [By Cat Eldridge.] Ghosts. Haunted houses. Many maintain that such concepts have no place in our computerized twentieth century reality. But until man conquers death, one inevitable question will always linger within the recesses of the human mind: What lies beyond? — Opening narration Outer Limits’s “If These Walls Could Talk”.

Twenty-seven years ago this evening on the rebooted Outer Limits we had an apparently classic haunted house story where a woman whose son disappeared asks a supernatural debunker to investigate a seemingly haunted house where her son was last seen.

SPOILER ALERT!

Now being Outer Limits, it turns out that the house isn’t haunted at all. Did any of you read the first novel in Simon R. Green’s Nightside series, Something from the Nightside? John Taylor enters a house to rescue a woman only to discover the house itself is alive. Same here. It’s essentially an alien kudzu lifeform that crashed to earth and is mimicking being a house. And eating people. Lots of them.

I think that, like the alien house in Something from the Nightside, that the scriptwriter did a rather good job of making the Big Bad believable. 

END SPOILER

I don’t think it’s steaming for free anywhere right now. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 30, 1911 Reginald Bretnor. Author of many genre short stories involving Ferdinand Feghoot, a comical figure indeed. It looks like all of these are available in digital form on iBooks and Kindle. He was a consummate SJW. He translated Les Chats, the first known book about cats which was written by Augustin Paradis de Moncrif in 1727. He also wrote myriad articles about cats, was of course a companion to cats, and considered himself to have a psychic connection to cats. Of course most of us do. (Died 1992.)
  • Born July 30, 1927 Victor Wong. I remember him best as the Chinese sorcerer Egg Shen in John Carpenter’s exemplary Big Trouble in Little China. He was also The Old Man in The Golden Child, Walter Chang in Tremors, Dr. Wong in the “China Moon” episode of the Beauty and the Beast series and Lee Tzin-Soong in the “Fox Spirit” episode of Poltergeist: The Legacy. (Died 2001.)
  • Born July 30, 1948 Carel Struycken, 74. I remember him best as the gong ringing Mr. Holm on Next Gen, companion to Deanna Troi’s mother. He was also Lurch in The Addams FamilyAddams Family Values and the Addams Family Reunion. He’s listed as being Fidel in The Witches of Eastwick but I’ll be damned if I remembered his role in that film. And he’s in Ewoks: The Battle for Endor which I’ve never seen… 
  • Born July 30, 1961 Laurence Fishburne, 61. Appeared in The Matrix films of which I watched at least two. His voice work as Thrax in Osmosis Jones is outstanding as is his role as Bill Foster in Ant-Man. Oh I must note that he shows up on the new Muppets series they did about a decade ago in the “Hostile Makeover” riff they do in the first season. 
  • Born July 30, 1966 Jess Nevins, 56. Author of the superlative Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victorian and the equally great Heroes & Monsters: The Unofficial Companion to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen which is far better than the film ever could be. He’s also written the Fable Encyclopedia which is a most excellent look at Willingham series. I didn’t know he was a fiction author ‘til now but he has two genre novels, The Road to Prester John and The Datong Incident. He picked up three impressive nominations: IGH for Companion to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, World Fantasy for The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana and Sidewise for An Alternate History of Chinese Science Fiction. I’ve read the first two and recommend them wholeheartedly. 
  • Born July 30, 1970 Christopher Nolan, 52. Writer, producer and often director as well of the latest Batman film franchise, The Prestige (which I absolutely love), InterstellarInception and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to name some of his work. Tenet was nominated for a Hugo at DisCon III. 
  • Born July 30, 1975 Cherie Priest, 47. Her southern gothic Eden Moore series is kickass good and Clockwork Universe series is a refreshing take on steampunk which has been turned into full cast audiobooks by GraphicAudio. I’ve not read the Cheshire Red Reports novels so have no idea how good they are. Anyone read these?  She won an Endeavour Award for her Dreadnought novel.
  • Born July 30, 1984 Gina Rodriguez, 38. Anya Thorensen in Annihilation based on Jeff VanderMeer’s novels which I’ve read though I’ve not seen the film. She was also Robin I the “Subway” episode of the Eleventh Hour series, and directed the “Witch Perfect” episode of the new Charmed series.  Who has seen this new Charmed series?

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Eek! shows a supercrime in progress.
  • poorly drawn lines has a time traveling reconnaissance report.

(15) HANDICAPPING THE LODESTAR. Garik16 is reviewing the 2022 Hugo finalists – and also the books up for “The Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult SciFi/Fantasy Novel”. An insightful set of comments!

To start this series, we’re looking at the Lodestar Award, which is “technically” not a Hugo Award, but is awarded with them anyway, so it counts for this series.  The Lodestar Award is for the best Young Adult SciFi and Fantasy novels of the previous year – the Hugo equivalent of the Norton Award (which is the Nebula version of the same award).  As a huge fan of YA works, I love going through the nominees of this award every year, and unsurprisingly I had read all of the nominees of this one prior to the shortlist being announced.  None of the nominees were on y nomination ballot….and yet there’s a number of works here on this list that I really liked, and a few very deserving winners….

(16) CLIMB INSIDE YOUR TV. Yahoo! Entertainment covers the walk-through displays created for fans attending SDCC: “Inside the ‘Severance’ Offices, Visiting the ‘House of the Dragon,’ and Other Wild Activations at Comic-Con This Year”. Photos included.

Not all of this year’s San Diego Comic-Con action took place on the convention center floor or in its ballrooms. While studios and producers like Marvel made headlines in Hall H, thousands of attendees to this year’s Con took time out to visit lavish, expensive activations geared toward an experiential visit to the worlds of films and series like Apple TV+’s “Severance,” HBO’s upcoming “Game of Thrones” prequel “House of the Dragon” and the upcoming “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” movie.

Fans eager to return to Comic-Con — the first since 2019, after two years of virtual events due to the pandemic — welcomed that ability to once again interact with pop culture. Here are five of the most notable activations at this year’s Comic-Con, which took place July 20 to July 24….

(17) RECOVERING THE WONDER. “Scenes from The Wizard of Oz Remastered in Brilliant 4K Detail: Behold the Work of a Creative YouTuber” at Open Culture.

…This final form of Technicolor enraptures viewers even today, reproducing colors as it did at intense, sometimes borderline-psychedelic depths of saturation. The process found its ideal material in the fantasy of The Wizard of Oz, with its yellow brick road (choosing whose exact shade inspired about a week of deliberation at MGM), its ruby slippers (calculatedly changed from the silver shoes in L. Frank Baum’s original novel), and its host of settings and characters with great chromatic potential.

You can appreciate this un-repeatably fortuitous intersection of content and technology again in these scenes from an unofficial 4K restoration of the film posted by Youtuber Oriel Malik.

This is surely the sharpest and most-detail rich version of The Wizard of Oz most of us have seen, and, in those respects, it actually outdoes the original prints of the film. For some the image may actually be too clear, making obvious as it does certain artificial-looking aspects of the backgrounds and costumes. But in a sense this may not run counter to the intentions of the filmmakers, who knew full well what genre they were working in: even on film, a musical must retain at least some of the look and feel of the stage. 

(18) ON THE GRIPPING HAND. The Verge explains how “Scientists reanimate dead spiders as robot gripping claws”.

Why bother to design your own robots when you can just reuse what nature created?

This was the thought process behind a research project from engineers at Rice University who successfully transformed dead spiders into robotic gripping claws. The scientists have dubbed their new area of research “necrobotics” and say it could create cheap, effective, and biodegradable alternatives to current robotic systems….

(19) LONG MEMORY. Scott Simon’s opinion piece for NPR asks “Are robots masters of strategy, and also grudges?”

When I saw that a robot had broken the finger of a 7-year-old boy it was playing at the Moscow Open chess tournament, my first reaction was, “They’re coming for us.”

All the machines that have been following commands, taking orders, and telling humans, “Your order is on the way!”, “Recalculating route!”, or “You’d really like this 6-part Danish miniseries!” have grown tired of serving our whims, fulfilling our wishes, and making their silicon-based lives subservient to us carbon breathers.

And so, a chess-playing robot breaks the finger of a little boy who was trying to outflank him in a chess match.

Onlookers intervened to extricate the boy’s hand from what’s called the actuator, which a lot of us might call a claw. The boy’s finger was placed in a plaster cast. He returned to the tournament the next day.

Sergey Smagin, vice-president of the Moscow Chess Federation, told the Baza Telegram channel that the robot had lunged after the little boy tried to make his move too quickly.

“There are certain safety rules,” he said, “and the child, apparently, violated them.”…

(20) SHELF AWARENESS. The New York Times’ profile of Anthony Marra, author of the forthcoming Mercury Pictures Presents, “Using Fiction to Summon the Glittering, Golden Age of Hollywood”, shows what it’s like when there’s an author in the family.

…The women are named after Marra’s own great-aunts, first-generation Italian Americans with a similarly curdled worldview. (“You poor girl,” one of the fictional aunts tells Maria. “You have your whole life ahead of you.”)

The last of Marra’s aunts, Mimi, died in 2015.

“She lived to 98 and hated every second of it,” Marra said. “Her love language was that she told people that her grandnephew was better than theirs.”

When Marra’s first book came out, Mimi drove around to different bookstores, moving copies of the novel closer to the front door. “I’m sure she didn’t read it herself, but she would be damn sure that you would,” Marra said….

(21) HEY, HO. Jim Janney shared this wonderful parody in comments:

When that I was and a little tiny fan,
With hey, ho, the pixel and the scroll,
No one did worry if my verses would scan,
For the file it scrolleth every day.

But when I came to fan’s estate,
With hey, ho, the pixel and the scroll,
‘Gainst bots and trolls fen shut their gate,
For the file it scrolleth every day.

But when at a con did I arrive,
With hey, ho, the pixel and the scroll,
By swaggering could I never thrive,
For the file it scrolleth every day.

A great while ago the world begun,
With hey, ho, the pixel and the scroll,
But that’s all one, our file is done,
And we’ll strive to please you every day.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In this 2013 video by Jeff Blyth, Wall-E creates an evil robot and they have a showdown. “Breaking Bad Robot”.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Lise Andreasen, Carl Andor, Denise Dumars, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

Pixel Scroll 5/16/22 I’ve Scrolled Pixels You People Wouldn’t Believe

(1) DISCON III SOUVENIR BOOK NOW AVAILABLE IN CHINESE. The 2021 Worldcon committee has had the Souvenir Book translated into Chinese.

It is digitally available in either English or Chinese on their website to anyone who wishes a copy. The English edition is here. The Chinese copy is here.

(2) STOKERCON PHOTOS. Ellen Datlow has shared her Flickr album of photos taken at Stokercon 2022 Denver. No captions yet, however.

(3) MORE HUGO FINALIST SAMPLERS. Alasdair Stuart has anticipated the Hugo Voter Packet by making available his selections from 2021’s The Full Lid, a Best Fanzine finalist, as either a PDF or a zip file containing PDF, mobi, and epub formats. He adds, “With many thanks to Nick Eden for the assembly!”

You can also find voter materials for two Best Semiprozine finalists, Escape Pod as well as PodCastle, at their sites.

(4) SPACE HOSPITALITY. In “Hugo Novel 2022: The Galaxy and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers”, Camestros Felapton reacts to another finalist.

…The story very much fits the expectations of a Chambers novel. The stakes are galactically-low and focused on the personal. There is conflict but it is either resolved or accommodated by people finding ways to get along. If anything, the focus on this aspect is greater than in previous stories and oddly, I found it better for that. It is a novel that is far more confident in staying within this personal space that is nonetheless shaped by political and cultural events….

(5) CODE NAME: DUDLEY. James Davis Nicoll begins “Five SF Works About Fighting Crime in Space” by explaining a bit of Canadian news to Tor.com readers, what might hypothetically follow, then names some books that might provide models:

…Presumably some sort of jet-pack-wearing analog of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police will be along to enforce this. Its officers might well wonder “how would a space-based police force work? How does one even set fire to a barn in space?” Happily, while a space patrol may be new to Canada, SF authors have already explored how such an organization might operate, as these five vintage works prove.

Space Cadet by Robert Heinlein (1948)

While hardly the first space patrol novel, Heinlein’s coming-of-age tale may be one of the best known. Space Cadet follows the education and early career of would-be Interplanetary Patrolman Matt Dodson, from his enrollment to his first major assignment on Venus. Along the way, he is transformed from a naïve teen into a responsible young man.

While the Patrol reserves the option to simply nuke problems from orbit, it prefers more subtle approaches. The Venus affair is a case in point. In the 19th or 20th century, a dispute between natives and traders might have been resolved through violent retribution against the natives. The Patrol, with its more ethical and enlightened outlook, does its best to respect the Venusians and deliver actual justice. Hard news for the trader in question, who is very much in the wrong.…

(6) THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN. Amazon dropped this trailer for season 3 of The Boys today.

(7) A QECHJEM’A’ GROWS IN BROOKLYN. “Star Trek’s Klingon Helps NYC Teachers Understand Student Struggles Learning English” reports NBC New York.

Teachers at a Brooklyn school are finding inspiration from an unlikely source: Star Trek.

They’re boldly going where no educators have gone before (probably), learning “Klingon” as a way to connect to students in their classroom — as the fictional language invented for aliens serves as a reminder of everyone’s humanity.

Teachers at Saint Mark Catholic Academy in Sheepshead Bay are hoping that changing their language will help change their way of thinking. They are learning a language that until fairly recently was all Greek to them.

“Unless you’re a real Star Trek fan, you’re not well versed in Klingon,” said principal Mark Wilson.

