Pixel Scroll 7/12/22 Pixels Come From Pixelvania

(1) WEBB WEAVINGS. NASA hosts the “First Images from the James Webb Space Telescope” at the link.

…Webb’s first observations were selected by a group of representatives from NASA, ESA, CSA, and the Space Telescope Science Institute. They reveal the capabilities of all four of Webb’s state-of-the-art scientific instruments:

  • SMACS 0723: Webb has delivered the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe so far – and in only 12.5 hours. For a person standing on Earth looking up, the field of view for this new image, a color composite of multiple exposures each about two hours long, is approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length. This deep field uses a lensing galaxy cluster to find some of the most distant galaxies ever detected. This image only scratches the surface of Webb’s capabilities in studying deep fields and tracing galaxies back to the beginning of cosmic time.
  • WASP-96b (spectrum): Webb’s detailed observation of this hot, puffy planet outside our solar system reveals the clear signature of water, along with evidence of haze and clouds that previous studies of this planet did not detect. With Webb’s first detection of water in the atmosphere of an exoplanet, it will now set out to study hundreds of other systems to understand what other planetary atmospheres are made of.
  • Southern Ring Nebula: This planetary nebula, an expanding cloud of gas that surrounds a dying star, is approximately 2,000 light years away. Here, Webb’s powerful infrared eyes bring a second dying star into full view for the first time. From birth to death as a planetary nebula, Webb can explore the expelling shells of dust and gas of aging stars that may one day become a new star or planet.
  • Stephan’s Quintet: Webb’s view of this compact group of galaxies, located in the constellation Pegasus, pierced through the shroud of dust surrounding the center of one galaxy, to reveal the velocity and composition of the gas near its supermassive black hole. Now, scientists can get a rare look, in unprecedented detail, at how interacting galaxies are triggering star formation in each other and how the gas in these galaxies is being disturbed.
  • Carina Nebula: Webb’s look at the ‘Cosmic Cliffs’ in the Carina Nebula unveils the earliest, rapid phases of star formation that were previously hidden. Looking at this star-forming region in the southern constellation Carina, as well as others like it, Webb can see newly forming stars and study the gas and dust that made them.

One of these you may have seen before — Stephan’s Quintet:

Stephan’s Quintet, a visual grouping of five galaxies, is best known for being prominently featured in the holiday classic film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Today, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope reveals Stephan’s Quintet in a new light. This enormous mosaic is Webb’s largest image to date, covering about one-fifth of the Moon’s diameter. It contains over 150 million pixels and is constructed from almost 1,000 separate image files. The information from Webb provides new insights into how galactic interactions may have driven galaxy evolution in the early universe.

(2) LEAVING THE STARTING GATE. Marina Koren says “Webb’s First View of the Universe Is Only the Beginning” in The Atlantic.

…The image, released today, was taken by the world’s newest space observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope. It is the first real snapshot from the mission, which launched more than six months ago and currently orbits about 1 million miles from Earth.

The picture is sparkly and beautiful, a great choice for a computer background. It is also, more important, an entirely new view of the universe. The light from the galaxies in the foreground left 4.6 billion years ago, and the light from the galaxies beyond those, even longer. All this light has been captured in unprecedented detail by the most powerful space telescope in history, making this one of the deepest, most high-resolution pictures of the universe that humankind has ever taken.

Astronomers call this kind of view a “deep field”: a picture of one spot in space, made with long exposure times so that the instrument can really bask in any incoming light. Remember Hubble, and that glorious deep-field image from the 1990s, sparkling with thousands of galaxies? The Webb telescope was designed to spot celestial objects that are about 100 times fainter than the ones Hubble can detect…. 

(3) MORE THAN PRETTY PICTURES. TIME Magazine thinks one of the JWST’s non-visual observations might be the most provocative: “What the James Webb Telescope Images Mean for Space”.

…Still, it was in some ways, the smallest object the telescope imaged—the exoplanet WASP-96b—that will likely cause the greatest excitement. Until now, exoplanets, or planets circling other stars, were detectable in only one of two ways: The transit method, in which astronomers discern the small dimming of light in a parent star as an orbiting planet passes in front of it; and the radial velocity method—in which they look for the small wobble in the position of the star as the gravity of the orbiting planet tugs on it.

What astronomers could never do until now was see the planet itself, since spotting so small a body in the blinding glare of its parent star would be like standing a block away and trying to see a moth fluttering next to a streetlight. The image of the smaller body would simply get washed out. And indeed, for now, Webb did not even get an image of WASP-96b itself; but what it got instead is something more important. Now that astronomers can even faintly image exoplanets, they can also look for signs of life on them, as the light from their parent star streams through their atmosphere, revealing the make-up of the gasses and the possibility of the chemical fingerprints of biology.

Webb got just such a chemical spectrum of WASP-96b, revealing that the atmosphere is rich in water, the key ingredient for life as we know it.

(4) CHICON’S ART-THEMED NEWS. Chicon 8 chair Helen Montgomery messaged members today about art exhibits and events at the 2022 Worldcon.

…Additionally, we will have two very special art exhibits courtesy of some of our other Guests of Honor, Joe Siclari and Edie Stern, and Erle Korshak. The Korshak Collection will be exhibited in the San Francisco room of the Hyatt Regency Chicago, right across the hall from the main Art Show. The Siclari/Stern Collection will be displayed within the Art Show in the Regency Ballroom. You will not want to miss these exhibits!

We will of course have our Art Show, Print Shop, and Art Auction. Artists will also be doing demos, and some will be in the Dealers Room / Creatives Corner of the Exhibit Hall. We are working on scheduling docent tours of the Art Show, and we are going to have a “Meet The Artist” event in the Art Show on Friday evening, where you will have the opportunity to talk to the artists about their work.

Chicon 8 will also be hosting The Chesley Awards on Friday evening of the convention in the Crystal Ballroom. The Chesley Awards are administered and presented by ASFA: The Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists. https://asfa-art.com/the-chesley-awards/

(5) IN LIVING COLOR. The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibit “Chroma: Ancient Sculpture in Color”, about rediscovering the paint jobs that originally adorned ancient sculpture, continues through March 26, 2023.

“Ancient Greek and Roman sculpture was once colorful, vibrantly painted and richly adorned with detailed ornamentation. Chroma: Ancient Sculpture in Color reveals the colorful backstory of polychromy—meaning “many colors,” in Greek—and presents new discoveries of surviving ancient color on artworks in The Met’s world-class collection. Exploring the practices and materials used in ancient polychromy, the exhibition highlights cutting-edge scientific methods used to identify ancient color and examines how color helped convey meaning in antiquity, and how ancient polychromy has been viewed and understood in later periods.

The exhibition features a series of reconstructions of ancient sculptures in color by Prof. Dr. V. Brinkmann, Head of the Department of Antiquity at the Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, and Dr. U. Koch-Brinkmann.”

(6) NOT A GOOD ATMOSPHERE FOR ARTISTS. Anime News Network rips “The Irresponsible Management of This Year’s Artist Alley – Anime Expo 2022” in this July 7 article. (The CO2 numbers are at the link.)

…Of course, there are many factors involved in community spread [of COVID], including vaccination (which doesn’t guarantee against infection, but drastically reduces one’s chance of hospitalization and death), mask usage (which is most effective when both parties are masked, especially the one who is infectious), mask type and fit, and environmental factors such as ventilation and airflow. Regarding the first two, Anime Expo briefly changed their COVID safety guidelines in early June, but eventually reverted their decision, requiring that all attendees either show proof of full COVID vaccination or a negative test taken within 72 hours, and asking that everyone wear a mask in all indoor spaces….

Another community spread factor, though, is ventilation. Transmission is reduced in outdoor settings where airflow tends to be high, but in indoor spaces, ventilation can vary drastically depending on different components. One attendee, who goes by the Twitter handle @nickelpin, was curious what the ventilation was like in various areas of the convention center, so she brought along a portable carbon dioxide monitor. The usage of CO2 monitors has been increasing in popularity—scientists and other data enthusiasts have been taking readings of places like airplanes and event spaces; parents have been sending their kids back to school with CO2 monitors to check the ventilation of classrooms….

…Outside of Day 1 heat-related effects, some artists reported feeling ill throughout the weekend with various non-COVID symptoms that subsided after they left the convention center each day. Since the end of the convention, a spreadsheet being shared amongst Artist Alley participants has shown increasing numbers of artists self-reporting headaches, drowsiness, and trouble concentrating, which could potentially be related to the high levels of CO2 in Kentia Hall.

One veteran artist who wanted to remain anonymous told us she had two panic attacks and a spell of nausea and vertigo, and had to rely on helpers so that she could take breaks outside the convention center. “It was worst on Saturday and Sunday, just kinda feeling like you’re breathing but not actually getting air.” She said her booth was located near a wall with three feet of space behind her, which made it more unusual to her that she felt she couldn’t breathe. She confirmed that she had not felt this way at other conventions or previous Anime Expos….

(7) HOW ABOUT THOSE HUGO-NOMINATED NOVELETTES? Cora Buhlert joined the Hugos There podcast again as part of a panel discussing the finalists for the 2022 Hugo Award for Best Novelette. Tthe audio only link is here.

(8) THE UNAVOIDABLE MESSAGE. Oliver Brackenbury has posted part II of his interview with David C. Smith at the So I’m Writing a Novel podcast: “Interview with David C. Smith (Part Two)”.

In this half we discuss the 80’s sword & sorcery publishing implosion, the importance of adapting to changing tastes and not just telling the same limited range of stories ad infinitum, how expanding something – like a genre’s possibilities – means more and doesn’t take away what’s already there that people like, the fallacy of thinking you can write a story with no theme or message or opinions or “politics” in it, David’s latest novel (Sometime Lofty Towers), avoiding the white savior pitfall and otherwise best practices when writing fictional indigenous peoples, the history of The Other in western civilization, cultural appropriation, writing outside “the usual sword & sorcery template”…

(9) PASSPORT TO NYUMBANI. Bill Ward shares his appreciation for “Charles R. Saunders’ Nyumbani Tales” at the Goodman Games blog: 

…But myths aren’t of course all grim sacrifice and heroic tragedy, and many of the strongest pieces in Nyumbani Tales are humorous accounts of tricksters, frauds, and con men. Fan favorite Pomphis the Bambuti, Imaro’s diminutive companion, appears in two of the most fun tales in the collection: “The Blacksmith and the Bambuti” and “Pomphis and the Poor Man,” exhibiting both the cleverness and the kindness that is a hallmark of his character. In “Two Rogues” a pair of grifters engage one another in cross and double-cross, complete with sorcery, a poison-gas-assisted heist, and a shape-shifted hippo. And it would be difficult to find a better – and funnier – story reinforcing that old adage of ‘be careful what you wish for’ than “Okosene Alakun and the Magic Guinea Fowl.”…

(10)  NOT JUST AN ILLUSION. Bobby Derie takes a look at Harry Houdini’s connection to Weird Tales in “Deeper Cut: Houdini & Weird Tales” at Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein. 

Chicago, 1923

Now long after I had inaugurated Weird Tales, I had a call by Houdini at my Chicago office; he expressed more than usual enthusiasm for the magazine, and the meeting resulted in a friendship lasting until his untimely death a few years later. He often regaled me with experiences of his that rivaled anything I had ever read in books. Several of these I published, but they were written in such a prosaic style that they evoked little comment.

J.C. Henneberger to Robert A. W. Lowndes, Magazine of Horror (May 1969) 117

(11) SHORT MARATHON. Cora Buhlert reports, “I’m also doing the July short story challenge again this year, where I write a story every day during the month of July, and I keep a running tally here –” “The 2022 July Short Story Challenge – Day by Day”.

…What is the July Short Story Challenge, you ask? Well, in July 2015, Dean Wesley Smith announced that he was planning to write a brand new short story every day during the month of July. The original post seems to be gone now, but the Wayback Machine has a copy here. At the time, several people announced that they would play along, so I decided to give it a try as well. And then I did it again the following year. And the next. And the next. If you want to read my post-mortems of the previous July short story challenges, here are the posts for 201520162017201820192020 and 2021.

Because I’ve already done the July short story challenge seven years in a row now and always found the experience very rewarding, I’m aiming for a repeat this year. This July is a very busy month for me, never mind that I caught a persistent and annoying cold (not covid, I did a test). Therefore I initially only committed to doing this for a single week, which is already finished, and now I’m going for the second week. Then, if things are going well, I’ll keep going….

(12) MEMORY LANE

1924 [By Cat Eldridge.] Once upon a time, well back in 1924, the noted Anglo-Irish writer Lord Dunsany saw his novel The King of Elfland’s Daughter published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons. It is considered to be one of the most influential and acclaimed works in all of fantasy literature, and a paperback edition was released in 1969 as part of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series. 

Now many of you will recognize Steeleye Span, the famed British folk rock band founded in 1969 by Fairport Convention bass player Ashley Hutchings along with Tim Hart and Maddy Prior. (Maddy is the only musician still with it today.) Steeleye had more musicians coming through it than your typical publisher has associate publicists. One of those of was violinist Peter Knight who was with it for much its existence and left a decade back. 

(Yes, it was where Richard Thompson first got his start.) 

Like so many musicians, side-projects were a way of life and Knight was no exception. So, The King of Elfland’s Daughter narration was born with the assistance of Bob Johnson, another Steeleye musician, and a very special guest artist who you will all know. 

Now I don’t need to tell you this tale as Kestrell Rath already has done so for us over at Green Man quite delightfully. Just go read it here.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 12, 1895 Buckminster Fuller. Genre adjacent and I don’t believe that he actually wrote any SF though one could argue that Tetrascroll: Goldilocks and the Three Bears, A Cosmic Fairy Tale is genre. You will find his terminology used frequently in genre fiction including if memory serves right in Neal Asher’s Polity universe. (Died 1983.)
  • Born July 12, 1912 Joseph Mugnaini. An Italian born artist and illustrator. He is best known for his collaborations with writer Ray Bradbury, beginning in 1952. (Died 1992.)
  • Born July 12, 1923 James Gunn. Writer, editor, scholar, anthologist. Hugo winner at ConStellation (1983) for Isaac Asimov: The Foundations of Science Fiction. MidAmeriCon (1976) presented him with a Special Committee Award for Alternate Worlds: The Illustrated History of Science Fiction. The This Immortal series based on his novel by that name received a Best Dramatic Presentation nomination at Heicon ’70. Not surprisingly, he won a First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 12, 1933 Donald E. Westlake. Though he specialized in crime fiction, he did dip into the genre on occasion such as with Transylvania Station with a lovely cover by Gahan Wilson.  You can think of it as a Clue style novel.  With monsters. He wrote with his wife Abby. On the horror end of things was Anarchaos. And he wrote a lot of genre short fiction, some fifty pieces by my count. Meteor Strike: Science Fiction Triple Feature has three of his SF stories is available from the usual suspects for ninety-nine cents. (Died 2008.)
  • Born July 12, 1946 Charles R. Saunders. African-American author and journalist who lived in Canada, much of his fiction is set in the fictional continent Nyumbani (which means “home” in Swahili). His main series is the Imaro novels which he called the first sword and sorcery series by a black writer. Griots, both of his short story collections, are available from the usual suspects and collect the material set in Nyumbani. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 12, 1947 Carl Lundgren, 75. He co-founded ASFA (Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists of America), and won 4 Chesleys, including Artistic Achievement. At the tender age of eighteen, he was co-chairman of the first media SF convention, The Detroit Triple Fan Fair which featured comics, movies and various things of a SF nature. At Chicon IV, he was nominated for Best Professional Artist but lost out to Michael Whelan.
  • Born July 12, 1948 Ben Burtt, 74. Sound Designer for, and I’m not listing them all, more Star Wars films and series than I knew existed, plus the rebooted Star TrekStar Trek Into DarknessJohn Carter (yes, I really like it), WALL-E, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (no, I don’t like it) to name but a few. He has some acting creds as well such as when in the Return of the Jedi, he appeared as Colonel Dyer, the Imperial officer who yells “Freeze!” just before Solo knocks him off a balcony. 
  • Born July 12, 1970 Phil Jimenez, 52. Comics illustrator and writer. He was the main artist of Infinite Crisis, a sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths. He also did the awesome first issue of Planetary/Authority: Ruling the World, and was responsible for the first six issues of Fables spin-off, Fairest. I found that spin-off a lot of fun. Yes, I read all of Fables
  • Born July 12, 1976 Gwenda Bond, 46. Writer, critic, editor. She’s written a prequel to the Stranger Things series, Suspicious Mind, and I’m very fond of the two novels (The Lost Legacy and The Sphinx’s Secret) so far in her Supernormal Sleuthing Service which she wrote with her husband Christopher Rowe. And she penned the “Dear Aunt Gwenda” section of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet that Small Beer Press published in the early part of this millennium. And yes, she’s one of the multitudes that has written for the Wild Cards anthologies.

(14) LEIBER AND DELANY. At Attack of the 50 Year Old Comic Books, Alan Stewart remembers how he was taken by surprise by “Wonder Woman #202 (Sep.-Oct. 1972)”. First there were —

…science fiction and fantasy author Fritz Lieber’s sword-and-sorcery heroes, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.  What the heck were those guys doing on the cover of any DC comic book — let alone Wonder Woman

And then!

…The first was that I was coming in in the middle of an ongoing storyline.  The second was that the costumed woman Diana Prince was battling on the book’s cover was evidently Catwoman, wearing an outfit which, while not actually new, was unfamiliar to my fifteen-year-old self.  The third was that the script was by Samuel R. Delany — an author who, like Fritz Lieber, I hadn’t actually read anything by yet, but whom I nevertheless knew to be an award-winning young science fiction writer, associated with the same “New Wave” of more experimental, “literary” authors that also included Harlan Ellison and Michael Moorcock.  As much if not more so than Fafhrd and the Mouser, “Chip” Delany’s showing up in the present context seemed highly incongruous; really, what was the writer of the Hugo and Nebula-winning story “Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones” doing scripting an issue of Wonder Woman?

(15) HORROR TROPES 101. Eva V. Gibson supplies “A Beginner’s Guide to Using (and Exploding) Horror Tropes” at CrimeReads.

…You see that knife on the book cover, you know you’ll find it, or its metaphorical equivalent, somewhere in the pages—and if it doesn’t show up, don’t you feel cheated? Well-executed tropes are used in horror stories for that specific reason: to deliver on those promises and evoke the feelings triggered by the introduction.

Effective trope use does, however, often require going beyond the basics. The techniques of trope usage in horror writing, as opposed to visual media, rely primarily on setting, mood building, plot twists, and tension to produce those promised chills. Some of my favorite tropes to use when writing horror are also my favorite to read, because they nearly always deliver the same impact across all forms of media….

(16) WILL THE STANDARD MODEL CAVE? “Physicists May Have Stumbled Upon an Entirely New Elementary Particle”Popular Mechanics explains.

Physicists are spelunking the complex findings from an experimental particle reactor found a mile below the surface in the mountains of Russia. What they found has the potential to send an earthquake through the bedrock of the standard model of physics itself: the results could confirm a new elementary particle, called a “sterile neutrino,” or demonstrate a need to revise a portion of the standard model….

(17) DANNY DUNN AND THE HOMEWORK MACHINE? “Artificial Intelligence Bot Wrote Scientific Paper in 2 Hours” and Insider asks about the issues that raised.

…After the successful experiment, Thunström, a Swedish researcher at Gothenburg University, sought to get a whole research paper out of GPT-3 and publish it in a peer-reviewed academic journal. The question was: Can someone publish a paper from a nonhuman source? 

Thunström wrote about the experiment in Scientific American, noting that the process of getting GPT-3 published brought up a series of legal and ethical questions. 

“All we know is, we opened a gate,” Thunström wrote. “We just hope we didn’t open a Pandora’s box.”

After GPT-3 completed its scientific paper in just two hours, Thunström began the process of submitting the work and had to ask the algorithm if it consented to being published.

“It answered: Yes,” Thunström wrote. “Slightly sweaty and relieved (if it had said no, my conscience could not have allowed me to go on further), I checked the box for ‘Yes.'” 

She also asked if it had any conflicts of interest, to which the algorithm replied “no,” and Thunström wrote that the authors began to treat GPT-3 as a sentient being, even though it wasn’t…. 

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge,” Fandom Games says that this game is really close to the arcade game Turtles In Time.  How close?  I’d say what they think IP lawyers will react to in the game but this is a family blog.  But the story is only one line — “Destroy the turtles!”– and the game is a reminder of how, 30 years ago, “You were still capable of experiencing joy.”

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

Pixel Scroll 7/8/22 Doctor Scroll In The Multipixel Of Madness

(1) IN SUIT OVER CONTROLLED DIGITAL LENDING PARTIES FILE FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT. This week both parties to the lawsuit over “controlled digital lending” — four publishers on one side and the Internet Archive on the other — filed motions for summary judgment Publishers Weekly reports: “Publishers, Internet Archive File Dueling Summary Judgment Motions in Scan Suit”. A motion for summary judgment asks the court to render a decision on the record already submitted.

The battle lines have now been drawn in a potentially landmark lawsuit over the scanning and lending of books. In a motion for summary judgment filed this week, lawyers for Hachette, HarperCollins, Wiley, and Penguin Random House argue that the Internet Archive’s controversial program to scan and lend books under an untested legal theory known as “controlled digital lending” is a massive piracy operation “masquerading as a not-for-profit library.” And in a dueling motion for summary judgment, the Internet Archive counters that its scanning and lending program does not harm authors and publishers and is a public good protected by fair use.

Copies of both parties’ motions are available online, the publishers motion here, and the Internet Archive’s motion here.

The publishers contend Internet Archive’s practices violate copyright law:

…Yet Internet Archive assumes that all “information should be free” and has searched for years to find a legal rationale for its radical infringements. Around 2018, it helped manufacture and market a theory called “controlled digital lending” or “CDL,” which was developed with no input from authors or publishers and without the imprimatur of Congress. Directly contradicting the idea that copyright protects a bundle of divisible rights, IA posits that it is lawful for a library to make digital copies of any print book it acquires and distribute that digital copy over the internet, without a license, as long as (a) the library uses digital rights management (“DRM”) technology to prevent additional copying, and (b) the library “only loan[s] simultaneously the number of [print] copies that it has legitimately acquired.” SUMF¶436. Regardless of whether it actually complies with CDL – and it does not – Internet Archive’s practice of CDL violates fundamental principles of copyright law, and undermines market incentives necessary to spur the creation of new works…

The Internet Archive’s motion gives this explanation of Controlled Digital Lending:

…CDL is fundamentally the same as traditional library lending; it’s just a better way of getting the book to the one patron who borrowed it. Because every book in the Internet Archive’s print collection has already been bought and paid for, everyone agrees the Internet Archive could loan those books by handing or mailing them to a patron.  The only difference is that the Internet Archive is loaning the books over the Internet.  Either way, the books on loan are not available to other patrons until they are returned….

The Electronic Frontier Foundation issued a press release supporting the Internet Archive’s motion: “Internet Archive Seeks Summary Judgment in Federal Lawsuit Filed By Publishing Companies”.

