Pixel Scroll 7/26/21 I Am Just A Filer, Though My Story’s Seldom Scrolled

(1) COZY CATASTROPHES. James Davis Nicoll told me this is “A happy Monday piece.” Makes me worry about what the rest of the week is going to look like: “Five Classic SFF Novels About Environmental Disaster” at Tor.com.

The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham (1953)

This cozy catastrophe stands out because it’s a rare book in which humans are not to blame for deadly environmental changes. The novel begins quietly, as a meteor shower splashes down in Earth’s oceans. English Broadcasting Company reporters Mike and Phyllis Watson, who document the escalating crisis, see nothing alarming. Initially.

Unfortunately for the former rulers of Earth, the objects were spacecraft, delivering the planet’s new owners to Earth’s oceans. At first these enigmatic beings limit themselves to sampling the inhabitants of an occasional village to better understand their new home. Once they’ve settled in—and particularly once humans attempt to nuke the settlers—the aquatic aliens decide to conduct planetary improvements. Which is to say, they begin melting ice caps, providing themselves with more aquatic lebensraum. This also drowns the coastlines where atom bomb-wielding, land-dwelling pests tend to congregate.

(2) TWICE THE SPICE. Boing Boing spotted an Instagram post that edits the new Dune trailer into a comparison with David Lynch’s adaptation from the Eighties: “Watch: A spicy side-by-side of Dune (1984) and Dune (2021)”. See it at the link.

The newest sci-fi spectacular that is Dennis Villeneuve’s Dune might not include David Lynch’s battle pugs, but it does include some startling similarities with the original 1984 film.

(3) UNTRUE GRIT. A ZDnet writer says he got suspended for this: “On Facebook, quoting ‘Dune’ gets you suspended while posting COVID and vaccine misinformation gets you recommended”.

…[A] managing editor for commerce of our sister site, CNET, was beaming on Facebook about how he was able to get in to see a sneak preview of Dune, the Denis Villeneuve-directed film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi epic that is due for a late October release.

I’m sure many other people are as excited as I am about this movie. So I quoted [in reply] the duel scene in question, in which Sting, playing the charismatic and psychotic Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, shouts, “I -WILL- kill you.” I even put it in quotes so that there was no question I was quoting the film.

I thought nothing of it. I went about the rest of my evening. About an hour later, I was notified by Facebook that I was suspended for three days due to violating Community Standards.

I was shocked. Suspended for quoting a film? Without even using any obscenities? This seems… extreme.

Obviously, I had no intention of killing Russell Holly, envious as I was that he got to see this film months before anyone else. I am also not in the practice of murdering my editorial colleagues with poisoned daggers, as anyone at ZDNet will tell you….

(4) LEVY HASKELL HONORED. Stinson, a nationwide legal firm, recognized employee Fred Levy Haskell, a Minneapolis fan, with an award: “Stinson Staff Honored as Unsung Legal Heroes in Missouri and Minnesota: Stinson LLP Law Firm”

Stinson LLP is proud to announce 2021 Unsung Legal Heroes award recipients for Missouri and Minnesota. 

…Levy Haskell, work product support specialist, is based in Minneapolis. He is recognized for the guidance and optimism he provided to his team, as well as the complex tools he implemented during the transition to working remotely. Fred is appreciated for his upbeat nature and willingness to help anyone at the firm.  

(5) J.K. ON THE BBC. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] J. K. Rowling seriously considered writing Harry Potter under a pseudonym and confirmed she conceived his series on a delayed, crowded rail train.  The Poet Laureate Has Gone to His Shed is a BBC Radio 4 series in which the Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage, talks to poets and writers in his garden shed.  An episode this weekend had J.K. Rowling as the guest. (You can also listen to extended version.)

She revealed that she too writes in a shed-like outhouse in her garden. Like Simon’s, it too is devoid of internet access so as to rid distraction.  She revealed that she had seriously considered writing Harry Potter under a pseudonym using the name ‘Oliver’. She also said that she and her publisher decided to use the gender neutral ‘J. K.’ abbreviation.  She confirmed the story that the idea for Harry Potter came to her on a long-delayed and crowded train from Manchester to London.

She said that she always wanted to be a writer ever since she realised that the stories her mother read to her were written by someone.

With regards to writing, she says that her drafts are all hand written and outlines are in notebooks (which nobody has ever seen). The advantage, she said, of hand writing drafts is that using a word processor sees early versions deleted and once gone, are gone. The problem here is that sometimes she finds dialogue or a scene simply has not worked and that she realised that an earlier version had a better staring point for taking in a slightly different direction. Hand-written records are therefore very valuable. Simon Armitage confirmed that he too writes by hand. He said it was important for a writer to access the archaeology of the writing process.

Subsequent to the ‘Potter’ books, J. K. Rowling had been writing crime novels as Robert Galbraith. (The lawyer who outed her was fined £1,000 for breaching privacy rules.) Initially, though the Galbraith books had had critical acclaim, they had no commercial success, that came following the outing.  Simon Armitage asked Rowling as to choose her favourite of two other well-known crime writers: Ruth Rendall or P. D. James. Rowling, with difficulty went for P. D. James.

(6) SHELL GAME. Atlas Obscura ponders “Why Is the World Always on the Back of a Turtle?” Yes, Discworld gets mentioned.

ANYONE WHO’S EVER HEARD THE expression “it’s turtles all the way down” is probably familiar with the image of the world being carried on the back of a giant turtle. While that philosophical one-liner is of relatively modern vintage, the cosmic turtle mytheme has appeared in disparate cultures across the globe for millennia. In honor of everyone’s favorite intellectual quandary, let’s take a moment to celebrate the tortoises that hold up the world.

In his book Researches Into the Early History of Mankind and the Development of Civilization, the turn-of-the-20th-century anthropologist Edward Burnett Tylor writes that the world turtle concept likely first appeared in Hindu mythology. In one Vedic story, the form of the god Vishnu’s second avatar, Kurma, is a great turtle, which provides a celestial foundation upon which a mountain is balanced….