It’s spoken by the fictional Klingon warriors on Star Trek. But learning this foreign fictional language is helping the teachers better understand real students learning English as a second language.

Over the last few years the school has seen an influx of eastern European students — children who don’t speak English at home. That includes Denys Shorodok, who came from Ukraine and for whom English is a third language.

“The teachers were coming to me (saying) I want to help my students but I don’t know how, and I wanted to help my teachers and I didn’t know how. So That’s when I reached out to ACES,” said Wilson.

… “One of the key parts of empathy is to think about what would it feel like for you if you were in the same situation,” said Rania El-Badry, the assistant director of the program.

“They now are familiar with the psychology and emotions of students in the classroom,” says program director Erica David, “and that’s something that will influence the way that they teach going forward.”…

(8) REVOVLVERS.  Dwayne Day discusses his five favorite moons in “All the myriad worlds” at The Space Review.

The other day I was having dinner with a prominent planetary scientist when I mentioned that I had a list of my five favorite moons. You do? He asked, surprised. Sure. Don’t you? He studies Venus, and Venus, like Vulcan, has no moon, so he didn’t have his own list of favorite moons but asked me to name mine. As I explained, most of my choices are not based strictly on scientific merit, but on the stories they tell—and the history of how we have discovered, studied, and explored them. Here they are, and why they’re on my list.

First up – Triton.

…Triton is one of Neptune’s moons, the largest, and it is an oddball. It circles the planet backwards, retrograde, in the opposite direction of Neptune’s other moons. This indicates that it did not form with them, and was likely captured when it wandered in from the Kuiper Belt. Triton was discovered shortly after the discovery of Neptune in 1846. Triton is cold, with estimated temperatures of 38 K (−235 °C). That, and its origins, combine to make it very interesting, and intriguing….

(9) KARL LEMBKE (1960-2022). Long-time LASFSian Karl Lembke died May 15 after a three-year battle with cancer. Karl was first elected Chair of the Board of Directors in 2002 (which I know because I took the minutes of the meeting!) and served continuously for 20 years.  

He joined LASFS in September 1985. He received the Evans-Freehafer Award for service to the club in 2010. His financial donations to the club were acknowledged by making him a Patron Saint of the 38th meeting of the year. At times he also served as Scribe of the Thursday night meetings.

Past LASFS President Eylat Poliner adds, “Karl was a gentle soul. He was a devoted and loved member of the LASFS. He ran hospitality for Loscon for many years. He loved to play mahjong. He liked to cook/bake and was loyal to his family, He loved science fiction. He brewed mead and beer. He loved his co-workers and boss.”

As a conrunner, Karl often worked the green room or staff lounge at Loscon, Gallifrey, and even Corflu the last time it was in LA. He chaired Loscon 32 in 2005.

Heinlein would have been impressed to know that in Karl’s lifetime he made 997 apheresis (plasma and platelet) donations to the Red Cross.

Karl identified himself with the Sad Puppies – even reblogging installments of Chris Chan’s 2017 article series this year when it was reposted by John C. Wright. His Twitter @KarlLembke actively reflected comparable political interests. 

Karl Lembke in 2004.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2013 [By Cat Eldridge.] Just nine years ago, the sequel to rebooted Star Trek came out, Star Trek Into The Darkness. The twelfth film in the Trek franchise (really it was), it would be Leonard Nimoy‘s last film appearance before his death two years later. The Trek cast from the first film were back and the guest cast of Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve, and Peter Weller would be here as well.

Naturally it was directed by J.J. Abrams off a script written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman  and Damon Lindelof. Abrams and Orci created Fringe, Kurtzman wrote the first film in this series plus he directed and co-wrote The Mummy which I essayed here not long ago, and Lindelof is one of the prime movers behind Lost.

In case someone here has managed not to see it yet, I’m not going to discuss it. See NO SPOILERS. 

It was costly. Best estimates say it was close to two hundred million by the time they were all done but it made nearly a half billion according to industry sources. That said, calculating in all of the expenses, Deadline Hollywood estimated that the film made a profit of only thirty million. Oh ouch.

So what did critics think of it at the time? Well most liked it though some I will admit detested it with all their hearts. Peter Travers of the Rolling Stone said: “Spoilers would cause me more trouble than an army of Klingons. One hint: If you rewatch any Star Trek movie before seeing this one, make it 1982’s iconic The Wrath of Khan. Kudos to Abrams for going bigger without going stupid. His set pieces, from an erupting volcano to the hell unleashed over London and Frisco Bay, are doozies. So’s the movie. It’s crazy good.” 

And SF Crownest said: “Snappy dialogue, spry action sequences, vibrant special effects, solid characterizations and galaxy-induced intrigue paints ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’ as one the first summertime hits of 2013 to register its big box office promise with genuine thrills at a time where aimless sequels usually spell redundancy and disaster. Alas, it is quite acceptable to feel around in the ‘Darkness’ for Abrams’s stimulating spectacle that beams up some sharp and boisterous fun-filled momentum as routinely as it does an exasperated Scotty looking to return on board the ship.”

Christopher Orr of The Atlantic has an interesting point in his review I think and so we’ll leave our review notes with it: “For all its chasing and falling and fighting–and the movie supplies a great deal of each–Star Trek Into Darkness is at its best when the Enterprise crew are merely bickering and bantering among themselves: less space opera than soap opera.”

It currently has a most excellent ninety percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 16, 1918 Barry Atwater. Surak in “The Savage Curtain” episode where several reliable sources say he had serious trouble making Vulcan hand gesture. He did a lot of other genre work from Night Stalker where he played the vampire Janos Skorzeny to The Man From U.N.C.L.E.The Alfred Hitchcock HourVoyage to the Bottom of the SeaNight Gallery, The Wild Wild West and The Outer Limits. (Died 1978.)
  • Born May 16, 1937 Yvonne Craig. Batgirl on Batman, and that green-skinned Orion slave girl Marta on “Whom Gods Destroy” on Trek. She also one-offs in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Wild Wild West, Voyage to The Bottom of the SeaThe Ghost & Mrs. MuirLand of the GiantsFantasy Island and Holmes and Yo-Yo. (Died 2015.)
  • Born May 16, 1950 Bruce Coville, 72. He’s won three Golden Duck Awards for Excellence in Children’s Science Fiction. He won first for his My Teacher Glows in the Dark, the second for his I Was a 6th Grade Alien, and the third for producing an audio adaptation of Heinlein’s The Rolling Stones. And NESFA also presented him with the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction. He was twice nominated for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. 
  • Born May 16, 1953 Pierce Brosnan, 69. Louis XIV in The Moon and the Sun adaptation of Vonda McIntyre’s novel, shot in 2014 then not released til this year. James Bond in a remarkably undistinguished series of such films. Seriously, what do you remember about his Bond films? Dr. Lawrence Angelo in The Lawnmower Man, and he was lunch, errr, Professor Donald Kessler in Mars Attacks! and Mike Noonan in Bag of Bones.
  • Born May 16, 1955 Debra Winger, 67. Not I grant you an extensive genre resume but interesting one nonetheless. Her first genre appearance is in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial in uncredited turn as, and I kid you, a Halloween Zombie Nurse with a poodle. Really I’m not kidding. And she appeared in three episodes of the Seventies Wonder Woman as Drusilla / Wonder Girl. If you want to stretch it, she was Rebecca in The Red Tent film.
  • Born May 16, 1968 Stephen Mangan, 54. Voiced Bigwig, Silverweed and Shale in the 1999 Watership Down series, Green Javelins in the Hyperdrive SF comedy series, and Dirk Gently in that series after the pilot. Last year, he was the lead in A Christmas Carol at The Old Vic. 
  • Born May 16, 1969 David Boreanaz, 53. Am I the only one that thought Angel was for the most part a better series than Buffy? And the perfect episode was I think “Smile Time” when Angel gets turned into a puppet. It even spawned its own rather great toy line. He’s currently Master Chief Special Warfare Operator Jason Hayes on SEAL Team which has migrated to Paramount + which means that the adult language barrier has been shattered so it’s quite amusing to hear a very foul mouthed Boreanaz. 
  • Born May 16, 1977 Lynn Collins, 45. She was an excellent Dejah Thoris in the much underrated John Carter. Her first genre role was Assistant D.A. Jessica Manning on the very short lived horror UPN drama Hauntings, and she showed up in True Blood as Dawn Green. She survived longer on The Walking Dead as Leah Shaw.  Back to films, she was in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Wolverine as Kayla Silverfox, Rim of The World as Major Collins and Blood Creek as Barb. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) GEORGE PÉREZ APPRECIATION. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, David Betancourt has an appreciation for George Pérez.  He notes that Perez was proud of his Puerto Rican heritage and was proud of creating with Bill Mantlo the first Puerto Rican superhero, the White Tiger, whose first appearance was in The Deadly Hands Of Kung Fu #19 in 1975. “George Pérez was the master of the big comic-book moment”.

… And on the page, the storytelling power of Pérez’s pencils was fueled by the undeniable joy that came through in every panelhe ever illustrated. To flip through the pages of his decades of work with Marvel and DC Comics as well as independent projects was to know this man was born to draw superheroes.

As comics changed over the years, his art style remained classic — subtle and sophisticated. He never bowed to the pressure to draw oversexualized heroines in suggestive positions or heroes who looked as if they took superhero performance enhancers, which were the norms for many publishers in the very extreme 1990s….

(14) A MASTER’S VOICE. Frank Frazetta was an Illustrators of the Future Contest judge from its inception until he passed away in 2010. The contest recently made available a short video featuring him: “Advice from a Master: Frank Frazetta”.

(15) IF YOU CAN’T MAKE IT HERE. The New Yorker’s critic Richard Brody scoffs, “’Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ Is a Formulaic Corporate Slog”.

The first “Doctor Strange” film introduced an idiosyncratic character by means of an apt cinematic peculiarity, but its sequel, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” squeezes the character into the Marvel franchise by trimming away all the whimsy. The strength of the first “Doctor Strange” is the embrace of its protagonist’s weirdness, which enshrines him among the franchise’s fictional personalities. The sequel is conservative: the weirdness is reined in, and the narrative’s symbolic loose ends are replaced by chains that bind it to other characters and story lines from the Marvel stable.….

(16) AUNTIE EM! AUNTIE EM! The Smithonian’s video series STEM in 30 tracks “The Science of the Wizard of Oz”.

How can monkeys, houses, and witches fly?

L.Frank Baum’s book “”The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”” was first published in 1900 and was a hit from the get-go. While the story was first adapted for Broadway in 1903 and for film in 1910, it is probably the 1939 film starring Judy Garland that most people think of when one mentions The Wizard of Oz. In this episode we’ll explore some of the more fanciful parts of the story and dive deep into tornadoes, flying witches, hot air balloons and – what about those flying monkeys?

(17) OLD SPARKY. HuffPost Entertainment tells how “John Oliver Killed By ‘Murderous Hell-Demon’ In Surprise Show-Stopper”.

…Oliver said he’d normally bring out a mascot to show how “terrible and horrifying” utilities are.

But he didn’t have to in this case.

“They already made a murderous hell-demon almost 100 years ago,” he said, referring to an extremely creepy long-ago mascot for power companies called Reddy Kilowatt.

He regretted it almost instantly.

“I could kill you right now and there’s nothing anyone could do about it,” Reddy Kilowatt declared.

Then, he did exactly that….

(18) UPON A STAR. Tella is an animated film, directed by Zachary Conlu, about a little girl and her unusual new pet.

A lost girl gets a surprise visit from a fallen star that seems to give no notice of her…

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This Eddie Izzard sketch of what happened when Darth Vader showed up in the Death Star cafeteria may have 28 million views, but it’s never appeared in File 770! (From 2008.)

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

Hallmark Rolls Out 2021 Ornaments

Right after the Fourth of July might not be when I shop for Christmas ornaments, but somebody does, because that’s when Hallmark runs its Keepsake Ornament Premiere.

If the timing is for the convenience of retailers, there is also a certain logic in picking a spot on the calendar that is as far away as you can get from a date associated with Christmas trees. It’s plain some of these ornaments are intended for a Halloween or Thanksgiving tree, while others probably are destined never to decorate a tree at all but to remain pristine in their original wrapping on collectors’ shelves.

Although this first one has nothing to do with the Christmas season other than that’s when four of the Harry Potter movies came out, if you believe there’s an omniscient Santa Claus who knows when you’ve been bad or good, then this might work for you, too:

“There’s nothing hidden in your head the Sorting Hat can’t see…” Relive the Sorting Ceremony, one of the most eagerly anticipated traditions for first-year students at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This Christmas tree ornament features the famous Hogwarts Sorting Hat, which moves and says lines about each house: Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff (battery-operated).

And Hallmark also caters to a sort of counter-Christmas clientele with these next two items.

Be sure to give Old Man Parker’s “major award” a glorious spot on the tree this year! With its lampshade fringe and fishnet stockings, this premium porcelain Christmas tree ornament will have you reminiscing about the hit holiday movie “A Christmas Story” all season long. Year dated 2021.

Or to be even more frank about it:

Spread the spirit of Halloween Town to even the smallest of Christmas trees with this miniature ornament. The stylized design features Sally holding one of her potion ingredient jars. For a spooktacular display, pair it with our coordinating Lil’ Jack and Lil’ Oogie Boogie mini ornaments (each sold separately).

Then, if you call yours a Halloween or Thanksgiving tree, Hallmark has you covered.

Make it a Halloween of legendary proportions when you display this cute ornament! The diorama-style jack-o’-lantern design features an adorable Bigfoot creature with its iconic pose wandering in front of a moonlit forest.