“The publishers are not seeking protection from harm to their existing rights. They are seeking a new right foreign to American copyright law: the right to control how libraries may lend the books they own,” said EFF Legal Director Corynne McSherry. “They should not succeed. The Internet Archive and the hundreds of libraries and archives that support it are not pirates or thieves. They are librarians, striving to serve their patrons online just as they have done for centuries in the brick-and-mortar world. Copyright law does not stand in the way of a library’s right to lend its books to its patrons, one at a time.”

(2) IT CAUGHT ON IN A FLASH. Space Cowboy Books presents an “Online Flash Science Fiction Reading” on July 19 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Register for free here.

Join us online for an evening of short science fiction readings with authors Douglas A. Banc, Ricardo Victoria, and Adele Gardner. Flash Science Fiction Nights run 30 minutes or less, and are a fun and great way to learn about new authors from around the world.

(3) MUSK TO TWITTER: EJECT! “Elon Musk tells Twitter he wants out of his deal to buy it” reports CNN.

Elon Musk wants to terminate his $44 billion deal to buy Twitter — the latest in a whirlwind process in which the billionaire Tesla CEO became the company’s biggest shareholder, turned down a board seat, agreed to buy the social media platform and then started raising doubts about going through with the deal. The next chapter in the saga is almost certain to be a court battle.

Musk claimed in a letter to Twitter (TWTR)’s top lawyer that he is ending the deal because Twitter (TWTR) is “in material breach of multiple provisions” of the original agreement, which was signed in April, according to a regulatory filing Friday evening.

Musk has for weeks expressed concerns, without any apparent evidence, that there are a greater number of bots and spam accounts on the platform than Twitter has said publicly. Analysts have speculated that the concerns may be an attempt to create a pretext to get out of a deal he may now see as overpriced, after Twitter shares and the broader tech market have declined in recent weeks. Tesla (TSLA) stock, which Musk was planning to rely on in part to finance the deal, has also declined sharply since he agreed to the deal….

(4) SOCIETY OF ILLUSTRATORS. An exhibit of top African-American artists in the comic book industry, “The Artist’s Experience: from Brotherman to Batman”, is being hosted by the Society of Illustrators through October 29.

The Society of Illustrators has announced a dynamic installation on display in the museum that delves between the pages of comic books and explores the artists’ process. “The Artist’s Experience: From Brotherman to Batman” on display from June 15 through October 29, 2022. The exhibit celebrates some of the top African-American artists in the comic book industry, and was co-curated by renowned culture journalist and writer Karama Horne (Marvel’s Protectors of Wakanda: A History and Training Manual of the Dora Milaje) and Eisner Award-nominated artist and writer Shawn Martinbrough (How to Draw Noir Comics: The Art and Technique of Visual Storytelling, Thief of Thieves, Red Hood), whose work will be featured along with over sixteen other talented artists.

… Also featured are Eisner Award-winning artists Afua Richardson (Black Panther World of Wakanda, HBO’s Lovecraft Country), Alitha Martinez (Batgirl, World of Wakanda) and John Jennings (Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower), as well as veteran artists Larry Stroman (Alien Legion, X-Factor) and Darryl Banks (Green Lantern).

Artwork from award-winning artist Ronald Wimberly, founder of the experimental art magazine THE LAAB (whose Prince of Cats graphic novel is currently being adapted to film by Spike Lee), Khary RandolphJamal Igle, Micheline Hess, Sanford Greene, Eric Battle, Marcus Williams, Chuck Collins, Damion Scott and Robyn Smith will all be on display, as well.

(5) TOLL ON LIBRARY WORKERS. “Groundbreaking Study Explores Trauma, Stress in Frontline Library Workers”Publishers Weekly gives an overview.

The 2022 Urban Libraries Unite Trauma Study draws upon a wide-ranging literature review, survey responses from more than 435 urban library workers (conducted between August and September 2021), focus groups, and a two-day forum. The final report paints a vivid picture of the difficult working conditions facing many urban librarians and library workers, as well as a promising framework through which the library community can begin to address its needs.

“It is clear that there is a crisis of trauma in urban public libraries and the evidence for this is so overwhelmingly compelling that it seems likely that trauma impacts work in libraries of all types across the profession,” reads the report’s conclusion. “It is also clear from the literature search and the conversations that created this report’s conclusions that the library profession is starting to wake up to this deeply corrosive crisis.”

The report describes a range of violent or aggressive patron behavior toward library workers, including racist and sexist verbal abuse, harassment, physical assault including having guns and other weapons brandished, and drug and alcohol issues including overdoses. In addition, library workers reported significant instances of “secondary trauma” from constant interactions with community members (including children) struggling with poverty, homelessness, mental illness, or drug abuse….

(6) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to join David Gerrold for a breakfast buffet on episode 175 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

David Gerrold

Now it’s time for breakfast with David Gerrold, who I first encountered when I was 12, because I saw the Star Trek episode scripted by him, “The Trouble with Tribbles,” when it first aired in 1967. And they say 12 is the Golden Age of science fiction, right?

But David is so much more than that famed episode. He’s the author of more than 50 books, hundreds of articles and columns, and numerous hours of television. His TV credits include episodes from Star Trek (such as the aforementioned “The Trouble With Tribbles” and “The Cloud Minders”), Star Trek Animated (“More Tribbles, More Troubles” and “Bem”), Babylon 5 (“Believers”), Twilight Zone (“A Day In Beaumont” and “A Saucer Of Loneliness”), Land Of The Lost (“Cha-Ka,” “The Sleestak God,” “Hurricane,” “Possession,” and “Circle”), Tales From The Darkside (“Levitation” and “If The Shoes Fit”), Logan’s Run (“Man Out Of Time”), and others.

His novels include When HARLIE Was One (which I believe was the first prose of his I read, at age 17), The Man Who Folded HimselfThe War Against The Chtorr septology, The Star Wolf trilogy, and The Dingilliad young adult trilogy, the Trackers duology, and many more. The autobiographical tale of his son’s adoption, “The Martian Child,” won the Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette of the Year and was the basis for the 2007 movie, Martian Child.  He was the 2022 winner of the Robert A. Heinlein Award, which was presented during Balticon.

We discussed what he means by “humility in the face of excellence,” the curse of fame and why J. D. Salinger may have had the right idea, how the more you know the slower you write, the challenge of living up to having won the Heinlein Award (and why Heinlein once called him “a very nasty man”), the scariest story he ever wrote, how Sarah Pinsker helped him understand what he really felt about Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” the kind of person he might have been had he not moved to L.A. as a kid, the fannish way he found out he’d been nominated for a Hugo Award, how it feels to already know what the headline of his obituary will be, and much more.

(7) TOM FABER ON VIDEO GAMES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber recalls seeing Braveheart with his cousin, who asked, “Where are all the wizards?”

On surveying my collection of fantasy movies and video games the next day, I realized that almost all of them were set in a place that resembled 13th-century Scotland, from Lord Of The Rings to Skyrim to Game Of Thrones.  Given that fantasy is the only genre that gives writers unlimited creative licence to dream up the wildest worlds, why do we see the same tired cliches again and again?…

…This is finally starting to change with the emergence of game developers outside the conventional industry hubs who are weaving new fantasies from the threads of their own history and myths.  Earlier this year, Mexican studio Lienzo released Aztech:  Forgotten Gods, which imagines a sci-fi world in which the Aztecs were never conquered.  Rafi:  An Ancient Epic incorporates Hindu mythology and draws inspiration fro the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Maori developer Naphtali Faulkner created the stylish Umurangi Generation, a photo game set in a near-future New Zealand. Meanwhile, Aurion:  Legacy of the Kori-Odan and the ambitious upcoming game The Wagada Chronicles both explore complex African mythologies.

(8) NOT JUST ANY STREAM. “Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London novels are set for TV adaptation” – the Guardian tells about the deal.

A new partnership will bring together all nine of the novels, plus the accompanying short stories, novellas and graphic novels, for the screen.

Rivers of London is part urban fantasy, part police procedural, centring on detective constable Peter Grant. A newly graduated police officer from London, he is recruited in the first book by wizard and inspector Thomas Nightingale to the Folly, a police unit working on supernatural crimes, after an encounter with a ghost….

(9) DIRDA ON BOOKS OF INTEREST TO FANS. Michael Dirda reviews three volumes of Folio Society collections of Marvel comics and three volumes of Penguin Marvel collections. He also reviews a book called Cosplay which is a history of cosplayers going back to Worldcon masquerades. “Marvel comics in updated editions from Penguin and Folio, reviewed” in the Washington Post.

…All this past spring, then, I was eagerly looking forward to recapturing some of that ancient enchantment by immersing myself in six colorful volumes of Marvel superhero comics: three Penguin Classics collections of the early adventures of Spider-ManCaptain America and Black Panther, and three Folio Society best-of collections devoted to Spider-Man, Captain America and Hulk.

For fans, both series are desirable and contain little overlap. The general editor of the Penguin editions, Ben Saunders, a comics scholar from the University of Oregon, provides historical background on how Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and others co-created these modern legends. Contemporary writers such as Qiana J. Whitted, Gene Luen Yang, Jason Reynolds and Nnedi Okorafor contribute additional introductions or winningly personal forewords. Appendixes feature recommended reading lists and sometimes supplemental essays, such as Don McGregor’s memoir of how he wrote the multi-issue “Panther’s Rage,” which supplied some of the plot elements to the “Black Panther” movie. Each of these collectible Penguin hardbacks runs to roughly 350 pages and is priced at $50. Paperback editions cost $28.

The Folio Society volumes cost $125 apiece, but for purists they offer a slightly more authentic reading experience….

…At least, I continue to be childishly delighted by adult cosplay, the practice of dressing up as a favorite fictional or cinematic character. As our troubled superheroes know, donning a mask can be liberating, a way of releasing one’s deeper self. Appropriately, Andrew Liptak’s opens his chatty “Cosplay: A History” by looking at costume balls, historical reenactors, Halloween and the tradition of masquerade night at science-fiction conventions. Still, his heart really belongs to the Star Wars franchise.

(10) R. C. HARVEY (1937-2022). Cartoonist Robert C. Harvey, a respected comics historian and columnist, died July 7. His autobiographical intro at The Comics Journal sums up an incredible career.

Harv’s first foray into expository text was with a column in the fondly recalled Menomonee Falls Gazette (a weekly newspaper of comic strips) in the fall of 1973. A couple years later, he launched his Comicopia column in No.130 of the Rocket’s Blast – ComiCollector, which, by then, had been taken over by James Van Hise from Gordon Love, the founder. For RB-CC, he created a mock comicbook superhero, Zero Hero.

In March 1980, Harvey abandoned early columns and started writing for The Comics Journal, with a new effort, The Reticulated Rainbow, starting in No. 54 and continuing regularly under various titles for an insufferably long time. By the time he was in his eighties, Harv’d become, probably, the Journal contributor with the greatest longevity.

Bob also was a longtime contributor to Jud Hurd’s Cartoonist PROfiles magazine, The Thompson’s Comics Buyer’s Guide, Hogan’s Alley, and Nemo, the Classic Comics Library, among others. He also contributed to the early version of the scholarly comics publication Inks. The R.C. Harvey archives for The Comics Journal can be accessed here, and his recent Humor Times columns are here.

Harvey has written or collected and edited thirteen books on comics and cartooning, including his Milton Caniff: Conversations (2002) from the University Press of Mississippi, followed by a full biography of Caniff, Meanwhile… A Biography of Milton Caniff, Creator of Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon (2007) published by Fantagraphics. His most recent book is Insider Histories of Cartooning: Rediscovering Forgotten Famous Comics and Their Creators (2014) from UPM. A complete list of his books appears at his website.

Harvey still has two books scheduled to be released this Fall. He annotated the current Fantagraphics Complete Pogo series giving context to references in Walt Kelly’s comic strip, Volume Eight will arrive with R.C.’s contribution. He has also wrote and assembled The Art and History of Popeye due later this year.

(11) LARRY STORCH (1923-2022). Actor Larry Storch died July 8 at the age of 99. His most famous role was the scheming Corporal Agarn of F Troop (1965-1967). His genre work included co-starring with Bob Burns (who wore a gorilla costume) and Forrest Tucker on the Saturday morning children’s show The Ghost Busters. Storch appeared in more than 25 films, including The Monitors (1969, based on a Keith Laumer novel), and Without Warning (1980). He voiced characters in animated shows such as Merlin the Magic Mouse and Cool Cat. In Journey Back to Oz he voiced Aunt Em and Uncle Henry’s farmhand Amos.

(12) KAZUKI OBITIARY. Yu-Gi-Oh! creator Takahashi Kazuki hwas found dead at sea says Deadline. He was 60.

Takahashi Kazuki, the creative force behind manga trading card and Japanese entertainment franchise Yu-Gi-Oh!, has been found dead, according to local public broadcaster NHK.

It was reported Takahashi, whose real name is Kazuo Takahashi, was discovered floating while in snorkeling gear in near Okinawa Prefecture in Japan on Wednesday. A coast guard is looking into the cause of death.

Takahashi began as a manga artist in the 1980s and found success in 1996 when he created manga comic series Yu-Gi-Oh! and began serializing it in Weekly Shonen Jump magazine. He later outlined the rules for an accompanying trading card game.

The franchise grew to span several TV shows, manga spin-offs and video games and is now one of the highest-grossing of all time….

(13) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

2003 [By Cat Eldridge.] Some amazingly strange series come out of Canada. So it is with the Alienated series that debuted nineteen years ago this day on the Space network in Canada. It lasted for two seasons and a mere twenty-two episodes.

I’ve no idea who created it since, in true Heinleinian fashion, the serial numbers seem to have been completely filed off. 

It was a comedy centered on a stereotypical suburban family living in Victoria, British Columbia who undergo strange and often overtly sexual changes (all nudity was pixillated) after being abducted by aliens. The mother was played by Sarah-Jane Redmond best remembered  as Lucy Butler on the Millennium series and the father was played by Johnathan Whittaker who later shows on up The Expanse as Sec-Gen Gillis.

I think it was, to say the least, not aimed at all at being tasteful based on episode titles of the likes of “Where’s the Vagina?”, “Hard to Keep a Good Man Down” and “Where’s the Saltpeter?”. I have no idea what time of the evening it was broadcast in but I’m betting it was later on.

Critics, the few who actually bothered with reviewing it, found it entertaining. It never got a proper wrap-up as it was cancelled in the way so many of these low rated series are — in the middle of the night when no one is looking.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 8, 1914 Hans Stefan Santesson. Trifecta of editor, writer, and reviewer. He edited Fantastic Universe from 1956 to 1960, and the US edition of the British New Worlds Science Fiction. In the Sixties, he edited a lot of anthologies including The Fantastic Universe OmnibusThe Mighty Barbarians: Great Sword and Sorcery Heroes and Crime Prevention in the 30th Century. As a writer, he had a handful of short fiction, none of which is available digitally. His reviews appear to be all in Fantastic Universe in the Fifties. (Died 1975.)
  • Born July 8, 1933 — Michael Barrier, 89. One of the few actors not a regular crew member on the original Trek who shows in multiple episodes under the same name. He was DeSalle in “The Squire of Gothos”, “This Side of Paradise” and “Catspaw”. While he has the same name each time, he does not have the same shipboard job as he serves as a navigator in the first episode, a biologist in “This Side of Paradise” and assistant chief engineer in “Catspaw”. 
  • Born July 8, 1942 — Otto Penzler, 80. He’s proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City who edits anthologies. Oh does he edit them, over fifty that I know of, some of genre interest including The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories, Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! and The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories which an original Lester Dent story in it. Back in the Seventies, with Chris Steinbrunner, he co-wrote the Encyclopedia of Mystery and Detection for which they won an Edgar Award.
  • Born July 8, 1951 Anjelica Huston, 71. I’m going to single her out for her performance as The Grand High Witch of All The World, or Eva Ernst in The Witches, a most delicious film. She was also wonderful as Morticia Addams in both of the Addams Family films, and made an interesting Viviane, Lady of the Lake in The Mists of Avalon miniseries. 
  • Born July 8, 1955 Susan Price, 67. English author of children’s and YA novels. She has won both the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Prize for British children’s books. The Pagan Mars trilogy is her best known work, and The Sterkarm Handshake and its sequel A Sterkarm Kiss, will please Outlander fans.
  • Born July 8, 1958 Kevin Bacon, 64. The role I best remember him for is Valentine “Val” McKee in Tremors. He also played Jack Burrell in Friday the 13th, David Labraccio in the most excellent Flatliners and Sebastian Caine in Hollow Man

(15) TUTTLE’S PICKS. “The best recent science fiction and fantasy – review roundup” by Lisa Tuttle in the Guardian. Covers The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia; Thrust by Lidia Yuknavitch; The Ballad of Perilous Graves by Alex Jennings; Life Ceremony by Sayaka Murata and Old Country by Matt and Harrison Query

(16) SUPER-PETS CASTING. “The Good Place star confirmed as Wonder Woman in new DC movie”Digital Spy knows her name.

DC has got itself a new Wonder Woman, with The Good Place‘s Jameela Jamil confirmed as the voice of Diana Prince’s super alter-ego in DC’s League of Super-Pets.

(17) BIG NUMBERS. “Six Flags Magic Mountain to debut record-breaking Wonder Woman coaster”KTLA has details.

WONDER WOMAN Flight of Courage will take riders on a thrilling adventure for the very first time next Saturday, July 16.

Riders will reach speeds of up to 58 mph and can expect a steep climb up a 131-foot hill, an intense 87-degree drop and three inversions (like a loop) along the coaster’s 3,300-foot track.

Before boarding, those waiting in the Greek-inspired ride queue will be treated to immersive storytelling and a deep dive of the comic book heroine’s history and greatest accomplishments…

(18) IT WILL TAKE YOU THERE. “‘Portals will be as important as the car’: the architects exploring gateways to new dimensions” at the Guardian.

…The examples range from the rabbit-hole in Alice in Wonderland and the wardrobe in the Narnia books, to Dr Who’s Tardis, Back to the Future’s DeLorean and Platform 9¾ in Harry Potter, via all manner of holes, mirrors, cracks, bridges and “energy frames” found in sci-fi and fantasy fiction. Their timeline tells an eye-opening story, charting the explosion of portals after the second world war, marked by the likes of The Sentinel by Arthur C Clarke (which formed the basis of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey), the Wayback Machine in Peabody’s Improbable History, and the tollbooth from the 1961 book The Phantom Tollbooth, written by architect Norton Juster.

The following period, leading up to the cold war and the space race, saw portals take the form of massive energy-intensive machines and weapons built in the battle for world domination. They highlight the 1960s TV series The Time Tunnel, where thousands of people work under the desert surface on a secret megastructure, which would allow the US military to travel in time, noting how its iconic spiral design went on to inspire countless portals in future stories. The period after the cold war, meanwhile, saw portals serve more satirical and comical roles in lowbrow sci-fi and family movies – such as the phone booth in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, or the people-eating television in the 1980s body horror film Videodrome.

They found one of the most recurring types of portal to be the “portable hole”, first featured in the Looney Toons cartoon The Hole Idea in 1955, in which a scientist demonstrates his device for rescuing a baby from a safe, cheating at golf and escaping from housework. It later appears in the Beatles’ film Yellow Submarine, in the form of the Sea of Holes, as well as in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, reaching a hole-studded peak in the 1985 Marvel cartoon character, Spot – whose body is covered in portals…

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Stranger Things Season 4 Pitch Meeting”, Ryan Geroge, in a spoiler-packed episode, says the villain this season is a guy who is bald, strong, doesn’t have a nose, and is clearly not Voldemort,  Also several characters manage to remain alive by not explicitly dying in front of the camera during their death scenes.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/21/22 And When The File Breaks The Pixel Will Scroll

(1) SDCC REPORTS LOSS; ALSO WARNED BY STATE ABOUT UNFILED RETURNS. Petréa Mitchell at SMOF News broke the story to her readers that San Diego Comic-Con’s nonprofit corporation suffered an $8 million loss in 2020, and has been warned by the state of California the corporation is delinquent in filing some required federal tax returns and reports due to the state, as reported by the Times of San Diego: “Double-Whammy for Comic-Con: $8M Loss and Threat to State Tax Exemption”. The 2020 loss is declared below in the screencap of a California Annual Renewal Registration Fee form they have filed.

Comic-Con is at risk of losing its nonprofit status, the state says, only days after the giant tourism draw signed up with IMG in a licensing deal amid a reported $8 million loss in COVID-stricken 2020….

But last Nov. 18, Comic-Con filed its annual registration renewal fee report, which said it had $3.97 million gross revenue in 2020, when the pandemic forced suspension of Comic-Con. Its gross expenses that year were $11.98 million. (Its total assets were $42.4 million.)

The letter to Comic-Con said it has until May 15 to file a state form. Bonta said that if IRS forms aren’t sent to the state Registry of Charitable Trusts within 60 days of April 7 — or June 6 — two things would happen:

      • His office would notify the California Franchise Tax Board to disallow Comic-Con’s tax exemption. (“The Franchise Tax Board may revoke the organization’s tax exempt status at which point the organization will be treated as a taxable corporation … and may be subject to the minimum tax penalty.”)
      • Late fees would be imposed for each month or partial month for which reports were delinquent. “Directors, trustees, officers and return preparers responsible for failure to timely file these reports are also personally liable for payment of all late fees.”

(2) KGB SHOTS. Ellen Datlow shared her photos from the (in-person!) Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series event on April 20 where Robert Freeman Wexler and Victor LaValle each read form forthcoming work.

(3) FOUR TO DRAW TO. Fanac.org has posted the video of a Minicon 15 (1979) panel “History of the Future” with Ted Sturgeon, Clifford Simak, Lester del Rey, and Gordon Dickson.  

Minicon 15 was held April 13-15, 1979 in Minneapolis. In this recording, four of the most respected authors of their time—Theodore Sturgeon, Clifford D. Simak, Lester del Rey and Gordon Dickson—have a free ranging discussion on topics from earlier science fiction views of the future, to what the literature has “missed,” and the relationship of technocracy to then current society. 

Lester del Rey is at his most opinionated, getting laughs and applause, as well as exhibiting his encyclopedic knowledge of the field. There are discussions of freedom vs governance, the problems of finding information, and, triggered by a question from the audience, a long discussion on education. 

Simak tells a deeply personal story about his son’s experience in the public school system, and the other authors speak of their own experiences with education.  There are predictions, anecdotes, and a few surprising revelations…

Thanks to Geri Sullivan and the Video Archeology project for providing the recording. 

(4) HER TWIN FROM ANOTHER PLANET. The linked article talks about a science fiction film titled The Day Mars Invaded Earth and how the author, Hal Bookbinder, used his genealogical skills to sleuth out more about the twin actresses in the film: “The Day Mars Invaded Earth” at the JGSCV Newsletter.

While watching old movies. I often Google the film to learn more about it and its cast. “The Day Mars Invaded Earth” was filmed in 1962 and released in 1963. Among its cast are Betty Beall and Barbara Beall who play counterparts in the same scene, shown at the bottom. Betty Beall plays the teenage daughter of a NASA scientist who oversees the landing of a probe on Mars. After destroying the probe, unseen Martians create a duplicate of him to foil further attempts to land a probe. They then create duplicates of his family to cover their tracks. The NY Times panned the picture. Very little is to be found on either Betty or Barbara….

