Kowal Apologizes for Raytheon Sponsorship of DisCon III

DisCon III chair Mary Robinette Kowal today took responsibility and apologized for the Raytheon Intelligence and Space sponsorship that the convention accepted: “Statement and Apology on DisCon III Sponsorship”.

The sponsor’s corporate logo was on the backdrop used for red carpet photos before the Hugo Awards ceremony, and acknowledged from the stage during the ceremony. The ceremony also seems to be the first place people became generally aware of the sponsorship. Unlike Google, which was also thanked during the ceremony, Raytheon was not one of the sponsors acknowledged in the DisCon III Souvenir Book (page 54).  


Statement on DisCon III Sponsorship

I am Mary Robinette Kowal, and I was the chair for DisCon III. I take full responsibility for accepting Raytheon Intelligence and Space as a sponsor, and I apologize for doing so.

The decision tree that led us to this point is filled with branches that sound like excuses for my own culpability. At the root of it is simply that in accepting funding from Raytheon Intelligence and Space and partnering with them for the members’ red carpet event, I was wrong.

That choice has caused harm and damage to people: the finalists, who were unaware; the people in our communities; the members and staff of Worldcon, who trusted me to make good choices.

I am sorry that I let you all down.

DisCon III is making an anonymous contribution to an organization dedicated to peace, equal to the amount we received from Raytheon. I am also personally contributing to the same organization.

The delay in responding added to the distress that we caused. For this, I ask your forgiveness. We needed to have conversations that were slowed by post-convention travel.

For the past several days, we have read your comments in email and on social media. Thank you for sharing them with us and trusting that you would be heard and taken seriously. Your honesty and sincerity are what make our community a better place.

Future conrunners can avoid our mistakes by:

  • Developing a sponsorship policy for your organization that reflects the values and concerns of our community.
  • Creating a robust plan for doing due diligence on potential sponsors.
  • Creating a mission and value statement against which to measure actions.

We did none of those. Our Code of Conduct says that DisCon III aims to build an inclusive community for all fans. This sponsorship did not achieve that goal.

I cannot erase the harm that my actions caused. This happened on my watch. It is my fault, and I am deeply sorry for the pain I caused.

Signed,

Mary Robinette Kowal

Barkley: DisCon III, the Fifth Day

To Be Fair, I Was Left Unsupervised: A Disjointed Chronicle of 79th World Science Fiction Convention, Discon III – Day Five

By Chris M. Barkley:

DAY FIVE: THE LAST DAY

Sunday, the very last day of Discon III, was a VERY busy day.

Juli and I had finished packing the night before.

I was also up early (again) because I had a 10am panel; “Inspired Or Copied, The Ethics of Art”, featuring artists agent Jane Frank, attorney at law Harold Feld, and authors Keith DeCandido, J.T. Greathouse and myself. As I looked in the program book, I did not see anyone listed as a moderator. Which made me wonder why I was on this panel to begin with. Oh well, I thought…  

But first, there were two other issues on my plate that morning. As I got dressed, Juli informed me that I maybe in hot water with our friend, author Jonathan Brazee. Apparently, I misstated his rank in the United States Marine Corps as “Lt. Colonel” instead of his actual rank upon retirement as full Colonel. 

If you think the distinction is rather minor, think again. Consider this; my brain fart is the equivalent of mistaking the rock band Nickelback for The Beatles. I have several friends and relatives who have served in the armed services and nothing upsets them more than civilians like myself getting aspects of their lives dead wrong. So, I got dressed, dreading the prospect of running into the Colonel.

The other thing that caught my attention was a Facebook post by Adam-Troy Castro. In it, Mr. Castro totally eviscerates Jon Del Arroz, a internet provocateur (troll) mostly known for his incredibly egotistical boasts of writing talent and notorious passive-aggressive attacks on progressive writers, women, the LGBTQ community and practically anyone else who casts doubts his on his “greatness”.

Needless to say, I picked up Mr. Castro’s post and spread it all over Facebook (including the DisCon III page) and on my Twitter page with the caption (gleefully borrowed from Game of Thrones): “He who SHOUTS that he is a King, is no king.”  

THAT, dear readers, felt very, VERY satisfying.

On my way to my panel, I decided to grab a quick bite of something in the DisCon III Green Room (located just off to the side of the hotel’s main restaurant) to tide me over until I could eat a fuller breakfast. And guess who was there, having coffee with a friend —

As I started to apologize profusely, he laughed and said that he actually got a kick out of being one of the “luminaries” spotted at the bottom of the first column of this series of DisCon III reports. Totally relieved that I would not be set upon by angry veterans or service members of the armed forces, I grabbed a cup of tea and made my way to my panel. (Subsequently, Col. Brazee contacted me via text and said that no further public apology was necessary but I must disagree. When a mistake of that magnitude is made by a reporter, a correction is not only called for, it’s mandatory as far as I’m concerned.)

As I passed through the lobby, I stopped by the Information Desk for the last newsletter and the traditional hoax parody as well. I also saw that there were several dozen silver colored, Flash Gordon shaped foam rockets on the next table over. Curious, I went over and examined one and saw the red and black label, which is how I found out that the defense contractor Raytheon was an official sponsor of DisCon III. (WHAT? I should have been paying more attention during the con! In my defense, I was unsupervised…)

Thinking that these would make a nice trinket for my four grandchildren, I grabbed several of them. As I passed by Ellen Datlow, who was seated in the East Promenade eating from the grab and go buffet, I gifted her with one as well. She was very appreciative since this rocket was MUCH lighter than the Short Form Editing Hugo Award she had won yesterday evening.

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

Continue reading

DisCon III Issues Covid Update

DisCon III today put out a message from convention chair Mary Robinette Kowal about Covid at the 2021 Worldcon:


Here is an update on Covid cases and DisCon III.

  • Concerning the case we reported on Friday, we are happy to share that their PCR test was negative. They are feeling better.
  • But …
  • Another positive test result has been reported.
  • One DisCon III member who was staying off-site was feeling poorly on Friday Night.
  • They went home and woke on Saturday with a scratchy throat, took a covid antigen test, and tested positive.
  • They are self-isolating with their partner who has tested negative.
  • They did not attend any program items.
  • They spent very little time in the Omni Shoreham and were masked at all times.
  • They attended the Art Show on Thursday at 6 pm ET and never removed their mask.
  • They dined at Lebanese Taverna on Thursday and Friday, unmasked while dining, their companions have tested negative.

If you are symptomatic, we have rapid test kits we can deliver to your room. Please email covid@discon3.org to make arrangements.

Please remember to wear your mask at all times. We recommend installing the DC CAN (DC Covid Alert Notice) app on your mobile device, which will notify you if you come into contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19. To learn about where you can obtain a Covid test here in DC, please click this link: https://discon3.org/covid-19-testing-locations-in-dc/

If you have any questions or concerns, please email covid@discon3.org

[From a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 12/17/21 I’m Hermione The Eighth I Am

(1) SAVE THE BEBOP. The Change.org petition to “Save the live action Cowboy Bebop” now has over 18,000 signatures. Comic Book Resources‘ Kellie Lacey’s report “Cowboy Bebop Fans Launch Petition to Save the Cancelled Netflix Series” notes:

Cowboy Bebop premiered on Nov. 19 but was axed by the streaming service less than three weeks later, on Dec. 9….

…Several fans have left comments along with signatures on the petition. One such message says, “I loved the anime, and I loved this live-action adaptation. Please, please, produce more!” Other signees expressed their gratitude and sympathy for the creators, saying, “This team put a lot of hard work into this project for the sake of the fans and deserve to see the vision through to its full potential.”…

(2) WORLDCON CHAIR ON BBC. BBC World’s Victoria Fritz had DisCon III chair Mary Robinette Kowal on the air, and tweeted the video clip afterwards.

(3) SILVERBERG STREAK. Robert Silverberg maintained his record of participating in consecutive Worldcons since he attended his first in the Fifties when his previously-recorded conversation with DisCon III GoH Nancy Kress was shown as part of the program on December 16.

(4) PUT THEM ON THE MAP. Aviation pioneers Sally Ride and Bessie Coleman have been honored by having features on Pluto named after them reports NASA.

More than 60 years after Bessie Coleman broke the bonds of terra firma to become the first African American woman and Native American to earn a pilot’s license, Sally Ride blasted off aboard shuttle Challenger to become the first American woman in space.

The lives and accomplishments of both women aviation pioneers have now been honored with the naming of landmarks on Pluto. The International Astronomical Union recently approved the names “Coleman Mons” and “Ride Rupes” for two large geological features on the southern hemisphere of Pluto, which itself was explored for the first time by NASA‘s New Horizons spacecraft in 2015. 

Members of the New Horizons mission team proposed the names to the IAU, in line with a convention that Pluto features include those named for “historic pioneers who crossed new horizons in the exploration of the Earth, sea and sky.” 

