Never Mind The News – File 770’s Best Feature Articles of 2021

Was the year too heavy, deep, and real? Yes, but it was also rich in creativity, humor, and shared adventures. It’s a gift and privilege for me to be continually allowed to publish so many entertaining posts. Thanks to all of you who contributed!


David DoeringMost Remote SF Bookstore in the World?

Meet “Book Island” in the town of Saint Denis on Reunion Island—a small speck in the vast Indian Ocean

Pierre E. Pettinger, Jr.Never Too Late To Start: Guest Post by Pierre E. Pettinger Jr.

… Like many fans, I had tried my hand with writing, especially as a teenager. I wrote notes, drew weird aliens, and even wrote a novel which will never see the light of day. But during all this I did noodle, consistently, with several recurring characters and a story line. It shifted and changed, of course, as I matured and different interests came into my life, and eventually they just settled in the back of my mind.

John HertzAt the Height of His –

… Once when [Tim] Powers was being interviewed at an SF convention someone asked “Do you actually believe in this stuff?”  He said “No.  But my characters do.”  As Gordon Bennett wrote, and Frank Sinatra sang, “This is all I ask, this is all I need.”

JJ2020 Novellapalooza

… I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story Synopsis had some appeal for me). …

Patty WellsLearn About SAFF, the Space Agency Fan Fund

… The mission of SAFF is to keep the factual progress of space exploration out there for our community and to help individual Worldcons and other conventions in dealing with the arrangements and funding of space experts as special guests. 

JJWhere To Find The 2020 Nebula Finalists For Free Online

To help propel you into your awards season reading, here are links to excerpts or complete works from the 2020 Nebula Award finalists.

John HertzGood Names for Bad Guys

 During 1937-1956 a radio program called “The Answer Man” was broadcast over the Mutual Broadcasting System….  

Wolf von WittingInexplicable Phenomena and How To Approach Them

… Another solved mystery was that of the vanishing pancake. A friend of mine, by profession police officer, was standing at his stove, frying pancakes. As we both did with pancakes, we flipped them around in the air. So did my friend on this day.

His mystery was that the pancake never came back down. It vanished. There was no trace of it….

A Multitude of FilersOpening Lines Rewritten for a Pandemic — By Filers

Eli Grober’s “Opening Lines Rewritten for a Pandemic” in The New Yorker humorously changes the beginnings of famous books to suit life as we knew it in the plague year of 2020…. Filers answered the challenge to add to the list. Here is a collection from yesterday’s comments….

The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed, being careful to maintain a distance of at least six feet.

–Nina Shepardson

Brendan DuBoisIn Happy Pursuit of Jeopardy!

… It was the Jeopardy! gameshow display screen one saw all the time on television, in real life, just yards away, here inside the cool Sony studios.   Six rows across with the categories, columns of five numbers under each.  To the right of the large display was Alex Trebek’s podium, and nearby were the three contestant stations. 

There were sixteen of us here, and before the end of the day, all of us but one would have our thirty minutes of fame — or infamy — in this very special place.

But how did I get here?

John HertzAnother Well-Titled Book

Glorious, the Greg Benford – Larry Niven novel appearing last year, is one of the more ambitious SF stories.  

Rich LynchRocket Boy

… The model took off and rose straight up for maybe 100 feet or so before the second stage kicked in, but then there was trouble.  Instead of continuing its upward flight, the thing veered to the right and zoomed away horizontally, slightly descending all the while.  It went directly over a house across the street and continued on, neatly bisecting the span between two tall trees behind the house.  And then it was gone from sight.  I remember that my uncle gave me a quizzical look and asked, “Was it supposed to do that?”…

IphinomeFour Reviews by Iphinome

Reading. That’s what I do, I read and I snark things.

IphinomeIphinome Reviews Novik’s A Deadly Education

El (Galadriel) is pissed off. Her classmate Orion just rescued her for the second time –needlessly. She’s capable, more than capable, El’s powerful – El, power, get it? Get it?…

Lyrics by Aydrea Walden and Jocelyn Scofield“All Because of You” Lyrics from the Nebula Awards Ceremony

But then I had a spark, a realization
While floating here all by myself
I’m actually in the best of company
Because you’re on my shelf

Mark L. BlackmanDeath and Doom (and Cats) at the KGB Bar with Seanan McGuire and Nadia Bulkin

On the evening of Wednesday, June 16, 2021, the Fantastic Fiction at KGB Reading Series, hosted by Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel, presented authors Seanan McGuire and Nadia Bulkin in livestreamed readings on YouTube. (Neither reader is running for Mayor of New York.)

This is the 16th month of virtual readings, in place of in-person reading at the eponymous bar in the East Village in Manhattan, noted Kressel. New York City may be “open,” added Datlow, but they don’t yet feel comfortable “going into the crowd” at the Bar for at least a few more months….

Mike GlyerSmell Like A Superhero

Is there a science fiction movie character you want to smell like? Forget Swamp Thing, c’mon, he’s not in Fragrance X’s catalog. Otherwise, there’s no end of superhero and genre branded colognes you can buy.

Sara FelixWhy I Work on Worldcon: Guest Post by Sara Felix

There was a post a while ago on twitter that asked, “So what motivates y’all to continue entering bids to host Worldcons? Genuinely curious.”

And I responded with, ”I think there are some great bids out there like Glasgow 2024 that you can genuinely tell they are enthusiastic and want to put on a good show.  Working on Dublin was like that for me as well.  I am not saying they are perfect but the excitement is really important.”

But that is just the tip of the iceberg of what I wanted to say…

Cat EldridgeLeague of Extraordinary Gentlemen Film Anniversary: Celebrate or Not?

… Now back to Connery. The film would leave him with such a bad experience that claimed he the production of the film and the film’s final quality was what he caused his decision to permanently retire from filmmaking, saying in an interview with The Times that, “It was a nightmare. The experience had a great influence on me, it made me think about showbiz. I get fed up dealing with idiots.”