(7) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2008 – Thirteen years ago this month, Robert Holdstock’s Avilion would be published. Set in his Ryhope Wood series, it was nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature. It would be the final work from this author as he died in-hospital at the age of sixty-one from an E. coli infection on the 29th of November 2009. He would be honored with The Karl Edward Wagner Award from the British Fantasy Society the following year.  And they would rename their best fantasy novel award in his honor – now called the BFS Robert Holdstock Award. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 26, 1894 Aldous Huxley. Brave New World is fascinating. I knew I had it assigned and sort of discussed in a High School class and at least one Uni class a very long time ago. So what else is genre by him and worth reading? I see his Time Must Have a Stop novel was on the long list at CoNZealand. (Died 1963.)
  • Born July 26, 1928 Stanley Kubrick. I’m reasonably sure 2001: A Space Odyssey was the first film I saw by him but Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb was the one that impressed me the most. A Clockwork Orange was just too damn depressing. And I’m not a horror fan as such so I never saw The ShiningBarry Lyndon is great but it’s not genre by any means. (Died 1999.)
  • Born July 26, 1945 Helen Mirren, 76. She first graces our presence as Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She next shows up in a genre role as Alice Rage in The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, Peter Sellar’s last film. She’s an ever so delicious Morgana in Excalibur and then leaps into the future as Tanya Kirbuk in 2010: The Year We Make Contact. She voices the evil lead role in The Snow Queen, and likewise is Deep Thought in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. She was recently in The Nutcracker and the Four Realms as Mother Ginger, regent of the Land of Amusements. Her next genre role is in the forthcoming Shazam! Fury of the Gods as Hespera.
  • Born July 26, 1945 M. John Harrison, 76. Winner of the Otherwise Award. TheViriconium sequence, I hesitate to call it a series, starting with The Pastel City, is some of the most elegant fantasy I’ve read. And I see he’s a SJW as he’s written the Tag, the Cat series which I need to take a look at. He’s also a major critic for the past thirty years reviewing fiction and nonfiction for The GuardianThe Daily Telegraph, the Times Literary Supplement and The New York Times. He’s lightly stocked at the usual suspects though TheViriconium sequence is there at a very reasonable price. 
  • Born July 26, 1954 Lawrence Watt-Evans, 67. Ok I’ll admit that I’ve not read “Why I Left Harry’s All-Night Hamburgers” which won him a short fiction Hugo at Conspiracy ’87. It also was nominated for a Nebula and won an Asimov’s Reader’s Poll that year. It’d be his only Hugo. So I’m curious what Hugo voters saw in it. Yes, I’ve read him — his War Surplus series is quite excellent.
  • Born July 26, 1957 Nana Visitor, 64. Kira Nerys on Deep Space Nine which for my money is the second best of the Trek series to date and I’m including the present series in that assessment. After DS9 ended, Visitor had a recurring role as villain Dr. Elizabeth Renfro on Dark Angel. In 1987, Visitor appeared as Ellen Dolan in a never developed series pilot for Will Eisner’s The Spirit with Sam J. Jones as The Spirit. And she had a brief role in Torchwood: Miracle Day.
  • Born July 26, 1964 Sandra Bullock, 57. First film role was in, I kid you not, Bionic Showdown: The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman, also Demolition Man, Practical Magic and Gravity to name but three of her other genre appearances.
  • Born July 26, 1969 Tim Lebbon, 52. For my money, his best series is The Hidden Cities one he did with Christopher Golden though his Relics series with protagonist Angela Gough is quite superb as well. He dips into the Hellboy universe with two novels, Unnatural Selection and Fire Wolves, rather capably. I’ve got his Firefly novel, Generations, in my Audible queue.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side depends on a literary reference – which I’m confident you’ll all get.

(10) WORKING TOGETHER. Literary agent Mark Gottlieb posted the interview that he conducted with Willam F. Nolan and Jason Brock shortly before Nolan’s death on July 15: “In Memory of Award-winning Author and Creator of Logan’s Run William F. Nolan”.

What is it like working together in a collaboration as two authors?

Nolan: Well, I have collaborated quite a bit in my career. I worked on the screenplay to Burnt Offerings with producer/director Dan Curtis, for example. I did most of the adaptation of Marasco’s novel, but Dan and I worked on other elements together. Of course, I co-wrote Logan’s Run with my dear friend George Clayton Johnson. That started as an idea of mine, but as the book took shape George added some fine elements. We literally typed the whole thing from notes in three weeks! We spelled one another on the typewriter in a hotel. I did the final polish later. Jason and I have worked on a lot of pieces together, also, but I’ll let him talk about that.

Brock: I come from a background in music, and having a band is quite collaborative. Also, I am a filmmaker, having completed two documentaries and working on others, and film in general is extremely collaborative. So, writing is a pretty easy way to work together as there are fewer people involved, at least in the active writing phase, as opposed to editing and preparing for publication. As long as the coauthors share roughly the same vision for the outcome, getting there can be a lot of fun, actually. It’s surprising the places a piece can go when you write something, then have the other person take your concepts and spin them, then you do that to theirs, etc. It’s a rush.

(11) A DIFFERENT TAKE ON D&D. Areo’s Christopher Ferguson restrains his enthusiasm, but what do you think? “Sensitive Masters and Wheelchair Accessible Torture Chambers: Dungeons & Dragons in the Culture War Era”.

…The collection is, indeed, progressive in tone. It has been noted that it includes a wheelchair accessible dungeon (a cause celebre for progressive members of gaming communities, though wheelchairs aren’t specifically mentioned in the book) and numerous nonplayer characters who use they/them pronouns. The collection also signals progressivism in other ways—for example, the new adventures de-emphasise the idea that good or evil motives are inherent traits of monster races. (This is a response to those who have protested that the attribution of inherent bad traits to this group is analogous to racism in real life.) And it includes a trigger warning of sorts: the accompanying book begins with a section titled “Be a Sensitive Dungeon Master,” which uses progressive buzzwords such as trigger and unsafe….

(12) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Let the BBC break it to you: “Jeff Bezos and Sir Richard Branson may not be astronauts, US says”.