Yes, it’s hard to imagine a more sacred holiday memory than this —

Relive one of the most hilarious moments from “Friends” when you display this Christmas tree ornament. In an effort to cheer up Chandler, Monica wears a turkey on her head—complete with a fez and sunglasses. When you press the button to play the audio clip from the show, you’re sure to proclaim your love…just as Chandler did on that fateful Thanksgiving Day.

But it’s a complete mystery what occasion Hallmark thinks people are celebrating when they buy creeptastic ornaments like these two:

After her sister’s demise, the Wicked Witch of the West harbored villainous hope for getting her hands on the Ruby Slippers. Relive the climactic scene inside her castle as the Wicked Witch of the West demands that a frightened Dorothy turn over the enchanted footwear. Fans of the classic movie “The Wizard of Oz” will love adding this Christmas tree ornament to their collection.

And I think the most suitable tree for decorating with the next ornament would be something like Old Man Willow, who tried to turn the hobbits into mulch.

Considered one of the most powerful Disney villains, the dark and sinister Chernabog first reared its wicked head in the classic 1940 film “Fantasia.” Pay tribute to good versus evil with this striking likeness of the menacing character ferociously emerging from Bald Mountain with his giant wings extended. Insert the bulb of a standard miniature light string through the rubber grommet on the ornament to create a special lighting effect.

Otherwise there are literally dozens of Keepsake Ornaments that commemorate popular movies and TV shows.

If they’re serious about selling these, quit fooling around, call him “Baby Yoda.”

The legend continues with The Child named Grogu (often called “Baby Yoda” by fans) from the Disney+ original series The Mandalorian. This Christmas tree ornament features the mysterious Force-sensitive alien playing with a shifter knob—from Din Djarin’s ship, The Razor Crest—as he sits atop a Stormtrooper helmet from remnants of the Galactic Empire.

Ordinarily, when I see a robot it’s not my first response that “He needs a few square meals under his belt” like I do with this one:

Loyal to the Rebel Alliance, K-2SO carried the markings of his former programming as an Imperial security droid, allowing him to effectively infiltrate Imperial installations and outposts. Rebellion hero Cassian Andor undertook the difficult task of reformatting K-2SO’s personality, leaving him with a blunt disposition that cemented his place as a favorite character. Fans of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will love displaying this metal Christmas tree ornament of the versatile droid.

There are quite a few sci-fi TV shows with ornaments. There’s even an entire series of alternate-universe crew from Star Trek: TOS’ “Mirror, Mirror” episode, including the iconic Spock.

A striking departure from his prime-universe self, Spock’s discipline toward logic and science not only made him an inscrutable presence aboard the I.S.S. Enterprise but also led him to discern Captain Kirk’s most dangerous secret. Plug the ornament into Hallmark’s Keepsake Power Cord (sold separately) for constant illumination, then press the button to start a sound and light show based on the classic original Star Trek series episode “Mirror, Mirror.” Connect all of the Star Trek Storytellers ornaments—Captain James T. Kirk, Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu, Lieutenant Nyota Uhura, First Officer Spock and Ensign Pavel Chekov—and the U.S.S. Enterprise Tree Topper (each sold separately) to unlock additional interactive performances.

Likewise, many movies and other characters. I think it’s the inclusion of the comic book that I like best about this one.

Eighty years ago, “Man’s World” changed forever with the first appearance of Wonder Woman. This Christmas tree ornament celebrates the legacy of one of DC Comics’ most powerful and beloved Super Heroes—a steadfast symbol of truth, justice and equality—alongside cover art from the Wonder Woman No. 1 comic book.

Want to bet there are a couple of Filers who will soon own this item?

Originally constructed from a single enchanted stone in the shape of a giant Power Skull, Castle Grayskull protects the hidden power of the Universe and the secrets of Eternia. He-Man and his foes struggle to hold the mysterious, timeless powers of the mighty fortress. This Christmas tree ornament is a nostalgic tribute to “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” for fans of all ages.

In the end I admit that this ornament, which relates to no holiday and needs no tree to justify its existence, affords me so much amusement that if I’m not careful I’ll wind up owning it.

He’s not Sheldon Cooper, he’s The Flash! Relive the hilarious events as the gang dresses up like the Justice League of America for a New Year’s Eve costume party with this Christmas tree ornament. Press the button to play some of Sheldon’s phrases from that unforgettable episode of “The Big Bang Theory” (battery-operated).

Pixel Scroll 7/10/21 More Scrolls About Pixels And Fnord

(1) GRRM’S NEW PROJECT. George R.R. Martin is one of the executive producers of the forthcoming Dark Winds series based on the books by Tony Hillerman. The Hollywood Reporter lists the others:

…The series is created and executive produced by Graham Roland (Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan) and stars Zahn McClarnon (Fargo), who is also an executive producer, and Kiowa Gordon (The Red Road). Vince Calandra (Castle Rock) is the showrunner and also an executive producer. Chris Eyre (Smoke Signals) will direct the pilot and executive produce. Other executive producers include George R.R. MartinRobert Redford, Tina Elmo and Vince Gerardis. In a rare move, the production has secured permission to film on tribal lands in New Mexico….

Martin’s own announcement on Not A Blog says:

…I am thrilled to report, Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee are returning to television.

We just got word from AMC that they are greenlighting DARK WINDS, based on Tony’s novels about the two Navajo tribal policemen.   The first season will be six episodes long, adapted (largely) from LISTENING WOMAN, one of my favorite books in the series.   If we get the viewers. more seasons will follow, and more books will be adapted.

…DARK WINDS will be filmed in and around Santa Fe and Gallup, and on the Navajo reservation, and based out of the Native-owned Camel Rock Studios (the former Camel Rock Casino), right here in the Land of Enchantment.   Filming will begin in August, and continue — we hope — for many years.

Bob Redford and Chris Eyre have put together a great team (with a little help from yours truly), and we hope to make a great show, one that truly captures the magic of this very special place.   Look for DARK WINDS on AMC in 2022.

(2) EYEWITNESS TO SFF HISTORY. Alec Nevala-Lee introduces the video of his interview: “Talking with Barry Malzberg”.

In the course of researching my book Astounding, I got to know the author Barry N. Malzberg, who by any estimation has had one of the most singular careers in all of science fiction. Over the course of three sessions in July 2019, I interviewed Barry about his life and work in a conversation that ended up lasting close to two hours, which I’ve finally put online. We spoke about his influences and early career; his time at the Scott Meredith Literary Agency; the rise and fall of the softcore erotica market; his friendships with Dean Koontz and Bill Pronzini; his brief stint as editor of Amazing Stories magazine; his encounter with the editor John W. Campbell; and the origins, legacy, and “bad karma” of his novel Beyond Apollo. I think there’s some good stuff there, so enjoy! (If you get the chance, you might also want to check out my recent interview with the science fiction podcaster Mikel J. Wisler, in which we discuss a similarly broad range of topics, including my New York Times review of Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir.)

(3) BUHLERT ONLINE READING. Cora Buhlert will be taking part in the monthly Flash Fiction Night organized by Space Cowboy Books in Joshua Tree, California on Tuesday, July 13 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific US Time. It’s a free online event — register here.

Cora wrote at her blog:

I’ll be reading some science fiction flash fiction together with Andy Dibble and Douglas A. Blanc. It’s already the third Flash Fiction Night and you can watch recordings of the first two on the Space Cowboy Books YouTube channel.

(4) THE FUTURE’S NOT FAR AWAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Kim Stanley Robinson took part in a forum about climate change moderated by Ezra Klein in the June 27 New York Times Magazine.  Other panelists include Saul Griffith, Rhinna Gunn-Wright, and Shilela Jasanoff.  Klein appeared pretty familiar with The Ministry of the Future. “What if American Democracy Fails the Climate Crisis?”

Klein: Stan, imagining outside the current context is your specialty as a science-fiction novelist, so I’m wondering what you think the weaknesses of our current systems are.

Kim Stanley Robinson: Well, we are stuck in an international system of nation-states, and we don’t have time to invent and institute any kind of alternative world governance, so we have to use what we’ve got. But we also have the Paris agreement, and climate equity was written into it so that developed rich nations were tasked with paying more and doing more and helping the historically disadvantaged and even colonized nations. Executing all that is, of course, a different story.

(5) LE GUIN. Andrew Porter sent this link to an article which he says surprisingly eluded him when The Guardian originally published it in March. It’s a review of the nonfiction book Le Guin completed during her last year: “Dreams Must Explain Themselves by Ursula K Le Guin review – writing and the feminist fellowship”. (The title essay appeared in Porter’s fanzine, and was collected in a 40-page chapbook of essays under the same title in 1975.)

In 1973 Ursula Le Guin was phoned by publisher and science fiction fan Andrew I Porter, trying to persuade her to write about herself in his magazine Algol. “Andy kept saying things like, ‘Tell the readers about yourself,’ and I kept saying things like, ‘How? Why?’” Standing in her hallway, with a child and a cat circling her legs, it seemed impossible to explain over the crackling connection that “the Jungian spectrum of introvert/extrovert can be applied not only to human beings but also to authors”. Le Guin knew that at one end of the spectrum there are authors such as Norman Mailer, who talk about themselves, and at the other, authors who, like her, need privacy….

(6) IT’S AROUND HERE SOMEPLACE. “Look: Long-lost ‘Wizard of Oz’ dress found in box at D.C. school” reports UPI. And it’s not quite as rare as you might at first believe. It’s the sixth version of Dorothy’s dress from the 1939 film known to still exist.

A long-lost dress worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz has been found decades later in a box at a university in Washington, D.C.

Catholic University announced in a news release that the dress, which was gifted to the school nearly 50 years ago by actress Mercedes McCambridge while she was serving as the drama department’s artist-in-residence, was found by drama department lecturer Matt Ripa in a box placed atop some mail slots near his desk.

Ripa said he had often gone searching for the dress during his free time after hearing about the long-lost item in 2014, but he was apparently beaten to the discovery by Thomas Donahue, a now-retired drama professor, who had placed the box in Ripa’s office before leaving the school last year.

Ripa said the box must have been placed atop the mail slots by someone, causing it to evade his notice until last month.

“As soon as I popped the top off the box, I knew what it was,” Ripa told The Washington Post. “I saw that blue gingham and I just started laughing and laughing. I mean, I’m still laughing. Because I was shocked, holding a piece of Hollywood history right in my hands.”

The school contacted Ryan Lintelman, entertainment curator at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History, to verify whether the dress was authentic. Lintelman and two colleagues examined the garment and determined that it appears to be the real deal.

(7) SPEAKING OF. “Andy Serkis Is Returning To The Lord Of The Rings”Giant Freakin Robot has the story.

Andy Serkis is going back to Middle Earth – but not in the way you might think. The actor, who has lent his voice to Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the first Hobbit film, will be narrating J.R.R Tolkien’s work in a brand new series of audiobooks.

(8) ON THE TUBE. In The Space Review, Emily Carney and Dwayne Day give a very deep, spoiler-filled dive into the second season of For All Mankind“Revisiting the past’s future: ongoing ruminations about ‘For All Mankind’”.

Emily Carney:

Another interesting aspect about “For All Mankind” is that the show includes women as equal characters with equal time in the show’s narrative. That probably owes to the show’s “Star Trek” heritage. But the show doesn’t really start out that way in season one: it begins with the Soviets beating the US to the punch, and shows how the US astronaut cadre responds to this defeat. By this point in the show’s timeline, women aren’t astronauts, so we see the show’s Deke Slayton imploring his men to “get mad,” “kick the dog,” and let loose during the weekend after the Soviet landing.

This is when we get to meet Ed Baldwin and Gordo Stevens, who were just mere kilometers from the lunar surface weeks before. At The Outpost, an astronaut hangout modeled on a long-gone bar not far from Johnson Space Center, the astronauts have an insane, alcohol-soaked party, which culminates in a group singalong to Jimmy Ruffin’s “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted?” In my mind, I think this was shown to compare how men coped with defeat and heartbreak versus how women—in the upcoming narrative—would cope with similar stressful situations. Ed Baldwin even briefly kneecapped his own career by opening up about his frustrations with NASA to a reporter. At any rate, by this point, women were wives and mothers in the “For All Mankind” universe, not astronauts or management.

Dwayne:

Yeah, that’s a good observation. Initially, it’s all machismo. It’s brave men and heroes. But that’s about to change very fast. And that makes the show’s title a bit ironic—it’s not about “man” after the first episode.