“Sally Ride and Bessie Coleman were separated by generations, but they are forever connected by their great achievements, which opened doors for women and girls around the world,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “In breaking barriers they motivated so many women to pursue dreams – and careers – they didn’t think were possible, and their sheer persistence and pursuit of equality inspire people to this day.”

(5) DID YOU HEAR? Spock’s ears have been donated to the Smithsonian. The National Air and Space Museum website shared the details: “The Iconic Ears of Mr. Spock”.

Is there a more iconic set of ears in science fiction than those of Mr. Spock? The half-human, half-Vulcan science officer, first portrayed by Leonard Nimoy in Star Trek: The Original Series and subsequent films, was known for his shrewd intelligence, his cool logic, and his pointed ears.  

We are excited to share that a new prop from Star Trek has joined our collection: a set of Spock ear tips from Nimoy’s personal collection. These ear tips were made for Nimoy to transform into Mr. Spock in the filming of The Original Series and were taken home from set by the actor, who hand-built a display box to keep them safe. We are honored that his children Adam and Julie and the Nimoy family have donated his father’s keepsake ears to the National Air and Space Museum.  

“When he finished filming the original Star Trek series in 1969, my father brought home a small memento to commemorate his three years of dedicated work on the original series—a pair of Spock’s Vulcan ears,” Adam Nimoy shared with us regarding the donation. “Mounted in a black box, those ears have been in our family for over fifty years as a tribute to Dad’s outstanding performances as Mr. Spock and the inspiration and hope that Star Trek have given to generations of fans all over this planet. Today it’s my honor to donate the iconic Spock ears to the National Air and Space Museum, home to the starship Enterprise studio model, where they can be experienced by visitors firsthand. The donation honors Beit T’Shuvah and the Leonard Nimoy COPD Research Fund at UCLA, two organizations supported by our family and dedicated to the Vulcan salutation of long life and prosperity.”…

(6) TREK AUCTION. You can’t own Spock’s ears, but you’re just in time to bid on Yeoman Rand’s signature red Starfleet Uniform with integral miniskirt and black leather, zippered knee boots. They will go on the block in Heritage Auction’s specialty Star Trek Auction on February 22. “Minis Are Maximum Fashion in Star Trek”.

The 1960s were fashionably wild! Vibrantly colored fabrics were cut into new styles and shapes that hadn’t been seen before. Defiant and rebellious not only on the street but also making their impact on movies and TV shows. It’s not surprising to me that Star Trek would also be fashion-forward with the designs of futuristic uniforms. Bill Theiss designed the instantly recognizable utilitarian Starfleet uniforms, but it wasn’t until Grace Lee Whitney “Yeoman Rand” herself approached Theiss with the idea of implementing the fashion styles of the day that miniskirts emerged!… 

Some of the other gear that will be sold includes –

  • William Shatner “Captain Kirk” (3) Piece Alternate Universe from the Episode: “Mirror, Mirror” of Star Trek: The Original Series.
  • Leonard Nimoy “Spock” (2) Piece Alternate Universe Ensemble from the Episode: “Mirror, Mirror” of Star Trek: The Original Series.
  • George Takei “Lt. Sulu” (3) Piece Ensemble from the Episode: “Mirror, Mirror” of Star Trek: The Original Series.
  • BarBara Luna “Marlena” Starfleet Blue Duty Uniform from the Episode: “Mirror, Mirror” of Star Trek: The Original Series.

(7) PULLMAN ADAPTED FOR STAGE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Sarah Hemming reviews The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage, an adaptation of Sir Philip Pullman’s 2017 novel playing at the Bridge Theatre through February 28.

Pullman has said the story is about consciousness, but it’s also about conscience.  Moral quandries come thick and fast for young Malcolm (the show’s protagonist):  first instructed by nuns to keep silent about the baby hidden in their priory; then directed by the sinister Marisa Coulter (Ayesha Dharker, silkily nasty) to turn informant on parents and teachers.  In this parallel world, despotic religious organisation The Magisterium is tightening its grip on society.  As Malcolm and Allee discover, ‘good’ is a concept that can be moulded to terrible ends…

…Adapted for stage by Bryony Lavery and directed by fleet wit and customary clarity by Nicholas Hytner, the tale becomes a swirling maelstrom of ideas around a firm core of basic humanity.  On Bob Crowley’s versatile set, beautifully atmospheric video work (Luke Halls) and lighting (Jion Clark) keep the narrative moving, inundating the space with teeming rain and raging waters.

(8) AMBITIOUS VIRTUAL CON. The schedule has been posted for FanFiAddict’s TBRCon 2022, which will be streaming live from January 23-30. More detail about the individual panel items is at the landing page. (Click for larger image.)

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1971 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Fifty years ago, Diamonds Are Forever premiered. It was based off the Ian Fleming novel of the same name that he wrote at his Goldeneye estate in Jamaica. It had been published in 1956. It was produced by Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli from the screenplay by Richard Maibaum and Tom Mankiewicz. 

It is the sixth and final film to star Connery, who returned to the role having declined to reprise the role in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service which instead had George Lazenby in that role, the shortest tenure of any actor in that role. 

Critics in general loved it with Roger Ebert saying that it is “great, absurd fun, not only because it recalls the moods and manners of the sixties (which, being over, now seem safely comprehensible), but also because all of the people connected with the movie obviously know what they are up to.”  It cost just seven million to make and returned nearly one hundred and twenty million at the box office. Very impressive indeed.  It doesn’t have the greatest of ratings at Rotten Tomatoes currently getting just a fifty-eight percent rating from audience reviewers.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 17, 1929 Jacqueline Hill. As the history teacher of Susan Foreman, the Doctor’s granddaughter, in the role of Barbara Wright she was the first Doctor Who companion to appear on-screen in 1963, with her speaking the series’ first lines. (No, I don’t know what they are.) Hill returned in a Fourth Doctor story, “Meglos” as the Tigellan priestess Lexa. She also appeared on two genre anthologies, Out of This World and Tales of The Unexpected. (Died 1993.)
  • Born December 17, 1930 Bob Guccione. The publisher of Penthouse, the much more adult version of Playboy, but also of Omni magazine, the SF zine which had a print version between 1978 and 1995.  A number of now-classic stories first ran there such as Gibson’s “Burning Chrome” and “Johnny Mnemonic”, as well as Card’s “Unaccompanied Sonata” and even Harlan Ellison’s novella, Mephisto in Onyx which was on the Hugo ballot at ConAdian but finished sixth in voting. The first Omni digital version was published on CompuServe in 1986 and the magazine switched to a purely online presence in 1996.  It ceased publication abruptly in late 1997, following the death of co-founder Kathy Keeton, his wife. (Died 2010.)
  • Born December 17, 1944 Jack L. Chalker. I really, really enjoyed a lot of his Well World series, and I remember reading quite a bit of his other fiction down the years and I loved his short story collection, Dance Band on the Titanic. Which of his other myriad series have you read and enjoyed?  I find it really impressive that he attended every Worldcon from except one, from 1965 until 2004. One of our truly great members of the SF community as was a member of the Washington Science Fiction Association and was involved in the founding of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. I was surprised that his Hugo nominations were all for not for his fiction, but twice for Best Amateur Magazine for his Mirage zines at Chicon IIII and Discon, and once for Best Non-fiction Book for The Science-Fantasy Publishers: A Critical and Bibliographic History at MagiCon. (Died 2005.)
  • Born December 17, 1945 Ernie Hudson, 76. Best known for his roles as Winston Zeddemore in the original Ghostbusters films, and as Sergeant Darryl Albrecht in The Crow. I’m reasonably sure his first SF role was as Washington in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, a few years before the first Ghostbusters film. Depending on how flexible your definition of genre is, he’s been in a fair number of genre films including LeviathanShark AttackHood of HorrorDragonball Evolution, voice work in Ultraman Zero: The Revenge of Belial, and, look there’s a DC animated movie in his resume! as he voiced Lucius Fox in the superb Batman: Bad Blood. He’s in the just out Ghostbusters: Afterlife
  • Born December 17, 1953 Bill Pullman, 68. First SF role was as Lone Starr in Spaceballs, a film I’ll freely admit I watched but once which was more than enough.  He next appears in The Serpent and the Rainbow which is damn weird before playing the lead in the even weirder Brain Dead. Now we come to Independence Day and I must say I love his character and the film a lot.   Post-Independence Day, he went weird again showing up in Lake Placid which is a lot of fun and also voiced Captain Joseph Korso in the animated Titan A.E. film. Which at least in part was written by Joss Whedon.   He reprises his Thomas J. Whitmore character in Independence Day: Resurgence which I’ve not seen. 
  • Born December 17, 1954 J.M. Dillard, 67. Yes, I know this is a pen name but I’m interested only in her Trek output tonight. She’s written at least fifteen tie-ins starting with Star Trek: Mindshadow in the mid Eighties And her last seemingly being Star Trek: The Next Generation: Resistance in the late Oughts. She also wrote one of the many, many non-fiction works that came out on TrekStar Trek: ‘Where No One Has Gone Before’: A History in Pictures, which was actually largely written by Roddenberry’s assistant on a work for hire contract as a another book that didn’t get published, a woman named Susan Sackett. Memory Alpha has the story here.
  • Born December 17, 1973 Rian Johnson, 48. Director responsible for the superb Hugo nominated Looper, also Star Wars: The Last Jedi  which was Hugo nominated and Knives Out. I know, it’s not even genre adjacent. It’s just, well, I liked Gosford Park, so what can I say about another film deliciously similar to it? He has a cameo as an Imperial Technician in Rogue One, and he voices Bryan in the BoJack Horseman series which is definitely genre. 
  • Born December 17, 1975 Milla Jovovich, 46. First SFF appearence was as Leeloo de Sabat in The Fifth Element, a film which still gets a very pleasant WTF? from me whenever I watch it. She was also Alice in the Resident Evil franchise which is seven films strong and running so far. I see she shows up as Milady de Winter in a Three Musketeers I never heard of which is odd is it’s a hobby of mind to keep track of those films, and plays Nimue, The Blood Queen in the rebooted Hellboy. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) MARVEL REVISITS 1962. It turns out that June 1962 was an important month in the history of Marvel comics – it’s the month Spider-Man made his debut in Amazing Fantasy #15. But that wasn’t the only thing going on, and the forthcoming Marvel: June 1962 Omnibus highlights these Marvel milestones:

  • Thor first held aloft the hammer Mjolnir.
  • Hank Pym donned his cybernetic helmet, becoming Ant-Man.
  • The FF squared off against Namor and Doctor Doom.
  • Kid Colt mixed it up with the Circus of Crime.
  • Millie the Model got mixed up in more Hanover hijinks.
  • Patsy and Hedy worked on their frenemy-ship.
  • Star-crossed lovers dealt with the ups and downs of romance, all while tales of horror and fantasy stories crept from the pages of titles like Strange Tales.

 The volume arrives in June 2022. In the tradition of the recent Marvel: August 1961 omnibus which celebrated the Fantastic Four’s debut, the Marvel: June 1962 Omnibus will collect every comic from this month of Marvel milestones: Journey Into Mystery (1952) #83; Amazing Fantasy (1962) #15; Tales To Astonish (1959) #35; Kathy #18; Life With Millie #18; Patsy Walker #102; Kid Colt, Outlaw #106; Fantastic Four (1961) #6; Linda Carter, Student Nurse #7; Millie The Model #110; Strange Tales (1951) #100; Tales Of Suspense (1959) #33; Love Romances #101; Incredible Hulk (1962) #3; Gunsmoke Western #72; Patsy And Hedy #84 And Rawhide Kid (1955) #30.

(13) SUPERINFLATION. “Up, up and they pay: $2.6M winning bid for Superman #1 comic”AP News has the story.

A rare copy of a Superman #1 comic book that sold on newsstands for a dime in 1939 was purchased for $2.6 million in an auction.

The comic showing Superman leaping over tall buildings on the cover was sold Thursday night to a buyer who wishes to maintain a secret identity, according to ComicConnect.com, an online auction and consignment company.

The seller, Mark Michaelson, bought the comic in 1979 from its original owner and kept it in a temperature-controlled safe. Michaelson, now semi-retired and living in Houston, paid his way through college by buying and selling comics….

(14) CHECKING IN. Androids and Assets podcast about the “political economy of science fiction” did a Q&A with Cat Rambo: “Where You From: In conversation with Cat Rambo”.

Marshall and Steve sit down with the brilliant and ever didactic Cat Rambo to discuss their newest book You Sexy Thing. Out now.

(15) WHAT KEEPS HIM WATCHING? [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Mythbuster‘s Adam Savage lists his favorite media for 2021 in this YouTube video. Among them are DuneGhostbusters: AfterlifeThe Good PlaceLoki, and Project Hail Mary.

(16) WALK, DON’T WALK. Camestros Felapton and Timothy the Talking Cat conspire to give us “The Cat Who Walks Through Omelas”.

…Camestros: Well…OK…let’s go with that then. It’s called “Omelas” and it is like a really excellent version of Bristol.
Timothy: Great! Well, that was a great story. Could have done with more action but at least it was wholesome and positive and featured pirates.
Camestros:…but there’s a twist…
Timothy: Oh no! I should have seen that coming! There’s always a twist!…

(17) A DIZZYING EXPERIENCE. You can see all the finalists and vote in the Best Illusion of the Year Contest 2021 at the link.

In this pandemic era the Contest needs your support more than ever. Any amount that you can contribute will ensure that the Contest remains free for all who enjoy spectacular misperceptions, and also for the contestants who submit illusions from anywhere in the planet, completely free of charge.

(18) THE PLAN FROM S.A.N.T.A. The Late Show With Stephen Colbert presents “A Conspiracy Carol”.

It’s Christmas Eve, and Santa is about to certify the Naughty & Nice List in the Klaus of Representatives, when he’s interrupted by a “Stop the Sleigh” rally, fueled by the shadowy internet cult “Scrooge-Anon.” Will Christmas survive a full-scale tinsel-rection led by Ted Cruz and Marjorie Taylor Greene? Only Santa and Mrs. Claus stand in their un-merry way.

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

Positive Covid Test at DisCon III

Mary Robinette Kowal, DisCon III Chair, announced on Friday, December 17 that a member of the DisCon III staff has tested positive for Covid. In a news release she shared the following information about the staffer:

  • They tested negative before leaving for the convention.
  • They arrived on Thursday night around 7 pm ET.  
  • On Friday morning, they woke up with mild symptoms.
  • They tested again and tested positive. 
  • Due to the timing of these two tests, we believe that the staff member was most likely exposed outside of the convention.
  • They were fully vaccinated and wearing a mask. 
  • On Thursday evening, they attended the WMGSO concert and sat in the third row, center section.
  • They attended Joel’s Whisky party between 9:45 – 10:00 pm and went onto the balcony of the party, where they briefly removed their mask. 
  • They are not staying at the Omni Shoreham. 
  • They are self-isolating off-site. 
  • They are not returning to the convention. 
  • They were with a group of friends at the convention who are also self-isolating offsite and will not be attending in person.

Kowal said, “If you are symptomatic, we have rapid test kits we can deliver to your room. Please email covid@discon3.org to make arrangements.”

Convention attendees are asked to remember to wear their mask at all times. DisCon III also recommends that they install the DC CAN (DC Covid Alert Notice) app on their mobile devices, which will notify them if they come into contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19. 

To learn about where to get a Covid test here in DC, please click this link: https://discon3.org/covid-19-testing-locations-in-dc/

Those with any questions or concerns can email covid@discon3.org

[Based on a press release.]

To Be Fair, I Was Left Unsupervised: A Disjointed Chronicle of 79th World Science Fiction Convention, Discon III

By Chris M. Barkley:

DAY ONE

The day started out as pretty dreary to fly out of Cincinnati. The morning was punctuated by heavy rain showers and overcast skies. But, as the morning progressed, the skies cleared from the west and the sun revealed itself in full splendor.

My partner Juli and I received our first bit of DisCon III news just before we boarded our plane. Kevin Standlee reported on the geographic distribution of the 2023 Site Selection ballots in advance of the end of voting on Friday. The fact that this dispatch reflected that the Chengdu bid was projected to win in a landslide caused a HUGE kerfuffle online and at DisCon III. So much so that the upper management of DisCon III, asked that the post be removed and/or redacted online. And shortly thereafter, it was.   

I must note here that Kevin Standlee has been a very good friend of mine over the past twenty plus years and that my heart goes out to him. But I fear that he has done the Worldcon and the Site Selection process a great disservice by his actions. 

This development came on the heels of an editorial published Tuesday on File 770 by the distinguished UK fan Colin Harris, who suggested that if the bid from Chengdu did win that the fan community should take a deep breath and accept the results of the election. 

I have heard a great many good things about the members of Chengdu bid, in the earnest efforts to become a part of the worldwide community of fandom and their work towards winning the 2023 bid. I applaud their efforts, but I must say that my only fear, along with many others, is not any racial animus towards Chinese fans but that the authoritarian government of the People’s Republic of China may interfere with the convention committee, its members and its programming.
 
(Thursday morning addendum: Kevin Standlee has been removed as the Chair of WSFS Business Meeting and also been fired as an advisor from 2023 Winnipeg bid for in an announcement on the JOF Facebook page, “acting without consulting the bid’s senior management”. )    

Well, counting Wednesday, there are three more days of voting to go. As NBC’s statistical analyst (and khaki pants advocate) Steve Kornacki will tell you, the early vote may be in but all of the precincts have yet to be heard from and that it’s still anyone’s race. We’ll find out for sure by late Friday night or very early Saturday morning. Watch This Space. 

The flight was smooth and the landing was only slightly terrifying. Being seated on the left side of the plane, Juli and I were treated to a 45 second tour of all of the classic tourist sights anyone could want; the Capitol Building, the National Mall, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials AND the Watergate apartment and business complex. So much for sightseeing! 