(5) POTLATCH. Ian Frazier shares some humorous confessions with readers of The New Yorker in “The Literature of Cabin Fever”. One paragraph reminds me that once there was an annual convention by this name (and with something of the same gift-sharing philosophy).

…A big excursion for me was to drive to the town of Kalispell, some twenty miles away. I was writing on a brand of paper called Potlatch. Such an interesting name for copy paper—Potlatch. I ran out of my first ream of it, and when I was buying more at an office-supply store in Kalispell I told the salesperson about potlatch—how it was a Native American word that meant a kind of party in which a chief or even just an ordinary person gave away stuff to other members of the tribe. “Giveaway” is a rough translation of the word into English, I told the salesperson. The potlatch was a system for showing status and spreading the wealth downward, I said. As I looked at the reaction on the salesperson’s face, it sank in that I was not in a normal frame of mind….

(6) WHEN AND WHERE DID HUMANS EVOLVE? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] We all know the basic story, archaic humans and then modern humans evolved in Africa and then migrated to the rest of the world, held SF conventions and went to the Moon (the Americans even did it without Cavorite!).

The problem is, is that the fossil record only provides snapshots.  A fossil tells us that this species lived at this place and at that time.  What it does not do is tell us when that species first evolved: it is very unlikely that a fossil discovered will be the remains of the first representative of a new species.  So, what to do?

“Climate effects on archaic human habitats”, rResearch published today in Nature  has taken a novel approach.  We know from fossils the environment in which archaic and modern human species inhabited.  What the researchers have done is link this into deep-time climate models and in turn linked that into an ecological model.  The idea here is that given a certain geography, location and climate, it is possible to work out the ecology of a locality.

Due to climate change, climate models have really improved the past one-third century and now have a good resolution and are capable of modelling back into glacial times (‘ice ages’ in common-but-inexact parlance). This means we can meaningfully identify when and where certain environmental types arise and wane as climate changes. Knowing the environmental preferences (from where fossils were found and conditions back then) of various human species, it is possible to see when and where the environmental conditions that could sustain these species begin and end.

The bottom line is that the researchers propose the following scenario: about 850–600 ka, H. heidelbergensis, which may have originated from H. ergaster in eastern Africa, split into southern and northern African branches, the latter of which included northern African and Eurasian populations.

The intensified dispersal into off-equatorial regions may have occurred during periods of high eccentricity around 680,000 and 580,000 years ago, which increased habitat suitability in otherwise inhospitable regions. The southern branch then experienced considerable climatic stress in southern Africa which could have accelerated a transition into H. sapiens. The Eurasian populations of the northern branch split around 430,000, possibly giving rise to Denisovans, which populated parts of central and eastern Asia. Inside central Europe, H. heidelbergensis, then experienced strong local climatic stress and gradually evolved into H. neanderthalensis between 400,000 and 300,000 years ago.

Neat, huh?

(7) LIGHTYEAR TRAILER. Disney Pixar’s Lightyear is coming to theaters on June 17.

Check out a new trailer for Disney and Pixar’s “Lightyear,” revealing new details about the upcoming sci-fi action adventure. The definitive origin story of Buzz Lightyear, the hero who inspired the toy, “Lightyear” follows the legendary Space Ranger after he’s marooned on a hostile planet 4.2 million light-years from Earth alongside his commander and their crew. As Buzz tries to find a way back home through space and time, he’s joined by a group of ambitious recruits and his charming robot companion cat, Sox. Complicating matters and threatening the mission is the arrival of Zurg, an imposing presence with an army of ruthless robots and a mysterious agenda. A new poster and images are also available.

(8) JEAN COCTEAU REOPENING. George R.R. Martin’s Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, NM will reopen May 6, when people will get the opportunity to “Be the very first members of the public to sit in our new theater seats, hear the new sound system, and enjoy a transformed theatrical experience at the Jean Cocteau!”

It will kick off with a weekend of classic films hosted free of charge by the Jean Cocteau Cinema and Beastly Books, and they’re taking a poll to determine which five films from a curated list of 10 classics, including titles picked by GRRM, will be shown. Vote here. Voting ends Sunday, April 24th.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1976 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] The mark of how good a series is not how great the pilot is but the first episode after the pilot. Forty-six years ago this evening on ABC, the second episode of Wonder Woman aired, a curiosity titled affair called “Wonder Woman Meets Baroness Von Gunther”. In it she got to take resurgent Nazis on in form of a Nazi spy ring known as the Abwehr who are active again and who are targeting Steve Trevor for imprisoning the Baroness von Gunther, their leader. 

The Baroness Paula von Gunther was created by William Moulton Marston as an adversary for his creation Wonder Woman in Sensation Comics #4, 1942. Though she disappeared during the Crisis on Infinite Earth years, Jim Byrne brought her back in 1988 and made once again the Nazi villainess she once was. 

This episode is based off “Wonder Woman Versus the Prison Spy Ring” in Wonder Woman #1 (July 1942). (The title comes from when it was reprinted later.) In the story, Colonel Darnell informs Trevor that an army transport ship was sunk by a German U-Boat. Believing the Nazis must have had a traitor inside the Army, Darnell orders Steve to interrogate the former head of the Gestapo system in America — The Baroness who is now serving time in a federal penitentiary thanks to Wonder Woman. Note that this episode made Trevor responsible for her being captured. 

So how was it received? This episode ranked twelfth in the Nielsen ratings, shockingly beating out a Bob Hope special which ranked twentieth.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 21, 1911 John Lymington. Between the late Fifties and the mid-Eighties, he wrote twenty-six genre novels, an astonishing number but only a fraction of the estimated 150 books he wrote overall. His short genre fiction is published in his Night Spiders collection. He’s not made it into the digital realm and I’ll admit that I’ve not heard of him, so I’m hoping the brain trust here can tell me about him. E0sF says helpfully that this was the pseudonym of UK author John Newton Chance who wrote a lot of the Sexton Blake thrillers. Come on folks, tell me about him! (Died 1983.)
  • Born April 21, 1922 Alistair MacLean. I’ll admit that I know I read at least a handful of his works when I was much younger. ISFDB lists four novels (Goodbye CaliforniaThe Dark CrusaderThe Golden Gate and The Satan Bug) as being genre though I personally would say they are thrillers with genre elements. Clute at EoSF agrees saying that they are “Cold War thrillers which make use of sf McGuffins”. (Died 1987.)
  • Born April 21, 1928 Dee Hartford. Miss Iceland, companion of Mister Freeze in two episodes of that Batman series. She also had appearances on Time TunnelLost in SpaceLand of The Giants, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Twilight ZoneThe Outer Limits and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.  Yes, she was very pretty and that really counted in that time. She appeared on “The Bewitchin’ Pool” which was the last original episode of The Twilight Zone to be broadcast (though it was not the last one to be filmed). (Died 2018.)
  • Born April 21, 1933 Jim Harmon. During the Fifties and Sixties, he wrote more than fifty short stories and novelettes for Amazing StoriesFuture Science Fiction, Galaxy Science FictionIfThe Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and other magazines. Most of his fiction was collected in Harmon’s Galaxy. ISFDB says he has just one novel, Sex Burns Like Fire. He’s a member of First Fandom Hall of Fame. (Died 2010.)
  • Born April 21, 1939 John Bangsund. Australian fan from the Sixties through the Eighties. He was instrumental with Andrew Porter in Australia winning the 1975 Aussiecon bid, and he was Toastmaster at the Hugo Award ceremony at that con. His fanzine, Australian Science Fiction Review, is credited with reviving Australian Fandom in the Sixties. And he was the instigator of the term “Muphry’s law” which states that “If you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written.” (Died 2020.)
  • Born April 21, 1965 Fiona Kelleghan, 57. Though an academic to the bone, she has two genre stories “The Secret in the Chest: With Tests, Maps, Mysteries, & Intermittent Discussion Questions” and “The Secret in the Chest”. Of her academic works, I find most fascinating Mike Resnick: An Annotated Bibliography and Guide to His Work which last was revised in 2012 for the paperback edition. Wikipedia shows her Alfred Bester, Grand Master: An Annotated Bibliography is a work in progress. 
  • Born April 21, 1971 Michael Turner. Another one who died way, way too young. He was a comics artist known for his work on Witchblade,Tombraider / Witchblade one-off, the Superman/Batman story involving Supergirl, his own Soulfire, and various covers for DC Comics and Marvel Comics. He would die of bone cancer. A Tribute to Michael Turner with writings from people who knew him and a cover done by Alex Ross would be released to cover his medical expenses. (Died 2008.)
  • Born April 21, 1980 Hadley Fraser, 42. His first video acting role was Gareth in the superb Tenth Doctor story, “Army of Ghosts”. He’d later be Chris in The Lost Tribe, a horror film, and play Viscount Raoul de Chagny in The Phantom of The Opera, as well as being Tarzan’s father in The Legend of Tarzan. And though not even genre adjacent, I’m legally obligated to point out that he showed up as a British military escort in the recent production of Kenneth Branagh’s absolutely smashing Murder on the Orient Express. Branagh just directed his second Agatha Christie film in which he plays the Belgian detective, Death on the Nile.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Hey, I used to sit in a green chair and read to my daughter just like in Hi and Lois. All we needed was a punchline!
  • Dino Comics knows the truth is out there.

(12) HE’S STILL READING. “Samuel R. Delany’s Life in Books” for the New York Times Magazine is a strong series of reminiscences all tied together by the printed page.

…I was brought up with a series called “My Book House,” edited by Olive Beaupré Miller, which I still refer to. Those books introduced me to mythology and history, to the “Iliad” and “The Odyssey,” the “Kalevala,” the legend of Dick Whittington and early stories of Johnny Appleseed. In them, I got my first images of what Shakespeare’s childhood must’ve looked like, and the great wagons on which the traveling mummers rode around and presented their plays. The drawings were wonderful. They were particularly important to me because I was dyslexic, and I got a lot of my education through images. The very first thing I read all the way through was a Bob Kane Batman comic book. My father wanted to stop me because he objected to comics, but my mother said, “No! He’s reading!”…

(13) MEET THE FILMMAKERS. Enjoy this featurette on Everything Everywhere All At Once.

(14) NETFLIX ORIGINAL ANIMATION ON DEATHWATCH. “Netflix kills the Bone show as its Original Animation department pretty much falls apart” reports A.V. Club. Yesterday streaming service Netflix saw its stock price plummet by record amounts in response to a dismal Q1 earnings call.

…Amidst the chaos, The Wrap released a quieter report this afternoon, one focused on the company’s once vaunted Original Animation department—reporting, among other things, that Phil Rynda, Netflix Director of Creative Leadership and Development for Original Animation, had been let go from the company this week, and that several high-profile animated projects, most notably the much-anticipated animated adaptation of Jeff Smith’s beloved comic series Bone, were dead at the service.

The Bone show is a blow, for sure; fans have been waiting for Smith’s all-ages adventure comic, seemingly a natural fit for animation, to get a worthy adaptation for years. But the report, written by Drew Taylor, also delves into Netflix’s overall treatment of animation creatives, who were once lured to the company with promises of creative freedom, and are now frequently tossed stacks of data to justify the company’s limited advertising for, and support of, its animated shows.

Case in point: The company’s slow response earlier this month to the news that Elizabeth Ito’s excellent (and already canceled) City Of Ghosts had won a Peabody Award. Ito was forced to basically launch a single-person campaign to even get the service to acknowledge the victory; this, after Netflix kept her in suspense about whether the show would get another season….

(15) THE HEAT IS ON. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Radical emissions cuts combined with some atmospheric carbon removal are the only hope to limit global warming to 1.5 °C, scientists warn.

Further to last week’s research reported in File 770, the UN’s IPCC have upped the ante, as this week’s Nature says: “IPCC’s starkest message yet: extreme steps needed to avert climate disaster”.

Humanity probably isn’t going to prevent Earth from at least temporarily warming 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels — but aggressive action to curb greenhouse-gas emissions and extract carbon from the atmosphere could limit the increase and bring temperatures back down, according to the latest report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)….

(16) I GO TO PIECES. “Lego’s Star Wars Day Offerings Include a new 1,890-Piece Ultimate Collector Series Version of Luke’s Landspeeder”Gizmodo has the story. (Or should I say, ad?)

May the 4th is just a few weeks away and just like the Death Star targeting a defenseless planet, there’s nothing you can do to protect your budget against the onslaught of Star Wars merchandise enroute, including a new addition to Lego’s pricey Ultimate Collector Series line.

As with all of Lego’s UCS models, the new Luke Skywalker’s Landspeeder puts previous Lego versions of the vehicle to shame with an incredible amount of detail and new parts you won’t find anywhere else…

(17) BRAZILIAN ANIMATION. Speaking of blocks… In Escalade, Luciano Fulgi and Paolo Muppet explain what happens when you want to tower over your neighbors!

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George, in a spoiler-filled episode, says the producer has forgotten so much about this series he refers to hero Newt Scamander as “Nugget Scaffolding.”  The writer explains many puzzling plot twists in this film (such as how villain Grindelwald, played previously by Johnny Depp, has become Mads Mikkelsen) by saying “magic!” MANY MANY TIMES.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Jeffrey Smith, Rob Thornton, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, Linda Deneroff, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 8/29/21 Sgt. Pixel’s Scrolling File Club Band

(1) THE OTHER SIDE OF THE CAMERA. The production of Disney animated movies doesn’t look anything like I thought, judging by Andhika Muksin’s “eyewitness” accounts: “Artist Imagines What It Looks Like Behind The Scenes Of Disney Movies” at AWorkstation.

Have you ever wondered what happens in the backstage of Disney movies? Andhika Muksin is back on Bored Panda to show you just that. He creates hilarious edits of Disney movies so that we can see the behind the scenes of famous scenes and how they were “actually made.”

(2) ONCE A KNIGHT IS ENOUGH. Abigail Nussbaum analyzes The Green Knight at Asking the Wrong Questions.

…Unsurprisingly, The Green Knight‘s project is to subvert these ideas about knightliness and chivalry. But it is very interesting to examine how it goes about doing so. Most cinematic Arthuriana tries to be subversive, usually by imagining its heroes as thoroughly modern Hollywood protagonists—reckless, ironic, quippy, cool, possessed of just the right progressive politics (in a thoroughly non-threatening way, of course), and usually haunted by one of the three or four emotional traumas that heroes are allowed to experience (daddy issues, lack of confidence in their own abilities, etc.). Sometimes this works (well, once). Most of the time, it loses the flavor of these legends, which are weird and rambling and often have a disturbing, quasi-erotic, quasi-religious charge. Lowery seems determined to embrace these very qualities—as seen, first and foremost, in the film’s visuals….

(3) NO LOW-DOWN HERE. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] G.W. Thomas of Dark Worlds Quarterly has an article about high vs. low fantasy. I’ve always hated the term “low fantasy” and Thomas is no fan either: “High Versus Low Fantasy or You Can’t Get There From Here!”

High Fantasy vs. Low Fantasy has always been a bit of gray area for me. I can remember submitting to Bardic Runes back in the 1990s and getting rejected as “Sword & Sorcery”. Understanding the genre history of commercial fantasy has helped me to see the difference. The term “High Fantasy” was coined by one of the first practitioners, Lloyd Alexander in 1971 in the essay, “High Fantasy and Heroic Romance”, (originally given at the New England Round Table of Children’s Librarians in October 1969). The unfortunate counter term for what is not “high” is “Low Fantasy” (or Sword & Sorcery).

(4) BEAUTIFUL COVER. The Rogues in the House podcast interviews Howard Andrew Jones, who has a new book out: “’The Goddess Wakes’ Release with Howard Andrew Jones”.

(5) BESTEST SELLERS. Mental Floss lists “10 of the Best-Selling Books in History (Minus Religious Texts)”. Quite a bit of genre here, beginning with Harry Potter in third place:

In 2018, it was announced that 500 million copies of the entire Harry Potter series had been sold. That’s a long way from 1997, when the series started with a reported 500-copy first print run for Philosopher’s Stone (the British title). By 1999, when Prisoner of Azkaban came out, it sold 68,000 copies in the UK and immediately garnered controversy when the Sunday Times bestseller list refused to include it due to being a children’s book. By the time the series ended, Deathly Hallows managed to move 2.6 million copies in the UK and 8.3 million in the United States on a single day.

(6) A VISIT AT HOME. Alastair Reynolds calls it “one of the best long-form interviews I’ve done” – “Meeting Alastair Reynolds – Sci Fi, Black Holes, UFO’s and Whisky” by Media Death Cult.

(7) KSR. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Kim Stanley Robinson has an article in the August 21 Financial Times.

…What does it feel like to live on the brink of a vast historical change?  It feels like now.

Of course that sounds hyperbolic, and perhaps even panicky,  Not that a science fiction writer can see the future any better than anyone else; very often worse.  But between the pandemic, the accelerating drumbeat of extreme weather events, and the accumulations of data and analysis from the scientific community, it’s become an easy call….

(8) DISABILITIES. “Writing Ability by Nick Wood and Levi Qisin” at the BSFA blog.

There is an annual writing event, which I dread every year when it rolls around.

It’s well known and is called NaNoWriMo and it is hash-tagged furiously on Twitter during the month of November, as people launch forth to write their novels in thirty days. Large daily word counts are flung about energetically – and, to anyone who has significant impediments to writing — these numbers can be both intimidating and shaming.  So, for the last NaNoWriMo (2020) I stayed well away, thinking about what helps each (different) writer, and why.

Under the title Writing Ability, I aim to unpack: (1) some of the difficulties (and resources) of writing while disabled, as well as (2) how to write ‘authentic’ fictional characters with disabilities.  And, given most stories begin with the author, I’ll start there….

(9) ED ASNER (1929-2021). Actor Ed Asner died August 29 at the age of 91. He won awards for non-genre work — three best supporting actor Emmys on Mary Tyler Moore, two best actor awards on Lou Grant, plus Emmys for his roles in the miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man and Roots. However, the New York Times obituary did not overlook the two main genre highlights of his career:

…He provided the voice of the lead character in the Oscar-winning animated movie “Up” (2009), about an elderly widower who flies to South America by attaching roughly a zillion colorful balloons to his house. Manohla Dargis’s review in The New York Times, which praised Mr. Asner and the supporting characters — including a portly stowaway scout and several talking dogs — called it “filmmaking at its purest.”

Mr. Asner also played a levelheaded Santa Claus in the Will Ferrell comedy “Elf” (2003), about a tall human raised by North Pole elves, which has become a Christmas-season classic. (It was Santa’s fault, really; the human baby crawled into his giant bag of gifts one busy Christmas Eve.) The Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert called the film “one of those rare Christmas comedies that has a heart, a brain and a wicked sense of humor.”…

Asner also was in episodes of many genre TV series, such as The Outer Limits, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., The Wild Wild West, and The Invaders. And he voiced characters in dozens of animated works including Animaniacs, Batman: the Animated Series, Spider-Man: The Animated Series (as another editor, J. Jonah Jameson), and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi – The Original Radio Drama (a TV series, despite its name, where he played Jabba the Hutt.)

Fans will get a final visit with Asner’s Up character in the series of “Dug Days” shorts coming to Disney+ this week. 

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1958 – Sixty three years ago on this night, the first version of The Fly premiered. (It would be made three times.) It was produced and directed by Kurt Neumann from the screenplay by James Clavell which in turn was from the short story by George Langelaan which not surprisingly was called “The Fly” and which had been published in the June 1957 issue of Playboy. The primary cast was Al Hedison, Patricia Owens, Vincent Price and Herbert Marshall. Reception was definitely not generally upbeat with critics calling it “nauseating”, sickening” and “horrific”. It has since become a classic of horror films. It was box office success earning three million dollars on a budget of less than a half million dollars. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a rating of seventy-one percent. It was nominated at Detention for a Hugo but no film was chosen for a Hugo Award that year.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 29, 1928 Charles Gray. Best remembered for being Ernst Stavro Blofeld in Diamonds Are Forever and Dikko Henderson In You Only Live Twice, and as Sherlock Holmes’s brother Mycroft Holmes in The Seven-Per-Cent Solution. That’s a role he reprises in the Jeremy Brett series. He’s in The Rocky Horror Picture Show as The Criminologist – An Expert. (Died 2000.)
  • Born August 29, 1939 Joel Schumacher. Director of The Lost Boys and Flatliners, both of which I like a lot, not to mention Batman Forever and Batman and Robin. Ok, so those might not be the highlights of his career. However his Blood Creek vampirefilm starring Michael Fassbender is said to be very good. Oh, and his The Incredible Shrinking Woman is a very funny riff the original The Incredible Shrinking Man. (Died 2020.)
  • Born August 29, 1942 Gottfried John. He’s likely best known as General Arkady Orumov on GoldenEye but I actually best remember him as Colonel Erich Weiss on the extremely short-lived Space Rangers. He was Josef Heim in the “The Hand of Saint Sebastian” episode of the Millennium series, and played König Gustav in the German version of Rumpelstilzchen as written by the Brothers Grimm. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 29, 1945 Robert Weinberg. Author, editor, publisher, and collector of genre fiction. At Chicon 7, he received a Special Committee Award for his service to science fiction, fantasy, and horror. During the Seventies, he was the genius behind Pulp which featured interviews with pulp writers such as Walter B. Gibson and Frederick C. Davis.  He won the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award called the Sam Moskowitz Archive Award for excellence in science fiction collecting. (Died 2016.)
  • Born August 29, 1951 Janeen Webb, 70. Dreaming Down-Under which she co-edited with Jack Dann is an amazing anthology of Australian genre fiction, winner of a World Fantasy Award. If you’ve not read it, go do so. The Silken Road to Samarkand by her is a wonderful novel that I also wholeheartedly recommend. Death at the Blue Elephant, the first collection of her ever so excellent short stories, is available at the usual suspects though Dreaming Down-Under is alas not.
  • Born August 29, 1953 Nancy Holder, 68. She’s an impressive six-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award including her latest for Superior Achievement in a Graphic Novel, Mary Shelley Presents. I’m not much of a horror fan so I can’t judge her horror novels for you but I’ve read a number of her Buffyverse novels and I must say that she’s captured the feel of the series quite well. If you are to read but one, make it Halloween Rain
  • Born August 29, 1954 Michael P. Kube-McDowell, 67. A filker which gets major points in my book. I’m reasonably sure I’ve read both of his Isaac Asimov’s Robot City novels, and now I can recall reading Alternities as well. God, it’s been twenty years since I read him which I thought odd, but then I noticed at ISFDB that he hasn’t published a novel in that long. Filker link: Back in Black at The Curious Mind of Michael Kube-McDowell.
  • Born August 29, 1971 Carla Gugino, 50. She’s had a number of genre roles — Ingrid Cortez in the Spy Kids franchise, Rebecca Hutman in Night At The Museum, Sally Jupiter in Watchmen, the voice of Kelex in Man of Steel / Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Justice League andDr. Alex Friedman in Race to Witch Mountain. She’s been on Quantum LeapALFShe Creature and Supergirl. She was Dr. Molly Anne Caffrey on the short-lived Threshold series, and Olivia Crain, the lead character, on The Haunting of Hill House series.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) MYSTERY WRITER DIES. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Caroline Todd, one half of the mother and son mystery writing team Charles Todd, died August 29. Apparently, the Todds were supposed to present an Anthony Award at the virtual Bouchercon and had to pull out due to Caroline falling ill. Here are tributes by others in the field:

(14) CREATING A CLEAN INTERNET. South China Morning Post reports new, more stringent rules imposed on celebrity fan communities:“No explanation as China’s billionaire actress Zhao Wei blacklisted from Chinese internet”.