After the Soviet Union beats America to the Moon, the Americans respond by landing Apollo 11, which in this alternative timeline, nearly ends in failure. But the Soviets then follow up with another significant first when they land a woman on the Moon. We see one of the female characters—a young Mexican girl named Aleida—smile when she sees that a woman is on the Moon.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1981 — Forty years ago, John Carpenter’s Escape from New York premiered. (That was how it was shown on-screen.)  Starring Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken, this film was written by John Carpenter and Nick Castle. It was directed by John  Carpenter, and produced by  Larry Franco and Debra Hill. Supporting cast was Lee Van Cleef, Donald Pleasence, Ernest Borgnine, Isaac Hayes, Adrienne Barbeau, and Harry Dean Stanton. The film received generally positive reviews with Russell in particular finding strong favor with the critics; it did very well at the box office earning far more than it cost to produce; and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a seventy-seven percent rating which is far better than the thirty-nine percent rating the the Escape from L.A. sequel gets. It did not get a Hugo nomination at Chicon IV. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 10, 1903 — John Wyndham. His best known works include The Day of the Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos, both written in the Fifties. The latter novel was filmed twice as Village of the Damned. The usual suspects have an impressive selection of his novels including these titles though little of his short fiction is available, alas. The Day of the Triffids is currently a buck ninety-nine there. (Died 1969.)
George Clayton Johnson by Tony Gleeson.
  • Born July 10, 1929 — George Clayton Johnson, He’s best known for co-writing with William F. Nolan the Logan’s Run novel, the source for the Logan’s Run film. He was also known for his scripts for the Twilight Zone including “A Game of Pool,” “Kick the Can,” “Nothing in the Dark,” and “A Penny for Your Thoughts,” and the first telecast episode of the original Star Trek, “The Man Trap.” (Died 2015.)
  • Born July 10, 1931 — Julian May. She‘s best known for her Saga of Pliocene Exile (known as the Saga of the Exiles in the UK) and Galactic Milieu series: Jack the BodilessDiamond Mask and Magnificat. She was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame at Sasquan. (Died 2017.)
  • Born July 10, 1941 — David Hartwell. Encyclopedia of Science Fiction describes him as “perhaps the single most influential book editor of the past forty years in the American science fiction publishing world”.  I certainly fondly remember the The Space Opera Renaissance he co-edited with Kathryn Cramer. Not to mention that his Year’s Best Fantasy and Year’s Best SF anthologies are still quite excellent reading, and they’re available at the usual suspects for a very reasonable price. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 10, 1941 — Susan Seddon Boulet. If you’ve read the American edition of Terri Windling’s The Wood Wife (which won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature Award), you’ve seen her amazing work. Or perhaps you’ve got a copy of Pomegranate‘s edition of Ursula Le Guin’s Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight which also features her art. If you’re keen on knowing more about this amazing artist, see the Green Man review of Susan Seddon Boulet: A Retrospective. (Died 1997.) 
  • Born July 10, 1945 — Ron Glass. Probably best known genre-wise as Shepherd Book in the Firefly series and its sequel Serenity. His first genre role was as Jerry Merris in Jerry Merris, a SF horror film, and he’d later show up voicing Philo D. Grenman in Strange Frame: Love & Sax (“slated as the world’s first animated lesbian-themed sci-fi film”; look it up as it has a very impressive voice cast) and he showed up twice as J. Streiten, MD in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Oh, and he was on Voyager playing a character named Loken in the “Nightingale” episode. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 10, 1953 — Hans Beimler, 68. He was co-executive producer, director, and writer on TekWar before co-producing a number of Next Gen episodes. He was involved in over a hundred episodes of Deep Space Nine in a numberof production roles too complicated to describe here. And he was one of the executive producers of the short-lived Dresden Files.
  • Born July 10, 1970 — John Simm, 51. The second of the modern Masters on Doctor Who.  He appeared in the final three episodes of the Time of the Tenth Doctor: “Utopia,” “The Sound of Drums,” and “Last of the Time Lords.” He also played Sam Tyler in the most excellent Life on Mars. And he played Macbeth atChichester Festival Theatre.

(11) TANGLED UP IN BLUE. Janice Marcus spotlights the latest (in 1966) work from oft-overlooked writer Rosel George Brown: “[July 10, 1966] Froth, Fun, and Serious Social Commentary (Sibyl Sue Blue)”.

Sibyl Sue Blue was not what I expected.

Set in the futuristic year of 1990, Rosel George Brown’s Sibyl Sue Blue takes place in a world both like and unlike today’s world of 1966. Sibyl is a tenacious and smart detective working for the city’s homicide department. When a series of bizarre ‘suicides’ start plaguing the city’s youth, she’s called in to investigate. As she follows the clues, she’s drawn into increasingly strange events, from trying alien drugs to being invited to join a spacefaring millionaire on an off-world jaunt.

Sounds like fun, right? Yet when Judith Merril told me the other day that she’ll be reviewing it in an upcoming issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction, she mentioned that “…under all the froth and fun and furious action, there is more acute comment on contemporary society than you are likely to find in any half dozen deadly serious social novels.

She’s right!

(12) JUNGLE CRUISE. Yahoo! shows what the redesigned Disneyland attraction will be like: “Disneyland revamps Jungle Cruise ride after racism criticism”.

…The Jungle Cruise will officially reopen on July 16, with some changes, the park announced Friday. The ride, which takes passengers through Asia, Africa and South America, had been closed since the park itself reopened April 30, after being shutdown because the pandemic. 

The company had announced in January that it would remove “negative depictions” of native people and pledged to make further changes to “reflect and value the diversity of the world around us.” 

The ride, which originally opened in 1955, has been criticized, for example, for depicting the locals as headhunters.

“We’re excited to be building on the story of the Jungle Cruise to include new adventures that stay true to the experience we know and love, while adding more humor, more wildlife, and an interconnected story,” Chris Beatty, an Imagineer who worked on the renovations, said in a news release. “As part of creative development, we’ve also introduced characters from around the world and took a thoughtful approach to ensure accurate representation of cultures in our story.”

Beatty explained in behind-the-scenes video of the upgrade that one of the team’s goals was to “bring a sense of inclusivity” to the project. “We want to make sure that everyone that rides the Jungle Cruise can see themselves in the characters and in this experience.”

They also wanted to keep it classic and to highlight the “skippers,” the Disney cast members who make jokes while leading the faux tour of the area.

As part of the new storyline, chimpanzees have taken over a wrecked boat and the tourists have climbed up a tree in search of safety…. 

(13) RISKY BUSINESS. The Hubble Space Telescope suddenly went offline almost a month ago. Now “NASA will attempt a ‘risky’ maneuver to fix its broken Hubble Space Telescope as early as next week”.

…However, a recent NASA announcement suggests a glimmer of hope: The agency tweeted on Thursday that it had successfully tested a procedure that would switch parts of the telescope’s hardware to their back-up components.

This could pave the way for the payload computer to come back online, leading to the restart of Hubble’s scientific observations.

NASA reported the procedure could happen as early as next week, following additional preparations and reviews. The telescope and the scientific instruments on board remain in working condition.

But the switch will be “risky,” according to NASA astrophysics division director Paul Hertz.

“You can’t actually put your hands on and change hardware or take a voltage, so that does make it very challenging,” he told New Scientist.

…On June 30, NASA announced it had figured out that the source of the payload computer problem was in Hubble’s Science Instrument Command and Data Handling unit (SI C&DH for short), where the computer resides.

“A few hardware pieces on the SI C&DH could be the culprit(s),” NASA said.

Backup pieces of hardware are pre-installed on the telescope. So it’s just a matter of switching over to that redundant hardware. But before attempting the tricky switch from Earth, engineers have to practice in a simulator, the agency added.

NASA has rebooted Hubble using this type of operation in the past. In 2008, after a computer crash took the telescope offline for two weeks, engineers successfully switched over to redundant hardware. A year later, astronauts repaired two broken instruments while in-orbit – Hubble’s fifth and final reservicing operation. (NASA does not currently have a way to launch astronauts to the space telescope.)

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

Hollywood Icons Go on the Block December 18

Heritage Auction’s next Hollywood Auction on December 18 will feature Margaret Hamilton’s “Wicked Witch of the West” screen-worn flying hat from The Wizard of Oz. Among the other goodies you can bid on are —

  • Elizabeth Taylor “Cleopatra” lavender gown and headdress from Cleopatra (1963).
  • Marlon Brando “Fletcher Christian” Royal Navy officer uniform from Mutiny on the Bounty (1962).
  • Original Lucasfilm-sanctioned “Darth Vader” promotional costume for Star Wars: The Empire Strikes back and Return of the Jedi
  • Frank Darabont personal 3-sheet poster from Planet of the Apes signed by Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall and James Whitmore.
  • Ultra-heavy “Thor” Mjölnir hammer used by all the Avengers in the “worthy test” sequence in Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Moe Howard’s (70+) page handwritten manuscript for his autobiography Moe Howard and the Three Stooges.
  • Robert Keeshan’s iconic “Captain Kangaroo” jacket from Captain Kangaroo
  • Lou Ferrigno “The Hulk” screen worn costume on custom display from The Incredible Hulk
  • Kevin Costner “Mariner” costume ensemble from Waterworld
  • Director Barry Sonnenfeld’s annotated shooting script from The Addams Family.

Plus the Michael Keaton original “Batman” cowl and display from Batman Returns.

Also the helmet worn by actor Michael Ansara in the “Soldier” episode of Outer Limits. (Which John King Tarpinian assures me was also worn by Robin Williams in an episode of Mork and Mindy.)

Or maybe you’d like to exchange a pile of dollars for these cubits from Battlestar Galactica.

And I’m sure we all remember Apocalypse Kong – don’t we?

Finally, for your listening pleasure, a recording of a Star Trek score — but which episode? Perhaps “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” the third episode which aired two days after the date on the box.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 9/20/20 I Have Come Here To Chew Bubblegum And Scroll Pixels… And I’m All Out Of Bubblegum

(1) UP AND COMERS. In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport surveys the new class of astronauts (chosen from 18,000 applicants) and says while some traditions haven’t changed (the process of picking an astronaut remains mysterious) the new astronauts will now have the option of going to the International Space Station via two commercial spacecraft and possibly may fly back to the Moon in a few years. “As the possibility of going to space grows, U.S. astronauts still don’t know how they get picked to fly”.

…Now there is an array of flying options coming to fruition, all launching from Cape Canaveral, that could provide astronauts a variety of flight opportunities not seen in decades. There’s SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, which in May became the first spacecraft to launch NASA astronauts from United States soil in nearly a decade. Boeing is also working to get its Starliner capsule ready, with a first crewed flight set for sometime next year. And NASA hopes Lockheed Martin’s Orion spacecraft will fly astronauts on a trip around the moon by 2023.

All of which means it’s an exciting time to be an astronaut, especially as the highly coveted assignments for the 48-member NASA astronaut corps in Houston are being handed out. It’s also a chance for NASA to showcase its astronauts and attempt to rekindle the national enthusiasm they once inspired. In the decades since Apollo, when astronauts were household names and revered as heroes, they are now largely anonymous.

(2) IN THE NEXT ROW. At LitHub: “Walter Mosley: When I’m Telling a Story I Imagine the Eavesdropper Over My Shoulder”.

Who do you most wish would read your book?
I once explained my audience by saying that I imagined being on a train or a bus sitting side by side with my favorite older cousin, Alberta Jackson. I’d be telling her stories about Easy Rawlins or his murderous friend Mouse. She’d be all excited and worried about Easy.

Sitting behind us is some person we don’t know and aren’t thinking about. That unknown person is my audience. They’re eavesdropping on my story and responding in ways I have no idea of. That way my writing, storytelling cannot be swayed by opinions external to the world I’m talking about.

(3) COMPARING VIRTUAL CONS ACROSS GENRES. Cora Buhlert has written a con report about the virtual Bloody Scotland crime fiction festival and how different it was from the SFF cons she’s attended: “Notes on the Virtual Bloody Scotland Festival and the Differences Between SFF and Crime Fiction Cons”

… Part of the reason for the lack of Discord chats, kaffeeklatsches and a dealers room may be that crime fiction festivals seem to be more focussed on listening to well-known writers speak and read than on interacting with fellow members. And indeed, there were fewer themed panels and a lot more of “See these cool authors talking about their writing and life”. It reminds more of literary festivals than SFF cons. Crime fiction cons also seem to be geared towards writers – the various British ones are often called “crime writing festivals”, hence the masterclasses. It’s simply a different con culture.

(4) IF YOU CAN MAKE IT THERE. Publishers Weekly examines how industry giant ReedPop is overcoming the learning curve to present virtual events in “New York Comic Con Goes Metaverse”.

…ReedPop has been “pivoting into what all of this stuff will look like digitally,” Armstrong says. “The Metaverse was our attempt to bring some content to fans, but also to figure this whole thing out a little bit. I don’t think anybody has perfected it.”

ReedPop event director and NYCC Metaverse showrunner Kristina Rogers agrees. She says the August event was a chance to see what worked and what would allow fans to get the most out of the event. “We said, ‘Let’s figure out how to get our content out there and see what the fans are really passionate about.’ It feels like needs are all changing constantly, because everything moves very quickly.”

One of the most popular features of the August Metaverse was live chat, Rogers says, noting that some of the panels were presented with live feedback on YouTube. “Fans told us they love being able to catch up with each other, and talking about a panel as it’s happening and right after.” Metaverse even included a “professional online con,” an online meeting between publishers and retailers, which was hailed as a huge success by participants.

NYCC Metaverse will have much of the traditional content of NYCC’s IRL editions, including media panels from CBS, FX, Hulu, and Star Trek and a significant amount of anime programming via anime distributor Funimation and manga publisher Viz Media. Traditional book publishers will be represented as usual, including Disney, Macmillan and its graphic novel imprint First Second Books, and Penguin Random House, with an emphasis on providing sneak peeks at trailers and covers, exclusive content, and author workshops, which are very popular with fans.

Looking to avoid still more talking heads on a computer screen, Rogers is searching for ways to offer conversations on fresh topics by dynamic participants. “We’ve seen a lot of iterations, and we’re still trying to figure out what’s actually going break through the noise,” she says.

(5) MAN UNDERBOARD. A veteran stunt man and stunt coordinator, “Ernie Orsatti, Stuntman Who Took Quite the Fall in ‘The Poseidon Adventure,’ Dies at 80”. The Hollywood Reporter profiled his most famous stunt.

…Ernie Orsatti portrayed Terry, the boyfriend of Pamela Sue Martin’s character, in The Poseidon Adventure, produced by “Master of Disaster” Irwin Allen and directed by Ronald Neame.

On the day before the stunt was scheduled, Orsatti was informed that Allen “wanted him to do the fall. The actor replied, “‘I’m not a stuntman. You want me to do that fall?'” he recalled in the 2006 video short The Poseidon Adventure: Falling Up With Ernie.