Martin Morse WoosterSpace Jam: A New Legacy – A Review

Space Jam:  A New Legacy is a fun-free synthetic entertainment substitute.  Its many writers (six are credited) created a screenplay from artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, and gas….  

Mark L. BlackmanTwo Too-Near Futures from Kim Stanley Robinson and Nancy Kress

… Datlow asked Robinson, “How can you be so optimistic?” He replied that his mother was; she felt that it was our duty to be optimistic and to help people….

Mike GlyerLe Guin Stamp Issued Today

The Ursula K. Le Guin commemorative Forever stamp was officially unveiled today during a ceremony at the Portland (OR) Art Museum.

Steve VertliebCelebrating The Wonderful Nehemiah Persoff At 102

… I began to wonder whatever became of this marvelous actor and so, before retiring for the evening, I started to research Mr. Persoff’s whereabouts on my computer. As luck would have it, I found him and wrote him a rather hasty letter of personal and lifelong admiration. To my shock and utter astonishment, he responded within five minutes….

Melanie StormmEmails From Lake Woe-Is-Me: Links To Every Installment

Stormm began her humorous series about the misdirected emails she gets from Writer X in August and has done 17 regular and two bonus installments. It swirls together comedy, horror, and the pitfalls of being a writer.

Robin A. ReidWriting Against the Grain: T. Kingfisher’s Feminist Mythopoeic Fantasy

The purpose of this presentation is to place Tolkien’s theory of mythopoeic fiction in dialogue with fantasy series by T. Kingfisher in order to argue that her work is feminist and mythopoeic. While there are a number of elements of Kingfisher’s fiction that are relevant to my purpose, I’ll be focusing on two: her version of Faërie and system of magic, and her portrayal of female characters whose relationships are with failed warrior heroes….

Brian Z.A Modest Proposal for the Very Retro Hugo for Genre-Related Work

The talk of time capsules and 1000-year M-discs in the Pixel Scroll 8/12/21 discussion of item (16), the Louis XIII Cognac 100-year sci-fi film vault, got me thinking that Worldcon should do Hugos for Best Genre-related Work Created 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000, 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 and 40,000 years ago….

Sultana RazaHergé’s Multi-Layered Worlds

… Considered to be a genius by many, not only was Hergé skilled at drawing, he was also good at fascinating his readers with mysteries, and intriguing situations. For example, why was Prof. Calculus going into the heart of a volcano, following the agitated movements of his pendulum, instead of running away, like all the others? Perhaps he was so oblivious to his real surroundings, and was so desperate to find the cause of the wild swinging of his pendulum for the sake of science, that inadvertently, he was willing to risk his very life. Or was he running away from mundane reality? And why did Tintin rush back to save his friend from going deeper in the maze of the mountain? Possibly because that was Tintin’s nature, to rescue not just the innocent people of the world, but it also showed his deep friendship with the absent-minded professor….

Robert RepinoConsequences as an Engine of Storytelling: A Guest Post by Robert Repino

…After watching [John Wick: Chapter 3], my friends and I got some drinks at a nearby bar. There, I found myself repeating a single word from the movie: “Consequences.” Wick utters this word whenever one of the characters points out that his past may have finally caught up with him. Since I like to drive jokes into the ground, I began to say “Consequences” in response to everything that night, in a poor imitation of Wick’s scratchy voice. Why did we need to buy another round? “Consequences.” Why should someone else pick up the tab? “Consequences.” And maybe I should call out sick tomorrow? “Consequences.”…

Mike GlyerHallmark Rolls Out 2021 Ornaments

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

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

Craig MillerPreview of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

In, I believe, 1927, the Academy of Motion Pictures was founded.

In 1929, they decided there should be a museum of motion picture history and memorabilia.

In three days, a little shy of a hundred years later, the Academy Museum will open to the public….

Martin Morse WoosterReview: Museum of the Bible

Continuing my reports on museums that might be of interest to Filers coming to Washington for DisCon III, I offer a report on the Museum of the Bible, which I visited recently.  (I had a Groupon!)…

Glenn HaumanOh, The Place We Boldly Stop.

The Dr. Seuss Enterprises lawsuit against us is finally over….

Esther MacCallum-StewartCOP26 and Glasgow in 2024

… COP26 has produced an enormous impact on Glasgow….

Sultana RazaFan or Spy?

… I couldn’t help thinking of the passage from The Lord of the Rings, where the Crebain go searching for the Fellowship. In fact, there are many birds as spies in fantasy fiction, such as the Three-Eyed Raven, the, One-eyed Crow, or Varamyr Sixskins warging into an eagle in A Song of Ice and Fire, to mention a few…. 

Mike GlyerShould the Best Series Hugo Category Be Kept?

The Best Series Hugo category was added to the WSFS Constitution in 2017 with a sunset clause requiring a future re-ratification vote to remain part of the Worldcon Constitution. That vote happens next week at the DisCon III Business Meeting. If you were there, would you vote yes or no on keeping the category?

Shana WorthenTwas the Night Before DisCon III

Then down the long hall there arose so much chat,
that I sprang from my chair to see what was that?
Through archways, past plant pots, I slipped through the throng
as the loud murmuration came strolling along.

Colin HarrisThe World in Worldcon

… In reality, China is a huge country with a vast population and an expanding middle class; an enormous SF field and well established fandom. Chengdu is an established international convention site as well as a centre for science and technology.

I rather suspect that from the Chengdu bid’s viewpoint, the US-centric history of Worldcon is at odds with the very name of the event and its claim to be the leading global celebration of the genre. I do not need to believe there is anything suspicious about the bid, because it only needs a tiny percentage of Chinese fans to get behind it to make it a success….