…Zhao’s disappearance from Chinese cyberspace came amid a widespread campaign by authorities to clamp down on “misbehaving celebrities”.

The government is simultaneously trying to rein in unruly fan culture that has resulted in extreme stalking, leaking of personal information and cyberbullying.

On Friday, the Cyberspace Administration, China’s central internet watchdog, issued a detailed list of measures to rectify issues among fan communities.

The directive said local authorities should monitor celebrity culture online to maintain “political and ideological safety in the cyberspace as well as creating a clean internet”.

New rules include cancelling all forms of celebrity rankings and tightening oversight on celebrity marketing agencies. They would also require all online fan communities to be authorised by agencies associated with the celebrity.

The regulations would punish platforms that fail to quickly delete verbal attacks among fans of different idols….

Global Times has additional details about the rules: “China cyberspace administration tightens rules to cool frenzied idol worshipping, especially among minors”.

…All ranking lists of celebrities will be removed from online, and management of fan groups will be strengthened, the Chinese top internet watchdog announced on Friday in a bid to crack down on the unhealthy fan club culture in the country, banning all forms of promotional events that use a competitive scheme among the celebrities or fans. 

Since the campaign to clean up unhealthy fandom culture was launched, a number of online functions including celebrity ranking lists, hot topics, fan communities, and interactive comment sections have seen measurable improvement, the Cyberspace Administration of China said. To further weed out toxic fan culture, the administration announced the 10-point regulation, according to a notice issued by the administration. …

(15) WEBBER RETURNS TO GENRE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the August 20 Financial Times, Sarah Hemming reviews Cinderella, with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and a book by Emerald Fennell, who wrote and directed Promising Young Woman.

The opening number sets the tone.  We find ourselves in Belleville, picturesque town and tourist trap, home to chirruping milkmaids, chaps with tones torsos and too-tight lederhosen and a baker inviting us to ‘check out my hot buns’ (lyrics from David Zippel). Girls pose and pout, guys strut and stomp and everyone misses the manly Prince Charming, who has mysteriously vanished, leaving his drippy younger brother, Sebastian, as heir…

…There is a pleasing twist at the end, but the plot does all become a bit daft and convoluted. Meanwhile, characterisation stays skin-deep, motivation flimsy and questions come and go without even being answered:  how did the prince and the pauper become best buddies? Oh,, never mind.  Wait, the fairy godmother is an evil plastic surgeon? Let’s explore that further…OK, let’s move on.

There is a website for the production: andrewlloydwebberscinderella.com.

(16) WONDER BLUNDERS. Heroes & Icons points out “12 little blunders you never noticed in ‘Wonder Woman’” (the TV series). For example:

TAKING OUT THE TRASH

“Screaming Javelins”

No Wonder Woman effect is more iconic than the hero’s transformative twirl. Diana Prince turns into Wonder Woman in a flash. You can catch some inconsistencies in those cuts. Take this one for example, from season two, when a trash can magically disappears.

(17) T MINUS 24 AND HOLDING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Demand in the US for medical grade oxygen is so high due to COVID that some hospitals have less than 24 hours worth on hand and satellite launches are in danger of postponement. “Covid Surge Sends Liquid Oxygen From Launch Pads to Hospitals”Bloomberg has the story.

One consequence of the coronavirus pandemic is showing up in an unlikely place: the space industry. 

A summer surge in Covid-19 patients is diverting liquid oxygen from rocket launch pads to hospitals, leading NASA to announce Friday it will delay the September launch of its next earth-surveillance satellite by a week.

Oxygen chilled to its liquid form at -300 F (-184 C) is a crucial propellant for launch firms from SpaceX to ULA to Virgin Orbit. Now the industry is anticipating launch delays as patients on ventilators take precedence in the commodity gas supply chain….

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

Pixel Scroll 4/12/21 No Matter Where You Scroll, There You Pixel

(1) MUIR’S PROGRESS. Bence Pintér conducted a “Q&A with Tamsyn Muir” for the Hungarian magazine Spekulatív Zóna. (You can find the Hungarian version of the interview here.)

The Locked Tomb Trilogy seems like a pretty hard one to pitch to a publisher. How have you pitched it?

I never really pitched the trilogy as a trilogy. I pitched Gideon as more or less a murder mystery, because to me that’s still its most fundamental DNA: it’s the classic And Then There Were None set-up, a group of people in an isolated location start getting killed off one by one. I think I said it was a locked-room murder mystery with necromancers. But I was also deeply confused about a lot of things and thought it might be a Young Adult book, because I understood ‘young adult’ as a tag to mean ‘older teenagers would enjoy it’ and I firmly believed that older teenagers would enjoy Gideon! Someone I showed the story to at an early stage had to break it to me gently that this was not a Young Adult book, and never would be without very major re-writing and taking out 90% of the swearwords….

You signed a six-figure deal with Tordotcom Publishing. What will you work on after finishing Alecto the Ninth?

Lots of stuff. Next up is a novella about a gunslinger in a near-future dystopia, which is going to be a massive relief to write as it contains neither swords nor bones, thank God. Then I’ve got to start on the next full-length novel, which will probably have some swords and some bones but not at anywhere near the concentration Locked Tomb did, and will leaven the mixture by also having some motorbikes. And at some point I need to fit in the sequel to Princess Floralinda and the Forty-Flight Tower, my novella from last year, which I’ve decided I’m not quite done with. Now if I could just get an extra four or five months added in to the year, maybe in summer when the weather’s OK, that would be fantastic.

(2) PRO TIPS. Odyssey Writing Workshop interviews Guest Lecturer Sheree Renée Thomas, now editing F&SF.

Congratulations on recently becoming editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction! What are the most common problems in the manuscript submissions you receive?

I just revised our submission guidelines to address that, because after reading 2,400 stories our first month in January, I noticed some patterns, particularly for people who have submitted work to the magazine in the past, and they probably don’t know that they’re doing some of these things.

The main thing I revised our submission guidelines to address is pacing. If you spend a long time setting up your story, or throat clearing, or giving us a long narrative exposition before we even get to the characters we’re supposed to be following and experiencing, you’re going to lose your readers’ interest right off the bat. One of the things people can do when they go back and look at the story is see if they started in the right place. As a writer, it’s not always easy to know that immediately. Sometimes we have to write the thing in order to know the thing; we have to write that first scene to get to the other one.

The other thing that a lot of writers do give us too much information that’s not naturally integrated into the storytelling, and so that becomes a little wearisome to read and hard to follow. People are not telling the story from the POV of the character who has the most to lose in the situation.

I don’t want to read about misogyny, whether it’s conscious or not in the story. I don’t particularly care for rape stories where rape is just a plot device and it’s not handled in a human way, where you don’t have the characters respond to it in a way that humans might. And F&SF is not the best market for super erotic work.

(3) TV DINNER. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination’s Science Fiction TV Dinner series is going virtual for 2020-2021, and they’ll  Zoom the next event on Tuesday, April 27 at 6 p.m. Pacific time. It features The Mailbox, a short film about time travel and Chinatowns. They’ll be talking with the director, Louis Yin, a writer and filmmaker based in Beijing, and Diane Wong, a professor at Rutgers University who studies the Asian diaspora and the urban immigrant experience. The event is free, and open to everyone. Register at the link.

We’re shifting the format slightly, presenting Science Fiction TV Small Bites: short films from talented creators that invite us to explore a range of possible futures.

…Each Small Bite event will also feature an exclusive segment on cuisine and cooking by Corey S. Pressman, an author, educator, anthropologist, visual artist, and member of CSI’s Imaginary College.

We would like to thank Storycom for their support and collaboration on this event. Storycom is the first professional story commercialization agency in China, and is dedicated to bringing excellent Chinese SF stories to domestic and global audiences in various formats. Storycom also presents The Shimmer Program to introduce new audiences to Chinese SF. Learn more at https://twitter.com/ShimmerProgram.

(4) ACE ON THE CASE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the April 7 Financial Times, Tom Faber looks at video games that combine the supernatural with detective stories.

…The first detective games I loved were the Ace Attorney trilogy, in which you play Phoenix Wright, an impossibly earnest lawyer who solves a trio of outlandish murders.  The tone is decidedly zany, with anime-style graphics and supernatural story beats. But the sharp characterisation makes them deeply affecting.  Each complex case is split into two parts:  the first has you talking to witnesses and gathering evidence from the crime scene, while the second takes you to court, where you cross-examine witnesses and poke holes in testimony…

…Perhaps the secret ingredient to a successful detective game is allowing players freedom to find the solution by themselves.  These qualities re best exemplified in last year’s indie hit Paradise Killer, which sets its supernatural mystery across an open world, allowing you to investigate at your own pace.  The game never tells you where to go next and you can set the final trial at any point, no matter how much evidence you’ve gathered.  Newcomers may be alarmed by the game’s high-concept fantasy, which tells of a group of social elites constructing a utopia by sacrificing the working classes to resurrect a pantheon of vanished gods.  Yet once you find your footing, the story resolves into a fantastically imaginative, richly compelling narrative with a superb soundtrack to boot.

(5) WHAT YOU CAN LEARN FROM CONFUSION. Ian Moore’s “ConFusion: Eastercon 2021” report at Secret Panda offers a lot of coverage of the panel programming.

… Many of the academic presenters at ConFusion seemed to be from creative writing rather than literary criticism programmes, which changed the focus somewhat: when they were examining a particular theme within science fiction, it was with a view to ultimately creating something in that area themselves, with several then presenting us with some of their own creative work in progress.

I enjoyed Hester Parr’s presentation on fanfic, though at times it did tend towards more of a stirring defence of fan fiction than an academic analysis of it. Particularly interesting was the discussion of how some fanfic writers use their writing to work out things about themselves and the revelation that the My Fair Lady musical is closer to the original Pygmalion myth than the George Bernard Shaw play it is adapted from. I did find myself thinking about whether there is a difference between something like Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad and other retellings of myths or sequels to others’ work by novelists on the one hand and fan fiction proper on the other hand. Part of Parr’s argument seemed to be that there is not really a difference, with the human tendency to retell and adapt stories meaning that fanfic is a universal thing with its origins in the mists of time. I have the nagging sense though that there is something different between a novel written by a professional writer and something a hobbyist has posted to an online fanfic platform. To me the fannishness of fanfic is what distinguishes it from non-fan writing drawing on pre-existing stories, though further investigation may be required here….

(6) GAGARIN AND THE POTATO FIELD. Sixty years ago today Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. Here’s the CNN story:

…Khrushchev’s answer came 60 years ago, on April 12, 1961, when Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin circled the Earth aboard a spacecraft called Vostok 1. After parachuting from the craft near the Russian village of Smelovka, Gagarin landed a hero — and a major embarrassment for the United States, already stung by the Soviet first-in-the-race launch of the Sputnik 1 satellite four years earlier….

And what goes up must come down – however unexpectedly that might be if you happen to be standing where they land.

(7) JOURNEY INTO SPACE. And the Journey Planet team bids everyone a Happy Cosmonautics Day. Ann Gry co-edited their “Russian Space – ” theme issue which came out in December.

Cover by Sara Felix

This unique issue of Journey Planet comes in two languages in parallel text, Russian and English. With bi-lingual text on every page we look at the Science, Engineering, Science Fiction, Films, Comics and poetry that the theme of Russian Space has to offer.

Muscovite Co-Editor Ann Gry (Anna Gryaznova) was committed to ensure the issue was as accessible as possible to the readers, interested in the subject and spent a tremendous amount of time working on translations as well as seeking out new voices, and hearing from voices who may be very new to Journey Planet readers. This issue is a curated glimpse into the creative realms mostly inaccessible due to the language barrier and is an attempt to give an idea of how space theme connects us all.

You can find the issue here:

(8) WE’LL MEET AGAIN. James Davis Nicoll extols “Five Stories Built Around the Threat of Nuclear Blackmail” to Tor.com readers. Not all of them are grim:

The Mouse that Roared by Leonard Wibberley (1955)

The tiny principality of Grand Fenwick had no intention of blackmailing the world with atomic doom. Faced with economic calamity (Americans had successfully copied Grand Fenwick’s principal export, Pinot Grand Fenwick wine), they came up with a simple but brilliant plan: declare war on the United States of America, lose, capitulate, and then wait for US to expend billions of dollars rebuilding Grand Fenwick (shades of the Marshall Plan). Since Grand Fenwick had not upgraded its military toolkit since the Hundred Years War, there was no way this cunning scheme could go wrong. Or so it seemed.

The handful of men-at-arms dispatched to New York City find a city abandoned thanks to a Cold War-era Civil Defense exercise. Hunting for someone to whom they might surrender, they stumble across Dr. Kokintz and his Q-bomb demonstration model. Both Kokintz and his device are carried off to Grand Fenwick, whereupon the astounded Grand Fenwickians discover to their alarm that they are now in possession of a weapon that could, if detonated, depopulate a continent. Still, having the eyes of the world on them has possibilities…provided nobody jostles the delicate Q-bomb.

(9) HAND MADE. The Dwrayger Dungeon makes a post from clips from a 1939 short in “13: PARAMOUNT Presents POPULAR SCIENCE”. See how a Popeye cartoon was made in the days of hand-painted animation cels.

Today we go behind the scenes of the making of the Popeye cartoon “Aladdin And His Wonderful Lamp” at the Fleischer Studios in Miami….

Here are the guys working on the storyboards for their upcoming Popeye cartoon. I swear, there are like 500 drawings pinned up on the wall….

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 12, 1940 — On this day in 1940, Black Friday premiered. It was directed by Arthur Lubinfrom from a screenplay by Curt Siodmak (who won a Retro Hugo last year for Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man) and Eric Taylor. Though Boris Karloff and Béla Lugosi were co-billed, Lugosi only has a rather small part in the film and does not appear on screen with Karloff.  Universal had cast Lugosi as the Doctor and Karloff as the Professor, but Karloff insisted on playing the Doctor. So Lugosi was given the minor role of a rival gangster, while Stanley Ridges was brought in to play the Professor. Reception was mixed with some critics loving the double billing, but the NYT noted that “Lugosi’s terrifying talents are wasted”.  Over at Rotten Tomatoes, the audience reviewers give it a rating of forty nine percent.  It is in the the public domain now, so you can watch it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 12, 1884Bob Olsen. He wrote twenty-seven poems and stories that were published in Amazing Stories in the late 1920s early 1930s. He’s one of the first authors to use the term “space marines”. A search of both print and digital publishers does not show any indication that any of his genre or mystery fiction is now in-print. (Died 1956.) (CE) 
  • Born April 12, 1908 – Janie Lamb.  Edited the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n) National Fantasy Fan and Tightbeam.  Inspiring spark of Southern Fandom (southern U.S., not e.g. the Republic of South Africa, or London, or Spain despite Roses from the South, these other regions not typically so calling themselves); chaired DeepSouthCon 7.  Kaymar and Rebel service awards.  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born April 12, 1915Emil Petaja. He considered his work to be part of an older tradition of ‘weird fiction.’  He published thirteen novels and some one hundred fifty short stories. His Otava series, published by Ace Books in the Sixties, is based on the Finnish national myth, The Kalevala. (Died 2000.) (CE) 
  • Born April 12, 1921Carol Emshwiller. I think her short stories are amazing and The Start of the End of It All and Other Stories collection won a World Fantasy Award. She’d later receive a Life Achievement award from the World Fantasy Awards Administration. I’ve not read her novels, so which would you recommend? Novel wise, she’s reasonably well stocked at the usual suspects but her collections are largely not there. (Died 2019.) (CE) 
  • Born April 12, 1936Charles Napier. Adam in Star Trek’s “The Way to Eden”. He had one-offs, and this is not a complete list, on Mission ImpossibleThe Incredible HulkKnight Rider, Tales of The Golden MonkeyThe Incredible Hulk ReturnsLois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanDeep Space Nine and voiced Agent Zed in the animated Men in Black series. (Died 2011.) (CE) 
  • Born April 12, 1947 – Tom Clancy.  Regardless of whether Jack Ryan becomes President, and the author’s politics which as it happens I never liked much, I defiantly assert The Hunt for “Red October” – TC’s first novel! he’d been an insurance salesman! Deborah Grosvenor had to persuade the Naval Inst. to publish it! – is SF, and good SF too.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born April 12, 1952 – Pierre Stolze, Ph.D., age 69.  Dissertation at École Normale Supérieure on SF.  Seven novels, a score of shorter stories.  Will Francophone translators kindly address this man’s work?  [JH]
  • Born April 12, 1958 – Elizabeth Klein-Lebbink, age 63.  Canadian living in Los Angeles.  Active particularly with Art Shows; board member of the Southern Calif. Inst. for Fan Interests (yes, that’s what the initials spell, pronounced skiffy).  Her high-tech expertise permitted the annual Rotsler Award display at Worldcons to rise above the personal handicraft of one man in a propeller beanie, however helped by volunteers (hello, Murray), and thus reach Dublin (77th Worldcon) and Wellington (78th Worldcon, virtual-only).  [JH]
  • Born April 12, 1968 – Marah Searle-Kovacevic, age 53.  Head of Exhibits at Noreascon 4 the 62nd Worldcon, credited by con chair with extra help at N4’s elaborate and successful First Night, see this detailed report.  Chaired SFContario 4-5.  Was assigned as head of Social Media for Westercon LXXIII.  [JH]
  • Born April 12, 1969 – Mike Jansen, age 52.  Ran Babel Publications for ten years with Roelof Goudriaan (hello, Roelof).  Three novels, fourscore shorter stories, a dozen poems, many available in English e.g. collection Ophelia in My Arms.  Website in eight languages including Arabic, Chinese, English. [JH]
  • Born April 12, 1979Jennifer Morrison, 42. Emma Swan in the Once Upon a Time series, and Winona Kirk, mother of James T. Kirk in Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness. She also paid her horror dues in Urban Legends: Final Cut as Amy Mayfield, the student videographer whose film goes terribly wrong. I’m intrigued to see that she’s the voice actor for the role of Selina Kyle / Catwoman in the Batman: Hush, a film that needs a R rating to be told properly and indeed did so. (CE) 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Macanudo reveals the ancestry of a certain popular character from The Mandalorian.

(13) THE ARRIVAL OF THE FUTURE. Eric Diaz analyzes “How the Year 1986 Changed Comic Books Forever” at Yahoo! Life. Here’s the first pair of reasons:

… Let’s get this double-whammy out of the way. 1986 saw the release of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, and Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. So much has been said about both of these comics already. Although much about them is different, each is a deconstruction of the superhero concept; and each elevated the medium to new levels of respectability.

Yes, their success has sown definite downsides. Too many creators take the wrong lessons from their popularity, veering “dark and edgy” for the sake of it. But this aside, both of these remain towering achievements in comic book storytelling…. 

(14) WONDER WOMAN WRITER REMEMBERED. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Mark Evanier and author/editor Anina Bennett about Joye Hummel Murchison Kelly’s appearance at the 2018 Comic-Con and how she enjoyed the recognition she got for her Wonder Woman work when she was 94. “She was the ‘secret’ Wonder Woman writer in the 1940s. Here’s how she finally got her due at 94”.

…“In all my years of Comic-Conning, I can’t recall another moment when the audience was so eager to give someone a long, loving ovation,” Evanier said Wednesday, “and the recipient was so delightfully surprised to be at an event like that receiving one.

“Joye told me it was the best weekend of her life, and I thought, ‘Imagine having the best weekend of your life when you’re 94!’”

(15) BIRD IS THE WORD. Jeff VanderMeer, in his essay “Hummingbirds and the Ecstatic Moment” for Orion Magazine, explains how birds provided comfort to him when he was sick in bed with asthma as a child and why birds play a crucial role in Hummingbird Salamander.

…I am not going to complain about my childhood—it was worse than some and better than many. But it was a sickly time for me. Transplanted to the Fiji Islands from Pennsylvania when my parents joined the Peace Corps, I discovered I was allergic to many flowering trees and also developed acute asthma. The practical effect of this meant that some mornings I would wake to birdsong hardly able to breathe or open my eyes.

Yet we lived in the cliché of a tropical paradise, a nature-rich country in which nothing separated you from the outdoors. An island nation that knew the limits of its resources and thus, at that time, treasured them.

At recess at school, in our drab gray uniforms, we would run across the road to the black sand beach at low tide and look for mudskippers, or walk along the edge of the reef, searching for starfish. I would stare into the alien eye of a sea turtle as my mother captured the detail in her biological illustrations. We would pile into a boat so my father could go to an outer island and observe the damage to coconut trees from rhinoceros beetles, for his research. Along the way, I would keep a birding journal and identify what I saw using a black-and-white stapled booklet showing the local Fijian species.

There could be no greater contrast between the beauty of that place and the realities of my condition…. 

(16) RESNICK ON SALE. There’s a Bundle of Holding with a flock of novels by Mike Resnick. It’s available for the next 21 days.

Adventurer! This Mike Resnick Bundle presents space opera and alternate-history fantasy ebook novels by Mike Resnick published by Pyr BooksMike Resnick (1942-2020) wrote more than 70 wide-ranging science fiction novels and hundreds of short stories that won many awards. This all-new fiction offer gives you DRM-free ebooks (in both ePub and Kindle formats) of a dozen Resnick novels: the four Weird West steampunk fantasies, the three Dead Enders adventures of interstellar espionage, and the five Starship military space operas. These three series showcase Resnick’s gift for fast pacing, engaging characters, snappy dialogue, and headlong action.

For just US$6.95 you get all three novels in our Mike Resnick Sampler (retail value $58) as DRM-free ebooks. Each of these novels — The Buntline Special, The Fortress in Orion, and Starship: Mutiny — launched a series.

And, if you pay more than the threshold price of $25.36, you’ll also get our Complete Collection with all the later books in each series — nine more novels worth an additional $180…

(17) DON’T DO IT. From an interview in The Guardian: “String theorist Michio Kaku: ‘Reaching out to aliens is a terrible idea’”.

You believe that within a century we will make contact with an alien civilisation. Are you worried about what they may entail?

Soon we’ll have the Webb telescope up in orbit and we’ll have thousands of planets to look at, and that’s why I think the chances are quite high that we may make contact with an alien civilisation. There are some colleagues of mine that believe we should reach out to them. I think that’s a terrible idea. We all know what happened to Montezuma when he met Cortés in Mexico so many hundreds of years ago. Now, personally, I think that aliens out there would be friendly but we can’t gamble on it. So I think we will make contact but we should do it very carefully.

(18) IT’S A THEORY. “Prehistoric cavemen starved themselves of oxygen to induce hallucinations and inspire their ancient paintings, study finds”Yahoo! News has the story.

Prehistoric cave dwellers living in Europe purposefully starved themselves of oxygen to hallucinate while creating their decorative wall paintings, a groundbreaking new study has found.

Researchers have been questioning for years why so many of the world’s oldest paintings were located in often pitch-black tunnel systems, far away from cave entrances.

But a recent study by Tel Aviv University now reveals that the location was deliberate because it induced oxygen deprivation and caused cavemen to experience a state called hypoxia.