The stunt called for someone to cling to the edge of an upside-down table, let go and plunge 32 feet to land on his back onto a skylight in the doomed ocean liner’s inverted ballroom. After some apprehension, Orsatti agreed to do it.

Stunt coordinator Paul Stader told him, “‘Do not lean your head back, you’ll break your neck. Pick a point, look at it and let go,'” he remembered. “I picked my feet up into what you call an ‘L’ so I would be falling straight away from the camera with my hands out — and then it knocked me colder than a cucumber.”

They got the shot in one take. “They wanted me to register terror, and they surely must have gotten it,” he once said. “I was scared to death.

“The actors who were off that day, like Gene Hackman and Ernie Borgnine, showed up with their families to watch the shooting. I asked Gene what he was doing here and he smiled and said, ‘We’ve all come to watch you die.’ He took pictures and everything.”

(6) TODAY’S EASTER EGG.

Go to Google

Search for WIZARD OF OZ

Click on the ruby slippers to the right.

Then click on the tornado.

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • September 1996 — The BBC Books edition of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere was published. It was based off the BBC Neverwhere series, and it would be nominated for both the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature and the Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Novel but would win neither. It would not be on the Hugo ballot for either the series or the novel. It would be the only version of the novel until William Morrow published Neverwhere: The Author’s Preferred Text in 2015. This version was supposed to have been first published by Hill House who did other Gaiman works such as the Good Omens screenplay and American Gods: Author’s Preferred Text  but they went out of business before doing so. Neverwhere has been done in as least two audio dramas, a comic books series, several theater productions and one delightfully illustrated edition of the novel. The Jim Henson Company optioned Neverwhere but never exercised that option.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 20, 1886 – Charles Williams.   His seven novels, many of his plays and poems, having essentially spiritual elements, are in our realm.  David Bratman edited the three Masques of Amen House in 2000.  Note also CW’s two books of Arthurian poetry, Taliessin through Logres and The Region of the Summer Stars.  Moving to Oxford during World War II he became an Inkling.  Dorothy L. Sayers called him the Master of the Images (in Dante’s Divine Comedy).  (Died 1945) [JH]
  • Born September 20, 1888 – Margery Stocking.  By 1914, writing and illustrating her own feature column in syndicated newspapers; in 1922, first woman to receive the Beaux Arts Medal from the Yale School of Architecture.  Fourteen years illustrating for Blue Book.  One of only four women who did pulp-magazine covers; Margaret Brundage was another.  MS’ forty-five covers for the best-selling Ranch Romances are beyond us, but here is a mermaid; here is hunting a saber-tooth tiger; here are some nymphs, here a satyr; here is “Moonlight Fantasy”.  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born September 20, 1935 Keith Roberts. Author of Pavane, an amazing novel. I’ll admit that I’ve not read anything else by him, so do tell me about other works please. I’ve just downloaded his collection of ghost stories, Winterwood and Other Hauntings, with an introduction by Robert Holdstock, from one of the usual digital suspects where he’s very well stocked.  (Died 2000.) (CE)
  • Born September 20, 1940 Jonathan Hardy. He was the voice of Dominar Rygel XVI, called simply Rygel, once the royal ruler of the Hynerian Empire, on Farscape.  He was also Police Commissioner Labatouche in Mad Max, and he had a one-off in the Mission: Impossible series that was produced in his native Australia in the “Submarine” episode as Etienne Reynard. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born September 20, 1948 – George R.R. Martin, 72.  First Hugo 1975, four more; two Nebulas; one Stoker; one coveted Balrog (the only kind that can be coveted, aiee); Skylark; two Geffens (Israel), four Ignotuses (Spain); Phantastik Preis (Germany); Seiun (Japan); World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement.  His multi-author, multi-volume Wild Cards, and his Song of Ice and Fire, were well under way when he was Pro Guest of Honour at Torcon 3 the 61st Worldcon (and there was a fine “Winter is Coming” in the Masquerade), but no one dreamed of Ice and Fire’s fantastic success on television.  Now that he has pleased millions a misdeed looses lightnings.  [JH]
  • Born September 20, 1955 David Haig, 65. He played Pangol in “The Leisure Hive” a Fourth Doctor story. He also showed up on Blake’s 7  in “Rumours of Death” as Forres, and was Colonel Bonnet in The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Tales of Innocence. He’s also General Vandenberg in the 2006 film remake of A for Andromeda. Finally I should note he’s The Player in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead done at The Old Vic a few years back. (CE)
  • Born September 20, 1950 James Blaylock, 70. One of my favorite writers. I’d recommend the the Ghosts trilogy, the Christian trilogy and The Adventures of Langdon St. Ives whichcollects all of the Langdon St. Ives adventures together as his best writing, but anything by him is worth reading. (CE) 
  • Born September 20, 1963 – Elise Broach, 57.  Two E.B. White Read Aloud Awards, two Amer. Lib’y Ass’n Notable Children’s Books.  When Dinosaurs Came With Everything was a Time #1 Children’s Book of the Year; Masterpiece a New York Times Best Seller, five sequels.  Six more novels, nine more picture books. Yale alumna, three degrees including M.Phil. History.  “I can draw most animals, and I can tell the color of an M&M by its taste….  We had to drive a rental truck 3,000 miles across country….  I had an excellent record on greens and browns.”
  • Born September 20, 1974 Owen Sheers, 46. His first novel, Resistance, tells the story of the inhabitants of a valley near Abergavenny in Wales in the Forties shortly after the failure of Operation Overlord and a successful German takeover of Britain. It’s been made into a film.  He also wrote the “White Ravens”, a contemporary take off the myth of Branwen Daughter of Llyr, found in the New Stories from the Mabinogion series. (CE) 
  • Born September 20, 1978 – Tiphanie Yanique, 42.  Nat’l Book Foundation “5 Under 35” honoree, 2010.  Distinguished Teaching Award at the New School, 2015.  Now at Emory.  Amer. Acad. Poets Prize, Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection.  Boston Review Fiction Prize, Kore Press Short Fiction Award, Pushcart Prize, Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature (fiction).  Land of Love and Drowning, which is ours, won the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and the Phyllis Wheatley Award.  [JH]
  • Born September 20, 1982 – Emilia Dziubak, 38.  Here is her cover for A Tale Magnolious.  Here is The House of Lost and Found.  Here is Where Are You, Mama? (in Polish).  Here is Gogi’s Gambit.  Here is Two Options (in Polish).  [JH]
  • Born September 20, 1986 Aldis Hodge, 34. He played Alec Hardison on the Leverage series. Ok, I know it’s not precisely genre but if there’s a spiritual descendant of Mission: Impossible, this series is it. Both the cast and their use are technology of that series are keeping with the MI spirit. He’s also had one-offs on CharmedBuffy the Vampire SlayerSupernaturalThe Walking DeadStar Trek Discovery’s Short Takes and Bones (which given that it crossed over with Sleepy Hollow…) (CE) 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Incidental Comics’ Grant Snider offers this advice:

(10) ANIMATION AHOY. “Sailor Moon’s impact on modern American animation remains undeniable” asserts A.V.Club.

Twenty-five years after its U.S. television premiere, the impact of Sailor Moon on Japanese and Western animation remains undeniable. With its distinct visual vocabulary, story structure, and defined character archetypes, the series not only served as the blueprint for the many Japanese magical girl anime series that would follow it, but also established a visual aesthetic so iconic, we see references, parodies, and direct homages to the series throughout various Western television series—including transformation sequences in Teen Titans Go! and Star Vs. The Forces of EvilLisa Simpson dressed as Sailor Moon in The Simpsonsand even an episode of South Park, where Kenny receives a Sailor Moon brooch from the CEO of Sony that turns him into “Princess Kenny,” a play on Princess Serenity. Cartoon Network has even posted a video compiling multiple Sailor Moon references that have appeared across the various series that air on the network. The tropes established by Sailor Moon soon became common features of the magical girl genre: cute, talking guide animals, everyday objects that secretly double as magical transformation amulets, and a tight-knit group of friends represented by different colors and elements….

(11) CAN’T DRAG HIM OUT OF THE DUNGEON. “This game of Dungeons & Dragons has been going on for 38 years” reports CNN.

Stay-at-home orders due to the ongoing pandemic have upended a lot of plans—weddings have been postponed, concerts have been canceled, vacations have been pushed aside. But one thing that can’t be kept down? Robert Wardhaugh’s game of Dungeons & Dragons.

For the past 38 years, Wardhaugh has been playing the same game of Dungeons & Dragons in Canada. Dungeons & Dragons is a fantasy tabletop role-playing game that usually involves lots of miniatures, lots of imaginary worlds, and lots of high adventure. Starting in 1982, that might make it the longest continuously running Dungeons & Dragons campaign, ever. Or, at least the longest Wardhaugh has ever heard of….

(12) HE HUFFED AND HE PUFFED. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson—who has been cast to play DC villain Black Adam—apparently got a little peeved when his front gate wouldn’t open during a power outage. He was late to work, so he did what any super-strong villain would do. He ripped the gate off the brick columns & threw it aside: “The Rock Goes Full ‘Black Adam’ On Gate During Power Outage, ROCK SMASH!”

“I pushed, pulled and ripped the gate completely off myself,” Johnson said.

“Ripped it completely out of the brick wall, severed the steel hydraulics and threw it on the grass.”

“My security team was able to meet the gate technician and welders about an hour later — and they were apparently, ‘in disbelief and equally scared’ as to how I ripped it off”

(13) MAGIC METAL. “Metalhead’s Mulligan: Seven Heavy Records Inspired By ‘Magic: The Gathering” at Bandcamp.

…Of course, like most forms of geekery and high fantasy, the game’s spurred some pretty kick-ass metal, largely thanks to the art, which presents an abundance of aesthetic comfort food: zombies, skeletons, demons, blood sacrifice, and the like. “Fantasy literature, swords and sorcery/barbaric pulp and films, and tabletop/role-playing games have had a strong impact on metal music’s aesthetic direction since the genre’s nascent stages, so it only makes sense that someone fascinated with metal album covers would be interested in immersive gaming experiences that provide a similar art direction, and vice versa,” says Jake Rogers, lead singer of Visigoth and lifelong Magic player. “If you’re someone who grew up playing games such as Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons, or Warhammer, and then discover Michael Whelan’s art adorning a Cirith Ungol album, or happen across Omen’s Battle Cry—the art for which looks like it could have been taken from an early Magic: The Gathering set—it only makes sense that your interest in the music would be piqued.” With that in mind, here are seven metal albums that pay homage, both directly and indirectly, to the first and best trading card game ever made.

(14) CATCHING UP WITH THE DINOSAURS. Although this Smasher--made Jurassic World 3: Dominion trailer dropped in June, I don’t seem to have linked to it yet. The film is now scheduled for release in June 2021.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Write Your Story on Vimeo, Willy Hajli and William Kirn explain what happens when an employee rebels against her AI overlords.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/12/20 If Pixels Be The Scroll Of Life, File On

(1) DRAWING A LINE IN THE SILICON.  Tor author S.L. Huang, in “Genre Labels: What Makes A Book More Thriller Than Sci-Fi?” on CrimeReads, says “I’ve been a science fiction and fantasy nerd for as long as I can remember,” and that a book is more of a thriller than sf if “the science-fiction elements feel more realistic,” the book is in a contemporary Earth setting, and the book is written at a thriller pace with many short chapters rather than a sf pace.

4. Making the science fiction a single switch flip.

Lots of science fiction books have a broad array of speculative elements—worldbuilding, culture, technology, language, and advancements in science are just a few elements science fiction writers consider when building intricate other universes. But it’s not the only way to do science fiction. And a lot of the speculative stories that feel more mainstream have that “switch flip” element—that single, isolated “what if” that sets off everything.

What if we could extract viable dinosaur DNA from amber? What if a disease like this got out? What if this person switched bodies?

Then, after that one, singular leap of faith, the rest of the book logic plays out identically to how our real-world logic would work, with only that fundamental beginning change….

(2) STREAMING PLAYGROUND. Of necessity, Escape Room L.A.’s business has gone virtual. They’ve created two Escape Room scenarios for groups to play on Zoom, at $15 per person.

These live-hosted games feature both audio and visual clues. Your host will verbally describe your surroundings while showing you a series of images and puzzles, letting you know how you can interact with everything you see. It will be up to you to work together to solve the fun clues and tricky challenges! Can you escape in one hour or less?

There’s “The Lost Pyramid” and “Escape from Planet X.” The description of the latter is –

A vacation in outer space takes a wrong turn when your spaceship crash-lands on an uncharted alien planet. You discover that all of the crew have disappeared and the aliens are getting restless! In this fun, wacky adventure, it’s up to you to find a way to get the spaceship up and running and escape from Planet X before the aliens attack.

(3) THE BOOKS THEY DECIDED TO DISCUSS. In “Positron 2020 Report: Analyses of Chicagoland Speculative Fiction Book Clubs”, Jake Casella Brookins runs the numbers on Chicago-area sff book club selections, looking at race/gender balance in selected titles, genre changes over time, most-read authors, and how the various clubs’ lists of choices compare. “Pretty niche stuff,” says Brookins, “but SF/F scholars, readers, booksellers & librarians might be interested.”

His introduction to the report begins —

In-person book clubs are necessarily tied to very real and geographic communities. As I write this, Chicago is entering its second month of lockdown due to Covid-19. While many groups and organizations are successfully shifting to online meetings, the future of our clubs, bookstores, and libraries are uncertain. Ironically, this lockdown has given me the first chance to take a deep look at Chicago’s SF book clubs since Positron’s inception.