As we were strolling through National Airport in search of the taxi station, we spied a cute CNBC kiosk. We didn’t stop to shop but I am imagining that all of the Brian Williams items have been marked down ninety percent. Just Sayin’…

At first sight, the Omni Shoreham Hotel looks quite massive; it is at least several hundred yards long and ten stories high. The exterior looks rather modern but the interior has the feel of an older hotel. Inside we found a spacious area around the lobby but it feels rather smaller as you journey inwards. Which leads me to the first of several criticisms of the hotel, the elevators are dreadfully small. So I can only imagine how chaotic things are going to get as people want to go to parties, programming events or checking in and out. 

Accessibility for the disabled was a hot topic before the convention and the Omni Shoreham’s deficiencies were on full display as I noticed many individuals struggling to get to Opening Ceremonies. This is not to say that accessible services are non-existent, but it is sorely in short supply abound the entire hotel. Did I mention that those elevators are REALLY SMALL?

Easily getting through Registration has never been a hallmark of any convention and DisCon III was no exception. The incredibly long line stretched from the Western part of the Promenade all the way to the Eastern Promenade elevator bank. Juli and I entered the end of the line around 2:30 p.m. After fifteen minutes, I decided to go forward to investigate why. 

What I found were two people seated at a station near the Registration Desk checking everyone’s Covid-19 vaccination cards. Only two. Around the corner, there were only two or three people relentlessly processing convention badges. 

It was at this moment that DisCon III was critically short of volunteers. Everyone reading this knows that Worldcons are run by volunteers. 

I, for one, refuse to completely blame DisCon III for the shortage of people working the convention. They have been begging for help for months and due to the pandemic and moving the convention date to December has decimated the number of people who normally would have volunteered. 

(Personal Note: I was asked to head up the Press Office earlier this year but I declined because I was unable to persuade the people I usually work with to come to DisCon III. This was the impetus for me to write the Press Office Manual and its anecdotal notes that were published here several months ago.)

But here we are. And we will have to make do with the resources we have on hand.   

ON the bright side, EVERYONE was masked and distancing as well as they could. 

At around 3:30 p.m., I was beginning to think that Juli and I wouldn’t make it to Opening Ceremonies so I took some drastic action. I hated to cut through the throngs of people waiting but I went to the Press Office (which was conveniently located near Registration), made the acquaintance of Kevin, the Deputy Head of the office, who provided us with press ribbons and made sure Juli and I got our badges. We then rushed off to find the Regency Ballroom, which was located on a lower level of the hotel.

And Opening Ceremonies were a splendid affair, hosted by Ulysses E. Campbell, and featuring a performance from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts Show Choir (who serenaded the group with a medley of Christmas carols, complete with choreography!) and an honor guard as well. I was personally delighted that the recipient of this year’s Big Heart Award was given to longtime fan Linda Deneroff, who was absolutely stunned and speechless (a rare occurrence, I assure you) as she accepted her plaque. 

The event climaxed with Sebastian Martorana’s incredibly informative presentation on how he fashioned this year’s Hugo Award base, which were made from the same sort of marble from Baltimore that was used to construct the top portions of the Washington Monument.  

Unfortunately, we had to leave right afterwards because it was 5:15 p.m. and my first panel, “What Makes A Classic A Classic,” was due to start at 5:30. There was another mad dash to find the Calvert Room, which we found with minutes to spare.

What followed was a wild and wooly hour about how the panel felt about what makes our favorite works of sf and fantasy classics. Our Moderator was Shaun Duke of the Skiffy and Fanty podcast and featured myself (singing, wut?!?!?), author, scholar and editor Ellen Kushner, collector and writer Bradford Lyau and the legendary fan editor and writer John Hertz. A full audio version will be posted on File 770 sometime in the next day or so.     

Finding dinner was strangely fortuitous; Robert’s, the restaurant located in the atrium of the hotel, told Juli that they were closing at 7:00 p.m. due to a lack of serving personnel and supplies. You would have thought that the hotel would have made plans for extra service with a major convention starting that week. Well, noted and logged… 

That threw us both for a loop. After seeing the meager offerings at the pop up takeaway in another corner of the hotel, we decided to go to one of the eateries on the corner of Calvert Street and Connecticut Avenue.

On our way out the door, we encountered mega-fan Bobbi Armbruster, her husband Warren, Kathi Overton and her partner John Pomeranz. They all enthusiastically endorsed going to The Gourmand Grill, a Mexican American place that was a short walk right around the corner.      

It was a rather small place down a steep set of stairs but Juli and I were totally enchanted by the atmosphere, the affordable menus and the incredibly helpful wait staff.

When someone canceled an order of Chipotle Shrimp, our server offered it to us at no extra charge. I had the Fish and Chips and Juli had the Meatball appetizer with a small side salad. Everything was eagerly devoured. I am quite certain we will be returning before the end of the convention.

At around 8:30 p.m., I wanted to go find the Con Suite. Juli was feeling rather tired and decided to retire to our room.

After a bit of confusion about its location, I was told that the Con-Suite was located in Room 840 in the Western part of the hotel. Upon arrival, I was informed that they had closed at 8:30. A passerby did mention that there was a party being held by a group called TANSTAAFL on the fifth floor.

While I was there, I was asked by Dave McCarty to engage in a contest. Once he outlined what it was all about, I enthusiastically accepted the challenge. What is it? What is it all about? I’ll explain in a future post, AFTER I have performed my part. Laters!

I snacked on a few dessert items and then I decided to call it a day at around 10 p.m.

After seeing what happened today, I knew tomorrow would be more of the same, if not more so. 

More As It Happens, Your Faithful Correspondent

Chris B.

On Site Head Count: Not Available.

Luminaries Spotted Today: Nancy Kress, Dave McCarty, John Picacio, Marah Searle-Kovacevic, Tammy Coxen, Greg Ketter, Ellen Kushner, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, Lt. Colonel Jonathan Brazee (Ret.), Kathi Overton, John Pomeranz and Michael J. Walsh.

Pixel Scroll 12/10/21 That’s No Moon – It’s A Harsh Scrollstress

(1) FOR US, THE LIVING. The announcement that Cowboy Bebop won’t get a second season prompted Ryan Proffer to start a “Save the live action cowboy bebop” petition at Change.org.

“For those people who want a second (or more) of the live action cowboy bebop. It wasn’t a direct copy of the anime but the world they put together was amazing and deserve a second season.”

It had almost reached its goal of a thousand signatures when checked this afternoon.

(2) ANALOG AWARD FOR EMERGING BLACK VOICES. Kedrick Brown’s story is the winner of the inaugural Analog Award for Emerging Black Voices reports Locus Online. The award was announced yesterday during the Sixth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium. The other finalists were Yazeed Dezele, Erika Hardison, and Jermaine Martin. (Locus did not report the story titles.)

The winning story will be purchased and published in Analog, and the author receives one year of monthly mentorship sessions. The finalists receive one mentorship session with Analog editors including a critique of their submission and a chance to ask questions about the field. 

The members of the judging panel for 2021 were Steven Barnes, Nisi Shawl, Kim-Mei Kirtland, Trevor Quachri, and Emily Hockaday.

(3) CITY TECH SF SYMPOSIUM. Gillian Polack, who spoke at yesterday’s Symposium, presents an expanded version of her paper, “The Problem of Susan Australia, or, The Tyranny of Distance” in this video.

(4) SECOND FIFTH. John O’Neill analyzes “The Controversy over Nebula Awards Showcase 55, edited by Catherynne M. Valente” at Black Gate.

I’m hearing grousing about the latest Nebula Awards Showcase, edited by the distinguished Catherynne M. Valente.

This is the 55th volume in the long-running series, and the second to be published directly by SFWA, the Science Fiction Writers of America. As is customary, it contains the complete Nebula award-winning stories, as selected by that august body, as well as a tasty selection of the other nominees, as selected at the whim of the editor.

Well — not exactly. And that seems to be the crux of the problem. For the first time I can remember, the Nebula Awards Showcase contains only one of the winners from last year, A. T. Greenblatt’s short story “Give the Family My Love,” originally published in Clarkesworld. All the others — including the winners in novelette, novella, and novel category — are represented only by brief excerpts….

(5) AFROFUTURISM. At the SFWA Blog, Maurice Broaddus says adults “notoriously underestimate middle school students” and talks about “writing stories more through the lens of Black joy rather than Black trauma” in “Black Joy and Afrofuturism for Young Readers”.

…One way to define Afrofuturism is that it centers joy and hope. Black joy is the tenacity and audacity of Black culture. It exists outside and indifferent to the gaze of dominant culture. It recalls that Black people had life, history, and culture before, during, and outside of the dominant culture’s racial caste system. It basks in the beauty of what it means to be a people and a culture.

It is Black art that centers ourselves, who we are, who we could be, enjoying that totality without guilt….

(6) STATE LAWS TO AID LIBRARY ACCESS TO EBOOKS TARGETED BY PUBLISHERS GROUP SUIT. “AAP Sues to Block Maryland, New York Library E-book Laws” reports Publishers Weekly.