Sultana Raza (and others)International Interactions with Tolkien – A Roundtable

Though Tolkien’s novels were very successful in the last century, after the Peter Jackson trilogy in the early 2000s, their reach increased to encompass the globe. Irrespective of geographical or linguistic differences, they spoke to us in different ways. In an informal Discussion Group at Oxonmoot 2021, (held online), participants were welcome to share their thoughts/reactions/ take on various aspects of Tolkien’s works, mainly his Legendarium….

Mike GlyerThe Twenty Percent Solution: A Self-Published Science Fiction Competition Judge’s Upvotes

… Based on reading 20% of Team File 770’s assigned books, I found there are actually 12 I’d say yes to – so I am going to need to cut two more before I finalize this list….


The saga of Sheriff Trigger Snowflake, the lovely Coraline, and the shenanigans of the Solarian Poets Society added several chapters this year that were not so much ripped-from-the-headlines as amused by the news.

Ingvar Trigger Snowflake and the Election

… Trigger put his cup down, as he saw Coraline wave a paper in the air.

“Trigger!” she said, “Look at this! Look who’s standing for president!”

IngvarTrigger Snowflake and the Dessert

A few days later, down at the Coffee Emporium, Trigger was having breakfast. A nice cup of Bean of the Day and a grilled synthecheese. As he finished the last bite of the synthecheese, Barbara Dimatis walked up to his table.

“Sheriff Snowflake, may I sit?”

“Why, sure, Ms Dimatis. What troubles you?”

“You’ve heard of Bistro Futuristo? Well, turns out that the editor and owner of Futuristo Magazine has made an announcement.”…

Ingvar Trigger Snowflake and the Grand Reopening

“Sheriff! Sheriff! Have you heard?”

“No, Ms Dimatis, I don’t believe I have?”

“The Bistro has re-opened!”

“Bistro Futuristo?”


Brandon Sanderson WFC 2020 Interview Highlights – Conducted by David Doering

Far Sector Round Table with N.K. Jemisin – Conducted by James Bacon and others


ConStellation Hat. Photo by Craig Glassner/Pinterest/Hat of the Day

… Needless to say, I have witnessed or participated in a number of remarkable, bizarre and historic incidents during my tenure working at Worldcons. I not only know how the sausage was made, I helped make it as well….

… Before I reveal my BDP Hugo Nomination Ballot choices, let’s contemplate these ten outstanding films from 2020…

So forget about what the naysayers are saying; Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a big, exciting, sprawling, violent, intense, profane, beautiful and ultimately moving film.

DECLASSIFIED! Seven Secret and Untold Stories From the Worldcon Press Office


Commemorative button.


Ride along with Chris at this year’s Worldcon, everywhere from major events to favorite restaurants.


In addition to reviewing comics and graphic novels, James used his camera and descriptive abilities to take us along on visits to all kinds of fascinating exhibits and pop culture events.



[date of publication]

Barkley: DisCon III, the Third Day

The File 770 DisCon III News Desk

To Be Fair, I Was Left Unsupervised: A Disjointed Chronicle of 79th World Science Fiction Convention, DisCon III — December 17-18, 2021

By Chris M. Barkley:


After yesterday’s events, I decided to sleep in a bit, until about 9 a.m. Because, you know, Worldcon.

The first bit of news came from Newsletter Number 3, which was published late Thursday evening. The middle column had the BIG news: that the proposal to create a Best Audiobook category had passed muster at the Preliminary Meeting and would be debated at the Main Session on Friday. After my blistering attack on the Business Meeting I feel slightly encouraged. But let’s see what happens next. Watch This Space, as Rachel Maddow intones on a regular basis…

At 10 a.m., I was on the move; today was the day I was going to race around like a whirling dervish and get books signed, come hell or high water!

I dashed down to the Dealers Room eagerly to seek out Mary Robinette Kowal, only to find out her signing session had been rescheduled due to a conflicting panel. So, you may wonder, who else would be crazy enough to get up that early in the morning to sign autographs? Yeah, THIS GUY, fellow Ohioian John Scalzi…

On my way back to my room, I made a stop at the Press Office. Peter Thomas was there and he informed me that a dozen media reporters had registered and that he did not have a firm number on how many warm bodies were on site, but had heard unofficially form the folks in Registration that the figure may or may not be around 2,500 people. He promised to text me directly if he got any solid information. (As of Friday evening, he did not have any additional information.)  

After tempering my disappointment, it was time for breakfast. The weather remained unusually warm with moderate winds and an overcast sky. Our destination was Open City again because our companion Anna, Juli and I were wondering if their breakfast menu was as good as their dinner menu. Readers, we were not disappointed!

Juli had the Chorizo Scramble with an arugula salad, Anna had the California Scramble with a side of fruit. I decided to go big and have the Biscuit (singular!) and Gravy with a Breakfast Burrito. And yes, they serve animal crackers with their tea and coffee!

[Chris Barkley’s report continues after the jump.]

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Science Fiction Outreach at C2E2

Science Fiction Outreach took a booth at C2E2 in Chicago to promote reading and SF conventions.The event ran from December 10-12. James Bacon was there to help. 

By James Bacon: I had a terrific weekend and thousands of books were given away. Helen Montgomery was leading the operation with a host of fans helping out. The books, so many kindly donated by fans, were moved from storage to McCormick Place on Wednesday by Helen and Dave McCarty. On Thursday set up was in full flow and the shelving was built with Leanne’s help, and books put out. 

Weeks of preparation had gone into sorting the books, especially separating kids’ books, as these are at a premium for kids present at con, but even they are separated into age groups.

Friday was busy enough but with some superb examples of cosplay. Readers, once convinced that ‘Free’ meant free descended upon the booth with eagerness. Dune and Frank Herbert were perhaps the most asked for, although we had plenty of prequels, sequels, so that was good. Horror as ever proved to be strongly popular, and media tie-ins from Star Wars to Star Trek were very popular. There was considerable interest in magazines, while related books flew out.  