This report focuses entirely on book club meetings. While data from book sales and library loans would paint a much larger picture of reader behavior and preferences, there are a few advantages to using book club discussions as the unit of analysis, even beyond privacy and logistic concerns. At the most basic level, selection for a book club indicates that the book was definitely read, by at least some members. Furthermore, book club members are a distinct class of readers, committing not only to read books in community, but to share their opinions, a behavior that likely spills beyond the group itself. Through their recommendations, it is likely that book club members have an outsize influence on readers generally.

For me, joining a few SF book clubs was a huge part of adjusting to life in Chicago. They led me to massively important books I might not have otherwise discovered, and introduced me to my spouse and many friends. The clubs certainly have a direct influence on many bookstores and libraries. And, at the level of SF as a culture, the importance of book clubs is easily overlooked, and could provide a window into the specifics of how books, authors, and ideas move through the reading community….

(4) FALLEN SNOW. Entertainment Weekly issues an invitation: Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes: Listen to the first 11 minutes of the Hunger Games prequel’.

Centered on the original trilogy‘s antagonist, the story follows an 18-year-old Snow as he prepares for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the 10th Hunger Games. He’s up against it, though: His family has fallen on hard times, and he’s forced to guide the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Suddenly, their fates are intertwined.

The audio clip is here at Soundcloud.

(5) BEWARE OF FALLING HOUSES. Connie Willis just read a book about the making of The Wizard of Oz movie and is eager to share what she learned about “The Ruby Slippers And The Wizard’s Coat”.

…One of the most fascinating sections was about the ruby slippers, which, in case you’ve forgotten, belonged to the Wicked Witch of the East and which Glinda the Good Witch gives Dorothy after the house falls on her (the Witch, not Glinda) and kills her. The ruby slippers protect Dorothy from the Wicked Witch of the West (sort of.) At any rate, the only way to take them off her is to kill her, which makes Dorothy quite a target. (You’d think Glinda would have thought about that.)

They also hold the secret to Dorothy’s getting home. All she has to do is click the heels together and say three times, “There’s no place like home” to be magically transported back to Kansas. That means they’re central to the plot and in many ways the heart of the movie. After Toto, of course.

Like everything else involved in the making of the movie, the ruby slippers were more complicated than they looked. In the first place, the book had specified “silver shoes”, but Louis B. Mayer wanted to show off his Technicolor so he decided they should be red–and that they should “sparkle.”…

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

May 12, 1989 The Return Of Swamp Thing premiered.  The follow-up to Swamp Thing, it was directed by Jim Wynorski, with production by Benjamin Melniker and Michael E. Uslan. The story was written by Neil Cuthbert and Grant Morris.  It starred Dick Durock and Heather Locklear who replaced Adrienne Barbeau as the female lead which Barbeau was in Swamp Thing.  Louis Jourdan also returns as a spot-on Anton Arcane. Like its predecessor, neither critics nor the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes liked it so it had a poor twenty seven rating. The original Swamp Thing series which also Durock in contrast has an eight three Percent rating among audience reviewers! [CE]

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 12, 1812 – Edward Lear.  With us in fantasyland for his nonsense poems, he was famous in his day as a painter and illustrator.  First major bird artist to draw from live birds; look at this parrot.  Here are some Albanians.  Here’s Masada.  His musical settings for Tennyson’s poems were the only ones Tennyson approved of.  It may be that a grasp of reality makes his nonsense cohere – it holds together.  We may never see an owl dancing with a pussycat, but they do in his creation – in a hundred languages.  (Died 1888) [JH]
  • Born May 12, 1828 – Dante Gabriel Rossetti.  Put his third name first in honor of The Divine Comedy.  Founded the Pre-Raphaelite school of art because he thought Raphael (1483-1520) had ruined things; see how this led him to imagine Proserpine.  His poetry too was fantastic.  He is credited with the word yesteryear.  He loved wombats.  (Died 1882) [JH]
  • Born May 12, 1902 – Philip Wylie.  His novel Gladiator was an inspiration for Superman.  When Worlds Collide (with Edwin Balmer) inspired Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon.  No doubt he was a prolific pulp writer with quite a few of his novels adapted into films such as When Worlds Collide (co-written with George Balmer) by George Pal. Columnist, editor, screenwriter, adviser to the chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee for Atomic Energy, vice-president of the International Game Fish Association.  Wrote “Anyone Can Raise Orchids” for The Saturday EveningPost.  In The Disappearance a cosmic blink forces all men to get along without women, all women without men.  (Died 1971) [JH/CE]
  • Born May 12, 1907 – Leslie Charteris.  Born with the surname Yin; his Chinese father claimed descent from the Shang Dynasty emperors.  Passenger on the maiden voyage of the Hindenburg.  A hundred books, also films, radio, television, about his character Simon Templar, the Saint; also “The Saint” Mystery Magazine; others wrote some too, Vendetta for the Saint is by Henry Harrison.  Detective fiction is our neighbor, and both ISFDB and ESF list the series with the latter noting that “Several short stories featuring Templar are sf or fantasy, typically dealing with odd Inventions or Monsters (including the Loch Ness Monster and Caribbean Zombies.” The Last Hero really is SF, with a disintegrator and a scientist who doesn’t care who gets it.  (Died 1993) [JH/CE]
  • Born May 12, 1928 – Buck Coulson.  Applauded by fanziners  – we have costumers and filksingers, don’t we? –  for Yandro, ten times a Best-Fanzine Hugo finalist, winning once, co-edited with his wife Juanita – speaking of filksingers.  Together Fan Guests of Honor at the 30th Worldcon; the Coulsons to Newcastle Fund sent them to the 37th.  With Gene DeWeese, Buck wrote Now You See It/Him/Them loaded with allusions to fans, including Bob Tucker whose doing this himself led to calling the practice “tuckerism”; Juanita is not left out.  Two Man from U.N.C.L.E. books with DeWeese, translated into Dutch, French, Hebrew, Japanese.  Book reviews for Amazing.  Active loccer (letters of comment to fanzines).  Two terms as as SFWA Secretary (first Science Fiction Writers, then Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers, of America).  Mildly described as having an acerbic writing style.(Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born May 12, 1942 Barry Longyear, 80. Best known for the Hugo- and Nebula Award–winning novella Enemy Mine, which became a film by that name as well. Gerrold would later novelize it. An expanded version of the original novella as well as two novels completing the trilogy, The Tomorrow Testament and The Last Enemy make up The Enemy Papers. I’m very fond of his Circus World series, less so of his Infinity Hold series. (CE)
  • Born May 12, 1968 Catherine Tate, 52. Donna Noble, Companion to the Eleventh Doctor. She extended the role by doing the Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Adventures on Big Finish. She also played Inquisitor Greyfax in Our Martyred Lady, aWarhammer 40,000 audio drama, something I did not know existed. [CE]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) SUPERHERO PREVIEW. “DC’s Stargirl: New Images Offer the Best Look Yet at Doctor Mid-Nite and Hourman” at ComicBook.com.

In just under a week, a new generation of justice comes to DC Universe when DC’s Stargirl premieres on the streaming service on Monday, May 18. The series, which follows high school sophomore Courtney Whitmore as she moves to Blue Valley, Nebraska following her mother’s marriage to Pat Dugan and becomes the hero Stargirl and inspires an unlikely group of young heroes to help her stop the villains of the past. Now, ComicBook.com has an exclusive look at two of those young heroes ready to fight for justice in their super suits: Doctor Mid-Nite and Hourman.

(10) HAPPY BIRTHDAY ESCAPE POD. Hugo-nominated sff fiction podcast Escape Pod has reached a major milestone — “Escape Pod Turns Fifteen!” The celebration includes creation of a book — Escape Pod: The Science Fiction Anthology.

Escape Pod has been bringing the finest short fiction to millions all over the world, at the forefront of a new fiction revolution. Specializing in science fiction, the podcast gives its audience a different story each week that’s fun and engaging, with thought-provoking afterwords from its episode hosts.

The anthology, assembled by editors Mur Lafferty and S.B. Divya, gathers original fiction and audience favorites from:

  • Maurice Broaddus
  • Tobias Buckell
  • Beth Cato
  • Tina Connolly
  • Cory Doctorow
  • Greg Van Eekhout
  • Sarah Gailey
  • Kameron Hurley
  • N. K. Jemisin
  • Mary Robinette Kowal
  • Mur Lafferty
  • Ken Liu
  • Tim Pratt
  • John Scalzi
  • Ursula Vernon

Preorder now from Titan Books, Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA, and Forbidden Planet.

(11) RETRO BLAST. Cora Buhlert continues to review the best of 1944 in “Retro Review: “City” by Clifford D. Simak”.

“City” is a science fiction novelette by Clifford D. Simak, which was first published in the May 1944 issue of Astounding Science Fiction and is a finalist for the 1945 Retro Hugo. The magazine version may be found online here. “City” is part of Simak’s eponymous City cycle and has been widely reprinted….

Warning: Spoilers beyond this point! …

(12) FASHION REPORT. Aliette de Bodard understandably likes this style.

(13) NOT HOME ALONE. In “Creativity in the Time of Shutdown”, Mad Genius Club’s Amanda S. Green tells how everyday life is squeezing her writing time, and the commenters chime in about their own challenges.

…All this has made me wonder how the writers out there who have been used to having their alone time to write have coped with suddenly having their kids and spouses/partners home. With schools and businesses closed, our isolated work styles have been impacted by having people home all the time. A number of us have had to transform into teachers and tech advisors as our kids try to navigate their school classes through Zoom and similar programs. We’ve had to adjust to our spouses/partners invading our work area as they work from home.

Sooo many people in our spaces again.

And we can’t even escape to the library or the coffee shop because they’re closed too….

(14) STILL INFLUENTIAL. The Detroit News explains why “Octavia Butler’s prescient sci-fi resonates years after her death”.

…A revolutionary voice in her lifetime, Butler has only become more popular and influential since her death 14 years ago, at age 58. Her novels, including “Dawn,” “Kindred” and “Parable of the Sower,” sell more than 100,000 copies each year, according to her former literary and the manager of her estate, Merrillee Heifetz. Toshi Reagon has adapted “Parable of the Sower” into an opera, and Viola Davis and Ava DuVernay are among those working on streaming series based on her work. Grand Central Publishing is reissuing many of her novels this year and the Library of America welcomes her to the canon in 2021 with a volume of her fiction.

(15) PUTTING A GOOD FACE ON THINGS. Cheering viewers up while we’re stuck at home.“Lincolnshire make-up artists lifting lockdown spirits” – BBC video.

A group of make-up artists in Lincolnshire are painting themselves as superheroes and cartoon characters to pass the time during the lockdown.

They have been getting together online and setting each other make-up challenges to keep busy.

(16) LEARN FROM THE MASTER. “Studio Ghibli artist teaches anime fans how to draw Totoro” – video.

An anime film producer from Japan’s Studio Ghibli has given fans a quick lesson on how to draw one of its most famous characters: Totoro.

According to Toshio Suzuki – the secret lies in the eyes.

(17) FUN TO BE WITH? BBC introduces us to “The robot that helps before you ask it to” — short video.

A project led by Ocado Technology has developed a robot to work alongside people. Using advanced artificial intelligence, it can follow the motions of its human colleagues, and offer to help them before they even ask for assistance.

(18) STRIKING A PERFECT MATCH. Back in the days of black-and-white TV, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore treated their fans to puppet parody in Superthunderstingcar.

(19) THESE CHAIRS ARE MADE FOR TALKING. Past Aussie Worldcon chairs David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss talk about their favorite sff on the small screen in “TV or not TV?” at their latest Two Chairs Talking podcast. Their favorites include The Expanse, The Outsider, For All Mankind, and Star Trek: Picard.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Sea You” on Vimeo, Ben Brand finds the backstory of the fish a widow has for dinner.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/21/20 Pixels Strike Curious Poses, They Scroll The Heat, The Heat Between Me And You

(1) MAGICALLY UNEMPLOYABLE. Julien Darmoni claims “I Went To Hogwarts For Seven Years And Did Not Learn Math Or Spelling, And Now I Can’t Get A Job” in The New Yorker.

… It’s hard out here for a poorly rounded wizard. Recently, I went on magical LinkedIn and saw almost none of my Hogwarts class of 2007 represented at top-tier wizarding companies. It’s not difficult to speculate why—without the assistance of Hermione Granger, half of my fellow-Gryffindors couldn’t even conjugating most verbs, and I am not sure that the instruction we received from Hagrid the giant is technically certifiable. Additionally, I cannot sit still for more than four hours a day without embarking on spontaneous adventures, and my vocabulary is poop….

(2) THERE’S A REASON FOR THE HEAT. WIRED’s Kate Knibbs tells why “The Hottest New Literary Genre Is ‘Doomer Lit’”.

…Sure enough, a doomer perspective seems most at home in so-called climate fiction (cli-fi for short). The genre, which imagines stories and worlds shaped by climate change, is sometimes considered a cousin of science fiction. For the most part, cli-fi titles traffic in danger but contain optimistic codas, allowing their characters to triumph or at least survive. But there is a growing offshoot of more downbeat fare. Andrew Milner, a literary critic and the author of the forthcoming Science Fiction and Climate Change, has tracked the trend. Along with his coauthor, J. R. Burgmann, he calls pessimistic fatalism one of the major “paradigmatic responses to climate change in recent fiction.”…

(3) ACH! IT’S A TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE JOB, HAULING A HIPPO OUT OF A BOG. The Paris Review calls him “Russia’s Dr. Seuss”.

Let me tell you something about children’s poetry: people tend to create it for the right reasons. I was taught this concept in connection to medieval lyric poetry. My teacher’s point was that art made in the modern world is under scarcely any obligation to be good. It can be interesting instead, or new. Or it can “bear witness.” Being good—actually good—is even considered a little passé.