The Association of American Publishers filed suit December 9 to stop a new library e-book law in Maryland from taking effect on January 1, claiming that the law, which would require publishers who offer to license e-books to consumers in the state to also offer to license the works to libraries on “reasonable” terms, is unconstitutional and runs afoul of federal copyright law…

The Association of American Publishes explained the reasons for their suit in a statement on their website:

…“Maryland does not have the constitutional authority to create a shadow copyright act or to manipulate the value of intellectual property interests,” commented Maria A. Pallante, President and CEO of the Association of American Publishers and former head of the United States Copyright Office.  “It is unambiguous that the U.S. Copyright Act governs the disposition of literary works in commerce—and for that matter, all creative works of authorship.  We take this encroachment very seriously, as the threat that it is to a viable, independent publishing industry in the United States and to a borderless copyright economy.”  

The complaint, filed in federal court in Maryland, argues that the Maryland law is preempted by the United States Copyright Act, unconstitutionally interferes with interstate commerce, and violates the Constitution’s Due Process clause by mandating vague and unspecified licensing requirements….

(7) WALKING THE RED CARPETS OF MIDDLE-EARTH. Twenty years sure went by fast! Polygon says “The Lord of the Rings cast premiere photos are priceless 2001 nostalgia”. They’re really good photos in any event.

…The hype was already real by the time promotion for The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring ramped up. In April 2000, the internet-exclusive trailer for Fellowship was downloaded from Apple Trailers 1.7 million times in its first 24 hours, breaking a record set by Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace. (Compare that, though, to the present-day record: Spider-Man: No Way Home’s first trailer, released in August and viewed 355.5 million times in the first 24 hours.) But by May 2001, the time had come to reassemble the fellowship … for many, many, many step-and-repeat red carpet opportunities.

Photographic evidence of the high-stakes press gauntlet for Fellowship suggests that Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Sean Bean, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davies, and Liv Tyler (bringing some much-needed femininity to the red carpet bro-out) had a decent time flying around the world to preach the blockbuster word…

(8) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to eavesdrop on a mid-’70s Marvel Bullpen reunion with Bob Budiansky in episode 160 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Bob Budiansky

This episode’s guest, Bob Budiansky, is a old Marvel Bullpen pal… When I was working at mid-’70s Marvel Comics and decided I no longer wanted to edit their line of British reprint books, I got yet another SUNY Buffalo student and newspaper coworker, Jay Boyar, to take my place, and then when he moved on, he recommended Bob. And that serendipity is how his 20-year career at Marvel Comics was born.

Bob’s led a multifaceted comics career as a writer, artist, and editor. He’s written (among other things) The Avengers and all 33 issues of Sleepwalker, a character he co-created, plus most of Marvel’s run of The Transformers, for which he came up with the names of most of the original Transformers, including Megatron. In fact, his contributions to that franchise were so great that in 2010 he was inducted into the Transformers Hall of Fame.

…We discussed the vast differences between the hoops we each had to jump through to get hired back then, why the Skrulls were responsible for him liking DC better than Marvel as an early comics fan, the serendipitous day he attended a wedding and learned the origin of the Golden Age Green Lantern from its creator, why he stopped reading comics in high school … and how Conan the Barbarian got him started again, which Marvel Bullpen staffer saw his art portfolio and suggested he consider a different career, what it was like to witness the creation of Captain Britain, how got his first regular gig drawing covers for Ghost Rider, his five-year relationship developing 250 Transformers characters for Hasbro, and much more.

(9) EATING ONLY SOME OF THE FANTASTIC. The Offing posted G.G. Russey’s grimm but grotesquely funny “Hansel & Gretel: The Fully-Restored Vegan Version”.

… After three days of wandering, the hungry children came upon a gingerbread house mortared with frosting. Hansel rushed over to take a bite.

“Stop, Hansel! You can’t just eat a stranger’s house! It could contain animal products!”…

(10) TWO-PART HARMONY. Now on Fanac.org’s YouTube channel: Wrong Turns on the Wallaby Track: Australian SF Fandom 1936-60, Leigh Edmonds, Perry Middlemiss in 2 parts.

In this delightful Fan History Zoom (Dec 2021), historian Leigh Edmonds provides both context and details of Australian Science Fiction Fandom in the early days. Beginning with an introduction to Australian history of the period by Perry Middlemiss, the session entertainingly describes the important fans, and clubs from the beginnings in Sydney with a Science Fiction League branch, to the Futurian Society of Sydney and the Thursday night group. Leigh provides both entertaining and instructive insights, from the parallels to US fannish history, to the Australian group whose “main form of entertainment was feuding”, and the impact on science fiction readers of the Australian wartime embargo on the import of unnecessary items. He discusses the uniquely Australian barriers to becoming a professional writer in the field, the banning of Weird Tales on moral grounds and more….

Leigh Edmonds is an Australian historian, and honorary research fellow at the Collaborative Research Centre in Australian History (CRCAH) at Federation University in Ballarat, Australia. He is also a very long term science fiction fan. Perry Middlemiss is a fanwriter and editor as well as a former Worldcon chair.

Note: To begin Leigh had technical difficulties for the first 10 minutes so his portion begins after an excellent, but slightly long, introduction by Perry Middlemiss.

(11) CHRIS ACHILLEOS (1947-2021). Artist Chris Achilleos died December 6. His work has appeared in Heavy Metal, on book covers including series based on Conan the Barbarian, Doctor Who and Star Trek, as well as collections of his own work. Collections of his art include Amazona, Sirens, and Beauty and the Beast. Since 1990 he has mostly worked in designing fantasy trading cards as well as selling prints and original works of art.

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2003 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Eighteen years ago, Big Fish premiered. It was directed by Tim Burton from the screenplay by John August which he did off of Daniel Wallace‘s Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions. The cast is, if I must say so myself, amazing: Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, Helena Bonham, Carter Alison Lohman, Robert Guillaume,  Marion Cotillard, Steve Buscemi and Danny DeVito. Did critics like it? Generally quite so. ReelThoughts said of it, “Big Fish is a clever, smart fantasy that targets the child inside every adult without insulting the intelligence of either.” The box office was modest at best, making just under one hundred twenty-five million against seventy million in production costs not counting marketing. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a most excellent rating of ninety percent. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 10, 1815 Ada Lovelace. Lovelace was the only legitimate child of poet Lord Byron and his wife Lady Byron. She was an English mathematician and writer, principally known for her work on Charles Babbage’s proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. Genre usage includes Gibson and Sterling’s The Difference Engine, Stirling’s The Peshawar Lancers and Crowley’s Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land. (Died 1852.) 
  • Born December 10, 1903 Mary Norton. Author of The Borrowers which won the 1952 Carnegie Medal from the UK’s Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals recognizing the novel as the year’s outstanding children’s book by a British author. She would continue to write these novels for three decades. Hallmark turned one into a film in the early Seventies. Her novels The Magic Bed Knob; or, How to Become a Witch in Ten Easy Lessons which was nominated for a Retro Hugo at Dublin 2019, and Bonfires and Broomsticks would be adapted into the Disney film Bedknobs and Broomsticks in the same period. (Died 1992.)
  • Born December 10, 1927 Anthony Coburn. Australian writer and producer who spent most of his career living and working in the U.K.  He was closely involved in the earliest days of Who to the extent that it’s believed it was his idea for the Doctor’s travelling companion, Susan, to be The Doctor’s granddaughter.  He wrote four scripts for the show, of which Only An Unearthly Child was used. His never produced “The Masters of Luxor” Who script was released by Big Finish Productions as adapted by Nigel Robinson. Titan Books has previously released it as a novel. (Died 1977.)
  • Born December 10, 1928 John Colicos. You’ll remember him as being the first Klingon ever seen on Trek, Commander Kor in the “Errand of Mercy” episode. (He’d reprise that role as the 140-year-old Kor in three episodes of Deep Space Nine.) He’ll next show up as Count Baltar in the original Battlestar Galactica continuity throughout the series and film. He’ll even show up as the governor of Umakran in the Starlost episode “The Goddess Calabra”. He also played three roles on the original Mission: Impossible. (Died 2000.)
  • Born December 10, 1946 Douglas Kenney. He co-founded National Lampoon in 1970 along with Henry Beard and Robert Hoffman. With Beard alone in 1969, he wrote Bored of the Rings. Kenney died after falling from a 35-foot cliff called the Hanapepe Lookout in Hawaii. It was ruled accidental. Chris Miller, co-writer of Animal House with him and Harold Ramis, paid homage to him by naming the main character in Multiplicity Doug Kinney, a variation on his name.  (Died 1980.)
  • Born December 10, 1953 Janny Wurts, 68. Illustrator and writer.  She’s won three Chesley Awards, plus a HOMer Award for her Servant of the Empire novel. I strongly recommend the Empire trilogy that she co-authored with Raymond E. Feist, and her excellent That Way Lies Camelot collection was nominated for a BFA.
  • Born December 10, 1960 Kenneth Branagh, 61. Branagh’s better genre work includes his roles as Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. As a Director, I’m only seeing Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Thor — anyone know of anything else genre related? Is Hercule Poirot genre adjacent? I think so. 
  • Born December 10, 1984 Helen Oyeyemi, 37. I like it when a birthday results in my adding to my audiobook listening list. She’s resident in Prague now and her take on European folktales that surround her there is particularly sharp in Mr. Fox, which was nominated for an Otherwise Award, off that well known tale. And White is for Witching has all the makings of a damn fine haunted house story. Now one should not overlook her Icarus Girl, her first novel, which is fascinating. I’ve not encountered Gingerbread, her latest novel. 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) WHAT IF? SPINOFF. Captain Carter, recently featured in Marvel Studios’ What If, will report for duty in her very own comic series this March. Jamie McKelvie will write the series and design the character’s brand-new look. McKelvie will be joined by rising star artist Marika Cresta, known for her recent work on Star Wars: Doctor Aphra.