Leanne, Johnathon, Dave, Noelle, Michelle, Alan, Sue, Pam all helped to call out free books, replenish, chat, engage and recommend. Pam had donated a given box so as it got opened was able to give first-hand recommendations. It was also nice to meet fans for the first time and they were a lovely crew. 

Here the call of free attracts all fans. One needs to be ready to meet erudite well-read fans, of all ages and backgrounds, and I loved talking to readers. 

“Any authors you are looking for? And who’s your favourite?” work well, while “Would you like a recommendation?” was also popular. If one found a good book and lightly said “This is awesome space opera” it was soon taken away. Fans like recommendations. A Penguin book of Irish Myths lasted seconds.

It’s great fun, although a hard part is convincing people that the books are free, that yes, you can take more than one and you know, there were fans who were so grateful, so pleased to be going home with something, unexpected and nice and certainly in some cases, clear they hadn’t expected to be taking anything home and that is amazing.  

Librarians and teachers flock in, inquisitive and eager to spread the word, collectors wonder and share their passion but are reluctant to take books they hope fans younger than them will pick up. Chicon regulars fist bump and show their pride and pleasure with the efforts and cosplayers cone in to browse.  

Octavia Butler, Yoon Ha Lee and Aliette de Bodard proved easy to recommend, readers were actively enquiring about writers from as diverse backgrounds as the fans at C2E2. It’s easy to talk about great works while catering to such requests. Anthologies also offered great opportunity to allow a low investment spec try of a specified genre or area, and with themed subjects covering so many aspects, even with the most challenging of requests “I like war stuff” was easily sorted with some Joe Haldeman edited anthologies to choose from.   

Likewise James White, Justina Robson and Robyn Hobb were snapped up by readers looking for pointers. Pratchett, Rice, Banks, Harris, Gaiman, LeGuin were snaffled quickly too, but with less prompting. 

Real excitement and pleasure was palpable, and it was fun. 

We had T-shirts available for a @$25 donation and these proved popular, and people were just so nice and lovely, and donations kindly flowed. There’s real respect and appreciation. 

Every book has a bookmark promoting Outreach, Worldcons, local cons. But also flyers were given out for local cons and worldwide ones too.

With a good crew in hand, breaks were encouraged and I was gratefully given time to enjoy C2E2. 

Had a cracking weekend. In between giving away free books, with Helen Montgomery and the gang, meeting fabulous cosplayers, and enthusing about dozens of authors, I also got to roam about C2E2.  

It was amazing to meet Larry Hama, who was so friendly and we spoke about the Vietnam issue of Journey Planet, while he knows the west of Ireland well. He also was happy to use a Sharpie on a fan that would get tattooed! 

Larry Hama wields a Sharpie

It was fabulous to catch up with Dublin 2019 featured artist Afua Richardson who continues to do amazing work, and I was chuffed to get her to sign Marvels Indigenous Voices for which she did a variant cover. 

Gene Ha was super lovely and kind, and we enjoyed overcoming some pronunciation challenges, our mutual friend  Pádraig Ó Méalóid, being easy to read one way and not sounding like the person I mean when I say Pádraig. Gene is a guest at Capricon and Chicon 8 and I’m very excited. 

I asked Chris Claremont, “So about the Leprechauns in the X-Men?” and got a wonderfully thoughtful response. Indeed we spoke for longer than I expected, and it was a good discussion. 

Chris Claremont

Stephanie Hans was impressed that comics signed to other fans make lovely postal surprises, while I got to meet some amazing people thanks to Christopher Hwang. I failed to meet David Mack, and I wanted to thank him again for an awesome time at Thought Bubble

It was all go. It was huge. There were a lot of people but not overly crowded. 

The Covid policy was good, everyone wore a mask, polite and cheerful wardens reminded people, in a respectful way, assuming forgetfulness in the first instance and having masks for anyone who dropped them. This approach is good, it works. 

The con had hundreds of large 10- or 12-foot tables, next to a long run of different food trailers or stands and a bar, where beers and food could be eaten. At these tables there was no issue if you had no mask on while enjoying your break. People were respectful asking to join tables with others, but still given space some distance away at the same table, while anyone who I observed saying “I’d prefer you not” was respected or thumbed up and folks moved on. It was good, thoughtful. There was no anti-establishment bull, but likewise no heavy-handed unnecessary enforcement. Regular announcements informed us all that masks were mandatory. It was good. 

The cosplay was excellent and I offered praise and took photos of favourites.  

Timothy Zahn was as ever delightful, and it was good to speak to him, asking what’s next for this author and his character Grand Admiral Thrawn. 

A wonderful personal moment was some kind praise from Garth Ennis for the Battle issue of Journey Planet, noting a particular poignant element, a photo of myself and Dad and an article I wrote, while I discussed research I’ve done on V for Vengeance, published in 1942. 

Garth is so good to his fans, he signs and signs and signs and is generous with his time, he contributed to JP with an interview and kindly donated to charitable activities arranged by Paul Trimble, but you know, praise from professionals for your zine, is nice. I can’t wait for his next work with PJ Holden and Keith Burns, The Lion and the Eagle

Detroit Pizza is Amazing. One pizza was equal to all the cheese I ate in three months. Got a go on a US school bus, met Josephine the French bulldog who got off her pedestal of guarding Battlecat to say hello. Along with thousands of fans taking away books. 

The Science Fiction Outreach Project continues its good work and as a 501(c) accepts donations.

More photos after the jump. 

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Smofcon Is Go!

By James Bacon: With over 50 people on site and 100 online, Smofcon is occurring during challenging times with new rules having taken effect in Wednesday in Portugal and developing worldwide. 

The con began with well-subscribed workshops and there was a welcome reception that local fans and professionals were invited to that was sponsored by a number of bids and conventions. 