Hypoxia can bring about symptoms including shortness of breath, headaches, confusion, and rapid heartbeat, which can lead to feelings of euphoria, near-death experiences, and out-of-body sensations. The team of researchers believes it would have been “very similar to when you are taking drugs”, the Times reported.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Alien:  Covenant Pitch Meeting” on YouTube, both the producer and the screenwriter agree that the film’s plot is so ridiculous that the screenwriter says “the movie falls apart if any character stops being dumb” and the producer asks, “do all the characters have brain damage, or what’s up?”

[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman, rcade, John King Tarpinian, Joey Eschrich, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, Rich Horton, James Davis Nicoll, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Contrarius.]

Pixel Scroll 4/9/21 I Have Heard the Pixels Scrolling, Each to Each

(1) WHEN THE DOORS OPEN, WHO WILL COME IN? The Los Angeles Times interviewed people who rely on convention business to measure the distance between reopening and recovery. “California reopening: When will huge conventions come back?”

The San Diego Convention Center hosted about 135,000 visitors two years ago for Comic-Con, the four-day celebration of comic books and pop culture.

…But even when state restrictions lift, experts acknowledge, it may be a year or more before California convention centers host the kind of mega-crowds that flocked to Comic-Con, NAMM and E3 in past years.

“We anticipate that shows will be smaller starting off and getting back up to speed hopefully next year,” said Ellen Schwartz, general manager of the Los Angeles Convention Center. “As we get into the last quarter of this calendar year and start the new year, we’re hopeful that the business will come back to closer to where it was before the pandemic.”

Among the reasons for the smaller events: State officials say COVID-19 protocols for large-scale indoor events will still require testing or vaccination verifications, which could exclude some would-be attendees. The state has yet to release details of those requirements.

Also, surveys show that many business travelers still don’t feel safe meeting face to face indoors with thousands of strangers. Some elements of future events are likely to be conducted via streaming video, accommodating virus-cautious attendees who want to stay home.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends against attending large indoor gatherings, saying they increase the risk of spreading COVID-19.

Rachel “Kiko” Guntermann, a professional costume maker who previously attended five or six conventions a year, including Comic-Con, said she would not feel safe returning to a large convention even though she has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Conventions were a center of my life for a while, and now the idea of being in a vendor hall with that many people makes me want to dry heave,” she said….

(2) FRANKENSTAMP AND FRIENDS. A set of Classic Science Fiction stamps will be issued by Great Britain’s Royal Mail on April 15. Preorders are being taken now.

A collection of six Special Stamps celebrating the imagination and artistic legacy of classic science fiction.

The issue coincides with the 75th anniversary of the death of HG Wells and the 70th anniversary of the publication of The Day of the Triffids.

Each stamp features a unique interpretation by a different artist illustrating a seminal work by a classic British science fiction author

Two First Class, two £1.70 and two £2.55 stamps presented as three horizontal se-tenant pairs.

Click for larger images.

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to grab a slice of pizza with Nebula Award-winning writer A. T. Greenblatt in episode 142 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

A.T. Greenblatt

A. T. Greenblatt’s short fiction has appeared in Strange HorizonsUncannyBeneath Ceaseless SkiesClarkesworldFiresideLightspeed, and other magazines. She won the 2019 Nebula Award for Best Short Story for “Give the Family My Love,” and is also on the current Nebula Awards ballot for her novelette “Burn or The Episodic Life of Sam Wells as a Super.” She was also a Nebula finalist for 2018. She has also been a Theodore Sturgeon Award finalist as well as a Parsec Award finalist. She is a graduate of the Viable Paradise and Clarion West workshops, and has been an editorial assistant at the flash fiction magazines Every Day Fiction and Flash Fiction Online.

We discussed the writing workshop-induced panic which caused her to begin writing her latest Nebula Award-nominated story, how the Viable Paradise workshop helped kick her writing up a notch, why she prefers Batman to Superman, the importance of revisions, critique groups, and community, what’s to be learned from rereading one’s older work, why she’s a total pantser, her love of Roald Dahl, something she wishes she’d known earlier about the endings of stories, how much of writing is being able to keep secrets and not explode, and much more.

(4) 2021 SFPA POETRY CONTEST AND JUDGE ANNOUNCED. The 2021 Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA) Speculative Poetry Contest will be open for entries from June 1 through August 31, with Sheree Renée Thomas serving as guest judge of the contest. Full guidelines here.

Sheree Renée Thomas is an award-winning fiction writer, poet, and editor. Her work is inspired by myth and folklore, natural science and Mississippi Delta conjure. Nine Bar Blues: Stories from an Ancient Future (Third Man Books) is her first all prose collection. She is also the author of two multigenre/hybrid collections, Sleeping Under the Tree of LIfe and Shotgun Lullabies (Aqueduct Press) and edited the World Fantasy-winning groundbreaking black speculative fiction Dark Matter anthologies (Hachette/Grand Central). 

Sheree is the associate editor of the historic Black arts literary journal, Obsidian: Literature & the Arts in the African Diaspora and editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

The 2021 SFPA Speculative Poetry Contest is open to all poets, including non-SFPA-members. Prizes will be awarded for best unpublished poem in three categories: Dwarf (poems 1–10 lines [prose poems 0–100 words]); Short (11–49 lines [prose poems 101–499 words]); Long (50 lines and more [prose 500 words and up]). Line count does not include title or stanza breaks. All sub-genres of speculative poetry allowed in any form.

Prizes in each category (Dwarf, Short, Long) will be $150 First Prize, $75 Second Prize, $25 Third Prize. Publication on the SFPA website for first through third places. Winners will be announced and posted on the site October 1.

(5) IN EXTREMIS. The new This Is Horror podcast features Wrath James White talking about Extreme Horror, Uncomfortable Writing, and The Resurrectionist.

Wrath James White is a former World Class Heavyweight Kickboxer, a professional Kickboxing and Mixed Martial Arts trainer, distance runner, performance artist, and former street brawler, who is now known for creating some of the most disturbing works of fiction in print. His books include The ResurrectionistSucculent Prey, and The Teratologist with Edward Lee.

(6) PLUCKED OFF THE SLUSHPILE. [Item by rcade.] Though many novelists would tell the story of how they first became published as a heroic triumph of talent and perseverance over rejection and adversity, the science fiction author Stephen Palmer credits something else entirely in a new interview with SFFWorld: “Interview with Stephen Palmer”.

My route to publication was the one too few people talk about – pure chance. Random luck is a far larger player in getting published than most people realize, partly because writers don’t want to believe they have little or no agency in their own success, and partly because the odds against success are so huge nobody wants to face them. I was plucked off the slush pile because I sent in the right novel at the right time. Tim Holman remembered it when he and Colin Murray were seeking new British writers, and he contacted me. But it could have been so different. In December 1993 me and my then wife were about to move house, and for reasons too unpleasant to detail here we weren’t going to leave a forwarding address. A few days before we departed a letter popped through the letterbox. It was from Tim Holman, writing back to me a full year after I’d sent him an extract of Memory Seed, telling me he wanted to read more. If I’d moved a week earlier I might not be an author now…

 Palmer’s debut novel Memory Seed is being  republished by Infinity Plus. He got the rights back from Orbit for that book and Glass nine years ago but the original files were lost. He bought copies, removed the pages and did the OCR scanning himself.

(7) DO YOU REMEMBER LOVE? Maybe not, it’s been awhile! But now Forbes’ Ollie Barder reports:  “The Decades Long Rights Battle Over ‘Macross’ And ‘Robotech’ Has Finally Been Resolved”.

This has been one of the longest running legal battles in anime and I never thought I would see it resolved in my lifetime….

As to the details of what this agreement entails, this is what the official press statement has to say:

“Tokyo based BIGWEST CO.,LTD. and Los Angeles based Harmony Gold U.S.A. announced an agreement regarding the worldwide rights for the legendary Macross and Robotech franchises. This expansive agreement signed by both companies on March 1, 2021, ends two decades of disagreements and will allow Bigwest and Harmony Gold to chart a new path that will unlock the great potential of both the Macross and Robotech franchises worldwide. The landmark agreement immediately permits worldwide distribution of most of the Macross films and television sequels worldwide, and also confirms that Bigwest will not oppose the Japanese release of an anticipated upcoming live-action Robotech film. The agreement also recognizes Harmony Gold’s longstanding exclusive license with Tatsunoko for the use of the 41 Macross characters and mecha in the Robotech television series and related merchandise throughout the world excluding Japan. Moving forward, both parties will cooperate on distribution regarding future Macross and Robotech projects for the benefit of both franchises.”

(8) PUTTING THE EVIDENCE TOGETHER. “French police on trail of international gang of Lego looters”The Guardian has the story.

French police say they are building a case against an international gang of toy thieves specialising in stealing Lego – and they have warned specialist shops and even parents to be aware of a global trade in the bricks.

The alert comes after officers arrested three people – a woman and two men – in the process of stealing boxes of Lego from a toy shop in Yvelines, outside Paris, last June. Under questioning, the suspects, all from Poland, reportedly admitted they were part of a team specialising in stealing Lego sought by collectors.

“The Lego community isn’t just made up of children,” one investigator told Le Parisien newspaper. “There are numerous adults who play with it; there are swaps and sales on the internet. We’ve also had people complaining their homes have been broken into and Lego stolen.”

Van Ijken cited a Cafe Corner Lego set that cost €150 when it was released to shops in 2007 selling in its original box for €2,500 last year.

Lego looting appears to be a global business, according to reports in the US, Canada and Australia, where numerous thefts have been reported over the last five years. In 2005, San Diego police arrested a group of women found to have €200,000 worth of Lego.

(9) THE UNKINDEST CUT. [Item by rcade.] The acclaimed weird fiction author Jeff VanderMeer is sickened by the actions of one of his new neighbors in Tallahassee, Florida:

Someone bought a house a few streets down and just cut down 30 mature pine trees — in the spring. I wonder if they know there’s little they could do in their lives to make up for the wildlife they just slaughtered. I know we’ll be getting survivors in the yard for weeks to come.

I’m planting two sycamores and some river birch, mayhaw next week and then also seeking out some of the pine saplings to protect them. We have 8 mature pines in the yard and not a damn one is getting cut down. …

Developers are trying to eat this city alive and we have, purportedly 55% canopy, although I imagine it’s a lower percentage after the predation of the past few years.

A Florida law enacted in 2019 made it much harder for cities and counties to stop property owners from removing trees. Tallahassee and the surrounding county have 78 miles of roads shaded by oak, hickory, sweet gum and pine trees and the city’s tree canopy coverage is among the largest in the U.S.

Noted for elements of ecofiction in his works, VanderMeer has filled his Twitter feed with photos of area trees and wildlife.

(10) NEW BOOK: HUMMINGBIRD SALAMANDER. Carmen Maria Machado has done a Q&A with Jeff VanderMeer for Interview: “Can Author Jeff VanderMeer Save Us from Extinction?”

[From the Introduction] A scroll through Jeff VanderMeer’s Twitter account yields all manner of birds, flowers, trees, bird feeders, backyard wildlife, and the occasional portrait of his housecat, Neo. By and large, it seems such joyous, benevolent content that it’s surprising it comes from the same hands as one of the most subversive, experimental, apocalyptic, and politically daring fiction writers at work in America today. 

…Another of his passions involves his ongoing project of “rewilding” his half-acre yard on the edge of Tallahassee. In order to combat natural-habitat destruction, VanderMeer has reintroduced native plants and trees to encourage the return of local wildlife. The fruits of VanderMeer’s tweets spring directly from the myriad animals, insects, organisms, and flowering flora that have returned to his homegrown micro nature-preserve. (“Right now, during migration season,” he reports, “we have about 300 yellow-rumped warblers in the yard and another 400 pine siskins, along with ruby-crowned kinglets, Baltimore orioles, orange-crowned warblers, hermit thrushes, cedar waxwings, etc.”) Will VanderMeer save our planet? Can it even be saved at this point? These are the real mysteries of our era…. 

MACHADO: It’s a bit like watching this pandemic unfold. We’re botching it all up, and you can’t help but feel like it doesn’t have to be this way. Do you think you’re a cynic about wildlife and the climate crisis?

VANDERMEER: I think that fixing the climate crisis should be more ingrained in our discussions and it’s not. Even in fiction, I see a lot of green-tech solutions that are totally divorced from actually dealing with what’s going on in the landscape. The other day I saw that Elon Musk had gone from chastising the oil industry to being like, “We need to mine for our SpaceX platform so that we have energy for our rockets.” Those are the kinds of things that get to me. One reason I push so hard for wildlife and for habitat is that I just don’t think we can make it through without them. We can’t just green-tech our way into some kind of solution. We have to change how we actually interact. And I do think we can all make small changes in how we do things that can really help us. In that way, I’m not cynical. People ask about hope all the time, which in a very absurdist way cracks me up because there’s always this question of, “Is it too late?” And it’s like,

“Well, what are you going to do if it’s too late? You really have no choice but to try to do the best things possible to get out of this.” Next cheery question!

(11) ROSWELL AWARD. The Roswell Award and Women Hold Up Half the Sky – Virtual Celebrity Readings & Awards will happen on Saturday, May 22 at 11 a.m. Pacific.  The Roswell Award finalist judge is Wesley Chu.

We received some truly incredible stories from 60 different countries this season.

Make sure to save the date for May 22 if you want to experience exciting new sci-fi stories, chat with competition participants from around the world, and hear our celebrity guest readers!

(12) HUMMEL OBIT. The Washington Post has an obituary for Joye Hummel by Harrison Smith.  Hummel was hired by William Moulton Marston as a secretary and then went on to write Wonder Woman scripts until 1947.  Historians credit her as being the first woman to write scripts for Wonder Woman. She died April 5. “Joye Hummel, first woman hired to write Wonder Woman comics, dies at 97”.

In March 1944, shortly before Joye Hummel graduated from the Katharine Gibbs secretarial school in Manhattan, she was invited to meet with one of her instructors, a charismatic psychologist who had been impressed by her essays on a take-home test.

Over tea at the Harvard Club, professor William Moulton Marston offered her a job — not in the classroom or psych lab, but in the office of his 43rd Street art studio. He wanted Ms. Hummel to help him write scripts for Wonder Woman, the Amazonian superhero he had created three years earlier and endowed with a magic lasso, indestructible bracelets, an eye-catching red bustier and a feminist sensibility.Ms. Hummel, then 19, had never read Wonder Woman; she had never even read a comic book. But Marston needed an assistant. His character, brought to life on the page by artist H.G. Peter, was appearing in four comic books and was about to star in a syndicated newspaper strip. He was looking for someone young who could write slang and who, perhaps most importantly, shared his philosophy and vision for the character. “You understand that I want women to feel they have the right to go out, to study, to find something they love to do and get out in the world and do it,” Ms. Hummel recalled his saying. She was “astonished and delighted” by the job offer, according to historian Jill Lepore’s book, “The Secret History of Wonder Woman,” and soon began writing for the comic. “I always did have a big imagination,” she said.

Ms. Hummel worked as a Wonder Woman ghostwriter for the next three years, long before any woman was publicly credited as a writer for the series. As invisible to readers as Wonder Woman’s transparent jet plane, she was increasingly recognized after Lepore interviewed her in 2014. Four years later, she received the Bill Finger Award, given to overlooked or underappreciated comic book writers at the Eisner Awards….

(13) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 9, 1955 — On this date in 1955, Science Fiction Theatre first aired in syndication. It was produced by Ivan Tors and Maurice Ziv.  It ran for seventy eight episodes over two years and was hosted by Truman Bradley who was the announcer for Red Skelton’s program. The first episode “Beyond” had the story of a test pilot travelling at much faster than the speed of sound who bails out and tells his superiors that another craft was about to collide with his. It starred William Lundigan, Ellen Drew and Bruce Bennett. You can watch it here.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 9, 1906 – Victor Vasarely.  Grandfather of op art, like this, and this (Supernovae, 1961).  Here is The Space Merchants using some of VV’s Folklore Planetario for the cover.  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born April 9, 1911 George O. Smith. His early prolific writings on Astounding Science Fiction in the 1940s ended when Campbell’s wife left him for Smith whom she married. Later stories were on Thrilling Wonder StoriesGalaxySuper Science Stories and Fantastic to name but four such outlets. He was given First Fandom Hall of Fame Award just before he passed on. Interestingly his novels are available from the usual digital sources but his short stories are not. (Died 1981.) (CE) 
  • Born April 9, 1913 George F. Lowther. He was writer, producer, director in the earliest days of radio and television. He wrote scripts for both Captain Video and His Video Rangers and Tom Corbett, Space Cadet.  You can see “The Birth of The Galaxy” which he scripted for the first show here as it is in the public domain. (Died 1975.) (CE) 
  • Born April 9, 1915 – Charles Burbee.  One of our best fanwriters, of the brilliant but biting type (if you like that, as well as admiring it, you can change but to and).  Fanzine, Burblings; co-edited Shangri L’Affaires awhile.  Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon 27.  You can see The Incompleat Burbee here (part 1) and here (part 2).  Burbeeisms still circulate, like AKICIF (All Knowledge Is Contained In Fanzines) – sometimes without his mocking tone, a neglect he would have mocked.  (Died 1996)  [JH]
  • Born April 9, 1937 – Barrington Bayley.  A dozen novels, fourscore shorter stories, some under other names (“Michael Barrington” for work with Michael Moorcock).  Two collections.  Interviewed in InterzoneVector; on the cover of V223 for a Mark Greener article.  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born April 9, 1937 Marty Krofft, 84. Along with Sid, his brother, are a Canadian sibling team of television creators and puppeteers. Through Sid & Marty Krofft Pictures, they have made numerous series including the superb H.R. Pufnstuf which I still remember fondly all these years later not to forget Sigmund and the Sea MonstersLand of the Lost and Electra Woman and Dyna Girl. (CE) 
  • Born April 9, 1949 Stephen Hickman, 72. Illustrator who has done over three hundred and fifty genre covers such as Manly Wade Wellman’s John the Balladeer and Nancy Springer’s Rowan Hood, Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest. His most widely known effort is his space fantasy postage stamps done for the U.S. Postal Service which won a Hugo for Best Original Art Work at ConAndian in 1994. (CE) 
  • Born April 9, 1954 Dennis Quaid, 67. I’m reasonably sure that he first genre role was in  Dreamscape as Alex Gardner followed immediately by the superb role of Willis Davidge in Enemy Mine followed by completing a trifecta with Innerspace and the character of Lt. Tuck Pendleton. And then there’s the sweet film of Dragonheart and him as Bowen. Anyone hear of The Day After Tomorrow in which he was Jack Hall? I hadn’t a clue about it. (CE) 
  • Born April 9, 1972 Neve McIntosh, 49. During time of the Eleventh Doctor, She plays Alaya and Restac, two  Silurian reptilian sisters who have been disturbed under the earth, one captured by humans and the other demanding vengeance. Her second appearance on Doctor Who is Madame Vastra in “A Good Man Goes to War”. Also a Silurian, she’s a Victorian crime fighter.  She’s back in the 2012 Christmas special, and in the episodes “The Crimson Horror” and “The Name of the Doctor”. She’s Madame Vastra, who along with her wife, Jenny Flint, and Strax, a former Sontaran warrior, who together form a private investigator team. Big Finish gave them their own line of audio adventures. (CE) 
  • Born April 9, 1980 – Jill Hathaway, age 41.  Two novels.  Teaches high-school English, bless her.  Has read Cat’s Cradle, Tender Is the NightNative Son.  [JH]
  • Born April 9, 1981 – Vincent Chong, age 40.  Two hundred twenty covers, sixty interiors.  Artbook Altered Visions.  Here is Shine.  Here is the Gollancz ed’n of Dangerous Visions.  Here is G’s Left Hand of Darkness.  Here is Ghost Story.  [JH]
  • Born April 9, 1990 – Megan Bannen, age 31.  Two novels, one just last year.  “An avid coffee drinker and mediocre ukulele player…. in her spare time, she collects graduate degrees from Kansas colleges and universities.”  Or so she says.  [JH]

(15) COMICS SECTION.

(16) PRINCE PHILIP RIP. The Cartoon Museum in London noted the passing of its Patron HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh has been Patron of The Cartoon Museum in London for over 20 years. In 1949 he and the young Princess Elizabeth attended the Royal Society of Arts and listened to a speech by the great British cartoonist H. M. Bateman, calling for a national museum of cartoons.

He has given the museum continuous support and with his great love of humour he admired the genre of British cartooning. In 1994 he opened the museum’s exhibition on Giles, who drew for the Daily and Sunday Express from 1943 – 1991. The Duke of Edinburgh owned several Giles cartoons in his private collection; Giles was his favourite cartoonist – he admired his social observations, gentle humour, and depictions of the Royal Family.

The monarchy have been a persistent (and easy) target of cartoonists and caricaturists for 300 years, from Gillray and Beerbohm to Scarfe, Bell, Rowson and Peter Brookes – but the Duke of Edinburgh could always see the funny side in any situation, and took humorous depictions of himself in his stride. In 2002 Prince Philip opened an exhibition of cartoons on the Kings and Queens (300 Years of Cartoons about the Monarchy), and in 2006 he opened London’s first museum of cartoons.

The Cartoon Museum, its Trustees, Staff, and the cartooning community are saddened to hear Prince Philip has passed away, and send their deepest condolences to H. M. The Queen and his family.

(17) TO BOLDLY GO…WHO KNOWS WHERE? SYFY Wire reports  “New ‘Star Trek’ film set for summer 2023, as studios shuffle several releases”. Just don’t ask what it will be about.

Star Trek is bolding coming back to the big screen… two years from now. Paramount Pictures confirmed Friday that a brand-new Trek film will hit theaters on June 8, 2023. While the project is currently untitled and plot details are non-existent, we suspect this is the movie currently being written by The Walking Dead alum, Kalinda Vasquez.

(18) SANDMAN CROSSOVER. There’s a Q&A with the authors in “Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez preview their Locke & Key Sandman crossover” at Entertainment Weekly.

…Written and illustrated by the Locke & Key creative team of writer Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez, with the blessing of The Sandman co-creator Neil GaimanHell and Gone is set in 1927, during the opening sequence of The Sandman in which Morpheus, the King of Dreams, is held captive by the human sorcerer Roderick Burgess. Mary Locke, an ancestor of the Locke children who populate the main Locke & Key story, reaches out to Burgess to see if his occult society can help her save her brother’s soul from hell…. 

GABRIEL RODRIGUEZ: I started buying Sandman from the newspaper stand near my house once they started selling the Spanish edition here in Chile. They started publishing from the eighth issue, in which they introduce Death, and from then on they did the entire run. I remember reading that very first issue and was immediately hooked by the storytelling. And then when we get into the Doll’s House story line, I immediately realized it was going to be something really big and cool, and I ended up collecting the entire series. At the time I was reading Sandman, I was just daydreaming about eventually making a comic book myself, but living in such a small country where we don’t have a huge publishing industry, especially back then, it felt impossible.

(19) UNSOUND EFFECTS. “2021 Oscar-Nominated Short: “Yes-People'” on YouTube is an Icelandic animated film, directed by Gisli Darri Hallsdottir, that is an nominee for best short animated film, and is presented by The New Yorker.

“Yes-People” follows several Icelanders as they navigate minor daily conflicts—on their way to work, or to school, or while grocery shopping.