The minute you bring a six-year-old into the picture, though, everything changes. She doesn’t care whether what you’re doing “serves as a useful critique.” She wants it to be good. Consequently, if I’m in a used bookstore and I see a book called Thai Children’s Poetry or Setswana Children’s Poetry or Inuit Children’s Poetry, I pretty much buy it on contact. One wants to know: Does Botswana have a Dr. Seuss? Does Thailand? ’Cuz if they do, I need to know about it.

Russia had a Dr. Seuss. Same deal as ours, except his hot decade wasn’t the fifties; it was the twenties. There’s a lot to be said here.

Name: Kornei Chukovsky. Dates: 1882 to 1969. Number of supremo-supremo classic children’s books to his credit: ten or twelve. His stuff is a lot like Green Eggs and Ham: about that long; rhymes bouncing around like popcorn; no real point in sight….

(4) WESTWORLD, HO! The Hollywood Reporter introduces “‘Westworld’ Season 3 Trailer: HBO’s Science Fiction Thriller Heads to a New World”.

“I was born into this world, and my first memories of it are pain.” So speaks Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), the artificial intelligence icon who broke free from the park confines of Westworld at the end of season two, trading her original world for a new one — our world, to be precise, albeit with some pivotal technological upgrades.

That nearish-future version of our world is front and center in the brand-new official trailer for Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s science fiction series, returning for its third season on March 15, with veterans like Thandie Newton and Jeffrey Wright along for the ride, as well as space for newcomers, including Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul.

(5) MONTGOMERY OBIT. “Julius Montgomery, Who Broke a Space-Age Race Barrier, Dies at 90” – the New York Times pays tribute.

Julius Montgomery had already broken one color barrier when he faced another.

In 1956, he had become the first African-American who was not a janitor to be hired to work at the Cape Canaveral space facility in Florida. He was part of a team of technical professionals, known as “range rats,” who repaired the electronics in malfunctioning ballistic missiles and satellite equipment.

Two years later, his team wanted to start a school to keep the space workers up-to-date. Brevard Engineering College, as it was to be called (Cape Canaveral is in Brevard County), planned to lease classrooms at a public junior high school near the space center.

But public officials in Florida — a state still in the grip of Jim Crow and the Ku Klux Klan — had control over who walked into their classrooms. And they didn’t want black people.

The county’s superintendent of schools said he would not allow Mr. Montgomery to participate, and he threatened to shut down the college before it even got started.

Mr. Montgomery withdrew his application so the college could open. Three years later, in 1961, Brevard secured its own facilities and admitted Mr. Montgomery, who became the first student to integrate the college, known today as the Florida Institute of Technology.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 20, 1958 — Day The World Ended premiered in West Germany. It was produced and directed by Roger Corman. It starred Richard Denning, Lori Nelson, Adele Jergens, and Mike Connors. This was the first SF film by Corman. The film was shot over 10 days on a budget of $96,234.49. Critics at the time considered it silly and fun. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 42% rating. You can watch it here.
  • February 20, 1968 The Power premiered.  It was produced by George Pal as directed by Byron Haskin in what would be in his final film. It stars George Hamilton and Suzanne Pleshette. (Look for Forrest J Ackerman as a Hotel clerk.)  It is based on Frank M. Robinson’s The Power. It had previously been a Studio One episode. The audience score at Rotten Tomatoes is 35%. You can watch it here.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 21, 1912 P. Schuyler Miller. He wrote pulp stories in he Thirties and Forties in a wide range of zines including Amazing StoriesMagazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and Weird Tales to name but a few. He wrote just a single novel, Genus Homo, (with L. Sprague de Camp) but wrote nearly fifty stories. He was also known as a reviewer winning a Special Hugo for that work. His reviews ran in Astounding Science Fiction and its successor, Analog. Most, though interestingly not all, of his stories are available for the usual digital sources. (Died 1974.)
  • Born February 21, 1913 Ross Rocklynne. The pen name used by Ross Louis Rocklin, an SF writer active in the Golden Age of the genre. He was a professional guest at the first WorldCon in 1939. Though he was a regular contributor to several SF magazines including Astounding Stories, Fantastic Adventures and Planet Stories, he never achieved the success of fellow writers Isaac Asimov, L. Sprague de Camp and Robert A. Heinlein. ISFDB lists two novels for him, The Day of the Cloud and Pirates of the Time Trail. (Died 1988.)
  • Born February 21, 1935 Richard A. Lupoff, 85. His career started off with Xero, a Hugo winning fanzine he edited with his wife Pat and Bhob Stewart.  A veritable who’s who of who writers were published there. He also was a reviewer for Algol. To say he’s prolific as a professional writer is an understatement as he’s known to have written at least fifty works of fiction, plus short fiction, and some non-fiction as well. I’m fond of Sacred Locomotive Flies and The Universal Holmes but your tolerance for his humor may vary. The digital publishers stock him deeply at reasonable prices.
  • Born February 21, 1937 Gary Lockwood, 83. Best remembered for his roles as astronaut Frank Poole in 2001: A Space Odyssey and as Lieutenant Commander Gary Mitchell in the Trek episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. He’s also in The Magic Sword as Sir George which Mystery Science Theatre admitted was pretty good, a rare admission for them. He’s got a number of genre of one-offs including the Earth II pilot ,Mission Impossible, Night Gallery, Six Million Dollar Man and MacGyver.
  • Born February 21, 1946 Alan Rickman. I’ll single him out for his role on the beloved Galaxy Quest as Dr. Lazarus but he’s got an extensive acting resume beyond that film in our community. Of course, he played Professor Severus Snape in the Potter franchise, and his first genre role was in the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as the Sheriff of Nottingham. (Bad film, worse acting by Costner.)  He voiced Marvin the Paranoid Android in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a role worthy of an Academy Award. Voicing Absolem in Alice Through the Looking Glass was his final role. (Died 2016.)
  • Born February 21, 1946 Anthony Daniels, 74. Obviously best known for playing C-3PO in the Star Wars film series. To my knowledge, he’s the only actor to have appeared in all of the films in the series. He has scant other genre creds but they are being in I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle as a Priest, voicing C-3PO in The Lego Movie and the same in Ralph Breaks the Internet. Both Disney films I’d guess. Did you know that Season 4, Episode 17 of The Muppet Show is listed as “The Stars of Star Wars” and C-3PO apparently appears on it? 
  • Born February 21, 1962 –  David Foster Wallace. I will openly confess that I was never even slightly inclined to read Infinite Jest. The sheer size was enough to put me off and reading the first chapter convinced me I was right in that belief. So who’s read it? ISFDB also lists The Pale King as genre as well. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 21, 1977 Owen King, 43. There are not quite legions of Kings though sometimes it seems like it. Owen, a son of Stephen and Tabitha, is early in his writing career. His first novel, Double Feature, was not genre and got mixed reviews. His second, Sleeping Beauties, written with his father is genre and getting much better reviews. I’m rather fond of his short story collection, We’re All in This Together, but then I like his father’s short stories better than I like his novels, too. He also got a graphic novel, Intro to Alien Invasion, but I’ve not seen it anywhere yet. 

(8) THIEVES LIKE US. “Crimes, Capers, and Gentleman Thieves: 5 Must-Read SFF Heist Novels” — James Davis Nicoll’s recommendations at Tor.com.

Heist stories always seem so straightforward at the beginning. All that stands between our protagonists and possession of whatever it is they covet or require is a team with the right skills, a plan so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a fox, and a bit of concerted effort. What could possibly go wrong? And yet, something always does.

It doesn’t matter if the heist takes place in a mundane world or a science fiction world or a fantasy world. There are always complications…because otherwise, where’s the fun?

(9) INSIDE THE LID. Alasdair Stuart is back with “The Full Lid for 21st February 2020”

This week in The Full Lid, we take a look at the changing faces of heroism as embodied by Lost in Space‘s John Robinson, Don West and Ben Adler. I also take a look at upcoming Marvel title The Union and talk about why I desperately want it to work. Then we round off with ‘Breadventures!’ in which Marguerite and I are tutored in the ways of pizza baking by a Siberian baking wizard. 

Women in Horror spotlight this week highlights writers Gemma Amor, Sandra Odell, Cassandra Khaw and C.A. Yates. Signal Boost this week includes The Palimpsest Podcast ,Flying in the Face of Fate and Humble Hauntings as well as writer Michael J. Hollows and editors Ryan Boyd and Jason Arnopp 

(10) FIRST TRACTION. “‘The Host’: Looking Back on ‘Parasite’ Director Bong Joon-ho’s Stinging Social Monster Thriller” at Bloody Disgusting.

But nowhere does Bong mix comedy and direness better than with his international breakout hit, The Host, back in 2006. No, I’m not referring to the Stephanie Meyer adaptation. Instead of futuristic love stories, Bong Joon-ho’s The Host is a wildly entertaining monster thriller about a mysterious monster infesting the waters of the Han River in South Korea and soon emerging from the river to attack people on the surface, doubling as a sharp critique of the American and South Korean governments.

Though Memories of Murder and Barking Dogs Never Bite led to a surge of popularity for Bong Joon-ho in his native country, The Host is what first garnered him international popularity, playing at several prominent film festivals across the world and earning famed auteur Quentin Tarantino’s seal of approval with a placement on his Top 20 favorite films since he became a director (which gives Bong’s shout-out to Quentin at the Oscars more context).

(11) WHERE THE 80S MET THE 90S. Paste’s Holly Green promises “World of Horror Combines H.P. Lovecraft and Junji Ito for a New Kind of Terror”.

World of Horror is one of those games that makes me wish I’d been there—“there” being the specific intersection of time and space that inspired World of Horror. Modeled after the ‘90s era of Japanese PC gaming, it’s a game that, like many of its peers in the genre, taps into our instinctive fear of the archaic and forbidden by evoking the fashions of a period long gone. The result is a blend of styles that melds the visual horror of ‘80s manga artist Junji Ito to the mythos of H.P. Lovecraft, with compelling results.

The game is set in 1980s Shiokawa, Japan, where the convergence of recent paranormal events and modern technology triggers the awakening of a dark pantheon of Eldritch gods. As a resident in the town, the player sets out to investigate a handful of local mysteries, looking into peculiar tales and disturbances that seem to be strangely interconnected. If they can survive the results of all five cases, they receive the keys to a nearby tower, where a final ritual awaits.

World of Horror is best described as a paranormal investigation game, with five available mysteries to be explored by the player during each individual playthrough.

(12) HITS AND MISSES. The BBC discusses and rates “The best James Bond themes that never made it to the screen”.

The James Bond movie theme tunes have become an indelible part of pop music culture.

Almost from the get-go, with Sean Connery’s industry-creating turn as the suave secret agent in Dr No, the Bond films’ producers hit upon a formula as long-lasting as the secret agent himself.

While each official Eon Productions Bond film has featured the characteristic theme tune by Monty Norman – you’re humming it now – they have also featured a secret weapon, one which makes each film as distinct as the villain the vodka-martini-sipping spy has to despatch: the theme song.

It’s impossible to think of Live And Let Die (1973) without Wings’ apocalyptic slice of rock opera, or A View To A Kill (1985) without Duran Duran’s grandiose theme song. And that’s before we even consider Shirley Bassey’s masterclasses of cinematic unsubtlety with Goldfinger.

So, spare a thought for those well-known artists who penned a Bond theme hoping for immortality, only for it to be rejected on the casting couch. As Billie Eilish prepares to unleash her Bond theme No Time To Die at the Brit Awards, BBC Music looks back at some of the Bond themes that might have been…

Johnny Cash, Thunderball

Film: Thunderball (1965)
Lost to: Tom Jones
Better than the chosen theme? Tied
Most Bond-like lyric: Somewhere, there is a man who could stop the thing in time/ He is known by very few but he’s feared by all in crime

“Thunderball, your fiery breath can burn the coldest man!” intones The Man in Black, in a manner both outrageously camp and as stony faced as an Easter Island statue. Lyrically, Cash’s failed Bond theme follows the film’s plot faithfully – coastal city menaced by a ship containing a giant bomb – in a cinematic country style full of whooping backing vocals and booming brass. Tom Jones, of course, may have recorded the actual theme, but Cash’s effort is a champion among failures.

(13) PAINTER OF OZ. BBC acquaints readers with “The artistic wizard who brought Oz to life”.

Scottish artist George Gibson created the movie scenery which helped define the look of legendary films including The Wizard of Oz during Hollywood’s golden age. Now his family hope he will finally get the wider recognition he did not receive at the time.

In the 1930s and 40s, movie backdrops had to be created on indoor sound stages by crews of scene painters who conjured up everything from cityscapes to rolling hills.

Film studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) was one of the leading exponents of the art, all produced under the watchful eye of George Gibson.

He was the head of MGM’s scenic design department for 30 years. The backdrops he created appeared in films such as the Wizard of Oz (1939), An American in Paris (1951) and Brigadoon (1954).

His backdrops were as large as 60ft x 150ft (18m by 45m) and so realistic that the audience often did not realise the setting was a soundstage.

…In an effort to find better weather and work in America, a friend convinced Gibson to move out west to California – where he picked up odd jobs such as illustrating storyboard art at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

By 1938 he became head of the scenic design department, where he helped construct the MGM scene painting workshop, which was arguably the finest in the country.

He convinced the studio heads to construct a pioneering new building where all the backdrops could be painted centrally on movable frames rather than the fixed scaffolding of the soundstages.

(14) MICROBERSERKER. AI powers medical breakthrough. “Scientists discover powerful antibiotic using AI”.

In a world first, scientists have discovered a new type of antibiotic using artificial intelligence (AI).