James and Vincent Docherty gave the opening speech — keeping it brief — and in accordance with Smofcon Europe traditions, recognized great effort and bestowed honourary Chair status to local fan Rogério Riberio who played a vital part in ensuring local cohesion, engagement, and managing facilities negotiation, and Tammy Coxen, who delivered a fabulous programme (see the item descriptions and schedule here) and has taken charge of the overall online proposition.  

Drinking, networking and socializing continued to 3:00 a.m. 

Reports of superb food:

Eat as much as you can sushi at Arigat?:

…We ordered tempura with the starter, and the starter of scallop, cucumber salad and gyoza was lovely. The tempura was tasty. The cheese tekpura was new to us, but lovely. Then arrived the ‘Combinado’ a wonderful platter of sushi with dry ice rolling off, it was stunningly incredible. And so tasty! We loved the wide and flavoursome selection. So much so we ordered the platter again… And devoured the delicious delicacies a second time! We were delighted with Sushi that was not known to us, incredible chefs here, for sure….

Mozambique cuisine at Roda Viva:

…A stunning eating experience, the food is so delicious and I loved it. We had a wide selection of food. Staring with the mushrooms and aubergine and Shrimps, I was so pleased with the shrimp, and they had a chilli oil sauce and one could spice up as you liked. Then the Chicken and Peanut sauce was incredible while the Spaghetti and clams were brilliant. We were with vegans and they found the spinach dish very tasty while the greens in peanut sauce and mushroom were all enjoyed….

And the Fado experience at Duque da Rua was well enjoyed, the traditional Portuguese music genre proving quite the experience. 

Service in this delightful bar is excellent but it’s for the Fado that all seats are filled. 7 singers, 3 musicians, duets, some acting as chorus, it was Incredible and a wonderful introduction to this uniquely Portuguese genre of music. The Fado Guitarist was unbelievable, his effort and commitment to the music and attentiveness to the singer, paying off to our benefit.

This morning programme items have been going well, one online stream is broadcast directly into the hotel for people in person to watch and this work very well. 

The Dynamic Leadership and Crucial Communication workshop has some spaces available on Sunday.  

Online membership is available at 

Panel Gallery Now Open

By James Bacon: Britain’s first dedicated comic book gallery has opened and it’s brilliant.  

Panel Gallery is in Northampton, and makes this market town a definite destination for comic book fans, displaying original art of the highest quality and offering a thoroughly enjoyable experience, taking in absolute treasures. 

The Gallery is very close to the town centre, and you are confronted by an absolutely stunning collection of artwork as you enter. The space is beautifully bright, the shop front is totally clear glass allowing natural light to flood the space, giving the art its best look. 

This first exhibition of many is the personal collection of the gallery owner Jeff Chahal, stunning in its breadth, and a superbly thoughtful selection. 

It’s an overwhelming sight as you walk in, so very impressive straight away as you’re presented with a wide selection, 40 pieces in all, and a real variety of genre, countries, and styles. 

Jeff Chahal

 Jeff Chahal is first and foremost a comic book fan, running the very popular NICE ( comic convention in Bedford, as well as Northampton-based Close Encounters comic book shop. His appreciation and love of comics is palpable as he shows fellow fans his Fantastic Four #1 and is happy to let you have a photo with it. He has certainly developed a personal collection sufficient to kick off the first of many exhibitions, but engages and loves comics, and is wonderful to chat with. 

The Gallery’s aim is to reach out to new people, and Jeff is asking collectors and fans to bring in people who have not seen art like this before, hoping to share his appreciation of art with the local community – not only the comic book community but also people who may not realize how gorgeous this art is.  

I took my time. With over 40 pieces it was important to relax into a nice viewing. While many pieces were immediately recognizable, Jeff was happy to introduce me to pages that I’d not known or was aware of, contributing to a delightfully exploratory experience, learning as I went, taking it in. The pieces are strategically grouped, the space is utilized just right, to ensure it is not crammed.  

A page of Sláine by Glenn Fabry, a really strong classic page from 2000AD, starts us off and soon I am drawn to three pages of Justice League Classified featuring an incredible sequence of The Flash by John Byrne and Mark Farmer. It’s really lovely to see the first page and then a double page spread, allowing the observer to see a sequence and how it’s so interconnected. This is juxtaposed with a Newspaper strip piece by Frank Bellamy, Garth demonstrating a contrast in scope and style. 

Jeff’s personal tastes shine through in this collection and I was pleased to see a number of pieces by British artist Doug Braithwaite, who is a master with the pencil. Indeed, I spent time considering a Galactus commission which was to just such a high standard. Esad Ribic is likewise well represented and rightly so, this dynamic Croatian is so deft with a pencil and it was terrific to see a page of Thor God Of Thunder, to look at the detail, the blue pencil under the incredible pencil work.  

Two covers side-by-side, showed the real variety of approach, the Doctor Who comic character Abslom Daak: Dalek Killer by Steve Dillon, such neat clean ink line work next to a cover of Scalped, the Vertigo series by Jock. 

On the rear wall, fully painted work was on display, creating a colourful display.  

A Hulk by Bill Sienkiewicz, such energetic frenzied but brilliant work, was striking near to a fully painted Sláine by Glenn Fabry. Both pictures are incredible to see and take in, both stunning and so different in style.  

In the centre of the grouping a full colour mixed media piece by Barry Windsor Smith, initially I was at a loss, but Jeff explained this is the unpublished Marvelman/Miracleman 25 cover, a stunning and utterly unexpected piece to see. 

As I worked around, I had to pause, to really take in how beautifully simple and clean the work of Jack Kirby is. Yes, a page from Thor 165 in all its glory hangs near work by George Perez and Bob McLeod, Gill Kane and Geoff Isherwood. It is unreal to see, so close and in person. The art by Kirby so well done, and so polished and exacting. This was unexpected. It was good just to look and enjoy it. 