…The Commercial Astronaut Wings programme updates were announced on Tuesday – the same day that Amazon’s Mr Bezos flew aboard a Blue Origin rocket to the edge of space.

To qualify as commercial astronauts, space-goers must travel 50 miles (80km) above the Earth’s surface, which both Mr Bezos and Mr Branson accomplished.

But altitude aside, the agency says would-be astronauts must have also “demonstrated activities during flight that were essential to public safety, or contributed to human space flight safety”….

I think this reminds me of a scene in The Right Stuff where test pilots insisted the Mercury capsule needed a window and some flight control capability. Because they weren’t just the human counterparts of the monkeys that had been shot into space.

(13) HEY, I GREW UP HERE. “This quirky L.A. museum is dedicated to San Fernando Valley history” – the Washington Post has the story.

…Of the thousands of artifacts displayed here, Gelinas says, it’s the extensive collection of electric and neon signs, some with graffiti still intact, that are the museum’s biggest draw. A neon sign from the now-defunct, iconic, Palomino Club, a famed North Hollywood country music venue that hosted talent such as Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline and Tanya Tucker, is a crowd favorite, he reports. Other signs in the extensive collection include one from a Jewish deli, a Van de Kamp’s Holland Dutch Bakery complete with windmill and a galloping horse that once advertised a local liquor store.

…Of the collection, Gelinas says, 25 percent is donated while the other 75 percent is “rescued,” as in Gelinas and his team get a call to come take an item that might be destroyed. These “History Watchdogs,” as he refers to them, call when beloved area signage or iconography is in danger of being torn down. When that happens, Gelinas says, he and his team of loyal museum volunteers, many of whom have been specially trained in removal techniques, take great pains to make sure things are done well.

(14) DC AT SDCC. During the DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow Comic-Con@Home panel on Sunday, the cast and showrunners unveiled a sneak peek at the remainder of the show’s sixth season — think bowling, board games, aliens, weddings, magic mushrooms, and a whole lot of dark drama involving John Constantine.

[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, James Davis Nicoll, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 7/16/21 All Scrollnanas Make A Pixel, And So Do Many More

(1) NEW PANEL FOR CORDWAINER SMITH REDISCOVERY AWARD. [Item by Steven H Silver.] Robert J. Sawyer and Barry Malzberg have retired as judges for the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award. A new panel has been created to select the honorees.  The new panel includes Rich Horton, Steven H Silver, and Grant Thiessen.  The new panel’s first selection will be announced at Readercon the weekend of August 13-15.

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman declares “It’s pure pandemonium — peanut butter pandemonium! — with John Wiswell” in Episode 149 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

John Wiswell

Over the past year, you joined me as I’ve baked and shared homemade scones and pizza, or ordered takeout weiner schnitzel and sushi, my guests and I doing our best to seize those moments of community COVID-19 tried to steal from us. In this case, John Wiswell and I pretended we were sitting across the table from each other during the Nebula Awards weekend.

John Wiswell won a Nebula Award earlier this month for the short story “Open House on Haunted Hill,” which had been published last year by Diabolical Plots. He’s also appeared in NatureUncannyWeird TalesFiresideDaily Science FictionFlash Fiction OnlineCast of WondersPodcastle, and Pseudopod. In an astonishing show of prolificacy, he managed to posted fiction on his blog every day for six straight years, which I find astonishing. I found his Nebula acceptance speech astonishing as well; it was one of the best I’ve ever heard.

John and I were supposed to enjoy specialty hamburgers together this time around, only … something went wrong, as you shall hear. Why did I end up eating a chuck roast, brisket, and short rib burger while John only got to nibble on ice cream and carrots? For the answer to that question, well … you’ll have to listen.

We discussed his motivation for giving one of the greatest acceptance speeches ever, how he learned to build meaning out of strangeness, the way writing novels taught him to make his short stories better, his dual story generation modes of confrontation vs. escape, why what we think we know about the Marshmallow Test is wrong, the reason we’re both open online about our rejections, how the love of wallpaper led to him becoming a writer, why we’ve each destroyed our early writing from time to time, what he learned writing a story a day for six years, and much more.

(3) GARCIA APPEARANCES. Chris Garcia will be doing presentations at two Mystical Minds convention gatherings in the coming year.

Mystical Minds is a new Pagan, Paranormal, and Metaphysical convention created to expand our minds as well as our networks! 

Witches, Pagans, Paranormal investigators, psychics, mediums, metaphysical practitioners, UFO experts, cryptozoologists, mystics, and other free-thinking spiritual seekers will come together in person this fall and spring for two conventions in the beautiful Bay area of Northern California! 

For the Fall Gathering / Mystical Minds convention this October in Dublin, CA he’ll present:

History of Paranormal Research in the Bay Area

Before Ghost HuntersMost Haunted, or even Ghostbusters, San Francisco and the Bay has been home to research into the unknown. From occultists and de-bunkers in the early 20th century, to TV personalities in the 70s and 80s, to hard core particle physicists, research into the paranormal has happened here! Join Chris Garcia as he tells their stories! 

At the Spring Gathering / Mystical Minds convention next February in San Jose, CA he’ll speak about —

The Winchester House

An architectural marvel, containing a story of American eccentricity, and a debate over the potential paranormal aspects. We will look at the history of the House, the stories surrounding its building, the recounting of what people have experienced, and how development in the area may have something to do with all the fuss… both before and after Sarah Winchester showed up!  

(4) HARD DRIVES OF IF. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Financial Times Reader.] In the July 16 Financial Times, Tom Faber discusses “interactive fiction” or IF, a genre between a video game and a novel.