(20) PETRIFIED DINO GIZZARDS. Megafauna swallowed bigger stones than their avian descendants: “These Rocks Made a 1,000-Mile Trek. Did Dinosaurs Carry Them?”

The gastroliths were found in Jurassic-aged mudstones in a rock formation called the Morisson. A rainbow of pinks and reds, the Morisson formation brims with dinosaur fossils, including those of sauropods, such as Barosaurus and Diplodocus, as well as meat-eaters such as Allosaurus.

But the rocks, which are similar to gastroliths dug up elsewhere, were found on their own without any dinosaur remnants. To get a clue as to how they had ended up in modern-day Wyoming, the team crushed the rocks to retrieve and date the zircon crystals contained inside, a bit like studying ancient fingerprints.

“What we found was that the zircon ages inside these gastroliths have distinct age spectra that matched what the ages were in the rocks in southern Wisconsin,” said Malone, now a doctoral student studying geology at the University of Texas at Austin. “We used that to hypothesize that these rocks were ingested somewhere in southern Wisconsin and then transported to Wyoming in the belly of a dinosaur.

“There hasn’t really been a study like this before that suggests long-distance dinosaur migration using this technique, so it was a really exciting moment for us.”

(21) FOSSILIZED STINK. Or maybe dinos were shying rocks at this creature to get rid of the smell? “Beast of five teeth: Chilean scientists unearth skunk that walked among dinosaurs” at Yahoo!

A fossil of a skunk-like mammal that lived during the age of dinosaurs has been discovered in Chilean Patagonia, adding further proof to recent evidence that mammals roamed that part of South America a lot earlier than previously thought.

A part of the creature’s fossilized jawbone with five teeth attached were discovered close to the famous Torres del Paine national park.

Christened Orretherium tzen, meaning ‘Beast of Five Teeth’ in an amalgam of Greek and a local indigenous language, the animal is thought to have lived between 72 and 74 million years ago during the Upper Cretaceous period, at the end of the Mesozoic era, and been a herbivore…

(22) JUST IN TIME. The sixth season of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow premieres Sunday, May 2.

The Legends continue their new mission to protect the timeline from temporal aberrations – unusual changes to history that spawn potentially catastrophic consequences. When Nate, the grandson of J.S.A. member Commander Steel, unexpectedly finds himself with powers, he must overcome his own insecurities and find the hero within himself. Ultimately, the Legends will clash with foes both past and present, to save the world from a mysterious new threat.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Michael J. Walsh, Frank Olynyk, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, rcade, Daniel Dern, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, James Bacon, Scott Edelman, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Greg Hullender, with an assist from rcade.]

Pixel Scroll 12/29/20 A Mime
In A Tesseract Still Has Ways To Get Out

(1) BRADBURY’S CHAMPION. The Los Angeles Review of Books hosts “Ray Bradbury at 100: A Conversation Between Sam Weller and Dana Gioia”.

COMMEMORATING THE CENTENNIAL of the great Ray Bradbury, biographer Sam Weller sat down with former California poet laureate and former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts Dana Gioia for a wide-ranging conversation on Bradbury’s imprint on arts and culture.

SAM WELLER: The first time I met you was at the White House ceremony for Ray Bradbury in November 2004. You were such a champion for Ray’s legacy — his advocate for both the National Medal of Arts and Pulitzer Prize. As we look at his 100th birthday, I want to ask: Why is Bradbury important in literary terms?

DANA GIOIA: Ray Bradbury is one of the most important American writers of the mid-20th century. He transformed science fiction’s position in American literature during the 1950s. There were other fine sci-fi writers, but Ray was the one who first engaged the mainstream audience. He had a huge impact on both American literature and popular culture. He was also one of the most significant California writers of the last century. When one talks about Bradbury, one needs to choose a perspective. His career looks different from each angle….

(2) TUCKER ON BRADBURY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is from “Beard Mumblings,” a column by Bob Tucker that appears in the recently published Outworlds 71, but which was written in 1986 and is about the 1986 Worldcon.

There were some very pleasant memories of the con.  One of them was when Ray Bradbury recognized me in the huge 10th floor consuite and came over to shake and talk.  Mind you, we had not met each other for 40 years.  Our last meeting was the 1946 Worldcon in Los Angeles, yet he recognized and remembered.  I was very pleased to see him again, and equally pleased to get his autograph across the page of his chapter in Harry Warner’s All Our Yesterdays.  Judging the way he examined that page and that chapter, he doesn’t have a copy.

(3) WHEN HOKEY RELIGIONS AND ANCIENT WEAPONS ARE A MATCH. Professor Louise A. Hitchcock makes a connection in “The Mandalorian and Ancient Mediterranean Societies: The Way of The Force?” at Neon Kosmos. BEWARE SPOILERS.

…Thus, like both Achilles and Gilgamesh of early epic, baby Grogu has semi-divine aspects paired with Din Djarin’s stoic sense of duty and discipline. The pairing both calls to mind Patroclus who becomes a role model to the younger Achilles as well as Enkidu who becomes humanised through his friendship with Gilgamesh. In each epic tale the pair are changed by their bond of affection which is forged through shared experience. In all of these epics, the friends are also tragically separated, our ancients by death, and Grogu by Din Djarin’s quest to return him to the Jedi to finish his training. An element of danger is added by the fact that the Empire is seeking to capture or buy Grogu to increase its power through acquiring his force sensitive blood.

The weekly quest for survival as Din and Grogu, pursue their goal operates on the basis of pre-monetary economy that is reminiscent of maritime trade in the ancient Mediterranean. Food and drink are sometimes obtained through a shared code of hospitality, exchanging mercenary acts for information or needed supplies, transporting individuals from one port to another, providing Beskar ingots in exchange for ship repairs, and even trading spices. In other words, things haven’t changed a lot since the Silk Road brought needed goods from Asia to Mesopotamia or ships transported copper from Cyprus to Crete.

(4) OWN THOSE LITTLE BLACK BOOKS. [Item by Rob Thornton.] Games Designers Workshop is doing two Bundles of Holding that together will contain all of legendary science fiction roleplaying game Traveller’s Little Black Books (LBBs). Currently, “Traveller LBBs 1” and “Traveller LBBs 2” are available. Both bundles together comprise the complete LBB collection.

Traveller! We’ve resurrected both of our 2015 offers of the classic “Little Black Books” from the Golden Age of Traveller, the original science fiction tabletop roleplaying game. Together these two bargain-priced offers give you DRM-free .PDF ebooks of all 50+ rulebooks, supplements, and adventures published as half-size manuals (with elegant black covers) by Game Designers’ Workshop, 1977-1982.

(5) BROKEN HEARTS OF A WRITING LIFE. Stephen R. Donaldson mourns the response to his latest draft.

11/12/20
“The Killing God”: progress report

                I’ve finally finished my first-pass revision of Book Three of THE GREAT GOD’S WAR, “The Killing God” (formerly known as “The Last Repository”). The text is now ready to deliver to my agent and editor. In its current form, it stands at 1100 pages, a bit more than 283,000 words. What happens next? My agent will read the book much faster than my editor will; but I won’t start on the next revision until I’ve received what are politely called “comments” from both of them. At that point, no doubt, Berkley (and Gollancz in the UK) will schedule publication. Sometimes this requires me to do my next revision in a hurry. But not always.

12/6/20 
“The Killing God”: bad news

                My agent has submitted the book to my editor at Berkley. Without reading it (!), my editor informed me that Berkley will not consider publishing the book until I cut 100,000 words. Roughly 35% of the text. On the assumption that I will not do such violence to my own work, Berkley has removed the book from their publication schedule.
Their assumption is correct. At this stage, I routinely prune my manuscripts by 10%. I may conceivably be able to go as far as 15%. But whether or not anyone likes my characters and how I handle them, my stories are very tightly plotted. Each piece relies on–and is implied by–what came before it. I can’t mutilate Book Three without making the entire trilogy incoherent.
My agent believes that where we stand now is not the end of “The Killing God.” (Never mind of my career.) He has persuaded my editor to go ahead and read the book. He hopes that seeing how strongly Book Three caps Books One and Two (which she loved) will persuade her to rethink her position. I have my doubts. I suspect that her position is corporate rather than editorial: my books no longer earn enough to make them worth publishing regardless of their intrinsic merits. Naturally, I hope I’m wrong.

When I have more news, I’ll post it here. I don’t expect to hear anything until sometime in January.

(6) NEXT NYRSF READING. Sam J. Miller will be featured on the virtual New York Review of Science Fiction reading, Tuesday, January 5, 2021 at 7:00 PM EST.

Now that the Dystopia Year of 2020 is over, we will begin 2021 with the wonderful writer Sam J. Miller to make sure we stay on our toes.

Sam J. Miller is the Nebula Award-winning author of The Art of Starving (an NPR best of the year) and Blackfish City (a “Must Read” in Entertainment Weekly and O: The Oprah Winfrey Magazine). Sam’s short stories have been nominated for the World Fantasy, Theodore Sturgeon, and Locus Awards, and reprinted in dozens of anthologies. He is the last in a long line of butchers, and he has also been a film critic, a grocery bagger, a community organizer, a secretary, a painter’s assistant and model, and the guitarist in a punk rock band. He lives in New York City, and at samjmiller.com

After the reading general series dogsbody Amy Goldschlager will interview the author, and then we’ll open up the discussion to general questions from our virtual audience. Barbara Krasnoff will be the Audience Wrangler.

Please help us keep the series going by donating to NYRSF Reading Series producer Jim Freund at PayPal.me/HourWolf.

(7) EXPANDING THE HONORVERSE. Eric Flint did a title reveal on Facebook today.

Well, it’s official. After much wrangling and soul-searching, we’ve settled on the title To End In Fire for the upcoming Honorverse novel David Weber and I are writing. It’s tentatively scheduled for publication in October.

I tried to hold out for the more exciting title of The Cabal In The Luyten 726-8b (UV Ceti) System, but David overruled me. He thinks that title is too obscure. I find that hard to believe, given that the star system is clearly identified in the Gliese Catalog of Nearby Stars, which I’m sure can be found on every literate person’s bookshelves. But, he’s got the final sayso on account of he’s the one who created this whole setting.

Titles are just window dressing, anyway. What matters is the story — which in this case is shaping up to be a dandy. If I say so myself as shouldn’t, if I subscribed to Samwise Gamgee notions of modesty. Which (clears the throat), I don’t, on account of I’m a shameless scribbler and he’s, well, a hobbit when you get right down to it.

(8) MOSS OBIT. Actor Basil Moss (1935-2020) died November 28. There’s an overview of his career in The Guardian.

Basil Moss, who has died aged 85, was a perennial character actor often popping up in popular series as authority figures, but he found his best parts in two BBC soaps.

He became a familiar face on television as the librarian Alan Drew in Compact, set in the offices of a glossy women’s magazine… 

After Compact, Moss’s other TV roles included … a doctor with the hi-tech military agency Shado, defending the Earth against aliens, in UFO (1970-71), the puppet master Gerry Anderson’s first full live-action series; and Robert Atkinson in the political thriller series First Among Equals (1986).

Uncredited, Moss was also seen as a Navy submarine officer in the James Bond film You Only Live Twice (1967).

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • December 29, 1967 — “The Trouble with Tribbles” first aired as written by David Gerrold and directed by Joseph Pevney,  with some of the guest cast being Stanley Adams as Cyrano Jones, Whit Bissell as Station Manager and Michael Pataki  as Korax. Memory Alpha says ”Wah Chang designed the original tribbles. Hundreds were sewn together during production, using pieces of extra-long rolls of carpet. Some of them had mechanical toys placed in them so they could walk around.” Memory Alpha also notes Heinlein had Martian flat cats in The Rolling Stones that were similar to these and Roddenberry called to apologize for these being so similar. Who remembers these?  It would come in second in the Hugo balloting to “The City on the Edge of Forever” written by Harlan Ellison. All five final Hugo nominees at Baycon were Trek episodes written by Jerome Bixby, Norman Spinrad and Theodore Sturgeon.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 29, 1843 – Carmen Sylva.  Keyboardist (piano, organ), singer, graphic artist (painting, illuminating), poet, writer in English, French, German, Romanian, she left us particularly a dozen tales published in English as Pilgrim Sorrow, one in The Ruby Fairy Book and more recently in the VanderMeers’ Big Book of Classic Fantasy (2019).  CS was a pen name, she was the Queen of Romania.  (Died 1916) [JH]
  • Born December 29, 1915 – Charles L. Harness.  A dozen novels, five dozen shorter stories; appreciation of Van Vogt in Nebula Awards 31; interview “I Did It for the Money” in Locus (but, as has often been said, fiction-writers are liars).  SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) Author of Distinction.  Best known for “The Rose” and The Paradox Men.  Three NESFA (New England SF Ass’n) Press books; here is Jane Dennis’ cover for Cybele, with Bluebonnets.  Patent lawyer.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born December 29, 1916 John D. MacDonald. He wrote three genre novels of which I think the best by far is The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything. He also wrote some sixty genre short stories, many of the genre are collected in End of The Tiger which is available from the usual digital suspects (Died 1986.) (CE)
  • Born December 29, 1924 – Art Rapp.  At his home in Michigan he welcomed fans and published Spacewarp; after two years’ Army service in Korea he married Nancy Share and moved to Pennsylvania.  Two N3F Laureate Awards (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n), later a term as N3F President.  To him was revealed the fannish ghod (naturally opinions differ on what this is for; it may indicate the shape of a cheek with a tongue in itRoscoe.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born December 29, 1928 Bernard Cribbins, 92. He has the odd distinction of first showing up on Doctor Who in the Peter Cushing as The Doctor non-canon Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. film. He would show up in the canon when he appeared as Wilfred Mott in the Tenth Doctor story, “Voyage of the Damned”, and he‘s a Tenth Doctor companion himself in “The End of Time”, the two-part 2009–10 Christmas and New Year special. (CE)
  • Born December 29, 1945 – Sam Long, age 75.  First noted in Fred Hemmings’ Viewpoint reporting Eastercon 23, he notably published (with Ned Brooks) the Mae Strelkov Trip Report (as you can see here; PDF) after friends brought the fine fanartist MS from Argentina.  SL still appears e.g. in The MT Void (pronounce it M-T, not as an abbreviation for mountain).  [JH]
  • Born December 29, 1950 – Gitte Spee, age 70.  This Dutch artist born in (on?) Java has done lots of illustrations for us.  Here is Detective Gordon’s first case in English and in Polish.  Here is Rosalinde on the Moon(in French).  [JH]
  • Born December 29, 1961 – Kenneth Chiacchia, Ph.D., age 59.  Medical science writer at Univ. Pittsburgh, and since he is ours too, member of both SFWA and the Nat’l Ass’n of Science Writers.  A dozen stories; poems (the 2007 Rhysling anthology has this one).  Carnegie Science Center Journalism Award.  [JH]
  • Born December 29, 1966 Alexandra Kamp, 53. Did you know Sax Rohmer’s noels were made into a film? I didn’t. Well she was the lead in Sax Rohmer’s Sumuru which Michael Shanks also shows up in. She’s also in 2001: A Space Travesty with Leslie Neilsen, and Dracula 3000 with Caspar van Dien. Quality films neither will be mistaken for, each warranting a fifteen percent rating  among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.. (CE) 
  • Born December 29, 1963 Dave McKean, 57. If you read nothing else involving him, do read the work done by him on and Gaiman called The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr Punch: A Romance. Brilliant, violent, horrifying. Well and Signal to Noise by them is worth chasing down as well. (CE) 
  • Born December 29, 1969 Ingrid Torrance, 51. A very busy performer who’s had one- offs in Poltergeist: The Legacy, The Sentinel, Viper, First Wave, The Outer Limits, Seven Days, Smallville, Stargate: SG-1, The 4400, Blade: The Series, Fringe, The Tomorrow People, and Supernatural.
  • Born December 29, 1972 Jude Law, 48. I think his first SF role was as Jerome Eugene Morrow in Gattaca followed by playing Gigolo Joe in A.I. with my fav role for him being the title role in  Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He was Lemony Snicket In Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Tony in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Dr. John Watson in Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Remy In Repo Man and he voiced Pitch Black in one of my favorite animated films, Rise of the Guardians. (CE)

(11) KAL-EL AND LL. SYFY Wire is there when “The CW’s Superman & Lois drops first heroic trailer for new DC series”.

… While the teaser isn’t very long (or footage-heavy for that matter), it does give us our first look at the Kent family unit, while Clark talks about how the stress of life can strengthen a person beneath the surface. His use of the phrase “forged liked steel” is a nice little nod to one of Superman’s monickers: the Man of Steel.

(12) SPDIEY’S NEW THREADS. Spider-Man’s hideous new costume that looks like he tore it off a New England Patriots cornerback is revealed in Amazing Spider-Man’ #61.

Over the years, Spider-Man has donned a host of iconic costumes, from his classics digs to the black suit to the Iron Spider. Now in 2021, everyone’s favorite Wall-Crawler will get a brand-new costume to add to his legendary wardrobe! Designed by superstar artist Dustin Weaver, this vibrant new look is unlike any that Peter Parker has worn before. The mysterious look can be seen on Weaver’s incredible variant covers for AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #62 and April’s AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #63.

…  Peter Parker will wear this new suit for his face-off against Kingpin in the next arc of writer Nick Spencer’s hit run. Discover the mystery behind this top-secret costume when AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #61 and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #62 swing into shops this March!

(13) SUPERHERO LIFTS THEATER CHAINS. Deadline reports “’Wonder Woman 1984’ Opening Boosts Movie Theater Stocks, But AMC Loses More Ground”.

The better-than-expected Christmas-weekend opening of Wonder Woman 1984 is giving most exhibition stocks a welcome boost as the misery of 2020 gives way to hope for a brighter 2021.

Shares in Cinemark, Imax, Marcus Corp. and National CineMedia rose between 3% and 7% apiece after the sequel took in $16.7 million domestically, the best bow by any film during the coronavirus pandemic.

AMC, the world’s largest theater circuit, was a notable exception to the rally. Its stock dropped 5% on ongoing investor concern about its liquidity and a potential bankruptcy filing…. 

(14) BOOGLY WOOGLY STUFF. This is great — Boston Dynamics sets its robots dancing in “Do You Love Me?” on YouTube.

(15) SPLINTERS ARE BETTER. “Japan developing wooden satellites to cut space junk” – BBC News has the story. [Via Slashdot.]

…The partnership will begin experimenting with different types of wood in extreme environments on Earth.

Space junk is becoming an increasing problem as more satellites are launched into the atmosphere.

Wooden satellites would burn up without releasing harmful substances into the atmosphere or raining debris on the ground when they plunge back to Earth….

Does this train of thought wind up with Captain Harlock’s spaceship?

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [By Martin Morse Wooster.] “Batman:  The Animated Series/The Heart of Batman” on YouTube is a 2018 documentary, directed by Alexander Gray, on the 1990s “Batman: The Animated Series” which many critics, such as Glen Weldon, say is the best version of Batman.  The film shows that the immediate inspiration for the series was Tim Burton’s Batman and Steven Spielberg’s desire to build an animation at Warner Bros., including giving the budget to have a full orchestra record Shirley Walker’s imaginative score.  Creators Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski give many influences, including film noir, German expressionist films, Citizen Kane, Max Fleischer’s Superman cartoons, and the art of Alex Toth.  But Andrea Romano gets a lot of credit for coming up with superb voices, including Mark Hamill as the Joker and Kevin Conroy as Batman.  The series also turned Harley Quinn into a full-fledged, interesting character and led to Margot Robbie playing her in three big-budget movies.

As an aside, Batman:  The Animated Series discusses how earlier animated shows of the 1980s had stifling restrictions imposed by network censors.  One writer (who wasn’t identified) worked on Super Friends.  One episode had the Justice League shrunk to midgets leading to Robin fighting a spider.  The censors said the cartoon had to include a scene where the spider is seen crawling away because Robin couldn’t hurt the spider.

[Thanks to John Hertz, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Rob Thornton, Louise A. Hitchcock, Michael J. Walsh, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 12/27/20 The Right To Scroll Pixels Is The Right To Be Filed

(1) EVADING DUTIES. Richard Garriott’s announcement that he secretly hid some of James Doohan’s ashes on the ISS inspired Steven H Silver’s post “A Brief History of Space Smuggling” for Amazing Stories.

…The first mission to orbit the moon was the Apollo 8 mission on December 24 and 25, 1968. Knowing that the crew would be in orbit around the Moon on Christmas, NASA wanted to make sure that they had an appropriate Christmas dinner and provided dehydrated versions of the appropriate foods. Deke Slayton went a step further, and despite an official no-alcohol policy, he slipped in three mini bottles of Coronet Brandy for the crew to enjoy. William Borman, however, confiscated the bottles explaining that if there was any subsequent problem with the space craft, it would be blamed on the men drinking the brandy. In a 2019 article, space writer Jeffrey Kluger claimed that all three men (it is the only Apollo crew with all its members still alive) still have their unopened bottle of brandy….

(2) JP: COLLECT ‘EM ALL. [Item by James Bacon.] Journey Planet: Collector’s Edition is all about collectors, collections, and collecting! Our contributors share their treasure troves, which range from Prince records to nerdy paintings to Leia merchandise. What makes their collections special to them? Why did they start collecting them in the first place? Where do they keep all that stuff?

There’s also a very special interview with Seanan McGuire, My Little Pony collector extraordinaire! Take a tour of her “Pony Room”, meet her favorite Ponies, and hear why collecting them brings her so much joy. We hope that reading her story and the others breathes new life into your enjoyment of your own collection, whatever that may be.”

Co-edited by Sarah Gulde the issue can be found free to download here.

(3) THE NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND BOOKS. “Library of 1000 Believes You’ve Read Less Than 10 of These Books”. The Library may have a thousand, but there are only 150 titles in this challenge. Cliff submitted the link along with a confession: “I scored two. I could maybe give myself half a point for Raymond Feist’s Magician, but it was so terrible I couldn’t bring myself to finish it.” Whereas I scored 5 — big whoopee!

(4) WW BUT WHAT YEAR? “’Wonder Woman 3′ in the Works With Director Patty Jenkins” SAYS Variety. It would be a wonder if it wasn’t, right?

(5) ACROSS THE POND. The UK bookstore chain Waterstones has listed its favorite science fiction and fantasy books of 2020: “The Best Books of 2020: Science Fiction & Fantasy”.

The Science Fiction universe saw the return of two seminal modern series this year, as Ernest Cline finally followed up his pop-culture packed cult favourite Ready Player One and Suzanne Collins took us all back to Panem and the backstory of the future President Snow in her prequel to The Hunger Games trilogy. Meanwhile, the realms of Fantasy saw the contemporary fiction debuts of Young Adult titans, Sarah J. Maas and Veronica Roth. Elsewhere, we defended a future New York with N.K. Jemisin, traded our souls for immortality with V.E. Schwab and learned to live side by side with bunnies thanks to Jasper Fforde. Where will we boldly go in 2021?

(6) ROADS LESS TRAVELLED. Book Riot’s Margaret Kingsbury writes interesting takes about her picks in “10 of the Best 2020 Under the Radar SFF Books”.