I continued to feel an experience of knowledge gathering, learning about the art, understanding it, that spine tingling feeling of ‘ah-ha’ and of course in some cases, discerning for the first time, particular and distinct styles, that Jeff and others may be able to immediately spot, but which we can all learn about, no matter how much of a fan we are. 

The stunning art continued, Absolute Carnage Vs Deadpool by Marcelo Ferreira, Punisher War Zone by John Romita Jnr,  Grimwood’s Daughter by Kevin Nowlan and Ultimate Thor by Carlos Pacheco. It is so delightful, to see, and again I was impressed at how art nearby complemented and of course contrasted, a Silver Surfer image by Herb Trimpe stunning in its black and white simplicity, and then a Spawn Dark Ages Liam Sharp so wonderfully rendered. 

Jeff loves the medium and feels that comic artists need more recognition, I pondered whether this was the personification of the solution to that, as he not only appreciates the art, as I do, but has spent time and money to share it, share the love and appreciation of the art. I have to admit, I totally understood this, we want to share the love with fans and collectors, but we all want people to come to it, to find it. 

Panel Gallery is a perfect welcome window. In the short time I was there people were looking in: the store stands out. Jeff plans to change the exhibit every 3 or 4 months. He will be changing it up, themes, individual artists, exclusive but affordable prints but importantly offering an outlet both for artists and the fans. As Jeff discussed the plan, which is to have art for sale, which is badly needed I feel, not only an outlet for fans to enjoy art, but a venue for artists to sell their art and fans to buy it, I made mention of how I’d enjoyed and had much success at art comic exhibitions where, while the key pieces were on the walls, excellent but more affordable pages were in folders or to hand, so a range of budgets could be catered for, and those pages that artists often find hard to sell meet their market.

Opening hours are planned to be Tuesday to Saturday 11-4. It was such a relaxed and lovely visit. I recognized as I left, the accompanying jazz music, unintrusive, but atmospheric, and noted as I looked back that it is an incredible achievement.  

This gallery opened on the 4th of December and File 770 had early access to ensure a full report could be given in what are busy times, for which we are grateful. 

Photos of the Gallery are by James Bacon and photo of Jeff courtesy of himself. 

BLACK: The Story Of Tobias Taitt

By James Bacon: This month I saw the Cartoon Museum hosting an exhibition for a brand-new comic, celebrating Black History Month, an autobiographical work, by Tobias Taitt and Anthony Smith, entitled BLACK. I happened to get in and see the exhibit, during a V for Vendetta event. 

I then met Soaring Penguin Press publisher Tim Pilcher at Thought Bubble and was minded that this comic deserves wider consideration as I had found it compelling in its honesty. I had wanted to get in to see the launch of the exhibit, but was driving trains, but when opportunity arose, I was very impressed.  

Tim Pilcher, Soaring Penguin Press

The museum itself is small yet, they have done a really nice dynamic display, utilizing space cleverly. The space is set out like a small bedroom, or cell, or institutional bedroom, and that makes it feel suddenly intimate, and the art is hung on the walls. 

This is the story of Tobias Tait, and as his voice spoke to me from the screen in this exhibit space I was taken to another place, his place, his history, his predicaments and to his youth, a black boy in 1970s Britain growing into the 80’s and to a life of crime.  

A criminal… Such an erudite and obviously thoughtful man. BLACK had been serialised in the brilliant Aces Weekly digital comic platform l, which I highly recommend. It’s a hard story but so well worth reading. 

Tobias Tait said:

This is an uncompromising true story of a boy growing up in a series of institutions in 70s/ 80s Britain. That boy happens to be me.

When I was three years old my mother killed my uncle, was sent to prison, and condemned me to spend my early life in a series of bleak children’s homes.

But the highlights of my early years are as memorable as the low points. And the people that helped me, both black and white still shine brightly to me. I’ve worked closely with Anthony Smith to bring my past alive in a way that will hopefully resonate with people young and old. This is our way of contributing a small slice of history that may otherwise have been lost.

I’m honoured and deeply grateful that the Cartoon Museum is putting on an exhibition of the story that ran in Aces Weekly and has now been published by Soaring Penguin Press in a graphic novel.

But let me state clearly, this is no sob story or misery memoir. It’s a celebration of my life and British history through the power of words and pictures.

BLACK, which has previously been serialized across several volumes of the acclaimed digital anthology Aces Weekly, is a tale of a dysfunctional family life and a childhood spent mostly in care. It touches on themes of class and race as the adolescent Tobias gravitates from care to crime.

Tobias spent his early years in a variety of children’s homes in the South of England, where casual racism and brutality were frighteningly commonplace. As a black youth growing up in Seventies’ Britain he learned first-hand that the world could be a cold and uncaring place for a child of the state. But he also learned to navigate—and eventually to buck—the system.
Discovering a life outside the drab institutions that held him, he began a descent into a life of crime, while simultaneously developing a love for literature, and all its possibilities that grew within him.

BLACK is a brutally honest true story of a child’s struggle against overwhelming odds. Ultimately, it’s a story of undiminished hope, and of how an individual can triumph despite having the odds stacked against them.

The autobiographical graphic novel overflows with reminders of a recent dark history, documenting a slice of a young British black man’s life, very much in the vein of Steve McQueen’s recent Uprising and Small Axe series of films. But this is no misery memoir – rather, it stands as a celebration of words and pictures with the power to elevate us. 

BLACK: The Story of Tobias Taitt – through January 15, 2022 at the Cartoon Museum, 63 Wells St, London, W1A 3AE, UK

[Based in part on a press release.]

Smofcon Europe Virtual Workshops 

Smofcon Europe runs from December 3-5 in Lisboa, Portugal. James Bacon and Vincent Docherty, now both in Lisboa, took a few moments to let me know that they have now surpassed the Smofcon Amsterdam (2011) membership, and that this year’s Smofcon Europe in Lisboa now has 131 members. Covid rules changed today in Portugal, presenting challenges to all involved, as they adapt to the situation. 