The five-issue limited series introduces Captain Carter in an adventure that will find Peggy Carter as a woman out of time, facing the reappearance of an old foe in modern day and deciding what she stands for as the wielder of the shield. 

A reality where Agent Peggy Carter took the Super-Soldier Serum instead of Steve Rogers is turned upside down when the World War II hero is pulled from the ice where she was lost in action decades before. Peggy struggles to find her footing in a modern world that’s gotten a lot more complicated – cities are louder, technology is smarter and enemies wear friendly faces. Everyone with an agenda wants Captain Carter on their side, but what does Peggy want? And will she have time to figure it out when mysterious forces are already gunning for her?

(16) VOLUNTEER FOR DISCON III. Here is another reason to become a virtual volunteer for next week’s Worldcon.

(17) CARBON-BASED UNITS. The Guardian’s Daniel Aldana Cohen hopes Kim Stanley Robinson, author of Ministry for the Future, has the answer: “How will humanity endure the climate crisis? I asked an acclaimed sci-fi writer”.

…The first lesson of his books is obvious: climate is the story. Compared with the magnitude of the crisis, this year’s United Nations climate summit, Cop26, was a poorly planned pool party where half the guests were sweating in jeans, having forgotten their swimming suits. If you’re reading this, you probably know what climate science portends – and that nothing discussed in Glasgow was within rocket range of adequate. What Ministry and other Robinson books do is make us slow down the apocalyptic highlight reel, letting the story play in human time for years, decades, centuries. The screen doesn’t fade to black; instead we watch people keep dying, and coping, and struggling to shape a future – often gloriously.

I spoke to Robinson recently for an episode of the podcast The Dig. He told me that he wants leftists to set aside their differences, and put a “time stamp on [their] political view” that recognizes how urgent things are. Looking back from 2050 leaves little room for abstract idealism. Progressives need to form “a united front,” he told me. “It’s an all-hands-on-deck situation; species are going extinct and biomes are dying. The catastrophes are here and now, so we need to make political coalitions.”…

… Robinson’s elegant solution, as rendered in Ministry, is carbon quantitative easing. The idea is that central banks invent a new currency; to earn the carbon coins, institutions must show that they’re sucking excess carbon down from the sky….

(18) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter witnessed tonight’s Jeopardy! contestants overlooking the author of Frankenstein.

Final Jeopardy: 19th Century British Authors.

Answer: She called herself “the daughter of two persons of distinguished literary celebrity” in an introduction to one of her novels.

Wrong questions: Who is George Elliot? and Who is Emily Bronte?

Correct question: Who is Mary Shelley?

(19) ENTERPRISING ARTIST. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Artist Alain Gruetter did this piece based on Star Trek: Enterprise (2001-2005) featuring the Xindi-Aquatics and Xindi-Insectoids from their third season (2003-2004).

(20) IT WILL TAKE MORE THAN A BELL. Wings now, but pixels in the future. More than a dozen people, including William Shatner, are being awarded their astronaut wings by the US government, however, they may be among the last. “First on CNN: The US gives Bezos, Branson and Shatner their astronaut wings” at CNN.

…The Federal Aviation Administration will […] award Commercial Space Astronaut Wings to […] eight people who flew on Blue Origin’s New Shepherd spacecraft, three who flew on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, and to the four members of the SpaceX crew who spent three days in space in September, CNN has learned.

But the space tourism industry shouldn’t get used to this generous allocation of wings from the federal government. In a twist, the FAA has decided to end the entire Commercial Space Astronaut Wings program on January 1. After that, the FAA will simply list the names of everyone who flies above the 50-mile threshold, the US-recognized boundary of space, on a website….

(21) STICKY SUBJECT. CBR presents an extended look at Spider-Man and Doc Ock’s first fight from No Way Home.

Much to Peter Parker’s confusion, Otto Octavius appears on an overpass bridge and demands to know what has happened to his machine. When Peter doesn’t have any answers, Doctor Octopus begins throwing cars, endangering the lives of the civilians nearby.

(22) SECOND SERVING OF HEDGEHOG. Could Jim Carrey’s mustache here be the phoniest of all time?

(23) HALO THE SERIES. This first-look trailer for Halo was shown during The Game Awards last night. Halo the series will be streaming in 2022 on Paramount+.

Dramatizing an epic 26th-century conflict between humanity and an alien threat known as the Covenant, Halo the series will weave deeply drawn personal stories with action, adventure and a richly imagined vision of the future.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kayinsky, Ben Bird Person, Lise Andreasen, Jennifer Hawthorne, Chris Barkley, Jeffrey Smith, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna), part of “The Hugo Pixel Scroll Winners” series.]

Andrea Hairston Joins Sheree Renée Thomas in Hosting the Hugo Awards Ceremony

Andrea Hairston will be joining Sheree Renée Thomas in hosting the Hugo Awards Ceremony 2021 during DisCon III, to be held in Washington, D.C. from December 15-19.

Malka Older, one of the Special Guests at the convention, had originally been scheduled to co-host, but because her children are too young to be vaccinated, she made the difficult decision to withdraw from in-person events.  “I’m happy that our existing hybrid structure meant that we were able to move all of Malka’s other events to the virtual part of the convention,” said Mary Robinette Kowal, Chair of DisCon III. 

Older said, “I really appreciate everything the con has done to make the convention safe, and I think their measures are probably as good as they can be. I had hoped that everyone in my family would be able to be vaccinated by this time. But in this evolving situation, I’m being extra careful.”

Sheree Renee Thomas, DisCon III’s other Special Guest and co-host, suggested Andrea Hairston as her new co-host, and Hairston quickly accepted the invitation to become part of the event. “I am a great admirer and witness to the brilliance and excellence that Andrea brings to whatever she does. I’m thrilled that she will bring her special voice and presence to the Hugo Awards stage. It’s an exciting time, and I look forward to a wonderful celebration of this year’s excellent finalists and an entertaining evening,” said Thomas. 

Older said, “As sorry as I am to miss being at the ceremony in person, I’m thrilled that Andrea will be doing it with Sheree! I love her work, and I know she’ll be fantastic as host.”

Andrea Hairston is a novelist, playwright, and scholar. Her novels: Master of Poisons, on the Kirkus Review’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2020; Will Do Magic For Small Change, a New York Times Editor’s pick and finalist for the Mythopoeic, Lambda, and Otherwise Awards; Mindscape, shortlisted for the Phillip K. Dick and Otherwise Awards and winner of the Carl Brandon Award. Her short story “Seven Generations Algorithm” will be in Trouble the Waters: Tales from the Deep Blue edited by Sheree Renée Thomas, Pan Morigan, and Troy L. Wiggins, to be released in January. She is the Louise Wolff Kahn 1931 Professor of Theatre and Africana Studies at Smith College and the Artistic Director of Chrysalis Theatre.

Sheree Renée Thomas is an award-winning fiction writer, poet, and editor. Her work is inspired by myth and folklore, music, natural science, and the genius of the Mississippi Delta. Nine Bar Blues: Stories from an Ancient Future (2020), her fiction collection, was honored as 2021 Finalist for the Ignyte, Locus, and World Fantasy Awards. She is the Associate Editor of the historic Black arts literary journal, Obsidian: Literature & the Arts in the African Diaspora, founded in 1975 and is the Editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, founded in 1949. She also writes book reviews for Asimov’s. Thomas is the Guest of Honor of Wiscon 45 and a Guest of Honor of StokerCon 2022. She collaborated with Janelle Monáe on the artist’s forthcoming fiction collection, The Memory Librarian and Other Stories from Dirty Computer (Harper Voyager, April 2022). Africa Risen: A New Era of Speculative Fiction, a new anthology she co-edited with Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki and Zelda Knight is forthcoming from Tordotcom Publishing in 2022. 

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

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

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

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

Why? What’s going on?

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

TL;DR:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(11) MEMORY LANE.