After a few wilderness years (around 2000), IF re-emerged among a niche community of writers and intellectuals who organised around the annual Interactive Fiction Competition, founded in1995.  This renaissance as partially triggered by  progress in technology.  Writers developed methods for inactivity such as multiple choice as an alternative to the intimidating grammar rules of the text parser. New tools such as Twine, ChoiceScript and Inklewriter empowered those without coding skills to create their own games.  This contributed to a diversification of the creator pool, particularly encouraging queer writers who have broached provocative topics not tackled in the gaming mainstream, ranging from gender dysphoria to clinical depression to unconventional kinks…

…One of the most remarkable IF writers is Porpentine, author of the vivid story With Those We Love Alive.  On this tale of an artist enslaved by an insectoid empress, you roam an alien world of ‘glass flowers on iron stalks. Canopy of leafbone.  Statues sunk into the earth.’  Porpentine asks you to swap words out, wipe them away, and — most intimately — to draw symbols on your arm which represent emotional responses to the narrative.

(5) FREE DOWNLOAD FROM TAFF. Willis Discovers America and other fan fiction by Walt Willis is the latest addition to the selection of free ebook downloads at David Langford’s unofficial Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund site, where they hope you’ll make a little donation to the fund if you please. Here’s the download page.

An attempt to collect all Walt Willis’s short fan fiction, in the old sense of invented stories about real-life fans and fandom. This omits the long and much-reprinted The Enchanted Duplicator (1954 with Bob Shaw) and its sequel Beyond the Enchanted Duplicator… To the Enchanted Convention, both already in the TAFF ebook library.

The title piece is a wildly silly imagining of Walt’s first trip to the USA in 1952, written and serialized in multiple fanzines before he actually began the journey; the text used here is from the collected edition of 1955, which included a new preface and annotations explaining some of the more arcane in-jokes. Further items range from scripts for two recorded “taperas” or tape operas that had fans rolling in the aisles at 1950s conventions, to a 1987 recasting of The Enchanted Duplicator as a computer text-Adventure game. Most of this material has never before been collected.

Edited by David Langford, who has added a few more explanatory notes; research work by Rob Hansen and others; proofreading by Pat Charnock. Cover artwork by Bob Shaw, drawn on to stencil for the collected Willis Discovers America (1955). 45,000 words.

(6) YOU COULD LOOK IT UP. John Scalzi tweeted this response to an item screencapped here the other day:

(7) ELVISH. The On fairy-stories website interviews Elvish linguistic scholar Carl F. Hostetter, editor of The Nature of Middle-Earth, a new J.R.R. Tolkien book: “From Linguistics to Metaphysics”. The book proposal with many of the edited texts was seen and approved by Christopher Tolkien, who passed away last year.

In your opinion, why did Tolkien not develop completely the Elvish languages?

For much the same reason that he never completed The Silmarillion: at first, because things grew and changed in his imagination and their expression on paper, and then, after the intervention and completion of The Lord of the Rings, because he had to revise everything to make it consistent with the published book and the thousands of years of “new history” that the introduction of the Second and Third Ages required, a task he was never able to achieve. With the languages, this was because whenever he attempted to make “definitive” decision on some point of phonology or grammar, he would almost inevitably start revising the whole system, which makes sense since any language is a complexly intertwined system, such that a change in one feature or detail can and almost always does affect other aspects. Nor, I think, was it ever Tolkien’s intention to make the Elvish languages “complete” or “finished”: they were primarily an expression of his linguistic aesthetic, and its changes over time. Unlike, say, with Zamenhof and Esperanto, Tolkien had no utilitarian purpose in mind for his languages.

(8) THINKING ABOUT THE FUTURE. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination has published the latest issue of Imaginary Papers, their quarterly newsletter on science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and imagination. Issue 7 features a piece on The Expanse by science, technology, and society scholar Damien P. Williams, and a piece on “Sultana’s Dream,” a 1905 Bengali feminist utopian speculative fiction story, by musicologist and media scholar Nilanjana Bhattacharjya.

One of the most engrossing things about the small-screen adaptation of The Expanse is how viscerally it examines the human costs of life in space. After being exposed to a massive dose of radiation, starship captain James Holden gets a permanent anticancer implant, like a far-future successor of a Port-A-Cath. And from the first episode, we’re made to understand that the Belters—descendants of humans who have worked, lived, and started societies on asteroids or the moons of other planets in our solar system—have different physiologies than the humans who still call Earth home. Gravity weighs heavier on Belters: it constricts their blood vessels, strains their hearts, and cracks their bones….

(9) HENDRIX INTERVIEW. See Kevin Kennel’s video interview of author Grady Hendrix on Facebook.

Author Grady Hendrix (‘Horrorstör’, ‘We Sold Our Souls’ and more!) graciously took time out of his busy schedule for an interview with our very own library staff member Kevin Kennel, to discuss his new book, ‘The Final Girl Support Group’ and his experiences as a writer and author. …Please note: this video contains adult content and is an interview about an adult horror novel.

(10) VISITING UTOPIA. Kim Stanley Robinson explains the usefulness of “The Novel Solutions of Utopian Fiction” in The Nation.

… But in this world, we are never going to get the chance to start over. This was one of the reasons Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels objected to 19th-century utopias like that of Charles Fourier, the French designer of small communes living in perfect harmony: They were fantasy solutions that served only to distract people from the real work of politics and revolution. They were also in competition with Marx and Engels’s own ideas, so there was the usual left infighting. But it was a legitimate complaint: If utopia isn’t a political program, then what is it for?

The answer should be obvious. Utopias exist to remind us that there could be a better social order than the one we are in. Our present system is the result of a centuries-old power struggle, and it is devastating people and the biosphere. We must change it—and fast. But to what?

Utopias are thought experiments. Imagine if things ran like this: Wouldn’t that be good? Well, maybe…let’s live in it fictionally for a while. What problems crop up in this system? Can we solve them? What if we tweak things this way, or that? Let’s tell this story and then that story, and see how plausible they feel after we spend some imaginative time in them….

(11) STEPHEN HICKMAN (1949-2021). Famed sff artist Stephen Hickman died July 16 reported his friend and colleague Ron Miller on Facebook: “Lost one of my best friends, Steve Hickman, this morning and the world lost one of its best artists and finest human beings.” Hickman had over 350 book and magazine covers to his credit. He won the 1994 Best Original Artwork Hugo for his Space Fantasy Commemorative Stamp Booklet. He was a six-time Chesley Award winner.