Virtual membership, as anticipated, is strong and there will be something there for all fans who enjoy running conventions. 

There are three Online workshops that might be of interest to virtual attendees. Be aware that space is limited and advance sign-up is required.

First up, the Chair of Noreason IV, Deb Geisler is leading a discussion on Communication, Management, and Leadership for Convention Runners on Friday at 15:30-17:30 UTC. This interactive workshop will see conrunners discussing the role they as a leader play in creating ‘Buzz’ and managing public and relations. Other topics include how to ‘Brief’ and be on brand. Discussion on how you and your team need to have a clear picture of what your purpose is and why that is important to fans. Deb Geisler is a Professor of Communication at Suffolk University as well as being Worldcon Chair of the 2004 Boston Worldcon, Noreascon 4. 

Taking place also on Friday but later, at 18:00-20:00 UTC. Two Worldcon Chairs take on the second workshop, Division Head Skills for the Modern Worldcon. Patty Wells chaired the 2011 Worldcon in Reno and Randy Shepard chaired LoneStarCon 3 in Texas. They will look at the complexity of Worldcons, the management skills needed to perform the role, the most necessary skills needed to perform well and what are some resources to use to get up to speed. 

Finally, on Sunday at 16:00-17:30 UTC, Lisa Feichter will lead a workshop on Dynamic Leadership and Crucial Communication. Effective leaders use purposeful communication to determine the best way to convey messages and lead teams. While an easy concept in theory it is much harder to implement, especially when conversations turn crucial and team dynamics start to fracture. They will break down the components needed to live dynamic leadership and build your confidence for when you encounter crucial conversations.

In this interactive session they will cover:

  1. Servant leadership
  2. Levels of listening
  3. Team development and team dynamics
  4. Tips for crucial conversations

Lisa Feichter works with intact teams to design strategy, set vision, and resolve blocks in performance and communication. She is a certified professional life coach; Therapeutic Laughter Leader; certified in Cornell Change Leadership, DiSC communication, and Emotional Intelligence; and an international innovation trainer. Lisa has spent the last twenty five years working in R&D with a Fortune 100 company. She is past Volunteer Chair for the Midwest Regional Coaching Conference and is a volunteer for the Illinois Butterfly Monitor Network.

Further information including sign up forms, descriptions and SMOFcon’s entire weekend program can be found at here.

Membership is required for accessing online or in-person program. The range of costs and sign-up information is here.

Thought Bubble — A Brilliant Day Out

By James Bacon: It’s hard to describe just how pleasant it was to stand in queue with fellow fans on a fine autumnal morning patiently waiting outside Harrogate conference centre for the doors to open for Thought Bubble. A relaxed atmosphere, discussing what they were hoping to pick up, their interests, and even how they were just looking forward to browsing, or getting posters, comics, art and signatures. The queue lengthened steadily, but it was hard to know whether it would be busy.

The Thought Bubble team came out early and checked tickets, Covid Vaccine passes, and applied wristbands. Discussion turned to who was coming or not coming as some late changes had unfortunately occurred, totally understandable in the time of this global pandemic. Fans are understanding, tempering disappointment with the reality, people need to look after themselves.  

The doors opened and fans made their way in, no rush, there was a little excitement by some to get limited edition posters, but I just strolled in. 

I went through the rooms, knowing there were a few people I’d really like to meet, say hello to, and get comics signed by. It’s always hard to know what queues will be a killer, so I went to David Mack (, artist on Kabuki, Alias, Cover and for me some favourite work, Daredevil from the early part of this century, the Smith, Bendis run, which I picked up at the time. David had written some stories as well as doing covers and interior art, and had a history of story writing. He was unbelievably nice, such a pleasure, I took some of his many prints. I was stunned by his Jimi Hendrix and Captain America, and of course a favourite character, Echo. I was able to arrange a sketch and agreed to pop back later. He was super nice, and so engaging and just kind. It is unbelievable when an artist or writer just exceeds all your expectations in niceness. In all honesty, most comic people are superb, welcoming and just good to fans, and David Mack was the finest example. 

I walked over to the James Tynion IV ( queue, which was moving promptly, and got some comics signed. A slick operation was in place for himself, comic artist Martin Simmonds and co-creator of The Department of Truth, and Álvaro Martínez Bueno who is working on House of Slaughter and The Nice House on the Lake. The system was well managed, and I took the opportunity to get some ‘Remarked’ comics, or rather a sketch on a comic, and this was good. These comics are hugely popular, issue 1 of SITC went up to eight, can you imagine? James himself was lovely, as were Martin and Álvaro. It is amazing how things have moved on, a number of years ago, James was just as nice at SDCC. 

I was absolutely delighted to find some comic artwork for sale, by Ro Stein and Ted Brandt, ( exceptionally well known for their Eisner-nominated comic Crowded, this included art from The Champions,  Captain America and The Mighty Captain Marvel and I could not walk away from such a keen prices, for such well-drawn work, they were kind enough to hold onto this for the day, and I left my David Mack Prints with them with the art, and they were so nice.

Ro Stein, left. Ted Brandt, right.

I continued to accrue signatures on some comics, and had a plan. At times understanding and patience were required, but this was not in short supply, some people had just not been able to make it, for whatever reason, and occasionally an empty table was all that would be there, indicating that something had occurred. It was easy to forget the challenges faced by so many in the halls of fans, browsing and buying, and it was an occasional reminder, and hope, that all was OK for them. 

Guillermo Ortego ( was on hand with art from Punisher Soviet and Magnus Calgar, two terrific works by Garth Ennis and Kieron Gillen respectively and I was torn, but a very affordable page of Punisher Soviet sold me. Yet, again the brilliance of the artist came to the fore, Guillermo wanted to finish some inking on the page as he had scanned and digitally done that, and so, later when I collected the page, he had brilliantly inked it and I was stunned. 