PHOENIX EXTRAVAGANT BY YOON HA LEE

This unique standalone is set in a fantasy world reminiscent of Korea during the Japanese occupation of the early 1900s. The Ministry of Armour hires nonbinary artist Jebi to paint magic sigils onto masks for the government’s automata. Their sister hates the conquering government, but Jebi, who doesn’t consider themself political, needs the cash and doesn’t see another way of acquiring it. Jebi is oblivious to anything that isn’t art. At the armory, Jebi befriends a pacifist dragon automata, and their political reluctance slowly begins to shift. As their friendship strengthens and Jebi sees more of the inner workings of The Ministry of Armour, they decide they’ll do whatever it takes to keep the dragon from becoming a weapon. I loved the way queerness is normalized in the social structure of the world Yoon Ha Lee builds, as well as the focus on art and pacifism, and Jebi’s slow character arc. Phoenix Extravagant is a fantastic standalone.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • December 27, 1904 —  J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan ; or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up premiered at the Duke of York’s Theatre, London. Nina Boucicault, daughter of playwright Dion Boucicault, was the title role. Barrie continued to revise the play for years after its debut until publication of the play script in 1928.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 27, 1888 Thea von Harbou. She penned the novel Metropolis based upon her uncredited screenplay for husband Fritz Lang on that film.  She also collaborated with him on other projects, none of which save her Phantom and Dr. Mabuse the Gambler screenplays appear to be genre. (Died 1954.) (CE)
  • Born December 27, 1917 – Ken Slater.  Fan and bookseller.  Ran Operation Fantast, then eventually Fantast (Medway) Ltd.  “Something to Read” six years in Nebula.  Founding member of BSFA (British SF Ass’n).  Fan Guest of Honour at Eastercon 10; with wife Joyce, at Conspiracy ’87 the 45th Worldcon.  Co-founded OMPA; in FAPA too.  When Forry Ackerman won the “No. 1 Fan Personality” Hugo – the only time we’ve given it – he left it onstage saying it should have gone to KS.  Doc Weir Award (U.K., service), Big Heart (our highest service award).  Note by Our Gracious Host here.  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born December 27, 1931 – Perdita Boardman.  Long-time hostess of the Lunarians (New York); ran the Hospitality Suite at their annual Lunacon; Fan Guest of Honor with husband John Boardman at Lunacon 41.  Made a WSFS banner (but not this one).  Earlier married to Ray Nelson inspiring poetry, hello Ray.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born December 27, 1943 – Diane Stanley, age 77.  A dozen novels, three covers for us; sixty books all told; particularly applauded for children’s biographies, many illustrated by herself, e.g. CleopatraCharles Dickens, the Man Who Had Great Expectations (CD wrote Great Expectations and was a social reformer); Joan of ArcMozart the Wonder Child, a Puppet Play in Three ActsSaladin, Noble Prince of IslamShaka, King of the Zulus.  With an M.A. in medical illustration she has done that too; graphic designer for Dell; art director for Putnam’s.  Shaka was a NY Times Best Illustrated Book.  Orbis Pictus Award.  Boston Globe – Hornbook Award and Golden Kite Award, twice each.  Washington Post – Children’s Book Guild Award for body of work.  Here is her cover for the May 88 Cricket.  Here is Lost Magic.  Here is The Silver Bowl.  Here is an interior for Cleopatra.  [JH]
  • Born December 27, 1945 – Fred Lerner, Ph.D., age 75.  Doctorate in library science, Modern SF and the American Literary Community based on his dissertation.  Co-founded the Beaker People Libation Front.  NESFA (New England SF Ass’n) Press published A Bookman’s Fantasy, essays; put his “Silverlock” Companion in its ed’n of Silverlock; also for NESFA Press he edited Jack Speer’s memoir Fancestral Voices.  Special Guest at Boskone 32 (which has no Fan Guest of Honor).  His Lofgeornost (last word of Beowulf, “desirous of fame or renown”) for FAPA circulates widely, won a FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Award last year.  [JH]
  • Born December 27, 1951 Charles Band, 69. Exploitation film maker whose here because some of his source material is SFF in origin. Arena was scripted off the Fredric Brown “Arena” short story which first ran in the June 1944 Astounding, and From Beyond which was based on H P Lovecraft’s short story of the same name which was first published in June 1934 issue of The Fantasy Fan. (CE) 
  • Born December 27, 1960 Maryam d’Abo, 60. She’s best known as Kara Milovy in The Living Daylights. Her first genre role was her screen debut in the very low-budget SF horror film Xtro, an Alien rip-off. She was Ta’Ra in Something Is Out There, a miniseries that was well received and but got piss poor ratings. Did you know there was a live Mowgli: The New Adventures of the Jungle Book? I didn’t. She was Elaine Bendel, a recurring role in it. (CE)
  • Born December 27, 1969 Sarah Jane Vowell, 51. She’s a author, journalist, essayist, historian, podcaster,  social commentator and actress. Impressive, isn’t she? Ahhh but she gets Birthday Honors for being the voice of Violet Parr in the Incredibles franchise. I say franchise as I’ve no doubt that a third film is already bring scripted given how successful the first two were.  (CE) 
  • Born December 27, 1972 – Igor Posavec, age 48.  Covers for Perry Rhodan 2436-39: here is The Immaterial City (in German); here is People for Stardust (in German).  Note that P Rhodan, co-created by our own Walter Ernsting, has appeared weekly since 1961; its first billion of worldwide sales came in 1986.  More recently IP has been doing digitals; here is Do Machines Dream of Electric Sheep? (with Sven Sauer; I haven’t seen the untranslated title so don’t know if this is a deliberate variation on P.K. Dick’s Do Androids…).  Website.  [JH]
  • Born December 27, 1977 Sinead Keenan, 42. She’s in the Eleventh Doctor story, “The End of Time” as Addams but her full face make-up guarantees that you won’t recognize her. If you want to see her, she’s a Who fan in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. Her final Who work is a Big Finish audio drama, Iterations of I, a Fifth Doctor story. And she played Nina Pickering, a werewolf, in Being Human for quite a long time. (CE) 
  • Born December 27, 1986 – Mirelle Ortega, age 34.  As she says, “Illustrator for kidlit and animation”.  Animation! prize at Ideatoon.  Three covers for Linda Chapman’s Mermaids Rock stories; here is The Ice Giant.  Here is A Dash of Trouble from Love Sugar Magic.  MO’s Website is full of swell images; someone better with Electronicland than I may be able to tell which have been used and which merely proposed.  [JH]
  • Born December 27, 1987 Lily Cole, 33. Been awhile since I found a Who performer and so let’s have another one now. She played The Siren in the Eleventh Doctor story, “The Curse of The Black Spot”. She’s also in some obscure film called Star Wars: The Last Jedi as a character named Lovey. And she shows up in the important role of Valentina in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Not mention she’s in Snow White and The Huntsman as Greta, a great film indeed. (CE)

(9) FEAST FOR THE EYES. Artnet News says “A New Book Makes the Case That Fantasy Art Is America’s Least Understood Fine-Art Form—See the Wild Images Here” See sixteen great and vividly-colored examples from Masterpieces of Fantasy Art at the link.

Dragons, sexy maidens, and epic sword fights are getting the fine-art treatment in Masterpieces of Fantasy Art, Taschen’s new 532-page illustrated tome celebrating the genre.

Lest you think fantasy art is nothing more than a lightweight endeavor, the massive volume weighs a hefty 16 pounds. Tracing the evolution of the genre from 1400 to the present, it showcases the works of Old Masters Jan Van Eyck and Hieronymus Bosch as well as contemporary heavy-hitters like H.R. GigerFrank Frazetta, and Boris Vallejo.

“Since fantasy art is largely created as work for hire, no matter how talented the artist,” author Dian Hanson writes, “it has always been accessible, displayed prominently on the newsstand, to its advantage and curse.” The genre’s predilection for provocative, sexualized scenes has also hurt its credibility among the art-world cognoscenti—not to mention that the mass-produced fantasy books were literally printed on cheap pulp paper in the 20th century.

Hanson amassed more than 100 superlative examples of this oft-misunderstood form for the book. The compilation speaks to the genre’s considerable appeal—which has also translated into impressive art-market success. Original Frazetta oil paintings have sold for as much as $5.4 million. The book’s cover image, Frazetta’s Princess of Mars (197), fetched $1.2 million at Dallas’s Heritage Auctions in September….

(10) MEME MUTATION. Forget about stainless steel — “Ephemeral edible: gingerbread monolith appears on San Francisco hilltop, then collapses” – photos in The Guardian.

Like the other monoliths that have mysteriously appeared across America and the world in the waning weeks of 2020, the one that popped up on a California hilltop on Christmas Day seemed to come out of nowhere.

Also like the others, it was tall, three-sided and it rapidly attracted crowds of curious visitors before an untimely destruction.

Unlike the others, this monolith was made of … gingerbread.

(11) 2020 ENVISIONED. NASA’s video shows that in space the year was not wasted – “NASA Discoveries, R&D, Moon to Mars Exploration Persevere in 2020”.

In 2020, NASA made significant progress on America’s Moon to Mars exploration strategy, met mission objectives for the Artemis program, achieved significant scientific advancements to benefit humanity, and returned human spaceflight capabilities to the United States, all while agency teams acted quickly to assist the national COVID-19 response.

(12) SKY’S THE LIMIT. Leonard Maltin reviewed George Clooney’s sf film The Midnight Sky. He didn’t like it. “The Midnight Sky: Been There, Done That”.

George Clooney stars in this space parable that starts out well, then goes adrift. Set in the stereotypically bleak near-future, the story focuses on a defeated scientist who chooses to stay behind in the Antarctic, knowing his days are numbered, while his colleagues get the hell out of there. But when he discovers that he has company—a silent 7-year-old girl—his priorities shift completely…

(13) HUSTLING TO EARTH. The New York Times fills in the late arrivers to Tevis fandom: “Walter Tevis Was a Novelist. You Might Know His Books (Much) Better as Movies”.

The wildly popular Netflix series “The Queen’s Gambit” has done for chess what Julia Child once did for French cooking. Chess set sales have skyrocketed; enrollment in online chess classes has surged. The series has been the subject of hundreds of articles and interviews. The novel that inspired the show, first published in 1983, has been on The New York Times’s trade paperback best-seller list for five weeks.

Yet little attention has been paid to Walter Tevis, the author whose creation has stirred all the commotion.

…Born in 1928, Tevis wrote six novels, a surprising number of which made high-profile leaps to the screen: “The Hustler,” about a young pool shark played by Paul Newman; “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” starring David Bowie as a lonesome alien; and “The Color of Money,” a follow-up to “The Hustler,” which won Mr. Newman his first Oscar. Tevis’s 1980 science fiction book, “Mockingbird,” a commentary on humanity’s dwindling interest in reading, has long had a modest cult following.

(14) BODY OF KNOWLEDGE. “The next The Crown or The Queen’s Gambit? Netflix’s Chinese sci-fi series The Three-Body Problem is sparking hype – and controversy – already”: a roundup of what is known, in the South China Morning Post.

The show’s release date is still unconfirmed

Despite the hype – good and bad – surrounding Netflix’s announced adaptation and the impressive list of names who will feature on the creative team, the production of The Three-Body Problem is still in its early days. Writers and producers might be signed up, but there have been no casting reveals yet and, crucially, no release date announced. The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly delayed progress, but fans of the books might expect further details next year.

(15) DROPPING THE OTHER. Mental Floss coached viewers about “’A Christmas Story’: Fun Mistakes, Anachronisms, and Other Things to Look For”. It’s only poetic justice that a movie featuring a leg lamp would have missing footage.

25. FLASH GORDON GETS CREDIT, TOO.

Keep watching the end credits roll and you’ll see Flash Gordon and Ming the Merciless among the names that scroll by. Though it never made the final cut, the credits for an additional fantasy sequence in which Ralphie and his trusty firearm help Flash Gordon face off against Ming remain.

Michael Toman sent the link with this enthusiastic intro: “Am sure that I’m not the only Filer who would appreciate the opportunity to see ‘an additional sequence in which Ralphie and his trusty firearm help Flash Gordon face off against Ming.’ Has anyone considered adapting this movie as a Graphic Novel?”

(16) HO HO IO. Io9’s Julie Muncyinvites everyone to “Relax With This Classic Addams Family Christmas Short” posted on YouTube by MGM.

…And of course, even they adore Santa Claus. I love it. What a perfect family.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, John Hertz, James Bacon, Cliff, Contrarius, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 12/22/20 Hey Rocky, Watch Me Pull A Pixel Out Of My Scroll

(1) THE STARS MY DESTINATION. Galactic Journey gave out the Galactic Stars for 1965 today and Thomas Burnett Swann is a double winner: “[Dec. 22, 1965] Swann Lake (the 1965 Galactic Stars)”.

…Swann is definitely a winner with his myth-inspired tales, Zelazny is hit or miss, but he hit it with Conrad, and Moorcock is a rising star to watch!

(2) ADDRESSEE UNKNOWN. At The Cut, Molly Fischer tries to figure out “Who Did J.K. Rowling Become?”

…“Perplexed” was a common reaction. Rowling had never been a particularly controversial figure. Her books sold hundreds of millions of copies, they inspired films that brought in billions of dollars, and she used the money she made to save children from orphanages. In 2012, she gave enough to charity and paid enough in taxes to knock herself off the Forbes billionaires list. In 2020, she was tweeting links to a store that sold pins that said F*CK YOUR PRONOUNS.

Read another way, though, the latest turn in Rowling’s story looks perhaps less perplexing than inevitable. It is the culmination of a two-decade power struggle for ownership of her fictional world — the right to say what Harry Potter means. The Harry Potter books describe a stark moral universe: Their heroes fight on behalf of all that is good to defeat the forces of absolute evil. Though the struggle may be lonely and hard, right ultimately beats wrong. For fans, when it came to the matter of trans rights, the message of Harry Potter was clear. For Rowling, this was no less the case.

“She absolutely believes that she is right, that she’s on a mission, and that history will eventually bear her out,” Anelli told me. “She thinks she’s doing good work right now.”…

(3) SUM OF THE YEAR’S DIGITS. Sarah Gailey knows that life is more than numbers, though they like to track them, too: “2020 in Review: Writing” at Here’s The Thing.

…This year tried so hard, from so many angles, to take away the things we rely on. At many turns, it succeeded. But here we are: whether we are whole or in pieces, you and I made it to the final days of 2020. We found ways to get each other this far, and that process meant so much more to me than a column of numbers in a notebook. I used to rely on that column of numbers more than I care to admit — but now I have other things to rely on. And it’s so much better this way.

(4) SHE’S BACK. If she’s a bluebird on a telegraph wire I hope she’s happy now. It took long enough! The Guardian celebrates that “Pioneering fairytale author Madame d’Aulnoy back in print after centuries”.

A story by Madame d’Aulnoy, the 17th-century French writer who coined the term “fairytales”, is to be published in English for the first time in more than 300 years, telling of a woman whose beauty is so great it slays her lovers by the hundreds.

Marie-Catherine Le Jumel de Barneville, known as Madame or Countess d’Aulnoy, invented the term “conte de fée” or fairytale, when she published her major collection of them in 1697-98. Unlike her contemporary Charles Perrault, or later authors such as Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm, today her work rarely appears outside anthologies.

Now Princeton University Press will release a new collection of her work in March, The Island of Happiness, featuring illustrations and an essay by the artist Natalie Frank.

(5) LEGISLATION. Publishers Weekly reports a new option for contesting copyright claims will soon be on the books: “CASE Act Set to Pass as Part of Omnibus Bill”.

A four year-old bill that would establish an extra-judicial “small claims court” for copyright disputes is now set to become law after Congressional leaders slipped the measure into the Covid-19 relief and omnibus spending bill now headed to President Trump’s desk. In addition, the bill includes a provision that would make illegal streaming a felony.

First introduced in 2016, the CASE Act (Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement) was re-introduced again in 2019. It passed easily in the House, but failed to get to a vote on the Senate floor and was set to die before being dropped into the omnibus spending bill this week (the CASE Act provisions begin on page 77). Among the bill’s provisions is the establishment of a copyright tribunal within the Copyright Office that would hear infringement claims, with awards for claims less than $30,000. Participation would be voluntary—a party served with a claim could opt not to go before the tribunal.

The legislation has been strongly supported by both the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers. In a statement, AAP president and CEO Maria A. Pallante called the bill’s passage a “big achievement,” and said the CASE Act “represents years of reasoned analysis, public feedback, and bipartisan leadership on Capitol Hill.”…

(6) AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME. Nerdist is ready: “It’s Time for DOCTOR WHO’s First All-Female TARDIS Team”.

…While Ryan and Graham’s relationship was a cornerstone of season 11’s plot, both characters have languished in season 12. Yaz has been a companion for two full seasons, and yet it often seems as though we barely know her. The show has given each big, emotional moments, but fails to do the everyday work that strings them together into real arcs. And that’s a shame.

 The departure of Ryan and Graham will not only allow Yaz, a criminally underused character, to finally step forward into the spotlight, but it will also change the composition of the show in an unprecedented way. In season 13, the TARDIS will be populated solely by women for the first time in Doctor Who’s 54-year history—a change that feels both extremely necessary and long overdue.

(7) BOBA TIME. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Jill Serjeant, in the Reuters story “Boba Fett to get own Star Wars spin-off TV series” says that Jon Favreau announced on Good Morning America that “The Book of Boba Fett” will be in production, which is a project separate from the third season of The Mandalorian and is different than other previously announced Star Wars projects.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • December 22, 1958 — On this day in 1958, the BBC aired the first installment of the Quatermass and the Pit television series.  The first  episode of the six in total was called the “The Halfmen”. Each episode was thirty one to thirty six minutes in length. It was created by Nigel Kneale, and stared André Morell. Cec Linder. Anthony Bushell, John Stratton and Christine Finn. Special effects were handled by the BBC Visual Effects Department. For the box set release, Quatermass and the Pit was extensively restored.
  • December 22, 1967 — On this date in 1967 on NBC, Star Trek’s “Wolf in The Fold” premiered. It was written by Robert Bloch, one of three that he wrote, the others being “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” and “Catspaw”.  Bloch played off the Jack the Ripper theme in this second season episode.  Charlie Jane Anders at io9, ranked the episode as the seventy-sixth best episode of all the Star Trek series in a list of the top hundred Star Trek episodes. We should note that Baycon the next year would have five Trek episodes on the final Best Dramatic Presentation ballot though not this episode with the Harlan Ellison scripted “The City on the Edge of Forever” winning. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 22, 1802 – Sara Coleridge.  Daughter of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  Knew Latin, Greek, French, German, Italian, Spanish.  Her Phantasmion (1837) may have been the first fantasy novel written in English; you can even read an 1874 edition here.  (Died 1852) [JH]
  • Born December 22, 1869 – E.A. Robinson.  Three Pulitzer Prizes.  Famous for “Richard Cory”, he gave us a “Merlin”, a “Lancelot”, two more.  (He hated “Edwin” and used this form of his name.  Died 1935) [JH]
  • Born December 22, 1917 Frankie Darro. What I’m most interested that it was he inside Robbie the Robot in Forbidden Planet. Other roles: showing up on Batman as a Newsman in two episodes, and The Addams Family as a Delivery Boy in one episode, I don’t think he had any other  genre roles at all. Well, he was Lampwick, the boy who turns into a donkey in Pinocchio. That should count too. (Died 1976.) (CE)
  • Born December 22, 1951 Charles de Lint, 69. I’ve personally known him for twenty five years now and have quite a few of his signed Solstice chapbooks in my possession. Listing his fiction would take a full page or two as he’s been a very prolific fantasy writer so let just list some of my favorite novels by him which would be Forests of The HeartSomeplace To Be FlyingSeven Wild Sisters and The Cats of Tanglewood Forest. You’ll find my favorite chapter from Forests of The Heart here. (CE)
  • Born December 22, 1939 – Norma Auer Adams, age 81.  New York fan who developed a career in visual art.  Here is “Goldfish Abstraction”.  Here is her book Artfully Told.  Here is Inside My Sketchbook.  Here is Early Artwork.  [JH]
  • Born December 22, 1942 – Bea Barrio, age 78.  Los Angeles fan who I wish would let her artwork be wider known.  Here is her cover for the Bouchercon III Program Book.  She did the Two of Swords in Bruce Pelz’ Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck (PDF of the whole deck; scroll down, BP’s introduction comes first, then Cups, Pentacles, Swords; credits at the end).  There’s a range of style for you.  [JH]
  • Born December 22, 1962 Ralph Fiennes, 58. Perhaps best known genre wise as Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter film franchise, he’s also been M in the Bond films starting with Skyfall. His first genre role was as Lenny Nero in Strange Days, one of my favorite SF films. He went on to play John Steed in that Avengers films which is quite frankly merde.  If you haven’t seen it, he voices Lord Victor Quartermaine in Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Run now and see it!  ( CE) 
  • Born December 22, 1965 Victoria Alonso, 55. Argentine-born producer, co-producer or executive producer of such films as Iron Man (nominated for a Hugo), Avengers: Endgame (also Hugo nominated), the Guardians of The Galaxy franchise… Well you get the idea. (CE) 
  • Born December 22, 1966 – Kim Wilkins, Ph.D., age 54.  Associate Professor at Univ. Queensland.  A dozen novels for us, thirty all told; a score of shorter stories.  Two Aurealis Awards for The Infernal.  [JH]
  • Born December 22, 1967 – Erik L’Homme, age 53.  A dozen novels for us.  Two and a half million copies sold.  All three Book of the Stars volumes available in English (and two dozen other languages).  Boxer and medieval historian.  Re-read Chrétien de Troyes for research.  Has climbed the spire of Notre Dame.  “Although there has never been a female knight, I reflected on the women of character I knew and thought to myself that they were part of this new knighthood.”  [JH]
  • Born December 22, 1968 Dina Meyer, 52. Of course she’s in Starship Troopers, a film that, oh well, where she’s best known for a scene we have discussed here. She actually gets to act in Dragonheart, bless the producer!  And there might have been something good come out up of her role as Barbara Gordon/Oracle/Batgirl on Birds of Prey but we’ll never know. (CE) 
  • Born December 22, 1978 George Mann , 42. Writer and editor. He’s edited a number of anthologies including the first three volumes of Solaris Book of New Science Fiction. Among my favourite books by him are his Newbury & Hobbes series, plus his excellent Doctor Who work. (CE)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Close to Home makes the cure sound mundane, if not worse than the malady.

(11) BUYER’S REMORSE. For this critic it’s thumbs down: “Most Disappointing Car Reveal Of 2020: The New Batmobile”.

…As one of the most popular superheroes of all time and an iconic symbol, people understandably are pretty critical of how Batman is portrayed. If you’re also a gearhead like us, you’re especially focused on what the Dark Knight drivesEveryone has their favorite Batmobile, but there’s a strong possibility that not many people will put this latest big screen version of Batman’s ride on their top ten list, even though it’s more muscle car than before.

… This thing looks jankier than a high school auto shop class project. It’s a cobbled-together mess with no clearly-defined design theme.

(12) WW84 Q&A. The New York Times inteviews “Patty Jenkins on ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ and the Future of Theaters”.

It’s been reported that you made around $8 million or $9 million for this movie, which would be a record for a female filmmaker.