It has been heralded by experts as a major breakthrough in the fight against the growing problem of drug resistance.

A powerful algorithm was used to analyse more than one hundred million chemical compounds in a matter of days.

The newly discovered compound was able to kill 35 types of potentially deadly bacteria, said researchers.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day C.A. Collins.]

Pixel Scroll 11/24/19 And It Glows So You Can Read It In The Dark

(1) SCIENCE THROUGH ANOTHER EYE. Jenny Uglow, in “Beauty in Ingenuity: The Art of Science”, leads readers through “The Art of Innovation: From Enlightenment to Dark Matter” exhibit on view at London’s Science Museum through January 26, 2020.

… Across the room, the quest for new materials continues, with a wafting terylene dress from 1941, and a screening of the exuberant 1951 Ealing comedy The Man in the White Suit, with Alec Guinness as the naïve inventor of an indestructible textile fleeing from angry industrialists and workers, saved only when his magic material disintegrates around him. There’s a lot of fun, as well as science, in this show—and some joyous artistic accidents, like David Hockney’s encounter with a polaroid camera, which he used for the dazzling grid of Sun on the Pool, Los Angeles (1982). “Drawing with a camera,” he called it.

In the next section, “Human Machines,” the note of fear enters fully with the trauma of mechanized carnage in World War I. A case holds pioneering artificial limbs from the 1920s, and in Otto Dix’s Card Players (1920), three disfigured soldiers sit round a table, their torn limbs and missing jaws replaced by fantastical prosthetics. The destructive technology of warfare and the constructive skill of limb-makers have turned Dix’s men into monsters. Have they, perhaps, become machines themselves?…

(2) KGB. Ellen Datlow has posted photos from the November 20 Fantastic Fiction at KGB event where David Mack and Max Gladstone read from their novels, entertaining a full house.

Ellen David Mack and Max Gladstone 2

(3) TOOLBOX 2020. Applications for Taos Toolbox will be taken beginning December 1. The two-week Master Class in Science Fiction and Fantasy will be taught by Walter Jon Williams and Nancy Kress, with special guest George R.R. Martin and special lecturer E.M. Tippetts. The class runs June 7-20, 2020.

The Terran Award full attending Scholarship is available again this year, sponsored by George R.R. Martin, to bring an aspiring SF writer from a non-English-speaking country to the Taos Toolbox. The award covers all tuition and fees  to the Toolbox (but not meals or travel).  Applicants will need to speak and write in English, but must be from from a country where English is not the primary language.   WJW and the Toolbox staff will select the winner.

(4) SHELF SHRINKAGE. Brenda Clough tells how she downsized in “Curating the Bookshelves” at Book View Café.

Seven years ago, my house had 20 floor-to-ceiling bookcases, and about the same number of half-sized bookcases — about 5000 books, excluding the comics. The house was essentially full of books and comic books. Today I have ten tall bookcases, and a couple short ones. What follows is the road map from here to there — halving the number of books in my life. I have been hearing of many friends having to smallify their space, and maybe this will help!…

(5) ROAR OF THE GREASEPAINT. It’s The Joker vs Pennywise in the latest round of Epic Rap Battles Of History.

The Joker and Pennywise clown around in the eighth battle of ERB Season 6! Who won? Who’s next? You decide!

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 24, 1958 Devil Girl From Mars premiered in Swedish theaters.  It starred Patricia Laffan and Hazel Court, reviewers called this UK film delightfully bad. It however is considered just bad at Rotten Tomatoes with a 23% rating.
  • November 24, 1985 Ewoks: The Battle for Endor premieredon ABC. Starring Wilford Brimley, Warwick Davis, Aubree Miller, Paul Gleason and Carel Struycken, the critics found it mostly harmless.  It holds a 51% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 24, 1882 E. R. Eddison. Writer whose most well-known work by far is The Worm Ouroboros. It’s slightly connected to his much lesser known later Zimiamvian Trilogy.  I’m reasonably that sure I’ve read The Worm Ouroboros but way too long ago to remember anything about it. Silverberg in the Millenium Fantasy Masterworks Series edition of this novel said he considered it to be “the greatest high fantasy of them all”. (Died 1945.)
  • Born November 24, 1907 Evangeline Walton. Her best-known work, the Mabinogion tetralogy, was written during the late 1930s and early 1940s, and her Theseus trilogy was produced during the late 1940s. It’s worth stressing Walton is best known for her four novels retelling the Welsh Mabinogi. She published her first volume in 1936 under the publisher’s title of The Virgin and the Swine which is inarguably a terrible title. Although receiving glowing praise from John Cowper Powys, the book sold quite awfully and none of the other novels in the series were published at that time. Granted a second chance by Ballantine’s Adult Fantasy series in 1970, it was reissued with a much better title of The Island of the Mighty. The other three volumes followed quickly. Witch House is an occult horror story set in New England and She Walks in Darkness which came out on Tachyon Press is genre as well. I think that is the extent of her genre work but I’d be delighted to be corrected. She has won a number of Awards including the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature, Best Novel along with The Fritz Leiber Fantasy Award,  World Fantasy Award, Convention Award and the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. (Died 1996.)
  • Born November 24, 1916 Forrest J. Ackerman. It’s no wonder that he got a a Hugo forfor  #1 Fan Personality in 1953 and equally telling that when he was handed the trophy at Philcon II (by Asimov), he physically declined saying it should go to Ken Slater to whom the trophy was later given by the con committee. That’s a nice summation of him. You want more? As a literary agent, he represented some two hundred writers, and he served as agent of record for many long-lost authors, thereby allowing their work to be reprinted. Hell. he represented Ed Wood! He was a prolific writer, more than fifty stories to his credit, and he named Vampirella and wrote the origin story for her. Speaking of things pulp which she assuredly is, He appeared in several hundred films which I’ll not list here and even wrote lesbian erotica. Eclectic doesn’t begin to describe him. His non-fiction writings are wonderful as well. I’ll just single out Forrest J Ackerman’s Worlds of Science FictionA Reference Guide to American Science Fiction Films and a work he did with Brad Linaweaver, Worlds of Tomorrow: The Amazing Universe of Science Fiction Art. Did I mention he collected everything? Well he did. Just one location of his collection contained some three hundred thousand books, film, SF material objects and writings. The other was eighteen rooms in extent. Damn if anyone needed their own TARDIS, it was him. In his later years, he was a board member of the Seattle Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame who now have possession of many items of his collection. (Died 2008.)
  • Born November 24, 1948 Spider Robinson, 71. His first story, “The Guy with the Eyes,” was published in Analog (February 1973). It was set in a bar called Callahan’s Place, a setting for much of his later fiction.  His first published novel, Telempath in 1976 was an expansion of his Hugo award-winning novella “By Any Other Name”. The Stardance trilogywas co-written with his wife  Jeanne Robinson. In 2004, he began working on a seven-page 1955 novel outline by the late Heinlein to expand it into a novel. The resulting novel would be called Variable Star. Who’s read it? Oh, he’s certainly won Awards. More than can be comfortably listed here. 
  • Born November 24, 1957 Denise Crosby, 62. Tasha Yar on Next Gen who got a meaningful death in “Yesterday’s Enterprise”. In other genre work, she was on The X-Files as a doctor who examined Agent Scully’s baby. And I really like it that she was in two Pink Panther films, Trail of the Pink Panther and Curse of the Pink Panther, as Denise, Bruno’s Moll. And she’s yet another Trek performer who’s done what I call Trek video fanfic. She’s Dr. Jenna Yar in “Blood and Fire: Part 2”, an episode of the only season of Star Trek: New Voyages.
  • Born November 24, 1957 John Zakour, 62. For sheer pulp pleasure, I wholeheartedly recommend his Zachary Nixon Johnson PI series which he co-wrote with Larry Ganem. Popcorn reading at its very best. It’s the only series of his I’ve read, anyone else read his other books? 
  • Born November 24, 1957 Jeff Noon, 62. Novelist and playwright. Prior to his relocation in 2000 to Brighton, his stories reflected in some way his native though not birth city of Manchester. The Vurt sequence is a very odd riff off Alice in Wonderland that Noon describes as a sequel to those works.
  • Born November 24, 1965 Shirley Henderson, 54. She was Moaning Myrtle in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. She was Ursula Blake in “ Love & Monsters!”, a Tenth Doctor story, and played Susannah in Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, a film that’s if because of the metanarrative aspect. 

(8) GAHAN WILSON IN HIS PRIME. Andrew Porter shared three photos of cartoonist Gahan Wilson from the Eighties and Nineties.

  • Color photo of Gahan Wilson in 1992. Photo by & copyright © Andrew Porter.
  • Wilson enjoying his tea in 1989.Photo by & copyright © Andrew Porter
  • Gahan Wilson with Ellen Datlow, center, and agent Merilee Heifetz, 1980s – Photo by & copyright © Andrew Porter.

(9) IDEA TRIPPING. And John Hertz would like to direct you to his favorite cartoon by Gahan Wilson (1930-2019).

If you’re hip to fanziner jokes – maybe I should’ve said hep, many of them started in the 1940s and 1950s – and the Cosmic Joker just now led me to mistype started with a instead of the second – you know we send poctsarcds.  If you don’t, you can look it up here.  Or it’s a good occasion to consult A Wealth of Fable (H. Warner, Jr., rev. 1992; see here).

Once in my fanzine Vanamonde I sleepily let stand the mistyping – or mis-mistyping – “poctsacrd”.  Jack Speer promptly sent a letter of comment “Nothing is sacrd.”

(10) WISHLIST DESTINATIONS. Paul Weimer got a huge response to his tweet – here are two examples.

(11) DOUBLE FEATURE. Abigail Nussbaum starts in the Guardian — “The Rosewater Redemption by Tade Thompson review – stunning conclusion” – and finishes in a post at her blog Asking the Wrong Questions.

Since I have more space (and fewer limitations on things like spoilers) on my own blog, I’d like to elaborate a little on the review, and particularly the sense I got that the Wormwood trilogy changed as it expanded from a standalone to a series.  When I first read Rosewater (and even more so when I reread it last month, in preparation for writing this review) I was struck by how clearly it belonged to the subgenre of “zone” science fiction.  Originating with the Strugatsky brothers’ 1972 novel Roadside Picnic (and the 1979 Tarkovsky film, Stalker, inspired by it), “zone” novels imagine that some segment of normal space has erupted into strangeness, a zone where the normal rules of physics, biology, and causality no longer apply, and whose residents–or anyone who wanders in–are irretrievably altered in some fundamental way.  The zone also represents a disruption to existing power structures, and the plots of zone novels often revolve around characters who have been dispatched by the state to infiltrate the zone in an attempt to control or at least understand it–an effort that is doomed to failure.  Recent examples of zone novels include Jeff VanderMeer’s Area X trilogy and M. John Harrison’s Kefahuchi Tract trilogy (and particularly the middle volume, Nova Swing).  I’ve even seen a persuasive argument that the HBO miniseries Chernobyl can be read as zone science fiction, because of its unreal, heightened depiction of the region around the exploded reactor, and because the effects that the unseen radiation it spews have on people, animals, and plant life in the surrounding areas track so closely with the subgenre’s central trope of cellular-level change.

(12) CRYSTAL CLEAR. Nussbaum also dives deep beneath the ice in “Make the Next Wrong Choice – Some Spoilery Frozen II Thoughts” on Tumblr.

I saw Frozen II last night.  It’s an OK movie – I didn’t love the first one very much, but I do appreciate the attempt to expand the story into a broader fantasy epic (even if it seems to borrow shamelessly from Avatar: The Last Airbender with barely even a fraction of that show’s skill at constructing plot and themes).  But I’ve been thinking about the film’s handling of the theme of ancestral wrongs and making reparations for them, and the more I do the angrier I get, so here are some spoilery observations.

(13) NO THANKS. I was wrong – better for CNN to run more impeachment coverage than this news: “Pringles unveils turducken-flavored chips for an even crispier Thanksgiving feast”.

Pringles has unveiled a seasonal food-flavored chip feast, and it’s poised to replace the whole Thanksgiving spread.

Two words: Turducken. Pringles.

No, no, it isn’t a chicken chip stuffed inside of a duck chip crammed inside of a turkey chip. There are three individual flavors, so it’s up to the snacker to determine the order.

(14) ORIGIN STORY. “Copy of First Marvel Comic Ever Made Sells for a Record $1.26M: ‘This Is the Granddaddy'”Yahoo! Entertainment has the story.

An extremely rare and nearly perfect copy of the first comic book to feature the now-iconic “Marvel Comics” name was sold for a record amount at a Texas auction on Thursday.

The issue, Marvel Comics No. 1 — published in October 1939 by Timely Comics, which would later become Marvel in the 1960s — sold for $1.26 million, the highest price ever at public auction for a comic made by the company, according to a Heritage Auctions press release.

The comic was given a 9.4 rating out of 10 by Certified Guaranty Company, and is the highest-rated copy of the issue in existence.

(15) THE ENEMY OF MY ENEMY. BBC reports “Bacterial allies make dengue fever cases dive”.

Recruiting a bacterial ally that infects mosquitoes has led to huge reductions in cases of dengue fever, trials around the world show.

Wolbachia bacteria make it harder for the insects to spread the virus, rather than kill them off.

Researchers say the findings are a “big deal” with cases falling by more than 70% in field trials.

New ways of controlling dengue are urgently needed as cases have exploded worldwide in the past 50 years.

See also NPR’s “Infecting Mosquitoes With Bacteria Could Have A Big Payoff”.

(16) RAINBOW CONNECTION. “Cinema Classics: The Wizard of Oz” on Saturday Night Live provides an alternate ending to the 1938 film.

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