(12) JUDI B CASTRO OBIT. Judi Beth Castro died July 15 of a sudden illness. She was 58. Her husband, author Adam-Troy Castro, announced her passing on Facebook.

The love of my life, Judi Beth Castro, lost her fight for life at 10:50 PM Thursday night. The illness was sudden, and she was always in critical danger, but between Tuesday night and Wednesday evening her numbers were improving at such a steady rate that we thought there was hope. Alas, the decline began on Thursday morning and by afternoon there was no doubt….

Her genre credits include Atlanta Nights (2005; a parody which she contributed to with many other co-authors), and the short fiction “Unfamiliar Gods” co-authored with Adam-Troy Castro.

(13) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1953 – Sixty-eight years ago, Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe premiered as a black-and-white movie serial from Republic Pictures. It was originally going to be a syndicated television series. It was directed by Harry Keller, Franklin Adreon and Fred C. Brannon as written by Ronald Davidson and Barry Shipman. Its cast was Judd Holdren, Aline Towne, Gregory Gaye and Craig Kelly.  It would last but one season of twelve twenty-five minute episodes. And yes, it was syndicated to television on NBC in 1955. Some sources say Dave Steven based his Rocketeer character off of Commando Cody. And there’s a clone trooper named Commander Cody who serves under Jedi general Obi-Wan Kenobi, an homage that Lucas has openly acknowledged as he watched the series as a child. 

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 16, 1928 Robert Sheckley. I knew that his  short story “Seventh Victim” was the basis of The 10th Victim film but I hadn’t known ‘til now that Freejack was sort of based of his Immortality, Inc. novel.  I’ve read a lot by him with Bring Me the Head of Prince Charming (written with Zelazny) being my favorite work by him. Sheckley is very well stocked on the usual suspects. (Died 2005.)
  • Born July 16, 1929 Sheri S. Tepper. Nominated for an Austounding Award way back when, she had a long career, so I’m going to single out BeautyThe Gate to Women’s CountrySix Moon Dance and The Companions as my favorites knowing very well that yours won’t be the same. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 16, 1951 Esther Friesner, 70. She’s won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story twice with “Death and the Librarian” and “A Birthday”.  I’m particularly fond of The Sherwood Game and E.Godz which she did with Robert Asprin. She won the 1994 Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction, for lifetime contributions to science fiction, “both through work in the field and by exemplifying the personal qualities which made the late ‘Doc’ Smith well-loved by those who knew him,” presented by the New England Science Fiction Association. She’s well stocked at the usual suspects. 
  • Born July 16, 1956 Jerry Doyle. Now this one is depressing. Dead of acute alcoholism at sixty, his character Michael Garibaldi was portrayed as an alcoholic, sometimes recovering and sometimes not on Babylon 5. Damn. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 16, 1963 Phoebe Cates, 58. Ok, so her entire genre appearance credit is as Kate Beringer in Gremlins and  Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Yes, I’ll admit that they’re two films that I have an inordinate fondness for that the Suck Fairy cannot have any effect upon them what-so-ever. Update: I’ve discovered since I last noted her Birthday that she was in Drop Dead Fred, a dark fantasy. She also stopped acting six years ago. 
  • Born July 16, 1965 Daryl “Chill” Mitchell, 56. Best remembered genre wise as Tommy Webber in the much beloved Galaxy Quest though his longest acting role was Patton Plame on the cancelled NCIS: New Orleans
  • Born July 16, 1966 Scott Derrickson, 55. Director and Writer of Doctor Strange who also had a hand in The Day the Earth Stood Still (as Director), The Exorcism of Emily Rose (Director and Writer), Urban Legends: Final Cut (Director and Producer) and the forthcoming Labyrinth sequel (Director and Writer). 
  • Born July 16, 1967 Will Ferrell, 54. His last genre film was Holmes & Watson in which he played Holmes. It won Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Screen Combo and, my absolute favourite Award,  Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off or Sequel. Wow. He was also in Land of the Lost which, errrr, also got negative reviews. Elf however got a great response from viewers and critics alike. He also was in two of the Austin Powers films as well. Oh, and he voices Ted / The Man with the Yellow Hat, a tour guide at the Bloomsberry Museum in Curious George.

(15) BANNED FROM ARGO. Larry Correia told Monster Hunter Nation readers that he’s gotten his “7th or 8th” 30-day ban from Facebook. He posted screenshots from his appeal to FB’s Oversight Board in “Fun With The Oversight Board -Or- Better Sign Up For The Newsletter Before I Get Perma-Banned” [Internet Archive link].

…Facebook is a time suck garbage site that exists as the propaganda arm of the DNC/Corpo-Uni-Party, to spy on you to sell to advertisers, and to steal everyone’s personal information. After bamboozling all the content creators to go over there to build “community” they now hold them hostage because the content creators are scared to leave because they’ll take a financial hit (The Oatmeal’s got a great cartoon about it)….

(16) WE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM. FOREVER. Hackaday memorializes the “End Of An Era: NTSC Finally Goes Dark In America”.

A significant event in the history of technology happened yesterday, and it passed so quietly that we almost missed it. The last few remaining NTSC transmitters in the USA finally came off air, marking the end of over seven decades of continuous 525-line American analogue TV broadcasts. We’ve previously reported on the output of these channels, largely the so-called “FrankenFM” stations left over after the 2009 digital switchover whose sound carrier lay at the bottom of the FM dial as radio stations, and noted their impending demise. We’ve even reported on some of the intricacies of the NTSC system, but we’ve never taken a look at what will replace these last few FrankenFM stations….

(17) SUSTAINABLE USE OF SPACE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] In this week’s Science:

Last month, at the G7 Leaders’ Summit in Cornwall, United Kingdom, the leading industrial nations addressed the sustainable and safe use of space, making space debris a priority and calling on other nations to follow suit. This is good news because space is becoming increasingly congested, and strong political will is needed for the international space community to start using space sustainably and preserve the orbital environment for the space activities of future generations.