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

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 11/11/21 It’s Just A Noisy Scroll, With A Nightly Gnole, And All Those Pixels

(1) BEGIN AT THE FRONT.  Alex Shvartsman is including File 770 in today’s cover reveal of The Middling Affliction, his humorous urban fantasy novel forthcoming form Caezik SF&F on April 12, 2022. Art is by Tulio Brito.

What would you do if you lost everything that mattered to you, as well as all means to protect yourself and others, but still had to save the day? Conrad Brent is about to find out.

Conrad Brent protects the people of Brooklyn from monsters and magical threats. The snarky, wisecracking guardian also has a dangerous secret: he’s one in a million – literally.

(2) WHEN YOUR STORY’S FINISHED, WHAT NEXT? [Item by Melanie Stormm.] John Wiswell recently wrote a thread on how a Nebula winner submits short fiction. Thought it might be helpful to someone.  Thread starts here. An excerpt from his advice:

(3) LOOKING AT THE SUBJECT FROM ALL SIDES. Brenton Dickieson has launched his “Blogging the Hugos 2021” novel review series at A Pilgrim in Narnia. His introductory post tells why he’s writing it, and gives the schedule.

…The 2021 Hugo Awards ceremonies will be on Dec 18th at DisCon III in Washington, DC. Ahead of the event, Signum University is hosting a panel discussion of the nominees. My job will be to represent Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi, not so much in a battle of books but a winsome argument about great storytelling. Last year, I was delighted to represent Alix E. Harrow’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January, a novel that did not win but was also nominated for the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award, the Mythopoeic Award, and the Locus Award in the category of Best First Novel. It’s a beautiful, evocative book, and I very much enjoyed last year’s Signum Roundtable.

Thus, in looking forward to December’s conversation, I am blogging through the Hugo novels, offering a review or thoughtful essay each week leading up to the convention. I hope you can join in as we read and talk about the leading speculative fiction of the past year! This week, we’ll look at Mary Robinette Kowal’s Lady Astronaut Universe, followed by Martha Wells’ Network Effect next week….

Dickieson’s first review is up: “Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Relentless Moon and the Lady Astronaut Universe (Blogging the Hugos 2021)”.

…Not lost in world-building details, the structures of catastrophe and the struggles for liberation in the Lady Astronaut Universe are the context for stories of personal growth, trial, and triumph. The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky (2018) are from Elma York’s viewpoint, a friendly and self-conscious intellectual working as an IAC (human) computer with an unusually adept and intuitive mathematical sense. Elma finds herself in a battle to be heard as the mathematician who predicted the first global winter and subsequent global warming, as well as a skilled pilot vying to be the first woman in the space program. Her real battle, however, is with a general anxiety disorder that is triggered by stress and tragedy and an intense fear of the media or interpersonal conflict. With a winsome sense of relational connection and a rugged commitment to the possible, Elma finds a way to become “the first Lady Astronaut” (insert an earnest and upbeat 1950s TV commentator voice here).

In The Relentless Moon (2020)—the first nominee in my Blogging the Hugos 2021 series—Elma York is on her way to Mars…

(4) GORILLA MARKETING. [Item by John L. Coker III.] From a 1997 interview, here’s Julie’s take on the popularity of gorillas in DC comic books in the early-1950s, a topic mentioned in the November 9 Scroll (item #14).

Julius Schwartz: One day someone came into the office and said, “What has happened?  Strange Adventures went sky-high.”  I said, “Well, you know how it works.  It must have been the cover,” because covers sold the magazines in those days.  You went into a mom and pop store, where you saw hundreds of comics.  You looked them over and picked out something that was interesting.  I said, “Let’s look at the cover.” And on the cover, roughly, was this.  It took place in a zoo, and there’s a cage, and inside the cage is a gorilla.  And outside is an audience looking up at him, including a pretty girl whose name was Helen, as I vaguely recall.  The gorilla had a little blackboard in his hand, and with a piece of chalk had written the following message: “Dear Helen, Please Help me.  I’m the victim of a horrible scientific experiment.”  You laugh, but it made you want to find out what it’s all about, so obviously you bought the magazine. 

One way to find out is to try it again, so we tried another gorilla story, the secret being that the gorilla was not a gorilla, so to speak, but acting and reacting like a human.  And it worked again.

We knew we had something, so I did a series of stories with gorillas on them, until finally all the other editors wanted to do one.  Wonder Woman had one, Batman, they all had gorilla covers, until the editorial director said, “That does it.  From now on, only one gorilla cover a month.”  And then when that caught fire, they said, “We’re doing so well on this Strange Adventures, let’s put out another science fiction magazine.”  I said, “Impossible.  There are so many science fiction magazines being published that there are no titles left.  I can’t even think of another title.”  I’m sorry I never thought of Strange Gorilla Stories

[Interview with John L. Coker III, 1997.]

(5) SPEAKING OF GORILLA ART. [Item by Steve Vertlieb.] “King Kong” … Willis H. O’Brien … Ray Harryhausen: Exploring The Cultural Influence And Legacy Of A “Monstrous” Motion Picture Classic!

I had an opportunity quite recently to sit down once more with Host, Actor, Comedian, and Writer Ron MacCloskey for his Emmy Award Winning Public Television Series, “Classic Movies with Ron MacCloskey.”

Ron is the writer and producer of the new feature length documentary motion picture, “Boris Karloff: The Man Behind The Monster,” now playing in theaters all across the globe.

For this Halloween themed episode of the popular program, however, we explored the cultural significance, history, and legacy of the most famous “Monster” of them all … King Kong … and his nearly ninety year influence on gorilla films of all shapes and sizes, as well as his career defining impact on the lives and reign of Stop Motion Animation legends, Willis H. O’Brien and Ray Harryhausen.

Our spirited conversation both precedes and follows the film segment. Simply click on the projector, or the blue link, in order to screen the program. ” Classic Movies: “The Gorilla”

(6) ON THE WEB. The Marvel’s Avengers – Spider-Man game character reveal trailer dropped today.

Watch the Marvel’s Avengers Spider-Man reveal trailer. Spider-Man swings into Marvel’s Avengers on November 30th, 2021. Get a first look at the Marvels Avengers PlayStation exclusive character joining the team in this cinematic Marvels Avengers Spider Man trailer!

(7) SELKIES SPOTLIGHTED. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.] CrimeReads had an interesting piece listing a number of novels about selkies. I was kind of surprised that I only recognized one of the books listed. “The Story of the Selkie: Eight Novels Based in Powerful Folklore” by Melanie Golding.

… I love the idea that much of folklore is based on universal human stories that are still true today. Selkies may be mystical creatures but they are also women treated badly by men, then judged for their response by wider society. Because of this universality, as well as the compelling magical element, there are many modern novels that make use of selkie folklore, which in several ways shares roots with the folklore of mermaids. I’ve picked out a few that spoke to me. I hope many more readers will discover these sea-faring, shape-shifting, magic-realist tales….

(8) WFC GALLERY. Ellen Datlow has posted her World Fantasy Con photos on Flickr: WFC 2021 Montreal, Canada.

(9) AIRING OUT THE PROBLEM. Adam Rogers in WIRED has an interview with Neal Stephenson about Termination Shock and how didactic writers should be when composing near-future climate sf. “Neal Stephenson on Building and Fixing Worlds”.

… Stephenson stressed that achieving net-zero carbon emissions isn’t enough and that there’s no more important idea than developing technologies that can quickly suck carbon out of the atmosphere. “We need carbon capture on an enormous scale,” he said. “We have to do that. That’s the big solution that we really need to implement.”

“It truly is a solution,” he continued. “It would get rid of the underlying problem and kind of undo the mistake that we made by putting all that CO2 into the atmosphere in the first place.”…

(10) SOMETHING YOU CAN RELATE TO. James Davis Nicoll leads readers to stories that test whether blood is thicker than…money: “Five SFF Stories Where Interplanetary Trading Is a Family Affair” at Tor.com.