It feels great. It really does. The weirdest part about it is that you can’t even quite wrap your head around the money, as somebody who’s never made huge amounts of money before. Really, I was so distracted with why it had to be that way that I wasn’t even able to absorb it.

What made you decide to set this film in the 1980s?

I wanted to do a full-blown “Wonder Woman” movie, but what I really wanted to talk about was what I was feeling is happening in the world. Not to get too heavy about it — I don’t want people to even know it’s about climate change — but we’re about to lose this world. What are we, when we’re at our most excessive, when we can’t stop wanting more? We all have a hard time changing our lives, but if we don’t, we’re going to lose everything. So what better time than the ’80s, before we knew any of the costs of these things?

(13) WONDER OVERDOSE. People who have seen the movie too many times this season will be fascinated by these “Dark and Twisted Interpretations of ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’” at Mental Floss. The third scenario agrees —

3. BEDFORD FALLS WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER OFF WITHOUT GEORGE BAILEY.

George’s plea to his guardian angel Clarence (Henry Travers) is to have never been born, and the Scrooge-esque vision Clarence grants him shows the tragedy of his family and the town. But Pottersville—the town that would have been Bedford Falls had George not stood in the way of greedy Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore)—is actually pretty great. It’s got bars and theaters and all the big-city excitement George had been dreaming of his entire life.

That’s why, in 2008, The New York Times writer Wendell Jamieson suggested that maybe things would have been better had George Bailey never been born. Or at the very least, he should have left the town to Mr. Potter’s devices.

(14) TENTACLE TAPS. I thought this kind of thing only happened in cartoons: “Octopuses Have Been Observed ‘Punching’ Fish Silly”.

The octopus is one of the world’s most intelligent creatures. It can open jars, camouflage itself, and demonstrate many other signs of thinking.

Other times, octopuses will get what they want using cruder methods. Like punching a fish right in the face.

In a new study published in the journal Ecology, researcher Eduardo Sampaio at the University of Lisbon in Portugal detailed a collaborative arrangement between octopuses and different species of fish, in which the fish and cephalopods hunt for food in pairs and therefore cover a wider search area.

Observing this dynamic in the Red Sea, researchers noted that octopuses establish control of the pairing by striking at their fish partners using an arm to get them to move to a preferred position, to avoid eating the prey, or to deter them from the search entirely. They referred to this as a “swift, explosive motion with one arm,” otherwise known as “punching.”

You can watch an octopus smack the gills right off a fish in the video below….

(15) TOTAL WARRIORS. The Fabulous Fifties scanned an old Argosy article from December 1948: “How To Survive An Atomic War”. Here are a couple of frames.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers: TENET” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say the new Christopher Nolan film is so complicated that stars John David Washington, Kenneth Branagh, and Robert Pattinson can’t explain what’s going on and the villain’s name, Sator, is evidence that TENET is “the movie equivalent of a crossword puzzle” (look up “Sator square” on Wikipedia).

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

Pixel Scroll 12/15/20 All These Pixels Are Yours. Except Europa. Attempt No Scrolling There

(1) INTRODUCING BUTLER TO NEW READERS. Elizabeth Connor describes the work of “repackaging the Patternist Series for the Mother of Afrofuturism” in “How to Give Octavia Butler the Covers She Deserves” at Literary Hub.

…After some back and forth—and plenty of discussion with the editor acting as mediator—we determined that by elegant, they likely meant more stylized human forms in more sophisticated poses, as well as a textural or brushy quality to the art (as there had been on the Parable books), that lent an air of being hand-drawn rather than machine-made. As for dynamic, we soon understood that the symmetry of the earliest comps was what the agent and estate were reacting against. By simply breaking the vertical axis and giving each cover a certain degree of asymmetry—even as the figures revolved around a central “moon” shape that remained static—they felt much more alive. The designer came back with revisions and, in relatively quick succession, Wild Seed and Mind of My Mind had approved covers…

(2) DIFFERENT WISDOM. At the SFWA Blog, Sunny Moraine says “Explicit Sex Scenes and the Work of Stories” are far from mutually exclusive.

The origins of this piece lie in an annoyed Twitter thread I posted, in response to a tweet (possibly joking, I don’t know) to the effect of “movies shouldn’t have sex scenes in them, we’re past that now”. 

The origins of my annoyance go back a lot further. 

I’ve been writing explicit sex pretty much since I began writing. Like many of us, I got my start in fanfiction, and while fanfiction’s reputation for being heavily smut-focused isn’t entirely deserved, it isn’t entirely undeserved, either. Which is rather the point, because given that I started out writing a lot of explicit sex, I learned quite early just how much story-work one can do with a well-written sex scene. Especially a very explicit one, without a judicious fade-to-black or Vaseline on the camera lens. 

I want to be clear about something: I am not claiming ultimate authority over what a “good” sex scene consists of. Sex scenes, like sex itself, are highly subjective and personal, and different people will find that different things resonate. 

That said, my opinion is that a good sex scene is usually sexy, and one of the best ways to be sexy is to go deep into not only the physical descriptions of what’s happening, but also what’s going through these characters’ heads as they’re doing the sex. 

Which is one of the places where we get into the work explicit sex can do in a story, and in a way really no other kind of scene can manage in precisely this way….

(3) GETTING THE WORD OUT AND THE DOLLARS IN. James Van Pelt shares “The Frustrations (and the Surprising Successes) of Marketing Your Book” at Black Gate.

…Marketing is easy. Effective marketing that actually sells books, however, is hard. My son works for Facebook, so he helped me with an advertising campaign on the platform. We had a $250 budget for one of my collections, The Experience Arcade and Other Stories. One of the ads reached 1,900 readers. 103 people clicked on it. We did sell books, but not enough to pay back our investment. We found the same pattern to be true on the other books we promoted on Facebook….

(4) ON THE PINNACLE. The Hugo Book Club Blog surveys the top sff awards and why they are in “The Award For Best Award”.

… There are in fact enough award systems to warrant the effort of analysis to help decide which awards are worth paying attention to. Of course, dichotomous and divisive “success or failure” judgments are less useful than comparing how they’re organized and speculating about what might contribute to a robust and respected award. Examining the growing pains of recently created awards and thinking about why several smaller awards have managed to establish long-term relevance can also be helpful….

(5) SFRA. The Fall 2020 issue of the Science Fiction Research Association’s SFRA Review is available to download. Many articles and reviews, including an update from Rachel Cordasco about SF in Translation.

(6) WITH OR WITHOUT CHIPS. “’Scenarios of disruption’: Sci-fi writers asked to help guard France” – Australia’s The Age has the story,

Attacks from floating pirate states and hackers on soldiers with neural implants are just two scenarios dreamed up by a “Red Team” of 10 leading science fiction writers tasked with helping the French army anticipate future threats to national security.

“Astonish us, shake us up, take us out of our habits and comfort zone,” Florence Parly, the French defence minister, told the writers at a Defence Innovation Forum this month.

Many of the “scenarios of disruption” that they have been asked to imagine to challenge military planners are to remain top secret to avoid giving ideas to potential enemies. They were asked to stick to potential threats between 2030 and 2060….

(7) SWATTING A NEW FIREFLY. [Item by Olav Rokne.] One for the “wishful thinking” file. Questionably sourced rumors are bouncing around the internet about a Disney+ Firefly reboot. As much as I would love to believe this, I gotta express significant skepticism.  Adam Whitehead does a pretty good job of analyzing why this rumour likely ain’t true at The Wertzone: “RUMOUR: FIREFLY reboot under consideration for Disney+”.

… I find this rumour dubious for multiple reasons. The first is that Firefly‘s fanbase remains, despite the passage of almost twenty years, both voluble and passionate. Rebooting the show from scratch and dropping the previous actors and continuity would go down very badly. The second is that Firefly‘s universe was designed from scratch to be slightly more morally murky and complex, and that’s part of the show’s appeal. Making it more PG (or PG-13, if you’re in the USA) seems pointless. …

(8) NEW ALLEGATION AGAINST FLEGAL. Artist Sovereign has attached a three-page statement to her tweet: “Trigger warning: Sexual harassment / 1FW. I am speaking up about the harassment I received from Sam Flegal of One Fantastic Week. I’ve been quiet long enough and there are too many that still deserve an apology.”

(9) SEPTEMBER SONG. The date for a Chicago pulp collectors’ event is sliding later in 2021: “Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention Announces Rescheduled 2021 Dates of September 9 – 12, 2021”. Full details at the link. Doug Ellis begins —

As 2020 draws to a close, we’re feeling pretty confident that we will be able to hold our show in 2021.  However, given the current status of the COVID-19 pandemic and the timing on the various vaccines, we became increasingly concerned that it would not be feasible or prudent to hold our show as originally scheduled from April 15-18, 2021.

We can now announce that we’ve reached an agreement with our hotel (the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center in Lombard, Illinois) to reschedule the convention to September 9-12, 2021. The location of the convention remains the same….

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY

1984 — The Winter 1984 issue of the Missouri Review which was undated had Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Trouble with the Cotton People”, the very first of her Kesh stories that would become part of her Always Coming Home novel which was first published by Harper & Row the following year. Nominated for the Mythopoetic Fantasy Award, it would lose out to Barry Hugart’s Bridge of Birds. Library of America published the Always Coming Home: Author’s Expanded Edition last year. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 15, 1923 Freeman Dyson. Physicist best known in genre circles for the concept he theorized of a Dyson Sphere which would be built by a sufficiently technologically advanced species around a sun to harvest all solar energy. He credited Olaf Stapledon in Star Maker (1937), in which he described “every solar system… surrounded by a gauze of light traps, which focused the escaping solar energy for intelligent use” with first coming up with the concept. (Died 2020.) (CE) 
  • Born December 15, 1935 – Alma Jo Williams.  Five dozen reviews in SF Review.  Raised horses; earned a washin-ryu black belt; forty years at Cornell in the Baker Institute for Animal Health.  Of the 1984 Dune movie she said “The photography is gorgeous, the music appropriate, the special effects … well integrated….  The metamorphosed Guild navigators are laughable….  the evil of the Harkonnens was caricatured…. Only Sting, as Feyd, projected … subtle nastiness”.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born December 15, 1937 John Sladek. Weird and ambitious would be ways to describe his work. The Complete Roderick Is quite amazing as is Tik-Tok which won a BSFA and Bugs as well. He did amazing amounts of short fiction, much of which is collected finally in the ironically named Maps: The Uncollected John Sladek. (Died 2000.) (CE) 
  • Born December 15, 1944 – Ru Emerson, age 76.  Two dozen novels, a dozen shorter stories.  Under another name she has two recipes in Serve It Forth.  Sings, plays guitar, flies stunt kites, a little Irish hardshoe.  [JH]
  • Born December 15, 1944 – John Guidry, age 76.  Chaired DeepSouthCon 9 & 11, Nolacon II the 46th Worldcon.  Founded ERB-apa (Edgar Rice Burroughs fans).  Rebel Award.  Fan Guest of Honor at DSC 53.  [JH]
  • Born December 15, 1945 – Steve Vertlieb, age 75.  Often seen here.  Mr. James H. Burns gave him this tribute on his 70th, with photos and links.  [JH]
  • Born December 15, 1951 David Bischoff. He actually started his career writing out for Perry Rhodan. His “Tin Woodman” which was written with Dennis Bailey and nominated for a Nebula would be adapted into a Next Generation story, and he’s continued the Bill the Galactic Hero story with Harry Harrison.  He’s also written a kickass excellent Farscape novel, Ship of Ghosts. (Died 2018.) (CE) 
  • Born December 15, 1953  Robert Charles Wilson, 67. He won the Hugo Award for Best Novel for Spin, a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for The Chronoliths, a Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award  for the novelette “The Cartesian Theater” and Prix Aurora Awards for the novels Blind Lake and Darwinia. Impressive indeed. He also garnered a Philip K. Dick Award for Mysterium. (CE) 
  • Born December 15, 1953 – J.M. DeMatteis, age 67.  Like many comics stars, has done substantial work for both DC and Marvel, including television.  Eisner Award.  Wrote Abadazad for CrossGen, then when Disney acquired it, three Abadazad books.  One novel.  One album from his years as a musician.  [JH]
  • Born December 15, 1954 Alex Cox, 66. Ahhh the Director who back in the early Eighties gave us Repo Man. And did you know that he got a co-writer credit for the screenplay of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas before it was completely rewritten by Gilliam? And as we know he directed a student film version of Harry Harrison’s Bill, the Galactic Hero at University of Colorado Boulder just a few years ago! (CE) 
  • Born December 15, 1958 – Leslie Smith, age 62.  Co-chaired Ditto 7 (fanziners’ con; named for a brand of spirit-duplicator machine).  Fanzine, Duprass (see Cat’s Cradle) with Linda Bushyager.  [JH]
  • Born December 15, 1981 Krysten Ritter, 39. She played Jessica Jones on the series of that name and was in The Defenders as well. She had a recurring role in the Veronica Mars series which a lot of a lot is us adore (it’s one of the series that Charles de Lint and his wife MaryAnn Hartis are avid followers of, and they contributed to the film Kickstarter) and I supposed it’s sort of genre adjacent, isn’t it? (Do not analyze that sentence.) She’s been in a number of horror flicks as well, but nothing I groked.  (CE)
  • Born December 15, 1982 Charlie Cox, 38. He played the role of Matt Murdock / Daredevil in Netflix’s Daredevil and The Defenders, was Tristan Thorn Thorn in Stardust based off the Gaiman novel and Dennis Bridger in the remake of A for Andromeda. (CE)

(12) SF AND WORKERS’ RIGHTS. FutureCon will stream a panel about “Capitalism and workers’ rights on Science Fiction” on Saturday, December 19 at 12 p.m. (noon US Eastern Time). Participants will be Alec Nevala-Lee (USA), Alexey Dodsworth, (Brazil) Fabio Fernandes (Brazil, host), Jorge Baradit (Chile), Marie Vibbert (USA), and Olav Rokne (Canada).

(13) PAWS IN THE ACTION. Sean D talks about a “gorgeous novella” at Nerds of a Feather: “Microreview [Book]: When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain by Nghi Vo”.

It’s hard to pen a story in which the lines are blurred but the narrative is always clear. Ambiguity and warring perspectives can hurricane into incomprehensible pandemonium. However, When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain manages to have characters who not only inhabit both the bodies of animals and humans, but have characters performing oral storytelling that’s just as fluid. What kept me engaged wasn’t rigidity and linearity, but a narrative voice that always had control with a grip greater than any rigidity….

(14) A SFF LOOK AT POLICING. No Police = Know Future edited by James Beamon is available in both print and electronic formats from publisher Amazing Stories and online book outlets.

When the concept of defunding the police (a concept we believe really means re-examining and reforming the concept of policing), arose during this year’s protests, we saw a perfect opportunity to put those beliefs into practice.

James Beamon, our editor, put it this way in his solicitation:

“After the brutal murder of George Floyd by the police, the world responded in righteous protest, with cries of “Black Lives Matter.” The police responded to these calls in large part with even more brutality, with video after video emerging that showed an assault on the public. And more cries came forth, with calls to defund the police.

But what’s that mean?

Science Fiction writers, this is your call to arms. Give us your potential (and hopefully positive) futures that involve alternatives to modern day policing. We want stories that replace the police entirely, dramatically reform them, or create parallel systems to refocus policing. We’re also seeking alternate concepts of rehabilitation and punishment as well, more emphasis on the carrot. In a world where police are perpetually brandishing their batons, I think we’ve all seen enough sticks.”

The stories collected in this volume –

  • Ryan Priest – Pro Bono Detectives
  • Lettie Prell – Justice Systems in Quantum Parallel Probabilities
  • Jared Oliver Adams – All the Mister Rogerses From Bethel A.M.E.
  • P.T. MacKim – Well Regulated
  • Minister Faust – Freeze Police
  • Stewart C. Baker – Maricourt’s Waters Quiet and Deep
  • Ira Naymen – When the Call Comes In
  • Holly Schofield – One Bad Apple
  • Brontë Christopher Wieland – Apogee, Effigy, Storm
  • Jewelle Gomez – A More Perfect Union
  • Anatoly Belilovsky – Tax Day

(15) IN GENERAL. Paul Weimer finds much to like here: “Microreview [book]: Machine by Elizabeth Bear” at Nerds of a Feather.

… Bear calls out in the acknowledgements the inspiration for Core General that was to me delightfully obvious but perhaps newer readers to SF might not be aware of. James White’s Sector General stories and novels describe the adventures of a hospital in space, and Bear’s Core General is clearly a spiritual successor and heir to White’s ideas. Bear of course brings her own sensibilities and ideas to a Hospital in Space but the bones of the homage are there, and the social mores and ideas of White’s novels are updated for modern sensibilities.  This is also done a bit explicitly within the novel itself, as corpsicles found on Big Rock Candy Mountain have some rather archaic, primitive, frankly offensive and un-Synarchy-like ideas about many things. There is a culture clash and some real conflict between Jens and the rest of the Synarchy with Helen, the AI of Big Rock Candy Mountain, and the crew of the ship that they manage to unfreeze and revive….

(16) THE NEXT RIGHT STUFF. “NASA Names Artemis Team of Astronauts Eligible for Early Moon Missions” – the names and brief bios are at the link.

NASA has selected 18 astronauts from its corps to form the Artemis Team and help pave the way for the next astronaut missions on and around the Moon as part of the Artemis program.

…The astronauts on the Artemis Team come from a diverse range of backgrounds, expertise, and experience. The agency’s modern lunar exploration program will land the first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024 and establish a sustainable human lunar presence by the end of the decade.

NASA will announce flight assignments for astronauts later, pulling from the Artemis Team. Additional Artemis Team members, including international partner astronauts, will join this group, as needed….

(17) ROCKING THE MARKET. In “Making A Point With Moon Rocks” on National Review Online, Texas Tech economist Alexander William Salter says that NASA’s contracts to acquire moon rocks (or what is technically “lunar regolith”) is “a clever strategy to nudge space policy in a pro-commerce direction” since the purchases would show that private property can be created on the Moon, a position left ambiguous in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.

.. NASA’s purchase of moon dirt is a clever strategic move to nudge space policy in a pro-commerce direction. The United States government isn’t violating Article II [of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty], because it’s not appropriating real estate. And it’s not violating Article VI, since it’s up to Congress to determine the extent of monitoring and policing duties. What the NASA program does is create a test case for first harvesting, and then selling, outer-space resources. As David Henderson and I have argued, “Given the vagueness of international space law on property rights, the precedents created by national space law will have a decisive role in shaping the future space environment. Hence, NASA’s actions can support a pro-business turn not just for the United States, but also for the international community as a whole.” …

(18) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. From Fast Company: “What toys from the past can tell us about how we predict the future”.

… What if those predictions actually ended up affecting how the future unfolds, like self-fulfilling prophecies? It’s a question plaguing futurists, and now a project is trying to illustrate the problem by showing how things created in the past have colored the present. The simplest examples—items that truly shape the minds of our next generations—come in the form of children’s toys.

The Museum of Future History’s first exhibition, Toying With Tomorrow: Playthings That Anticipated the Here and Now, is curated by experimental philosopher Jonathon Keats and timed to debut at the UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) High-Level Futures Literacy Summit.

The idea was sparked by a growing concern among futurists, Keats says, that we have been “colonizing the future” with visions and predictions of what it will bring, and that those visions limit the opportunities or possibilities of those future generations. But this can be an abstract concept to grasp.

“What we needed was some way in which people could recognize the phenomenon in their own lives, and they could use that as a means by which to consider what sorts of predictions they make, what sort of impact those predictions might have going forward—individually as well as collectively in a society,” Keats explains. “Toys have a very direct way in which they influence the future through the children who play with them.”…

(19) WW84. “Gal Gadot, Patty Jenkins share Wonder Woman 1984 opening scene at red carpet” and SYFY Wire is there.

It’s one thing to watch Diana grow up slowly — something Wonder Woman fans delighting in witnessing as star Gal Gadot lassoed a new generation of hearts in director Patty Jenkins’ 2017 blockbuster. But it’s something else entirely to watch our Amazon hero surge from past to present at lightning speed — leaping out of her idyllic childhood and into the mean city streets — in the butt-kickin’ romp that welcomes viewers to the opening moments of Wonder Woman 1984….

(20) SPACELANES. [Item by Daniel Dern.]  Via Slashdot: “Astronomers Discover Cosmic ‘Superhighways’ For Fast Travel Through the Solar System”. Not faster than light, more like “a faster lane on the service road” IMHO.

Invisible structures generated by gravitational interactions in the Solar System have created a “space superhighway” network, astronomers have discovered. ScienceAlert reports:By applying analyses to both observational and simulation data, a team of researchers led by Natasa Todorovic of Belgrade Astronomical Observatory in Serbia observed that these superhighways consist of a series of connected arches inside these invisible structures, called space manifolds — and each planet generates its own manifolds, together creating what the researchers have called “a true celestial autobahn.” This network can transport objects from Jupiter to Neptune in a matter of decades, rather than the much longer timescales, on the order of hundreds of thousands to millions of years, normally found in the Solar System….

(21) MORE ABOUT BEN BOVA. The New York Times ran Ben Bova’s obituary. To accompany that note, here are a couple of Andrew Porter’s photos of Bova (sent direct to 770, not from the NYT.)

…Ben Bova was a hard-science guy — and a passionate space program booster — and his visions of the future encompassed a dizzying array of technological advances (and resulting horrors or delights), including cloning, sex in space, climate change, the nuclear arms race, Martian colonies and the search for extraterrestrials. In newspaper articles, short stories and more than 100 books, he explored these and other knotty human problems….

(22) BOVA FINDS. And let Tor.com contributor James Davis Nicoll tell you about “Five SFF Authors Discovered by Ben Bova”. The second of these is —

John M. Ford’s first professionally published story was “This, Too, We Reconcile,” published in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, May 1976. In it, a telepath is hired to read the mind of a martyr to determine if the dead man saw anything of the afterlife as he died and if so, what that afterlife is like. Rather alarmingly, the telepath is the second person hired for the job, his predecessor having committed suicide immediately after reading the martyr’s mind. This has all the earmarks of a task from which one should flee posthaste, but unluckily for our protagonist, his diligence outweighs his prudence.

This is admittedly a minor Ford, which may explain why it was never collected in either of the two Ford collections, From the End of the Twentieth Century (1997), and Heat of Fusion and Other Stories (2004). Nor has it been included in any anthology of which I am aware. Still, Bova saw enough in the story to help launch a career that lasted until Ford’s untimely death in 2006.

(23) HONESTY IS THE FUNNIEST POLICY. [By Martin Morse Wooster.]In “Honest Game Trailers: Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales” on YouTube, Fandom Games says even though you’re not playing Peter Parker, you can still fly through a very well-detailed New York City and (virtually) cause billions in property damage!

Also dropping today: In “Honest Trailers: Lost” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies sum up the six-season series by saying the characters asked so many questions in the show “The creators got tired of answering them” and that there was so much psychodrama “the writers room needed therapy.”

Fun fact:  the reason why the flight that crashed in show was Oceanic Airlines Flight 646 was that was the flight in the action film Executive Decision.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Cat Eldridge, James Davis Nicoll, Michael J. Walsh, Daniel Dern, Olav Rokne, Steve Davidson, Doug Ellis, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Olav Rokne.]