There are more than 28,000 routinely tracked objects orbiting Earth. The vast majority (85%) are space debris that no longer serve a purpose. These debris objects are dominated by fragments from the approximately 560 known breakups, explosions, and collisions of satellites or rocket bodies. These have left behind an estimated 900,000 objects larger than 1 cm and a staggering 130 million objects larger than 1 mm in commercially and scientifically valuable Earth orbits.

(18) SUPERPRANKSTERS? Isaac Arthur’s video “Annoying Aliens” contends, “Fictional portrayals of alien invasion or reports of alien sightings and abductions often imply motives which on inspection make little sense… unless perhaps the true purpose was mischief.”

(19) DISCWORLD COMMENTARY. YouTuber Dominic Noble says he has finally overcome his “sense of loss and deep sadness at the tragically too early passing of the author [Terry Pratchett] due to Alzheimer’s disease” and  is planning to do videos on the Discworld books. He begins with this overview of Discworld and his appreciation for it and for Pratchett.

(20) POTTER IN PERSPECTIVE. YouTuber Eyebrow Cinema considers“Harry Potter – 10 Years Later”.

It’s been a decade since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two arrived in theaters and brought an end to JK Rowling’s saga of witches and wizards. Like most 90s kids, I too read all the books and saw all the movies as a kid and teenager but have completely left the series behind since. Ten years later, how does Harry Potter hold up? In this video essay, I try to get to the heart of Harry Potter as while as examine my own relationship to the series.

No official works cited for this video, though I imagine my criticisms of Rowling’s transphobia will draw some ire. I have no intention of arguing the ethics or legitimacy of Rowling’s claims….

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Joey Eschrich, Chris M. Barkley, Jennifer Hawthorne, Steven H Silver, StephenfromOttawa, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, N., Daniel Dern, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]

Pixel Scroll 8/1/16 If You Like It, Put A Ringworld On It

(1) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOOK. George R.R. Martin looks back on “The Long Game… of Thrones”, which came out 20 years ago today.

…Reviews were generally good, sales were… well, okay. Solid. But nothing spectacular. No bestseller lists, certainly. I went on a book tour around that same time, signing copies in Houston, Austin, and Denton, Texas; in St. Louis, Missouri; in Chicago and Minneapolis; and up the west coast to San Diego, Los Angeles, Berkeley, Portland, and Seattle. Turnouts were modest in most places. The crowds didn’t reach one hundred anywhere, and at one stop (St. Louis, if you must know), not only was attendance zero but I actually drove four patrons out of the bookshop, allowing me to set my all time “bad signing” record at minus four (on the plus side, I had the time for long friendly talks with the readers who did show up).

But my oh my, things have changed a bit in these last twenty years….

(2) OBAMA ON BEING A NERD. “President Barack Obama on How To Win The Future” at Popular Science.

PS: Do you consider yourself a nerd and, if so, what’s your nerdiest pastime?

BO: Well, my administration did write a pretty detailed response to a petition, explaining why we wouldn’t build a real-life Death Star, so I’d like to think I have at least a little nerd credibility built up.

What’s remarkable is the way “nerd” is such a badge of honor now. Growing up, I’m sure I wasn’t the only kid who read Spider-Man comics and learned how to do the Vulcan salute, but it wasn’t like it is today. I get the sense that today’s young people are proud to be smart and curious, to design new things, and tackle big problems in unexpected ways. I think America’s a nerdier country than it was when I was a kid—and that’s a good thing!

(3) SWAP HIS SCARF FOR THE GARTER. John Harvey has started a petition at Change.org calling for Tom Baker to receive a knighthood.

After reading a recent edition of Doctor Who Magazine, the stark realisation set in that after a life time in entertainment and tireless charity work, visits to hospitals and hospices, the living legend that is Tom Baker has not been officially recognised in any way shape or form.

Tom Baker’s commitment to the role of the 4th doctor and his many charitable acts since and brightened the lives of children and adult’s everywhere.

In an age where the like’s of James Corden can receive honours so early in their career, I think it’s a travesty. I’d like to try to change that and right this wrong.

(4) LOCUS POLL. The July issue of Locus published the survey rankings – Black Gate posted the top 10 in the magazine category.

  1. Asimov’s SF
  2. Tor.com
  3. Fantasy & Science Fiction
  4. Clarkesworld
  5. File 770
  6. Lightspeed
  7. Analog
  8. Black Gate
  9. Uncanny
  10. Strange Horizons

(4) MORE ON JOYCE KATZ. As big a loss as it is to fanzine fandom, there are gaming journalists who felt Joyce Katz’ death just as keenly. Chris Kohler of WIRED paid tribute: “Joyce Worley Katz, Pioneering Videogame Critic, Has Passed Away”.

Joyce Katz, who along with her husband Arnie Katz and friend Bill Kunkel founded the first magazine devoted to videogames, has passed away at the age of 77.

Katz, who wrote professionally under her maiden name Joyce Worley, was senior editor of the magazine Electronic Games from its founding in 1981 until just prior to its shuttering in 1985. She went on to take senior editorial roles at gaming publications throughout the 1990s, including Video Games & Computer Entertainment and the relaunched Electronic Games…..

Joyce had continued to write about games regularly until the closing of the second run of Electronic Games in the mid-90s. In the August 1994 issue of that publication, Katz made note of the industry’s worrying shift away from “games for everyone” to a hyper-violent boys’ club: “Tetris and Shanghai charmed women, Mortal Kombat did not.”

It was a prescient column in more ways than one. Katz looked forward to a future in which online gaming would make women “feel less threatened by on-lookers who might tease or criticize their performance in a game.” Sadly, it did not turn out to be that simple. But she also predicted that easier-to-use hardware coupled with better software design would keep girls gaming their whole lives, a future she did live to see.

“Somewhere between age 9 and 12, we lose the ladies,” Worley wrote. “We may never get back the teenaged girls, but hopefully we can arrange gaming so that we won’t lose them in the first place.”

(5) JUST. ONE. BOOK. Margaret Elysia Garcia and friends are still processing the avalanche of donations that came in response to their appeal for people to send books to a rural California school library.