Nothing spells plot like an independent trader plying the spacetime lanes in search of profit, in a world very much skewed against the little guy. Nothing, that is, unless one adds family! Now in addition to scrabbling after profit, one has extra motivation: failure isn’t merely an individual catastrophe. Bad judgement, terrible luck, or the machinations of a vast inhuman corporation could drag one’s whole family down into poverty…or worse….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1951 — Seventy years ago, Flight to Mars as produced by Monogram Pictures premiered. It was produced by Walter Mirisch and directed by Lesley Selander. It starred Marguerite Chapman and Cameron Mitchell. The screenplay was by Arthur Strawn and it would be his only SF work. Critics who really didn’t like it compared it to the previously released Destination Moon and Rocketship XM with the comparison not being at all great as one critic noted: “Destination Moon was scientifically accurate, and Rocketship XM had a gripping dramatic script. This copycat production has neither.” This movie reused the ship interior from the Rocketship XM production, and the suits from the Destination Moon shoot. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a twenty-two percent rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 11, 1916 Donald Franson. Author of A Key to the Terminology of Science-Fiction Fandom and An Author Index to Astounding/Analog: Part II—Vol. 36, #1, September, 1945 to Vol. 73 #3, May, 1964. With Howard DeVore wrote A History of the Hugo, Nebula, and International Fantasy Awards, Listing Nominees & Winners, 1951-1970. When I stumble across an author and their works like this, I’m reminded how deep the genre is. (Died 2002.)
  • Born November 11, 1917 Mack Reynolds. I assume you know he was the first writer to write an original novel based off the Trek series? Mission to Horatius came in 1968. I’m fond of his very first novel, The Case of The Little Green Men. He was a Hugo finalist at Chicon III (1962) for his “Status Quo” short story. Worked as an organizer for the Socialist Labor Party, then later was the most prolific short fiction writer in Campbell’s Analog – go figure. (Died 1983.)
  • Born November 11, 1922 Kurt Vonnegut Jr. The Sirens of Titan which was nominated for a Hugo at Pittcon was his first SF novel, followed by Cat’s Cradle — which after turning down his original thesis in 1947, the University of Chicago awarded him his master’s degree in anthropology in 1971 for this novel. It was nominated for a Hugo at Pacificon II. Next up was Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death, which is one weird book and an even stranger film. The book was nominated for Hugo Award at Heicon (1970) but lost to Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. However, the movie Slaughterhouse Five won a Hugo at Torcon II (1973 — over a field that also included Between Time and Timbuktu, a TV adaptation of other Vonngeut material.)  While I’m fairly sure Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Monday is his last genre novel there’s a lot of short fiction where something of a genre nature might have occurred. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 11, 1925 Jonathan Winters. Yes, he did do quite a few genre performances including an early one as James Howard “Fats” Brown in “A Game of Pool”, a 1961 episode of The Twilight Zone. He next shows up as Albert Paradine II in More Wild, Wild West. He had a recurring role in Mork & Mindy as a character named Mearth. You’ll find him in The Shadow film, The Adventures of Rocky and BullwinkleThe Flintstones, both of The Smurfs films and quite a bit more. He of course was a guest on The Muppets Show. Who wasn’t? (Died 2013.)
  • Born November 11, 1935 Larry Anthony. Actor who made two appearances on the original Trek in  “The Man Trap” (uncredited) and “Dagger of the Mind”. He also appeared on The Wild Wild WestThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. and had five appearences on Batman playing two different characters. He made two appearances on Get Smart! And his final genre role was on Mission Impossible. (Died 2005.)
  • Born November 11, 1947 Victoria Schochet, 74. Wife of Eric Van Lustbader. She co-edited with John Silbersack and Mellisa Singer the most excellent The Berkley Showcase: New Writings in Science Fiction and Fantasy that came out in the Eighties. SFE says she has worked editorially at Analog though not what she did there. 
  • Born November 11, 1960 Stanley Tucci, 61. Actor, Director, and Producer with a lengthy resume of character roles in genre films including The Core (Yay! The Core!), Prelude to a Kiss, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Muppets Most Wanted, Beauty and the Beast, The Lovely Bones, Captain America: The First Avenger, Jack the Giant Slayer, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, and The Hunger Games films, as well as numerous voice roles including Leonardo da Vinci in Mr. Peabody & Sherman
  • Born November 11, 1962 Demi Moore, 59. Ghost, of course, for getting her Birthday Honors. And yes, I did see it. Sniff. But she got her genre creds with her second film Parasite which is good as she didn’t do much after that of a genre nature. She has a recurring role as Linda in the Brave New World series that aired on Peacock for just one series before being cancelled. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro earns its name with a superhero joke that could have been inspired by the quality of copyediting I do here…

(14) WHO’S WHO? Radio Times keeps the pot roiling with more ideas about Jodie Whittaker’s replacement: “Lydia West says Russell T Davies’ Doctor Who will have a modern twist”.

…The rising star has had roles in Russell T Davies’ Years and Years and It’s a Sin, and with Davies set to take over from Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall next year, many have wondered whether he might bring West – or her It’s a Sin co-star Olly Alexander – along for the ride.

West herself addressed the rumours during an exclusive chat with RadioTimes.com.

“I mean, the fact I’ve been named as one of the favourites is quite special,” she said. “So I mean, it would be an honour to be the Doctor. I’m glad people think I could do it. So yeah.”

(15) KEEP GUESSING. Radio Times is also fueling speculation about the course of Season 13 now in progress. Could it be mining a never-produced script? “Doctor Who: Flux might be adapting lost story Lungbarrow”.

It’s official – no Doctor Who theory is too outlandish any more. After series 12’s finale essentially canonised the Morbius Doctors and added Jo Martin’s Time Lord to the roster of regenerations, we’d say any and all bets are off for deep-cut fan ideas about the series as it continues.

Which is why we’re not dismissing out of hand the latest theory about Doctor Who: Flux, and specifically the idea that the series might be drawing from a story that never actually made it to TV – Lungbarrow, written by Marc Platt for Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor but left on the shelf until Platt adapted it into a book some years later.

… That story would have delved into the ancestry and backstory of the Doctor, centred around his/her ancestral home of Lungbarrow – and now some fans think they might have seen that abandoned family seat in new series 13 episode War of the Sontarans, specifically within a black-and-white vision scene where Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor gazed up at a ruined, floating house before the main action of the story kicked off….

(16) DOGGING IT. Raquel S. Benedict’s Rite Gud podcast revisits “Puppy Play: The Saga of the Sad Puppies”.

In this episode, we re-examine the saga of the notorious Sad Puppies. What happened? What ripple effects did it have on the sci-fi/fantasy community? Did we learn anything from this? Should we learn anything from this? And is there more to the story than the official narrative?

Kurt Schiller joins us to talk about angry mobs, squeecore writing, and the musical stylings of forgotten 90s techno group Psykosonik.

(17) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 44 of Octothorpe is up. What are John Coxon, Alison Scott and Liz Batty saying this time? Listen here.

We discuss burning melons and the latest news from Reclamation 2022 before discussing what an Eastercon might look like if it were held at a campsite. To round it off, we talk a lot about Dune. With sound effects.

(18) ASIMOV NEVER THOUGHT OF THIS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The cover story of this week’s Nature concerns soft robots.  Soft robots have garnered interest thanks to their ability to carry out complex tasks such as crawling and swimming.  But making soft actuators remains difficult.  This week’s Nature sees researchers’ new bubble-based method based on elastic polymers (plastics/rubbers) .

Inspired by living organisms, soft robots are developed from intrinsically compliant materials, enabling continuous motions that mimic animal and vegetal movement. In soft robots, the canonical hinges and bolts are replaced by elastomers assembled into actuators programmed to change shape following the application of stimuli, for example pneumatic inflation…

Research paper: “Bubble casting soft robotics”.

(19) FOR TEN YEARS WE’VE BEEN ON OUR OWN. And one for your home team… “US astronomy’s 10-year plan is super-ambitious” – “Its ‘decadal survey’ pitches big new space observatories, funding for large telescopes and a reckoning over social issues plaguing the field.”

A long-anticipated road map for the next ten years of US astronomy is here — and it’s nothing if not ambitious.

It recommends that NASA coordinate, build and launch three flagship space observatories capable of detecting light over a broad range of wavelengths. It suggests that the US National Science Foundation (NSF) fund two enormous ground-based telescopes in Chile and possibly Hawaii, to try to catch up with an advanced European telescope that’s under construction. And for the first time, it issues recommendations for how federal agencies should fight systemic racism, sexism and other structural issues that drive people out of astronomy, weakening the quality of the science….

(20) THEY CAN FLING IT FASTER THAN YOU CAN CATCH IT. [Item by Daniel Dern.] An interesting idea, and of course, nothing could possibly go wrong – “Company Wants to Launch Satellites With Huge Centrifugal Slingshot” (Gizmodo) — like, say, supercriminal seizes control of the aim controls, or there’s a sinkhole, and suddenly it’s aimed at Cleveland or whatever…

…Alternatives to launching rockets haven’t exactly been runaway successes, however. In the 1960s, the United States Department of Defense and Canada’s Department of National Defence formed a joint partnership called Project HARP (High Altitude Research Project) to essentially develop giant Earth-based guns that could blast objects into space. HARP successfully fired a projectile 180 KM into the atmosphere using a 16-inch cannon built at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory’ Yuma Proving Ground, but by the late ‘60s both governments had withdrawn funding for the research project, and it was officially shut down before it came to fruition.

SpinLaunch is taking a somewhat similar approach to Project HARP, but the kinetic space launch system it’s been developing since 2015 does away with explosive materials altogether. In its place is an electric-powered centrifuge that spins objects inside a vacuum chamber at speeds of up to 5,000 MPH before they’re released through a launch tube that is roughly as tall as the Statue of Liberty….

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Back4Blood,” Fandom Games says this slaughter-fest “still fuflills the need to kill a million zombies” and “feels like riding a bicycle after a mild concussion.”

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, John L. Coker III, Melanie Stormm, John Coxon, R.S. Benedict, Alex Shvartsman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jim Janney.]