Guillermo Ortego

I met Sara Alfageeh (  currently from Boston, Harvard Sq, but shortly moving to San Francisco, two wonderful places for comics, and of course, I asked about her work on the Star Wars: Women of the Galaxy, which is stunning and she also has a considerable claim to fame, in that she came up and created with Saladin Ahmed, the character of Amulet, Fadi Fadlalah from The Garden State, who first appeared in Ms Marvel,  and it was lovely to speak with her and get that comic signed. 

Sara Alfageeh

Jacob (  and Sean Phillips were seated together and I got some signatures, it’s amazing to see a son follow in his father’s footsteps, and make such an impact, Newburn and That Texas Blood from Image are proving very popular.  

I was very pleased that comic creators brought along items to sell, that may seem obvious to some people, but I love a signed comic, and sometimes, you find new comics to you, when you meet the creative, and sometimes comics are elusive, and suddenly the creator has them, and is selling them. This was a big win for me at Thought Bubble. Nick Brockenshire (, Margaux Saltiel ( and Rebecca Nalty all had comics that I picked up. I also got an incredible sketch from Margaux, who was very engaging, her colours and soft line beautifully done. 

Meeting and speaking with, and buying Irish comics are, probably unsurprisingly, very important to me. I was super pleased to meet Rebecca Nalty, (  who has worked on Bog Bodies (an incredible work) as well as Star Wars, and even better, Rebecca had a run of her Star Wars comics, and so I bought them. Eoin Marron (, who has just worked on Punisher 2099 was happy to remark a comic for me, and in great form, and I spent too much time at the Irish Comics (  table, staffed by Paul Carroll ( and Gar Luby ( Gar’s work is really quite nice, his style lends itself to being dynamic, he has a good line, and is well able to do cartoon style with flourish, but also can tackle classic characters well, and I was able to get a superb Dark Knight sketch from him. 

Eoin Marron
Paul Carroll and Gar Luby

I went about and took some photos, masks were briefly removed for photos, but replaced immediately of course, and overall it was a big event. Over 400 tables in total, and hundreds of creators. I noted though, that for the first time in years, since probably 2008, I had not bought any small press comics. Perhaps it has been the long gap since events, my focus on art, or that so many professionals had their work for sale, but I noted that afterwards, as I reflected, there were a lot of small press tables, and getting the balance right must be hard, and at the same time, it is without doubt that big names do draw in crowds, as evidenced by the lines for well known artists and writers. 

I had a terrific time and felt the Thought Bubble team had done a superb job in the circumstances. 

Journey Planet 60 — A Zine in a Day

By James Bacon: The day was November 27, 2021, and a group of fanzine writers, artists, editors, and… others? Well, they’ve gathered virtually to put together an issue they’re calling One Day on Journey Planet!

Chris originally had the idea but as he says, “’SO, what exactly are we doing here????’  ‘That’s a difficult question. More difficult than you think, honestly. It comes down to this: one afternoon, I got an idea. Everybody is staying home, there’s so much more free time now that no one has to commute. We can make a Journey Planet happen by choosing a day and then making everything in that issue in that day! It’s a call back to our first issue ever and the always fun concept of Fanzine in an Hour! I had this idea in April of 2020.”

The team welcomed co-editor Vanessa Applegate who came on board, to help with art, editorial, and seeking submissions.

Starting with an Autun Purser cover, there a host of brilliant articles including  ‘Artists New to Me from the 2021 Chesley Award Nominees: Suggestions I Love’ by Sara Felix, ‘Army of the Dead: Viva Las Vengeance at Area 15’ by Jacq Monahan, ‘ Five Classic Suicidology Texts’ by Chuck Serface and  ‘Reflections on The Lost Boys’ by Douglas E. Berry to name but four of the many. 

There are a number of interviews, including ones with Marguerite Smith, Alma Alexander and Steven H Silver, and an outstanding article, ‘Flann O’Brien, Marcel Duchamp, and the Problem of the Ready-Mades’ by Pádraig Ó Méaloid that somehow involves Brian Eno! 

With art, photos and crafts by  Alissa McKersie, España Sheriff, Christopher J. Garcia & DeepDreamGenerator, Vanessa Applegate and ArtBreeder.

Chris reviews: Slaughterhouse-Five: The Graphic Novel Reviewed and “Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done?” by Harold Schechter and Eric Powell and James contemplates Hawkeye or Hawkguy, in comic and TV form, and writes at length about Kindness during Covid. 

Although Chris was meant to work on layout the whole time, he wanted to read and write, as he will not be at Discon III, it offered him the opportunity to catch up on messenger and zoom with Helena Nash, Chuck Serface, Sarah Gulde and others, so he did. 

Download the issue here: Journey Planet 60: One Day on Journey Planet.

Spend One Day on Journey Planet on November 27

By Chris Garcia: Ever wanted to be a part of an issue of Journey Planet, but never knew where to start? 

Have an idea for a thing, but don’t think it’s got a place?

You like doing stuff with fun folks with a completely artificial deadline? 

Then join Team Journey Planet on Saturday, November 27th as we spend One Day on Journey Planet! 

We’re making an issue starting the minute it becomes November 27th (just at the International Dateline) and be continuing until it’s not November 27th anymore (or, more realistically, when Chris decides to go to bed…) 

We’ll be providing prompts for pieces, but we’re open to a whole lot of everything! Been thinking about writing an article about your favorite 1970s ghost comic? Do it! Wanna draw a series of works of El Vez fighting dinosaurs? Sure! Wanna pre-flight and write now, but send on Saturday? DO IT!!! We’re looking for art, articles, reviews, comics, photos, and just about anything! 

One prompt we’re giving away ahead of time is you can send in letters of comment on our older issues at or on and let us know what you think? Have they aged like wine? Let us know!

And be sure to look out for the issue on November 28th (maybe the 29th…)

Questions? Send ’em to