I am bone tired and weary. I have biceps I haven’t had since my kids were toddlers. I am happy to say we have only 20 more boxes to open at the library–and hopefully none will come tomorrow. We are few people and we need to catch up. The generosity is overwhelming.  Thank you. Thank you cards have begun and imagine they will take the better part of the fall semester to complete. I hope a thank you here is also enough as some boxes came in damaged in parts and addresses were not always readable. Please be patient. I’ve had a few emails from people thinking perhaps that we have 200 people and a sophisticated technology set up to respond. Alas we have a couple dozen people who donate time when they can. And we have one very exhausted me who has some reinforcements coming this week thank goodness.

(6) SPACEDOCK. See how the original model Enterprise was restored.

This is a short film showing the process of the detail paint work on the restoration of original U.S.S. Enterprise miniature. The work was done between the 11th and the 23rd of April 2016 at the Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy facility. The model is now on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.

 

(7) IT’S TOO LATE, BABY, IT’S TOO LATE. Yesterday, when it wasn’t, Timothy the Talking Cat posted, “Timothy says: Hugos! Vote! Vote now! Before it is TOO LATE!”

So I say to you all: Go back to your constituencies and prepare for government! You have nothing to fear but the lurking horror in your basement! We shall fight them on the bleachers! Countrymen lend me your ears! But above all in the immortal words of Theodore Cruz: Vote yourself conscious!

(8) THE HORROR. Jason P. Hunt did a roundup of all the horror genre news that came out of San Diego Comic-Con at SciFi4Me.

“Want to see something really scary?”

Remember that line from The Twilight Zone? Well, we have a scary big pile of news on the horror side of things from Comic-Con International in San Diego.

(9) TITLES TO BE UNLOCKED. Thanks to Petréa Mitchell we know the list of achievement trophies in No Man’s Sky:

No spoilers, other than the names of the trophies themselves. They’re all named after sf works. There’s a mixture of old and new, classic and obscure, Puppy-approved and degenerate SJW… even one (out of 23) written by a woman.

For example,

Babel-17

Attain ‘Confused’ status in Words Collected

The Star Beast

Attain ‘Archivist’ status in Uploaded Discoveries

(10) WHALE OF A TAIL. This will unquestionably float somebody’s boat — “Channing Tatum to Play Mermaid in ‘Splash’ Remake for Disney”.

Disney is moving forward on a remake of the 1984 film Splash with an interesting twist: Channing Tatum will star as the mermaid character that was played by Daryl Hannah while Jillian Bell will play the character originally played by Tom Hanks.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • August 1, 1819 – Herman Melville. It took John Huston to get Ray Bradbury to read the book.

(12) SFWA GRANTS. Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America is taking applications for grants for worthy projects until October 1.

Last year the Givers Fund received enough donations to provide grants to projects such as the LaunchPad astronomy program, the Alpha Workshop for Young Writers, the Clarion West Writers Workshop, and the SFWA Star Project, among others, in the program’s first year.

The Grants Committee evaluated the multiple proposals on a number of criteria, the most important of which was how well they served the genre community and its writers. For example, the SFWA Star Project looks for a crowdfunded initiative each month to support by spreading the word as well as with a small donation. The innovative effort underscores SFWA’s leadership in new publishing models, including being the first writing organization to take crowdfunding as professional credentials.

This year we are continuing to provide grants to worthy projects. If you have a nonprofit project that you think would benefit the writing community, please submit it to cfo@sfwa.org.

Apply Here

Application forms must be submitted by October 1st. Decisions on recipients will be finalized in November of this year and applicants notified by year’s end.

(13) CHEER YOURSELF DOWN.

(14) TOR EBOOK. The Tor.com Free eBook Club Pick for August is The Just City by Jo Walton.

Sign up for the Book Club, or sign in if you’re already registered, to download the book (available only from August 1 through 7).

(15) WHAT IS PLANNING. Nigel Quinlan’s “Outline Planning Permission Part 2” went up on Writing.ie today.

…I challenged myself to PLAN. I wrestled with the big issues. What was planning? Was coffee planning fuel? What did it mean to plan? When was I getting another cup of coffee? Wasn’t planning just writing, only without the fun? (No, that’s making radical revisions because you wrote without a proper plan, Nigel.) I drank coffee. I read up on planning. Some was useful, some wasn’t. It became apparent that I was going to have to devise a method that worked for me.

This is where I’m at, by the way. I’m, er, making up my planning as I go along.

I got loads of notebooks and spread them around my desk in a very satisfactory manner.

Then I wasted time on the internet. Then I stopped because procrastination gets depressing after a while.

I wrote out the story so far.

I filled a big page with the names of all the characters so far and indicated roughly their relationships.

I made a tentative list of characters who have yet to appear and gave some indication of their roles and relationships.

I made a list of settings and gave rough ideas of how the story moves from place to place and what occurs there. I gave detail where I had them and left things vague where I didn’t, and decided not to worry about the vague bits – that’s rather the point of planning: find the vague bits and fill ‘em in.

I made a list of words I associated with the story as a whole. Random words, some reflecting theme, some mood, some character, some representing nothing yet.

I wrote out my ideas for the rest of the story, asking questions, posing alternatives, highlighting some of the stuff that needed work and trying to remain calm at the vast spaces that remained vague and undefined.

I sat and surveyed what I had done. And it was a start….

(16) DISCWORLD CON. The North American Discworld Convention 2017 announced yesterday –

Hotel Contract Signed!

We are delighted to announce that the North American Discworld® Convention 2017 will be held in New Orleans, LA, September 1–4 next year. Membership and hotel details will be announced in the next month, but for now, save the dates and start contemplating which costumes you’ll want to wear as you attend The Genuan Experience!!

(17) DID THE EARTH MOVE FOR YOU? Speaking of the earth moving (as we did in a recent Scroll), the BBC just did a report on continental drift accompanied by speculative animated maps tracing their movement back 750 million years and forward 250.

Science calls it “Pangaea Proxima”. You might prefer to call it the Next Big Thing. A supercontinent is on its way that incorporates all of Earth’s major landmasses, meaning you could walk from Australia to Alaska, or Patagonia to Scandinavia. But it will be about 250 million years in the making.

For Christopher Scotese at the University of Texas at Arlington, the fact that our continents are not stationary is tantalising. How were they arranged in the past – and how will they be positioned in the future?

“Fifty million years from now, Australia will be in collision with southeast Asia to a much larger degree,” he says. Africa will also be pushing right up against southern Europe, while the Atlantic will be a far wider ocean than it is today.

(18) GLAZE NOTE. In case anyone wondered if it was possible, the BBC explains “How to break glass with sound”. Step one: not with one’s voice.

You’re probably familiar with the urban legend: the opera singer ascends the stage and clears his throat. His audience cheer and wave their champagne flutes in anticipation. He opens his mouth – and a roomful of glasses smash to pieces. We have no record that this has ever actually happened, but there were rumours that the legendary tenor Enrico Caruso could quiver a glass into a million pieces.

(19) SHARKNADO 4, THE COMPLETE SPOILER REVIEW. Be honest, you weren’t going to watch it anyway, so why not read Jordan DesJardin’s “Movie Review: ‘Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens’” at ScienceFiction.com?

I don’t want to spoil the ending, but the words ‘Shark-ception” definitely comes to mind. ‘Sharknado: The 4th Awakens’ culminates is probably the most ridiculous ending of any of these films to date, and there is nothing to not love about it. If you’re a fan of the first three, you’ll love this one. And really if you’ve never seen a ‘Sharknado’ movie before (in which case, what is wrong with you, get on that!), it is really difficult not to have a good time while watching this movie. We highly recommend pairing this movie (and the previous three) with a large couch, several good friends, some snacks and drinks, and you are all set for one hell of a ride!

(20) HOLODECK. You’ve just been drafted into the crew of the Enterprise. Would you rather wear a redshirt or a gray coverall?

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Gary Farber, Petréa Mitchell, Mark-kitteh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Take a Ride on a Discworld-Inspired Model Railroad

Angst

Shepton on heavy freight duty. Image © Mick Thornton

Hugh Norwood pays tribute to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books with his Angst-Lesspork 009 railway layout, exhibited last year at LonCon 3.

Helping to set the scene are the Alchemists’ Guildhall (complete with stuffed alligator), one of the many Watch houses, a (working) Clacks tower and, of course, Mad Lord Snapcase’s Cruet set. Looming over the rear is the back of the Theatre. There are also a number of privies to be found. Most of the buildings are scratch-built from card; a number are illuminated and so have internal decoration.

Human figures in Victorian / Edwardian costume are readily available; finding wizards, dwarfs, trolls and other out of the ordinary figures is more problematic. Fortunately, the war-gaming fraternity could supply many of these figures. The Librarian – and the stuffed alligator – were commissioned pieces.

Angst-Lesspork is already famous among model train aficianados, having been featured in the January 2013 issue of Railway Modeller.

Norwood has also done something thematic for the table the layout sits upon when shown in public —

A number of times at exhibitions, people have asked me where the elephants were, that support the “world”. Well I decided that I should attempt to produce some “feet” to be visible below the skirt that hangs at the front of the layout.

Layout on display at LonCon 3 in 2014. Look carefully and you'll see an elephant foot under the table.

Layout on display at LonCon 3 in 2014. Look carefully and you’ll see an elephant foot under the table.

You can take even an imaginary train ride around town in this video, shot with a “keyfob” camera mounted on a flatcar.

[Thanks to James Bacon for the link.]

Pratchett Coming to America

Sir Terry Pratchett will promote his latest Discworld novel, Snuff, next month at events in New York and Washington D.C.

He’ll be at the Barnes & Noble – Tribeca on Thursday, October 13 at 6:00 p.m. There will be priority seating for those who buy a book.  (Barnes & Noble-Tribeca, 97 Warren Street, New York, NY 10007.)

The next day, Friday, October 14, he will be discussing the book in the National Press Club ballroom in DC at 7 p.m. An admission is charged. See site for details.

Read an excerpt from Snuff here.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter and Michael J. Walsh for the story.]

Discworld Convention Nears

Terry Pratchett is expected at The North American Discworld Convention in Madison, WI over the July 8-11 weekend.

The con very recently lost its chair due to illness, so Emily S. Whitten, an experienced conrunner who chaired the 2009 NADWCon, has stepped in to finish the job.

She’s looking for volunteer help. If you’re interested, e-mail ewhitten (at) law (dot) gwu (dot) edu and please cc Vice Chair and Volunteer Coordinator Marg Grady, marg1066 (at) gmail (dot) com.

[Via SMOFS.]

Adopt a DiscWorldcon Con

Emily S. Whitten, Vice Chair of the 2009 North American DiscWorld Convention, announces:

The North American Discworld Convention is now soliciting bids for the 2011 convention, at which Sir Terry Pratchett has agreed to appear as Guest of Honor, circumstances permitting. Bids are due from interested groups by midnight, March 15, 2010. A decision as to the next hosting city and group will be reached and announced by approximately April 15, 2010.

The bid solicitation announcement link is here.

Not a Mock Turtle

A convention ad flutters loose from my copy of Instant Message and declares, “The Turtle Moves.” Yes, and says it’s moved to Phoenix over Labor Day Weekend of 2009, where fans will hold The First North American Discworld Convention. Terry Pratchett will be a GoH. What is the right interpretation of this sign? Is another group joining Dragon*con in poaching the traditional (with increasing randomness) Worldcon weekend? Far from it.

Anticipation, the Montreal Worldcon of 2009, takes place almost a month in advance of Labor Day: August 6-10; the identical dates for this year’s Denvention, as a matter of fact. Is it only old fire horses like me who hear “Labor Day” and think it should mean a science fiction convention? Obviously my calendar is blank and I may have to give Discworld a whinny.

Discworld conventions have been held since 1996, never before in North America. Chair Lee Whiteside and Hotel Liaison Mike Willmoth, two leading committee members, have such impressive resumes after working many Westercons, NASFiCs, WFCs and Worldcons that even fans completely unfamilar with past Discworld-themed conventions will have every reason to gallop over to Phoenix for more fun in the desert.